Living Reality (Metaphysics of Science)

Evolutionism concerns the problem of the origin and nature of living reality. Evolutionism, in science, refers to the theory that ‘the many complex organisms now existent descended or evolved from relatively fewer and simpler organisms.’[1] The hypothetical nature of evolutionism, despite accruement of evidences in support yet inability to verify in prediction or through experimentation, has led some to label it as being not a scientific theory but a philosophical one.[2]

Supposed evidence for organic evolution comes from comparative anatomy, study of vestigial remains, embryology, blood and fluid tests of animals, examination of fossils, study of geographical distribution, domestication and experimentation, and classification.[3]

The theory of evolution doesn’t simply end at ‘the fewer and simpler organisms’. The ultimate problem is how life itself originated. The religious or purely philosophical answers do not concern scientific metaphysics. However, though evolutionism has been labeled sometimes as religious and sometimes as philosophical, its claim to an empirical scientific methodology, generally allots it a place in physical anthropology. According to Duane T. Gish, the General Theory of Evolution is the ‘theory that all living things have arisen by naturalistic, mechanistic processes from a single primeval cell, which in turn had arisen by similar processes from a dead, inanimate world.’[4]

Critics of evolution theory have pointed out that it fails to meet the criteria of a scientific theory. To Gish, for instance its failure consists in not being observed, not being subject to experimentation, and assuming the form of non-falsifiability.[5] Further, a verifiable prediction on the basis of evolution theory has never been successfully made and verified because an adequate theory to explain the mechanism has never been given. In fact, in order for such a theory to even exist, evolution must be first observed, which has never been the case. Therefore, evolutionism cannot be regarded as science, at least in the sense in which all other scientific theories are concerned. However, as relevant to the subject and science and also philosophy, the fundamental assumptions of evolutionism need to be examined.

Evolutionism assumes that life is material. In other words, life is all about a right arrangement of atoms and molecules. On the basis of this assumption, it is supposed that a mixture of certain gases, energy, and water could have given rise to certain organic substances, like amino acids (the building blocks of proteins, including the all-important enzymes that control the chemical processes of life), and purines and pyrimidines (the building blocks of RNA and DNA).[6] Consequently, the sea would have become a ‘soup’ of prebiological organic compounds which would become conducive to the generation of some kind of a replicator that played a crucial role in the development of cells and the origin of life. What all these substances and replicators are is unknown to science. How all this happened is unknown to science. However, evolutionists seem to be sure that though they are not sure how this all happened, they are at least sure that it has so happened, although they have never observed it happening. Such kind of an approach seems to be too superstitious to some. But all of this proceeds out of a materialistic outlook that not only looks at the world as a machine but also looks at the organism also as a machine. Life, then, is not some spiritual element within the organism. It is simply the animation or growth caused in a material body due to some programmed materials that chanced to happen at random. The strength of belief in evolutionism despite such uncertainty in providing adequate scientific explanations cannot qualify evolutionism as a philosophy, which seeks not mere speculation but argument and reasoning to establish the absoluteness of truth. Consequently, theories that are based on evolutionism also may be as unreliable as evolutionism since it itself stands on uncertainty.


[1] Milton D. Hunnex, Chronological and Thematic Charts of Philosophies and Philosophers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), p. 17
[2] Harry Rimmer, The Theory of Evolution and the Facts of Science (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1935), p. 18
[3] Titus, Smith, and Nolan, Living Issues in Philosophy, p. 33
[4] Duane Tolbert Gish, “Creation, Evolution and Public Education,” Philosophy and Contemporary Issues, 4th edn. (eds. John R. Burr & Milton Goldinger; New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984), p. 458
[5] Ibid, p. 459
[6] “Evolution,” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia (Microsoft Corporation, 2001)

© Domenic Marbaniang, Philosophy of Science, 2006

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