Adler On


Since Darwin, the word "evolution" is used in place of the word "development" for any sequence of changes in which the past contains the seeds of what occurs later. This is not confined to biological phenomena, but applies to other fields in which such sequences can be found. In these sequences there is continuity, and the direction of the development (or evolution) change is from lower to higher, from less to more complex.

Darwin himself seldom used the word. His concern was with genera and species, with genetics and heredity, with breeding and the obstacles to it.

We might be tempted to call Aristotle an evolutionist in the light of his statement that "nature proceeds little by little from things lifeless to animal life" and that "throughout the animal scale there is graduated differentiation in amount of vitality and capacity for motion."

At first blush, the theory of evolution with regard to plants, animals, and man appears to come into conflict with the first chapter of the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament. But Augustine's interpretation of Genesis I declares that God created all things at once in their causes, and that the temporal sequence in which different forms of life appeared on earth is the work of propagation, not of creation.

On this view we are confronted with a difficult question about Homo Sapiens -- the human species. Is man covered by Augustine's thesis that in the beginning God created everything in their causes, or is there a gap or discontinuity between man and the rest of nature that calls for acts of special creation for each individual human being? (See Man.)

Adapted from
Adler's Philosophical Dictionary (1995)

Revised 17 December 2000