I have recently read ‘The Metaphysics of Evolution’ by Fr Chad Ripperger. Fr Ripperger is or was a professor of philosophy at the Fraternity of St Peter’s North American seminary and is clearly at home in the scholastic tradition. The title of his book or pamphlet is a misnomer, since it would be more accurately called ‘Metaphysics against Evolution’.

The book is technical but short and can be summarised in two main claims: atheistic evolution is impossible and theistic evolution is unreasonable.

Atheistic evolution is impossible, he argues, not simply because God necessarily exists, but more specifically because of the principle that ‘an effect cannot be more perfect than its cause’. Of course change of any kind is impossible without the first, unchanging cause, but evolution, that is, the improvement and enrichment of living beings, is impossible for the extra reason that things cannot bestow perfections which they do not themselves possess.

Theistic evolution, he argues, is unreasonable because it postulates a vast number of miracles where it is unnecessary to do so. This fact is often obscured, since theistic evolutionists are prone to talk about God ‘working through evolution’ as if evolution were a natural process, only one which God directed for His purposes. But it cannot be a natural process, since natures cannot bestow perfections which they do not possess, for example natures that lack sight cannot bestow this perfection upon their offspring. For God to bring about evolution, therefore, would mean for Him to override the natural powers of creatures at every step so that they would produce effects that it was beyond their natures to achieve. This would be to introduced a vast number of miracles whereby an amoeba would gradually turn into an elephant, or maybe a giraffe. It is far simpler to suppose that God simply created giraffes and elephants in the first place, which would not in fact be a miracle at all, since miracles pertain to the divine governance of nature, not to the original establishment of natures themselves.

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