St Thomas Aquinas on human evolution

‘The Theory of Evolution Judged by Reason and Faith’ by Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini
The Creation of the Human Body – The theologians.

(page 131 – 132)

Yet according to the transformists, even the doctrine of St. Thomas provides a basis for evolution. Did he not perhaps write that matter tends to be perfected gradually through forms of being always more noble? This is true, but in the sense that, in the graduation of being , the inferior form (substantial) is in potency to the superior, not insofar as the former can develop and perfect itself so as to become by itself superior, but insofar as the inferior is in order to the superior (as the imperfect to the perfect, or the less perfect to the more perfect), and is almost its preperation. However the new form, more noble, according to St Thomas, can be produced only by a proportionate agent, either because it is drawn from the potency of matter by virtue of the active principle that is in the seed, as the sensitive soul in the fetus (informed from the beginning by the vegetative soul, as was once said), or because it is created immediately by God, like the intelligent soul.
Therefore, when St. Thomas – and the Scholastics in general – speak of potency, it is necessary to consider well of what potency they are treating, wether of the active or of the passive. That it is a question of passive potency in the testimony cited is evident from the fact that otherwise we should have the Angelic Doctor saying that the effect can specifically surpass in perfection its cause, and , consequently, that the principle of causality – the pivot of Scholasticism – and of human reasoning in general – is false.

(Nihil Obstat: John A Goodwine, JCD Censor Librorum/Imprimatur: Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of NewYork)


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