To date, it seems that Catholics have flown a white flag to scientism, especially when it comes to human evolution. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P., strikes back, in a 2018 article appearing in the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. This well-trained biologist delivers a blistering attack on the anti-essentialism of science.
Strangely, he locates an essence for the human in a 2016 book by two modern academics. Why Only Us? is authored by two Harvard professors, Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky. The first works on computer models for language. The second is a famously political linguist.
Comments are in order. However, in a blink of an eye for the world of academics, Marie George flexes her erudition by taking Austriaco to task on his interpretations of Thomas Aquinas. She hands the Dominican a tar baby of scholastic qualifications.
Academic quarrels do not get better than this. Instead of one commentary, three are necessary, one for Marie George, one for Nicanor Austriaco OP, plus one for Berwick and Chomsky. The category-based nested form and the first singularity offer insights not available to any of these authors.
Christians need not defend Adam against Darwinism. Rather, Christians have an option that reveals Adam within an evolutionary framework. This is the drama of An Archaeology of the Fall. This is the hypothesis of the first singularity. Our current Lebenswelt is not the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.
The following are available at www.smashwords.com.
Comments on Nicanor Austriaco’s Essay (2018) “Adam After Darwin”
Comments on Marie George’s Essay (2020) “Aquinas’s Teachings on Concepts and Words”
Comments on Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky’s Book (2016) “Why Only Us?”
0065 Armand Maurer offers an essay that traces the notion of secondary causes from Darwin, back through Suarez and Aquinas, all the way to the Neoplatonic Book of Causes. He aims to show that God’s greatness is not diminished by NeoDarwinian theory.
Indeed, the working comparison shows that the normal contexts of Divine Will3, natural selection3b and body development3b cannot exclude one another.
0066 This is not the view of the modern Zeitgeist, which declares that, in order for inquiry to be scientific, inquiry must exclude metaphysics.
0067 Darwin does not rise above the modern Zeitgeist. Nor can a reader expect him to. After all, the Zeitgeist fills the air that we breathe. The Zeitgeist stands between heaven and earth. There is no avoiding it.
At first, Darwin thinks that the concept of secondary causes provides a path to the acceptance of his theory. Unfortunately, this path is already blocked by the modern Zeitgeist. Later in life, Darwin declares himself agnostic.
0068 Now, I may ask, “What happens next?”
What happens in Western Civilization between 7660 and 7820 U0’?
If Darwin is on target about secondary causation, and if the modern Zeitgeist denies the possibility, then what happens when the esse of the thing [has power to cause] results2 is no longer contextualized by the primary cause?
What if the Divine Will3 and the Divine Presence1 are systematically ignored, even ridiculed?
0069 Nature abhors a vacuum.
The positivist intellect rules out metaphysics in scientific inquiry, setting up a scenario where natural selection3b and body development3b exclude the Divine Will3. Christians do not understand how to counter, because any attempt to respond meets the charge that the Christian is not scientific.
This leaves an opening for a new metaphysic, one that declares itself to be “not religious”.
0070 Does “not religious” mean the same as scientific?
Many moderns think so.
Indeed, how can a modernist distinguish between science and… er… a religious movement that says that it is “not religious”?
(See comments on Pennock’s eEssay on the distinction of science and religion, appearing at the end of June 2020)
Social Darwinism of the late 76th and early 77th century serve as an example. According to their dogma, humans inherit a social phenotype and are bound to certain civilizational adaptations.
Karl Marx, for example, envisions six stages, primitive barbaric communist, the slave, the feudal, the capitalist, the socialist and the communist. Social phenotypes differ for each one. For example, for feudalism, the two social phenotypes are the landowner and the serf.
According to Marxist myth, civilization progresses from one stage to another.
Each stage requires a different type of leader.
The esse of a leader includes the power to achieve adaptive organizational objectives.
0071 This calls to mind the master-work, How To Define the Word, “Religion”.
What is the potential1aCunderlying the actuality of an organizational objective2aC?
For Social Darwinism, that righteousness1aC is “not religious”.
0072 Marxism becomes a brand of Social Darwinism.
Here is a general picture for the modern Zeitgeist.
0073 A vacuum is apparent.
Both modern intellectuals and the leader offer to fill in the blanks.
0074 Notably, the genetic basis of inheritance is not well understood during the century after Darwin. Mendel starts his experiments in 7653 U0’. James Watson and Francis Crick determine that the structure of DNA is a double helical polymer in 7753.
Consequently, what I call “body development3b”, “the phenotype2b” and “genotype1b” are more mystically configured by Social Darwinists. They are conceived as social development3b, cultural phenotype2b and identity1b. These terms appeal to folk psychology.
On top of this, even in very late Modernism, both intellectuals and leaders insist that human evolution is solely due to material and instrumental causes.
No one thinks that immaterial causes are relevant. This error is refuted in the master-work, The Human Niche.
Also, no one imagines a discontinuity between our current Lebenswelt and the Lebenswelt that we evolved in. This topic is addressed in the master-work, An Archaeology of the Fall.
0072 What is primary causation in modern movements that proclaim themselves to be “not religious”?
Different modern schools fill in the blanks in their own ways. Mercantilism, Fascism, Communism and Big Government (il)Liberalism each has its day. They each proclaim a different primary cause.
Maritain sees this. He lives to a ripe old age. He writes his essay on evolution, close to the end. He may not know how to put his vision into a precise, scientifically plausible, argument. He does know that the issue must be addressed, not by positivist intellects, but by rational intellects. Secondary causation must no longer be usurped by human agency. The slots for primary causation cannot remain empty.
0073 NeoDarwinism must be seen as an expression of secondary causation.
It is not the purpose of Maurer’s essay to show how.
The purpose is to show what must be done.
0074 The Book of Causes is translated into Arabic, by a Neoplatonic philosopher, living near Baghdad, shortly after al Ma’mun fails once and fails again, to reconcile Muslims, first, with one another, and second, with the rational intellect. Who would imagine that, a thousand years later, Charles Darwin would pick one of its key ideas, secondary causation, in order to justify his own scientific proposal?
The popularization of the idea comes through Aquinas, then Suarez.
The realization of the necessity of the idea comes through Maritain, and here, Maurer.
0027 Darwin justifies his hypothesis on the origin of species to Christians, by contemplating secondary causation. God grants adaptive powers to living creatures, allowing descent with modification.
Does God endow biological creatures with powers more subtle than instrumental and material causality?
The power to be reproductively successful means that, over time, a creature (species) can substantially change.
Something independent of the biological species offers an advantage to exploit or a disadvantage to avoid. This takes place in the eternal now. In each generation, those creatures that have the ability to exploit the advantage or avoid the disadvantage produce more offspring. Over the course of many generations, a species may substantially change, depending on the nature of the advantage or disadvantage.
0029 What word is under contention?
The word is “substance”. One never witnesses an adaptation so radical as to render a plant into an animal or the other way around. Plus, only one genus goes from animal to rational, implying the uniqueness of the human niche.
0030 However, if one fashions a narrower definition of substance, then one places the word in the path of descent with modification.
For example, a common ancestor ends up as two species, wolf and dog. They are substantially different, according to a consensus among biologists. Why? Each population no longer breeds with the other.
Okay, there is debate about that for wolves and dogs, but not between wolves and whales.
0031 There is more to the picture than this scientific criterion.
As species evolve, their particular substance changes over generations. Yet, at any moment in the Earth’s history, biological species appear to be stable, even during rapid ecological change. So, each species is really present only in the eternal now.
Time is required to note trends in biological evolution. So, evolution implies that species must be placed in a different normal context than everyday life. They may be compared to selective breeding of populations over time.
0032 Did Darwin grasp secondary causes in order to place a metaphorical fig leaf over his theory of natural selection?
Descent with modification implies that God (primary cause) endows creatures with powers to exploit advantages and avoid disadvantages (secondary causes) in the environment of evolutionary adaptation (EEA). Creatures do not strive to change over generations. Rather, they strive to survive and reproduce. Adaptation occurs, over many generations, as a consequence of striving in the etermal now.
0033 In order to get an idea how this looks in terms of category-based nested forms, let me conclude that there are two actualities. One actuality virtually situates the other.
Here is a diagram of actuality for a two-level interscope. See requried reading.
0034 In the normal context of natural selection3b, the situation-level actuality becomes adaptation2b.
In the normal context of natural selection3b, the situation-level potential becomes a niche1b.
A niche1b is a potential of an actuality independent of the adapting species2a.
As far as biologists are concerned, the content-level normal context3a and potential1a, accounting for the actuality independent of the adapting species2a may be ignored, except for one difficulty.
There is a chance that the adaptation2b will alter the actuality independent of the adapting species2a, as in the case of a beaver building a dam on a fast moving stream. The alteration produces similar results, time and time again. Reproducible results become the actuality independent of the adapting species2a. This permutation is called “niche construction”.
0035 Here is the diagram of Darwinian evolution.
0036 So far, so good.
Where do primary and secondary causations come in?
Does the situation-level of Darwinian selection compare to the category-based nested form for primary and secondary causation?
0037 Let me start by considering the two actualities.
Adaptation2b renders as a simple actuality (without Darwin’s normal context3b and potential1b), living creature [has powers to] survive and reproduce2b.
This compares favorably to the idea that secondary causation applies to actuality2 embedded in the primary causality of a normal context3 and potential1. The actuality2 may be rendered as the dyad, the esse of the thing [has power to cause] certain results2.
0038 Here is a picture of the match.
0039 Darwin hones in on secondary causes as a way to accept adaptation2b, as the esse of a living thing [has power to cause] results, including surviving and reproducing.
However, the concept of secondary causation for creatures, already promoted by Aquinas and again, by Suarez, regards the Divine Will3b and the Divine Presence1b as presiding in the eternal now, corresponding to the moment when the future becomes the past.
There a difference between “right now” and “over many generations”, just as there is a difference between “living creatures [have the power to] survive and reproduce” and “adaptation”.
0040 The creature’s power associates to the term, “substance”.
One question posed by Thomists to Darwinists, asks, “How can an adaptation, an accidental change, alter the creature’s substance, when accidents cannot add up to a substantial change?”
The answer is, “A creature’s [power] to survive and reproduce operates, over generations, in the normal context of natural selection3b and with a salient niche1b. A salient niche1b is one that offers novel opportunities and disadvantages, so that natural selection3b is not purely random. Natural selection favors certain accidents over others, leading to substantial change over generations.”
0041 So, what about the following comparison?
0042 The upper nested form applies to the eternal now.
The latter nested form occurs over time.
0043 Other than that, let me compare at face value.
The logic of thirdness is exclusion, alignment and complement. Any normal context3 will exclude, align with or complement another normal context3.
Thirty years before the publication of Origin of Species in 7659 U0’, Darwin entertains the idea that biological evolution may be accepted by Christians on the basis of secondary causation. If this is the case, then the Divine Will3 and natural selection3b must either align or complement.
0044 After publication, Catholic biologist, St. George Mivart (7622-7700), and American botanist, Asa Gray (7610-7688) address this if-then construct.
0045 Here, I pause and wonder.
Doesn’t the idea of secondary causes, the living creature[ has the power to] survive and reproduce, fit the pattern of declaration and development found in the six days of Creation in Genesis?
God says, “Let the earth bring forth…”, then “the earth brings forth.”
Surely, the declaration goes with normal context3 and potential1.
The development associates to actuality2.
0046 The problem?
The Spirit of the Age of the 7600s proclaims that natural selection3b excludes the Creator’s Will3. The niche1b is solely a material advantage or disadvantage offered by the environment of evolutionary adaptation2a. No Divine Presence1 is manifest. Biological evolution is godless, all the way through.
Mivart and Gray are horrified.
Both become staunch critics of Darwinism.
0047 Despite this, Mivart admits that natural selection could be one factor in biological evolution. It cannot be the only factor. After all, natural selection3b and the niche1b are external to the adaptatation2b. There must be something else, something internal, that completes the account of biological evolution.
Today, the ‘something’ that Mivart refers to is genetics. Body development3b’ completes the account that natural selection3b starts.
0048 In the normal context of body development3b, the phenotype2b emerges from (and situates) the genotype1b, where the genotype1b is the potential1b of the creature’s DNA2a.
The “Neo-“ of NeoDarwinism has precisely the same relational structure as Darwinism. Thus, a species’ internal DNA2aparallels an external actuality independent of the adapting species2a.
Here is how that looks.
0049 I will not discuss the implications of the fact that adaptation2b and phenotype2b are independent actualities that apply to the same creature. See Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome.
Instead, I will expand the working comparison between primary and secondary causality to NeoDarwinism, as opposed to only Darwinism.
Here is the diagram.
0050 After the discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA2a in the 7750s, influence-peddlers of the modern Zeitgeist work overtime insisting that both natural selection3b and body development3b exclude the Divine Will3b.
They struggle against a crucial insight. The category of firstness, the monadic realm of possibility1, operates according to the logics of inclusion. It1 allows contradictions. So, the niche1 and the genotype1 do not exclude the Divine Presence1, the potential underlying the Divine Will3.
0051 Say what?
Consider the niche1b.
The niche1b is the potential of ‘something’ outside the adapting species2a. Natural selection3b is potentiated1b by ‘something’ outside itself2a. Naturalists must insist that this potential1b arises solely from material and instrumental causes.
However, less ideologically supine biologists never keep up with the naturalist’s agenda. They routinely evoke final attributes and formal requirements and design. Birds have wings to fly. Fish have fins to swim. Final attributes and formal designs cannot be distilled down to instrumental and material causalities. They cannot be observed and measured. Instead, they are simply obvious to us.
In a way, this seems miraculous.
0052 Similarly, the genotype1b is the potential of the creature’s DNA2a. Body development3b is potentiated1b by ‘something’ inside itself2a. Naturalists must claim that this potential1b arises solely from material and instrumental causes.
But, less ideologically sensitive biologists make statements like, “Such and such gene is responsible for such and such anatomical or physiological feature.”
For example, say a new gene arises from a novel repair of the DNA2a after a strand break. How does a gamma ray select the exact location to create this fissure that is then repaired in a fashion as to produce a slightly different protein (or genotype1b)?
Talk about miracles.
0053 Of course, Darwin does not know that genetics is the mechanism of inheritance.
Suarez and Aquinas do not know that creatures evolve over geological time.
0054 Yet, here we are, on the verge of an insight.
Neither the niche1b nor the genotype1b fully exclude the Divine Presence1.
After all, the Divine Presence1 sustains the actualities of an environment of evolutionary adaptation2a and DNA2a.
How can natural selection3b and body development3b completely exclude the Divine Will3?
0024 Franscisco Suarez (7348-7417 U0’) lives at the time of Galileo. He continues the scholastic tradition. He comments on Aquinas, just as previously, Aquinas comments on the Book of Causes. The doctrine of secondary causes is well established, not as I portray it here, using category-based nested forms, but as a foil to primary causation and a mirror to instrumental causes.
Suarez writes the first systematic treatise on metaphysics in the Western world. His book is translated and read across Europe.
0025 He makes four points about primary and secondary causes (C-F).
The first created thing is being (C). God is the primary cause of being (A).
Secondary causes are true causes (D). They are not symptoms of primary causation (B). Creatures have powers that make events happen.
Secondary causes cannot be divorced from primary causality (E). This point distinguishes secondary from instrumental causality.
The claim that creatures exhibit true active powers gives a greater dignity to creatures and their Creator, than claims that secondary powers are symptoms of primary causation (F).
0026 Darwin grasps this last point (F) as a metaphysical justification for his theory of evolution through natural selection.
0001 Armand Maurer publishes a short paper tracing a path, through time, of the idea of secondary and primary causes. I follow the timeline, which starts in section three.
Around two decades after the death of the seventh Abbasid caliph, al-Ma’mun, in 6633 U0’, someone puts pen to paper. Centuries later, when the Book of Causes is translated into Latin, some medieval scholastics assume that this “someone” is Aristotle. Thomas Aquinas writes a commentary on the work.
0003 The irony?
Al Ma’mun’s story as caliph calls to mind our world, in the 7800s.
First, al Ma’mun tries to directly reconcile Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam. This approach dramatically fails within his lifetime.
Second, during his remaining 15 years, he tries an indirect reconciliation by promoting Islamic thinkers familiar with the rationalist methods of ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophers. He encourages translations from Greek into Arabic. He promotes an academy called, “The House of Wisdom”, in Baghdad. Again, this approach fails. Many of his subjects refuse to believe that the Qur’an is a “created” work.
Thus, the Book of Causes may address a question relevant to our time.
Could the the Qur’an be ascribed to secondary causation, in concert with a primary cause, God’s Will and Presence?
0004 Here is how this might look as a category-based nested form. See required reading.
Note that God’s Presence1 is the potential underlying the normal context of God’s Will3.
0005 Okay, on to Thomas Aquinas (7025-7074 U0’).
In 7068, he notices a similarity between The Book of Causes and a newly translated work, The Elements of Theology, by Neoplatonist Proclus (6210-6285 U0’). This suggests that the idea of primary and secondary causation is much older than the Arabic translation of The Book of Causes.
0006 What does Aquinas say about The Book of Causes?
He focuses on two propositions (A and B).
0007 First (A), primary cause has greater impact than secondary cause.
Thomas notes (more or less), “This is true for God as a primary cause. God causes being to exist.”
The Latin term, ‘esse’, refers to being as existent, in contrast to “ens”, being as being.
God may bring things into being (esse) from nothing, that is, without a pre-existing ens.
Otherwise, God creates ens, being as being, then ens enters form and becomes esse, being as existent.
The pattern of ens preceding esse appears in the Genesis Creation Story. On several days, God says, “Let there be (ens)…” and then, the earth brings forth, (esse).
In this, the earth has the power to bring forth.
These powers go with secondary causation.
0008 Second (B), we see causes in the nature of things.
Things have their own powers. These are not the powers of the Divine. Rather, these are particular powers, characteristic of the substance of each creature. These powers specify one or another outcome. They are called, “secondary causes”.
0009 These two propositions, A and B, associate to a nested form in the following manner.
0010 The actuality is dyadic. This is typical in the category of secondness. Secondness consists of two contiguous real elements. In the above notation, one real element [is contiguous with] another real element. The contiguity is placed in brackets. The contiguity bears the marks of causality.
There is a certain circularity to this actuality. The earth holds creatures, even though it brings creatures forth as existent beings. Existent beings that the earth brings forth participate in the earth’s powers, once they are present. So, as the earth brings forth, the earth appears to increase in its powers. Each additional type of creature adds to the capacities of the earth. When a type of creature disappears, the earth loses the power to make that specific creature.
Does that sound sufficiently circular?
0011 Compare this circularity to the following example of secondary causation.
Consider a pen.
A pen cannot write a note to a my friend.
Instead, the pen is an instrument for me, the writer.
So, if I am going to be a writer, I better acquire a pen.
0012 The writer and the note constitute a dyad. The writer is a real element. The letter is a real element. The pen is the instrument that brings the two real elements together. Is it not curious that the word, “pen”, is also a verb?
Here is a picture of this actuality.
0013 The pen is an instrument. The actuality2 has been alchemically isolated from its nested form. So, no one can determine the aims and designs of the note.
Here I may ask, “Does the instrumentality of the pen account for the realness of the writer and the note?”
Of course, a scientist may reply, “If I observe the writer and all the notes that the writer produces, then I can generate a mechanical model accounting the use of a pen, and publish the results in the EmpiricalJournal of Pens.”
In short, the scientist focuses on actuality2.
0014 However, the instrumental causality of the pen occurs within the actuality2 itself. It offers no clue to the question that everyone asks.
Why is the writer penning a letter?
Material, final and formal cuases address this question. Once answers come to light, the actuality2 is no longer alone. It participates in a category-based nested form.
0015 Here is a picture of the way that Aristotle’s four causes, starting from within actuality2, intimate normal context3 and potential1.
0016 What does this imply (C and D)?
0017 Instrumental causes are secondary causes (C), without the primary cause.
Consequently, I anticipate that instrumental causes may be confounded with secondary causes.
In the above example, the scientist does this. The scientist focuses on the instrumental and material causality of the pento the exclusion of final and formal causes for the writer and note.
0018 Aristotle’s remaining four causes (D) construct a nested form around a dyad in actuality.
Material causes link actuality2 to the possibility of ‘something’1.
Final causes connects the actuality2 to both normal context3 and potential1.
In this example, the writer [pens] a letter2occurs in a particular normal context3, say, remembering an old friend3. Plus, there is an incentive to say ‘something’1, recalling a fond memory.
Formal causes draw the writer to compose the note2 in a certain style, suitable for conveying a particular mood.
0019 Here is how that looks.
0020 Overall, Aristotle’s four causes are neither secondary or primary causes. Rather, they draw a creaturely power (the power of the pen) into its corresponding category-based nested form. This corresponds to a transition from instrumental to secondary cause2, as well as a transition from the remaining causes to elements that point to a primary cause3,1.
0021 Are these surprising claims?
Consider a thing2 or event2.
How do Aristotle’s four causes come into play?
When we explore its instrumental causes, actuality may become a dyad in secondness. Secondness consists of two contiguous real elements.
When we look at its2 material causality, potential1 comes into consciousness.
When we consider final attributes. Potential1 is clarified. Normal context3 comes to consciousness.
When we think about formal requirements and design, normal context3 is clarified.
Secondary causality associates to actuality2 in a category-based nested form.
Primary causality associates to normal context3 and potential1 in a category-based nested form.
0022 At the time of Thomas Aquinas, several philosophical schools argue that secondary causes detract from the idea that all causation rests in God. So, actuality2 is just a residue of the divine.
Aquinas argues against this proposition, saying that this point of view reduces the dignity of the creature and by extension, God’s creation.
If the Ash’arite school is correct, then the creature cannot be responsible for its own actions. Only God is responsible.
If creatures are not responsible, then why do they take care of themselves so well?
If the claims of Bonaventure and his followers are correct, and secondary causes are not sufficient, then how do creatures get along in the world?
Indeed, they get along so well that the seem designed to do what they do.
0023 Aquinas never envisions that the word, “adaptation”, could replace the word, “design”. Why? Aquinas lives in the enternal now. Species of plant and animal are always the same. Each bears according to its kind.
This work comments on an article by an expert in medieval philosophy, Armand Maurer, published in The Review of Metaphysics (volume 57(3), 2004, Pages 506-511). My goal is to comment on this work using the category-based nested form and other relational models within the tradition of Charles Peirce.
‘Words that belong together’ are denoted by single quotes or italics.
Dates are in Ubaid Zero Prime. 0 U0’ equates to 5800 B.C., around 7800 years ago. 0 U0’ roughly marks the first appearance of the Ubaid culture in southern Mesopotamia.
Prerequisites: A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form, A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction
An expert in Medieval Philosophy, Armand Maurer, traces their history, backwards from Charles Darwin. He publishes an article in The Review of Metaphysics (volume 57(3), 2004, pages 506-511).
Darwin thinks that his theory of evolution endowed living beings with secondary causalities more profound and subtle than hitherto contemplated. Creatures have the ability to produce new substances on their own accord. That new substance is a new species or genus.
Before this, philosophers never confront the question of evolution. So, secondary causality belongs to creatures, in accordance to the Will and Presence of God, the primary cause. Secondary causes are living creatures getting on with their lives.
As it turns out, that is also what living creatures do according to Darwin’s theory of evolution. The difference is that their survival is subject to natural selection, especially in regards to exploiting their niche.
Surely, there must be consistency here, besides that both medieval philosophers and the educated folk of Darwin’s time use the terms, primary and secondary causes.
Maurer ends with Maritain, who publishes and exploration of the role of primary and secondary causes in Darwin’s schema.
The introduction and five parts follow the Maurer’s arguments, not point by point, but according to the timeframe that he articulates. The story begins with the Book of Causes, a Neoplatonic work written around Baghdad a few decades after the death of the Abbasid caliph, Al-Mamun.
These comments are posted as an advertisement of the series titled, “Peirce’s Secondness and Aristotle’s Hylomorphism”.
This series should be of interest to high-school and college students interested in science and religion in the upcoming Age of Triadic Relations.
Short introductions are found on the page of each e-work appearing in smashwords dotcom. The entire series offers more than a dozen commentaries.
In 2004, Armand Maurer publishes a brief history of primary and secondary causalities. They first appear in the Neoplatonic Book of Causes, which Aquinas comments on. It is popularized by Suarez. Darwin accesses them, as potential avenues for appreciating his theory of evolution. These comments examine this story using the category-based nested form.