Philosophy of Evolution: Survey of Literature

Neo-Scholastics in Poland

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Jzef Życiński (2005).99 Jzef Życiński is Archbishop of Lublin, Poland, a Neo-Scholastic and a member of the Vatican Congrgation for Catholic Education. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council on Culture. He studied at the University of Lublin, Poland. He attended the international congress on evolution at the Pontifical Atheneum Regina Apostolorum from 23 to 24 April 2002 in Rome. He delivered a paper, in English, on issues of evolutionary cosmology. He was also present for the congress dialogue. Jzef Życiński embraces evolution and interprets it in a sophisticated and appealing way.

Jzef Życiński treats the Anthropic Principle. There is an opposition between theology and science over the theory of evolution. Życiński wants to demonstrate that this classical opposition can be overcome. He views evolution as subordinate to the general laws of nature, and so evolution has to be an expression of the teleological and finalistic structure of nature. He views finality in nature from the perspective of the "weak" Anthropic Principle, that nature is somehow ordered to man. He takes into consideration some developments of modern physics. First, the "weak" anthropic principle: the world is just as we observe it because we are not able to exist in a world which would have different cosmic parameters and diverse physical laws. If we establish a "strong" anthropic principle, which many consider without any foundation and too metaphysical, we would insist that the universe must have these properties that permit the development of life.

Jzef Życiński explains "supervenience" and the "physical attractor." Życiński looks for categories that permit an integration of causality (natural laws keep everything predictable) and teleology (movement to a final goal). He wants to avoid reductionism to a mere material causality. He also wants to avoid a teleological view too strong and anthropomorphic. Two categories are helpful. The category of "supervenience", or emegence, explains the discontinuity between the ontological structures of the world without the need to reduce them all to the lowest (material) level. The category of "physcial attractor" explains how evolution can be interpreted as an ascending process directed toward an "attractor." In the evolutionary process the discontinuity (lower to higher species) is able to be explained with reference to supervenience, and God is able to be thought of as teleological attractor, as far as directing the evolutionary process according to a design that is not in agreement with the causal laws (since evolutionary progress moves beyond regularity).

CONCLUSION: The conclusion for the Polish Neo-Scholastic philosopher brings to light what seems to be an innovation, the Anthropic Principle. Actually, this has been a common Neo-Scholastic teaching, except for the name (Calcagno, Cosmologia, 1: 364-365). However, Jzef Życiński deserves special credit for two reasons. First, emphasis on the Anthropic Principle restores some finality to evolutionary thought. Secondly, the Anthropic Principle places man back in the center of the universe, from which the earth had been dethroned by Copernicus (now heliocentric) and man had been dethroned by Darwin (now just another evolved animal). This restoration is consistent with the teaching of St. Thomas (Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 22).

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