Philosophy of Evolution: The Cosmos

The Scholastic Solutions


The Neo-Scholastics treat the origin and the end of the cosmos.


First, does evolution account for the origin of the universe? The Neo-Scholastics answer in the negative, that evolution does not account for the origin of the universe.

Donat holds that the universe was created. His proof is that the material world is not essential, but contingent, which is defined as a state of being dependent on something else.50 He gives five reasons. First, if matter would exist by essence, it would not be contingent; but it is changeable and contingent. Second, if matter would exist by its formal (not efficient) essence, you could not think of matter not existing, because existence would be part of its definition; but you can think of matter not existing. Third, if matter would exist by essence, material (like atoms) would exist before anything else; but matter would still need a sufficient reason. Fourth, matter has to exist in time, not eternally, because it needs a cause for transit from non-being (non esse) to being (esse). Fifth, what exists by essence is absolutely infinite, immutable, and without limitation; but matter is limited. Therefore, the material of the world is created by God, since the cause (God) has to be superior to the effect (universe).

Hellin maintains that the universe is created.51 First, everything outside God is made.52 God produces by truly making all contingent things in the world. But God does not produce contingent things from some pre-existing body, because contingent things demand a first cause for existence, and if there was something pre-existing uncreated, then there would be two Gods. Secondly, Hellin argues from the unicity of God. Uncreated being is absolutely one; so everything else is created from nothing by the unique uncreated being. This argument from the unicity of God is valid whether the universe was created in time or whether the universe was created eternally, because in every hypothesis the uncreated being is essentially one, and therefore everything besides the uncreated one (unicum) is made by him, according to their total entity.53

Mondin maintains that the universe is created.54 He begins with the interesting parallel. At the time of Aquinas the debate was about "rationes seminales" and the "ab aeterno" world, and the present time when the debate is about the somewhat parallel issues of evolution and creation. Mondin holds the theory of "Programmed Evolution" in biology. In cosmology, philosophy can only say that the universe is created. The argument of Modin is that even in modern scientific studies the universe does not appear to be self sufficient. Mondin sees signs of this in the composition, finiteness, contingency, actions and order. Mondin remarks that these signs are not weakening but are becoming ever more evident.

Calcagno maintains that the universe is created.55 Calcagno does distinguish between the actual creation of the universe by God, and the evolution of the cosmos, which he calls the work of formation (opus formationis) which gives the universe the form that it has in the present.56

Second, is the universe evolving now? The Neo-Scholastics answer in the affirmative, that the universe is evolving now.

Joseph Gredt, professor at St. Anselm in Rome in 1909, argued in favor of cosmic evolution.57 He begins his own thesis by assuming that true creation by God has already occurred. Gredt argues from the diverse states of cosmic material and celestial bodies. Astronomy verifies the variety, and also the dynamism. Gredt concludes, "These (different) states are diverse states of evolution of cosmic material."58 Gredt also notes the signs of cosmic evolution on earth.59 The evolutionary formation of the earth is by means of secondary causes.60

Donat argues that there is no philosophical reason not to believe that the proximate formation of the world can be attributed to the natural causes of evolution.61 God the Creator is the cause of ultimate formation of the world, and evolution the proximate formation. Donat argues that evolution of the universe does not exclude creation by God, but the Cosmogonic Hypothesis or the nebular hypothesis of Kant and Laplace, supposes the creation of matter with the necessary material forces for evolution to effectively order the universe. Further, the evolutionary development of the world appears to be very appropriate for God.62 Evolution of the world supports the wisdom and power of God, because it is divine to use the most simple means to accomplish the most complicated and remote effects. Evolution of the world supports the goodness of God, as a reason to communicate more fully with creatures. Evolution of the world shows the eternity and immensity of God, since the age and extent of the universe in some way reflect God’s qualities. Finally, evolution of the universe shows Divine Providence in an outstanding way. Donat also argues for the proximate evolution of the earth by natural forces.63

Mondin maintains that there is evolution in the present operation of the universe.64 In cosmology, he wisely divides the birth of the universe from the evolutionary development of the universe. On the one hand, Mondin notes that the ancients had a static and atemporal view of the universe, declaring "Nothing new under the sun." On the other hand, modern science has a radically new view of the universe as dynamic, so that there is continual expansion and everything is in transformation. In cosmology, philosophy can only say that there is no conflict between a universe in evolution now and the doctrine of creation.65 The argument of Modin favoring evolution is that even in modern scientific studies the universe does not appear to be self sufficient. Mondin sees signs of this in the composition, finiteness, contingency, actions and order. Mondin remarks that these signs are not weakening but are becoming ever more evident. Secondly, Mondin supports evolution in the universe by alluding to St. Thomas’ observations about the dynamic hierarchical order in the universe,66 which regulates and subordinates the more elementary parts to the composed which are always more structured and complex.

Hellin maintains that there is evolution in the present operation of the universe, "so that things are able to evolve according to their proper species."67 Order in the universe is seen in the sciences of astronomy, chemistry, biology, and even mineralogy for elements necessary for plant life. This order is most complicated and constant, and its wonderful results are very useful to the evolution of life.68

Hugon maintains that there is evolution in the present operation of the universe, and he endorses a prior creation by God.69 He states cosmic evolution is scientifically "most probable" and philosophically "not unproven" and even a "convenient" explanation. He quotes Pesch to say that cosmic evolution is "fitting." His scientific explanation follows Laplace, and he notes that God created the primeval mass, and endowed it with an impulse and power to evolve.

De Finance considers cosmic evolution without using that terminology. De Finance says, "The universe is not just parts acting and reacting, but actualizing their mutual relations. The being of the universe is finite, and by this finitude is relative to its parts, to its complements, which are a ‘remedy’ for its finitude."70

Klubertanz does not directly treat cosmic evolution. Nevertheless, he gives general agreement to cosmic evolution at the present time by noting that "God usually works, in the natural order, through the secondary causes He has made."71 Accordingly, Klubertanz generally endorses creation in the beginning of the universe and evolution by secondary causes afterwards.

Does cosmic evolution extend beyond the Earth, so that not only our Earth is inhabited by humans, but also rational inhabitants live or will live in other star systems.72 Donat, in 1915, argues that it is "probable," while Hugon has limited reservations. Donat comments that from the time of Copernicus, the Earth has not been conceived as the center of the universe. Donat’s general argument affirms the probability of alien intelligence: since the existence of rational aliens would show the glory, the power and the wisdom of God; since there is nothing contrary in philosophy; since religion teaches nothing about this topic; and since the opinion is upheld by Nicholas Cuso, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Leibniz, Kant, Laplace, Huyghens; and among the more moderns Herschel, Secchi, Braun, and Pohle. Donat does not defend that the aliens are the same species as humans on Earth, but would be generally corporeal beings endowed with a rational soul. The three special arguments of Donat are from analogy, from the laws of divine wisdom, and from the goal of the world. From analogy, Donat argues: chemical elements found on Earth, where abundant life is found, are found on other planets; it is hard to believe that only Earth could sustain life given the immensity of the universe; millions of living things are found in a drop of water, so why not in the immense universe. From the laws of divine wisdom, Donat argues: God shows great variety in creation on Earth, so this law should apply to the rest of the universe; the perfection of God manifest in the short and defective history of man on Earth deserves to be extended and allowed possible perfection; Aquinas argues that it is hard to believe that inorganic matter should dominate the universe (Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 2. 92). From the goal of the universe, Donat argues that since the glory of God is the goal of the universe, this praise would not be adequately given unless the universe had many kinds of rational creatures. If there is alien life, this strengthens the case for cosmic evolution.

Concerning cosmic evolution beyond the Earth, Hugon has reservations. Hugon admits there is no philosophical reason against the existence of rational creatures on other worlds, and he admits that life on some planets, such as Mars, may be "possible."73 Hugon notes that up to now, 1927, science has found no vestige of life on other planets. Hugon notes that the argumentation alleged for alien life is not convincing for two reasons. First, the glory of God is sufficiently provided by angels and men, and especially by the Incarnation. Second, it would be congruent to reveal the presence of other rational creatures in the universe; God told us about the existence of angels; although no one can demand God reveal everything to humans.

Third, will the evolution of the universe come to an end? The Neo-Scholastics answer in the affirmative, that the evolution of the universe will come to an end.

Hugon maintains that the physical universe will come to an end.74 Hugon begins by asserting that God would not annihilate the world, since nothing in the nature of creatures demonstrates the potential for non-being; and since God’s goodness is better shown by conservation than annihilation. Hugon then goes on to demonstrate that the universe has corruptible parts. He gives the example of the cooling of our sun, and the cooling of the stars. With no warmth, all life would be extinguished. In general support of his opinion in 1927, Hugon gives a citation in French from De Lapparent, a scripture quotation from 2 Peter 3: 10, and a Latin quotation from the Roman poet Ovid (Ovid Metam. 1. 256); and we can regard this as an argument from the general consent of man.

Hugon also argues indirectly to the physical end of the universe from the fact that matter itself cannot be eternal.75 He argues: if matter exists eternally, it has to exist eternally in motion or eternally at rest. Matter cannot be in motion and at rest at the same time. Matter or a body at rest cannot give itself motion (Principle of Inertia). Matter or a body in motion cannot alone modify its motion (Principle of Inertia). Therefore matter cannot exist from all eternity. What is not eternal would have a beginning and be open to having an end, to breaking down. Quantity, divisible by definition, opens the possibility for such a break down.76

Donat maintains that the physical world will come to an end.77 Donat notes that some could lightly assume the world will go on forever, but the natural sciences now have made certain (certum) that sometime an end will necessarily (necessario) come to the world.78 Donat argues that the state of the world, as it now is, has many physical and chemical changes. These are all natural. Donat denies that God will impede the natural evolution of the world.79 Futher, all admit the law of conservation of energy, although the quantity of energy remains, the quality of energy diminishes (Law of Entropy).80 Now it is commonly admitted that entropy in the universe is continually growing. An illustration is the conversion of energy to heat, which is not totally able to be converted to back to useful energy again. Therefore, eventually there will be no change or movement, which will result in the perpetual death of the universe. Secondly, the same general entropy will destroy all the heat and light of the universe. Thirdly, the end of the universe is now commonly admitted by all natural scientists.81 Donat adds that it is also possible that all material will ultimately dissolve into proto-atoms, which happens in radioactivity.82 Donat also notes that the end of the planet earth will take place much earlier.83

Donat also notes that it is not necessary to have an eternal world.84 Such a necessity would arise only if the world had no cause, but existed per se ipsum, or if God necessarily created the world. But God freely created the world as its cause, and an infinite and necessary God does not need the world. Therefore, it is not necessary for the world to exist eternally. The second proof given by Donat is from the fact of motion. Motion in the world had to have a beginning. It is absurd to say that matter in the world is eternal, but form and order (which we observe) begin only in time. If motion and energy existed from eternity, the Law of Entropy would have ended the movement in the universe already, so motion (cursus mundi) began in time, and is not eternal. Therefore, neither is material, the substratum of motion, eternal.

Fourth, is the term "evolution" used equivocally about the universe? The Neo-Scholastics answer that it is equivocal, that the word evolution is used differently pertaining to the universe than it is used elsewhere. The concept of evolution applied to the cosmos is equivocal. Equivocal indicates predication where the verbal term is identical, but the concepts have no connection in the mind.85 Nogar says, "These papers (at the Darwin Centennial Celebration at the University of Chicago in 1959 composed of fifty international experts on evolution reporting) on cultural anthropology, archaeology, psychology and language... show this radical change in the concept of evolution..."86 Darwin does not impose evolution on a grand scheme of biological, or cosmic, history but the origin of the species.87 The general meaning of the term "evolution" is tied to biological transformation of species by mutation and natural selection. Philosophical Evolutionism may attempt to extend that meaning.88 Herbert Spencer and some others wish to extend the term "evolution" to the level of a universal law that pertains to all transformation in the universe.89 Those followers of Darwin, notably Huxley and Spencer in England and Hackel in Germany, made unwarranted extensions of the theory into fields of philosophy and ethics. The extension of "evolution" is not univocal, as explained by Norgar.90 The extension of "evolution" is not analogous, as explained by Renard.91 The extension of "evolution" is equivocal, as explained by Nogar.92

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