Causes and the Origin of Life: Philosophy of Nature, Metaphysics, and Theology

William Carroll

Zhongnan University

For many, there seems to be a strict disjunction: either we seek to explain the origin of life in terms of purely natural processes or we appeal to some kind of divine intervention that bridges the distinction between the non-living and the living. Must one accept the need to choose between natural and divine causality in explaining the origin of life? Are the causes that exist in the natural order sufficiently robust to explain the origin of living things? What is the relationship between divine causality and the causality of creatures in addressing this question? In particular, does the analysis of natural causes and creation set forth by Thomas Aquinas provide the basis for an adequate explanation of the initial emergence of life?

William E. Carroll is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan, China. He has recently retired from research and teaching in the Aquinas Institute, Blackfriars, in the University of Oxford. He is the author of La Creación y las Ciencias Naturales: Actualidad de Santo Tomás de Aquino, and co-author of Aquinas on Creation. He has twice been Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Biological Sciences of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

This talk is part of the conference “The Origin of Life and Nature Before Sin: Scientific and Theological Perspectives”, which took place at the Angelicum on 1-2 April 2022. Click here to download the conference brochure.