Philosophy of Evolution: Possibility

State of the Question


The Background concerning the Philosophical Possibility of Evolution

The Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome currently has a philosophy department that takes a very conservative view of the possibility of Evolutionism.1 While admitting "a certain evolution" is possible, the current view is that evolution is restricted to lower groups, such as species and genera, and not for groups higher in taxonomy. The current book by Maria Teresa La Vecchia, Evoluzione e FinaltB, is used in the Gregorian University course on evolution as the student textbook.2 Her book begins with a historic and conceptual introduction to the topic of evolution (chapter one) and continues with the evolutionary theory of Neo-Darwinism and its critics (chapter two), rather than a presentation of the Neo-Scholastic arguments for or against the possibility of evolution. In place of those Neo-Scholastic philosophical arguments concerning Evolutionism, the biological fact of evolution is extensively explored (chapter three).

Nevertheless, the concession of evolution between species is an advance from the position taken earlier in the twentieth century, which held that evolution or transformation was only possible within species.3 Thus in the early twentieth century, the philosophers at the Gregorian would hold the theory of permanence with regard to the philosophy of evolution.4

The theory of permanence, or fixism, is in opposition to the theory of evolution and maintains that every species is fixed, having come into existence through a creative act of God.

On the other hand, organic evolution is the theory that the various species and types of animals and plants derive their origin, not from distinctive creative acts of God, but through development from other pre-existing species and types. All differences in these species, even the production of entirely new species, are accounted for by modifications acquired in successive generations according to purely natural laws.5

Some evidence for evolution is found mainly in the fossil remains present in rock deposits of former geological periods, in the morphological and physiological similarity of organic types, and in the ontogeny and embryology of existing types. The fact of evolution has not been definitively proven by scientific research, but it is a probable theory.6 For the moment, the consideration of "purpose" in evolution will not be considered, but it so important that it will be fully treated in the next chapter. Also, various kinds of evolution, Mechanicist and Materialist, will be considered in subsequent chapters.7

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