Chapter 2

Evolution and Human Origins


Experiment 2

Christians believe that the universe has meaning and purpose, and God directly created the human soul. Have the discoveries of the evolutionary biologists and paleoanthropologists undermined these beliefs?

In Chapter 1, we looked at the origin of the universe. Here we want to look at its evolution, especially the emergence of human life. Before, we saw that the simple fact alone that we live in a particular kind of universe was a robust foundation upon which to start to build a philosophical cosmology. Here the particularity of the universe takes on another meaning. We live in a universe that has physically evolved in a certain way from the hot, dense state of the big bang into galaxies and planets, a universe which has given birth to living beings. Is this an accident? Or does the universe have just those characteristics that would allow life to come about?


The Anthropic Principle

Physicists have debated these kinds of questions under the heading of the anthropic principle. In its weakest form the anthropic principle, developed by Brandon Carter, reads: "What we can expect to observe must be restricted by the conditions necessary for our presence as observers."1

In itself, this weak anthropic principle does not say much beyond the fact that the universe has a certain texture, and must have evolved in a certain way because we are here to observe it, and in this minimalist sense most scientists appear to accept it. But if it says very little in itself, it sets the stage for the consideration of purpose, ends, goals and finality. It has a stronger sister which Carter expressed like this: "The universe must be such as to admit the creation of observers within it."2 This is a much tougher issue for scientists to deal with, for it takes them to the boundary where physics and biology meet philosophy and religion. The weak anthropic principle can be read as a truism, but the strong one evokes the question of the design of the universe, and who did the designing.

It is not surprising, therefore, that some physicists try to side-step this issue, much like the cosmologists who tried to side-step the fact that the universe appears to have had a beginning, by invoking a many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. They say that since there is a myriad of universes, sooner or later one like ours is bound appear. In this way they try to dilute the fact that we appear to live in a very carefully designed universe, but they are not very successful in doing so. There is no evidence that a multitude of universes exists, and probably no way that such an interpretation could be tested.

What we are faced with is our universe which has a remarkably specific nature that makes it look like it has been designed for the emergence of life. Physicists have spelled out this nature in great detail. The constants of nature like the strong and weak nuclear forces, and those of gravity and electromagnetism, are such that larger or smaller values would produce substantially different universes in which life could not develop. This same kind of reasoning is extended to the ratio of protons to electrons, the density and expansion of the universe, and to many other factors.3

It certainly looks like the universe was designed so that intelligent life could emerge, or put in another way, we could say that from the perspective of a philosophical cosmology, the fact that we live in a particular kind of universe is enough to put us on the road to understanding its origin, but now the particular kind of universe that we actually live in is being shown to us with a dazzling display of details as a universe made so intelligent life can emerge. We can try to avoid this conclusion with a many worlds approach, or we can claim that biological evolution clearly shows that there is no meaning and purpose to the universe after all. But does it?


Biological Evolution

Darwinian evolution could in simple terms be described as the gradual descent and transformation of living beings by the way of variation and natural selection. Living beings are born with a certain amount of variation, which is occasionally augmented by mutations, and population and environmental pressures select from this array of creatures those best suited for the conditions that currently exist, and thus they leave their offspring to continue this process. These creatures gradually change, and new kinds of creatures arise, and old ones can go extinct.4 Darwinian evolution is a powerful theory that has transformed the way we look at the natural world, and is supported by a vast array of scientific findings. But this is not to say that serious scientific questions don’t exist about its nature and scope. These include the origin of life, whether gradualism is universal, whether all variation is random, or whether there can be directed mutations, etc.

Added to these kinds of scientific questions are the conscious or unconscious philosophical or religious attitudes of the Darwinians which sometimes wrap Darwinian evolution in heavy layers of naturalism and materialism. What we need to do first, therefore, is to unwrap Darwinian evolution from these materialistic garments, and then consider its completeness as a theory of biological evolution.


Darwinian Philosophy

Michael Shermer writes: "In one of the most existentially penetrating statements ever made by a scientist, Richard Dawkins concludes that "the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference"."5

This is quite a statement given the detailed lists that the physicists have made that indicate the universe has precisely those characteristics that allow intelligent life to emerge. Shermer quotes this statement in the context of combating the creationists, and in so doing, illustrates why the debates on religion and evolution have yielded much more heat than light. He is disturbed by Gallup Poll results that show support for the belief that God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years, or God guided evolution vs. the idea that God played no part in the evolutionary process. He reasons: "Although such findings are disturbing, truth in science is not determined democratically. It does not matter what percentage of the people believe a theory. It must stand or fall on the evidence, and there are few theories in science that are more robust than the theory of evolution."6

But is he equating the theory of evolution with Dawkins’ statement? It appears that he is, and that is the crux of the problem we face. Need we bite the bullet and accept evolution cast in this form as scientific fact? I don’t believe so. But that is what some of the Darwinians appear to want us to do. For Dawkins, himself, we are "survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes."7 We pass away, but the "genes, like diamonds, are forever."8 Natural selection, "the blind unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of life, has no purpose in mind." It is these kinds of Darwinian thoughts that allow Dawkins to be "an intellectually fulfilled atheist."9

Even the grand old man of modern evolutionary biology, Ernst Mayr, thinks Darwin created a philosophy of biology that does away with the need for final causes, and which "solely materialistically"10 explains the world. The theory of evolution, we are told, is a fact that no educated person questions, and presumably this materialism is part and parcel of it. No wonder Michael Ruse writes, "Evolution, akin to religion, involves making certain a priori, or metaphysical assumptions which at some level cannot be proved empirically," and that evolution for some prominent evolutionists "functions, at a level, as a kind of religion."11 Elsewhere he goes on, " For Edward O. Wilson, as for Herbert Spencer and Julian Huxley before him, Darwinism is a substitute for Christianity: a secular religion of a new age."12 The discussion of evolution between science and religion has been muddled by science sometimes acting like a philosophy or religion, and religion sometimes acting like a science. To someone like Shermer, pitiless indifference is an intrinsic part of the science of evolution, and those who disagree with this are creationists and religious fundamentalists into which camp he lumps the much more scientifically sophisticated intelligent design theorists.

This blend of science and agnosticism, or atheism, is a prominent feature of the American intellectual landscape, especially among biologists. When Edward Larson and Larry Witham repeated a survey of religious beliefs among scientists done by James Leuba in 1919 and 1933, they found, like Leuba did, that 40% of scientists believed in God, as described in the questionnaire, but like Leuba’s findings, the more prominent scientists were less likely to believe. Unbelief reached its peak at 95% among National Academy of Science biologists. Unsurprisingly Larson and Witham report that when Ernst Mayr polled his Harvard colleagues, "it turned out we were all atheists," and for two reasons: "Oh, I became an atheist very early. I just couldn’t believe all that supernatural stuff."13 The others said they couldn’t believe in God because of all the evil in the world, and most combined the two reasons. Clearly, we are not going to be able to look at evolution, itself, and its relationship with philosophy and religion until we distinguish these two aspects of Darwinian evolution, that is, its core of biological science and its naturalistic and materialistic presentation. And even if we can do that, we are still left with the challenge of how adequate Darwinian evolution is at the level of science.


Biological Information

If physicists have shown us how fine-tuned the universe appears to be, biologists have discovered how marvelously intricate life is. It is the complexity of life, the depth of biological information that it contains, which is a challenge to a narrowly drawn Darwinian evolution.

Biological evolution starts with living organisms, but that leaves the question of the origin of life unanswered, and Darwin, himself, did not address it. Since that time there has been a long history of attempts to show how life emerged by way of chemical evolution. The Miller-Urey type experiments, for example, in which electricity was discharged in a soup of basic chemicals, and produced some amino acids, were heralded as major breakthroughs, but are now seen to be riddled with intractable difficulties.14 Other approaches to explaining the origin of life invoking random chance, phase changes leading to spontaneous order, other kinds of spontaneous self-organization, physical and chemical forces in nature, simple algorithms, or modern computer-based theories of complexity and self-organization, have all proved to be inadequate.15

Indeed, it is hard to see how a transition from chemicals to life could take place in purely materialistic terms. And "even if it could be demonstrated," writes Stephen Meyer, "that the building blocks of essential molecules could arise in realistic pre-biotic conditions the problem of assembling those building blocks into functioning proteins or DNA chains would remain."16 And that problem is daunting given the immense amount of biological information at stake. Just where did it come from? The possibility that such an intricate structure could have arisen by chance is viewed as "vanishingly small."17 Theories that depend on chemical necessity do not fare well, either. In them, there is an inner necessity that certain chemicals, or molecules, assemble themselves in certain ways, a kind of chemically driven self-organization. But the biochemistry of DNA, itself, militates against such an approach.18 There is an inverse relationship between chemical necessity and biological information. The more necessity dominates, the less information can be encoded in the DNA. The analogy used is the difference between the material requirements of writing, that is, the ink and paper and formation of the letters, and the information that we wish to convey. If the ink or the letters dictated the content of the message, we would be severely limited in terms of the information we could communicate. Or as Meyer puts it, "the properties do not explain the origin of information."19 And he cites Polanyi to the effect that "as the arrangement of the printed page is extraneous to the chemistry of the printed page, so is the base sequence in a DNA molecule extraneous to the chemical forces that work in a DNA molecule."20 Norbert Wiener sums it up: "Information is information, neither energy nor matter."21

Another facet of this picture of biological complexity, or information, was developed by Michael Behe, who speaks of irreducible complexity, by which he means, "a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning."22 By way of example, he holds up a mouse trap, each of whose parts are essential for its function, but his primary examples are complex biological structures like the bacterial flagellum by which it propels itself, and which is an amazingly complex biological machine composed of many different proteins. The question he addresses to the Darwinian evolutionists is how such a structure could have gradually evolved by mutation and natural selection since it is irreducibly complex, that is, yields no selective advantage until it is complete, and therefore functioning. Behe is no inflexible foe of Darwinian evolution, and freely admits the value its explanations of mutation and natural selection have, and the probability of common descent. 23 But he is at pains to point to its incompleteness, which is often masked by a certain biological dogmatism. To his mind biological systems look like they have been designed, that is, "separate, interacting components are ordered in such a way as to accomplish a function beyond individual components." 24 And he counters objections that such design is not likely because it may appear to us to be faulty, and he concludes that life was designed by an intelligent agent. 25

Still another facet of this emergent picture of biological information deals with developmental genetics and comparative embryology. One issue revolves around the homeotic genes that determine bodily structures. Darwinian evolutionists welcomed their discovery because they seemed to show that new kinds of creatures could arise from a mutation in these genes that control development regulation, that is, a small mutation could have a large effect and help explain the origin of species and the absence of transitional forms in the fossil records. But Jonathan Wells argues that the very universality of these homeotic genes which are probably present in all multi-cellular animals poses a new challenge for Darwinian evolution. "If biological structures are determined by these genes, then different structures must be determined by different genes. If the same gene can "determine" structures as radically different as a fruit fly’s leg and a mouse’s brain or an insect’s eye or the eyes of human and squids then that gene is not determining much of anything." 26

Similar challenges arise in the field of comparative embryology. Darwin thought that vertebrate embryos in their early stages resemble each other, and thus point to a common ancestor. But this has turned out not to be true. Indeed, for some creatures like sea urchins, the embryos take different pathways to reach very similar adult forms. The Darwinians take this as an indication that such plasticity of the early embryo can help give rise to major differences, but Wells sees it "as deepening the mystery of how embryos attain their final form."27

It is not enough, he believes, to say that the process is guided by DNA. By way of an analogy of building a house, he likens the DNA to specifying the materials to be used, but that still leaves us the question of where the floor plan comes from. And he cites Brian Goodwin to the effect that "the molecular composition of organisms does not, in general, determine their form."28 But if the form is not specified by DNA, where does it come from? And if sea urchin embryos can take different paths to similar adult forms, what directs them to this goal?

The gradual change of living beings and their slow transformations into new species is an element of Darwinian orthodoxy, but it does not appear to be borne out by the fossil record. Instead, we find immensely long periods of stability punctuated by the appearance of new species or the extinction of old ones. This suggests that species are something more than arbitrary snapshots of some long process of gradual change. Ian Tattersall puts it like this: "The more we learn of the fossil records, the sharper the image becomes of species as real, bounded units, with births, histories, and deaths… What we don’t often see, however, is compelling evidence of the gradual transition of one species into another."29 He, therefore, calls speciation, that is the emergence of species, the "black box of biology."30


Towards a Philosophy of Biology

All these difficult scientific questions about the completeness of the Darwinian theory of evolution, while they take a distinctively modern form, are no way new in substance. There have been perennial debates between mechanism and so-called vitalism long before Darwin appeared on the scene, and Darwin’s work doesn’t seem to have lessened them. Almost a century ago, for example, Jacques Maritain in his first published article, "The Neo-Vitalism in Germany and Darwinism," using the work of contemporary German biologists, especially that of Hans Driesch, showed how in the midst of their scientific work, biologists were led to frame questions and formulate answers which in the case of Driesch, at least, broke with a mechanistic view of biology and rediscovered independently an Aristotelian view of form.31 Maritain, taking advantage of these biological insights in order to focus attention on the viability of this philosophical idea of form, even developed an argument from design that foreshadows the later work of Michael Behe and the design theorists.32

From this philosophical perspective, a form "orders each part to the whole and gives to the organism its reality as a living being. It is the principle of life, the ordering "form" of the living body. Finally it acts as the final cause."33 And it is important not to confuse this Aristotelian form with a Platonic style vitalism, for the form, as Maritain notes elsewhere, is not juxtaposed to the physico-chemical composition of the living being in some sort of dualistic way as if there is some sort of secret animating spirit above and beyond, or even hidden, within the living being that we see, but rather, it is that "to which the physico-chemical is instrumentally subordinated."34


Intelligent Design

Today’s intelligent design theorists, like Jonathan Wells and Stephen Meyer, are well versed in science, and make a good case against the scientific limitations of modern Darwinism as we have been seeing. It is as if science, itself, is continually trying to overflow these narrow Darwinian categories. And the design theorists are attempting to frame the resulting questions in new ways. William Dembski, for example, asks whether God’s interaction with the world is empirically detectable, and he contrasts undirected natural causes with intelligent ones that point to a designer. He hopes in this way to advance intelligent design as a scientific theory whose "fundamental claim is that intelligent causes are necessary to explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology and that these causes are empirically detectable… It detects intelligence without speculating on the nature of the intelligence…" And it "distinguishes design from purpose."35

This emphasis on intelligent design as science is deliberate. Science in our society, Dembski tells us, is the only universally valid form of knowledge, and since Darwinian or naturalistic evolution and intelligent design are two "mutually exclusive and exhaustive possibilities, one of the positions has to be correct."36 Evolution, as we saw, often comes freighted with all sorts of philosophical and religious baggage, and intelligent design does us good service to reject those elements, and even more importantly, to show on the level of science that Darwinian evolution is incomplete. It points to the marvelously intricate and complex nature of living beings whose arrival on the scene still needs to be explained, and whose development poses many mysteries. In this sense, intelligent design could be called a scientific research program relying on empirically detectable evidence. But science, as I think the design theorists would agree, is not the only form of valid knowledge, and we can’t let the common social perception that it is deflect us from a critical issue that arises here. Intelligent design has an inner momentum that brings it right to the frontier where the natural sciences meet a philosophy of nature. Design really does begin to say something about the nature of the designer, and intelligent design theory is really a prologue to inescapably philosophical questions. The situation is analogous to the one we saw in scientific cosmology where science points to a beginning of the universe, but really cannot tackle the full scope of the question. Biology, in its turn, points to something much more than blind, pitiless indifference, and to questions that biology cannot explore fully. Seen in this way, Darwinian evolution and intelligent design are not mutually exclusive and exhaustive, but evoke similar philosophical questions.

But is intelligent design an empirical science, itself? Certainly not in the sense it is going to become another evolutionary biology that parallels contemporary scientific work about evolution. Indeed, many of the themes that appeal to intelligent design are precisely the ones that arise within the natural sciences but lead elsewhere. Let’s say that they are the kinds of questions that scientists with sound philosophical instincts, conscious or not, legitimately come across in the course of their scientific work, but if they are to be addressed fully demand a philosophy of nature. But if the design theorists, themselves, have no philosophy of nature, the only thing they can do is claim that they are doing empirical science. This lack of a philosophy of nature also accounts for their reluctance to talk about the designer behind the intelligent designs even though such a discussion is the natural outcome of what they are doing, but would, in fact, take them into the realm of philosophy. To the degree that intelligent design theorists insist that they are only doing empirical science, to that degree they miss the opportunity to create a philosophical bridge between science and Christianity. We have now arrived at the borders of a philosophy of biology, some of the salient features of which we need to outline.


The Rediscovery of Formal Causality

What are we to make of the idea of biological information which has shown us that an exclusive emphasis on material and efficient causes, that is, what something is made out of and how it is made, is incomplete? Intelligent design and modern biology, itself, confront us with the need of formal and final causes, as well, in order to obtain a more complete understanding of what we are seeing. In The Mystery of Matter I have tried to show how the notion of formal causes have been rediscovered in the course of the 20th century by David Bohm in regard to quantum theory, Rupert Sheldrake in terms of morphic resonance, and C.G. Jung in his formulation of synchronicity, and no doubt many more examples of this kind of rediscovery could be brought forth especially among the biologists. Indeed, we could say that the rediscovery of formal causality, often in covert ways, is one of the most significant yet unsung trends in 20th century science. And the fundamental reason that formal causality continues to pop up is that it is demanded if we are to have a fuller understanding of nature, itself. As we cross this frontier between biology and philosophy, biological information becomes formal causes and we need to ask just what formal causes are.

A form could be understood as what constitutes something to be what it is. Thus, we have forms of protons, and electrons, as well as forms of trees and frogs. Each has a distinctive nature, or form. But it is very difficult to separate formal causes from final causes. At this level we could say that final causes mean that each thing acts in its own distinctive way. Let’s try to clarify that by looking at the idea of nature, itself. Do the laws of nature somehow precede the beginning of the universe which was made according to those laws? In the perspective we are taking, the formulation of this question is too dualistic. The laws of nature are built into the very things, themselves. They are the things, for things have distinctive natures or forms that act in distinctive ways. The laws of nature, then, are not primarily abstract principles, or formulas, that are applied to each electron in order to give it certain properties, but rather, each electron has a distinctive nature and action from which we abstract the laws about it.


Forms and Existence

To discover the relationship of forms, or essences, to existence is the central challenge of metaphysics, and we met it briefly before in Chapter 1 as the foundation for arguing from the things that exist around us to the ocean, or field of Existence, itself. Given its importance, it is not remarkable that we would find it reflected in the biological questions we have been looking at. We might say, for example, that the Christian creationists tend to see God creating each plant or animal species directly by way of a literal understanding of Genesis, and so emphasize the role of forms, and in this way anchor one end of what could be called the form-existence spectrum. At the other end of this spectrum we can find Darwinists who see species more like fleeting moments in the universal movement of gradual transformation. But the evolutionary hypothesis of punctuated equilibrium appears to point to a middle ground between pure forms locked in some Platonic isolation and pure existence tending towards formlessness. Forms, or species, have definite internal consistency and stability which allows them to keep their distinctive natures, sometimes for millions of years. Yet, this does not deny an underlying continuity which is pointed to by common ancestry and the transformation of one species into another. From a philosophical point of view, we could say that living beings exhibit two fundamental traits. First they have distinctive natures and act in distinctive ways, and hold on quite strongly to those natures. But secondly, they are bound together in a universe and are transformed as the universe evolves.


Efficient Causality

The world is not a world of platonic forms. It is one of actually existing things that interact with each other. Things change each other, make each other to be more or less, alter each other’s existence. They exert genuine efficient causality on each other. But where does this remarkable ability come from? It comes from the fact that they exist. If something exists, it is in act, and it acts according to the kind of existence it has, and impresses this existence on the things around it. Efficient causality is "the communication to another of some mode of being,"37 writes the Jesuit metaphysician Norris Clarke. And he insists on the ontological unity between the action of the cause and the effect it has. Action is "the most purely existential, dynamic, and non-formal mode of being… for action is not a form or essence of any sort, but a pure dynamic "overflow" or "gift of being," as Gilson has called it, from cause to effect." And he points to the "trans-conceptual existential fecundity" of the action of existents.38

Let’s return now to Dembski’s distinction between natural causes and intelligent causes, and see if we can understand it in a new way. The "undirected" in undirected natural causes already has philosophical overtones which indicate a lack of purpose, while intelligent causes are redolent with philosophical arguments based on design. But let’s take natural causes not as Darwinian causes severed from finality, but as causes that act in a natural way in order to achieve their end. Protons act like protons, and giraffes act like giraffes. Finality in this case, then, is not something extrinsic to things, but inherent in things, themselves. Things act according to their very natures. And it is possible that intelligent causes could be understood in this more intrinsic sense, as well. Living beings are not the result of blind chance, and purely material factors, but we need not imagine their irreducible complexity as if they demanded a designer at his drawing board. Their intelligence does not come from without, but wells up from within. Intelligent causes are natural causes, and natural causes are intelligent causes because all causality among finite existents rests on the field of Existence.



Different forms give rise to different things, and things are different not only numerically, but qualitatively. The focus of science on the quantitative makes it difficult for it to appreciate the qualitative differences among things. But biology makes this issue inescapable. Not only has the universe certain distinctive characteristics so that it appears to us as a universe made to develop in such a way that life could emerge, it also appears to us as a universe whose structures have become more complex, and this process of complexification shows itself within things, as well. In this process the emergence of life marks a decisive threshold. This process of complexification, accompanied by greater and greater interior depths, is an extraordinary fact which we cannot write off as the random effect of blind chance. In terms of forms and formal causes, we could say that the simple forms have an inherent tendency to give rise to more complex forms which, while composed of these simpler forms, somehow transcend them. A butterfly is not just the arrangement of various elements, or even of molecules. It is alive; it is a living form that cannot fully be explained in terms of its chemical ingredients. A notion of hierarchy is unavoidable. It is built into nature, itself. When this process of emergence and complexification is pondered by someone who is both a religiously minded scientist and a poet, we end up with the great phenomenological vision of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin which he summed up in his law of complexity-consciousness.

When we look at evolution from a philosophical point of view we have to say that as more complex and interiorly rich beings emerge, they either have to be explained as already implicitly contained in what came before them so that evolution is a mere unfolding, or as things that are distinctively and qualitatively new. It is the latter case that appears in accord with the facts of experience, but it leaves us with the question of how more can emerge from less. It simply cannot. The only alternative that is left to us is to say that there is "an Existent," as Joseph de Finance puts it, "who already possesses in an eminent manner all the ontological richness" of the newly emergent state, and therefore somehow gives rise to it.39

But to say this is to be immediately faced with another problem. How can we invoke this Existent without emptying things of all the genuine causality that they, in fact, exhibit? The dilemma reads like this: the universe evolves in such a way that new and more complex and interior beings emerge that are qualitatively different, and indeed, higher in an ontological sense than what went before them. We can take a solely reductionist point of view and deny this, and claim that what we see is merely the reshuffling of the same old atoms, but this is unsatisfying because it does not address the undeniable fact of qualitative novelty. Something cannot come from nothing, and the higher cannot come from the lower. So we are reasonably led back to our field of Existence. But if we are not careful we will empty things of the genuine causality they possess. So the question becomes how can we honor both the causality of creatures and the role that the field of Existence must play? De Finance’s answer is to evoke the idea of instrumental causality. In it finite existents act according to their natures or forms. But this action is elevated and transformed by an interior force which is not in it as a natural perfection, but like the end is in the movement. "It is the efficacy of natural agents which finds itself superelevated by it (the instrumental cause) and ordered to effects which surpass their own level of being."40 In this way de Finance begins to bring into harmony the action of the Creator with that of creatures. "It is the same action which is indivisibly of God and of the creature."41 It is this idea of instrumental causality which will play a central role in our analysis of the emergence of the first humans.

We must now, therefore, return to our sea, or field, of Existence. This time we can imagine the universe not floating on its surface, but immersed in the depths of the sea. The universe not only takes its origin as it receives the gift of existence from Existence, itself, but all its own being and dynamism is infused by the energy of the sea. The very real existence and action and evolution of things can no more escape being animated from within by Existence than a fish can escape the sea. We have to examine more closely the question of how the causality of creatures can be reconciled with the causality of Existence, itself. And to make some headway we need to insist both on the genuine causality that things exert on each other, and the universal causality that Existence exerts on all things. And if we hold on to these two sides of the question and don’t let either one collapse, we can perhaps make some progress.

The so-called God of the gaps, that is, religiously inspired attempts to find a place where God’s causal action can insert itself in the gaps left by scientific explanations is ultimately a disheartening exercise because science continues to advance, and religion must continually retreat. These attempts suffer from the fatal error of placing the causality of creatures at the same level with the causality of the Creator. This God of the gaps has been driven from one hiding place to another by the advancement of science, but it still rears its head, sometimes in quite sophisticated forms. If, for example, we interpret quantum theory as pointing to an ontological indeterminism, then into this gap where normal causality no longer holds sway, we can insert God’s action. "God shapes," writes Robert John Russell, "and guides biological evolution providentially by actions whose effects occur within the quantum mechanical processes underlying specific genetic mutations."42 Theories like this are based on a scientifically popular, yet dubious, understanding of quantum theory. Divine causality, in fact, has no need to find a gap in which it can insert itself. It is omnipresent, working in the midst of created causes.

Finite existence is limited existence. It is existence contracted to be this or that kind of existence, and as such, must ultimately be derived from the fullness of Existence and be sustained by it. But this means that each advance in existence, whether in terms of the causality that things exercise on each other, or the emergence of higher and more intensive kinds of forms ultimately rests on the dynamic field of Existence, itself. We can certainly say that there is considerable evidence for the theory of evolution by way of mutation and natural selection, and further, that the tree of life is more like an exuberant explosion of living beings exhibiting tremendous variety and novelty in the midst of a world of surprise and chance than it is the result of an antiseptic blueprint, which is the work of some cosmic engineer. But the evolution of the universe, and of life, itself, has a distinctive trajectory. How is it possible to reconcile these two perspectives? Let’s imagine created existents, existing and acting in the midst of this field of evolution so that their being and action are constantly being attracted by the fullness of Being, itself. These existents strive to reach a fullness of being according to the pattern of their own nature, but they are also drawn to become parts of more and more complex structures that have greater and greater depth. If, as individual forms, they reflect something of the fullness of Existence, they deepen this reflection by the intimate communities they create with each other. Living beings strive to achieve their ends, and suffer when they are deflected from their goals, but they are continually reorienting themselves to them under the attraction of the fullness of Being. The pageant of evolution is permeated through and through by this attraction, and comes to resemble bit by bit over great stretches of time the field of Existence, itself.

The universe evolves under what we could call the general creative activity of the field of Existence, but we have to wonder if at the moment of the origin of life this creative influx takes on a new intensity. Have the complex molecules that have been slowly formed and have evolved closer and closer to the threshold of life now reached the decisive moment and have been met with a deeper and more intense creative influx to carry them across this threshold? In any event, life continues to evolve, growing more complex and more interior until it approaches a new threshold, the threshold of consciousness.


Human Origins

Much like the picture of the universe presented to us by the scientific cosmologists, the story of our origins has been transformed during the last 150 years by paleoanthropologists assiduously piecing together the family tree of the hominids from which we have descended.

The general picture looks something like this. The hominids split off from the line that was to lead to chimpanzees some 5 to 7 million years ago in Africa. The earliest hominids like Ardipithecus ramidus led to a whole family of Australopithecines, the first of which had been described by Raymond Dart in South Africa in 1925, and the most famous of which was Lucy, an Australopithecine afarenis found in Ethiopia by Donald Johanson in 1973. The picture we are familiar with from museum exhibits of a single line of descent leading from these hominids to the earliest members of the genus Homo might be giving way to a more complicated one in which various hominids appear to have coexisted at the same time, and it is not quite clear just when the genus Homo started. Let’s put its beginning with Homo habilis some 2.5 million years ago who appears to have made crude tools called by the anthropologists Olduwan which they used to cut meat off of bones and crack them open to extract the marrow. But significantly, these tools remained unchanged for a million years.

By 1.2 million years ago a new tool kit appeared called the Acheulean, created perhaps by Homo erectus. These tools, as well, remained unchanged for another million years. Homo erectus was the first hominid to spread out of Africa, and its remains have been found as far afield as Java and the Republic of Georgia.

By 600,000 to 500,000 years ago we find Homo heidelbergensis who might have been an ancestor to both the Neanderthals and the more anatomically modern humans in Africa. It is also the most likely candidate for the creation of more refined tools.

During the course of these millions of years there are two facts that are particularly important for us. The first is an increase of brain size, which went, no doubt, with an increase in brain complexity. The second is the fact that with the emergence of each larger and more complex kind of brain there appeared a more sophisticated tool kit. We could say: new brain, new tools, and then a long period in which the tools, and presumably the brain, remained unchanged.

The Neanderthals appeared some 250,000 years ago and were to survive in Europe to beyond 50,000 years ago. Their brains were larger than any of the other hominids that had preceded them, and their tools, called the Mosterian, again remained stable over long periods of time. Their use of fire and the possession of a rudimentary material culture made them appear as likely candidates for being the ancestors to modern humans, but recent archaeological and genetic evidence seems to rule this out.

About 130,000 to 50,000 years ago while the Neanderthals were alone in Europe, various anatomically near modern humans began to appear in Africa, but despite how anatomically close they were to modern humans, their tool kits were static like the Neanderthals, and they did not appear to be more culturally advanced than them.

These modern near humans were replaced in Africa by modern humans some 50,000 to 45,000 years ago. These modern humans soon appeared in Western Asia, and Eastern and Western Europe, and replaced the Neanderthals, but now the relationship between brain change and tool kit that we have been seeing has been definitively broken. Anatomy and cultural change have somehow become unlinked. These new hominids have undergone some profound transformation which has been called a great leap forward, or a cognitive revolution. They seem to burst out of Africa and colonize the whole world in a relatively short period of time, and their culture appears qualitatively different from what went before. They make fine tools and complicated weapons. They utilize not only stone, but bone, antlers and ivory. They sew clothes and build dwellings, and therefore can enter environments where no hominids had ever gone before. And they create beautiful art. And unlike the hominids of the past, this cultural revolution does not appear connected with some anatomical change in brain size, and it doesn’t stay stable over long periods of time. These humans are continually innovative, and through what they create, whether it is ostrich shell beads and ornaments found in the caves of Africa, or the great cave art of Europe, we recognize these hominids as ourselves.

What caused this transition which was more like a super-transformation, or revolution? A variety of hypotheses have been brought forward: new techniques to procure food, new social structures, and so forth, but these appear to be more the effect of the transformation rather than its cause. Jared Diamond suggests a genetic mutation that effected the anatomy of the vocal tract, making spoken language possible,43 and Richard Klein looks to another genetic mutation that would have affected the neurological basis for spoken language.44

Modern genetic studies, often controversial themselves, appear to converge with and roughly confirm this picture. Studies of mitochondrial DNA point to an "African Eve" from which all humans today descended perhaps some 120,000 years ago or later, and studies of the Y-chromosome suggest a single African male ancestor, perhaps some 35,000 to 89,000 years ago. Further, genetic studies also make it appear improbable that there was significant interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans, or that the modern populations of Asia have some kind of genetic inheritance that cannot be traced to Africa and the modern humans that arose there.45

While the general picture of a sudden transformation leading to modern humans seems well supported, its timing is still debated. If we place it around 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, then this date ought to fall before the spread of modern humans out of Africa. Otherwise we face difficult questions of how this transformation could have spread among already existing distant populations. If we place this transformational event at some 80,000 to 100,000 years ago, we have to ask why it appears to have remained dormant rather than taking effect immediately.46


Human Consciousness

The question of what makes us human can be addressed within a scientific framework in terms of the appearance of bipedalism, that is, an upright walking position, the shape of teeth, or the skull, or various genetic mutations leading to language, and so forth, and from this perspective we could say that this or that hominid is more or less like an anatomically modern human, or even call them early humans. But this does not answer the philosophical question of what really makes us human. To do that a good place to start is with the question of human consciousness and intelligence.

This issue is such an important one that it can be compared to the origin of the universe, or the appearance of life, and we should expect that here, like in those other areas, scientific discourse sometimes becomes encrusted with the philosophical and religious inclinations of the scientists. Stephen J. Gould, for example, writes that we should chant several times a day like a Hari Krishna mantra, "Humans are not the result of predictable evolutionary progress, but rather a fortuitous cosmic afterthought, a tiny twig on the aborescent bush of life, which, if replanted from seed, would almost surely grow this twig again, or perhaps any twig with any properties that we would care to call consciousness."47 Here a sense of how evolution works by natural selection becomes mixed with an attitude which says that natural selection demonstrates a lack of meaning and purpose to the whole evolutionary process, especially when it comes to consciousness.

It is only to be expected within the context of a biology that has a naturalistic and materialistic overlay that explanations of human consciousness will appear over and over again in the form that consciousness in one way or another is the accidental product of brain physiology. Francis Crick of DNA fame puts it this way, "Your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity, free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules."48

Even if we reject this kind of materialism, attempts to explain consciousness solely within the framework of the natural sciences have not been very successful. The physicist Roger Penrose, who was disappointed with these kinds of explanations, tried to break the impasse by turning to quantum theory – a recourse to which seems to pop up whenever conventional scientific explanations are failing, as we have seen previously. He felt that the indeterminism demonstrated by quantum mechanics might avoid the limitations of a more deterministic scientific approach to consciousness. He eventually chose for the locus of action of this quantum indetermination the microtubules of the neurons. But this is highly problematical because it rests on one hand on a certain interpretation of quantum theory that is questionable, and on the other, on still making some physiological event in the brain give rise to consciousness.

The fact that humans have a distinctively different kind of consciousness and intelligence from animals is really not in dispute. Even if we take the trait of physical self-recognition as a crude marker for a sense of self, or self-consciousness, we find that monkeys cannot recognize themselves in a mirror while most great apes can, and humans not only recognize themselves but have, of course, a sense of self that is more developed than apes. Thus, Ian Tattersal will say, "There is a qualitative difference among the perceptions of self exhibited by monkeys, apes and human beings."49

Consciousness has always posed a serious challenge to a narrowly expressed Darwinian evolution. Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-discoverer of natural selection along with Darwin, had serious reservations about the adequacy of the theory of evolution in this regard. Michael Shermer who devoted serious attention to his work and who expressed admiration for his personality was led by his orthodox reading of Darwinian evolution to claim that here Wallace strayed from science into pseudo-science. But if we listen to some of the things Wallace has to say, we find ourselves faced with an independent mind confronting important issues, even philosophical issues, that would not allow him to remain silent. Why, he asks, are we endowed with an intelligence that so far transcends that of the ape when we would expect, in virtue of natural selection, that our intelligence would only be a little superior to it? His answer is that "an Overruling Intelligence has watched over the action of those laws, so directing variations and so determining their accumulation as finally to produce an organism sufficiently perfect to admit of, and even to aid in, the indefinite advancement of our mental and moral nature."50

No combination of elements in a more complex molecule, he felt, "could in any way pretend to produce a self-conscious existence."51 "The Darwinian theory… not only does not oppose, but lends a decided support to, a belief in the spiritual nature of man. It shows us how man’s body may have been developed from that of a lower animal from under the law of natural selection; but it also teaches us that we possess intellectual and moral faculties which could not have been so developed, but must have had another origin; and for this origin we can only find an adequate cause in the unseen universe of Spirit."52

Human intelligence and consciousness are, indeed, qualitatively different from that of animals. This is not to deny that animals have intelligence and a certain kind of consciousness, and it is likely that hominids, as we shall see shortly, had an intelligence that far exceeded that of the animals we are acquainted with today. But if this qualitative difference is a well-established fact that we continually verify by our own experience and which is demonstrated in the archaeological records by the rich culture of the Cro-Magnons in comparison with their hominid ancestors, what is the root of this consciousness and intelligence? It finds its prime expression in language and in other symbolic activities like art, writing, mathematics and so forth, all skills that no animal exhibits, and all of these things show a certain kind of transcendence of the concrete situation. We could call this kind of intelligence a power to abstract from the particular concrete situation, and to work at another level, and it is intimately connected with our own distinctive kind of consciousness that grasps itself in true self-awareness and a sense of choice. In fact, through an analysis of these basic human experiences, that is, self-awareness, choice, language and so forth, that we could reason to a qualitatively different principle that gives rise to these abilities. Let’s call it the human spirit, or soul, a spiritual soul that must in some way transcend matter if we are going to be able to transcend the limits of our material circumstances and think and speak and act in the way we do. We are faced with the question of a spiritual soul and how it can be reconciled with what the paleoanthropologists tell us about the appearance of the first humans.


Maritains Philosophy of Evolution

What we need is a well-founded philosophical explanation of evolution. Jacques Maritain has left us one, and it came in the form of a lecture he gave to the Little Brothers of Jesus in Toulouse when he was 84.53 He starts unsurprisingly with some texts of St. Thomas, the chief of which describes an ascending hierarchy of beings and runs: "Prime matter is first of all in potency to the form of the element.

"But existing under the form of the element, it is in potency to the form of the mixed body (or of the compound), elements being the matter of the mixed body.

"And considered under the form of the mixed body, it is in potency to the vegetative soul: for it is a soul that is the act (or the substantial form) of the plant (since a plant is a living being, or a being endowed with immanent activity).

"And likewise the vegetative soul is in potency to the sensitive soul, as the sensitive soul is to the intellective soul: as it appears in human generation, in which the fetus lives first by plant life, then by animal life, and finally by human life.

"But after this form -- the intellective soul -- we do not find, in those things subject to generation and to corruption (or to substantial transformation), any subsequent or worthier form.

"And so the highest degree of the whole order of the movement of generation is the human soul, and it is toward this that matter tends as toward its ultimate form.

"The elements then exist for mixed bodies, which exist for living beings, among which the plants in turn exist for the animals and the animals for man. Indeed man is the end of the whole movement of generation."54

Maritain notes that St. Thomas is talking about "the order of ascending forms," but these forms exhibit a trans-categorical tendency towards higher ontological levels, and ultimately towards the human soul because they "tend towards the divine similitude." Here we return to an idea we saw briefly before. Things act according to their own nature, but they also act to transcend that nature and reach a goal that is transnatural in regard to their own nature.

St. Thomas naturally had no idea of the modern biological idea of evolution, but Maritain believed that he would not have been disconcerted by it for long, for he would only to have had to add the dimension of time to this ascending journey of the forms in order to arrive at a philosophical understanding of it. Further, the ultimate direction of that process towards the human soul is another way of stating the strong anthropic principle, i.e., the universe tends towards intelligent life and his remark about divine similitude points to the divine causality that underlies the whole process.

When Maritain wants to elucidate this philosophy of evolution further, he focuses on the part of this passage in which St. Thomas describes human generation "in which the fetus lives first by plant life, then by animal life, and finally by human life." While Thomas’ biology which had accompanied his philosophical views of human generation has long since fallen by the wayside, Maritain believed that his philosophy remained sound, and particularly enlightening in regard to the evolutionary process. In fact, he felt that Thomas in a stroke of genius saw that the "evolutive movement" of the human embryo "recapitulates in itself, in the intra-uterine development of that being which is the head of material creation, the evolution of life which after centuries has attained its final end in man." In short, if we could fathom the philosophical nature of the evolution of the human embryo we would be better able to grasp the nature of evolution, itself, and so it was vitally important for him to hold on to St. Thomas’ views on the generation of the human embryo.55

So what is Thomas’ view of the evolution of the human embryo? The embryo is not a mere vegetable in its first stage, and a mere animal in its second, and finally a human being in its third. "St. Thomas says something entirely different: that possessing a human nature virtually from the very beginning – the human embryo during the first stage lives by a vegetative life and in the following stage by sensitive life. It is a being which from the very first instant is made to be a man, and which becomes formally what from the very beginning it has already been virtually and by that fundamental life force on which it depends."56

In trying to understand what this means we return to the idea of instrumental causality which we saw Joseph de Finance using before. When Michelangelo is carving a statue, or Leonardo da Vinci is painting a picture, or your loved one is telling you how much she cares for you, something of his or her inner spirit passes through the chisel or paint brush, or physical sounds, and endows them with some higher reality. But what passes through them is not a thing. It is a directive power or virtue (virtus) which directs an act towards its end. This virtue is a form, but not an "entitative form in forming a thing," but "the form of a movement" which regulates and guides the movement to its end.57 It is another instance of formal causality rather than efficient causality. It is "the form of a caused movement by which the action of the efficient cause, when it is not instantaneous, controls the whole instrumentality which leads to the final effect, as long as the process of causation lasts."58

The human nature of the parents by means of their generative act is transmitted to the embryo virtually and guides its development. The human parents do not generate a vegetable first, but rather a virtual human being which first has a vegetative soul. Then when this organism has developed sufficiently, it is transformed into an organism that possesses a sensitive, or animal soul, and finally, when this organism has developed sufficiently, it receives a spiritual or intellectual soul. We could also liken this guiding energy to a directive force that guides the material and efficient causes of the organism to take up a certain form and attain a certain depth of biological information.

We are ready now to turn to the question of the evolution of the first humans. Living beings have the ability with the concurrence of divine causality to reproduce their own kind. This is the directive motion we just saw guiding the formation of the embryo. But what is at stake in evolution is a higher kind of divine activity which transforms one species into another. Maritain calls this a super-elevating and super-forming divine motion so that a living creature acts not only in accordance with its nature, but its activity is elevated to generate descendants better than itself. Picture it, if you will, as a higher amperage current, a transitory divine causality that passes through species to effect their transformation. They act with all that is in them, but this action becomes elevated by means of this super-elevating motion so that the result is higher than what their own natures are capable of.

If we apply this to the emergence of the first true humans, we can say that this super-elevating and super-forming motion was at work among the hominids, as it was throughout the whole tree of life, and at various times gave rise to the higher hominids that gradually approached the modern human anatomical form with its upright gait, its distinctive skull and teeth, its larger and more complex brain, and so forth. This epic drama of the hominids which continued for millions of years can be seen from two perspectives. From the point of the view of the natural sciences we are faced with an ever more complicated but still quite fragmentary tree of hominids which slowly, and with fits and starts, moves in the direction of larger brain size. From Maritain’s philosophical perspective, the process has an inner direction which is aiming at the birth of true humans. The earlier hominids in Maritain’s mind would have been significantly more intelligent than any of the animals like dolphins or gorillas that we are familiar with today. They would have approached ever closer to the threshold of true human intelligence, and this gives us a way to look at the hominid tool-makers of millions of years ago, and especially the Neanderthals, for they give us some idea of the heights that hominid intelligence could have reached with their tools and use of fire, and even perhaps some faint material foreshadowing of art and religion.

We finally arrive at the advent of true humans. This terminology is deliberate because of the philosophical exigencies of the question. No matter how developed the hominids became, they remained animals. At some point, however, they reached a peak of anatomical and animal perfection. "There appeared an animal which was almost a man, the kind from which man could be born."59

But what precisely was needed to cross the threshold? It is a human soul, or form, a spiritual soul. This could not come from hominid parents since they did not possess it. It could not even have come from a general kind of super-elevating motion that transformed one species into another in the world of plants and animals. Rather, it demands a new and special motion, for the human soul is a spiritual substance without parts and without matter and so can only be created directly by God. What is needed is an "exceptional and absolutely unique" kind of super-elevating motion. The generative action of these hominids who were the closest to being human cannot give rise to a true human unless this super-elevating motion elevates their activity. The embryo which under the virtue of the generative act has moved from a vegetative soul to a sensitive soul at a certain moment reaches a fullness of possessing that sensitive soul. At that moment the directive action of the hominid parents is completed by this special super-elevating action of God. This means that from a philosophical point of view there is all the difference in the world between a hominid and a human being, and a fortiori between a human and a chimp or gorilla, no matter how intelligent. From this philosophical vantage point we can now return to the great leap forward and see it in a new way.60

Let’s compare this philosophy of evolution with the picture of human evolution we saw before with its moments of transition followed by long periods of stability. Paleoanthropology seems to indicate there was a direct connection between brain size and a particular kind of tool kit, but from the philosophical side of things we can ask what kind of brain would act like this. It must have been a brain that did not transcend its own physical nature. It could see that far and do that much, but go no further. It was an animal brain which could not abstract from the concrete and see the principles that would underlie the particular act of tool creation. Progress had to wait until the next transitional moment in which a new kind of brain appeared, and a new advance could be made.

Indeed, the whole biological theory of punctuated equilibria has a philosophical counterpart, and Maritain had developed his ideas about it before Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge’s paper put punctuated equilibrium on the biological map in 1972. The foundation for Maritain’s reflections were the two fundamental forces he saw operating in living beings, which we have seen before. With one, they acted according to their particular natures, and this, we could say, generated stability. But on occasion because they were part of an evolutionary universe they were subject to moments of transformation, to super-elevating movements. Indeed, Maritain felt that the whole of hominid evolution had had as its purpose the creation of true humans, and when they appeared this evolutionary impetus ceased. It was like a wave of hominid evolution that, once it had crested and reached its goal, receded, and the hominids were no more.

But what does a philosophy of evolution have to say about the cause of the final transformational event? It is the creation of the human soul, and this is an event that could not have taken place piecemeal. The preparation for the human soul was gradual; its actual appearance could not be. It was as if a qualitatively different and higher current flowed through the hominid embryo, and endowed it with a spiritual soul. This soul then became the very principle of being and action which made the first true humans to be what they were, and it is easy enough to imagine that such a transformation would soon have a dramatic effect on behavior. It is the spiritual soul that is at the root of genuine language, for it allows us to transcend concrete situations and comprehend the universal principles that they embody. It is the human soul that allows us to have a qualitatively different form of self-awareness that allows us to know, and know that we know. And the spiritual soul is at the root of our artistic creativity and our continual innovation. It is the creation of the spiritual soul that finally uncouples the brain from its creations. Therefore we would expect that the appearance of the first humans would set off a cognitive revolution the likes of which the world had never seen before, and it would be accompanied by continual cultural explosions, and the movement of humans all over the world. Nor would we expect these humans to breed with the Neanderthals because they were much too different from them. In short this philosophical view of the first humans harmonizes nicely with what paleoanthropology is telling us.

But this kind of comparison between paleoanthropology and a philosophy of evolution is not meant to imply that Maritain’s philosophical principles somehow depend, in essence, on the accuracy of the picture that the paleoanthropologists are creating. They do not. But what it does say is that both a philosophy of evolution and paleoanthropology approach some of the same fundamental issues, each in its own distinctive way, and so they ought to tend to converge, and this convergence creates the possibility of a genuine dialogue between them. The scientific cosmologists, evolutionary biologists, and paleoanthropologists all encounter questions in the very midst of their scientific work which leads them in the direction of a philosophy of nature because the full scope of these questions can only be fully addressed there. This does not mean that the sciences somehow turn into philosophy or compromise their integrity, but simply that the sciences have their own distinctive methods with which they encounter questions which cannot be fully answered by them. Put in another way, the sciences are not the only ways of knowing. Philosophy has something to say, as well, and a philosophy of nature, for its part, cannot operate in a vacuum. It needs to listen to what the sciences are saying, and then it needs to submit what they are saying to a careful analysis in order to discover the ontological implications of what science has learned.

What is the conclusion to our second experiment? There is nothing in the actual findings of the sciences about evolution and human origins that is irreconcilable with the essentials of Christian belief but rather, science again seems to converge with faith.

In these first two chapters we have seen two fundamentally different ways to evaluate the facts of the beginning of the universe, evolution, and the emergence of the first humans. In the first, we are told that the universe came from nothing, or had no beginning, unfolds without direction or purpose, and we, ourselves, as conscious and intelligent beings, are just another accidental twig on the bush of life. This attitude is not the result of science which, itself, cannot answer ultimate questions of origin, meaning and purpose, but of individual scientists and others who make science the only way we can know, and have definite opinions about the value of philosophy and religion.

In the second fundamental way the universe appears and develops against the luminous background of the field of Existence, and we, ourselves, are both the flowering of the tree of life and the direct creation of God. The same facts are being displayed against two very different backgrounds. It is not the actual science that is at stake here. It is precisely the background against which it is placed. We are faced with a choice between ultimate meaning or its absence.




  1. Timothy Ferris, The Whole Shebang, p. 299. In saying this, Carter was reacting against what he felt was too wide a reading of the cosmological principle which, in turn, had been a reaction against the old anthropocentric view of the universe, and wanted to level the playing field, as it were, and say that the constants of nature were simply selections from an infinite array of possibilities. Therefore, human beings, themselves, far from occupying the center of the stage, had no special place. Reasoning in this way, Fred Hoyle and his colleagues said that if we didn’t have a special place in space, why not continue that thought and say we didn’t have a special place in time, either, and therefore the universe was eternal, and there was no big bang, but rather, the universe existed in a steady state. And Hoyle’s motivation for proposing a steady state universe was rooted in his desire to try to avoid the big bang because of its religious implications. Carter, reacting against this kind of extension of the cosmological principle, is saying that the universe is, in fact, a particular kind of universe because it must be the kind of universe that has given rise to intelligent observers. See pages 291, 298-9.
  2. Ibid., p. 299.
  3. Hugh Ross, "Big Bang Model Refined by Fire," p. 363-84, 372ff.
  4. Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things, p. 140. More formally, Darwinian evolution is summed up by Michael Shermer under the headings: "Evolution; Organisms Changed Through Time…, Descent with Modification. Gradualism. Multiplicity of Speciation. Natural Selection."
  5. Michael Shermer, "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," p. 35. In the aftermath of this column, instead of his usual dozen letters and response, he received 134, which he divided into various classes, but this outpouring did not apparently give him pause concerning the use of Dawkin’s quote. "Vox Populi" in Scientific American, July 2002, p. 37. John Rennie, the editor-in-chief of Scientific American, in the same issue, also joined the fray with "15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense." and an editorial in which he takes on the design theorists and their arguments.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Richard Dawkins, Preface, The Selfish Gene.
  8. Ibid., p. 37.
  9. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker.
  10. Ernst Mayr, "Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought."
  11. Jack Cuozzo, Buried Alive, p. 115.
  12. Michael Ruse, "Can a Darwinian be a Christian?" p. 299.
  13. Edward Larson and Larry Witham, "Scientists and Religion in America," p. 90.
  14. Stephen Meyer, "The Explanatory Power of Design: DNA and the Origin of Information," p. 118ff.
  15. Walter Bradley, "Nature: Designed or Designoid."
  16. Stephen Meyer, "The Explanatory Power of Design: DNA and the Origin of Information," p. 119-120.
  17. Ibid., p. 126.
  18. Ibid., p. 130.
  19. Ibid., p. 134.
  20. Ibid., p. 135.
  21. Ibid., p. 140.
  22. Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, p. 39.
  23. Ibid., p. 174-5.
  24. Ibid., p. 194.
  25. Ibid., p. 252.
  26. Jonathan Wells, "Recent Insights from Developmental Biology," p. 56. Jeffrey Schwartz in Sudden Origins argues that natural selection concerns the survival of a species over time while the homeobox genes help us understand the origin of species, and thus punctuational events. (p. 379)
  27. Ibid., p. 61.
  28. Ibid., p. 63.
  29. Ian Tattersall, The Monkey in the Mirror, p. 38.
  30. Ibid., p. 41.
  31. James Arraj, The Mystery of Matter, p. 82ff.
  32. Jacques Maritain, "Le Néo-Vitalisme en Allemagne et le Darwinisme," p. 820-21.
  33. Ibid., p. 818.
  34. Jacques Maritain, "Vues sur la psychologie animale," p. 172. See also William Carlo, "Embryology and the Soul in Philosophy" in Science and Knowledge.
  35. William Dembski, "Introduction: Mere Creation," p. 16-17.
  36. Ibid., p. 27.
  37. Norris Clarke, "Causality and Time," p. 150.
  38. Ibid., p. 150-1.
  39. Joseph de Finance, Existence et liberté, p. 259.
  40. Ibid., p. 262.
  41. Ibid., p. 264.
  42. Robert John Russell, "Does the "God Who Acts" Really Act in Nature?," p. 91.
  43. See the interesting article that Diamond wrote in 1989, "The Great Leap Forward."
  44. I am indebted to Richard Klein’s book with Blake Edgar, The Dawn of Human Culture, for bringing out the potential link between the change in brain size and complexity, and new tool kits, changes which were followed by long periods of stability. (See Chapter 4, The First True Humans) Klein has also championed putting the emergence of the first true humans at some 50,000 years ago. Recently he has suggested the mutation might be foxp2 gene that is associated with human language. See "Whither the Neanderthals?" David Horrobin in The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity, suggests that the mutation was connected with arachidonic acid and its conversion to cell-signaling molecules that vitally effect the brain. He feels that this mutation that took place in Africa 130,000-150,000 years ago gave rise not only to the creativity so characteristic of modern humans, but when the human diet changed for the worse, led to schizophrenia and other disorders.
  45. See, for example, Allan Wilson and Rebecca Cann, and Alan Thorne and Milford Wolpoff, as well as more recently Yuekai Ke, Bryan Sykes and Steve Olson.
  46. On this question see Klein, The Human Career, p. 512ff. and Stringer, African Exodus, p. 198ff..
  47. Stephen Jay Gould, Dinosaur in a Haystack, p. 327.
  48. John Horgan, "Can Science Explain Consciousness?" Sci. Am., July 1994, p. 90.
  49. Ian Tattersall, The Monkey in the Mirror, p. 65.
  50. Michael Shermer, The Borderlands of Science, p. 180.
  51. Ibid., p. 185.
  52. Ibid., p. 187.
  53. Maritain had wanted to give four talks which would have covered additional topics like further philosophical elucidations of his theory of evolution, the anthropological literature on human origins, the state of humans before the fall, and so forth, but he tells us that he had not the energy. His archives in Kolbsheim, France, regrettably have no trace of these proposed further efforts. But what he did leave us is of the highest importance because it contains the essence of his ideas.
  54. Jacques Maritain, "Toward a Thomist Idea of Evolution," p. 88-9.
  55. Thomas’ views on the development of the human embryo in which the spiritual soul was only infused after conception when the embryo was fit to receive it were widespread during the Middle Ages. In more recent times it has been called delayed hominization, which perhaps is not an entirely felicitous phrase since in Thomas’ mind it wasn’t delayed, but simply came at the appropriate moment. This view was gradually displaced under the influence of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the discussions about the morality of abortion, and gave way to the theory of immediate hominization, that is, the infusion of the human soul at conception. Maritain felt that immediate hominization made no philosophical sense. Although the theory of delayed hominization has made some sort of comeback as a possible way to deal with the question of abortion, Maritain could not see any real promise in that approach because of his understanding of the virtual but real human nature of the embryo at conception. See also Joseph Donceel, "Immediate Animation and Delayed Hominization;" Thomas Shannon and Allan Wolter, "Reflections on the Moral Status of the Pre-Embryo;" Mark Johnson, "Quaestio Disputata: Delayed Hominization."
  56. Jacques Maritain, "Toward a Thomist Idea of Evolution," p. 94.
  57. Ibid., p. 98.
  58. Ibid., p. 99. It is interesting to note the close similarity between this philosophical idea and David Bohm’s ideas on the pilot wave which he employs in his causal, or ontological explanation of quantum theory. See my The Mystery of Matter. Karl Rahner set forth his own views on the interaction of human and divine causality in the creation of the human soul in his Hominisation, which Maritain took exception to in this article. Rahner’s ideas appear to have been influenced, to some degree, by his predecessor in Munich, Johann Stufler, who Rahner tells us taught a dry-as-dust scholasticism, but in his Divi Thomas Aquinatis doctrina De Deo Operante in omni operatione naturae creatae praesertim liberi arbitrii had seen that "God only acts upon the world insofar as he produces the powers of creatures, and not as a particular causal factor within the world." And Rahner takes this kind of approach in Hominisation, but the pivotal question is whether it explains how more can come from less, and this is where de Finance and Maritain turn to instrumental causality.
  59. Jean-Michel Maldamé comes to a similar conclusion in "L’émergence de l'homme comme avènement de l’âme:" "The emergence of man appears to be an advent (avènement) of the soul…" p. 94.
  60. Ibid., p. 123.






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Chapter 1: The Beginning of the Universe

Chapter 3: Original Sin

Chapter 4: The Jesus of History and the Jesus of Faith