Friday, February 22, 2013

"The Metaphysics of Evolution", by Fr.Chad Ripperger, Ph.D., FSSP

First of all, the title is misleading. There is no such thing as a "metaphysics of evolution", because evolution and its cosmic worldview are nothing but an ideology, "a fairy tale for adults", as some Frenchman rightly characterized it. It is truly science-fiction and mocking true science that glorifies God the Creator. There is only one metaphysics. It is the metaphysics of Aristotle that St. Thomas Aquinas used to help him explain the truths, both of natural reason and of faith. Metaphysics is not, therefore, something one can separate out from the other sciences as an "ontology" for use by anyone. No, metaphysics is a very precise - and the only true explanation of how and what we know as reality. In Chapter One, Father Ripperger repeatedly contradicts himself by saying that some people never heard of, or even thought of, the First Principles and yet he insists that apprehension of them is natural and immediate, belonging to the very structure of human reason! And for this reason, "many aspects of evolution are simply compatible with first principles". (pg.14) - (Please refer to this writer's Textbook for the Sciences, available upon request.)


When I was studying at Catholic University in the early 1950's, I took all the courses offered in philosophy, or audited them, even though philosophy was only my second minor. My major was literary theory. I was immensely privileged to study metaphysics under Father Charles A. Hart. I also took the course in Logic offered by Father Joseph McAllister. Well, I tell you, going from Father Hart to Fr. McAllister was like coming down ecstasy, the ecstatic experience of the metaphysical intuitive-judgmental acceptance of Being - even as my individual existence, (forget essence for a moment) - coming down from this natural but real contemplation to the drudgery of constructing syllogisms in all their modes!! The difference between metaphysics and logic is also plainly seen in the textbooks of these two excellent professors. However, sad to say, I soon discovered that I was in the midst of a real war: Father McAllister, a much younger man than Father Hart, really believed that metaphysics was only logic in language; whereas Father Hart was holding out for metaphysics as a higher science, a science of Being as such, and the First Principle of all other sciences; principles which must guide them or they go astray from Truth. This is because Truth is the conformity of the mind, the natural reason, with reality. Logic, on the other hand, is completely focused on how we express our thoughts in language, specifically in the language of propositions, so arranged as to come to a logical conclusion. Logic is therefore a tool of all the sciences. It is really an art, not a science at all, except insofar as it focuses on the syllogism. It developed into the science of Dialectics in the Middle Ages.

Witness the debates between Abelard and St. Bernard. You can see that Abelard was the logician, whereas St. Bernard was in the rhetorical tradition of St. Augustine. What is involved here is the exercise of the differing modes of discourse. (See this writer's textbook). And so I must disagree with Fr. Ripperger on the nature of metaphysics as a true science, the highest of the natural sciences, and quite distinct from logic as an art focused on the language of propositions. Metaphysics transcends logic by far and even logic must be guided by the first principles or it goes astray. Witness the disastrous philosophical debris of symbolic logic, logical positivism and Bertrand Russell's logical idealism. He went where even Plato and the Neo-Platonists would never have gone. At least they stayed in touch with geometry and the five Platonic solids. Platonism and its emphasis on mathematics always runs the danger of losing contact with reality. We see this in Einsteinean relativity. It is nothing but the tyrannical domination of the sciences by the mathematical equation.

The first principles keep us firmly in the tradition of Aristotelian-Thomistic realism, Fr. Ripperger's book must be recommended for its emphasis upon the first principles. He has greatly extended them by making extended use of the dictionary of scholastic philosophy, which to my mind, complicates rather than clarifies the essence of the first principles. There is also, throughout the booklet (only 71 pages), a constant confusion of existence and essence. This really amounts to a major flaw, because the real distinction between existence and essence not only defines metaphysics as focusing on the first principles - that is the affirmative judgement of the human mind in its very earliest apprehensions of reality, that things exist outside his own mind. This is the foundation of all realisms and the central insight of Gilson's "critical realism." From this central intuitive first principle, one proceeds to essence, the principle of potency which receives the act of existence. In Chapter Two, Fr. Ripperger misses a key opportunity to connect with the life sciences. The scholastic axiom, "existence precedes essence", just as act must come before matter, and substance before accidents, emphasizes the fact - to put it as concisely as possible - the chicken comes before the egg. In fact, we must have two chickens, a rooster and a hen, before we can have fertile eggs. 
All this gives the lie to evolution which is forever seeking "pathways" from non-life to life and from simple life to complex life. It never happened!! It is impossible!! Michael Behe's "rreducible complexity" points inevitably to the fact that we must have a fully formed and functional being first and foremost. To have form - absolutely requires a Creator who is all act. Existence = Act = Form = Substance. God is all of these attributes in the most perfect, spiritual and transcendent way. This is absolutely of necessity. (See the Five Ways.)

I must fault Fr. Ripperger for excusing the atheists, as he does in Chapter One. St. Paul did not excuse them in Romans 1:20. He told them plainly that they were without excuse if they denied a Creator-God from the evidence of the "things that are made." Before I attempt to expose Fr. Ripperger's really major flaw, let me commend him for exposing the flaws in so-called "theistic evolution." This last chapter, namely Chapter Three is fine indeed. He did miss, however, the 1907 Biblical Commission's ruling on the word yom, Day in Genesis One. Fr. Ripperger opts for "a certain length of time" as opposed to the literal day marked by an "evening" and a "morning". The Fathers and Doctors of the Church were faced with no such choice! They saw the plain literal meaning of Day and wrote their Hexaemera accordingly, and so will I. And so I have. (See this writer's Litany and Textbook.) I suggest that it was not the Church ruling on Day, but the infiltrating modernists.

Finally, Fr. Ripperger deliberately skims over the most crucial question of all facing theologians today. That is the metaphysical question as to whether the elements of the Periodic Table are substances or accidents of some larger,
substantial form. On page 39, Fr. Ripperger aligns himself with Dr. Denis McInerny, Jacques Maritain, Fr. Celestine Bittle, Brother Benignus and yes, even my beloved Father Hart and the saintly Dominican, Fr. Garigou-Lagrange in holding that the elements are substantial forms. He says: "hydrogen as an independently existing substance can only have a specific set of accidents..." (Page 39) Again, on page 32, Fr. Ripperger speaks of lead and gold, both elements of the Periodic Table, as having different accidents because they are themselves essentially different. In the first instance of hydrogen, this element cannot be a substance because it freely intermingles with other elements, most commonly with oxygen to form water (H2O). Fr. Hart (on pages 200-201) in his textbook lists form criteria of substance. They can be reduced to two or three , avoiding the grammatical subject which belongs to logic.

These criteria are, as Fr. Ripperger repeatedly asserts, substantial-existential independence. This, as I show in my textbook, is but a relative independence because of our dependence, and that of all living forms, upon the Earth and the Air and Fire (light and heat from the Sun), for our very existence, bodily, that is. For we literally cannot live without sustenance....constant sustenance from these precious elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Father Hart lists two other metaphysical criteria that do hold for all living, substantial forms and they are, with reference especially to the Hierarchy of Being, that substantial forms absolutely do not and cannot intermingle with one another. This is where the science of Taxonomy is most important as it seeks to define the physical boundary lines between the Genesis kinds, the baramin.

The Grades of Perfection illustrated by the Hierarchy of Being, insofar as they concern the various kinds of beings that God created during the Six Days of the First Week of the World, are absolute and immutable both as to the Order of Creation and the Order of Generation. There are no substantial changes in the Order of Generation (history, time), except the death of each individual being. In the Order of Generation, concerning the transmission of the substantial form of each kind, there is no substantial change, but only re-production and pro-creation. The gametes or cells of reproduction, are accidental forms of each parent's body. There was much discussion about generational transmission in the early Church. Do the research!! In human re-production, the cells carrying the DNA and all else necessary for a new human being are present, except for the rational soul which only God can provide. The plant and animal life forms are so immersed in the material-cause of the matter-form composite, as to die with the individual plant or animal. The DNA of each kind, apparently serves to preserve throughout time, the immutable baramin of Genesis One that only God can create. These are the main metaphysical principles that must guide the natural scientist - the scientist who studies all the substantial forms created by God during the first Six Days of the world.

There is so much work to be done in order to replace the fictional, evolutionary worldview, and Fr. Ripperger's booklet is but a first baby-step. Furthermore, the fact that Fr. Ripperger makes no mention at all of the tremendous work of Father Victor Wurkecietz on the Biblical and Patristic foundations of Genesis 1-11, - nor to the monumental work of Robert Sungenis' Galileo Was Wrong, The Church Was Right; the omission of any reference to these two seminal works, manifests, and indeed, weeps out loud that there is something terribly wrong in a church so divided!!

Kyrie, Eleison!

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