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Philosophy of Evolution: Reasoning Problem


Philosophy of Evolution
by John Edward Mulvihill,
S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.

Here the concern is still with the "fact" of evolution. The philosophy of Evolutionism will be considered in the short academic course in section three of this paper. Here the intention is to inquire about the difficulty in syllogistic arguments for the fact of evolution, and the possible lack of certitude of the fact.1 If the terms "evolution" and "fact" do not evidently coincide in philosophic or scientific judgements (as has appeared in the last two chapters of this dissertation), is it possible to create a syllogistic argument favoring the factual nature of evolution? Syllogistic argument (or reasoning) uses two premises, and comes to a conclusion based on the connection of the premises.2

Some Neo-Scholastic philosophers maintain that the "evolutionary hypothesis is now known to be a fact."3 Other Neo-Scholastic philosophers maintain that there is not sufficient empirical evidence for the fact of evolution.4 Even admitting evolution, one Neo-Scholastic notes, "The debate over what set off evolution and what shaped it is still open."5 Therefore, some Neo-Scholastics say evolution is a fact, while others say the matter is still open.

How could there be such a debate? Why is there no agreement about the fact of evolution? Both Possenti and Norgar seem to be correct when they say that the problem is the lack of a crucial experiment to prove evolution.6 The second major sign indicating the problem with the factual basis for evolution is the large number of different theories of evolution.7 Here it should be noted that these theories are "fundamentally" different, due to a scientific issue, since "many scientists are dedicated to the study of this mechanism of evolution, but there is no agreement as yet."8 The theories are fundamentally different, because the "mechanism of evolution" has not been discovered and proved.

How can Neo-Scholastics reply to this lack of congruence of evolution to the scientific method of experimentation and the quarrels of scientific experts? There are only three basic replies to these difficulties of a lack of experimental verification, and a large number of fundamentally different theories of evolution. First, some Neo-Scholastics affirm the fact of evolution can be proved by reasoning, second, others are agnostic about the fact of evolution being proved by reasoning, and third, some Neo-Scholastics deny the fact of evolution can be proved by reasoning.

Those Neo-Scholastics who affirm the scientific fact of evolution seem to argue in two different ways. One non-syllogistic way to affirm evolution is to ask the public to rely on the opinion of experts, or rely on convergence of evidence, or a combination of the two.9 Another non-syllogistic way of affirming the fact of evolution appears to simply "beg the question" by affirming what ought to be proved.10 There seems to be no syllogistic alternative among the Neo-Scholastics who argue in favor of evolution; there seems to be no Neo-Scholastic philosopher who defends the "fact" of evolution by syllogistic argument in favor of the scientific "fact" (as scientific, not the philosophy of Evolutionism).

A second group are agnostic that the scientific fact of evolution can be proved by reasoning. The agnostics about evolution can be divided into at least four different groups. This is because some admit a lack of knowledge about the fundamental scientific operation of evolution,11 or hope for the future,12 or are confused,13 or note that biology itself reveals little on fundamental order of nature.14

A third group are those Neo-Scholastics who deny the scientific fact of evolution can be proved by reasoning. Some of these philosophers argue that reasoning to the scientific fact of evolution is impossible a priori because there are biological exceptions to evolution,15 empiricism yields only facts and no explanations,16 evolution is only an historical fact and not a biological fact,17 evolution is not able to be absolutely demonstrated but only checked indirectly,18 and only the possibility (not the certainty) of evolution is able to be known.19 Some of these Neo-Scholastic philosophers argue syllogistically against the foundation concepts of the scientific theory of evolution, that these foundation concepts are not facts: struggle for existence,20 natural selection,21 law of heredity,22 adaptation,23 use and non-use,24 and fossils as proof of evolution.25 Another group of Neo-Scholastics argues that reasoning to the scientific fact of evolution is impossible because of the added assertions or added emphasis of atheism,26 materialism,27 and the Synthetic Theory.28 Another group of Neo-Scholastics argues that reasoning to the scientific fact of evolution is impossible because reasoning ultimately involves first principles, such as the Principle of Causality,29 the Principle of Sufficient Reason,30 and the Principle of Finality,31 all of which are denied by the Evolutionists, at least implicitly, as part of the theory of evolution. However, it is important to note that not all Evolutionists deny finality. Finalistic Evolutionism is professed by Claude Bernard with his "directive idea," by Schopenhauer with the "will of the species," by Cournot with his "plastic force," by Driesch with his "entelechy," by Rignano with his "species memory," by Brachet with his "creative life of the form," by Bergson with his "lan vital or vital thrust," by Teilhard de Chardin with his "formative psyche," by Vignon with his "organ-forming idea," and by Leonardi with his "virtue or capacity of transformation," among others.32 Even these theories are defective by reason of a lack of recognition of the cause of evolution.

In conclusion, it appears that there is no syllogistic argument to defend the thesis: "Evolution is a fact." If there was such an argument, it could possibly run: Observation and experiment prove a scientific fact; But evolution is open to observation and experiment; Therefore, evolution is a scientific fact. However, as has been seen, evolution is not open to observation and experiment, and therefore is not a scientific fact. Therefore, the conclusion of this chapter must be that not even reasoning by syllogism can show that evolution is a fact.

Two questions still remain as unsolved problems that arise in the treatment of argumentation relative to the poof of evolution. What about the suggestion of the Neo-Scholastic Raymond Nogar that the fact of evolution can be proved by concordant evidence from many fields? Secondly, why is it that scientific evolution is not open to observation and experiment? Consider each of these questions in turn.

Author: John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
Copyright 2009 by the Genealogist, 3236 Lincoln, Franklin Park, IL 60131 U.S.A.