12.1. Radical Enlightenment
Whereas in nineteenth-century academic philosophy in continental Europe after Immanuel Kant the personality ideal prevailed, elsewhere naturalism stressed the dominion of humanity
by nature – not of nature, as was the case during the early Enlightenment of Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, René Descartes en Isaac Newton. Utilitarianism (David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, and William Paley), reduced morality to
natural utility, in particular to the experience of pleasure and pain (hedonism). After naturalism reached a peak in the radical Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, it received a new stimulus from the theory of evolution.
In 1745 the physician Julien Offray de la Mettrie (disciple of Herman Boerhaave) published L’Histoire naturelle de l’âme (The natural history of the soul ) at Paris, and in 1747
l’Homme machine (Man a machine) at Leiden, deploying mechanistic, deterministic, atheist, and materialistic views on human nature, reminding of Benedict Spinoza (3.4).
As a monist rejecting any dualism of mind and body, La Mettrie argued that humans are not different from animals, which in turn he treated like machines. Together with his hedonism this met with much resistance both in France and in the Netherlands, urging
him to fly to Berlin. Protected by the enlightened despot Frederick the Great he composed his opus magnum Discours sur le bonheur (Discourse on happiness, 1748). La Mettrie opposed moderate Enlightenment with its deism, the teleological argument
of God’s existence from design, and physico-theology.
Since about 1750 Denis Diderot and Paul-Henri d’Holbach propagated materialism as a permanent part of radical Enlightenment.
Besides La Mettrie’s works, this was expressed in Denis Diderot’s Lettre sur les aveugles (1749),
George-Louis Buffon’s Histoire naturelle (1749-1783, 24 volumes), d’Holbach’s Système de la nature (1770), and especially the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et métiers
(1751-1772, 28 volumes), edited by Jean d’Alembert and Denis Diderot. This
Encyclopédie was initiated in 1745 by a consortium of publishers. Besides d’Alembert (especially concerned with science and mathematics), Diderot soon became the main editor. Also d’Holbach became an editor. He contributed several
hundreds of articles, on many subjects, including chemistry and mineralogy. After having
initially adhered to it, Diderot abandoned physico-theology, opposing Locke, Newton, and deism, and adopting a deterministic evolutionary naturalism.
In France, even after d’Alembert in his introduction to the Encyclopédie paid lip service to Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and John Locke (1.2), these radical views started to dwarf moderate Enlightenment. In political and social life
radical philosophy became the mouthpiece of the French revolution of 1789.
12.2. Moderate and counter-Enlightenment
Moderate Enlightenment, in France represented by François-Marie Voltaire,
remained strongest everywhere else.
A common feature of all Enlightenment philosophers is their rejection of scholastic Aristotelianism. This induced the opposition of many conservative
theologians, whether Catholic (including both Jesuits and Jansenists), Calvinist, Lutheran, or Anglican. They stuck to the medieval accommodation of Aristotelian philosophy with Christian theology, as wrought by Thomas Aquinas, after Avicenna and Maimonides
did the same for Muslim and Jewish theology, respectively.
Their distinction of the natural and the supernatural realms was not disputed by the mechanists and the moderate Enlightenment
philosophers. Like almost all theologians, they abhorred Balthasar Bekker’s book De betoverde weereld (The world bewitched, 1691-1693), criticizing many superstitious views and magical practices, and arguing that only God is supernatural. About
1500 almost everybody believed in God for three reasons: the natural world testifies of a divine plan; social communities like cities, kingdoms and the church point to a higher authority; and people lived in a charmed world full of benignant and malignant
spirits. Therefore, when the reformed minister Bekker asserted that the world is not under
any supernatural spell, he undermined common faith, according to his colleagues. Though much despised, his book helped to make an end to witch hunting, after the Middle Ages introduced by the Renaissance.
During the seventeenth century, only Benedict Spinoza denied the possibility of miracles,
although both Isaac Beeckman and Simon Stevin (with his slogan ‘wonder en is gheen wonder’: a miracle is not a miracle) were sceptical in this respect. Beeckman observed that in philosophy one must proceed from wonder to no wonder, whereas in theology
the reverse should occur. Thereby he rejected any realm of ghosts, witches, and monsters between the natural and supernatural realms.
As a weapon against atheist or pantheist radical Enlightenment, both moderate Enlightenment and counter-Enlightenment made use of physico-theology as a rational foundation of natural religion.
In the first half of the eighteenth century, especially Newtonians like Samuel Clarke and Richard Bentley in England, Colin MacLaurin in Scotland, Jan Swammerdam and Bernard Nieuwentijt in the Netherlands, and François-Marie Voltaire in France, as well
as Gottfried Leibniz and Christian Wolff in Germany propagated physico-theology based on natural insights. Colin MacLaurin asserted that ‘natural philosophy is subservient to purposes of a higher kind, and is chiefly to be valued as it lays a sure foundation
for natural religion and moral philosophy, by leading us, in a satisfactory manner, to the knowledge of the author and governor of the universe’.
During the French Terreur, the rule of terror lasting from 1792 to 1794, the deist Maximilien de Robespierre acted as a high priest in the worship of reason and the supreme being
as the natural state religion, with immortality as its main dogma. Glorifying the views of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, it was a romantic reaction against the atheism of the radical Enlightenment.
During the nineteenth century the counter-Enlightenment became more and more romantic. In particular the revival of the Catholic Church was strongly influenced by Romanticism. The Prussian Lutheran Friedrich Julius Stahl and the Dutch reformed Guillaume
Groen van Prinsterer and Abraham Kuyper were romantic representants of the counter-Enlightenment, in the Netherlands called ‘anti-revolutionary’.
In nineteenth-century England,
William Paley’s books Principles of moral and political philosophy (1785), and Natural theology, or evidences of the existence and attributes of the Deity (1802), were widely read and very influential. Paley became famous because
of the teleological watchmaker argument, though he did not invent it. Anybody being confronted
with something as complicated as a watch will admit that an intelligent being must have designed and made it. In a similar way plants, animals and human beings point to an intelligent creator, in the twentieth century disguised as ‘intelligent design’.
This argument from design for the existence of God adds to the ontological argument from perfection (God is perfect, and someone who does not exist cannot be perfect), as well as to the argument from causality (if everything has a cause, there must necessarily
be a first cause).
In some polytheistic religions, the Gods are like men supposed to be subjected to an impersonal moral power, such as the Greek anankè or the Indian karma.
Because an impersonal superpower was no option in the West, rationalistic theologians took a different path. In suit of Augustine’s neo-Platonism they chose as a starting point for their rational analysis the definition of God as a perfect being with
perfect attributes (3.1, 3.4).
God’s perfection would imply the simplicitas Dei, the neo-Platonic doctrine (due to Augustine, and defended by Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas) that God is one and does not have parts. In this respect Christian philosophers had
to argue against Jews and Muslims about the trinity.
Assuming that whatever is changeable cannot be perfect, perfectionists state that God must be unchangeable. The theologian Emil Brunner
criticized the general trend of Protestant Scholastics to ground their entire systematic theology in this idea of simplicitas Dei. Brunner argued that the notion only arises if one makes the abstract idea of the Absolute the starting-point for
The Bible nowhere indicates that God would be unchangeable in all respects.
God accompanies the history of His people, sharing in their suffering. Compared to Homer’s epics, the Bible presents itself as a volume of historical narratives with various authors.
It is not strange to write a biography, in which God acts as the principal person in a literary work.
God reveals Himself in the Old and New Testament always as a concrete person in historical situations and never as a rational abstraction like the absolute, the perfect being, or as providence.
As a branch of natural theology, physico-theology welcomed each scientific result as a new proof for the existence of a benevolent creator.
The belief in God was increasingly built on the progress of Newtonian science. In particular
the argument from design, more due to Plato than to Aristotle, was popular. The effectiveness
and usefulness of nature required as an explanation the existence of a suitable building plan and a conscious designer. David Hume rejected the argument from design,
but his views being purely philosophical made little impact in the scientific community, which generally adhered to physico-theology until the middle of the nineteenth century.
in 1755, Portugal experienced an earthquake with a death toll in Lisbon alone of between 10,000 and 100,000 people. It made a deep impression on the Enlightenment philosophers who started to question the idea of a benevolent God. It also led to the birth of
modern seismology and earthquake engineering, replacing supernatural intervention by natural explanations.
In physico-theology, the almighty God was required to explain all phenomena
that could not be explained by natural laws, but the increasing knowledge of nature diminished the range of this ‘God of the gaps’. Generally, besides reason, two sources of knowledge of God were acknowledged: the Holy Scripture as word revelation,
and nature as creation revelation. In case of conflict, both Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei gave priority to natural science (1.1). Word revelation lost much of its appeal, not because of science, but because of the criticism exerted by Enlightened theologians,
treating the Bible as any other human text (12.5). Since the end of the nineteenth century, the two revelations appeared to lead to contrary views, and many people started to consider science a competitor of religion, with its own view of creation, fall into
sin, and redemption. In the twentieth century the not very successful idea of a physical ‘theory of everything’ expressed the temptation to find God through science.
The weakness of physico-theology is that it may be able to prove the existence of God as the Creator of the world, but it in no way leads to the message of the Gospel, to miracles, and to the authority
of the church. Already in the seventeenth century Blaise Pascal criticized the Enlightenment project to find the ‘philosophers’ God’ (5.4). In fact physico-theology provided more support for a natural religion, an enlightened providential
deism, than for Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant. Therefore miracles as reported by eye-witnesses in the New Testament (in particular concerning Christ’s resurrection) were often presented as evidence additional to natural theology.
Starting with Spinoza the radical Enlightenment rejected the existence of a supernatural being entirely, and therefore physico-theology as well. Benedict Spinoza and Albert Einstein identified
God with nature or with natural laws, other people replaced God by nature. This pantheism
led inevitably to naturalism. This is a kind of reductionism, but apart from that, there is little consensus about its contents.
One may distinguish ontological, epistemological, and methodological naturalism.
Ontological or metaphysical naturalism is the deistic or atheistic world view denying
supernatural interventions in reality and assuming that humanity is completely subject to natural laws. Human values and norms should be explained as results of evolution. An important characteristic of ontological naturalism is its monism, the rejection of
the duality of body and mind, as proposed by Aristotelianism, moderate Enlightenment, and almost all theologians. Agnostic epistemological naturalism says that supernatural intervention is unknowable, colliding with the biblical and later stories
of miracles. Darwin’s most important defender, the great rhetoric Thomas Huxley (‘Darwin’s bulldog’), introduced in his enlightened confession the concept of agnosticism as an alternative for both theism and atheism: ‘Agnosticism,
in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. That principle is of great antiquity; it is as old as Socrates; as old as the writer who said: “Try all things, hold fast by that which
is good”; it is the foundation of the Reformation, which simply illustrated the axiom that every man should be able to give reason for the faith that is in him; it is the great principle of Descartes; it is the fundamental axiom of modern science. Positively
the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated
and demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.’
This rationalistic view, reminding of Immanuel Kant, is a far cry from experimental philosophy (chapter 5), as applied in 1865 by Gregor Mendel in his discovery of the laws named after him, which
formed the basis of the development of Darwin’s theory of evolution in the twentieth century.
Methodological naturalism excludes supernatural intervention, even if it
would exist or if it could be known, as a principle of explanation in science. Since physico-theology lost its attraction, theistscientists started to adhere to this moderate form of naturalism, or at least to practise it. It leads to a separation of Sunday’s
faith and weekly science. What remains is the inclination of naturalists to explain everything in the experienced reality with the help of natural laws alone. This reductionism finds for instance an expression in evolutionism, since the twentieth century the
prevailing western world view.
12.4. The uniformity of natural laws
When Isaac Newton
in 1703 became president of the Royal Society, he proclaimed: ‘Natural philosophy consists in discovering the frame and operations of nature, and reducing them, as far as may be, to general rules or laws, - establishing these rules by observations and
experiments, and thence deducing the causes and effects of things.
Since the seventeenth century, the aim of physical science was to discover the laws of nature (chapters 6 and 7).
These laws were assumed to be valid everywhere, expressing a cosmic order. Initially it was not stressed that they would also be valid for all times. This was not a pressing problem as long as the created cosmos was believed
to be relatively young, at most ten thousand years, and would not last much longer, as far as the second coming of Christ was expected soon. The ordered cosmos seemed to be quite stable. Only with the rise of geology, around 1800, the question arose of whether
the laws are uniformly valid everywhere and always. Moreover, the findings of the geologists appeared to be at variance with the biblical stories about the creation and the flood.
in the seventeenth century, Nicolaus Steno investigated the geological history of Tuscany, proposing an organic origin of fossils. In Prodomus (1669) he stated as a principle for research that the surface of the earth contains the evidence
of its own development. Steno asserted the then generally accepted view that no discrepancy between the biblical and scientific insights could exist. During the eighteenth century, this view changed dramatically. Scientists started to claim that their findings
should lead to a revision of the exegesis of the Bible (12.5). Geologists arrived at the insight that the earth is much older than the Bible suggests.  Investigations of mountains, river valleys, quarries, and mines, made clear that the surface of
the earth consists of layers or strata, recognizable by the occurrence of specific fossils. The lowest and oldest layer, called primary, does not contain fossils, which on the other hand are abundantly present in the secondary, tertiary, and quaternary layers.
Fossils of sea life were found at considerable heights. 
The explanation of this stratification divided the geologists into two camps. The neptunists, followers of
Abraham Weber, assumed a universal flood. The plutonists, such as the Enlightenment philosopher James Hutton, stressed the internal terrestrial heat, giving rise to volcanic eruptions.  Neptunists explained stratification by assuming that
all rock formation had been precipitated, either chemically or mechanically, from an aqueous solution or suspension.  (In a solution the particles are molecules, in a suspension they are larger but still microscopically small.)
Initially most geologists supported neptunism because it confirmed their natural theology, but the vulcanists had better geological arguments.  They did not deny that some recent strata could have an aqueous
origin, but they believed that the oldest ones are igneous, referring to experiments made by Hutton’s friend, Joseph Black.
The controversy between neptunists and vulcanists receded
to the background after William Smith, a drainage engineer and surveyor who was not much interested in philosophy or natural theology, introduced the method of identifying geological layers by their fossil contents. Thereby he founded palaeontology.  In
1815 he produced the first geological maps of England and Wales.
In 1788 James Hutton made the famous remark that ‘the result, therefore, of our present enquiry is, that we find
no vestige of a beginning, - no prospect of an end’, taking distance from natural theology. In Theory of the earth (1785), he proposed the uniform validity of natural laws as a leading principle of geological research. Processes in the
past or in the future are not really different from those in the present that can actually be observed. He opposed actualism (in the past also called uniformitarianism) to the then prevailing catastrophism, but of course he did not deny
the occurrence and results of catastrophes like the earthquake of Lisbon (1755). He made clear that the mountains and valleys and even islands are not really stable, but continually rise, sink, and slide horizontally.
It was now generally accepted that the earth is much older than the Bible suggests. Nevertheless, natural theology still succeeded to convince most geologists of the occurrence of the flood as part of human history. The catastrophists,
including Georges Cuvier in France and William Buckland in England, believed that the occasionally occurring catastrophes play a much larger part than Hutton admitted.  However, Charles Lyell argued successfully in favour of the uniformity of natural
laws in his Principles of geology(1830-1833). 
By administering the coup de grâce to the deluge he deprived catastrophism from its most popular example.
In his contribution to the eight Bridgewater treatises the power, wisdom and goodness of God as manifested in the creation (1833-1840), financed from the estate of Francis Bridgewater intended to support natural theology, Buckland did not even mention
the biblical flood.  Like Cuvier, Lyell criticized Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s theory of transformational evolution. His book stimulated Charles Darwin in writing On the origin of species(1859). Earlier Robert Chambers’ anonymously published and
popular Vestiges of the natural history of creation(1844),  although very controversial, prepared the acceptance of Darwin’s theory of evolution, eventually replacing Lamarck’s theory.
12.5. Biblical exegesis
Initially, natural theology was concerned
with finding proofs of the existence of God and with deriving His attributes from natural knowledge. It took as an infallible dogma that natural and biblical truths cannot contradict each other. Since the nineteenth century this was no longer evident. Both
geology and evolution theory made a new exegesis of the first few chapters of Genesis desirable if not necessary.  Natural theology shifted its attention to the harmonization of biblical exegesis with scientific insights, stimulating theologians to
reconsider the principles of biblical exegesis.
Before, during, and after the Enlightenment, opposition to science was often derived from a literal interpretation of the Bible, but this
was never considered exclusive. In the third century, Origen of Alexandria divided scriptural interpretation into literal, moral, and allegorical. Medieval biblical exegesis distinguished literal from allegorical, and figurative from analogical exegesis. Modern
is the difference between lingual, historical, and theological exegesis of the Bible. The Bible is not only partly at variance with science and historiography, but also contains internal contradictions. 
It is not merely a matter of the exegesis of a given text, but also the establishment of the text itself. Since the Renaissance, hermeneutics provides semantic rules for the interpretation of texts, as well as methods of lingual analysis,
such as comparing different texts with each other. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, humanist philosophers like Francesco Petrarca and Lorenzo Valla criticized various documents on hermeneutic principles. They found that ancient works were often translated
poorly, and that biblical manuscripts sometimes contradicted each other. Desiderius Erasmus produced a new version in Greek of the New Testament (1536) comparing a number of different manuscripts, showing many discrepancies with the Latin Vulgate.
This was composed in the fourth century by Eusebius Jerome, who had already observed discrepancies between the then available Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the older Greek Septuagint. The council of Trent (1545-1563) declared the Vulgate authoritative
for the Catholic Church, prohibiting any other translation, in particular in the vernacular. Various manuscripts of both the Old and the New Testament appeared to differ sometimes considerably. For their translations of the Old Testament Calvinists preferred
the Masoretic text (circa 1100) also used in the synagogues. Theologians defending the literal inspiration of the Bible were forced to assume that the text as we know it is not the original one, which was supposed to be lost. However, this gave rise to the
problem of how to base a reliable theology on the available ‘corrupt’ text.
John Calvin rejected a literal interpretation. For instance, he wrote positively about new findings
of astronomy, even if these were at variance with a literal reading of the Bible. He stated that the Bible is written for common people accommodating assumptions accepted at the time of writing. This view was shared by Galileo but rejected by the papal Inquisition
(2.2). Calvin stated that the Bible is not a source of knowledge of nature; it is not an encyclopaedia of natural or historical facts. Instead he argued that the Bible is meant to direct human life to the service of God.
Because Calvinism assumes that the Bible accommodates common sense and daily knowledge as accepted by its authors, it does not need to harmonize the Bible with modern science or history, and not even with itself. Each
Bible book or part of it should be read in the context of the community of believers for which it was primarily intended, at least as far as this is known. This principle, also showing how to deal with various contradictions within biblical texts, differs
from canonical exegesis, from concordism and from fundamentalism.
Canonical exegesis states that each part of the Bible must be explained in the context of the canon, of
the Bible as a whole, as conceived in the tradition of the church. The canonical exegesis aims to harmonize diverging biblical texts (in particular the four gospels) with each other. Christian exegetes are often inclined to explain texts from the Old Testament
such as to confirm Christian theology. The canonical exegesis is the official view of the Catholic Church, in 2008 confirmed by pope Benedict XVI, but it finds also adherence among Protestants, perhaps with some less stress on the ecclesiastical tradition.
Concordism says that the Bible does not contain scientific information, but is partly in need of harmonization with the results of science and extra-biblical historical sources. A recent
example is Gijsbert van den Brink’s En de aarde bracht voort (And the earth brought forth, 2017). From his reformed background he poses the question: Suppose that the current theory of evolution is correct. What does this mean for Christian
faith? Although he criticizes concordism,
he arrives at an uncertain harmony, uncertain because he refuses to take position in the question of whether the current theory of evolution is correct, with the weak excuse that he is not a natural scientist.
Fundamentalist theologians and other Christians consider the Bible as an unerring source of knowledge, an encyclopaedia to be used to criticise and eventually to correct scientific results. They are inclined to ignore differences
between biblical texts. Modern naturalists commenting on Christian faith have a tendency to direct their criticism to encyclopaedic fundamentalism, ignoring Calvin’s views, as well as canonical exegesis and concordism.
12.6. Enlightened biology
As long as natural philosophy was focussed on the physical sciences, ontological naturalism implied materialism, a world view many people rejected intuitively. The radical Enlightenment’s materialism
assumed that plants and animals consist of the same substances as classified in anorganic chemistry, in particular hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and phosphorus, although Antoine François Fourcroy admitted that chemical processes could not reproduce living
As an antidote some philosophers and scientists propagated vitalism.
Besides the physical forces and chemical affinity, Friedrich Kielmeyer postulated a vital force, only acting in living beings (1793). Jöns Jacob Berzelius introduced vital power, now restricted to animals and situated in the nervous
system.Berzelius pointed out that such a biological principle is necessary to explain the existence of the multitude of different species of plants and animals. Yet, because force is a physical concept after all, vital force was not a promising concept.
Moreover, nobody was able to identify anything like a vital force until the rise of evolution theory, when Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace introduced natural selection as the engine of the evolution of living beings, without calling it a force. Meanwhile
materialism prevailed, until Louis Pasteur in 1860 proved that generatio spontanea is illusory: living beings only arise from other living beings.
Despite the Enlightenment,
biology remained initially faithful to Aristotle. Carl Linnaeus' classification of plants and animals, too, was inspired by Plato and Aristotle. The binomial nomenclation he applied in Systema Naturae (1737, tenth edition 1758) and in Species
plantarum is still en vogue. For scientific reasons, he classified in 1758 mankind as a species among the mammals, related to the apes,. This move was severely criticized, not only by theologians.
Mechanist philosophers tried to explain the functioning of plants and animals in mechanical terms. Descartes assumed that an animal is just a machine, but he did not apply this to human beings. A century later, this consequence was
drawn by Julien de La Mettrie in l'Homme machine (1747).
Just like Immanuel Kant, Linnaeus believed that the species are unchangeable. However, shortly afterwards geologists
investigating fossils established that the earth is much older than was previously perceived. Many species of animals and plants living in prehistoric times are now extinct. Evolution became part of radical Enlightenment philosophy, in particular in George-Louis
Buffon’s influential Histoire naturelle (1749-1783, 24 volumes), and in Johann Herder’s no less influential Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (1784-91, 4 volumes). In biology Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck’
book Philosophie zoologique(1809) received little support for its views that properties achieved during an organism’s life can become inheritable and that evolution is a process that continually repeats itself.
In contrast, the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the origin of species by means of natural selection (1859) drew much attention and approval besides the criticism to be expected. Darwin questioned
the invariance of species and thereby Linnaeus’ classification. He undermined effectively the argument from design for the existence of God (but not the idea of God as the first cause), because he explained biological evolution by natural selection on
the basis of random events. He reversed the argument of design, intended to explain improbable situations by intelligent design, by using improbable events as necessary elements of natural selection without direction. Darwin rejected any kind of goal directedness,
contrary to Lamarck, who observed in evolution an inherent strife after perfection: evolution is rectilinear, goal directed, and climbing the ladder of nature, he asserted. Until the end of the nineteenth century, evolution was not generally accepted, not
even by scientists. Biologists who accepted evolution often preferred Lamarck’s theory, until it became clear that there was not a shed of evidence for the inheritance of acquired properties.
It is ironical that Gregor Mendel’s almost contemporary discovery (1865) of the laws mentioned after him and starting genetics as the necessary foundation of evolution theory was ignored for 35 years. Only the synthesis of Darwin’s idea
of natural selection with genetics, microbiology, and molecular biology (about 1930) made the majority of biologists to accept evolution.
Physicists only became convinced after they
accepted that also the macrocosmos is subject to evolution. Until the investigation of radioactivity they accepted a calculation by William Thomson that the earth is not old enough to satisfy Darwin’s theory. The discovery of Edwin Hubble’s law
in 1929 based on observations (in 1927 theoretically predicted by Georges Lemaître from general relativity theory) implied that all distant galaxies are moving apart at a speed proportional to their mutual distance, meaning that the universe expands
continuously at a decreasing temperature. From this law the age of the universe can be estimated to be about 13.7 billion years.
Nuclear, atomic, and molecular science in bond with astrophysics
has been able to explain the evolution of chemical elements and compounds, where evolution is understood as their gradual realization. Physical and chemical laws determine which structures are possible in certain circumstances, such as temperature
and the availability of necessary components. Therefore natural laws, both generic and specific, may be called the pull of the chemical evolution, whereas random events, in particular circumstances, constitute its push. A similar metaphor can be applied to
biological evolution, the pull being specific laws allowing of viable species, and the push being accidental mutations and natural selection in suitable circumstances.
Whereas for physical
and chemical structures specific laws are sufficiently known, this is not (yet) the case for biological species. On the highest taxonomic level, about 35 living animal phyla are known each with its own body plan.  This is a morphological expression
of the law for a phylum, a covering law for all species belonging to the phylum. It is remarkable that all these phyla manifested themselves almost simultaneously (i.e., within a geological period of several millions of years at most) during the Cambrium,
about 550 million years ago. Afterwards, not a single new phylum has arisen, and the body plans have not changed.  The evolution of the animal world within the phyla (in particular the vertebrates) is much better documented in fossil records than
that of other kingdoms. Nowadays also DNA research contributes much information. Evolution is an open process, which natural history can be investigated, but which future cannot be predicted.
How suitable are the physical circumstances for the emergence of living beings in the universe? It is a remarkable and unexplained fact that the values of a number of physical constants (including, for instance,
the gravitational constant) seem to be ‘fine-tuned’ in order to allow of the existence of living beings. This means that if one or more of these constants would have had a slightly different value, living systems as we know these would be impossible.
 Some adherents of natural theology consider this a new argument for the existence of God,  but it does not differ much from William Paley’s argument from design (12.2).
Evolution theory may
be summarized into four different steps.  Historical evolution or progressive creation concerns the insights that according to the geological time scale the earth is about 4.6 billion years old, and that living beings appeared on earth
successively, as can be derived from the fossil archive. The second step, common descent or common ancestry, is the explanation of this historical succession by the hypothesis that any form of life is descended from an earlier one.
The strongest version assumes that all living beings on earth have the same common ancestor. The third step is the strong Darwinian evolution theory, stating that the only engine of evolution is natural selection based on random mutations. The fourth step
dates from the synthesis of natural selection with genetics, microbiology, and molecular biology, circa 1930.  This moderate neo-Darwinism recognizes that besides natural selection structural principles constitute constraints on evolution.
This structuralist evolution theory  is rejected by radical evolutionists, but is practised by all biological paleontologists, investigating structures lasting since hundreds of millions of years according to fossil evidence and DNA analysis.
The view that natural structures are realized successively by evolution belongs to the now prevailing scientific world view and is also accepted by many Christian philosophers and scientists. In
1956 Jan Lever published Creatie en evolutie (Creation and evolution, 1958), convincing many Christians of the viability of evolution.
According to Herman Dooyeweerd, evolution is a subjective process of becoming in which structural principles of created reality are successively realized. ‘It concerns the realization of the most individualized and differentiated structural types in
plants and animals. It does not concern the structural types as laws or ordering types for the long process of the genesis of the flora and the fauna within the order of time.’
Neither evolution as a natural phenomenon nor its theory should be identified with evolutionism. This is a reductionist, ontological- naturalist, materialist, and exclusive world view, in which
‘... evolution functions as a myth, ... a shared way of understanding ourselves at the deep level of religion, a deep interpretation of ourselves to ourselves, a way of telling us why we are here, where we come from, and where we are going.’
applies the concept of evolution at all times and everywhere, including the humanities, theology not excepted.
In contrast to evolutionism the evolution theory is a scientific construction, restricted to physical, chemical and biological processes, as practised by natural scientists.
One of the basic assumptions of the standard Darwinian theory of evolution is that each living organism is genetically related to all others. As far as known there is no living individual that
does not descend from another one. This proposition, omne vivum ex vivo, expresses a universal biological law. It is not an a prioristatement (until the middle of the nineteenth century scientists considered generatio spontanea very well
possible  ), but is based on empirical research. This general law prohibits a biological explanation of the emergence of the first living beings. There are more unexplained transitions, like the emergence of the
first eukaryotic cells (having a cell nucleus, unlike prokaryotes); of multi-cellular living beings; of sexual reproduction; and of the first plants, animals, and fungi. Finally, there is the emergence of humankind, for which the theory of evolution may be
able to give a necessary, but not a sufficient explanation.
Naturalists reduce the normative aspects of reality to the natural ones. They believe that everything is restless subject
to natural laws. Sometimes they believe that people are not free to act, and cannot be held responsible for their acts and the ensuing consequences.  That is highly remarkable, because both physics and biology heavily depend on the occurrence of stochastic
or random events, and do not provide a deterministic basis for naturalism (chapter 9).
The laws of Darwinian evolution, about adaptation, natural selection, and common descent are generic,
not specific. This is a property they share with the physical laws of mechanics and of thermodynamics. In Darwin’s time positivist and materialist energeticists (10.6) like Friedrich Ostwald, Ernst Mach, and initially Max Planck, believed that all of
physics should be explained from these general laws, interpreted to be deterministic. They scorned Ludwig Boltzmann for applying statistics to physical problems. They rejected the reality of atoms and molecules. The development of physics during the twentieth
century made clear that the generic laws act as constraints, not showing what is possible but rather what is impossible. Processes violating the law of energy conservation are prohibited, for instance. In the twentieth century it became clear that these generic
laws are not sufficient. Physicists discovered typical conservation laws like the law of conservation of electric charge, besides symmetry laws, again prohibiting certain conceivable processes (chapter 8). These laws give room for processes that might happen,
without determining which processes that would be, which in part depends on accidental circumstances.
Similarly, Darwin’s theory may be able to explain which circumstances allow
(or in particular do not allow) species to come into being, or force them to be extinguished. But the theory does not explain why some species correspond with stable organisms in these circumstances and others do not. Since the twentieth-century synthesis
of Darwin’s theory with genetics and molecular biology, biologists have become aware that the generic laws of evolution should be complemented with specific laws in order to explain the enormous variety of living beings (6.7). 
Naturalism interprets human history as the continuation of natural evolution, determined by physical-chemical, biological and psychological laws and relations. The study of animals living in groups is called ‘socio-biology’. For quite some time, Edward Wilson’s sociobiology has been controversial as far as
its results were extrapolated to human behaviour. Sociobiology was accused of ‘genetic
determinism’, i.e. the view that human behaviour is mostly or entirely genetically determined.
In the biological evolution the transfer of genetic information is central. Radical
evolutionists like Richard Dawkins even assume that the bearers of this information are not the individual plants and animals or their populations, but the ‘selfish’ genes themselves.
However, Ernst Mayr asserts: ‘The geneticists, almost from 1900 on, in a rather reductionist spirit preferred to consider the gene the target of evolution. In the past 25 years, however, they have largely returned to the Darwinian view that the individual
is the principal target.’
Naturalists are inclined to describe human history analogous to the evolution, in particular by applying Charles Darwin’s ideas about adaption and natural selection. Instead of genes they consider memes as culture elements which are non-genetically
distributed about bearers of information. Memes would form the units of the cultural transfer of experience.
The historical and cultural transfer of experience in asymmetrical relations (like that of teachers and their pupils) is as diverse as human experience itself.
It includes the transfer of knowledge, to start with practical know-how. Education and language are instrumental in the transfer of experience, which is completely absent in the animal world. The transfer of experience as an engine of history replaces heredity
as an engine of biotic evolution, but the genetic theory of evolution is not applicable to history.
Natural selection is a slow process. The evolution of humanlike hominids
to the present homo sapiens took at least six million years, which is not even long on a geological scale. But human history is at most two hundred thousand years old. Because of human activity, it happens much faster than biological evolution, and
is even accelerating. Moreover, human experience cannot be inherited. In contrast to Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Darwin excluded the genetic transfer of experience.
Besides radical evolutionists
like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries several neuroscientists became strong defendants of ontological naturalism. Whereas mainstream philosophy was mainly concerned either with positivist epistemology or with
existentialism, both with the focus on the ideal of personality, neurophilosophers stressed the natural functioning of the human brain and thus the ideal of science.
radical ontological naturalism has its counterpart in the no less radical relativism, to which we shall return in chapter 13.
But first we shall criticize evolutionism by looking at
some differences between animals and human beings.
12.8. Animal behaviour and human activity
Enlightenment philosophy was especially interested in the natural sciences, in natural laws and evolution. Romanticism was more involved with the humanities, with history,
with social and political values, like human rights and the famous triad of freedom, equality, and fraternity. In this development several views on ethics played a part.
is as old as philosophy, only in the twentieth century, biological ethology entered the scene. It studies the behaviour of animals, which is not subject to values or norms, but to specific natural laws, restricted to the species to which
the animal belongs. Psychic and organic needs determine the strongly programmed animal behaviour as well as related kinds of human behaviour. In contrast, human acts are characterized by free will and normative relations. ‘If we describe what
people or animals do, without inquiring into their subjective reasons for doing it, we are talking about their behaviour. If we study the subjective aspects of what they do, the reasons and ideas underlying and guiding it, we are concerned with the
world of meaning. If we concern ourselves both with what people are, overtly and objectively, seen to do (or not to do) and their reasons for so doing (or not doing) which relate to the world of meaning and understanding, we then describe action.’
has a primary or a secondary character. Feelings people have in common with animals like fear, pain, cold or hunger, are primarily psychic or organic. Besides, people have a secondary sense of skilful labour, beauty, clarity, truth, service, management, justice
and loving care. The awareness of these values points to a human disposition which is not yet articulated, a heritable intuition, shared by all people, laid down in the human genetic and psychic constitution. When this intuition is developed in education one
speaks of a virtue or a vice.
Animals have a sense of regularity, such that they are able to learn, but only people are able to achieve explicit knowledge about natural laws as well
as about values and norms. This knowledge rests on intuition, and is opened up by image formation, interpretation, argumentation, conviction, and education. During this lifelong process, people develop experienced values into norms within the context of their
history, culture, and civilization. Hence, values, being normative principles, should be distinguished from actual norms. ‘Values are central standards, by which people judge the behaviour of one’s own and that of others. In contrast
to a norm, a value does not specify a concrete line of action, but rather an abstract starting point for behaviour. Therefore, values or ‘principles’ are ideas, to a large extent forming the frame of reference of all kinds of perception. Often,
a value forms the core of a large number of norms.’ Instead of ‘value’
the term ‘commandment’ could be used in order to indicate both the agreement and the difference with a natural law. Animals satisfy coercive natural laws. People do that too, but moreover they obey (or disobey) commandments.
The distinction of animals and human beings is a problem for the Enlightenment. On the one hand naturalism requires that human beings do not fundamentally differ from animals, that human acts are not different from
animal behaviour. On the other hand the ideal of personality demands a different view of people, expressed by their moral, not determined by natural laws but by values and norms.
central theme of Enlightenment philosophy is the self-image of people, in particular their autonomy, to be a law onto themselves. Probably animals (at least mammals and birds) have a sense of identity, too, but contrary to humans animals cannot take distance
to their environment, their relatives, or to themselves. Animal behaviour is largely stereotype, laid down in the genetic structure of the species. In contrast, human acts, as far as these transcend animal behaviour, are free and responsible. An animal is
bound to its Umwelt, the environment as it experiences it immediately, its physical, organic and psychic relations, in which it has specialised itself such that it has optimal chances to survive and to reproduce. In contrast, humans are not completely
fixated, they are Weltoffen, open to the world.
The standard naturalistic practice is to reduce all normative principles to the natural ones. In order to deny normativity, ontological naturalists often assume that people are not free to act, and cannot be held responsible
for their acts and the ensuing consequences. Everything, including human activity, is completely determined by natural laws. People are not really different from animals, the differences are at most gradual. This rather dogmatic and theoretical view is opposed
by the generally accepted practical assumption that human beings are to a certain extent free to act, and therefore responsible for their deeds. Although this confirms common understanding, in philosophy it is an unprovable hypothesis. Naturalist philosophers
denying free will cannot prove their view too, but they should carry the burden of proof for a conviction deviating from common sense.
Of course, many human acts are based on a reflex or some other fixed action pattern, wired in the brain or the nervous system. Experiments pointing this out cannot prove, however, that this is always the case.
Naturalistic evolutionism that considers a human being like an animal or plant merely as an accidental natural product, wants to explain the evolution of humankind as part of the animal world as a completely natural process.
This does not explain, however, the universal notion of norms and values by which humanity transcends the animal world, the metaphorical notion that humanity has been called out of the animal world. The evolution of humankind, like the evolution of
plants and animals, occurs partly according to natural laws, in the future maybe providing a minimum necessary, though not a sufficient explanation for the coming into being of humanity.
For a sufficient explanation one has to take into account commandments, irreducible to natural laws.
Concerning a minimum necessary explanation, there is no reasonable doubt that human
beings, as far as their body structure is concerned, evolved from the animal world. This is a hypothesis, for which no logical proof exists, and probably never will exist. Scientific laboratories cannot copy evolution. However, scientific evidence differs
from logical proof. Science does not require conclusive proof for the hypothesis of human descent from the animal world.It requires empirical proof that does not contradict the hypothesis, but corroborates it. Evidence for evolution, including the human one,
is available in abundance. Moreover, for the aforementioned hypothesis no scientifically defensible or viable alternative appears to be at hand.
Both human beings and animals belong
to the world of living beings because of their organic character, but they transcend it as well. In contrast to plants, the character of animals is not primarily organic, but psychic, characterized by their behaviour. Likewise, the assumption that humans have
a place in the animal kingdom does not imply that they are characterized by their natural behaviour. It does not exclude that a human body differs from an animal body in several respects.
The size of the brain, the erect gait, the versatility of the human hand, the absence of a tail, and the naked skin point to the unique position of humankind in the animal world.
to Martin Buber human being starts with taking distance to the Umwelt, such
that a person stands opposite nature, something an animal cannot do: its Umwelt is its immediately experienced world. The Urdistanzierung or Urdistanz at the start of humanity repeats itself in the development of each child. This
movement is followed by another one, Beziehung, becoming related to the world, in particular to fellow people. In the ich-du (I-you) relation each human being searches for self-confirmation, Bestätigung.
Hence the human self starts with the possibility to take distance. This is connected to the consciousness of time, of past, present and future, enabling people to cultivate the earth. By taking distance people become
free to disclose themselves and the earth.
Human beings are called out of the animal world in order to command nature in a responsible way, to love their neighbours, and to serve their
God. People are called to further good and combat evil, in freedom and responsibility. Science or philosophy cannot explain this vocation from the laws of nature. Yet it may be considered an empirical fact that all people experience a calling to do well and
to avoid evil. This fact is open to scientific archaeological and historical research, as well as for philosophical and theological discussion.
The question of when this calling
was manifested for the first time can only be answered within a wide margin. It is comparable to the question of when (between conception and birth) a human embryo becomes an individual person, with a vocation to be human. The creation of humanity before all
times, including the vocation to function as God’s image, should be distinguished from its realization in the course of time. Contrary to the first, the latter can be dated in principle.
The fact that animals can learn from their experience shows that they have a sense for natural regularity, but only people consider commandments. Though not coercive, values appear to be as universal as the natural laws. From the beginning of history,
human beings have been aware that they are to a certain extent free to obey or to disobey these commandments in a way that neither animals nor human beings can obey or disobey natural laws. Moreover, sooner or later they discovered that the normative principles
are not sufficient. In particular the organization of human societies required the introduction of human-made norms as implementation or positivization of normative principles. Therefore, human freedom and responsibility have two sides. At the law
side it means the development of norms from normative principles, which norms are different at historical times and places, in various cultures and civilizations. At the subject side, individual persons and their associations are required to act according
to these norms, in order to warrant the execution of their freedom and responsibility. There is no need to argue that both have been misused at a large scale.
The normative principles
like justice are universal and recognizable in the whole of history (as far as documented), in all cultures and civilizations. Human skills, aesthetic experience, and language may widely differ, but are always present and recognizable where people are found.
The sense of universal values and norms is inborn.
 Israel 2006, chapter 31.
 Israel 2006, chapter 32.
 Israel 2006, chapter 33.
 Israel 2006, chapter 33.
 Israel 2006,
 Israel 2001, chapter
 Israel 2001, chapter
 Wootton 2015, 299-300.
 Colin MacLaurin, cited by Israel 2006,
 Gillispie 1951, 35-40;
Dawkins 1986, 4-5.
1974; Rutten, de Ridder 2015.
1948, 286-289; Taylor 1989, 140; Troost 2004, 283.
Miles 1995, 18 (prologue); Armstrong 1993.
Auerbach 1946, chapter 1.
 Toulmin, Goodfield
1965; Lindberg, Numbers (eds.) 1986; Barrow, Tipler 1986, chapter 2; Bowler 1989; Israel 2001, chapter 24; de Pater 2005.
Newton 1687, 544; 1704, 402-403.
 Hawking 1988;
 Einstein in
1929, quoted in Schilpp (ed.) 1949, 103, 659-660; Spinoza 1677, First part.
Papineau 1993, 1-2; Gaukroger 1995, 147-150; Plantinga 2011.
Huxley (1889), cited in Dupree 1986, 362-363.
Isaac Newton, ‘Scheme for establishing the Royal Society’ (1703), quoted by Westfall 1980, 632.
Rudwick 2005, 115-131.
Rudwick 2005, 90-94.
1951, chapter II, III; Rudwick 2005,158-172.
Gillispie 1951, 44; Rudwick 2005, 172-178.
Gillispie 1951, 46-48.
Rudwick 2005, 434-445.
Gillispie 1951, chapter IV. Rudwick 2005 deals extensively with Cuvier’s works.
Gillispie 1951, chapter V; Rudwick 2008, 201-206, 244-390.
Rudwick 2008, 423-436.
Gillispie 1951, chapter VI.
Clouser. 2016; Van den Brink 2017, chapter 4.
 Van den
Brink 2017, 14.
 Van den
Brink 2017, 114-120.
 Klein, Lefèvre
 Raff 1996, chapter 3.
 Denton 2016, chapter 13.
 Rutten, de Ridder 2015, chapter 3.
 Van den Brink 2017, section 2.1 does not
mention the fourth step.
Mayr 1982, chapter 12.
Denton 2016; Alexander 2018.
 Plantinga 1991,
682; Medley 1985.
 See e.g. Swab 2010, chapter XVIII.
 Miller 1999; Cunningham 2010, chapter
 Medley 1985; Segerstråle 2000;
 Dawkins 1976;
Sober 1993, chapter 4.
1976; Cunningham 2010, 206-212; Dennett 2017, chapters 10-11.
1976, xv, referring to Max Weber.
Van Doorn, Lammers 1959, 99 (my translation); Hübner 1978, 108.
Scheler 1928, 37-39.
1982, 27-28, See also Popper 1972, chapter 6.
 Sperna Weiland
1999, chapter 10.