PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCE IN THE CONTEXT OF CONTEMPORARY CULTURE
A Culture of Life Based on an Image of Man as Person Versus an Anti-Culture of Death Based on an Image of Man as a Product of Matter and Chance
– and A Critical Review of the Theories of the „Big Bang” and „Evolution”
International Academy of Philosophy in the Principality of Liechtenstein
1. Philosophy, Science, and Culture – An Ambiguous Relationship
Culture broadly understood encompasses all those aspects of human life that possess a form that is specifically human and are related to works and expressions of human persons which go beyond the mere manifestation of the general nature of man. Since, however, no human being can engage in agriculture, think, speak, order his private and public life, or even pray to God without doing so in a specific language or form, it belongs to the essence of man, specifically of any human person who lives in a human community, to have, or to partake in, some culture.
Besides art and music, also science and philosophy are parts of culture, although, inasmuch as they reach true results and hence possess a value independent of time, their reality and content – not their historical roots – transcend any particular civilization. In this they resemble objective moral values and religion which, inasmuch as they are true (instead of constituting mere culturally shaped substitutes for true morality and religion), entirely transcend culture, while music and art, even when their beauty exceeds any limits of a given culture and thus ceases to be specifically Irish, Italian, or Austrian, at the same time may embody perfectly the spirit of the particular culture from which works of art spring. This is much less the case with philosophy, except for the language, imagery, or the context in which it is expressed, and hardly at all with mathematics or natural science.
Science and philosophy are not only parts of culture but they also shape decisively most of the other manifold cultural and artistic expressions as well as the ethical standards and laws, along with political actions and systems, of a given civilization. In themselves, and through their vast influence on culture at large, they have in particular a profound impact on the generally accepted image of man and on a concrete society’s vision of the position of the human person in the cosmos. Mainly through this image of man implicit in them philosophy and science have molded in a decisive way ancient and modern cultures as well as their moral standards. They have made many contributions towards what Pope John Paul II calls the „culture of life” as a culmination of all culture, especially of a culture formed by the Christian faith. But both philosophers and scientists also have had an awful responsibility for the reverse: the ghastly „culture of death” that surrounds us from all sides. Ultimately the opposition is between a culture in which man is recognized as a person and thus as an image of God, and a culture built on an image of man according to which human beings are mere products of chance and matter or higher developed apes, as for example Marxism and Nazism thought. Does man possess a spiritual soul and hence does he exist to strive for spiritual values, for truth, beauty and the good, and is his purpose to know and serve God in all areas of life and culture? Or is he a product of life-less material forces, a higher developed animal which differs from other animals only by fulfilling its animal drives in a more systematic manner? Does a man-machine polished by evolution then not possess any foundation of authentic culture, let alone of morality and true religion that are the ultimate foundation of any culture?
Cultures are antithetical to each other mainly depending on their vision of man. The dominant contemporary civilization differs from great cultures of the past very much precisely in this respect. Certainly, right and wrong, good and evil, truth and error, always imbued different cultural atmospheres and civilizations. There were societies in which slavery was practiced, there have always been, in widely different cultures, racism, nationalistic and religious fanaticism, human sacrifices, and countless other negative phenomena. Nevertheless, if we compare the ways in which human persons, especially the unborn, unconscious or comatose, have been treated at earlier times – their lives having been protected by laws until recently – with how they are, not without legal blessing, literally being slaughtered in today’s anti-culture of death, we are stunned by today’s societal and cultural presence of a nihilistic anti-culture, of a glorification of evil and of ugliness.
Also when we compare the vision of the human person in former epochs of art with that expressed in vast portions of modern art, we are stupefied by the stark differences and oppositions within the realm of main trends in art during different cultural epochs. Possibly even more than for art, however, this is true for philosophy and for the philosophical visions promoted by scientists.
Philosophically and scientifically inspired opposite visions of the world and of man’s place in the universe do not remain on a mere speculative plane, though: they lead to opposite political and legal systems and, still more dramatically, they save or destroy millions of human lives. As Hermann Lübbe, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Zurich, stated not too long ago: In no century more millions of persons have been murdered than in the 20ieth century; and the victims of Auschwitz and the Gulag and countless other places, have to a large extent not been killed by a relapse to animal passions or on account of dark feelings of national pride or vengeance, but by a mere logical application to politics and private life of ideas about man which highly respected scientists and philosophers have taught for decades at the most prestigious Universities around the globe: these ideas about man, when carried out in practice, killed and are killing millions of human lives when they are translated and transposed into political ideologies (not to speak of the far more numerous unborn and elderly killed in abortion and euthanasia); and they killed and are killing a tremendous amount of what is good in Western civilization. We might recall Lenin’s words here: “There is no meanness or villainry for the defense of which no Professor could be found”. This applies also to the role philosophy and science played in the building “culture of death.” In contrast, a true philosophical and scientific understanding of the marvels of creation can serve a positive culture of life.
The question of the relationship between science and philosophy, and especially the role of both in shaping the contemporary image of man and a culture measured by the degree of its awareness of human dignity, are of crucial importance at this turn to the third millennium. Which image of man provided by science and philosophy is true and should be hoped for? And the rebirth of which horrid images of man of past centuries should we fear as a threat to mankind in the third millennium, a threat that originates not to a small extent in the works of philosophers and scientists?
In the following, I wish to concentrate on a critical account of two opposite images of man which science and philosophy provide, two opposite conceptions of nature and two contrary Menschenbilder that shape contemporary and possibly future civilizations. But before doing so, I will have to discuss the nature of philosophy and science at some length. The reader interested just in the basic content of the paper, may skip parts 2 and 3 of my paper and immediately jump to section 4.
2. The Development of Occidental Science from ™pist»mh to dÒxa
The term „science” today is often understood just in the sense of „natural science.” A new and yet also a classical ideal of science, however, is much broader and includes also humanistic sciences, especially philosophy and philosophical theology. This ideal of science had been defended by ancient philosophers such as Aristotle; it was also advocated by Christian thinkers such as Saint Bonaventure, who added to the list of sciences also „sacred theology“. Such a broader notion of science dominated philosophy of science from Plato and Aristotle on and still is present in works such as Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre, albeit in a subjectivist-idealist context from which we will critically distance ourselves. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially Bernard Bolzano’s Wissenschaftslehre and Edmund Husserl’s Logical Investigations point forcefully – yet restricted to the sphere of logic and general theory of science – to a philosophy of science in the sense in which it is to be understood in the following. A philosophy of science that corresponds to this broad notion of the term scientia is not a mere handmade of natural science nor does it provide it merely with formalized logic, but claims a crucial theoretical role for the elaboration of science, for its ordering and the distinction between science as ™pist»mh and as dÒxa, and above all entails a critique of scientifically clothed false philosophies and ideologies and of their influence on civilization, particularly on the Menschenbild of a given culture.
The following reflections intend to take up that role of philosophy for disciplines distinct from it, a role which Socrates envisaged in his Apology where he saw it as his task to investigate what in the knowledge-claims of artisans, poets, rhetoricians, and politicians was truly knowledge and what was pure and often erroneous opinion (false dÒxa). We shall apply this critical spirit to some aspects of the image of man which modern science has produced.
Intending such a critical role for the ensuing comments, I wish to express, with much more reason than Socrates in the Apology, my full admiration for all the wisdom and knowledge of which these great men of science were full and of which I possess nothing or almost nothing. But science does not only consist of such knowledge in the genuine sense but also of many theories, paradigms, constructs and philosophical interpretations which are frequently false. The very notion of science tends to be more and more equated with such hypothetical and falsifiable claims and not with ™pist»mh.
In order to understand better the background of our following critical reflections on “scientific” theories of the origin of the human species, we have to consider briefly the fundamental shift that has occurred in the understanding of the essence and goals of science during the last centuries. In antiquity and in most historical periods of the past two millennia, a discipline was called a science to the extent to which it possessed what Plato calls knowledge proper: ™pist»mh (authentic and certain knowledge) that is the opposite of dÒxa, an unfounded or insufficiently founded opinion. Only in ™pist»mh and nÒhsij lies a sure possession of objective truth. And only such knowledge, which reaches not only some trivial truth but truth about the good of man and the absolute Good, can be a science in the full sense and also the ultimate source of orientation in practical life. Plato in Republic VII says that without ™pist»mh reaching the ultimate “Good Itself” no reasonable action can be performed in private or in public life. Thus the highest object of all science and knowledge is the supreme and absolute Good which to know is the most important science and the source of all authentic culture.
Such a notion of science was espoused and deepened by Thomas Aquinas who observes that theology surpasses all other sciences, not only inasmuch as it possesses the highest object, but also qua science, and hence also with respect to scientific certainty. Thomas attributes this to the fact that theology derives its certainty not merely from human evidence but from a divine revelation that proceeds from the infallible cognition of God Himself. This Revelation teaches us many new truths unheard of in a world of purely human reason (such as our redemption through Christ’s death) but divine revelation teaches even those supreme truths which also purely human philosophical reason can discover, says Thomas. He gives three reasons for the need for divine revelation regarding those most important truths which are also known by human reason, among which there is the truth about God’s existence, and says that this knowledge of the truth about God (veritatis de Deo cognitio) is so important that on it not only the ordering of man’s earthly affairs but man’s salvation depends. Therefore God revealed to us also the highest truths accessible to human reason, so that these most important truths may be known by all, a position somehow anticipated by Plato in the famous words of Simmias in Plato’s Phaedo: that philosophical arguments for the immortality of the soul are the best vessel available to us to cross the way from hence to the beyond except if a „divine word (logos)” were sent to us from the other side to enlighten us. This Platonic assertion foreshadows Thomas Aquinas’ saying that the highest truths, though they are accessible to human reason alone, were fittingly revealed to us by God. Otherwise, if these truths and their knowledge had been left to human science alone, they would (1) only be known by few, (2) after a long time, and (3) with admixture of many errors. Thus according to Thomas Aquinas, God’s revelation made possible the most certain knowledge and science regarding the highest things because this science rests on divine wisdom and not only on human efforts.
For Plato and for Thomas, to determine the rank of a knowledge and science, not only the certainty of knowledge contained in it counts, but also the question whether it reaches truth about the highest object. In contrast, from Descartes on, in modernity more and more the certainty of knowledge (and only that of natural knowledge) becomes the decisive point of view for speaking of science.
Not following Descartes, but moving away from him and his great predecessors, the modern idea of science abandoned more and more both classical ideals of science: (1) that of the summit of science comprising full certainty of knowledge, and (2) that of the highest science reaching knowledge of truth about the highest objects. I, however, share this classical ideal of scientia. But I will consider in the present paper the ideal values of science, namely truth and certainty about the highest things, which include also the nature of the human person, as a philosopher and not as a theologian.
The followers and professors of science not only deserted more and more the two mentioned ideals and elements of the highest science: that of supremely certain knowledge and that of knowledge about the highest things, but eventually they even turned away from the most foundational value of all science: truth, and began to engage in a kind of „fictionalistic” and „constructivist” notion of science.
Let us recall the main steps in this historical process. First, we find a radical turn towards a subjectivization of certainty in Kant and Fichte which abandons objective evident certainty; thereby, while still retaining the value of certainty of knowledge, scientific evidence gets divorced from its only legitimate foundation and nurturing soil of objective truth. In empiricist philosophy not only the ideal of certainty of truth, especially about the highest things, is abandoned, but opinion, dÒxa, and mere hypotheses open to falsification, emerge as epitome of science and as the only acceptable form of it: dÒxa instead of ™pist»mh is now the ideal. From David Hume on, via the Vienna Circle, till Sir Karl Popper, Hans Albert and other „critical rationalists,” we find a movement towards an ideal of a purely hypothetical science without any certainty.
The following reflections instead speak in favor of a philosophy upholding the high values of truth and certainty pertaining also to the knowledge of the highest objects as part of the character of philosophy as a science and as basis of a well-founded critique of pseudo-scientific images of man.
3. The Difference between Philosophy and Science – DÒxa in the Sense of False Opinions about Man Falsely Claimed to be „Scientific” and the Autonomy of Philosophy as Judge of These
I have to admit a certain one-sidedness of my following account of the relationships between philosophy and science: I will not be able in this paper to heap well-deserved praise on the tremendous positive contributions modern empirical sciences have made towards a better understanding of man and towards enhancing knowledge and many other values in contemporary culture, nor will I investigate extensively the devastating horrors which many ideas proposed by „pure” philosophers and not by scientists, have produced. Moreover, as philosopher I must confess that whenever an idea proposed by natural scientists is dangerous or harmful, it is so either in virtue of its philosophical content and interpretation or because of its abuse but never because of its purely scientific content. Nevertheless, natural scientists are not innocent: as soon as they formulate their scientific results in a mode accessible to a larger community, they almost inevitably presuppose or imply some philosophy, and often a bad one.
Science, philosophy, art, culture, and religion stand, as such, in no opposition to each other. To the extent to which they realize the values for the sake of which they exist – the True, the Good, and the Beautiful – there is a perfect harmony and wedding between art, science, philosophy, and religion. Tensions and battles between them, as they shook up ancient and, more so, contemporary civilizations, only arise when either mutual misunderstandings, or errors and deviations from the true ideals of philosophy, science, and art appear in a given civilization.
Philosophers judged – often rightly, often wrongly – poets or scientists of spreading errors; vice versa, also scientists made similar reproaches to philosophers. And it is chiefly when any member of the community of philosophers, scientists, poets, or artists begins propagating error or fails to accomplish his rightful tasks, that those battles between philosophers, artists, and scientists start which have been of enormous import in the course of the last 2500 years.
Only on rare occasions philosophers, such as Plato, at least according to some interpretations, held that art as such and not just any particular degenerate form of it, had to be rejected and that therefore all poets should be driven out of the ideal State. (Even here such an interpretation of Plato’s thought does not remain uncontradicted).
Whereas, at least historically speaking, a battle in principle between art and philosophy may not be absolutely excluded, there are really never tensions between science and philosophy as such. In Greece, science developed from philosophy and the two were so closely related that, for example, the name Physics meant just as well philosophy of nature as natural science. Thales, the first known Greek philosopher, who predicted for the first time an eclipse of the sun and introduced the mathematical proposition named after him which states that all triangles inscribed in a semi-circle are right-angled, discovered important scientific and mathematical facts. Great philosophers such as Aristotle, Albert the Great, Blaise Pascal, René Descartes, G. W. Leibniz and Immanuel Kant wrote also many important treatises on science and mathematics. Above all, as all truth is one and cannot contradict any other truth, the genuine discoveries of science, philosophy, and also of religion can never be in real conflict with one another.
And yet the relationships between science and philosophy, especially with regard to the image of man that underlies culture, have by no means always been peaceful but involved grave mutual tensions, especially in the last 150 years.
More importantly, authentic and true philosophy should lead to much more serious tensions (than those existing) to many aspects of the image of man which, while having philosophical roots, proceed from the works of scientists. Certainly, these serious tensions ultimately are to be traced back to, for the most part philosophical, errors committed by scientists.
Saying that philosophy is called to judge pseudo-philosophical theories proposed by scientists, we must not interpret this so as to question the methodological autonomy of both natural science and of philosophy. These disciplines use very different methods. Empirical sciences use sense perception, observation, experiments, hypotheses, and complex theories, in order to explore the contingent aspects of the world. And also empirical humanistic sciences base their knowledge on a study and interpretation of contingent realities such as historical documents, languages, works of art, etc. Philosophers seek to understand necessary and highly intelligible essences and essential features of the world open to evident cognitions and insights, as well as to deductive demonstrations.
While mathematics possesses in many ways methods very similar to those of philosophy, natural science uses entirely different methods. The reason for such a difference in method lies in differences in the formal objects and purposes of the respective disciplines. For example, there are intrinsically necessary essences and essentially necessary states of affairs grounded in some aspects of knowledge, in freedom, in various kinds of conscious acts and mind, but also in motion, number, space, or matter. Philosophy, and partly mathematics, should explore these. But there exist also contingent facts and essential structures of complexities, such as the operations and kinds of diseases of the human body, which only empirical methods can throw light on. Thus, the clue to understanding why we need such different methods lies in an understanding of the different kinds of essences and objects. Non-necessary, contingent essences, the elements of which are held together by some factual, non-necessary although quite meaningful bond, do not allow insights into necessary evident truths. Thus philosophical methods are unable to investigate such natures as those of a cow or of the structure and function of the organs in the human body. Scientists who explore such non-necessary natures must use empirical and experimental methods. But to apply such methods to questions of philosophy and mathematics would be absurd. The mathematician would laugh if she or he were asked to conduct years of experiments to know that 2 x 2 can never equal 5. Similarly, it would be absurd to solve philosophical questions of ethics and oughtness by means of empirical studies of human or animal behavior. This is not so because we would be faced here with mere analytical propositions or tautologies but because we find here content-full necessary essences. Psychology or sociology can investigate empirical questions of human behavior, but philosophy has a different object, and therefore uses quite different methods designed to give us knowledge about the highly intelligible and necessary aspects of reality.
For philosophers to think they could interfere in empirical matters would therefore be quite inappropriate. They cannot explore, by means of their methods, the relationship between the movement of the earth and that of the sun, the empirical marks of life, for example the different parts of the nutritive, the nervous, or other body systems, the species of insects, or the cellular structure of living organisms and the functions of the parts of cells. They should leave these matters to empirical science to explore.
Scientists, on the other hand, evidently cannot solve philosophical issues by means of empirical observations; this is just as evident as the fact that philosophers cannot solve the above-mentioned empirical questions by means of philosophical methods.
This notwithstanding, some philosophers, especially those who also conducted empirical investigations, for example Aristotle, exerted a strong and illegitimate influence on science. Philosophers should not seek to solve empirical problems with their methods, thereby closing many minds to experimental sciences.
Usually, philosophers are less prone to intrude into the sphere of such empirical matters, however, than are scientists to speak about philosophical questions. Often empirical scientists switch, without noticing it, to claims which are purely philosophical. Mathematicians do the same when they do not just explore the necessary principles of numbers, geometric objects and other data, or only construe ideas – a procedure which likewise plays a legitimate role in mathematics and can be useful for other sciences – but claim that we created all mathematical objects, denying that any mathematical objects are eternal ideal entities and implying that they are mere mental fictions, etc. Then mathematicians philosophize and propose theories of mathematical objects which are not only plainly false (how could a mathematician create the infinite spheres of intelligible mathematical laws and, for instance, arbitrarily switch what holds true for prime numbers, to what holds true for even numbers or for odd numbers) but which, given the absolutely foundational role of numbers and other objects of mathematical knowledge, would have devastating consequences for all human knowledge.
The mutual autonomy of methods, however, and the danger of mutually intruding into the fields of our colleagues, must not be construed to imply a complete divorce between scientific and philosophical methods and investigations. We should recognize many fruitful mutual relationships between the philosophical and different empirical disciplines and the value of each. Therefore, I would not agree if someone proposed not only the complete distinctness of methods but the complete independence of philosophy and science from each other. For we have to recognize both the described autonomy and the many mutual relations between philosophy and science. For example, scientists presuppose many philosophical categories, such as reality, existence, proof, argument, logical laws, matter, space, time, indeterminacy, determinism, and finality, many aspects and the general essence of which they cannot explore by means of their methods but which are objects of philosophical analysis. The same is true about truth, the scope and purpose of each science, the value and limits of scientific knowledge. All these are philosophical problems, and the scientist presupposes implicitly some answers to them which only philosophy can give expressly.
The great historian of science and physicist Stanley Jaki has recognized a close connection between metaphysics and science. The most striking aspect of his studies in the history of science is that only a creationist metaphysics which sees the origin of nature in a free divine act and therefore recognizes contingency in nature, was able to provide the proper metaphysical basis for empirical sciences. Thus Jaki showed convincingly that a metaphysics and theology of contingency and creation was necessary to show that empirical sciences are possible and to provide a proper philosophical foundation for them. In this way, the scientist profits from good metaphysics.
Understanding contingency as condition of empirical science, however, must not lead us to believe that no absolutely necessary and immutable essences exist which precisely a priori sciences such as mathematics or philosophy investigate. (A priori is here not understood in the subjectivistic Kantian sense but in the sense of objective essential necessities.) Nor should we believe that in the field of objects of such a priori sciences empirical methods would be justified, except when necessary essences are hidden from our weak intellect, and that it would be possible, say, to establish the morally good by statistics or by behavioral studies of animals.
Speaking here of “a priori” knowledge, I do not only reject all subjectivistic interpretations of the a priori, but also do not deny that philosophy should take its starting point in experience, namely, in a such-being experience in which we come into contact not only with contingent facts but also with essential necessities relating to person, love, colors, freedom, morality, etc. which disclose themselves to us in a special form of such-being experience in their inner necessity.
The value of empirical methods of investigation absolutely forbids philosophers to meddle with the domain of science and to attempt to solve those problems which only empirical science can answer, by a priori theories.
But what applies to philosophy, applies even more to science. It is a disaster if ethologists who observe animal behavior deduce ethical conclusions from this, as Konrad Lorenz, Wolfgang Wickler, and many others do. And scientists frequently trespass over the limits of their discipline. This is legitimate if they have a proper philosophical education but only as long as they realize that now they are speaking as philosophers and not as scientists. For example, Einstein’s theory of the relativity of time has purely scientific aspects resulting in important formulas regarding mass, acceleration, and energy, such as E=m.c2. But he also develops philosophical theories about the essence of time and simultaneity being relative, which in no way follow from his physics and which older theories of physics that accounted for the same phenomena did not assume, distinguishing (absolute) real from (relative) apparent time and location. The same is true about Heisenberg who deduces from the physical aspects of his discoveries regarding the uncertainty relation, as well as from Einstein’s theory, far-reaching philosophical consequences (which in no way follow from scientific results) regarding indeterminacy, freedom, causality, the first principles of being (for example the principle of excluded middle), the ultimate ontological relativity of time, and other theses. The same is even more obviously true about the theories of evolution and of the Big Bang, which are, in most of their forms, chiefly philosophical theories for which the scientific research provides at best some starting point. This applies still more to the outrageous metaphysical claims about chance, necessity, and God, which Jacques Monod makes in his Chance and Necessity. As soon as scientists become unaware of the fact that with such theories they develop purely philosophical theories which have nothing to do with their science as such, and hold false philosophical theses as if these were empirically demonstrated, this becomes the source of many errors.
The philosopher is not only called to be a critic of science, however, but he also profits from science in many ways. Philosophical questions are posed by science to the philosopher. Scientific experiments and results about the brain can widen the scope of philosophy and corroborate or inspire new philosophical discoveries of „a priori“ structures, which I understand here as objective essential necessities and intelligible truths.
While many of these become accessible only through a special type of experience, the role which experience plays for philosophy and for biology is totally different. The experiment as such has no relevance for philosophy except for corroborating or calling into question from the outside the results of philosophy. Thus, philosophers can be pleased when the results of their philosophical studies are corroborated by empirical sciences, and they are forced to check the adequacy of their methods when their results do not harmonize with the results of empirical science. Yet the philosophical method is never the experiment; it is another kind of knowledge: insight (intuition) into highly intelligible and evident essences and states of affairs, evidence of existing beings (for example in the Cogito and the knowledge of other persons through empathy) and deductive demonstrations. But let us now turn to our main topic: the image of man provided by scientific knowledge in the described sense of science.
4. Science and the Reductionism in an Explanation of the Emerging of Life through the „Big Bang”
In the following, I will only treat the influence of certain false philosophical ideas found in two theories natural scientists have developed about the genesis of life and of man, and contrast them with a philosophy of the true nature of the human person and of life. Apart from the need to investigate the issue of the non-reducibility of life in greater depth, we will reflect critically on the idea of the Big Bang which demonstrates, as few other modern conceptions in the context of which chaos-theory is used, both how philosophically involved and how ambiguous and philosophically unclear the notions of chaos and of chaotic physical events are. Notice that in some of its forms, as for example in Andrej Linde’s cosmology of „chaotic inflation,“ the chaos-theory is used against the Big Bang theory.
Some notions of chaos, or J. Monod’s notions of chance and necessity, go far beyond the idea of complex and unpredictable causality or of events that must be described by means of non-linear equations. Reflection on the idea of the Big Bang also shows that such distinctions as between „deterministic chaos“ (in macrophysics) and „indeterministic chaos“ (in quantum physics) are philosophically insufficient and confused. Besides possessing a more precise scientific meaning, the term „Big Bang“ in some of its more philosophically involved meanings is also a prime example of a reductionist explanation of the world and of the origin of life. The term „Big Bang“ has the following quite different meanings:
(1) We find a philosophically and metaphysically undetermined notion of the Big Bang as some event that marks the beginning of our cosmos and took place some 15 billion years ago.
The fact that physicists are able to situate the origin of the universe in time at fifteen thousand million years ago is … a consequence of two events…first, the discovery by Edwin Powell Hubble…of the recession of the galaxies, which gave rise to the notion of an evolving universe; and, second, the famous measurement of the fossile radiation of 2.7°K (about -270°C), which gave this evolution an origin in time, that is to say gave the universe a definite age.
In this sense, to speak of the „Big Bang“ says only that our cosmos and particularly the motion of the astronomical bodies and systems, away from an imaginary center, have had a beginning at an approximately calculable time of some 15 billion years ago, and that at that time some “huge event” (described by the metaphor “Big Bang”) must have taken place. Essential for this first meaning of „Big Bang“ is that it remains open of what nature this event was. It could, so runs the interpretation of some theistic scientists, even be the moment of the creation of the world from nothing.
(2) Another and purely “scientific” notion of „Big Bang“ refers to a far more specific event in the physical universe, namely, a massive explosion described in detail by some physicists (in terms of the preceding temperatures, of the time when it took place, etc.), which would mark the beginning phase of the cosmos. Whether this event is an absolute beginning of the universe or only the initial episode of a new „cosmic age“ is left open. Some physicists even deny its actual occurrence so that it must be regarded as a speculative assumption on the scientific evidence for which opinions are divided. This notion of the „Big Bang,“ which to explore seems to be a mere matter for scientists to debate, neither denies nor asserts that this event itself and its ensuing consequences require a final cause (a purpose) or an intelligent design as explanation of the cosmic order that emerges from it. The metaphysical question remains equally open whether the static and dynamic beginning state of the world (and the Big Bang itself) required a personal Creator and whether the world stands in need of many further creative interventions of the supreme Being or is to be conceived in atheistic terms according to which the physical event called „Big Bang“ is the absolute cause of the universe: a quasi-divine and creative „Big Bang.“ In contradistinction to the first meaning of some sudden physical or metaphysical event 15 billion years ago which led to the emergence of the universe, this second meaning of „Big Bang“ refers to a physical event of a nature describable in terms of physics. Scientifically speaking, this meaning is much more specific than the first one. Philosophically speaking, however, it constitutes an equally little determinate concept inasmuch as it leaves open all the questions concerning the ultimate final and efficient causes of the cosmos.
(3) A third notion of the Big Bang is neither atheistic, as the fourth one, nor philosophically indeterminate as the second notion of “Big Bang.” It corresponds to a Teilhard de Chardinian notion of “evolution,” as an immanent development of matter into all forms of life and a theistic metaphysics which holds that never a mere mindless explosion of matter but only a divinely guided process can lead from the Big Bang to the rest of the Cosmos. These two elements of the third notion of “Big Bang” are necessarily connected with an evolutionism that assumes a continuous causal chain and development such that all later developments and forms of life developed „out of this event“ (the “Big Bang” in the second sense) and were caused by it, even if only by the operation of a supremely intelligent plan. To be distinguished from the fourth notion of the “Big Bang,” the monistic evolutionary notion of the „Big Bang“ in the third sense has to be understood in theistic terms (assuming that the Big Bang, the tremendous orders and structures of life, and the anthropic principle necessary to explain the emergence of human life had to be planned and initiated by a transcendent intelligent God). The third conception of this event recognizes many traces of “finality” both in the event with which the universe started and in its consequences. It attributes to the Big Bang and to the first material elements and events in the universe leading to it and following upon it all the evolutionary germs which then give rise – in an immanent development – to the coming-to-be of the whole universe. The world can, in keeping with this conception of „Big Bang,“ also be conceived as a huge entelechy and organism, along the lines of Schrödinger. A linear evolutionary development, however many qualitative leaps of chaotic nature it involves, leads, according to this third and definitely philosophical interpretation, from the physical event of the Big Bang to the end of human history and of the cosmos. This theory of the Big Bang is by no means a hypothesis of natural science but a philosophical and even a purely metaphysical theory.
(4) A very different but equally metaphysical notion of the Big Bang is that of a purely physical-chemical event which per se and without any transcendent intelligent or divine causality produced the whole universe by some chaotic and non-chaotic laws and events. Thus understood, the Big Bang constitutes the beginning of a materialistically, atheistically, and immanentisti¬cally conceived universe and evolution. This fourth understanding of the Big Bang is Neo-Darwinistic and monistic and seeks to make quantum-mechanical indeterminacy and deterministic chaotic laws of chance and necessity the „divinity“ responsible for the origin of the world. It corresponds to the first and atheistic notion of evolution discussed below.
We see how many meanings the concepts of the Big Bang and of chaos can contain and how confusing they turn out to be. I am reminded here of Benedetto Croce’s view that natural science does not use authentic concepts but words without definite meanings, something like non-concepts which perform functions in scientific systems but remain conceptually indetermined.
But what should we think about the different meanings of „Big Bang“ that I have described?
(1) The first sense of Big Bang I consider to be quite compatible with an adequate metaphysics; it can in some ways be confirmed by purely philosophical arguments for the necessity that finite, contingent beings have a temporal beginning, arguments developed in the Arabic philosophical tradition of the kalam argument and by Saint Bonaventure and other metaphysicians (such as Kant in his defense of the thesis of the First Antinomy) who contradicted the thesis that the world is (Aristotle) or at least could have been (Thomas Aquinas) beginningless. This first theory of the “Big Bang” also corresponds to many, though not to all, facts of science and is at any rate an assumption fully compatible with metaphysics. It is well-nigh universally accepted today but could be opposed by those philosophers, including most philosophers in antiquity and modern Parmenidean thinkers such as Severino, who deny any beginning of a universe which they regard as eternal and/or as static. It could also be rejected by those who hold the opinion that the cosmos moves in cosmic cycles subjected to some firm unexplored law of the eternal recurrence of the same. Also Friedrich Nietzsche defended such a theory although he might have understood the teaching of the eternal recurrence of the same more as an expression of a nihilistic will to power – which culminates in the will that the value-less absurd cosmos lasts eternally – than as an objective metaphysical thesis. Finally, this view of the „Big Bang“ could be criticized by those who interpret and believe in a literal sense the Biblical account of creation (in six days and in a certain sequence), or who hold other religious views which make them doubt the absolute validity of the modern systems of science to determine the boundaries of the temporal beginnings of the universe by their methods which are not free of untested philosophical assumptions implied in all inductive methods. The scientific methods mentioned above, on which scientists rely when they estimate the age of the universe, could be drawn into doubt even by those philosophers who do not criticize inductive knowledge in principle, as Popper does.
(2) The second meaning of „Big Bang“ constitutes a scientific hypothesis – or myth – which to demonstrate conclusively is impossible today but which can be introduced as a reasonable working hypothesis for cosmology and cosmogony. It was accepted widely by scientists over recent decades. But it is in no way uncontroversial. Some leading scientists today criticize it sharply and hold it to be an unsuccessful hypothesis for various alleged or real scientific deficiencies. Among its detractors are, for example, Hannes Alfvén and Fred Hoyle. They think the Big Bang theory in the second sense has not been successful and does not account for elements heavier than helium. Such scientists admit a temporal origin of the cosmos (and thus a Big Bang in the first sense) but reject the assumption of a Big Bang in the second sense at the origin of the universe; instead, they introduce other cosmological hypotheses about the origin of the world.
A more philosophical criticism of the Big Bang theory in its second sense would emphasize that the purposeful aspects of the universe cannot be explained by a concept of a Big Bang which seeks to identify only the efficient cause (and here only the physical part thereof) which produced the cosmos. Instead, any proper cosmological explanation has to take into account the obvious teleological aspects of the universe. The so-called „anthropic principle“ which shows how many astonishingly delicate conditions in the universe had to be fulfilled in order to render possible human life on earth, emphasizes this teleological aspect in modern cosmological reflection. Inasmuch as only – physically speaking – incredibly improbable combinations of material conditions in the universe as habitat of life make possible any terrestrial form of life, and not only human life, this principle could also be called a teleological „biotic principle“ which governs the rise of the universe. This teleological cosmological principle demands, like the rise of any other complex and intelligible order in the cosmos, besides meaning and purpose also an intelligent efficient cause behind any Big Bang. Plato and Aristotle have seen this clearly. I will return to this point when discussing critically the fourth meaning of „Big Bang.“
(3) The third meaning of the Big Bang can never be demonstrated by science and is a philosophical theory of evolution. It contains monistic and evolutionary conceptions of the structure of the universe which fail to recognize any of the significant essential and unbridgeable differences between various beings on earth, as I will substantiate them in my arguments for the irreducibility of biological life and for the reality of the human soul. If the arguments against the reducibility of bios to physical systems and those for the existence of the soul presented in this paper hold, the third meaning of the Big Bang theory is false because it contains the impossible assumption that entirely different and irreducible phenomena and realities (life and lifeless things; matter and mind) could „develop into each other“ and explain each other in terms of an „evolution.“ Evolution is only possible where no radical necessary and essential differences exist between different species, differences which cannot in principle evolve into each other. Only where accidental (contingent) differences occur which do not touch the principal essence and substantial nature of beings, evolution through series of genetic mutations is possible, similarly to the amazing possibilities of metamorphoses which we witness in nature. But lifeless things can never, in an immanent development, evolve into living things, and even less can matter „evolve“ into mind.
(4) The fourth meaning of Big Bang rests upon still heavier metaphysical assumptions which imply a philosophically false materialist and atheist explanation of the coming to be of the world which is entirely unfounded by scientific facts and is purely philosophical in nature. As philosophical cosmology, however, it falls behind the level of cosmology of most Presocratics, a regress in cosmological sophistication hardly understandable given that the astonishing inner meaning and order of protein-molecules, of life and of the genetic code, as well as of countless teleological aspects of the development of the universe, such as are contained in the ideas of the biotic and anthropic principles, are much better known today than ever before. From Xenophanes and Thales, but most certainly from Anaxagoras on, philosophers have understood that the teleological aspects of the universe require an intelligent author of the cosmos. As mentioned, Plato developed a highly sophisticated metaphysical cosmology in this direction. The purpose of my present investigation, however, forbids a detailed analysis here of the ultimate origin of the universe. May it suffice to insist on the untenability of all those meanings and theories of chaos-theory and of Big Bang which involve a reductionism that does not do justice to the irreducible essence of life. For this irreducible essence of life forbids any explanation purely in terms of events that take place in inorganic matter.
5. The Theory of Evolution as an Example of Scientifically Inspired DÒxa – A Philosophical Analysis of Three Entirely Different Meanings of the Ambiguous Theory of Evolution
Possibly one of the most widespread forms of dangerously confused philosophical opinions (dÒxa) thought up by scientists is the theory of evolution which concerns the nature of reality as such and most of all that of life and of the origin of all living species including human beings. The evolutionary account of the origin of all living things possibly shaped the image of man on which contemporary culture rests more profoundly than any other scientific or pseudo-scientific theory.
When we speak of „evolution,” we ought to distinguish from the start two entirely different things: on the one hand, one might designate with this term any form of trans-species development of organic beings such that one species undergoes fundamental changes and develops into another species, its members assuming new sets of characteristics. This idea that forms an essential part of the concept of evolution (as distinct from simple growth) was already suggested by Presocratics such as Empedocles. It was developed later in Augustine’s theory of the rationes seminales, a theory to which we shall return. In this respect the theory of evolution, or at least parts of it, can be subject of empirical confirmations or refutations inasmuch as we observe the new breeds of animals or new species of plants which can be brought about by genetic engineering or cross-species breeding, etc., as well as through certain chains of paleontological findings. The other element of the theory of evolution concerns the causes and principles which bring about the described changes from one species to another one. In this second regard, the Darwinian and Neo-Darwinian concepts of evolution differ radically from Augustine’s and other possible conceptions of such trans-species developments or formation of new species „out of old ones,” while in the first respect they differ only in degree and radicality. The Darwinian theory of evolution, also in most of its contemporary forms, does not merely consist in the conviction that there are trans-specific organic developments and mutations but rests on a few extremely vague ideas of largely philosophical content and very disparate nature that stand in desperate need of critical examination. Most of these ideas will turn out to be the direct and very logical consequences of the metaphysical background from which followers of Darwin such as Haeckel developed their theory as an atheistic alternative account of the origin of species after rejecting not only the religious but also the philosophical (Platonic and Neo-Platonic) teachings on the creation of nature by an intelligent God. What are the ideas and principles of such an “evolutionism”?
a) the idea of chance, domineering in Jacques Monod’s work, a vague concept of which Aristotle has shown that it is has many quite different meanings;
b) some universalizing and interpretations of facts regarding hereditary biological properties and mutations (discovered before by Mendel) as if they were keys to explaining the entire genesis of life in nature;
c) some extraordinarily primitive so-called „principles” such as that of natural selection, survival of the fittest, etc. These so-called „principles” extend trivial facts (such as that a stronger animal fighting with a weaker one for a female will kill it) into domains of a general theory of the development of living species that are in no way scientifically supported by these facts.
An increasing number of authors has pointed out that already the notion of „evolution” is profoundly ambiguous and that neither for its empirical, nor for its purely naturalistic and metaphysical claims there is good evidence, as for example the Harvard Professor Phillip E. Johnson has done so in a brilliant book on the matter. Philosophically speaking, the notion and theory of evolution is extraordinarily confused.
This becomes clear when we consider briefly how the very concept and consequently also the theory of evolution can be taken in many senses. I shall distinguish here only three of them also with respect to the question whether they contain both of the mentioned general elements of the modern theory of evolution: the trans-specific development and mutation, and its being dominated by the mentioned „laws” and elements. Our critical analysis shall illustrate a far more general observation that can be applied to countless areas of philosophy of science: namely that an interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary dialogue between scientists and philosophers is most necessary because we find a great philosophical ambiguity in influential theories proposed by scientists. The theory of evolution can be understood at least in the following three ways:
(1) In its „orthodox Darwinian” or „Huxleyan” and „Haeckelian” sense as a naturalistic and purely philosophical-metaphysical, materialist and atheist, theory which attempts to explain both pre-biological evolution (the transition from non-living being to life) and biological evolution (as origin of all further species from an assumed first one-celled organism) in mere terms of matter and the rather vague philosophical ideas mentioned above. In all of this, the theory of evolution intends to be an alternative to the philosophical and religious doctrines on divine creation, and implies a naturalistic and atheistic interpretation of the origin and development of species; the mentioned vague concept of „chance” and the primitive alleged „principles” of natural selection etc. are a direct and logical consequence of this vision of the world. In this conception of evolution, three decisive elements for accounting for the genesis of life are missing: (1) there is neither purpose in nature itself (2) nor intelligence of a personal Creator, nor (3) any vital principle or soul irreducible to matter at the origin of life. The brilliant and prestigious critic of the theory of evolution, Phillip E. Johnson, insists, that Darwinian and Neo-Darwinian evolutionism must be interpreted along these lines, a thesis with which I agree even though Darwin himself was not an atheist. At any rate, the first type of the theory of evolution is such an essentially atheistic one.
Hans Jonas has pointed out that in such a materialist atheist theory of evolution we are faced with a huge ontological and causal shift of world-view: not the living but the dead is primary being; dead, i.e. life-less, being becomes the model and cause of living things and of all reality. Jonas shows brilliantly that much of modern thought on life stands under the verdict and „climate of a universal ontology of death.“ Now this „theory of evolution,” unlike the empirical observation of certain trans-species developments or experiments with genetic engineering of new species (which can be the object of methods of natural science, whatever the ethical permissibility of such a work may be), is not a scientific theory but a philosophical one. It is an entirely metaphysical theory. For this reason it can never be proven nor be refuted by empirical methods but only by philosophical ones even though also these can be confronted with the experience of the nature of things and have to withstand the „test of reality” in the sense that no empirical fact can contradict authentic philosophical insights but can very easily contradict false philosophical claims.
(2) A second form of evolutionism is that of a universal explanation of the origin of life in which an intelligent Creator-God is not denied (possibly even asserted) but which is characterized by two elements: a) first, by the idea of an uninterrupted chain of development in which immanent developments of matter, starting from the „Big Bang,” under certain physical conditions, led to life, which is not so new with respect to life-less matter that it could not have evolved from it. Once life came about by some „chance and necessity” operative in non-living nature, and hence the first primitive living being existed (not precluding outside divine influence), this first living thing gave rise in an uninterrupted evolutionary cosmic process to all living organisms including man. Implied in all this is the thesis that between living and lifeless beings, and between human and subhuman organisms, there is no fundamental essential distinction which would preclude that a life-less material being, by such „divine evolutionary techniques” as mutation, „natural selection,” and „survival of the fittest” could give rise to life or to fundamentally higher forms of life. Nor is there any obstacle, according to this theory, that from its one-celled beginning, the first living cell would by similar evolutionary „techniques” give rise, in virtue of its own immanent causal powers, to all other forms of life. Therefore neither the first arising of life nor that of the human person did presuppose any new creative divine act. This second theory might be Teilhard de Chardin’s view of evolution, within which he even goes to the extreme of suggesting that Christ or „le Christique” (God?) is the highest product of evolution.
This second theory of evolution can possess two elements which the first one lacks: (1) it may admit finality in evolution; (2) it can assume an intelligent cause of all design in nature, and even allow for a divine spirit as cause. But unlike St. Augustine teaching on the rationes seminales, this evolutionary theory strangely and (as we shall see contradictorily) still sticks stubbornly to those primitive and mythological „principles” and „causes” of evolution (restricting these causes to things such as „natural selection” and survival of the fittest) which make no sense in a theistically planed „evolution” or trans-species-transformation which will become evident when we compare it with Augustine’s teaching on the rationes seminales. The third element missing in the first theory of evolution as accounting for life is also missing here: namely any soul, entelechy or other „life-principle” that cannot be reduced to the sheer „forces of matter.” While this theory is not materialistic in admitting a living divine mind as cause of evolution, it is materialistic in excluding any soul or life-principle essentially irreducible to material causes and inexplicable through them. Hence, also this second theory of evolution must give a strictly materialistic account of life (denying that there is anything substantially new in living organisms compared with the non-living), and involves a reductionist account of human personal life in holding that there is no fundamental unbridgeable distinction between human persons in comparison to animals such that persons can „evolve” from animals. Consequently also one decisive role of God is denied: that of creating all life and especially of creating the human soul in a direct intervention. God is reduced here to a „deistic” „steering the evolutionary process” without any concrete creative action in the universe. Thus this second kind of theory of evolution shares with the first one the opinion that all earthly life can be reduced to matter and that even if there were entelechies, life-principles, and a human „mind” which would not simply be reducible to matter, these apparently „spiritual” entelechies or „minds” nevertheless somehow have to spring, as some epiphenomena or emerging properties, from the (biological) matter of the brain in an evolutionary process. Thus according to this theory all life would and could be nothing but some epiphenomenon of matter, if it is not straightforwardly identical with it. At any rate, according to this opinion, there is no new creation required for generating life and the human mind from the life-less. According to this view, divine creativity so to speak produces these only seemingly living creatures as highest phenomena of nature from dead matter alone, based on the mentioned „evolutionary laws”. Such a view does not allow for the fundamental newness of a spiritual human soul which, if it exists and can be known, certainly could not have sprung from matter alone. Jonas himself, in spite of many critical notes on Darwinistic evolutionism, appears to embrace a monism and speaks of „the first feat of matter’s organizing itself for life,…actuated by a tendency in the depth of being toward the very modes of freedom to which this transition opened the gate.“ Concomitantly with this monism, Jonas rejects any form of „dualism,“ a term which Jonas fails to analyze, and consequently sees the prime manifestation of life in organic life, thus reducing personal life somehow to an emergent property of biological life, a position he appears to reject in his later work, Macht oder Ohnmacht der Subjektivität.
(3) Evolution could be meant in a third sense as a partial explanation of the origin of living species. Within this least reductionistic third theory of evolution we find many degrees of radicality or restrain of evolutionary claims.
The maximum such a theory could allow in terms of evolutionary claims is that all animals, from amoebas and insects to elephants, and even the human body, came about through evolutionary processes that follow the described laws, from a first one-celled animal or even from dead matter; once the first living thing existed by pre-biological evolution (or had been created by God), the rest of all living species would evolve by an immanent development of the potentialities of the first, or several, living cells. In its most „evolutionary form,” the third theory of evolution could draw the line of evolutionary explanation only at the human soul: it would then allow for life to come from life-less matter, and for animals to evolve from plants, and only exclude an evolutionary account of human souls.
In its most distinctive and least „evolutionistic” form, which I see expressed in the recent Papal speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the third theory of evolution would neither claim that life could spring from life-less matter by evolution, nor that animals come from plants through evolutionary laws, nor, and least of all, that human minds (souls) could evolve from animal life. In this variety, the third theory of evolution would only allow for evolutionary processes within the most fundamental living genus (plants and animals) or with respect to certain biological traits of humans, not however explain the origin of life itself, or of human personhood and the human soul, and not even of animals, through evolution.
Within this third understanding of the theory of evolution one could also restrict the spheres within which evolutionary processes are assumed much further and see them only possible within a given general kind of plants or animals or within certain groups and genus of animals.
Thus, this third theory of evolution would reach from harmless and undoubted „evolutions” as restricted trans-species transformations, mutations, growths and developments that would lead to small changes beyond the confines of a given species (for example, the ‘evolution’ of some birds which grow under stress into larger animals, or of all birds which would stem from an animal called archaeopteryx, or of moths which adapt their distribution in white or black colored samples to the surroundings, or of dogs that developed from wolves or hyenas) up to a complete speciation of all plants or of all animals from some original living cell.
Only the above-mentioned limited evolutionary „facts” and this third kind of theory of evolution, which insists on the all-important direct creation of the human soul through God and does not explain the coming to be of persons by evolution, is at times treated favorably or at least „openly” in some recent Church documents, such as Pope Pius XII Humani generis, and in the address of Pope John Paul II to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. These Church documents regard limited „evolution” at least as a possible modern reading of Genesis.
In all of its forms and degrees, this very different, third theory of a limited evolution, that would have to be initiated and complemented by acts of direct divine creation, could be applied to any partial phenomenon of trans-species development or to any transformation of one species (or even race) into another one, however limited such „evolutions” would be. This notion of a partial evolution is philosophically possible and, in its most modest degrees and varieties, perhaps partially „proven” (with virtual certainty we might claim, for example, that large series of species of dogs derived from wolves and others from hyenas). In its radical form (claiming that all animals from elephants to bacteria developed from the same one-celled animal) such a theory of evolution is definitely a pure scientific myth of the sort Karl Popper tried in vain to eradicate from the camps of science. In this radical form, it appears empirically as well as speculatively extremely unlikely, though it would not violate any philosophically given essential necessity because it would not explain the transition from life-less to living organisms and from plants to animals, or from animals to human beings (at least with regard to the human soul) as a product of evolution but would here postulate the necessity of divine creation.
What we just said is true only under one important restriction: namely that the third theory of evolution not only grants speciation and the origin of new species by some mutations but abandons the primitive principles which we have mentioned above and which are philosophically speaking utterly incapable of explaining the origin of species. We recall here that we have identified, before introducing the distinction between three radically distinct theories of evolution, two different elements of these theories: the trans-species evolvement and the identification of its cause in the Darwinian „principles.” Now we will see, turning to Augustine’s teaching of the rationes seminales that this is a decisive point. For while Augustine may have conceived of a very far-reaching cross-species development, and in this sense of an „evolutionist” origin of species, he developed a profound metaphysical theory of the causes of such an evolution which is wholly opposed to the actually or virtually „atheistic” and silly „principles of evolution” Darwin and Neo-Darwinians postulate. Therefore, also the Church has to separate entirely the “evolutionary” idea of a trans-species development by which given species are transformed into new species from the other idea: that those „laws” or „principles” through which Darwin sought to explain evolution are sufficient principles of explanation of the origin of species.
6. Was Augustine an Intelligent Evolutionist or Something Better? The Need to Separate Speciation from the Darwinian Theory of Its Causes and the Teaching on the „rationes seminales” as Possible Beginning of an Adequate and Anti-Darwinian Theory on the Origin of Species to Supercede the Neo-Darwinist One and to Correspond much Better to the Progress of Modern Genetics
Augustine speaks, employing many different terms, in at least seven different places and three works, chiefly in his Genesis ad litteram, of the so-called „rationes seminales”. It is not easy to figure out what he means by this term but one of the meanings seems to imply a very sophisticated and profound theory of the origin of new species from existing ones. His theory of the rationes seminales includes the following elements: (1) It is clear that Augustine rejects the first two types of theory of evolution distinguished above. Besides rejecting the first (atheistic) one he assumes not only human souls directly created by God but, as Aristotle, also animal souls with some power to „cause more than being caused” and principles of vegetative life, of plant life. (2) He seems to say, however, that God has inserted into matter from the beginning of creation rationes seminales (seminating/germinating „ideas” or „plans”) towards different forms possibly developed in matter. This seems to leave open the room for one central element of the theory of evolution: that there is some development of one species from another (speciation). At the same time, this idea in Augustine is completely separate from such external and ultimately meaningless terms as „natural selection,” „survival of the fittest,” replacing these principles of evolution with an idea similar to that of the entelechy in Aristotle, that it is an inner active principle that contains in potency an elaborate form and potentially dynamically unfolding teleological plan which could only originate in a supreme intellect. Thus not mindless „natural selection“ but an ingenious creative idea of God „inserted into matter“ is the cause of evolutionary development as conceived by Augustine (trans-species-transformations). This corresponds to the profound philosophy of nature of Hedwig Conrad-Martius in many of her works. It seems also an idea much more akin to the modern knowledge of genetics and the sophisticated nature of the genetic language of the roughly 3 billion base pairs of the human genome and that of other genomes. Thus, similar to an explanation of the single living organism in a wholly finalistic manner, not excluding the need for a life-principle or soul to explain life and for the actual carrying out of this plan, an activity which cannot be reduced to the language of the genetic code that can also be stored on a computer and then is not living no carrying out its plan. Augustine provides a theory of speciation as fruit of supremely intelligent divine plans inserted into matter. Thus we have here a sophisticated finalistic interpretation of life and its teleology as the active work of a masterful ingenious mind instead of being a product of chance and necessity or principles without any explanatory powers such as „natural selection” or „survival of the fittest”. Within the third sense of the theory of evolution this seems to be the only acceptable form of it reconcilable with the insight that matter cannot be the first cause of being. Thus the rejection of evolutionism in the first sense also requires a radical rethinking of what might be an adequate account of evolutionary processes if these cannot be the work of material explosions, blind forces lacking all intelligence, but must be the work of supreme reason. Augustine’s teaching on the rationes seminales inseritae materiae gives a clue for such a complete rethinking of the causes of evolution, freeing them from the mindless way in which an atheistic account of life had to interpret them. (3) Augustine does not believe that all living things could spring from any matter in a total fluidity of genomes but holds a restricted possibility of species-tranformation determined in its limits by some nature. (4) Augustine not only presupposes a supreme intellect as cause of these active plans and ideas hidden in matter but he also distinguishes life as being essentially distinct from the non-living, wherefore in living beings the rationes seminales also involve some soul that is irreducible to chemical and physical forces. (5) Often Augustine sounds as if he meant with these rationes seminales first of all not principles immanent in matter but divine creative ideas which exist in God long before the things exist that correspond to them.
This Augustinian teaching is not exclusively his but exists in countless variations in the works of most ancient and medieval philosophers who recognized that teleology in nature can only be the product of intelligence. It is by no means absent from pre-Christian philosophers and can be found for example in the (semi-)creationist metaphysics of Plato which Giovanni Reale has recently shown to be an essential part of Platonic philosophy and cosmology, and by no means a mere myth, as most scholars had interpreted it before Reale provided strong arguments in favor of his new interpretation of the Platonic demiurge.
7. Science and the Threat to the Image of Man – A Philosophical Critique of the Theory of Evolution in Its First Two Senses as an Example for DÒxa and Pseudoscience
Many arguments can be advanced in favor of rejecting evolution in the sense of Darwin and Neo-Darwinism (the theory of evolution in its first sense). Many of them refer to the same utter implausibilities by which also the second and third theory of evolution (the latter is absurd only in its radical form) is fraught and which will be discussed below. Other empirical difficulties especially apply only to the concept of a „thoughtless” evolution not guided by a divine mind. Let us first turn to these.
A) The Complete Absurdity of the First Theory: that Chance and „Natural Selection“ without Intelligent Creator Suffice to Explain the Origin of Species
That mere chance led out of a world governed by the laws of chemistry and physics to the generation of life seems too absurd to be treated seriously. But we will have to do so because it is taken seriously by many scientists. Jay Roth expresses the inexplicability of bios-life through dead matter by principles of chance (i.e., without intelligent design) very well:
If one considers even a single protein, for example, glycogen phosphorylase, this displays such an immense complexity that it boggles the mind. Considering the processes of protein synthesis, DNA replication and repair, and hundreds of equally complicated processes, one is left with a feeling best described as awe.
I have carefully studied molecular, biological, and chemical ideas of the origin of life and read all the books and papers I could find. Never have I found any explanation that was satisfactory to me. The basic problem is with the original template (be it DNA or RNA) that would have been necessary to initiate the first living system that could then undergo biological evolution. Even reduced to the barest essentials, this template must have been very complex indeed. For this template and this template alone, it appears it is reasonable at present to suggest the possibility of a creator.
I must be honest and point out that even though, as some have calculated, the odds of such a template forming by chance are 1 in about 10300 or, possibly, a much larger number, it is always possible to win the lottery…
Even the success in such a chance production of a protein would not yet explain that of a cell and the phenomenon of life as we shall see in criticizing the second theory of evolution below. But here we are just dealing with the improbability at the limit of absolute impossibility of arriving even at one protein by chance events in the physical life-less universe. Similar ideas are expressed by Henry Margenau:
the British Astronomer Fred Hoyle is widely noted for the statement that believing the first cell originated by chance is like believing a tornado ripping through a junk yard full of airplane parts could produce a Boeing 747.
The inexplicability not only of the inner finality of living organisms but also of their enormously complex relationships to their surroundings was expressed in 1921 by the discoverer of the biological notion of Umwelt (surroundings), Johannes von Uexcüll, with respect to the immense improbability that an amoeba could not only come to exist by chance, but find a surrounding in which to live and then to propagate itself regularly. He compares this with the idea that by accident a car be formed out of different parts of metal, a key falls – by accident – in the key-hole, gas flows in – by accident – in the tank, the key turns by accident, by accident there is a street on which the car can drive, etc. And when this car crashes and breaks, from its parts by accident it is restored or little cars emerge from the pieces of the preceding one. And this would go on all the time and quite regularly, billions of times, and not just 1 time per 10300 – all by chance. He adds that to assume such an origin of cars would be an incomparably more probable assumption than a transition from lifeless matter to the simplest organism, which is far more complicated than any car, let alone the assumption of the production, by chance, of the entire cosmos of organisms on earth. He also makes the excellent remark that if the most intelligent scientists, studying all laws of nature and creating artificially the conditions under which they believe life to emerge from lifeless materials, were ever to succeed in their efforts, they would not prove that chance can produce life, but only that the highest terrestrial intelligence, after years of study, was able to produce one simple form of life. A deeper refutation of the evolutionism that explains the genesis of life from dead matter would have to enter more profoundly into the intelligible essence of life and show that even if the most mind-buggling complex material structures could be explained by evolution, that would have nothing to do with explaining life that is irreducible to them.
How to explain in this theory based merely on the mind-less principles of chance, natural selection, survival of the fittest, for example, that the mere chance events that allegedly led to the unbelievable „miracle” of suddenly producing a completely functioning human male – after innumerable mishaps which Darwin himself presupposed as consequence of his theory but whose countless paleontological traces history has kindly annihilated – led a second time and at the same time to an equally improbable chance production of a human female, without which the freshly chance-generated male would not have been of any use for the „species” man? If scientists and mathematicians such as Jay Roth have argued that a chance-formation of one single protein mathematically speaking has merely a chance of 1 in 10300 of occurring, what chance does the chance-production of a cell, an organ, or a whole Adam have? A number no man can even think of or write down! But what will then be the chance of the simultaneous chance-production of a human being so different from Adam and marvelously beautiful and meaningful as Eve? How does the theory of evolution explain that both man and woman, if they sprang from a chain of chance events, fit so well together and must have arisen at the same time so as to propagate and start a human race? The mathematical probability of this is such that only a madman can even for a second seriously believe that such a thing would happen. Already these mere material-mathematical considerations lead to absurdities for an atheist theory of evolution which make it almost incomprehensible that generations of intelligent persons could believe it. But these are not the most decisive objections.
I admit that my critique is not valid against a more intelligent design-version of evolution which is not yet our theme at this point. But someone might object that our considerations are not even applicable to the first type of theory of evolution. They would only be valid, one might claim, if nature were entirely chaotic; but since it is dominated by laws, these laws can lead to the production of new species according to non-random principles.
But this objection to our argument keeps forgetting either that we here are dealing with the first type of random-chance-evolution, and that the mentioned degree of improbability precisely refers to a world dominated by the laws of nature; or the theory forgets another important thing: if such tremendously organized laws and rules exist, much more complicated than those of a chess-game, they themselves, since they are contingent (non-necessary) are not an ultimate explanation but need one. Hence, far from explaining how chance productions following mere principles of natural selection and survival of the fittest can give rise to living species, they themselves require a sufficient reason that explains why they exist at all (as principles of order instead of total chaos). They cannot be explained by the invocation of „chance.” But if their origin lies in an intelligent maker of nature, we do not deal any more with an evolution in the sense of Darwinianism and with the first theory of evolution outlined above, but with a gradual origin of species through an intelligently designed plan operating according to a huge set of „laws dominating nature and even chaos as well as species and processes of evolution” that are contingent and meaningful and therefore must originate in an intelligent maker of the universe (all the time assuming that evolutionary transitions from species to species actually occur). About the plausibility or implausibility of such an evolution planned intelligently by a masterful mind we will speak later.
B) The Irreducibility of Life to Matter
The most important philosophical objection to the theory of evolution in the first but also in the second sense of the term lies in the insights into the absolute irreducibility of life to dead matter. This applies even to mere vegetative life, with its fundamental traits of self-generation through nutrition, propagation, and regeneration, as well as with its stunning qualities of self-motion and its entelechial, teleologically self-unfolding structures which cannot be explained without purposiveness in nature. For all these and many other reasons, bios-life is entirely irreducible to life-less matter.
Let us turn only briefly to the arguments supporting the claim of the utter irreducibility of life to the life-less: Scientists observed – following the lead of Erwin Schrödinger – that organic substances are partly governed by principles that are antithetically opposed to those of inorganic matter. Whereas classical forms of materialism and materialist monistic identity theories had attempted to show that life and mind were nothing essentially new with respect to closed and fully determined systems of material elements, governed by the laws of physics and chemistry, the life-sciences increasingly observed even non-rational living organisms to be systems of physical entities which are more complex and obey other laws than inanimate objects, for example reversing the second law of entropy into what Schrödinger calls „negative entropy,” all of which to discuss here extensively time-limits do not allow.
Schrödinger’s book, What Is Life?, especially the Epilogue, is profoundly confused philosophically speaking and advocates a strange thesis of an experienced all-identity of a pantheistically conceived single „Consciousness.“ But it introduces important categories which show the newness of life as manifesting itself through laws and activities contrary to those which govern inanimate matter, such as „negative entropy“ (which was called negentropy by Bertalanffy). By having noted these phenomena consciously, Schrödinger made a significant contribution toward a critique of materialism, although his book later seeks to explain these phenomena in terms of quantum physical laws. Whereas life-less material things underlie the thermodynamic laws of the inanimate cosmos and obey principles of entropy which involve a growing transition to lower forms of energy and less ordered material wholes, the living organisms develop in accordance with principles of „negative entropy“ which term here indicates a positive phenomenon of living organisms developing toward more ordered and organized material and energetic systems. Schrödinger says that the organism „drinks order from its surroundings“ and the nourishing substances in it, and resists the tendency to reach a static state of thermodynamic equilibrium (of which Schrödinger sees that only death subjects organisms to the second law of thermodynamics).
Entropy was also defined as „the measure of the degree of disorder in a substance or in a system.“ And the laws of entropy involve a directedness of a physical system to lower and lower forms of energy and to growing disorder. In 1854 Rudolf Clausius had formulated the Second Law of Thermodynamics in the following form: „The entropy of an isolated system never diminishes.“ Ludwig Boltzmann later formulated it as „Any closed system tends toward an equilibrium state of maximum probability, which is associated with equalization of temperature, pressure, and so forth.“
Unlike many other laws in physics, the increase of entropy appears to explain or to presuppose the directed flow of time:
The future and the past seem physically to be on a completely equal footing, Newton’s laws, Hamilton’s equations, Einstein’s general relativity, Dirac’s equation, the Schrödinger equation – all remain effectively unaltered if we reverse the direction of time. (Replace the coordinate t which represents time, by -t.)
Also Max Planck and Ilya Prigogine explain the connection of the second law of thermodynamics and the flow of time, the „arrow of time,“ as a most fundamental physical fact.
Life resists these laws of lifeless matter. Expanding on Schrödinger’s terminology, we could say that life shows a transition to „order from order,“ inasmuch as living organisms possess in themselves an order which they pass on through propagation, and which they do not receive from without, in the manner in which inorganic matter is formed by an artisan or an architect into a given shape. Inorganic matter produces order only from without by some external cause such as a beaver, an ant, or a human artisan or architect. Otherwise, the thermodynamic laws lead to a „negative order“ of a thermodynamic equilibrium that tends towards extinguishing the differences of temperature, structure, etc. – elements that belong to order in the physical world. Therefore, a material universe governed by the laws of thermodynamics and entropy cannot explain life which constitutes an antithesis to the second law of thermodynamics.
While the principle of „order from order“ indicates well phenomena such as propagation of living organisms, as opposed to the ways in which higher order is produced in inanimate matter from relative chaos and from without, we could also use the opposite terminology. We could say that, by the processes of assimilation and the nutritive system, the living organism creates higher order from relatively disordered materials and foods (order from disorder), whereas the inorganic physical systems undergo a movement from higher order organization to growing disorder or to more primitive levels of organization and energy (chaos from order).
The amazement at the internal building up of order in living things was strikingly formulated by Hedwig Conrad-Martius. Conrad-Martius says that the living organism could be compared to the miracle in which an artist would have put his creative idea into materials that would paint on their own the paintings or construct the cities intended by him – from a plan that resides in them themselves.
To explain the astonishing phenomena of life through internal developments in life-less nature constitutes a reductionism that fails to do justice to this urphenomenon: life. The reductionism here attacked is not exclusively bound to more primitive forms of reduction. It also applies to the most sophisticated ones. In spite of the fantastic advances of modern scientific explanations of matter in comparison with older ones, modern theories of life and consciousness in terms of material evolution are fundamentally just as reductionistic as older ones. Only the nature of a given object can tell us whether it is an ultimate irreducible datum or explicable in terms of something else. Only the intelligible natures of things themselves dictate whether or not more sophisticated materialist explanations of life are reductionistic. And if life requires an entelechy or soul, as Aristotle says, and as I have argued in my book What is Life? and in various other books, then even the most sophisticated materialist models of explaining life, using non-linear equations, chaos-theory, quantum physics, etc., remain reductionistic and inadequate. When they seek to reduce the strikingly new phenomena of life and consciousness to the physical universe, they remain basically just as reductionistic as the old reductionisms which sought to reduce life and mind to the level of pure machines and to other phenomena known to physics at that time. Life, especially mental life, just cannot be thus reduced. If unpredictable laws or events in the material world are equally unable to explain life (or even an intelligtent chess-game) as predictable ones, a theory of life or chess in terms of them remains reductionistic. Modern chaos-theoretical explanations of life just introduce more complex laws and factors that refer to chaotic and unexpected events in the physical universe. But also if these laws are quantum-mechanically conceived as non-deterministic and not exceptionless, and if they are interpreted in terms of uncaused chance-events, etc., none of this can change the fundamentally reductionistic character of such theories. De la Mettrie’s theory of mind might have been much more primitively reductionistic than these modern theories; but an interpretation of minds in terms of more complex material systems remains fundamentally equally reductionistic. The matter at hand is this: Can biological life and mental life – can bios or zoee – be reduced to complex brain-events, brain-processes, cells, modules, etc.? If not, any attempt to explain them in such terms is and remains reductionistic, and different only in degree from older forms of reductionism.
In excluding such a reductionism, a philosophy that is conscious of its fundamental method, which I call realist phenomenology, begins with a simple intuition into the irreducible essence of life. Considering the essential marks of living beings, we see that the essence of life is irreducible to physical systems of any sort. Therefore, if a reductionistic explanation of organisms in terms of chaotic or non-chaotic physical systems was successful in accounting for the phenomena we observe in organisms, all such a theory could possibly prove is that what appeared to be living substances are nothing but machines and do not live at all. This I like to call a „reductionism of fact” but not „a reductionism of essence.” Scheler points out that any such reductionism, which declares what appears to live in some mechanistic terms, presupposes the very same intuition into the essence of life as a phenomenon which the defender of this type of reductionism intends to deny.
C) The Irreducibility of the Human Soul to Matter as Death-blow of the First and Second Kind of Evolutionism
When our inquiry into the inexplicability of life through the dead starts with the immediate inner experience of our own conscious experience, and proceeds to a philosophical discovery of the irreducible character of life, we are epistemologically speaking in a far better position from which to reject any reductionistic interpretation of life than when we are dealing with plant or animal life. Consider that Descartes could suggest as a rational, albeit most implausible, hypothesis an interpretation of animals as automata. Why? Because their life (and thus their being more than divinely designed marionettes drawn by invisible strings of nature or, in modern terms, their being more than products of pre-biological evolution) is not immediately and indubitably accessible to our knowledge. Therefore, it is conceivable, however contrived such a theory may be, that animal life amounts to nothing but to a set of operations of a machine, or to characteristics produced by inanimate matter, possibly by some artful mechanical device of nature designed by God.
The untenability of any reduction of consciousness to an epiphenomenon of brain events or to these events themselves (in the mind/brain identity theory) could be shown in many ways.
The following proof one finds in various forms in Eccles/Popper (1977) and the present author, among others. The material substance itself must be spatially extended, composed, divisible, etc. Now if we treat the positive essential features of psychic being – being lived and consciously „performed“ from within, the intentionality (conscious and meaningful subject-object-relation) of most experiences, the necessity with which conscious life requires the existence of a conscious and indivisible unique subject in which it inheres, etc. – we see that it is impossible for a material substance in its unity-in-multiplicity and its composition to be the substance which lies at the basis of the conscious acts of the subject. Leibniz has pointed out that when we imagine to enter into the brain and see its many parts, we understand that such a composite material thing could never be the subject of conscious life:
17. Moreover, it must be confessed that perception and that which depends upon it are inexplicable … by means of figures and motions. And supposing there were a machine, so constructed as to think, feel, and have perception, it might be conceived as increased in size, while keeping the same proportions, so that one might go into it as into a mill. That being so, we should, on examining its interior, find only parts which work one upon another, and never anything by which to explain a perception. Thus it is in a simple substance, and not in a compound or in a machine, that perception must be sought for. … .
This will become most clear if we treat the positive determination of the subject of psychic life which is clearly given to us as the presupposition of all experience and even of appearing (Lotze). We see that the mode of positive simplicity and incomposite individuality of the subject, which is presupposed, for example, in an aesthetic experience, cannot possibly be ascribed to an essentially non-simple, material substance with its parts outside one another in space.
It is immediately evident upon careful reflection on the intelligible essence of, on the one hand, human ”psychic experiences“ and, on the other hand, materially composed substances, that the latter can never bear the former as their subject. In spite of the incompleteness of our knowledge of material substantiality, this knowledge suffices to gain this insight with certainty, and not as a mere hypothesis. Conscious experiences as, for instance, the complex aesthetic experience of listening to a work of music or of contemplating a painting, clearly call for one and the same identical and indivisible subject, in order to be possible at all. Whereas the unity of the aesthetic form itself is compatible with an extended material bearer – nay, necessarily and evidently requires it because it could not exist without spatially extended forms, colors, etc. – it is no less evident that the experience of this form and beautiful painting is absolutely incompatible with any subject which would be less than strictly indivisible and simple and which thus possesses characteristics contradictorily opposed to the those of a material substance. Exactly as it becomes immediately evident from the essence of the aesthetic visible object that a painting or piece of sculpture without form, color, and thus without a (real or imagined) material bearer would be absolutely impossible, and this insight is fully rational because based on an intelligible and necessary essence and on lucidly intelligible states of affairs which, in their immediate evidence, provide the basis of any indirect reasoning, argument or proof, so also is the fact evident that a brain with its millions times millions of distinct parts and functions can bear many accidents such as patterns, forms, electric or magnetic properties, functional wholes, etc., but never conscious experiences which are not built up from a manifold of parts outside parts, events after events, and which, above all, would be totally destroyed and would lose their being and unity if there were not one and the same identical and indivisible self as their subject, as the non-composed and simple „I“ of these acts: „I see,“ „I understand,“ „I experience form.”
This proof can be represented in the following form:
First premise: conscious human experiences require an indivisible, simple, non-composite substance as subject.
Second premise: No material substance is an indivisibly simple, non-composite substance.
Conclusion: Thus no material substance is the substance required by conscious experiences as the subject of conscious human life.
Let us also mention the proof of the soul through freedom. A promise or any other free act is necessarily impossible, nay absurd, if such an act is identical with, or determined by, material or organic processes, or if it is a mere causal product of evolutionary developments. Moreover, every person presupposes some free acts, such as searching for truth, asserting, or promising, even when she or he resolves to investigate or to defend materialism. Jonas (1981) has demonstrated the absurdity of the famous materialist Helmholtz’ and his friends’ mutual promise to promote materialism. They pledged to promote a theory of the power of matter over mind but presupposed, in the very assumption that their promise could and would be kept, an original power of the mind over matter and its causal independence from chemo-electrical processes in the brain. A promise or any other free act is necessarily impossible, nay absurd, if such an act is identical with, or determined by, material or organic processes or if it is a mere causal product of evolutionary developments. Moreover, every man presupposes some free acts such as searching for truth, asserting, promising, etc., even when he resolves to investigate or to defend materialism. Hence he contradicts his own theory in every moment in which he – inevitably – presupposes his freedom. Yet we are dealing here not with a mere inevitable subjective presupposition à la Kant but with an evident datum of the essence of freedom and of its real existence in us. When we act in a way which implies the free initiating of acts which do not proceed from another cause but from the self itself, these acts would not exist if we had not willed them to be and they involve the fact that we are master over their being or non-being. And this datum of freedom refutes materialism, according to which free acts could not exist. Thus the life of free acts and of their subject is irreducible to the brain and to any conceivable material system, whether it is dominated by well-explored or by chaotic rules. (Also philosophies which recognize the existence of a soul can embrace determinism but materialistic philosophies must inevitably do so.) This is overlooked by James P. Crutchfield, when he links freedom to chaotic events in the brain as if it could be reduced to them or explained by them.
Cognition and free actions contradict their being an epiphenomenon of, let alone their being identical with, the brain or its functions. This becomes particularly evident when we consider the cognitive transcendence in which the being or essence of something discloses itself to our mind as it is in itself, and when we consider the transcendence of our freedom (in the morally good act and in love) which is capable of responding to a good for its own sake, to give it the proper value-response, and to transcend all immanent unfoldings and self-actualizations of our own life. This feature of transcendence is absolutely essential for any understanding of the person who can be better characterized as a trans-telechy than as an en-telechy. Thus to explain cognitive and free acts, as well as their capacity for transcendence, in terms of a psycho-physical identity or radical causal dependence – as this is attempted by the evolutionistic „bio-psycho-social model“ popular with many scientists today – involves a necessary contradiction to their nature and, in addition, leads anybody who asserts this position into a self-referential contradiction. The existence of the mind and of the human soul as subject of conciousness constitutes an absolute refutation of any evolutionism that believes that matter can produce the life of the human spirit, and thus the first two theories of evolution.
D) The Weakness of Arguments in Favor of Evolution from the Progress of Scientific Knowledge
The scientific community might be up in arms against this conclusion. One of the supportive arguments of scientists for the truth-value of the theory of evolution is that countless scientific discoveries have been made precisely under the influence of Darwin’s theory. In response to this (and omitting here a lengthy discussion of the fact that many molecular and paleontological facts have precisely been disregarded, and not taken into account in the theory because the theory of evolution was accepted like a religious creed), just consider the following objections:
A) Both philosophical discoveries and philosophical errors can inspire empirical scientific findings. But this does in no way vindicate the philosophical or scientific errors that can inspire new findings. For manifold and complicated mutual relationships exist between philosophical and empirical knowledge. The complex and dialectical relations between philosophy and science likewise forbid us to assume that the scientific success of certain theories, such as that of evolution or that of the relativity of time, automatically guarantees the truth of the philosophic assumptions underlying a given scientific theory. For example, the success of non-Euclidean geometry in modern physics or the success of a theory of physics based on the concept of the relativity of time does not prove the truth of the philosophical transition from Lorentz to Einstein or of Einstein’s purely philosophical thesis that time itself is relative. For Lorentz could explain the same phenomena with his non-relative theory of time as Einstein. He distinguished, on the basis of similar empirical observations as those Einstein made, apparent from real time. Einstein later identified what Lorentz (for good and purely philosophical reasons) had called apparent time with real time and proclaimed the relativity of the latter. But these are pure philosophical theses and philosophical interpretations of empirical data. Consequently, the truth of Einstein’s philosophical conceptions in the light of which he interpreted his influential scientific discoveries and theories is in no way guaranteed by the practical success and universal acceptance of his relativity theory in the scientific world. The same is true of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Ditto applies also to Heisenberg’s philosophical theses connected with the uncertainty relation that led him mistakenly to deny much supremely evident metaphysical as well as epistemological evidence: for example, the absolute validity of the principles of excluded middle and of causality and the determinate essence of each real thing. Neither success of a theory nor consensus about it is identical with truth or guarantees it.
Even ideological or clearly false philosophical ideas, if we try to prove them by means of science, often lead to positive scientific discoveries. For example, a radical materialist reductionism that believes in the possibility of producing life from non-living chemical substances, or even of human beings from animals, a reductionism that can be refuted by philosophical arguments, led to many experiments and important discoveries, in Russia and elsewhere.
In view of this possibility that false philosophical ideas play a positive role in leading to empirical discoveries, the purely philosophical aspects of a reductionist and materialist theory of life, and specifically of the theory of evolution (inasmuch as this theory assumes an immanent development leading from pure matter to humanity), cannot be justified simply by reference to their fruitfulness for empirical research. For while Darwin’s theory of evolution as well as modern versions of it led to many scientific discoveries of similarities among species, of the geographic distribution of species, of hereditary laws, etc., this fact alone does not justify the belief that the philosophical ideas of Darwin, even though he derived them in some fashion from observational evidence or more precisely, in spite of the fact that he used them successfully in the interpretation of empirical facts, are true.
Incidentally, the history of the theory of evolution and of its various stages and degrees of radicality is far from simple. Darwin himself did not use the term „evolution“ except in the later versions of his The Origin of Species. It was mainly Herbert Spencer and later Ernst Haeckel who introduced the kind of evolutionary religion that dominated the philosophy of life of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Moreover, the hereditary laws were discovered chiefly, as is universally known, by a great scientist who was in no way a reductionist or materialist, the priest Mendel.
Even the most radical metaphysical versions of the theory of evolution may lead, however, in spite of their falsity, to significant scientific discoveries. Teilhard de Chardin defended the evolutionary thesis in the radical sense of a continuous development from life-less matter through all forms of life up to the „cosmic Christ“ (le Christique) which involves a kind of evolution of the world into God. In a less radical form, Grichka and Igor Bogdanov defend an evolutionary concept of life within which any essential difference between living and life-less beings is overlooked. Their view also involves a reductionism according to which life is only characterized by a higher degree of order and complexity, as well as of information, when compared with life-less substances. Undoubtedly their philosophical ideas may have led them to scientific discoveries, but this does not prove in any way the truth of their philosophical opinions.
As clearest proof of the possibility that false philosophical assumptions occasionally lead to the success of experimental science note that even Hitler’s grotesque and vicious racism and the criminal medical experiments performed on Jewish women in Ravensbrück based on this racism, may have led to discoveries in medicine regarding biological facts or given rise to surgical techniques and treatments of infectious diseases. But this success of racist beliefs for science was certainly not the slightest proof of the truth of these vicious errors.
A similarly ambiguous relationship between experimental science and philosophy could be shown regarding philosophical materialism, which led to many empirical discoveries but also to serious prejudices that barred the progress of experimental science. Especially in the area of empirical brain-mind research countless empirical evidences were ignored or brushed aside by materialists and determinists. In contrast, scientists who overcame the error of the negation of freedom, such as Eccles, rediscovered such ignored evidences for the power of subjectivity and voluntary action on the brain, or even conducted for the first time the experiments necessary to obtain them.
In contrast to philosophical errors, which can have both good and bad results for empirical science, philosophical truths per se can never lead to scientific regress. Only their one-sided and therefore false interpretation can lead to such regress, as, for example, the exaggerated role assigned to the knowledge of necessary and evident essences by Aristotle, or any other wrong absolutistic role assigned to a priori knowledge which ignores the wide fields of study which require empirical methods. In this sense, Stanley Jaki showed that a false apriorism led to impediments for empirical science for centuries, without being clear enough about the real existence of many essentially necessary (a priori) essences and states of affairs and of their crucial significance for all sciences including empirical sciences.
Philosophical insights and discoveries as such, however, can never prevent experimental findings. On the contrary, they can even lead to experimental findings and scientific progress. As, for example, Sir John Eccles showed, the philosophical recognition of freedom, and thus of an extrinsic causal influence on the brain, led to important experiments and evidences in brain research, the discovery and the correct interpretation of which would have been hardly thinkable without the proper philosophical conception of freedom.
Thus, both false philosophical ideas or fanatic ideologies, by accident, as well as true philosophical insights, quite naturally, can play an inspiring role for empirical scientific discoveries. The influence of empirical findings on philosophical research and discovery is a similarly complex issue. Though they are mutually related in many ways, however, philosophical analysis and empirical investigation of life have entirely different and irreducible tasks and methods. Therefore, empirical life-sciences can never dispense us from the task of philosophical analysis.
Yet the farthest thing from my mind is to discourage either the philosophical adventures of scientists or the reflections of philosophers on the subject-matter and results of scientific investigations. Quite the contrary, philosophers today should turn close attention to those questions which scientists debate at the present moment of world history: new medical techniques, new definitions of life and death, genetic codes, evolution, the Big Bang, and the like. For the trans-disciplinary unity of being itself demands that we view the world from all those diverse sides which open themselves only to the different disciplines and to their different methods; at the same time we should not forget the need to complement the limited knowledge obtained by means of our own disciplines through the cognitions acquired in others.
B) At the same time we must remain conscious of the fact that false philosophical ideas frequently and logically lead to serious impediments of empirical discoveries which is also true of the theory of evolution. As one of the greatest human embryologists of our century, Erich Blechschmidt of the University of Göttingen, demonstrated, Darwin’s, Spencer’s and Haeckel’s evolutionism and their ideas about individual morphogenesis and ontogenesis repeating within the human embryonic development phylogenesis led to serious prejudices and false assumptions regarding human embryology and other empirical matters.
C) The ideology of evolution led to other errors as well which will be mentioned in the following.
7. The Weakness of the Empirical Arguments for Evolutionism and the Extreme Improbability of the Theory of Evolution in the Third and Philosophically and Theologically Tolerable Sense
In order to deal with the theory of evolution in the third, so to speak kosher and „Catholic” sense, we have first to point out that the whole raison d’être of the theory of evolution lies in the first (and to some extent in the second) sense and function of this theory: “evolution” was designed to substitute the doctrine of the Creation of the World through a divine Spirit. Once we hold that there is such a divine Creator-God or a semi-creating Demiurge-God who creates order from chaos, as Plato held, it becomes so to speak entirely pointless and useless to accept a general evolution of living species. Evolution along the lines (not of Augustine’s seminal reasons) of Darwinism makes serious sense only if there is no Creator-God. If God created nature, why would he use such a dumb and primitive technique as evolution in Darwin’s sense (survival of the fittest, etc.) with countless trials and mishaps and chance events to realize his creative idea? That would be like a Michelangelo who has hands and a mind to build the cupola of Saint Peter’s but instead would sit around for years and years to wait whether storms, rains, and sand might produce his cupola by chance, or who would use such non-intelligent causes as the destruction of all imperfect constructions of cupolas made by him to produce the one he intends to create.
Rejecting Darwinian conceptions of evolution in the third sense, we could still accept trans-species-developments in the Augustinian version of “evolution.” If we assume, however, as origin of species a “divinely organized evolution,” along the lines of Augustine, this should no longer be called „evolution” – a term that invokes the completely insufficient Darwinian principles – but would be based on an incredibly well-ordered finalistic plan executed through a new and wondrous capacity of living species which we must assume if we accept limited species-formation: living organisms would then not only possess the astonishing capacity to engender themselves in growth and in propagation, but also to undergo mutations, adapt to the surroundings, and thus to engender gradually new meaningful and enduring species, as Saint Augustine might have held. Besides assuming a plan and idea, as well as the intelligence to understand it, in the cause of such an “speciation,” an adequate view of species-transformation would also require recognition of the free action necessary to execute and realize contingent organisms corresponding to such plans.
Even admitting the necessity of a creation of life as such and especially of human life, and of the human soul, as well as the irreducibility of mind to matter, this quasi-kosher variety of the theory of evolution (partial evolution in the third sense), if universalized, fails to explain countless things and thus is a very questionable theory. The theory of evolution even in its third sense (even when understood as the divinely created plan creating new species by means of evolution), seems little convincing as an explanation of the empirical facts regarding the origin of species: Why?
Let us begin with its well-known failure to take note of countless „missing links“ between different species, of the well-nigh complete absence in the fossils of traces of the „innumerable transitional forms” of life which Darwin himself postulated as consequence and necessary implication of a reality that would correspond to his theory and which would also be required by a universal and seamless “creationist” evolution in the third sense. The almost total absence of such a thing from paleontological evidences I regard as an empirical refutation of the theory not only in the first and second but also in the third creationist sense, if this evolution is postulated as origin of all species. For such a theory, just as much as the first two theories, would demand fossils of countless missing links (even if not of billions of mishaps unfit for survival as a strict Darwinian or Neo-darwinian theory would have to demand, in contradistinction to a creationist version of the third kind of evolution which would require a seamless series of species but no series of innumerable monsters and mishaps). But how then explain the absence of all these fossils? The only reasonable assumption in face of these facts appears to be that a true explanation of the origin of species does not lie in a „complete evolution” of all plant and animal organisms.
Next comes the grave difficulty that at the basis of Darwinism we find a mere morphological consideration of nature which does not suffice at all to postulate evolution. For even assuming that we would possess a complete paleontological track-record of all the transitional links between the species, a theory of „a complete chain of evolution” loses all plausibility as soon as the architectonic and technological aspects of nature are being considered. New joint US studies of mathematicians and biologists investigated, for example, bacteria whose external shape is extremely close to each other such that a superficial look of a common person or philosopher might make us believe that evolution is an excellent explanation of the origin of one such neighboring species of bacteria from another. The slightness of their morphological differences makes evolution as their explanation very plausible. But this is in no way so. For the mentioned studies show, for example, that in these morphologically almost identical bacteria we discover tremendously ingenious and totally different systems and brilliant technical devices of motion – for example of the ways and techniques used by these bacteria when they swim – such that the underlying ideas and techniques of these action (e.g., swimming) tools and methods can certainly not be explained by the standard principles of evolution which wholly ignore the non-morphological aspects of nature.
There are countless other empirical problems facing evolutionism which makes it appear to me incredible that such a theory was so successful and so uncritically accepted by almost an entire community of scholars. The theory of evolution in its universal sense, even within the circle of its absolute and metaphysical limits (that is recognizing that the soul cannot come from matter, that persons cannot evolve from non-persons, and life not from the non-living) is fraught with countless implausibilities such that we can apply my preferred fairy tale also to this theory and say that the Emperor of evolutionism is naked. In view of the mentioned insurmountable difficulties of, for example, a theory of evolution of all animals from each other we should simply reject a universal theory of evolution, replacing it by a consistent metaphysical and theological doctrine of creation which from beginning to end does infinitely better justice to the marvels of nature and of the human person and avoids all unconvincing and unreasonable compromises with a blunt and philosophically speaking miserable construct of evolutionism along the lines of Darwinism, and even avoids the unsupported claims of a creationist evolutionism (in the third sense of a restricted evolution) along the lines of Augustine’s “rationes seminales” as an explanation of the genesis of all animal or plant species.
Also such phenomena as the “geographic distribution of species” can in no way prove the theory of evolution. For obviously not only such principles as “adaptation to the surroundings” but creative intelligent plans could explain such a geographic distribution of living species and could explain it much better than “evolution.” Moreover, if this geographic distribution were to be used as a proof that on different continents independent processes of evolution have led to different species, how to explain that we find some species all-over the world? And that the geographically differently distributed species (for example of snakes), some of which do not exist in certain parts of the world, nonetheless have so many very important links and similarities among themselves that different chains of chance production of life seem entirely excluded. Furthermore, how to explain by Neodarwinian principles of evolution that in no way all species adapt to new surroundings but often even the strongest samples of a species will die under such wholly different circumstances? Certain snakes, for example, do not adapt at all to high temperatures around them but unfailingly die under temperatures for which they are not made. So how could they, when brought to other climatic conditions, be expected to adapt to them and thereby to “evolve”? And how then could the existence of similar but well-adapted species in countries of very different climatic conditions be claimed to be the product of adaption?
Touching some of my reasons for great skepticism even regarding the philosophically kosher theory of evolution (in its third, restricted understanding), I would hope too much if I believed to convince a large audience of important men and women of science of my far-reaching rejection of the theory of evolution. (Also I accept it in part for extremely limited biological trans-species-developments. In this sense I take cautious evolutionary positions, in the sense of granting some developments that lead to new species, partly for empirically established and partly for theories that are very plausible in terms of modern knowledge and experiments in genetics.)
In spite of my own disbelief that all animals from mosquitos and bacteria to lions, giraffes and elephants developed gradually from each other or from the same lost species, I do not reject the fact that this (in my eyes factually abstruse) theory is theoretically compatible with all purely philosophical and theological truths and might therefore be regarded, as some Church documents assert, as one possible theory (or meta-theory) of how an infinitely wise Creator produced the immense miracle of the genesis of life in the Cosmos including the human body. For many reasons that I indicated but cannot develop here any further, however, I believe that many empirical facts and also philosophical considerations about the dignity of the origin of the human body should have us reexamine very critically, sine ira et studio, and very closely, even those most intelligent forms of a theory of evolution in the third sense which Church documents from Pius XII to John Paul II allow us to accept but do not prescribe as if their acceptance were an article of faith. The fact that even such great geneticists as Jerome Lejeune doubted a restricted theory of evolution of the third kind confirms my purely philosophical conviction that “universal evolution” as origin of species is in no way a firmly etablished fact but a mere (and largely implausible) hypothesis. Thus, I only hold a very restrained variety of the third kind of theory of evolution both true and plausible.
In conclusion, while not hoping for such a great effect of my reflections that my audience or readership be convinced of my common-sensical conclusion that even the third theory of evolution when it is universally applied to explaining the origin of all those species that could possibly be explained in this way (i.e., excepting life itself and the human soul and personhood from being possible products of evolution) is false, it is quite enough for me to hope that I convinced my audience of the following points:
(1) Many theories that appear to be science and well-proven are in reality far from being so; rather they are vague, unscientific, philosophical or quasi-philosophical theories operating with all kinds of myths, erroneous assumptions and equivocations;
(2) The first two of the quite distinct theories that are called „theory of evolution,” are clearly false and philosophically refutable by a philosophy of the soul and of personhood, knowledge, and freedom, and by investigating “teleology” and its causes.
(3) The third one, the „kosher” or „Catholic” theory of evolution, to make any philosophical sense, would have to be radically re-interpreted along the lines of Augustine’s rationes seminales or in some similar intelligent way, in order to avoid any concession in it to the thoroughly unsatisfactory theory of the origin of life in terms of those „intellect-less” and non-explanatory „principles” Huxley, Haeckel and Darwin employed to explain evolutionary changes.
(4) Even then the third theory of evolution meets with a great variety of serious difficulties (missing links, non-morphological qualities of species that do not match morphological similarities, etc.).
(5) Any adequate scientific and philosophical theory of the origin of life has to respect the irreducible in life and most of all in the human person and hence exclude any reductionist elements which are the deepest fault of theories of evolution.