Philosophy of Evolution: Abiogenesis

Participants in the Dialogue


The debate about abiogenesis has a long history.
Adversaries to the proposal in this chapter are the Neo-Scholastics of the first part of the twentieth century, such as Palmes.7 Bittle believes that the proposal has been definite disproved by science.8 Immanuel Kant held that life springing from what was void of life seems contrary to fact, absurd and unreasonable.9

Creationists such as Jean Servier hold that life is never able to be born of matter, even in the laboratory.10 Man has animality through matter, but life gives matter a new state. Servier agues against evolution in general.

Materialists are adversaries in thinking matter alone is the total explanation of life. Spenser (not Darwin) viewed evolution as organisms gradually developing from non living matter, and this taking place through purely natural causes.11 Some Catholic scientists and even theologians maintain that life was able to begin in the world only through the powers of non-living nature alone, so that no intervention of a superior cause would be required.12

Proponents of abiogenesis are found among the early Greek philosophers, such as Anaximander, Empedocles, Democritus and Aristotle.13 The argument of Aristotle was that "Nature proceeds little by little from things lifeless to animal life."14 St. Augustine embraced the theory (Augustine De Trinitate 3, 8).15 Also, almost all the Scholastic philosophers almost up to the eighteenth century.16 Tyndall, Spencer and Huxley held that abiogenesis was a past fact.17 Darwin and Forel thought that life could be produced from matter by science in the future. Buffon (1707-1788), Pouchet (1800-1872), Joly, Basteau, Burche, Leduc, and Carrel tried to produce scientific proof for abiogenesis.

Adversaries who reject the proposal make it clear that the thesis proposed is a serious subject for discussion. The thesis proposed and defended as true presents an objective problem worthy of dialogue. Adversaries who seriously contradict the proposal in this chapter deserve respect. These adversaries have reasons for their position. In every false position there is some truth. In dialogue, every attempt should be made to clarify that truth. In this case, the a prior argument is from the principle of causality, that a lesser cause cannot produce a greater effect.18 It is important that the principle of causality be preserved. Accordingly, even if our proposal and its proofs demonstrate the adversaries wrong, their reasoning can be understood and respected.

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