Review: Thomistic Evolution
N. Austriaco, O.P., J. Bent, O.P., T. Davenport, O.P., J. Ku, O.P., Thomistic Evolution: A Catholic Approach to Understanding Evolution in Light of Faith. Second Edition, Cluny Media, 2019.
Thomistic Evolution is an attempt to synthesize the catholic doctrines about creation and contemporary scientific evidence for evolution. It is a collaboration of four Dominican scholars who contribute a section of articles from an area of their expertise.
A philosopher, Rev. James Brent, O.P, contributed the first section, which illumines the catholic understanding of faith and reason and the Thomistic approach to natural theology and creation. This section provides the foundation for the whole project.
A physicist, Rev. Thomas Devenport, O.P., wrote the second section of articles focusing on how God is involved in creation, providence, freedom, and the problem of evil.
A theologian, Rev. John Baptist Ku, O.P., composed the third section, which explores the scriptural dimensions of reconciling creation and evolution. This section includes an explanation of Aquinas' approach to interpreting the Bible and a tour of the different readings of the creation stories from the Church Fathers, Aquinas, and modern scholars.
A biologist and theologian, Rev. Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, O.P., authored the final section on the Church's doctrines about creation, the evidence for evolution, and the historicity of Adam and Eve.
From cover to cover, this is a Thomistic book in both senses of the term. It communicates the thoughts of Aquinas, and it approaches new questions in the mode that Aquinas approached queries. It is faithful to Aquinas, yet not afraid to diverge from his teachings when the evidence invites a reconsideration of the subject.
Fr. Austriaco's argument for the fittingness of God to create through evolution is compelling and enlightening.
"I propose that it was fitting for God to have created via evolution rather than via special creation because in doing so, he was able to give his creation-the material universe and the individual creatures within it-a share in his causality to create. In this way, he more fully communicates his perfection to his creation, thus, more clearly manifesting his glory." p. 144
An exception to this argument is that he agrees with Catholic Doctrine on the special creation of the human soul. He bolsters this argument by pointing out the limited capacity of a single world to sustain species. God reveals his perfection by the diversity of perfections in creatures. Thus, if species have come and gone through time, the same planet can accommodate more species and manifest God's perfection more intensely.
In addition to its primary aim, Thomistic Evolution is an excellent introduction to many aspects of Aquinas' thought and the Catholic perspective on the relationship between faith and reason. It explains terminology with every-day vocabulary and provides many relatable examples. It can serve as an excellent practical entry into the world of Thomism.