Philosophy of Evolution: Not Atheistic

The Level of Certitude


Atheistic Evolution Is Logically Impossible,
And Equivocal

The purpose of this section of the dissertation is to assess the minimum level of certitude for the thesis proposed, with an additional comment of any suspected higher level of certitude. There are various levels of certitude that can be chosen. Opinion is defined as intellectual assent (or disagreement) given to one part of a contradiction with fear of the opposite.125 Possibility is defined as the capacity for existence for a concrete possible thing: internally, that its constituent characteristics are not impossible, and additionally externally possible, if there is power to produce the thing.126 Probability, also called likelihood, is defined as the weight of motives, or the accumulation of serious motives, for prudent assent to some proposition, which is intrinsic probability if the motive arises from the nature of the thing, and can be extrinsic probability if the motive is from authority, which can also suppose the internal motive.127 Summary of Probabilities is defined as an accumulation of probable arguments, considered according to their force, which results from a mere juxtaposition. Convergence of Probabilities is defined as an accumulation of probabilities which converge to produce a sufficient reason. Moral certitude is defined as firm assent to one part of a contradiction whose necessity arises from the moral law in the physical (not ethical) sense, e.g., every mother instinctively loves. Physical certitude is defined as firm assent to one part of a contradiction whose necessity arises from the very physical nature of the thing, e.g., the law of gravity. Metaphysical certitude is defined as firm assent to one part of a contradiction whose necessity arises from metaphysical necessity, e.g., my own existence.128

Certitude rejecting atheism could arise from some observable fact or experiment. However, there is no experiment to prove evolution.129 However, some restricted observation of evolution is possible within species.130 Evolution involves movement from one species to another, and the new species is able to be observed; so the existence of God is commonly proved from motion. Evolution involves the production of new observable species, the end result and final goal of its process; so the existence of God is commonly proved from finality. Gilson notes that "each proof (of the Quinque Viae of St. Thomas) is based on the empirical observation of a fact."131 Concerning the fundmental nature of motion as observable, Gardeil notes that the entire philosophy of nature relates to mobile being, as St. Thomas says: "The philosophy of nature, which is called Physics, treats those things which depend on matter, not only for existence but also in definition. And because everything that has matter is mobile, it follows that mobile being is the subject of the philosophy of nature" (Aquinas In Phys. 1. 1. 3-4).132

Certitude rejecting atheism could arise from some philosophical explanation that exists. Explanations were given by several Neo-Scholastics: Benignus, Calcagno, Donat, Gardeil, Gilson, Glenn, Gonzalez, Gredt, Hellin, Hugon, Klubertanz, La Vecchia, Maquart, Marcozzi, Mondin, Nogar, and Renard.

Certitude rejecting atheism could arise if the argumentation was based on some philosophical principles. The necessity of evolutionary atheism is not proved by the principle of contradiction, since the works of God are more than just creation, and also since philosophers such as Teilhard de Chardin are evolutionary theists. Evolutionary atheism is not proved by the principle of sufficient reason, since material powers alone are not sufficient to produce the vital principles for life, new species, and the body of man.133

Certitude rejecting atheism could arise if the explanation is sufficient, due to the principle of sufficient reason. Since the argument from universal human consent at least shows a theistic consensus that is morally universal, constant and unshakable, about this serious matter that affects the future goal of the entire human life.134

Certitude rejecting atheism could arise if the explanation was rooted in St. Thomas Aquinas, thereby being faithful to tradition. St. Thomas argues for the existence of God in five ways. Several of these ways have particular relevance to evolution. Evolution involves metaphysical motion, the first argument of St. Thomas. Evolution involves grades of perfection, the fourth argument of St. Thomas. Evolution involves finality, the fifth argument of St. Thomas.

Certitude rejecting atheism could arise if Neo-Scholastics agree on the impossibility of evolutionary atheism, but all the Neo-Scholastics do agree that atheism is impossible. Hellin explicitly notes that this is the "common opinion" of the Neo-Scholastics.135

Certitude rejecting atheism could arise due to recent scientific confirmation by convergent scientific arguments, such as the argument from entropy and the argument from life origins.136 First, the argument from entropy, alleged by Donat, Eymieu, Hontheim and Boedder, holds that the universe will have an end, since (entropy) the conversion of energy into heat will eventually end all useful mechanical movement in the cosmos. If the cosmos has an end, it is finite, and if it is finite it has a beginning that must have an extra-mundane cause. Secondly, the argument from life origins, alleged by the Franciscan priest Gemelli, L. Roure, Vialleton, Muckermann, and Grasset, holds that the origin of life itself, the origin of species, and the origin of the human body, all need a supra-material cause, which at least remotely is God. Pope Pius XII pointed out the connection between these scientific developments and the existence of God in his presentation to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on 22 November 1951 entitled: "The Proofs for the Existence of God in the Light of Modern Natural Science."137 The pope notes that the arguments from motion and from order that St. Thomas uses for the poor of the existence of God have more force from the new theories of motion and entropy.

Certitude rejecting atheism could arise if the opposite opinion is tenable. However, theism is more tenable than atheism, especially relative to the principle of sufficient reason. The arguments of St. Thomas provided five different cogent reasons. There is also an argument for the existence of God from the universal consent of the human race, and this is a very serious matter involving the ultimate goal of life.138 This argument for universal human consent was endorsed by Plato, Cicero, many Fathers of the Church, and among the Scholastics; Chossat, Hontheim, Lennerz, Monaco, Urrburu, and Schiffini. That the argument from universal consent has a persuasive force (vim suasivum) leading to more reasoned proofs is held by: Billot, Buonpensier, Garrigou-Lagrange, Sertillanges, Mercier, Van De Meersch, and Descoqs.

Certitude rejecting atheism could arise if the objections of adversaries are able to be answered. Atheistic objections can be answered by the theist Neo-Scholastics.139

OBJECTION: Marvelous order in the world is disproved by tidal waves, unjust wars and oppression of the poor. REPLY: Many other things show the Intelligent Design of a most wise designer; SECOND REPLY: Some things fall under secondary providence relative to universal good

OBJECTION: Chance explains order and life in the world. REPLY: Life is beyond material power.

OBJECTION: There is no finality in the pain of animals. REPLY: It suffices that many other things are explained by Divine Wisdom; SECOND REPLY: Contingent beings are corruptible, but defects in contingent nature are not the defects of the Intelligent Designer.

OBJECTION: Finite world order does not need an Infinite Cause. REPLY: I distinguish the need. Proximate needs could be natural, since God uses secondary causality. Ultimate needs for order in the universe require an Infinite Cause.

Certitude rejecting atheism can be had from the possibility of philosophers and theologians admitting this mode of origin without damage to their other beliefs. Neo-Scholastic philosophers are all theists.140 In theology, the certain ability "to know" the existence of God from creatures as the cause (God) through the effect (creatures) is an article of faith (de fide); and the ability "to demonstrate" the existence of God is reductively an article of faith (proximum fidei).141 Ecclesiastical documents containing this affirmation include the First Vatican Council,142 the Anti-Modernist Oath required by Pope Pius X,143 the Retraction of Bautain,144 the Retraction of Bonnetty,145 and the teaching of Pope Pius XII in the Encyclical Lettter Humani Generis.146

Certitude can be had from the fact the theism as part of the providential plan for evolution of species is the best answer now for the origin of the species.147 St. Thomas makes a distinction between a "verified" universal (dici de omni) and a "provisional" universal (ut nunc).148 This provisional universal, within a working hypothesis, is very useful in the investigation of nature. An example of a verified universal (dici de omni) is that in a right triangle every right angle has ninety degrees. An example of a provisional universal (ut nunc) is "white" predicated as a common property of swans, or evolution predicated as the common property of every origin of species. The example of the right triangle is a property based on certain (propter quid) demonstration. The example of the white swans is based on an incomplete (quo) induction, since the reporters had never seen a black swan. Thus, the providence of God as part of the evolutionary plan for every origin of species is the best answer we have now.149

The level of certitude for "evolutionary atheism is impossible " is at minimum at the level of the metaphysically certain. The proof is from the principle of contradiction. The proof is also from the principle of sufficient reason. The proof is also from the principle of finality. Further, the convergence of all of the above arguments are proof, especially the fulfillment of the principle of sufficient reason. This agrees with the opinion of Hellin, who says his opinion "the common opinion of all Catholics and is most certain in philosophy."150

Having come to the correct conclusion on the philosophical level of certitude, the philosopher must still conclude with some humility. The philosophy of nature does not disregard the objects observed and perceived by sense.151 This is the method of Aristotle and St. Thomas.152 Thus from created things we can have the concept of being, substance, life, wisdom, limitation, excess; and thus we can form a concept of a perfect being without any limit, and with excess over all, which is the concept of God.153 However, it must be noted that the proof for the existence of God is not a proof a priori. An a priori proof would demand the demonstration of causes or reasons a priori. However, God does not have any causes or reasons for His existence a priori.154 Further, even from created things (a posteriori), God is not essentially known to us (quoad nos) but can be demonstrated.155

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