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What would Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas say about Adam and Eve and paleontology?


Thomas Aquinas (1225– 1274) was instrumental in organizing Christian theology along Aristotelian lines. Here, a priest who is familiar with his thought, offers some comments:

Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? w/ Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P. (Aquinas 101)

In this episode of Aquinas 101: Science and Faith, join Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P., a Dominican friar from the Province of St. Joseph, as he presents how we can reconcile Genesis with scientific theories of human history.

The raven example has nothing to do with human training. Nor does it seem instinctive. Ravens respond rationally to the situation, just as they rationally place pebbles in a glass of water with food in it until the food gets within beak distance. I'm not arguing that non-human animals have human intelligence; they don't. But we undersell them by saying they are mere stimulus-response machines without the ability to reason at all. anthropic
anthropic The rational process is not merely following some learned-instructions. It requires a conceptual action - a "knowing" of things and that requires awareness. The rational process requires that we "capture" or apprehend concepts and compare them and then make free decisions. Birds, while able to follow logical pathways, are not making rational choices. They are not choosing a reason and then aligning concepts to that reason. They don't apprehend the concept or the value of it. That is why ravens do not communicate what they've learned to future generations. Nor do dogs or goldfish. What they learn is sufficient for the time that they need it. This is radically different from what humans can do with a truly rational process. We can build purposes into computers and the computer can "act rationally" - but it is not a rational being and never will be. This is a barrier for evolution. Animals are not rational by nature. They can follow logical pathways, but they do not have the awareness required to establish rational purposes. Ravens have the same practical intelligence today that they always have. Human intelligence does not grow by mutations and selection pressure. We build libraries and teach future generations. We retain knowledge we've gained, improve it and communicate it (and debate its value). Plants and animals do nothing like this - never have and never will. We have a different ontology from animals. Silver Asiatic
Anthropic at 9, Every living thing has its own nature. Its own internal being given to it by God. Man has taught animals to do certain things, but animals still have limits. Man's intellect is continually creating and continually striving. Men are building quantum computers now. Look up the built-in abilities of bees. relatd
SA 5: "Plants and animals do not have a rational nature. They act by instinct and not from a rational process." But animal rationality has been demonstrated many times. Goldfish play soccer quite well, not from instinct to knock the ball into the goal, but because they know they will receive an award for doing so. Dogs have been trained to follow a complex "dancing" routine, not because they instinctively do so, but because they are rewarded for doing so. Ravens in wintertime will communicate the location of a dead moose to other ravens, seemingly against their own self-interest. But that's only if the expired moose already has another raven protecting the treasure from interlopers, so the gossipy raven wants help in overcoming the guardian. If no other raven has found the meal, the raven will keep quiet about the discovery. Perfectly rational. anthropic
ES at 6, God, according to the Bible and taught by the Catholic Church, consists of three persons: The Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Jesus, for example, is described as "one in being with the Father." Nothing was delegated but Jesus is the one "through Him all things were made." That refers to the visible and invisible. relatd
Interestingly enough, just today I listened to a rebroadcast of a debate between young and old earth creationists originally published on the Unbelievable? podcast in June of 2012. https://www.premierunbelievable.com/unbelievable/do-we-live-on-an-old-or-young-earth-unbelievable-17-jun-2012/12352.article I thought the debate was very interesting to be honest as I had no idea what some of the arguments actually were. Anyway, highly recommended as is the Unbelievable? program at all times. JVL
The Genesis account draws a pretty clear line between man and the other beings. The advent of the other things, such as light, the heavens, the plants, fish, birds, and lesser animals, are all done as a command for it to happen. Let there be this, let there be that, and so on. But with man, God says, "Let us make man." The lesser works were delegated, but the making of man was a personal project. EvilSnack
The rational process requires conscious decision-making to evaluate and choose what is true or good. It means having a reason for thought and action. A person can act irrationally - and that usually means acting in a sub-human manner. Plants and animals do not have a rational nature. They act by instinct and not from a rational process. The fact that stones choose to roll down the hill does not mean they are rational beings. Silver Asiatic
What hominids? More fiction that so-called modern humans had less than human ancestors. relatd
Non-rational hominids? Huh? All animals and plants are rational to varying degrees. Using words bizarrely and deceptively is not good persuasion. polistra
The Catholic Church is clear. From Communion and Stewardship, part 69: "But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence. Divine causality and created causality radically differ in kind and not only in degree. Thus, even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation. According to St. Thomas Aquinas: “The effect of divine providence is not only that things should happen somehow, but that they should happen either by necessity or by contingency. Therefore, whatsoever divine providence ordains to happen infallibly and of necessity happens infallibly and of necessity; and that happens from contingency, which the divine providence conceives to happen from contingency” (Summa theologiae, I, 22,4 ad 1). In the Catholic perspective, neo-Darwinians who adduce random genetic variation and natural selection as evidence that the process of evolution is absolutely unguided are straying beyond what can be demonstrated by science. Divine causality can be active in a process that is both contingent and guided. Any evolutionary mechanism that is contingent can only be contingent because God made it so. An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist because “the causality of God, Who is the first agent, extends to all being, not only as to constituent principles of species, but also as to the individualizing principles....It necessarily follows that all things, inasmuch as they participate in existence, must likewise be subject to divine providence” (Summa theologiae I, 22, 2). relatd
I admire the good Dominican fathers and their theology is excellent overall. However, on the question of evolution they dance around quite a bit and are not as nimble in that dance as I would wish. It's the challenge of theistic evolution (and many IDists will have the same challenge). Fr. Legge cannot fully accept a Darwinian solution, but the hope is to preserve as much of it as possible. But regarding the OP - what would St. Thomas say?
The first formation of the human body could not be by the instrumentality of any created power, but was immediately from God ... Therefore as no pre-existing body has been formed whereby another body of the same species could be generated, the first human body was of necessity made immediately by God. https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1091.htm
Because the human body is a completely different metaphysical "form" than any "lower animal" - and humans have a rational nature, evolution cannot make a transition from non-human to human. God has to directly create the human, rational form. Silver Asiatic

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