Philosophy of Evolution: Abiogenesis

The State of the Question


Abiogenesis is an even more difficult question than that of evolution.  No one was present at the beginning of life, and up to the present no life of any kind can be replicated in the laboratory.

The Pontifical Gregorian University’s philosophical faculty notes the distinction between total evolution and various forms of partial evolution.1 Abiogenesis falls under total evolution, in which life arises from inanimate matter. This question was treated earlier in the twentieth century by Scholastics at the Gregorian University. Currently, the student textbook by La Vecchia briefly and succinctly presents the philosophy of evolution as concerns its history, concepts, proof attempts, and purpose, while the major and most detailed part of the presentation concerns human evolution, involving man’s body, intelligence, and soul.2 In short, the more immediate evolution of man (partial evolution) overshadows the wider treatment of the origin of life itself (total evolution).

Note that the present question is about the origin of life, not just the origin of species.3 This thesis then touches the ultimate origin of man.4 The major presentation of the question here concerns life on earth.5

Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize for medicine, notes that today the question of life is more open than ever. The Neo-Scholastic Mondin, writing in 1999, noted four solutions to the problem of the origin of life.6 First, life could be directly created by God, as held by Jean Servier. Second, life could be part of an evolutionary plan established by God, as held by Mondin. Third, life could arise by spontaneous generation, as held by Descartes, Newton, and John Tumberville Needham, S.J. Fourth, life could arise by generation or evolution by pure chance, as held by Jacques Monod in 1970.

Author:  John Edward Mulfihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
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