Question about Thomistic Philosophy and Evolution.
#1
I just want to make sure my understanding is correct here.
To my knowledge, evolution essentially states that, by a genetic mutation, an individual is introduced into a species that possesses a characteristic (viz. an accident) that would be highly advantageous -- to both the individual organism and the species -- and, therefore, if/when that particular organism reproduces, it produces offspring that contain the same accidents.
Therefore, in the light of Thomistic philosophy, the change would be in the accidents rather than in the essence.
Additionally, the premise fails, because, the genetic mutation that gave rise to the abnormal accident wouldn't mean the accidents would be the same in the offspring, viz. a man born some genetic mutation causing a 3 foot neck, if he reproduced, would merely pass along the DNA that caused the accident to take place, and not the accident itself.
Therefore, the effect of the genetic mutation on any potential offspring would be uncertain, and certainly wouldn't mean the offspring would definitely have a larger neck.

Is this a proper understanding?
Reply
#2
(05-05-2020, 10:36 AM)FultonFan Wrote: I just want to make sure my understanding is correct here.
To my knowledge, evolution essentially states that, by a genetic mutation, an individual is introduced into a species that possesses a characteristic (viz. an accident) that would be highly advantageous -- to both the individual organism and the species -- and, therefore, if/when that particular organism reproduces, it produces offspring that contain the same accidents.
Therefore, in the light of Thomistic philosophy, the change would be in the accidents rather than in the essence.
Additionally, the premise fails, because, the genetic mutation that gave rise to the abnormal accident wouldn't mean the accidents would be the same in the offspring, viz. a man born some genetic mutation causing a 3 foot neck, if he reproduced, would merely pass along the DNA that caused the accident to take place, and not the accident itself.
Therefore, the effect of the genetic mutation on any potential offspring would be uncertain, and certainly wouldn't mean the offspring would definitely have a larger neck.

Is this a proper understanding?

It is generally accepted in the scientific community that while not every mutation will be inherited (generally prevented by genetic drift or by deleterious fitness effects) by offspring, all can be. While there is not guarantee that the trait would be passed on, to say it is "uncertain" is a misnomer. There are certainly genes that are predictably passed on to offspring. Take breast cancer for example. It is not uncommon for many women family members to get breast cancer because it is a heritable mutation. Alcoholism has also been shown to somewhat heritable. So your conclusion about uncertainty is shaky at best. The probability will point to the offspring inheriting the "accident" otherwise known as mutation or trait. Assuming genetic mutation is pass on, it would be fairly probably that the gene exhibited itself. 

As far as accident and substance go in terms of genetics, it is unhelpful to use this terminology. For humans at least, all physicality is accidental (Thomistically speaking, not in the usual sense). The soul is the substance. I do not know what the substance of a frog, or any other animal for that matter, would be. Given the purely biological nature of genetics and evolution, it seems disadvantageous to use Thomistic language.

If I misunderstood your argument, I sincerely apologize. Please correct me.
[-] The following 1 user Likes lukeg03's post:
  • Melkite
Reply
#3
(05-05-2020, 10:36 AM)FultonFan Wrote: Therefore, in the light of Thomistic philosophy, the change would be in the accidents rather than in the essence.

Yes, an essence defines what the creature is, whereas the accidents are the qualities of that creature as manifested physically. From a Thomistic understanding, you cannot have a change in the essence of the creature.

So the issue with evolution is not accidental change via genetics or adaptation, because those are simply the actualization of potentialities already present in the essence of that creature; but substantial change posited by the change of one kind of creature into another (a reptile into a monkey, etc.)
"The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation. - Ps. 145:2-3

"For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables." - 2 Timothy 4:3-4
[-] The following 3 users Like Augustinian's post:
  • FultonFan, Justin Tertius, MagisterMusicae
Reply
#4
Is the analogy to cancer really the same thing?
I see where you're coming from, but it doesn't seem to be quite the same.
I thin you pretty well addressed most of what's below, but let me try to say it again more clearly.
In the theory of evolution, we would have a one-time fluke event whereby a single organism is born with some sort of anatomical -- or other -- advantage, due to some sort of genetic mutation.
I assume the theory is then that when that organism reproduces, the potential exists for that organism to pass along the same mutation, and, again possibly, that mutation expressing itself in the same manner in the child as it did in the parent.
The benefit of the mutation would have to be rather profound, I would think, as it would make it stronger than the other similar species in its immediate environment.

It would seem that this process of mutation-benefit from mutation-reproduction-mutation-benefit-etc. would have to have happened successfully quite an extraordinary number of times in order to cause dramatic changes in a species.

Am I understanding the argument correctly?

To be clear, I don't believe in evolution, but I want to make sure I actually understand what's being argued.
Reply
#5
Augustinian Wrote:
FultonFan Wrote:Therefore, in the light of Thomistic philosophy, the change would be in the accidents rather than in the essence.

Yes, an essence defines what the creature is, whereas the accidents are the qualities of that creature as manifested physically. From a Thomistic understanding, you cannot have a change in the essence of the creature.

So the issue with evolution is not accidental change via genetics or adaptation, because those are simply the actualization of potentialities already present in the essence of that creature; but substantial change posited by the change of one kind of creature into another (a reptile into a monkey, etc.)

OK this is what I was trying to ask/have answered.
Thank you!
Reply
#6
(05-05-2020, 10:36 AM)FultonFan Wrote: Therefore, in the light of Thomistic philosophy, the change would be in the accidents rather than in the essence.

In what is often termed "microevolution", yes. That would be accidental change. A species develops dark hair vs. light hair.

However, "macroevolution" would assert not mere accidental changes, but substantial changes. A species is transformed into a new species. At some point these are different kinds of things, meaning a change in the essence/nature/substance, not mere accidental change.

The problem with the latter from a scholastic perspective is that there must be a sufficient cause for this substantial change. If the new species is more complex, then that added complexity cannot come from the lower complexity without an proportional cause, which "random chance" is not.

Which is why one would need to assert some external proportional cause for this increase complexity, such as God directing these changes.

A flea is not directly disposed to become a cat through mutation, nor is even a horse disposed to become a zebra, and so if there is a lack of disposition, then there has to be some external force which disposes if that were to happen.

In short, Darwinian unguided evolution presents a philosophical impossibility without invoking additional causes.
[-] The following 2 users Like MagisterMusicae's post:
  • Augustinian, FultonFan
Reply
#7
(05-05-2020, 01:34 PM)Augustinian Wrote:
(05-05-2020, 10:36 AM)FultonFan Wrote: Therefore, in the light of Thomistic philosophy, the change would be in the accidents rather than in the essence.

Yes, an essence defines what the creature is, whereas the accidents are the qualities of that creature as manifested physically. From a Thomistic understanding, you cannot have a change in the essence of the creature.

So the issue with evolution is not accidental change via genetics or adaptation, because those are simply the actualization of potentialities already present in the essence of that creature; but substantial change posited by the change of one kind of creature into another (a reptile into a monkey, etc.)


So then, if there is no theological problem with evolution within kinds, this means that tigers and lions and domestic cats and hyenas and bearcats, though accidentally different, are all essentially cats?  They're actually the same thing?
Reply
#8
(05-06-2020, 10:05 AM)Melkite Wrote:
(05-05-2020, 01:34 PM)Augustinian Wrote:
(05-05-2020, 10:36 AM)FultonFan Wrote: Therefore, in the light of Thomistic philosophy, the change would be in the accidents rather than in the essence.

Yes, an essence defines what the creature is, whereas the accidents are the qualities of that creature as manifested physically. From a Thomistic understanding, you cannot have a change in the essence of the creature.

So the issue with evolution is not accidental change via genetics or adaptation, because those are simply the actualization of potentialities already present in the essence of that creature; but substantial change posited by the change of one kind of creature into another (a reptile into a monkey, etc.)


So then, if there is no theological problem with evolution within kinds, this means that tigers and lions and domestic cats and hyenas and bearcats, though accidentally different, are all essentially cats?  They're actually the same thing?

See, that's my problem with applying Thomistic substance/accident language to non-human creatures. How do we know that all those animals you mentioned are in "essence" cats? That label was arbitrarily applied the a certain group of animals based on biological aspects. In other words, we determine the substance of an animal by its accidents. That seems illogical. If we can only use accidents to determine substance, and accidents are not essential and are thus able to change from animal to animal, it would follow that we have no reliable method of even determining what the "substance" of the animal is.

This leaves us with two options:
1. Animals are composed purely of accidental nature. In other words, the physical aspects of an animal determine its identity.
2. All animals have the same substance. Though maybe differing in degree, if you believe that animals have some sort of a spiritual reality, and that more complex ones have more complex spiritual realities.
[-] The following 1 user Likes lukeg03's post:
  • Melkite
Reply
#9
(05-05-2020, 01:44 PM)FultonFan Wrote: Is the analogy to cancer really the same thing?
I see where you're coming from, but it doesn't seem to be quite the same.
I thin you pretty well addressed most of what's below, but let me try to say it again more clearly.
In the theory of evolution, we would have a one-time fluke event whereby a single organism is born with some sort of anatomical -- or other -- advantage, due to some sort of genetic mutation.
I assume the theory is then that when that organism reproduces, the potential exists for that organism to pass along the same mutation, and, again possibly, that mutation expressing itself in the same manner in the child as it did in the parent.
The benefit of the mutation would have to be rather profound, I would think, as it would make it stronger than the other similar species in its immediate environment.

It would seem that this process of mutation-benefit from mutation-reproduction-mutation-benefit-etc. would have to have happened successfully quite an extraordinary number of times in order to cause dramatic changes in a species.

Am I understanding the argument correctly?

To be clear, I don't believe in evolution, but I want to make sure I actually understand what's being argued.

No, you aren't understanding the argument correctly.  Evolutionarily speaking, this is how it works:

Proto-giraffe with a normal neck procreates, and the embryo mutates a gene.  This gene makes the baby giraffe have an abnormally long neck.  Baby giraffe grows up, eats low leaves with his peers, and also high leaves his peers can't reach. Baby giraffe mates a few times, passes the gene onto half of his offspring.

Next generation: several long-necked giraffes compete for food with several short-necked giraffes.  Because of the broader height range of food availability, the long-necked giraffes are better nourished overall than the short-necked giraffes.

Next generation: more long-necked giraffes have been born now, and a few of them bully the short-necked giraffes by eating all the leaves closer to the ground.  A few short-necked giraffes are malnourished, and don't survive long enough to procreate.

Next generation: a sufficient number of long-necked giraffes exist to put the short-necked giraffes in their communities into serious threat of starvation. 

Over the course of the next many hundreds or even thousands of generations: Many short-necked giraffes are unable to procreate before their early deaths.  Of the females that survive, their mating options are increasingly likely to be a long-necked giraffe.  Each new generation has even more long-necked giraffes being born.  Because the long-necked giraffes are getting adequate nutrition to sustain them until mating age, and the short-necked giraffes are not, the long-neck population is growing exponentially, and the short-neck population is frequently halving.  Eventually, there are only a handful of short-necks left, and they cease to exist when either the last one dies before procreating, or procreates but its progeny do not display the short neck gene.

This was one of the big A-HA moments for me in learning about evolution.  Assuming for the sake of argument that the theory is true, evolution is not a sentient thing.  I always had that impression, and even evolutionists do a poor job of explaining how completely mindless of a mechanism evolution is.  The way they describe it makes it sound like evolution is a non-sentient sentience, picking winners and losers, like it's unconsciously observing the fittest to survive, but it doesn't.  It really is completely dumb, blind luck.  It's just various traits that make it more likely for individuals to survive until reproduction and passing those traits down, and each generation has a few more displaying those traits, making them a little more likely to survive to procreation than those that don't have the trait. 

So it's not only the one time fluke event that defines evolution.  Even evolutionists would say that the majority of those one-time fluke events never survive to reproduction.  It's the one-time fluke event that just happens to take place in the right conditions for it be beneficial for reproduction. The long-neck giraffe gene could just as easily have mutated at a time when all the vegetation was close to the ground, and the long-necks couldn't bend down far enough to reach it.  Then we'd have small-necked giraffes and wouldn't have had to worry about how the long-necks ever fit into the ark.
[-] The following 1 user Likes Melkite's post:
  • lukeg03
Reply
#10
(05-06-2020, 10:18 AM)lukeg03 Wrote:
(05-06-2020, 10:05 AM)Melkite Wrote:
(05-05-2020, 01:34 PM)Augustinian Wrote:
(05-05-2020, 10:36 AM)FultonFan Wrote: Therefore, in the light of Thomistic philosophy, the change would be in the accidents rather than in the essence.

Yes, an essence defines what the creature is, whereas the accidents are the qualities of that creature as manifested physically. From a Thomistic understanding, you cannot have a change in the essence of the creature.

So the issue with evolution is not accidental change via genetics or adaptation, because those are simply the actualization of potentialities already present in the essence of that creature; but substantial change posited by the change of one kind of creature into another (a reptile into a monkey, etc.)


So then, if there is no theological problem with evolution within kinds, this means that tigers and lions and domestic cats and hyenas and bearcats, though accidentally different, are all essentially cats?  They're actually the same thing?

See, that's my problem with applying Thomistic substance/accident language to non-human creatures. How do we know that all those animals you mentioned are in "essence" cats? That label was arbitrarily applied the a certain group of animals based on biological aspects. In other words, we determine the substance of an animal by its accidents. That seems illogical. If we can only use accidents to determine substance, and accidents are not essential and are thus able to change from animal to animal, it would follow that we have no reliable method of even determining what the "substance" of the animal is.

This leaves us with two options:
1. Animals are composed purely of accidental nature. In other words, the physical aspects of an animal determine its identity.
2. All animals have the same substance. Though maybe differing in degree, if you believe that animals have some sort of a spiritual reality, and that more complex ones have more complex spiritual realities.


Imo, the bolded part is the logical checkmate to the anti-evolutionist position.  The idea that evolution can happen on a microscale within clades is the pinnacle of defending literal creationism in the face of a superabundance of evidence in favor of some kind of evolution.  Once this pinnacle is taken down, there is nowhere else for the literal creationist to go, other than to return to an insistence that the biblical account is literal history and fossils are lies placed in the dirt to test our faith.
Reply




Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)