Philosophy of Evolution: Society

Participants in the Dialogue


The Neo-Scholastics have always put an emphasis on free will.

Fatalism denies free will, and is generally defined as the doctrine maintaining that man is subject to certain determining forces which come from a superior power.16 So human actions arise from an impulse coming from a unique otherworldly cause which is not directed by any law.

Common fatalism denies liberty, and is the fatalism of ancient religions and of Islam, who submit all the events of life to an impersonal, blind and omnipotent force, which nothing can oppose. This irresistible force is sometimes called Fate, or Destiny, or in Greek: νάγκη.

Theological Fatalism, or Theological Determinism, denies liberty, and puts God in the place of impersonal force.17 The denial of liberty is due to the opinion that human liberty is not compatible with prescience,18 providence, or other divine attributes. Among those who hold this position are the Manicheans, Waldensians, the Albigensians, and later Calvin (1509-1564)19 and Jansen. Fatalism appeared again in the seventeenth century with Bayle. The Materialists and the Sensists deny free will because they deny spirituality. The Pantheists, such as Spinoza, deny human personality; they conceive everything in the world as necessarily determined in evolution to the Absolute.

Determinism does not seek a cause outside or above the world which imposes necessity on human actions, but teaches such a cause can be found in the world itself.20 Klubertanz notes that Evolutionism necessarily involves "the denial of freedom, whether or not they explicitly make this denial."21 Natural agents which operate in and near us determine our action in such a way, that it is necessary for man to act. There are many kinds of Determinism: Scientific, Physical, Physiological, and Psychological.

Scientific Determinism denies liberty, because liberty appears opposed to some general principles of science, such as the principle of causality or conservation of energy, or opposed to some particular principles of some determined science, such as statistics. E. O. Wilson relies on genetics, when he says, "No species, ours included, possesses a purpose beyond the imperatives created by its genetic history."22

Physical Determinism, or Mechanical Determinism, denies liberty, because it maintains all our volitions are the necessary effect of the physical environment, such as the mechanical, physical and chemical forces which are acting in us.23 Thus the determined way in which we concretely act has a unique dependence on diverse circumstances, food, temperature, the heavens, and other things of this kind. John B. Watson, founder of the Behaviorist school of psychology, maintained at first that there was no need to consider conscious states of phenomena, and ended by saying that there are no such conscious phenomena such as feeling, sensation, images, thoughts, desires, or volutions. Watson maintained that all human behavior is merely neural, muscular, or glandular movement.

Physiological Determinism denies liberty, because it maintains that the action of man is determined by diverse qualities of temperament and physiological constitution.24 Thus necessarily a choleric temperament impels toward pride and anger; the sanguine toward sensuality, prodigality and vanity; the melancholy toward sorrow, envy and suspicion; and the phlegmatic toward sleep and indolence.25 More recently, contemporary Naturalism, as proposed by Abraham Edel, maintains that the voluntary actions of man are not free.26 The Naturalists hold that there is in nature a real emergence of novelty, a real evolution which produces higher levels of being and novel sets of laws which operate deterministically on these higher levels.

Psychological Determinism denies liberty, because it maintains the will is always determined by the stronger motive.27 The will is necessitated if there is only one motive, or by the stronger of two motives. Many equal motives cause a suspension of volition, and hesitation. This point of view presupposes Evolutionism.28 Examples of the various types of Psychological Determinism are Leibniz,29 Hartmann, Hffding, and Sigmund Freud.30 However, that driving force of human behavior is modified by various factors, such as sensation, memory, reason, conscience (called "censor" or "super-ego"), and social pressure.31 These factors are frequently treated as if each were a separate agent.

Proponents of the thesis are Alfred R. Wallace and also the Neo-Scholastics. Concerning Alfred A. Wallace, he published a book entitled Darwinism in 1889 ( thirty years after Darwin); although he strengthened the argument for natural selection, Wallace denied that evolution by natural selection could account for the origin of man’s mental, moral and sociological faculties.32 Since at least 1881, the popes in their social encyclicals and their publication of documents from the Second Vatican Council not only endorse liberty and social justice , but encourage education to build a future society that is one of justice and peace.33 The Liberation Theologians are not just theoretical philosophers endorsing free will, but are activists, educators and personal leaders for greater justice and opportunity in society.34 All these Neo-Scholastics hold that society does not grow in a blind evolutionary way, but does need to be educated for social justice and peace on every level. Among the academic Neo-Scholastics, Gonzalez35 notes that whereas the Neo-Scholastics hold "man’s natural inclination, morally leading man, to form civil society." Detracting from the dignity of man is the theory of evolutionary society or the Organic Theory of Society36 holds that society arises from absolute necessity according to a force of social instinct of sense nature, transmitted by the law of heredity through generation, and with a necessity determined by evolution; so Organic Theory of Society holds that society is just an organism, produced by means of evolution. This is directly contrary to the doctrine of Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) on the social contract, which was also endorsed by Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679). These two philosophers differ only because Hobbes thought the primitive state of man was antisocial, while Rousseau thought primitive man extra-social (outside society). Therefore, Rousseau and Hobbes also implicitly deny sociobiology.

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, not every action of man is free, but some actions are "acts of man" and others are limited by sleep, hypnosis, drug use, alcohol, mental illnesses. Accordingly, even if our proposal and its proofs demonstrate the adversaries wrong, their reasoning can be understood and respected.

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