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Nominalist position. William of Ockham

Mivart, Leroy, Duchesne, Loisy and Bergert

Rev. Rama Coomaraswamy



Evolution holds that at a certain point in time disparate atoms combined to form complex molecules, and these in turn to form a living cell. Step wise, through a series of processes such as natural selection, the survival of the fittest, genetic alterations, sexual attraction, chance, or whatever, these developed into still higher forms of life to form the various phylogenetic strains and species. Algae became fishes, fishes crawled out of the sea to become lizards and eventually dinosaurs, these in turn climbed trees and became birds. Finally, one of these various evolutionary ancestors developed into apes, hominids and man. Implicit in this theory is that even human consciousness is derived from matter - indeed, that it is a particularly refined or 'evolved' form of matter. You have all heard of the prince who kissed the frog and turned her into a fairy princess. Well evolution tells us this is what happened.

Evolution is not science. Not one of its postulates have ever been observed, much less measured. Scientists have placed all the elements found in living matter into every conceivable solvent and subjected the resulting 'soup' to every conceivable stimulus without creating life. Hardly surprising, for as Professor Haldane has pointed out, 'the simplest living cell contains between ten thousand and ten million distinct chemical substances, more than the number of biochemists in the world' Timing to the fossil record we find it demonstrates in an indisputable manner that every species arose de novo, and those that are still surviving have in no way changed since their first appearance Not one transitional form - otherwise known as 'missing links' - between two species has ever been found. No less a person than Thomas Huxley has admitted that the fossil record negates evolutionary theory because 'it either shows no evidence for such modifications or demonstrates that such modifications have been very slight'. Genetic theory confirms the fixity of species. Despite the fact that generations of flies and flees have been subjected to radiation, ultra-violet light, and God knows what else, they have remained and still are flies and flees.

And so I repeat, Evolution is not scientific fact. It is only a 'theory' which attempts to explain how certain measurable and observable facts - the fossil record and the wide variety of living forms - hang together. What is extraordinary is that so many scientists accept as fact a theory which violates the very foundations of their discipline. Science teaches us that what is greater cannot come out of what is less. Evolution teaches that the contrary has repeatedly occurred and is still occurring - indeed that what is mind and spirit comes out of matter. Science tells us the earth is running down, but evolution tells us it is running up. Science teaches us that nothing happens by chance. Evolution postulates a series of extraordinary chance events and ignores the fact that 'chance,' when used in this sense, is nothing but the expression of our ignorance of the causes involved. It goes even further and proclaims that an evolution based on chance events is the Ultimate Cause, the Alpha and the Omega of reality. Mathematical theory tells us that the possibility of one evolutionary step occurring is so remote as to be impossible - as Prof. Sir Frederick Hoyle, the Cambridge astrophysicist states, 'the likelihood of the spontaneous formation of life from inanimate matter is one to a number with 40,000 (zeros - Vendée) after it!... a number big enough to bury Darwin and the whole theory of evolution...' - but evolution tells us it has happened. Yes indeed, as Dr. W. R. Thompson, the director of the Institute of Scientific Research in Ottawa said, 'the success of Darwinism is accompanied by a decline in scientific integrity... when men of science flock, together to defend a doctrine which they are not even capable of scientifically defining, much less demonstrating... we find ourselves in a most abnormal and undesirable situation.' I challenge anyone one of you to show me one piece of evidential proof in favor of evolution. As Yves Delage, Sorbonne Professor of Zoology states 'I readily admit there is no absolutely definite evidence that such a thing as Evolution has ever taken place.' It may surprise you tomorrow that many eminent scientists who remain atheists have completely abandoned evolutionary theory because, as Jean Postand has said, 'the world postulated by transformism is a fairy world, phatasmogatic and surrealistic.' Others of course, continue to believe in it, what is truly a blind and modernist faith. Yves Delage, quoted above, tells us that despite the lack of proof, 'I believe evolution to be just as certain as if it had been objectively proved'.

And so we see that Evolution is not scientific and has to be accepted with 'faith'. Perhaps, after all, its proper locus is theology. Let us then consider the stance of the Church.

Prior to Vatican II Evolution was discussed, but never officially sanctioned. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church, along with the majority of orthodox theologians like Billot and Garrigou-Lagrange clearly rejected it. Despite this I readily concede that many Catholics were evolutionists. By and large these can be divided into two groups, those who believed evolution to be a fact and in order to save their belief in God, argued that He did His creating through the evolutionary process. Typical of such ideation is Teilhard de Chardin. The second group - typified by Mivart, Leroy, Duchesne, Loisy and Bergert - all condemned Modernists - held that man's body was a product of evolution, and that God, at some point in history, infused this soul-less body with a soul.

Whatever view of theistic evolution one takes, one is faced with irresolvable dilemmas. Those who hold to the Tielhardian view tell us that at some point in time man made an 'evolutionary jump' to consciousness and assure us that either matter is spirit or spirit is matter. Those that hold to the mitigated view must explain to us why God suddenly decided to work outside of the evolutionary process and what happened to the other 'humans' who were not ensouled? Perhaps they are still wandering around in some undiscovered jungle. And why does the body not continue to live when we 'die' and give up our souls? The absurdity of living 'soulless' humans was clearly demonstrated by St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Albert the Great and innumerable other doctors of the Church. Other religions are equally clear on this issue. And so we see that belief in evolution requires not only a blind and modernist faith, but also the rejection of reason. As Karl Stern, a well-known psychiatrist tells us: ''such a view of cosmogenesis is crazy. And I do not mean crazy in the sense of slangy invective but rather in the technical meaning of psychotic. Indeed such a view has much in common with certain aspects of schizophrenic thinking.'

Evolution is in fact pure and simple superstition. Consider the definition of this term, 'an irrational abject state of mind proceeding from ignorance, unreasoning fear of the unknown or mysterious morbid scrupulosity, a belief in magic or chance, or the like; misdirected or unenlightened religion or interpretation of nature... a fixed irrational idea, a notion maintained in spite of evidence to the contrary...'


Evolution was a 'cockle' sowed on well prepared ground. A brief review will help to make this clear. While nothing under the sun is new, we shall initiate our sad tale with William of Ockham.

Born in 1290, Ockham is one of the earliest of those who misunderstood the nature of the soul. He not only denied free will, he also denied that the Intellect was capable of forming universal concepts. He and his followers - usually labeled 'nominalists' - claimed that all ideas were really images, that is, impressions on the imagination originating in sensual perception. The error - it is one shared by virtually all modern 'philosophers' and psychologists - is that nominalists confound the individualized image of the imagination with the concept or idea which resides in the Intellect. According to St. Thomas, the difference between images and ideas consists in the fact that images are representations of things in their singularity, particularity and concreteness, whereas ideas are representations of things in their universality. Despite his denial of 'universals,' Ockam continued to believe in God. But he held such belief to have no objective character and the nature of his faith was 'blind'. I would ask you to remember Faith requires our assent to what the intellect tells us is Truth and it is the nature of this faculty to 'see.' The acceptance of nominalism precludes such 'vision' and inevitably results in a bifurcation between what can be observed and measured, and what is believed. It is but a short step to envisioning the measurable as the totality of reality, and the relegating of concepts such as the 'good' and the 'beautiful' - to say nothing of Revelation - concepts beyond measurement and hence seen as having no objective measurable reality - to the realm of private and subjective convictions where they become whatever we feel or want them to be. It is not surprising that Ockham lived his life in rebellion against the Church and died, as far as we know, without the consolation of her sacraments.

Man, by his very nature seeks to know the truth, the nature and purpose of his existence. Nominalism, precludes this possibility. Denying the intellect, it denies that man can abstract from, the things of this world and penetrate their underlying reality; being dependent upon phenomena, its only certainties are statistical approximations. Obviously experiential knowledge has its place and function, but once it is declared to be the only legitimate source of knowledge, man is deprived of the absolute and has no access to the nature of his being. Metaphysics is destroyed, sacred knowledge is nullified, and man is forced to turn from Revelation and Intellection to individualism and rationalism. Cut off from is 'above', He must turn to what is 'below'. It was Descartes who epitomized this deviation in his Cogito ergo sum. The individual consciousness of the thinking subject (or more precisely, his ephemeral ego) was proclaimed to be the source of all reality and truth; the knowing subject - man - was henceforth bound to the realm of reason as applied to phenomena and separated from both Intellection and Revelation. It is a short step from this to the radical doubt of Hume and the agnosticim of Kant.

Having accepted the nominalist position scienctists soon began to consider the physical universe - the measurable world - as the totality of reality. All else was relegated to an ontological limbo. This, as Dr. Wolfgang Smith has pointed out, is not a scientific discovery, but a metaphysical assumption. Having taken this step man increasingly saw the phenomenological world, not as a reflection of God's beauty and goodness, but as a mechanical clock. As Kepler (1571-1630), speaking for his age said, 'just as the eye was made to see colors, and the ear to hear sounds, so the human mind was made to understand, not whatever you please, but quantity'. Rene Decartes (1596-1650) gave this new vision articulated form. The mechanical world was made up entirely of 'res extensa'. He of course still admitted to the 'res cogitans', but those who followed after him rapidly imprisoned this within a ventricle of the brain - the Newtonian sensorium - and then eliminated it in toto. In the modern world, the 'res extensa' or to use the Newtonian phrase, 'matter', is all that is left.

The 'age of enlightenment', sought to fit man within this schema. Man, cut off from Revelation and Intellection, was reduced to an autonomous entity - one ultimately 'self-determined' and independent of God. And so we have the Masonic-Rousseauan concept of man whose 'dignity' lies in his 'independence' - he is his own authority and he creates his own culture. Pari-passu with this we have a new concept of society, one based on 'social contract' where the will of the majority 'democratically' legislates morality. The 'Rights of Man' are proclaimed to the exclusion of the 'Rights of God'. The world is promised a new Utopia in which everyone will be Free, Equal and Brothers, a world which, thanks to science and progress, will be so perfect that no will any longer have any need, to be good. Such a compendium of ill thought out ideas is often termed 'humanism' - an absurd term for man 'independent of his supernatural nature' can never be integrally human. Needless to say, the Church opposed the deviations. One of her strongest arguments was that God created the world and entrusted her with its governance. And then what happened? Evolutionary theory came along as 'chance-sent' gift providing humanists and their ilk, with the sanction of 'science'. If mankind accepted its postulates, who needed God and who needed the Church? It is not surprising that Masons, Marxists and Modernists did everything in their power to spread this new 'devil's Gospel.


Nominalism lays the ground for man's aberrant view of nature and science. Its denial of universals allows him, to deny specificity to nature's creation. There is no such thing as a given species conforming to an archetype in the mind of God; rather all creation is seen as as phenomenon where one species blends with another in an evolutionary continuum.

Moderns consider reason to be the highest human faculty, but insist that reason can only be applied to measurable fact and so-called 'experience.' This is the essential nature of both scientific methodology and rationalism. As opposed to this, traditional teaching holds that Reason is a discursive faculty which requires both correct premises and proper logic to come to a valid conclusion. Truth does not depend on reason but rather reveals itself and becomes explicit with the help of reason. Thus we do not say something is true because it is logical, but rather that it is logical because it is true. This presupposes a still higher faculty capable of judging whether the conclusions of reason are true. Modern 'philosophers' attempt to get around this problem, by speaking of 'rational principles', but forget that principles can never be derived from discursive logic. Reason cannot prove its own validity, for principles must be grasped intuitively or supra rationally. As Aristotle said, 'one does not demonstrate principles, but one perceives directly the truth thereof.' To make use of scholastic terminology, it is the pure intellect which is the habitus principorum, while reason is only the habitus conclusionum. Man then possesses reason and with it language, only because, unlike animals, he has access in principle to supra-rational vision. It is this supra-rational vision, Intellection or insight, that gives man, not only judgment, but certitude in his own existence as a being and confidence in the functional capacity of reason. Intellection is a kind of 'Seeing' and not a conclusion, and it is this that opens to man the possibility of metaphysical certitude. This is why Boethius said that a man who thinks he is an animal that reasons has forgotten who he is. Now reason, which is a reflection of this higher Intellect, can receive its content - that which it reasons about - from above and from below, from within and from without. It can receive its premises from Revelation or the senses, from intellection or the subconscious. These various sources, either individually or in combination provide the reason with its 'food' and any attempt to exclude one or more of them is arbitrary and irrational.

Above all Nominalism allows man to believe his higher faculties are given him, for the study of phenomena and nothing else. He forgets that the wonders of nature are given him that by their study he can awaken his intellect and know his Creator. If the Nominalists are correct, man has no higher intellect; reason or logic are unexplainable and can only be applied to measurable phenomena and so-called 'experience' - our emotions and feelings. The net result of such a limited viewpoint is a 'scientific methodology' which promises, given time, to explain everything, and a truncated 'rationalism', such as the French Revolution idolized. What does not fall within this aegis is declared to be either 'unreal' or of unknowable. Out goes Revelation, Intellection and by definition, metaphysics. Man is reduced to a rational animal that can measure and feel, but never know. Ockham's much vaunted razor cut our metaphysical throats.

Modern man sees himself as made in the image of some primitive protozoa. In order to fit human intelligence into the evolutionary stream, the spirit is reduced to mind, the mind to brain, and the brain in turn to anatomical structures. Thinking is but a 'neuro-chemical' process, or as the evolutionist Wilson says, 'an epiphenomenon of the neuronal machinery of the brain,' which man will be able to alter and/or improve as his understanding grows. The net result is that modern psychologists - Freud Adler, From, Maslow and Rogers are all evolutionists - tell us intelligence consists of reason, the ability to deal with abstractions, the capacity to learn and the ability to handle new situations. Now reason apart - and enormous amounts of energy are extended in an attempt to prove animals reason - all these are abilities are found in the lower forms of life. Hence it is not surprising to find Darwin telling us that 'animals have an intellect of different proportions,' and that man's 'intellectual faculties have been mainly and gradually perfected through natural selection...' It is but a small step between the ability of a bird to build a nest or to follow the stars in his migratory flights, and that of man to hold a hammer. Similarly we are told that man's motivations and beliefs have their origin in his 'sub-conscious' (...) Again we are told that man's ultimate motives are a search for security, pleasure, or what they call 'sell activation' through the meeting of 'meta-needs.' Truth is what is true for the individual; beauty what gives us pleasure; and love the fulfilling of 'biological urges'. At the cost of denying both logic and experience, all that is qualitative in man is declared to be genetically determined and is reduced to the measurable and thus to matter.

Everything falls within this aegis. Rousseau held that savage man progressed to 'civilized' man. Huxley gave this progression his scientific blessing. 'Nature's great progression is from the formless to the formed - from the inorganic to the organic - from, blind force to conscious intellect and will.' If one can accept these premises then it is easy to be persuaded that man is but a higher form of matter and that Superman is on the way. Those who think otherwise are dismissed as dreamers - as if matter could dream - who for all their efforts produce nothing materially beneficial.

Implicit in evolutionary theory is that man has no free will. As Huxley says, 'the fundamental proposition of Evolution is that the whole world, living and not living, is the result of the mutual interaction, according to definite laws, of the forces possessed by the molecules of which the primitive nebulosity of the universe was composed'. After all, how can something - notice, I do not say 'someone' - which is the product of rigid laws, laws which still control its future development, and which has no freedom, to step outside the evolutionary process,- how can this 'something' be responsible? Here one comes upon another conundrum, and one interestingly enough shared by Socialists for whom evolution takes the form of 'historical determinism.' If man's life is determined by evolution or by history, how can he be 'free'. Yet both evolutionists and historical determinists proclaim man free to help the process on its way towards perfection or utopia. And how can evolutionary/historically determined man sin? Again, he sins only in opposing these very forces. Consistency and rationality are not required of a blind modernist faith.

But it may be asked, do evolutionists live in the real world? Surely, in the practical order, every individual sees himself as a being who is responsible for his acts, who knows, wills and loves, not with the seeming obsequiousness of tame beasts, but with devotion and self-sacrifice; a rational creature who can conceptualize and discriminate between what is true and false, good and evil, right and wrong. To admit this is to say man has the certitude of his own consciousness and being and that he is more than matter. Certain consequences inevitably follow. To say love is to say knowledge for one cannot love what one does not know. To say know is to admit of truth, for one cannot know what is false, but only that it is false. (Admittedly intelligence can be wrong by the falseness of its content, but then it is wrong as thought and not as knowledge; to speak of a false knowledge would be as absurd as to speak of a blind vision or a undark night.) And to say love, knowledge and truth is to say something immeasurable, something of the spirit. These faculties pertain to the 'heart' - not the physiological organ which bears this name by analogy - but to the very core of our being - what theologians call the soul. Man who knows and loves, and has the certitude of his own consciousness and being, cannot be reduced to chemical and physical elements - elements which are in reality only concepts of his own mind imposed upon the natural domain. Either man loves the poor because he sees in them an alter Christus, or he loves the poor because the evolutionary course of his genetic development leaves him no alternative. If one chooses the latter then one cannot criticize those who hate the poor, much less those who exploit then.

Mention must be made of man's evolutionary destiny, for as Huxley tells us, 'the destiny of man has been made clear by evolutionary biology... man can now see himself as the sole agent of further evolutionary advance on this planet, and one of the few possible instruments of progress in the universe at large. Eventually with the help of evolutionary theory man will solve the problem of evil. Alfred Russel Wallace gives us further details. As a result of evolution 'each one will work out his own happiness in relation to his fellows; a perfect freedom of action will be maintained; compulsory government will have died away as unnecessary ... mankind will have discovered that it was only required of them to develop the capacities of their higher nature in order to convert this earth... into as bright a paradise s ever haunted the dreams of seer or poet.' And thus we see point 'omega' on the way.

Ignored by evolutionary theory is the fact that the intellect and the will - what traditional theologians call the soul - is a non-material or spiritual substance, and that this intellect can remove itself from the evolutionary stream and reflect upon that stream. Ignored is the fact that the intellect can know its own being (self consciousness), can make judgements, can arrive at certitude, and can know God. Ignored is the fact that the body without the soul is no longer a living person and that man - both body and soul - is made in the image of God. Ignored is the fact that God can dwell within the human soul. Ignored is the fact that love resides in the will and that the will is free - free to reject the truth as well as accept it. Ignored is the fact that man voided of his intellectual functions can never be integrally human. Ignored is the fact that man's rejection of the truth is a fall from his high estate, a 'departure from order,' and a sin. Evolution, like modern psychology, allows us the freedom, to damn our souls with serenity.


Professor Jastrow of Princeton University stated 'either life was placed here by the Creator, or it evolved out of non-living molecules in accordance with the laws of chemistry and physics. There is no third way; it rest have been one or another'. Children brought up on an evolutionary diet from infancy almost invariably accept the first alternative. They are easily convinced - or should I say 'brain washed' into thinking that, as the Encyclopedia Britanica says: 'Darwin did two things: he showed that evolution was a fact contradicting scriptural legends of creation and that its cause, natural selection, was automatic with no room for divine guidance or design' No wonder then that in a recent poll 46.9 of the people quarried stated that they did not go to Church because they believed in evolution.

Those that argue God works through evolution must tell us what kind of God would choose to work 'by chance' to create man and or why God had at some point in history to go outside the evolutionary process to create a soul. Again what kind of God would use 'natural selection' to achieve his ends. Natural selection - the law of the claw - proposes that the ill or otherwise unfit should be denied existence in favor of the stronger and perhaps more brutal forms of life. But if such is the case, how dare evolutionary man interfere to help the lame and the weak. Charity finds no place in such a scheme. An evolutionary God, a God who set the process going and then left it to work itself out, is not a personal God, nor one who can answer our prayers. As Julian Huxley said, 'any view of God as a personal being is becoming frankly untenable... man's knowledge has left no room in the universe for such an idea. Creation of earth and stars, plants, animals and man - Darwin swept the last vestiges of that into the wastepaper basket of outworn imaginations, already piled high with the debris of earlier ages'.

Catholics have a particular problem with evolution, even in its mitigated or 'theological' forms. They are obliged by faith to accept the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Listen to the statement of Vatican I: 'If anyone does not admit that the world and everything in it, both spiritual and material, have been produced in their entire substance by God out of nothing, let him be anathema.'

In a similar manner, evolutionary theory implicitly denies the doctrines of original sin, the fall of man, the need for a Redeemer and for our redemption, the Immaculate Conception, the function of reason and the possibility of man's sanctification.

Those who would blend their religious beliefs faith with evolutionary theory must accept the consequences. A belief in evolution and progress inevitably carries in its train:
1) a belief that man qua man is perfectible with out reference to his supernatural nature;
2) that man has no higher nature or capability than that which has evolved from matter;
3) that man, having no intellect, can neither know himself nor his Creator, can make no valid judgments and can never accept the existence of absolute truths;
4) that man has no free will and hence can neither sin nor have a 'fallen nature';
5) that man has no need for a Redeemer and is the source of his own redemption;
6) given time society will perfect itself to the point where man will no longer have to be good;
7) that all valid knowledge must be attained through the so-called scientific methodology, and that what cannot be measured has no reality;
8) that religion must constantly adapt itself to the latest stage of evolution and progress and that only by reading the 'signs of the times' can man know what God wishes for us; and
9) that the main purpose of religion is to help man on his evolutionary way.

If we accept the evolutionary hypothesis as true, the human phenomenon - man's ability to love, to know, to will and to be responsible - is inexplicable.

It is not traditional religion, but evolution and progress that are the opiates of modern man. There is no real conflict between science and faith as such, but an irreconcilable conflict between those who accept traditional values and those who blindly believe in the 'transformist illusion' on which the so-called 'modern scienticist outlook' is built. Those who dream of helping mankind or building a better world would be well advised to reexamine their promises, for there can be no valid action outside of truth and no possible salvation - either worldly or other-worldly apart from, a return to traditional values.

nominalist position - evolution - evolutionary thought - william of ockham - mivart - leroy - duchesne - loisy - bergert - garrigou-lagrange - newtonian - kepler - rene decartes

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