Augustine believed Speciation was Possible

(George Brooks) #1

Centuries ago, Augustine of Hippo described how new species could appear. Think of how insightful this conclusion would be when nobody knew anything about genetics or chromosomes! :

"In line with earlier Greek thought, the 4th-century bishop and theologian, Augustine of Hippo, wrote that the creation story in the Book of Genesis should not be read too literally. In his book De Genesi ad litteram (On the Literal Meaning of Genesis), he stated that in some cases new creatures may have come about through the “decomposition” of earlier forms of life.[18]
[18] Simpson, David (2006). “Lucretius”. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Martin, TN: University of Tennessee at Martin. ISSN 2161-0002. OCLC 37741658. Retrieved 2014-10-26.

For Augustine, “plant, fowl and animal life are not perfect … but created in a state of potentiality,” unlike what he considered the theologically perfect forms of angels, the firmament and the human soul.[19]
[19] St. Augustine 1982, pp. 89–90
St. Augustine (1982). The Literal Meaning of Genesis. Ancient Christian Writers. No. 41. Translated and annotated by John Hammond Taylor. New York: Newman Press. ISBN 0-8091-0326-5. LCCN 82061742. OCLC 9264423. Translation of: De Genesi ad litteram

Augustine’s idea ‘that forms of life had been transformed “slowly over time”’ prompted Father Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti, Professor of Theology at the Pontifical Santa Croce University in Rome, to claim that Augustine had suggested a form of evolution.[20][21]

[20] Gill 2005, p. 251
Gill, Meredith J. (2005). Augustine in the Italian Renaissance: Art and Philosophy from Petrarch to Michelangelo. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-83214-4. LCCN 2004055146. OCLC 65338721.

[21] Owen, Richard (February 11, 2009). “Vatican buries the hatchet with
Charles Darwin”. Times Online (London: News UK). Archived from the
original on 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2009-02-12.


Henry Fairfield Osborn wrote in From the Greeks to Darwin (1894):
“If the orthodoxy of Augustine had remained the teaching of the Church, the final establishment of Evolution would have come far earlier than it did, certainly during the eighteenth instead of the nineteenth century, and the bitter controversy over this truth of Nature would never have arisen. …Plainly as the direct or instantaneous Creation of animals and plants appeared to be taught in Genesis, Augustine read this in the light of primary causation and the gradual development from the imperfect to the perfect of Aristotle.”

" This most influential teacher thus handed down to his followers opinions which closely conform to the progressive views of those theologians of the present day who have accepted the Evolution theory." [22]

[22] Irvine, Chris (February 11, 2009). “The Vatican claims Darwin’s theory
of evolution is compatible with Christianity”. The Daily Telegraph
(London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 2014-10-26.

In A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), Andrew Dickson White wrote about Augustine’s attempts to preserve the ancient evolutionary approach to the creation as follows:

For ages a widely accepted doctrine had been that water, filth, and carrion had received power from the Creator to generate worms, insects, and a multitude of the smaller animals; and this doctrine had been especially welcomed by St. Augustine and many of the fathers, since it relieved the Almighty of making, Adam of naming, and Noah of living in the ark with these innumerable despised species.[23]

[23] Osborn 1905, pp. 7, 69–70. Osborn, Henry Fairfield (1905) [Originally published 1894].
From the Greeks to Darwin: An Outline of the Development of the Evolution Idea.
Columbia Biological Series (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan and Co. LCCN 04005633. OCLC 6921487.

In Augustine’s De Genesi contra Manichæos, on Genesis he says:

“To suppose that God formed man from the dust with bodily hands is very childish. …God neither formed man with bodily hands nor did he breathe upon him with throat and lips.” Augustine suggests in other work his theory of the later development of insects out of carrion, and the adoption of the old emanation or evolution theory, showing that “certain very small animals may not have been created on the fifth and sixth days, but may have originated later from putrefying matter.”

Concerning Augustine’s De Trinitate (On the Trinity), White wrote:

“[Augustine]…develops at length the view that in the creation of living beings there was something like a growth - -that God is the ultimate author, but works through secondary causes; and finally argues that certain substances are endowed by God with the power of producing certain classes of plants and animals.”[24]

[24] White 1922, p. 42 White, Andrew Dickson (1922) [Originally published 1896].
A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom
New York; London: D. Appleton & Company. LCCN 09020218. OCLC 780151083.
The book is available from Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 2014-11-11.

[WIKI ARTICLE SOURCES: This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “article name needed”. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.]

Definition of evolution and the distinction between micro/macro
(George Brooks) #2

Surely there are those who are amazed that Augustine believed in a form of evolution.

(system) #3

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