Jacques Maritain Center: Ethics Without God?

Aristotle vs. the Neo-Darwinians:
Human Nature and the Foundation of Ethics

Marie I. George

It has been claimed in recent times that a Darwinian theory of human nature provides a basis for a normative ethics.{1} I was initially interesting in examining this position as a way of approaching the broader question of what view of human nature will allow for a science of ethics, i.e., for ethical knowledge that would hold good for all times and places. Upon being presented with the conference's question: Is ethics possible without God?, it occured to me that it would be interesting to compare the theist philosopher Aristotle to the atheist or agnostic Neo-Darwinians as to if and how their views about God affected their ability to find a solid foundation for a science of ethics.

I am not interested here in looking at the is-ought question, a common question that arises when someone tries to found ethics on some understanding of human nature.{2} I am going to assume along with Aristotle and the Neo-Darwinians that human nature is a point of reference which provides a framework for determining non-arbitrary rules for what is right and wrong,{3} without worrying exactly how one gets from the one to the other.{4}

My thesis here is that the most fatal mistakes made in attempts to found ethics lie in misunderstandings concerning nature, both nature in general and human nature. In particular, I think that Aristotle's ethics is a basically sound enterprise because of four positions he holds at the outset. First, in regard to nature, he holds that nature acts for an end. Secondly, in regard to human nature, he holds the following three things: 1) reason is not just another sense power, but is an immaterial faculty capable of grasping goods which are not material; 2) we are truly free; 3) human nature is in some sense fundamentally unchanging. I will argue that Neo-Darwinian attempts to found ethics fail because they deny the above. I also maintain, however, that one's position concerning the existence of God does have an effect on the foundations of moral science, albeit in a couple of less immediate and more subtle ways. I will argue that although one's knowledge of nature is prior to one's knowledge of God's existence, there is a close connection between the question on finality in nature and that of whether there is a Mind behind nature, and for this reason, views on theism and atheism impact upon what respect one thinks should be accorded to nature, and this in turn affects the way one approaches moral questions, for the better or for the worse.

Another point where knowledge of God's existence would appear to have bearing on the foundations of ethics regards the Neo-Darwinians' materialism, something that they use as grounds to dismiss both free will and the notion that man has some good beyond what is sensible. I am not entirely sure whether the connection between God's existence and the immaterial nature of reason and free will is so tight that if one affirms that reason is an immaterial power, then one must also affirm that God exists, or if one denies that God exists, one must also deny that immaterial powers in man exist. Most likely this is the case. And if this is so, those Neo-Darwinians who start from atheism as from a first principle do cut themselves off from the understanding of man's nature requisite for doing ethics.

Beyond the question of how theism/atheism impact on moral science, is the question of what role supernatural faith in God might play in regard to ethics. I intend to briefly elaborate a fairly typical Thomistic answer to the question.

First let me clarify the difference between Neo-Darwinian biology and Neo-Darwinian philosophy. Darwinian theory is a biological theory ordered to explaining the diversification of life forms over time. Its central tenet is that the driving forces behind evolution are random variation and natural selection: random variation renders some organisms more reproductively fit, and these "naturally selected" individuals leave more offspring (or at least more genes like their own).{5} Neo-Darwinian theories complete Darwin's picture with knowledge of genetics which explains the sources of variation and how traits are transmitted and seek to fill in details about the modalities of evolution.

Now a number of thinkers have elaborated philosophical views that take their inspiration from Darwinian biology. Views vary somewhat from one Neo-Darwinian thinker to another, but a commonly held set of core tenets are the following: 1) There are no final causes in nature. Nature does not act for an end. If organisms arise with the necessary parts (and behaviors) to survive and reproduce, the production of either the parts in question or the whole organism was in nowise a goal aimed at by the natural agency responsible for their apparition.{6} New features and new organisms arise by chance and the organisms survive if they can meet the environmental challenges they are faced with. 2) Random variation and natural selection adequately account for the adaptations we observe in living nature, and thus remove any need for a supernatural "Designer."{7} Whence Richard Dawkins off-quoted claim that Darwin made it possible to be "an intellectually fulfilled atheist." 3) Human beings are just another animal; as products of the material causes of random mutation and natural selection, we have no immaterial soul and there is no need to appeal to "special creation."{8} 4) In order to understand a given human behavior, one should proceed on the assumption that it, like a behavior belonging to any other animal, is geared to maximizing the passing on of one's own genes, or at least genes similar to one's own.{9} I in nowise mean to say that if one accepts evolution, and even the Neo-Darwinian account of evolution, one is logically obliged to subscribe to the Neo-Darwinian philosophy just described. I in fact do not think that either is the case, but here is not the place to argue those points. It is simply factually true that this philosophy is espoused by a certain number of those who took their inspiration from a Neo-Darwinian account of evolution. A science of ethics is expected to offer some sort of rules or guidelines for making choices. Those ethicists who reject the idea that these rules are relative to individual desire or relative to the desire of the majority generally turn in one manner or another to human nature as providing an objective basis for what we should and should not do. The basic idea is that just as submersing a blender or putting a spoon in it while it is on is bad for the blender because of the way it is constructed, so too certain activities are good or bad for humans because of the way we are constituted, independent of how we'd like things to be. The question then becomes how are we constituted, so that we can determine what things are good for us to do, and what are not. A doubt looms right away whether the kind of black and white rules for handling a blender can be found in the case of human behavior:

The subjects studied by political science, the good and the just, involve much difference of opinion and uncertainty, so that they are sometimes believed to be mere conventions and not to exist by nature. And similar uncertainty surrounds the good, because it frequently occurs that good things have harmful consequences: people before now have been undone by wealth, and others by their courage. We must be content, then, in speaking of such subjects and with such premisses to indicate the truth roughly and in outline, and in speaking about things which are only for the most part true and with premisses of the same kind to reach conclusions that are no better. (Nicomachean Ethics,{10} 1094b15-24)

One of the biggest challenges of doing ethics is separating constants in human action from the dizzying variety of circumstances accompanying concrete choices. But what if human nature itself changed? Then there wouldn't be any constants in human action, and morality appropriate in one stage in human history would cease to be so in a later stage. It is in regard to this question that we find one of the biggest differences in traditional ethics and the ethics advocated by many Neo-Darwinians. I intend to take it up first, followed by the other points of difference, which regard finality in nature, and the existence of free will and of a uniquely human good.

Aristotle appears to weigh in in favor of human nature being a changeable nature:

That justice varies is not absolutely true, but only with qualifications. Among the gods indeed it is perhaps not true at all; but in our world, although there is such a thing as natural justice, yet everything is capable of change. But nevertheless there is such a thing as natural justice as well as justice that is not from nature; and it is [not?{11}] clear of things that can be other, which are from nature and which are but legal and conventional, both sorts alike being capable of change. The same distinction holds good in regard to other matters; for instance the right hand is naturally stronger than the left, yet it is possible for any [?all{12}] man to make himself [be born?{13}] ambidextrous. (Nicomachean Ethics, 1134b28-1135a1)

Aristotle here seems to be making more than the innocent claim that human beings are material beings subject to change, looking to the fact that we have a life cycle or that we perfect ourselves through similar choices repeated over a period of time or that the circumstances surrounding our actions are subject to continual flux. The doubts about the text itself make it difficult to get at Aristotle's exact meaning. Certainly individual humans can be born possessing or lacking features natural to the race (e.g., be born with an extra finger or lacking sight). Still it is hard to see how Aristotle could envisage the entire race changing (in which case what is generally just might have to change).

Aquinas of course comments on this passage, and he speaks about the "mutability of human nature" in regard to the question of justice in other places as well.

First he [Aristotle] shows in what manner naturally just things are variable (mobilia) ... He say that it is manifest that the same determination that befits other things that are natural with us, also applies to those things that are naturally just. For those things that are natural with us exist in the same manner in the greater number of cases, but are lacking in the minority of cases; as it is natural for the right side to be stronger than the left. . . . so too in the case of things naturally just, for instance, a deposit should be returned is something that should be observed in the greater number of cases, but [the rule] changes in a few cases. One should nevertheless attend to the fact that the notions (rationes) of changeable things are unchanging, and thus whatever is natural to us as pertaining to the notion itself of man, in no manner changes, for instance, that man is an animal. Things which follow upon a nature, such as dispositions, actions, and motions are changed (mutantur) in the fewer number of cases. And similarly those things which pertain to the very notion of justice can in no manner be changed, for instance, that one ought not steal, because this is to commit an injustice. Those things which are consequent [upon the notion of justice] are changed in a few cases.{14}

But again, in this passage too, there is no indication that what is natural in the sense that it follows upon a nature could be changed in the majority of individuals. Aquinas would never envisage that withholding a deposit could become the thing that ought to be done in the greater number of cases.{15}

In yet another place Aquinas says:

when a being has an unchangeable nature what is natural must always and everywhere be such. The nature of man, however, is changeable. And therefore what is natural to man can be missing. As there is natural equality in rendering a deposit to the one who deposited it, it would be the case that if human nature was always upright this should always be observed. But because it sometimes happens that the will of a person is corrupted, there are cases when the deposit should not be returned, lest a man having a perverse will make bad use of it; as would be the case for instance, if a crazy person or an enemy of the state reclaimed arms that had been left as a deposit.{16}

On this account too, the need to make an exception to the aforementioned rule of justice does not stem from a change in human nature as such, but from a change in a circumstance, namely, the "to whom." So despite everything that is said by Aristotle and Aquinas regarding the changing character of human nature, they do not appear to mean that human nature changes, but only that the human condition does.

What do the Neo-Darwinians have to say about the changeability of human nature? It is a hard to decipher exactly what the Neo-Darwinian position on the matter is, since they define their views partly in opposition to Aristotle's, but it is not always clear that they have understood what Aristotle thought. I am referring to sticky problems related to Aristotle's supposed "essentialism", problems that we need not answer here.

David Hull explains the position of interest to us:

One consequence of evolutionary theory is that species as such can have no essences as defined above [namely, a permanent set of necessary and sufficient traits] (Hull, 1965). Rarely if ever can a set of traits be discovered which distinguishes one species from all other species throughout its existence. Species split into two or more species very gradually. At any one time there are species in all states of speciation.{17}

In other words, one might think that a given species X must have a fixed set of traits, say, A, B, and C, and that if an individual is found to have traits A, B, and C it must belong to the species X. The problem Hull is pointing to is that while species X in the beginning had traits A, B, and C, it might with time eventually lose trait A without becoming a new species. And a new species that originated from species X might have traits A, B, and C, plus some other trait that species X lacked. Ernst Mayr accordingly speaks of species as "temporary incarnations of harmonious, well-integrated gene complexes."{18} He holds that "it is always uncertain whether newly acquired adaptations are of permanent value."{19} This leads Mayr to draw the following conclusions about morality:

There are two reasons why the traditional norms of the West are no longer adequate. The first is their rigidity. The essence of the evolutionary process is variability and change, and ethical norms must be sufficiently flexible and versatile to be able to cope with a change of conditions. The second reason is that mankind has indeed experienced a drastic accelerating change of conditions. Perhaps the most important component in this change has been the steady enlargement of human groups during the last 10 to 15 thousand years. With the coming of agriculture, a larger group was favored because it could better protect against marauders, and the availability of a good food supply likewise favored population growth. A change in values-- for instance, greater emphasis on property rights--was inevitable. Some of the ethical norms adopted by the pastoral people of the Near East more than 3,000 years ago are altogether inadequate for the modern urbanized mass society.
The third great ethical problem of our day is posed by the discovery of our responsibility toward nature as a whole. Growth, whether economic growth, populational growth, or whatever other kind of growth, used to rank very high in our value system. Even though certain influential people...have so far failed to appreciate the danger of overpopulation, I cannot see how it can be ignored any longer. Certain of our societies, like those of China and Singapore, have courageously tackled this problem by a reordering of ethical values. The sooner other societies follow, the better it will be for the ultimate good of mankind.{20}

Mayr's view that moral values rightly change with the times puts him only a hairsbreadth from out-and-out relativism -- if nature is a measure for him, it is not a fixed one. And the gap is further narrowed when one takes in account our ability to manipulate evolutionary pressures placed upon us by the environment, in addition to which we may eventually perfect ways of altering our very genetic make-up.{21} For example, instead of letting the hole in the ozone layer select for those individuals more resistant to skin cancer, we make things to protect us from excess solar radiation, from things as simple as hats to chemical products such as sun screens. We control our environment in myriad ways, e.g., air conditioning. And through medicine we resist and cure diseases which otherwise would have eliminated less fit individuals.

This leads us to a second problem with Neo-Darwinism and ethics. Neo-Darwinians deny that in our decisions to produce technology we should take any cue from our nature. For them, not only is nature inherently changeable, but nothing produced by nature is aimed at. All natural things are the result of blind forces. Thus, there is no reason to let nature dictate to us what we should or should not do. From this perspective, it would be ridiculous, for example, to have moral qualms about in vitro fertilization because it was unnatural. Sure in the olden days humans had to procreate children by a physical act, and also had to take children as they came. However, now with the advance of technology babies can be made in a dish, and after tests are done for birth defects, the parents (or parent) can select the offspring that they (or he or she) want. Why should a couple having problems conceiving be held back from having the offspring they desire because of scruples about interferring with natural acts which after all are simply the product of the blind forces random variation and natural selection, and in addition are not written in stone,{22} but may change with time, like any other biological feature. So the Neo-Darwinian attitude that what is natural is merely the product of blind forces further reinforces the notion that a thing's nature in no wise provides a standard for action, a notion derived from their view of natures as being continually open to change. From the Neo-Darwinian perspective, the fact that evolution is a slow process, and thus that human nature is not undergoing radical changes from year to year, ultimately does not argue in favor of a "conservative ethic." Indeed the very slowness of evolution in adjusting a population to changes in the environment is a reason to take things in our own hands. An obvious example of this way of thinking is that given the difficulty for the presently large human population sustain itself, why wait for nature to adjust human fertility when on can do so by artificial means.{23}

I am not going to pretend that I can neatly refute the Neo-Darwinian affirmation of blind forces being the sole causes of the adaptations that are present in organisms, nor is this the place for an extensive treatment of the matter. However, I will point out a couple of apparent weaknesses in their position.

Richard Dawkins in his book The Blind Watchmaker offers a number of scenarios supposedly analogical to what goes on in nature with the goal of showing that blind processes can give meaningful results. One of them involves a computer. Dawkins instructs us to take a sentence such as 'Methinks it is a weasel', and try to get a computer to come up with it by randomly producing letters. It is easy to see that a computer would never manage to do it in any reasonable amount of time, if ever at all. Next he says, say that one programmed the computer to retain each of the randomly produced letters when it comes up in the right place; then it wouldn't take all that long for the computer to come up with the sentence. Dawkins says that natural selection, a blind force, is analogous to the computer's retaining the correct letters. Now as many authors have pointed out, the meaningful result is not arrived at by pure randomness, but by use of intelligence which devised the algorithm that was subsequently programmed into the computer, so that the computer would retain the correct letters.{24} Ironically what Dawkins's scenario points to is if one wants to get a meaningful result, one has to import intelligence somewhere.

Another thing that the Neo-Darwinians entirely overlook is that the fact that blind processes can result in living things arising from non-living things requires an explanation. Presupposed to the origin of the living from the non-living is pre-existing matter, not of just any sort, but one having the potency to be formed into living things. Similarly, there is a need for appropriate agents -- not just any sort of will do, but there must be ones apt to impart the appropriate forms to the appropriate matter. In addition, in order for the supposedly randomly formed living things to survive and reproduce, there must be a habitat favorable to them, and the possibility of its development also needs explanation. Just as it is luck that one throw double sixes, but not that one can throw double sixes (this is due to six spots being on one side of each die), so too it may be luck that this or that organism appear, but that it be able to appear does not seem adequately explained by "that's just the way things are." The universe contains a complete kit for the evolution of life whose assembly involves trial and error, as it were. The chance and necessity of the processes that allow living thing to develop and evolve do not negate or explain the existence of the complete kit for life the universe contains, one where the "pieces" are able to be assembled into functional beings.{25}

Aristotle, of course, defends the thesis that "nature acts for an end." He does this being fully aware of the Darwinian alternative which had already been enunciated as to its essential features by the pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus. He sees a kind of intelligence in nature although does not attribute intelligence to natural processes, as if the living thing itself had the ability to figure out the appropriateness of the means to the goal that is achieved:

This is most obvious in animals other than man: they make things neither by art nor after inquiry or deliberation. Wherefore people discuss whether it is by intelligence or by some other faculty that these creatures work, -- spiders, ants, and the like. By gradual advance in this direction we come to see clearly that in plants too that is produced which is conducive to the end -- leaves, e.g., grow to provide shade for the fruit. If then it is both by nature and for an end that the swallow makes its nest and the spider its web, and plants grow leaves for the sake of the fruit and send their roots down (not up) for the sake of nourishment, it is plain that this kind of cause is operative in things which come to be and are by nature. (Physics, 199a20-30{26})

Of course the Darwinians will come back and say that nature acts "as if" it were aiming at an end, but actually what occurs is just the result of random processes blindly sorted by natural selection.{27} Again I question whether blind forces alone can account for the specific parts and their specific ordering to one another which is needed in order to be viable. In any case there is no doubt that Aristotle saw something like intelligence in nature:

[I]f a house, e.g., had been a thing made by nature, it would have been made in the same way as it is now by art; and if things made by nature were made also by art, they would come to be in the same way as by nature. (Physics, 199a13-15)

If the ship-building art were in the wood, it would produce the same results by nature. (Physics, 199b27)

In Aristotle, a principle related to "nature acts for an end," as also bespeaking a certain intelligence in nature, is "nature does nothing in vain." Aristotle might seem to go a bit too far in asserting the presence of finality in nature when he says that "nature does nothing in vain." After all animals do sometimes expend effort with no result, e.g., a parent bird flies back to the nest with food for its nestlings only to discover that they have been eaten. Aristotle certainly does not mean to deny chance events -- he devotes chapters 4-6 in the Physics to discussing them. Indeed in chapter 8 response to the objection that nature does not act for an end, because it does not always attain its end, Aristotle explicitly states:

Now mistakes come to pass even in the operations of art: the grammarian makes a mistake in writing and the doctor pours out the wrong dose. Hence clearly mistakes are possible in the operations of nature also. If then in art there are cases in which what is rightly produced serves a purpose, and if where mistakes occur there was a purpose in what was attempted, only it was not attained, so must it be also in natural products, and monstrosities will be failures in the purposive effort. (Physics, 199a33-b5)

So when Aristotle says that nature does nothing in vain, he could not be referring to failures of natural processes in particular cases.{28} Nor would it be reasonable to take him to acknowledge that the only flaws and useless features in natural things are flukes that belong to particular individuals due to bad luck. There are flaws and useless features which are attributes of all normal members of a species. The pains of childbirth, the messiness of menstruation, men's nipples, and wisdom teeth, are all examples of normal human characteristics that are not of themselves conducive to any end{29} and indeed some of them are harmful. However, such flaws and useless features are generally few and relatively minor, and, as Aristotle points out, their existence is often explicable in the context of purpose. Properties of matter that are desirable for an end are often accompanied by properties which are undesirable: iron holds an edge well, but it also rusts. Thus, for example, that the uterus's being kept in optimal condition for receiving newly conceived life comes along with the inconvenience of a periodic shedding of its lining is not evidence that nature acts in vain. Nature in acting for an end is sometimes constrained to adopt means which are appropriate, but not ideal.

Indeed, this is indicated by an important qualification Aristotle adds to his affirmation that nature does nothing in vain:

We must begin our inquiry by assuming the principles which we are frequently accustomed to employ in the investigation of nature, taking them to hold in all the works of nature. One of these principles is that never does anything in vain, but always what is best in view of what is possible in regard to the essence of each kind of animal; for which reason, if it is better to do something in a certain manner, this is the manner that will obtain according to nature." (emphasis mine) (Progression of Animals,{30} 704b11-18):

"The reason why snakes are footless is that nature does nothing in vain, but everything with a view to what is best for each thing within what is possible, preserving the particular essence and purpose of each . . . . (emphasis mine) (Progression of Animals, 708a9-12)

Neo-Darwinians often throw imperfections in design in Aristotle's face to show that he was mistaken in thinking that there was finality and intelligence in nature, but this is disingenuous. If one is going to introduce evolution into the picture of things that occur by nature, one should see if Aristotelian principles can be adapted to fit it, and discard them only if they prove to be inadequate to the task. The essence of evolution is that species originate one from another instead of having independent origins. That the former be so, rather than the latter increases the number of material constraints. To give an analogy: It is much easier to make a dress from brand new fabric, than it is to make it from another garment. There will be more constraints as to what one can do when making over an old garment than if one was starting from untouched material. Similarly in the case of the evolutionary picture of life there are going to be more material constraints here compared to the previous static picture. The biologist François Jabot once said that nature is more like a tinkerer than a divine artificer.{31} While this dichotomy arguably begs the question, there does seem to be a certain amount of truth to the comparison with of nature to a tinkerer. Just as when people were making the first airplanes, they didn't have factories producing the ideal die cast parts, and so they used parts taken from other things, from bicycles, machines, etc., so too evolution proceeds by making use of what is available - starting from scratch is not an option. Thus it is to be expected that sometimes natural processes results in structures that are less than optimal. But this is no argument against intelligence. In fact to the extent that the tinkerer has to make do with what is available, to that extent he requires more intelligence than an artifer who can fabricate new parts that answer precisely to his purposes.{32}

Neo-Darwinian arguments against intelligence in nature based upon the existence of organic parts that would "win no prize in an engineer's derby" actually show just the opposite. S.J. Gould mounts such an argument based on the panda's opposable "finger," which is anatomically not a finger at all, but is "constructed from a bone called the radial sesamoid, normally a small component of the wrist."{33} Gould claims that this "thumb" is not "an engineer's best solution,"{34} not because it does not work very well -- indeed Gould admits being amazed at the panda's dexterity{35} -- but because it lacks the elegant design, for example, of the human thumb. Nevertheless, if the panda's anatomical thumb was not available for development into an opposible digit being, according to Gould, "too specialized for a different function to become an opposable, manipulating digit,"{36} while the radial sesamoid was available, nature in fact adopted an intelligent way of producing an opposable digit in the panda. Gould gives a similar argument in regard to orchids:

Orchids manufacture their intricate devices [to ensure cross-pollination] from the common components of ordinary flower, parts usually fitted for very different function. If God had designed a beautiful machine to reflect his wisdom and power, surely he would not have used a collection of parts generally fashioned for other purposes. Orchids were not made by an idea engineer; they are jury-rigged from a limited set of available components. Thus they must have evolved from ordinary flowers.{37}

If God designed a "beautiful machine" from scratch, he may not have used parts generally made for other purposes. But if God designed a "beautiful machine" to originate from another "machine," then it is not only not unlikely for him to have used parts generally made for other purposes, it is rather very likely, given that he has to use the parts that are available from the other "machine." Once one is aware that evolution places further restrictions as to what is possible than was the case in the fixist view of nature, one realizes that minor flaws are inevitable -- indeed, it is surprising that there are not more. Moreover, nature quite intelligently tends to eliminate those flaws that are eliminable over time, as opportunities arise. Indeed given the considerable material constraints of evolution, the relatively few cases of imperfection in nature provide even more striking proof of intelligence in nature than they did within a fixist framework.

I do not think that the extent to which Aristotle was unaware how big a role matter and motion played in the species of living things he observed around him vitiates his teaching about finality in nature. I think that his teachings regarding what is possible in nature given the realities of material necessity and of chance provide sufficient nuance to his views. "Human nature was instituted without any defect." These are Aquinas's words, but they fit with Aristotle's notion that nature does nothing in vain. One can hold this view without denying the possibility of evolutionary improvement, of things becoming better adapted in some cases than they originally were, so long as one recognizes that improvements may not be realizable all at once due to material constraints and/or due to the need for a lucky mutation or two.

Then there is the issue of changes in conditions -- what was once a useful feature in human beings may become a liability. But one cannot conclude that human nature was instituted with defects because certain features of it cease to be beneficial when the environment changes, for it is impossible for a set of features to be ideal for every set of conditions that arise. What would be a defect would be the inability to change to meet new environmental challenges. There is reason to think that human nature is capable of such changes. Witness changes that have occured in the human species in the case of the different races. Dark skin pigmentation protects those who live in equatorial and low latitudes from UV radiation, whereas the absence of such pigmentation in higher latitudes allows people who have less of their body exposed to sunlight to synthesize enough vitamin D.{38} Similarly slanted eyes are thought to have spread through Asiatic populations living in places where snow blindness was a danger. If this sort of change came about in the race as a whole this would not require us to deny either purpose in nature or a certain perfection to human nature, and this even if such a change involves natural selection, as appears to be the case.

Vis-a-vis founding moral science, what avail is acknowledging a kind of wisdom in nature, if one concedes that part of the wisdom of nature is that populations/species change in response to environmental changes? Above I noted that those who regard nature to be the product of purely blind causes find in this no reason to respect her.{39} But finally as far as looking to nature to provide a fixed standard goes, having a reason to respect nature does not really change matters if one acknowledges that nature is subject to continual change. The evolution of different racial traits is good evidence that our nature is a changeable nature. But is human nature entirely plastic? And to what extent does the changeable character of our nature affect the formulation of unchanging rules for conduct?

Although Aristotle in a certain sense regards our nature as subject to change, in another sense he regards it as fundamentally complete and finished. One fact about human nature, of central importance to the question of how changeable our nature is, is that we are not just animals. Our rational soul is an immaterial substantial form, and reason and free will are immaterial faculties, and as such lie outside the realm of evolutionary processes in nature. As Aristotle puts it, the intellect is "from without."{40} A hybrid of the immaterial and material realm, we possess something of the unchanging quality of the former and something of the changing character of the latter.

Although many evolutionary biologists would deny this, the type of nature that human beings possess is the final point of evolution, which can only go so far as to produce a body suited for an immaterial soul endowed with reason and will. As terminus, it is not surprising that our nature be more fixed than the natures of other organisms. Reason and will are constant features of human nature, whereas wings enabling flight are not constant features of birds, nor are eyes allowing for sight a constant features of animals living in very dark environments (e.g., cave-dwelling fish). The other essential part of human nature is a sensitive body. If a being does not have a sensitive body, it's not human (at least it's not a complete human). But as to the quality of senses and emotions there can be wide variation. As Aristotle points out, however, the senses have no bearing on our moral life to the extent that their good functioning (that they perceive their objects well) generally{41} does not depend on reason. For example, one doesn't see well because one decides that today one is going to have 20/20 vision. In addition, to the extent that the senses can be directed so as to perceive something in particular, their activity, barring illness, follows immediately upon the command of reason, and thus the moral goodness or badness of the act of sensing commanded accrues to reason alone. For example, the sense of sight is neither good nor bad when one looks at a text of Aristotle or pornorgraphy, respectively.{42} The other essential aspect of the sensitive nature is emotion.{43} If a thing does not have feelings, it is not an animal, for there would be no use to an animal's perceiving food, if it did not desire the food.{44} In human beings the emotions have their own motion that is independent of reason, and yet at the same time they are capable of being influenced by reason. For these reasons, the emotions play a role in human goodness or badness. In human beings the purpose of emotion is to reinforce rational activities.{45} The concupiscible emotions help insure that we nourish ourselves and that the species continue, while the irascible emotions help us avoid and overcome difficulties and dangers.

Underlying our sense abilities are necessarily vegetative functions: nutrition, growth, healing, etc. The sensitive body has to develop to a mature state, replace dead cells, and generate chemicals used up by the activities of sensing and emotion, and these and other like tasks fall to the vegetive part of our soul. The vegetative part of human nature has no bearing on morality. As Aristotle points out, the functioning of this part is automatic,{46} and it, unlike the appetite, in no wise shares in a rational principle by "listening to it and obeying it."{47}

At this point, it is appropriate to add a nuance concerning the question of whether reason can evolve. The faculty of reason, being immaterial, cannot. However, the ability to reason well does in certain indirect ways depend upon the body. Aristotle held that the soul is the substantial form of the body. Whence the soul is going to be affected by the matter it is received into. The same form received into marble and into sandstone are going to result in statues that are different. Aristotle remarks that those who are of "soft flesh" are better endowed as to intelligence than those of "hard flesh." Without going into the details of what this "soft flesh" is, it is plain that it is in accord with Aristotelian views on matter and form that human beings could evolve bodies which would result in them having more penetrating intelligence. The fundamental nature of reason would not change for so much, as ideas would still be arrived at in the same manner starting from sense experience.

Whether something similar is true in the case of the will is not easy to say. We speak of some people having more will-power than others, and perhaps this is a phenomenon similar to some people's being of more penetrating intellect than others.{48} Aristotle tells us little about the will, and so what he would say about this matter is not obvious. In any case, the very nature of the will as rational appetite could not be affected by evolutionary processes.

There is also another way, according to Aristotelian principles, that humans could become more intelligent.{49} The internal senses that serve reason could in principle improve through evolution. Thinking depends upon imagining,{50} and imagination is a brain function. Therefore, in principle the human imagination could evolve so as to better serve reason. Similarly, future humans might have better memories, something which would definitely facilitate learning. There are also natural dispositions of the internal senses that facilitate moral judgements,{51} and these too could, in principle, change for the better or worse across the species. Again, even if such changes in our ability to reason occured, the nature of reason itself would not change.

To summarize: The abilities that belong to human nature that cannot evolve are reason and will; the ones that can evolve are the vegetative powers, the sense powers, and the emotions, for these all involve the body, and as such are all subject to change. Among those abilities subject to change, only the emotions have any essential bearing upon ethics. As for the senses or vegetative powers, even if they did change, this would not have any impact on the general guidelines proposed by moral science. In a moment I will examine to what extent the emotions are subject to change. But first, I'd like to point out that any evolution of our vegetative powers or senses, while not altering the science of ethics in any way, could have bearing on the morality of our concrete choices.

Imagine that humans evolved the ability to plug their ears with their earlobes. Then people would have a moral obligation to plug their ears to prevent themselves from inadvertantly eavesdropping on private conversations, just as people under ordinary circumstances have a moral obligation not to read material that has not been addressed to them. The same basic rule of morality regarding privacy would not change with the change in nature; it would simply have broader application than it used to. Or consider, what would obtain if evolution resulted in everyone becoming violently allergic to peanuts. It would then become wrong to consume peanuts because they would affect one's health negatively, and it would be wrong to serve them to others, because this would result in harm to them. Here again the rules of morality would not change. Temperance always requires consuming food so as to stay healthy; hospitality always requires that one serve guests foods that will not make them sick.{52}

When one thinks about it, these fictive scenarios are not much different from any real life moral situation, for one always has to take in account the concrete facts. We already have to avoid serving peanuts to the particular individuals who are allergic to them. We already known that it is wrong to serve certain types of mushroom to anyone because they are deadly. It is a universal moral rule that killing innocent people is wrong. However, it pertains to prudence to inform oneself as to which foods are poisonous and which are not. Sometimes it has happened that foods that we initially think are not harmful to health are later discovered to be harmful. But this does not alter the general guidelines that ethics provides for this and like choices,{53} although it does make a difference as to the goodness or badness of a concrete choice. So knowledge about changes in human nature as to vegetative powers or the senses would prove useful for prudential decisions, but would have no impact on the general guidelines for human choices examined in ethics.{54}

Let us turn now to the questions of whether the concupiscible and irascible appetite could evolve in such a way as to affect ethics. There is plainly a wide variety of emotional dispositions present in the human race. Aristotle was quite aware of this variety, and developed from it his notion of natural virtue and natural vice. Natural virtue and vice are inborn inclinations to moral virtue or vice which follows from the physical make-up proper to the individual.{55} A person's make-up incline him to feel certain emotions more or less readily, and/or more intensely, and/or more lastingly than other emotions. Some people are naturally fearless while others are born chickens. Some are naturally laid-back, while others are born hot-tempered. The natural virtues and vices of human individuals correspond to a gene pool from which changes in predominant feelings in the human race could in principle arise. But are such changes likely to arise? And if they did, would they cause a reordering of the virtues, or additions or subtractions from the list of virtues that Aristotle speaks of?

Looking at the concupiscible and irascible emotions grossomodo, although it is theoretically possible that they be eliminated from the human species, the chances of this happening are for all practical purposes nil. The concupiscible emotion of pleasure is one of the most effective imaginable motivators,{56} contributing greatly to insuring that we maintain our health by eating and that we continue the race by having sex. The pleasure we derive from eating is so widespread in the human race that there in no name for the vice at the other extreme from gluttony, a sign of the natural utility of this emotion.{57}

The emotions of fight or flight are also so conducive to survival, aiding us as they do to overcome or flee danger, that it is hard to imagine any change of environment which would render these emotions non-adaptive. That the human abilities to feel one or the other of these emotions increase or decrease across the race, would not be surprising, but that they be eradicted would. As Aquinas pointed out long ago, humans as a group are a relatively gentle species, for we are social animals, and being overly agressive is not conducive to living in society.{58} Lowered agressivity is possibly something that evolved in the human race. And perhaps some change in the natural environment or in society would lead to it (or some other emotional tendency) being increased or decreased across the race. But that the species as a whole change so as to remain entirely unmoved in the face of threats to our lives is not liable to occur, as those genetically disposed in this manner are likely to lose their lives, and thus are likely to produce fewer offspring, than those individuals lacking such genes.

So what are the chances of temperance and courage as cardinal virtues being phased out of morality? Not very likely given the that emotions they bear upon, pleasure, fear, and anger, are so well suited to help ensure human survival and reproduction. A limited amount of individuals may be seriously lacking in these emotions due to natural defect (natural vice), but the spread of such defects across the race would not be favored by natural selection.

If individuals were genetically engineered to entirely lack a certain emotion, the perfection of human nature would be lacking them just as much as, if not more, than if they lacked a limb. Such individuals properly speaking would not be capable of attaining the virtue pertaining to this emotion, although they still could act morally.{59} For instance, say people were genetically engineered to be incapable of feeling the emotion of anger (and so would make docile slaves). These people nonetheless would be capable of ascertaining an injustice and of moving to fight that injustice as is appropriate in the circumstances, despite the fact the emotion of anger would not be there to reinforce such activity. The failure of their sense appetite to move in accord with reason is involuntary, and therefore cannot be counted as a moral failing. However, to the extent that the virtue of courage moderates anger (courage chiefly moderates fear and confidence), to that extent these people would be incapable of acquiring or exercising courage. Again, they would also be at a selective disadvantage.

I have considered the concupiscible and irascible emotions in broad outline. Perhaps some of the specific concupiscible and irascible emotions are more expendable than pleasure, fear and anger are, though I suspect there is good reason to think that none of them shall disappear from our race. As for new emotions evolving, this is impossible so far as the most fundamental emotions are concerned. Emotions are defined by their objects, which through division can see to be eleven in number.{60} Emotions other than the basic eleven are a combination of them or a variation of them. Higher animals, ones having some limited sense of future, manifest all the eleven. Humans not only experience the basic eleven, but many added variations of them, due to possessing reason. For instance, animals do not feel envy (sadness at the good of another) or sloth (sadness about spiritual goods).{61}

As for our social nature, this is a consequence of our rational nature.{62} No matter how much improvement evolution brought to our senses, we would always have need of teachers and people to discuss with, for so long as we have an intellect that forms ideas starting from sense experience (which is what it means to have a human intellect), for so long will our minds be like the eye of the bat to the sun when it comes to understanding things most intelligible by nature.{63} So even if other reasons for our coming together in society changed, this reason would always remain. (I realize there are many more things that could be said regarding our social nature and its changeability; however, time does not allow me to pursue this matter in further depth.)

Given that reason, will, and the concupiscible and irascible emotions (with the qualification stated) are permanent features of human nature, morality does not have but shifting sand for its foundation.{64} The cardinal virtues which perfect those parts of the human soul - prudence, justice, temperance and courage will always be virtues, and acts in accord with them will always lead to human happiness.{65}

In passing, it should be apparent from the above that the idea that we somehow need evolutionary biology to provide us with the understanding of human nature for doing ethics is absurd.{66} Aristotle long ago identified which parts of the soul have bearing on morality, along with our basic natural inclinations to live,{67} to form families,{68} to live in society,{69} to know the truth,{70} and so forth. It is a mistake to think that just because some of this knowledge concerns our animal nature, that we have to study the science of biology to know it.{71} Most of these things are self-evident, or they are so general that they are objects of philosophical reflection, and not of scientific investigation. Biology can provide us with detailed knowledge useful for making prudential decisions, but not with the sort of general understanding of our nature that is needed for formulating a science of ethics.

The reader has doubtlessly noticed a certain fluidity in the use of the concept "human nature." There is an obvious difference between saying that it belongs to human nature to possess free will and that it belongs to human nature to have two feet and the sense of sight. It is impossible for a human being lacking free will to exist,{72} but there are people who lack feet and vision.{73} What is absolutely essential to human nature is a rational soul (with all the immaterial faculties that are rooted in this soul) and a sensitive body suited to such a soul. The organs and bodily abilities that human beings normally have are not essential to human nature, but do pertain to the perfection of the nature.{74} As we have seen, this sort of perfection is relative to the human condition, and is subject to change.{75} So human nature is both changing and unchanging, but not in the same respect.

Seeing that human nature has an unchanging core to serve as a foundation for a science of ethics does not mean that it is easy to solve all moral problems by reference to human nature. An obvious example of this is in vitro fertilization using the sperm and ovum of a married couple having fertility problems, with the embryo being implanted in the said woman (assume for the moment that all embryos created were implanted). Would Aristotle regard this as art helping nature doing what she intended, or as the generation of offspring in a manner contrary to the way nature intended? Again Neo-Darwinians wouldn't think twice about the moral legitimacy of in vitro reproduction.

Or what would Aristotle say about this ununusal case:

The Bari people in Venezuela have an unusual view of paternity: when women take lovers during pregnancy, these men become so-called secondary fathers. Anthropologist Stephen Beckerman and his colleagues from Pennsylvania State University found that promiscuity during pregnancy is likely adaptive behavior for the mothers. Survival rates among children with secondary fathers was 80 per cent, whereas it was a mere 64 percent among those children with only primary fathers. The reason: the Bari diet, which consists primarily of a starchy tuber called manioc, is not sufficent for children. Secondary fathers provide supplementary food -- in the form of fish and meat -- to their offspring.{76}

We can be sure that Ernst Mayr would tell us not to be rigid, after all taking on a lover while pregnant is a useful strategy to insure the survival of the offspring. But what would Aristotle say? After all the chief reason against sex outside marriage is not operable here -- there is no danger in getting an already pregnant woman pregnant, and this way the second sexual partner is motivated to help the woman achieve an end set by nature, naming nurturing her offspring. Do these circumstances warrant an exception in natural law?

One can then have a healthy respect for nature, and be of the view that human nature does not change, but still be hard put as to what the right thing to do is under unusual circumstances that arise.

I will turn now to another problem with the Neo-Darwinian understanding of human nature vis-a-vis formulating an ethics, namely, its denial of free will. If ultimately we are determined by material factors, freedom is an illusion. And in fact a certain number of evolutionary biologists are quite comfortable with this view.{77} Granted that freedom, responsibility, self-control are not things that are first and foremost known through observation, scientific or other, this does not mean that they are unknown. Rather they are known with great certitude through one's internal experience - as any child knows when he starts using the excuse: "I didn't mean it - it was an accident." A materialist philosophy rejects a priori anything which is not a property or manifestation of matter. Yet my internal experience of my behavior is that I am not controlled by material factors; I am capable of self-control. I can override both genetic propensities and conditioning, albeit it often only with difficulty and with less than perfect consistency. And I feel ashamed even without being caught when I know that what I did was unreasonable and that I did not have to do it. If what I do is the result of material causes, there is no room for the moral "should" or for true shame. I do what I have to do. And so morality goes out the window.

Yet another obstacle that Neo-Darwinian materialists run up against in laying out groundwork for morality springs from their view that human beings are just animals whose goals are identical with those of any other animal. Success for an animal in the first instance means survival, but survival is only a means to the ultimate goal of reproduction, of spreading one's genes. If human are just animals, this would be our goal as well. But one of the first things that one has to understand about ethical action is that its goal is not first and foremost survival and reproduction. The goal of a human life is not just to live, but to live in accord with reason. To save one's own life by taking another's life preserver is a manifestly immoral act.

Or so you would think. Actually, evolutionary thinkers in the past disagree. They would actively or passively eliminate people who were not immediate threats upon their life, such as the handicapped and the mentally retarded.{78} After all these relatively unproductive individuals are using up resources, and to make matters worse are liable in some cases to produce offspring like themselves.{79} Appealing to the concept of human dignity is of no avail. The materialist biologists in question reject this concept. An amoeba is just as good as a person.{80} Of course, not all evolutionary biologists of a materialist stamp endorse eugenics, and nowadays many explicitly distance themselves from it. However, one can question whether they are being consistent with their principles. For if social consensus allowed one to engage in such a pratice without social repercussions that would reduce one's fitness more than euthanizing "competitors" would increase it, then according to Darwinian principles, one should engage in it.

Regardless of what Neo-Darwinians think about eugenics, they fail to ascribe a uniquely human good to man, but assign to him the same goods that one would assign to any animal: life, health, pleasure, offspring, and external goods conducive to the things just named. It is a little hard to get ethics off the ground if the "goods of the soul" are reduced to mere sentiment; if the moral good is not even on the list of things to be sought.

What about God?

One might wonder whether Aristotle calls upon God in formulating ethical teachings. Certainly he thinks that God exists, as one can see from his argument that starts from motion in nature and concludes to the unmoved mover. He mentions God (or the gods) a number of times in the Nicomachean Ethics, e.g., he says:

And so too, it seems, should one make a return to those with whom one has studied philosophy; for their worth cannot be measured against money, and they can get no honour which will balance their services, but still it is perhaps enough, as it is with the gods and with one's parents, to give them what one can. (Nicomachean Ethics, 1164b2-5)

However, Aristotle derives the fundamental concept upon which the entire Ethics is based without making any reference to God,{81} but rather by looking to human nature.{82} The concept in question, of course, is happiness.{83}

Still I would not go so far as to say that Aristotle's theism had no bearing on the success of his Ethics. An important difference in the way Aristotle and the Neo-Darwinians approach ethics, is that while Aristotle recognizes a certain wisdom in nature, the Neo-Darwinians regard it as the product of blind forces. This engenders respect for nature on the part of Aristotle, that is accordingly absent in the Neo-Darwinians. I think that a case can be made that Aristotle goes a step further, to reason from the wisdom in nature to the wisdom behind nature. Once having recognized the divine wisdom behind nature, Aristotle is able to turn around and regard nature as a product of the divine, and this engenders even greater respect for nature.

It is true that Aristotle in the Physics never reasons to a Mind behind nature the way that he reasons to the Unmoved Mover. However, Aristotle is quite aware that the activities of plants and the instinctive behavior of animals are for the sake of something, and that these beings lack the ability to figure out for themselves the appropriate means that they adopt to their ends. How could Aristotle adamantly reject the chance-necessity explanation for the origin of the adaptive characteristics of such organisms, and yet not see that the only other complete explanation requires one to posit a Mind capable of ordering things to their end? A second reason for thinking that he reasoned to a Mind behind nature is that in the Nicomachean Ethics he says:

Indeed it is possible that in reality people do not pursue the pleasure they think and would say they do, but all pursue the same pleasure. For all things of nature have something of the divine.{84} (Nicomachean Ethics 1153b30-32)

Aristotle appears to be saying here that God is the author of the ordering to an end present in natural things.{85}

Recognizing that nature is a product of divine art does not automatically engender respect for it, but it certainly is apt to do so. And judging from Aristotle's oft-quoted protreptic in the Parts of Animals about the gods in the kitchen,{86} it is reasonable to think that he did have a deep respect for nature as a work of God.

The counterpart of Aristotle's reasoning from finality to God, to a greater respect for nature is found on the part of the Neo-Darwinians. Those that do not start out with atheism as a fundamental assumption, start from what they regard as the sufficiency of blind forces to account for the adaptations that are observed in living things. They then reason that since design (or adaptations) in organisms provided up until Darwin's day the basis for the strongest case in favor of God's existence, now that random variation and natural selection adequately explain design, there is far less reason to think that God exists. (The fact that the design argument is not the only argument for the existence of God explains why some Neo-Darwinians are agnostic, rather than atheist). Once the Neo- Darwinians have gone from blind forces in nature to atheism, their atheism tends to reinforces their lack of respect for nature.

Let us consider now the Neo-Darwinian rejection of the moral good and of free will? Is this a consequence of their atheism, such that if they ceased to deny the existence of God, they would necessarily recognize that man has certain immaterial abilities? The situation is somewhat complex as there are at least two camps among the Neo-Darwinians on this point. Some Neo-Darwinians, following in the footsteps of Darwin himself,{87} do not exclude the existence of non-material entities (God and other) as their very starting point, but end up rejecting them because blind forces seem adequate to explaining the way things are. These thinkers see both God and the immaterial aspects of man to be eliminated by random variation and natural selection. Their atheism is not the cause of their rejection of any immaterial aspect to man.

In the case of other Neo-Darwinians, however, their affirmation of materialism is in direct function of their desire to rid the world of supernatural explanations. As the biologist Richard Lewontin puts it:

We have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the Door.{88}

This position is an agenda,{89} rather than a work of reason; it proceeds from the way one wants things to be instead of from what is known. So in a way, it is not even worthy of refutation. It is an extremely influential agenda, however. Moreover, there does seem to be an element of truth in what Neo-Darwinians like Lewontin say, to the extent that although one does not discover the immaterial nature of reason and will as a kind of deduction from the existence of God, such immaterial faculties could not exist if there were no God. So, if one acknowledged that such immaterial faculties existed, then the Divine Foot would be in the Door, for it seems that one would have to also acknowledge that God existed--albeit thinkers such as Aristotle and Aquinas never proposed an argument for the existence of God taken from the immateriality of the human soul.

Materialism is always destructive of the notions that man has knowledge of non-sensible goods and is truly free,{90} but it is not always derived from atheism. Thus one cannot say without qualification that the way to recuperate the kind of understanding of human nature required for ethics is to put God into the picture. It is true, however, that denying God's existence as a first principle necessarily entails the rejection of the intelligible good and of free will. Unless one could change Lewontin and company's minds about God's existence, there is no possibility that they found a sound ethics. However, even if one did change their mind, this would not of itself convince them of the true nature of reason and free will, but would only make them open to reconsidering their "counterintuitive" explanations of human nature and behavior.

While I do not think that there is as much reason to lament an ethics without God, as an ethics without a proper understanding of nature, there are reasons to think that there has to be at least openness to the possibility that God exists, if ethics is going to get on its feet; and this for two reasons. Ethics as a science formulated by natural reason finds its immediate foundation in nature, and thus mistakes about the nature of human reason, of human freedom, and of the changingness of human nature have fatal consequences for the development of a sound ethics. Now, the denial of God's existence seems to entail the denial of the existence of any less perfect immaterial entity, including reason and free will, whence moral science is gutted. The denial of immaterial faculties in man also subtracts the reason for maintaining that human nature is fundamentally unchanging, whence moral science is destroyed twice over. The other way in which denial of God's existence undermines ethical science is by making it very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain that nature acts for an end or, in other words, that that there is a kind of intelligence in the workings of nature which needs to be respected. The efforts of the person seeking to formulate a science of ethics in the absence of an attitude of respect towards nature are doomed to limited success. I am not saying that one needs to affirm that God exists, in order to recognize that there is finality in nature. Indeed I think the latter is more manifest, and a reason for, concluding the former. However, one must be at least open to the possibility that God exists. And it is the person who does recognize a Mind behind nature as being the ultimate cause of the wisdom in nature who is best disposed to a full and proper appreciation of that wisdom. The attitude that we cannot let nature dictate to us what we should do is plainly at cross-purposes with trying to found ethics on an understanding of human nature.{91} "Ethics without God," then, meaning that a denial of God's existence is presupposed to the formulation of an ethics is far more problematic than "Ethics without God" meaning that no explicit reference to God's existence is made.

There is also a need for God in the formulation of a sound ethical science in a manner entirely different from those we have been speaking of thus far. We have seen that ethics is an area where it is very easy to make mistakes.{92} Aristotle is not shy to tell us this repeatedly in the Ethics, and from the very outset.{93} This was the point of asking earlier what Aristotle would think about in vitro fertilization and about the Bari people. The errors that Aristotle himself made,{94} although not very numerous, show how easy it is for even the few moral thinkers who use the correct approach to go astray. If only God himself told us what was right and what was wrong. But this is what we as Catholics believe that God does through the teaching authority of the Church. The true faith then provides immeasurable, if external, help to the person seeking to formulate a science of ethics based on human reason.

Another reason why faith is important for our moral lives is because natural reason does not know our true end, which is the vision of God. As Aristotle insists, the end is what is first in practical matters, and that if one is mistaken as to what one's ultimate end is, one is likely to make all kinds of misguided choices, and never attain that end.{95} Many have asked whether shortcomings of the human science of ethics make its pursuit a waste of time for a Christian. Why spend time on what is under the best of circumstances a shaky endeavor, and especially when it ignores man's true end, and the means to it such as the theological virtues, the infused virtues, and so forth, treating rather the means to man's natural end, e.g., the cardinal virtues, which from a Christian standpoint are "imperfect"? The answer lies in the fact that grace builds upon nature:

[T]he gifts of grace are added to nature in such a manner that they do not destroy it, but rather perfect it; whence even the light of faith, which is instilled in us by grace does not destroy the light of the natural knowledge [which light is] naturally instilled in us.{96}

Albeit moral philosophy is imperfect since it does not direct us to our ultimate happiness which is above nature to know and also to achieve, this knowledge is nonetheless not opposed to the knowledge had through faith.{97} Contrary to what certain Catholic thinkers have maintained, those who follow the lead of natural reason as far as it goes are not giving a false direction to their lives. Rather, as Aquinas maintains, "if we do what we can, namely, follow the lead of natural reason, God will not fail us in what is necessary to us."{98} And as Humanae Vitae states so emphatically: "the natural law...is also an expression of the will of God, the faithful fulfillment of which is equally necessary for salvation;"{99} and: "...man cannot find true happiness--towards which he aspires with all his being--other than in respect of the laws written by God in his very nature, laws which he must observe with intelligence and love."{100}

In my estimation the Nicomachean Ethics speaks for itself as far as providing guidelines useful to believer and non-believer alike.{101} With the exception of exposing infants with serious birth defects, if I saw a non-believer living according to Aristotelian moral standards, I'd assume that he was a Christian. And I would regard such an individual to be pre- disposed to converting to Christianity, not only from the point of view of goodness,{102} but also from an intellectual standpoint as well. For such a person would be disposed to accept the truth of the Gospel message to the extent that he could judge that what the Gospel said about morality overlapped to a large extent with what he thought to be universally true (this of course is not to deny that certain elements of Christian morality go beyond morality as known through reason). The one who is unable to see the universal moral message that is contained in the Gospel is liable to reject religion, as did, for instance, the astronomer Francis Drake who tells us:

The fact is, I did come to understand the real basis of religion in those classes. I saw that religious history, as described to us, had to do with the particular history of one small region, and certain people's conclusions and supposed insights.{103}

A grasp of ethics based on an understanding of human nature accessible to all also has the obvious advantage of allowing one to discuss what's right and wrong with people who do not share one's faith. Looked at from these points of view then, "Ethics without God" can lead to God.

{1} Initially I intended to critique an approach to ethics used by Francis Fukuyama and endorsed by Larry Arnhart: "Fukuyama used a Darwinian theory of human social behavior to support the conservative view that there really is a human nature that sets norms for social order, in contrast to the common view of cultural relativists that social rules are arbitrary constructions of cultural life" ("Conservatives, Darwin & Design: An Exchange," First Things, [December 2000], 23). In light of the conference theme, I decided to look at Neo-Darwinian philosophy and the foundations of moral science instead.

{2} See for example, Peter G. Woodcock, "The Case against Evolutionary Ethics Today," in Biology and the Foundations of Ethics, eds. Jane Maienschein and Michael Ruse (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 276-306.

{3} In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas looks to nature to establish that there are things that are naturally right for humans to do: "Moreover, according to the natural order, the body of man is for the sake of the soul, and the lower powers of the soul are for the sake of reason.... However, from the fact that something is ordered to another, help should come from it to the other, and not impediment. Therefore, it is naturally right that the body and lower powers of the soul be directed by man such that from this both the act of reason and reason's good be minimally impeded, or rather aided. If, however, it happens otherwise, this will naturally be wrong [peccatum]. Therefore, drunkenness, orgies, and the inordinate use of sex, through which the act of reason is impeded and is subjected to the passions...are naturally bad" (Summa Contra Gentiles, ed. C. Pera, O.P. et al. [Turin: Marietti, 1961], Bk. III, chap. 129).

{4} It would be a mistake to think that Aristotle proceeds in a purely a priori fashion in articulating the Ethics, as if all ethical questions could be solved by deduction from the definition of human nature. After defining happiness by looking to human nature, Aristotle says: "Let this serve as an outline of the good; for we must presumably first sketch it roughly, and then later fill in the details." The manner in which he fills in the details is as follows: "We must, as in all other cases, set the observed facts [phainomena] before us and, after first discussing the difficulties, go on to prove, if possible, the truth of all the common opinions about these affections of mind, or failing this, of the greater number and the most authoritative . . . ." (NE 1145b1-5).

{5} Some animals will sometimes help their parents raise the parents' offspring in place of trying to have their own offspring. A diploid organism shares half its genes in common with both siblings and offspring. Thus, if a diploid organism helps its parents raise a sibling that otherwise would have died, it amounts to the same thing gene-wise as if it had had one offspring of its own. The notion of "inclusive fitness" takes in account both ways in which an organism can pass on genes like its own. See P.J.B. Slater, "Kinship and Altruism," in Behaviour and Evolution, eds. P.J.B. Slater and T.R. Halliday (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 194-200.

{6} George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution, a study of the history of life and of its significance for man, rev. ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967) 344-45: "Although the details remain to be worked out, it is already evident that all the objective phenomena of the history of life can be explained by purely naturalistic or, in a proper sense of the sometimes abused word, materialistic factors. They are readily explicable on the basis of differential reproduction in populations (the main factor in the modern conception of natural selection) and of the mainly random interplay of the known processes of heredity. . . . Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind."

{7} See Douglas Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology, 2nd ed. (Sunderland, Massachusetts: Sinauer Associates, 1986), 3: "By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous."

{8} Ernst Mayr, Towards a New Philosophy of Biology (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), 193: "Darwin and his followers showed conclusively that man is not a separate creation but the product of common descent."

{9} Michael Ruse and Edward O. Wilson, "The Evolution of Ethics," in Philosophy of Biology, ed. Michael Ruse (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1989), 314: "Two propositions appear to have been established beyond any reasonable doubt. First, the social behaviour of animals is firmly under the control of genes, and has been shaped into forms that give reproductive advantages. Secondly, humans are animals."

{10} Unless otherwise noted, I am using W. D. Ross's translation of the Nicomachean Ethics in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1968). Cited in the footnotes as NE.

{11} See Nicomachean Ethics, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), 296, suggested emendation of Paley. I have combined Ross's and Rackham's translation.

{12} See ibid, omission of "all" suggested by Wilkinson. See also ibid., 294, note b: "The order of the ...sentences seems confused."

{13} See ibid., emendation suggested by Rackham.

{14} In Decem Libros Ethicorum Aristotelis ad Nicomachum Expositio , ed. Raymundi M. Spiazzi, O.P. (Turin: Marietti, 1964), nos. 1028, 1029. Hereafter cited as In Decem Libros Ethicorum Aristotelis.

{15} See Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, ed. Instituti Studiorum Medievalium Ottaviensis (Ottawa: Commissio Piana, 1953), I-II, q. 94, art. 5: " As far as the secondary precepts [of natural law], which we say are as certain proper conclusions proximate to the first principles, natural law does not change; rather what natural law always holds is right in the greater number of cases." (Hereafter cited as ST)

{16} ST II-II, q. 57, art. 2, ad 1.

{17} David Hull, "Are Species Really Individuals?," Systematic Zoology, 25, (1976), 174.

{18} Mayr, Toward a New Philosophy of Biology, 253.

{19} Ibid., 254.

{20} Ibid., 85-87. There is a kind of irony that the exact reasons Mayr gave in 1988 implicitly in favor of artificial birth control are explicitly mentioned twenty years earlier in Humanae Vitae (1968), which went on to reject them in light of the natural finality of the marital act: ". . . with the evolution of society, changes have taken place that give rise to new question which the Church could not ignore....The changes which have taken place are in fact noteworthy and of various kinds. In the first place, there is the rapid demographic development. Fear is shown by many that world population is growing more rapidly than available resources, with growing distress to many families and developing countries, so that the temptation for authorities to counter this danger with radical measures is great. Moreover, working and lodging conditions, as well as increased exigencies both in the economic field and in that of education, often make the proper education of an elevated number of children difficult today. . . . Finally and above all, man has made stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature, such that he tends to extend this domination to his own total being: to the body, to psychical life, to social life and even to the laws which regulate the transmission of life. This new state of things gives rise to new questions. Granted the conditions of life today, and granted the meaning which conjugal relations have with respect to the harmony between husband and wife and to their mutual fidelity, would not a revision of the ethical norms, in force up to now, seem to be advisable, especially when it is considered that they cannot be observed without sacrifices, sometimes heroic sacrifices? ... It is also asked whether, in view of the increased sense of responsibility of modern man, the moment has not come for him to entrust to his reason and his will, rather than to the biological rhythms of his organism, the task of regulating birth" (#2).

{21} Inserting genes into the human genome has so far met with limited success. In 2002 French researchers had cured four boys of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCIDs), commonly know as "bubble boy disease," only to have two of them come down with leukemia. Research on gene therapy met with a major setback in 1999 when a patient treated for ornithine transcarboxylase deficiency (OTCD) died four days after starting treatment, apparently from an immune response to the virus carrier used to insert the gene. See "Gene Therapy," at the Human Genome Project Information website for further information.

{22} See Marc D. Guerra cited by Richard Neuhaus in First Things, (January 2002), 88: "If there really are no natural limits on human beings, if nature really is in a constant slow rate of flux, how can a Darwinian, even a morally serious Darwinians, oppose something such as the 'new science' of human cloning? A self-conscious Darwinian such as E.O. Wilson realizes that cloning is simply the next state of human 'modification.' Faithful to the spirit of his Darwinism, Wilson looks forward to the day when cloning or 'volitional evolution' will allow scientists to alter 'not just the anatomy and intelligence of the species but also the emotions and creative drive that compose the very core of human nature.'"

{23} Benjamin Wiker and Mary Ann Field level this criticism against Larry Arhnart in Letters, First Things, February 2001, 5, 6. Arnhart maintains that the stability of our species over long periods of time is sufficient reason for thinking that Neo-Darwinian biology supports a conservative view of morality (see ibid.).

{24} Dawkins's comparison of this computer scenario to natural selection is flawed, for since natural selection cannot foresee the future, it cannot retain mutations which might be of value in the future.

{25} I think that this argument is basically the same as anthropic arguments, the difference being that the latter speak about the need for fine-tuning of specific values allowing for the apparition of life, whereas the former argument sticks to generalities -- there must be built into matter the ability to produce and to be actualized as the ordered world which we observe.

{26} I am using the R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye translation of the Physics found in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1968). See ibid., 199b26, 27: "It is absurd to suppose that purpose is not present because we do not observe the agent deliberating. Art does not deliberate."

{27} See Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1986), 1: "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."

{28} See De Anima 433a21: "If nature never does anything in vain nor omits anything of what is necessary, except in those things that are defective (or mutilated) and imperfect . . . ."

{29} The example of wisdom teeth is debatable. That some of us have no problem chewing our food without them, that a fair number suffer due to them, and that many who have kept theirs find them difficult to keep clean, does not mean that they serve no useful purpose to anyone.

{30} I am using the E. S. Forster translation of the Progression of Animals (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1968).

{31} See Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda's Thumb, (New York: Norton, c1980), 26.

{32} See NE 1101a1-5: "For the man is who truly good and wise, we think . . . always makes the best of circumstances, as a good general makes the best military use of the army at his command and a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of the hides that are given him; and so with all other craftsmen."

{33} Gould, The Panda's Thumb, 22.

{34} Ibid., 24.

{35} See ibid., 21.

{36} Ibid., 24.

{37} Ibid., 20.

{38} See Life, 5th edition, eds. Bill Purves, Gordon Orians, Craig Heller, David Sadava (Sunderland, Massachusetts: Sinauer Associates, Inc., 1998), 1035: The need for vitamin D may have been an important factor in the evolution of skin color. Human races that are adapted to equatorial and low latitudes have dark skin pigmentation as a protection against the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation. These peoples generally have extensive skin areas exposed to the sun on a regular basis, so their skin synthesizes adequate amounts of vitamin D. In general, races that became adapted to higher latitudes lost dark skin pigmentation. Presumably, lighter skin faciliates vitamin D production in the relatively small areas of skin exposed to sunlight during the short days of winter. An exception to the correlation between altitude and skin pigmentation is the Inuit people of the Arctic. These dark-skinned people obtain plenty of vitamin D from the large amounts of fish oils in their diets; for them exposure to sunlight is not a factor in obtaining this vitamin.

{39} It would be a bit of an oversimplification to say that the atheist scientist has no respect for nature. Often these people cannot help feeling awe despite their rejection of anything divine about nature. See, for example, Edward O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), 345: "Each species is the product of mutations and recombinations too complex to be grasped by unaided intuition. It was sculpted and burnished by an astronomical number of events in natural selection, which killed off or otherwise blocked from reproduction the vast majority of its member organisms before they completed their lifespans. . . . Such is the ultimate and cryptic truth of every kind of organism . . . . The flower in the crannied wall--it is a miracle. . . . Every kind of organism has reached this moment in time by threading one needle after another, throwing up brilliant artifices to survive and reproduce against nearly impossible odds." And one often finds this strong sense of wonder also among astronomers who are atheists. Moreover, such scientists, especially those in ecology, see that man's failure to respect nature has disastrous consequences for biodiversity, as well as harmful consequences for human life. Ironically while they will acknowledge that we need to respect the balance of nature, they generally fail to see a need for us to also respect our own nature, and that even greater harm befalls us when we do not do so.

{40} See Aristotle, Generation of Animals, 736b27-29: "It remains, then that reason alone comes from without and that it alone is divine. For its activity shares nothing with the activity of the body."

{41} See NE 1114a: "But not only are the vices of the soul voluntary, but those of the body also for some men, whom we accordingly blame; while no one blames those who are ugly by nature, we blame those who are so owing to want of exercise and care. So it is, too, with respect to weakness and infirmity; no one would reproach a man blind from birth or by disease or from a blow, but rather pity him, while everyone would blame a man who was blind from drunkenness or some other form of self-indulgence. Of vices of the body, then, those in our own power are blamed, those not in our power are not. And if this be so, in the other cases also the vices that are blamed must be in our own power."

{42} See NE 1103a26: "Again, of all the things that come to us by nature we first acquire the potentiality and later exhibit the activity (this is plain in the case of the senses; for it was not by often seeing or often hearing that we got these senses, but on the contrary we had them before we used them, and did not come to have them by using them); but the virtues we get by first exercising them . . . we become brave by doing brave acts." See also NE 1106a9: ". . . we have the faculties by nature, but we are not made good or bad by nature; we have spoken of this before."

{43} See NE 1111b: "The irrational passions do not seem less part of human nature than reason is, and actions proceeding from anger (thumos) and desire (epithumia) belong to the human being who does them." (Translation mine)

{44} See Aristotle, De Anima 414b1-14.

{45} See NE 1116b30: Now brave men act for honour's sake, but passion (thumos) aids them . . . ."

{46} See NE 1102a33-b5: "Of the irrational element one division seems to be widely distributed, and vegetative in its nature, I mean that which causes nutrition and growth; for it is this kind of power of the soul that one must assign to all nurslings and to embryos, an this same power to full-grown creatures . . . . Now the excellence of this seems to be common to all species and not specifically human; for this part of faculty seems to function most in sleep, while goodness and badness are least manifest in sleep . . . . Enough of this subject, however; let us leave the nutritive faculty alone, since it has by its nature no share in human excellence."

{47} See NE 1102b28: "the irrational element also appear to be twofold. For the vegetative element in no way share in a rational principle, but the appetite, and in general the desiring element in a sense shares in it, in so far as it listens to and obeys it . . . ."

{48} One might wonder whether the emotions might evolve so as to be more apt to obey the rational faculties. It certainly is the case that some people from birth more readily acquire certain virtues than other people acquire them. (Natural virtue is defined later on in the main text.) Improvement from the side of the emotions is limited however in the sense that natural virtues always bring with them natural vices. For example, a person who is naturally brave is disposed to the vice opposed to meekness. Thus, while there could be an increase of natural virtue across the population, it could never be the case that all the emotions belonging to any given individual be naturally well-disposed to following reason.

{49} See ST I, q. 85, art. 7.

{50} See De Anima 431a16: "the soul never thinks without an image."

{51} See NE 1143b7: ". . . we must have perception of particulars, and this immediate perception is Intelligence. This is why it is thought that these qualities are a natural gift, and that a man is considerate, understanding and intelligent by nature, though no one is a wise man by nature" [Rackham translation].) Aquinas points out that moral virtue requires an effort over and above natural virtue in regard to synesis: "[R]ight judgement consists in this that the cognitive power apprehend the thing according to what is in the thing. Which certain comes from the right disposition of the cognitive virtue; just as if a mirror is well disposed, the forms of bodies are impressed in it according as they are; but if the mirror were badly disposed, then there would appear there images that were distorted and awry. However, that the cognitive power is well disposed to receiving things as they are is due radically to nature, but in its completion to practice or the gift of grace. And this in two ways. In one way directly, from the side of the cognitive virtue itself, for instance, that it is not seeped in bad conceptions, but in those that are right and true; and this pertain to synesis according as it is a special virtue. [I take this to mean, for instance, that one has chosen to avoid watching obscene and/or violent programs that would deaden one's natural "sensibilities."] In another way, indirectly, from the good disposition of the appetitive power, from which it follows that a man judge rightly about what things are to be desired. And thus the good judgement of virtue follows upon the habits of the moral virtues, but in regard to ends; synesis is concerned rather with those things that are ordered to the end." (ST II-II 51.3 ad 1)

{52} Ruse and Wilson are thus mistaken when they conclude that "Ethics does not have the objective foundation our biology leads us to think it has," on the grounds that: "Natural selection is above all opportunistic. Suppose that, instead of evolving from savannah-dwelling primates, we had evolved in a very different way. If, like the termites, we needed to dwell in darkness, eat each others' faeces and cannibalize the dead, our epigenetic rules would be very different from what they are now. Our minds would be strongly prone to extol such acts as beautiful and moral. And we should find it morally disgusting to live in open air, dispose of body waste and bury the dead" ("The Evolution of Ethics," in Philosophy of Biology, 317).

{53} One does not have to study Ethics to know that killing the innocent is wrong; this is an evident principle of natural law. However, Ethics does reiterate such principles, often going on to draw conclusions from them.

{54} See Aquinas, De Malo, q. 2, art. 4, ad 13: "the just and the good can be consider in two ways: In one way, formally, and thus they are always and everywhere the same; because the principle of law, which are in natural reason, do not change. In another way, materially, and thus the same things are not just and good everywhere and with all, but it is necessary to determine these things by law. And this happens on account of the mutability of human nature and the diverse conditions of men and things, according to the diversity of places and times; as this is always just: that exchange in buying and selling be of things that are equivalent; but that it is just to give in this time or place this much for a measure of wheat, in another time or place is not the just amount, but more or less is." (emphasis mine)

{55} See NE 1109b3-5 and NE 1144b3-6.

{56} See NE 1172a20: "For pleasure seems to be intimately connected with our kind. This is why pleasure and pain are used in educating the young, as means of directing their course." (translation mine)

{57} See NE 1119a5-10: People who fall short with regard to pleasures and delight in them less than they should are hardly found; for such insensibility is not human. Even the other animals distinguish different kinds of food and enjoy some and not others; and if there is any one who finds nothing pleasant and nothing more attractive than anything else, he must be something quite different from a man; this sort of person has not received a name because he hardly occurs.

{58} Aquinas notes that although human beings on a whole are not very agressive animals, certain human individuals are: "For it is certainly natural that man be a meek animal, according to the common nature of the species, insofar as he is a social animal; (for all gregarious animals are naturally such); but according to the nature of a given individual, which consists in the make-up of the body, there sometimes follows a greater propensity to anger on account of hot and dry humors that are easily inflammable" (In Decem Libros Ethicorum Aristotelis, #1391).

{59} It is true that the acts of courage and temperance "cannot be of the irascible and concupiscible alone and apart from reason" because "what is more principle in the act of virtue belongs to reason, namely, choice; just as in any operation, the action of the agent is more primary than the passion of what undergoes action" (Quaestio Disputata De Virtutibus in Communi in Quaestiones Disputatae, vol. 2, ed. P. Bazzi et al. (Turin: Marietti, 1965), unicus, art. 4, ad 2). Still it does not follow from this that one can have acts or habits of temperance and courage in the absence of irascible and concupiscible emotions. Indeed this is why separated substances do not possess these virtues, and why the human soul separated from the body does not possess these virtues: "in the state before the resurrection, the irrational parts will not exist in act in the soul, but will only exist in its essence as rooted in it . . . . Whence neither will virtues of these sort exist in act, other than in root, namely, in reason and will in which lie certain seeds of these virtues . . . ." (ST I-II, q. 67, art. 1). Thus, only if our hypothetical genetically-engineered anger-less people were physically modified so as to allow them henceforth to feel anger, could they ever perform acts of courage properly speaking, or acquire the virtue of courage (again, to the extent that courage involves anger). See also Quaestio Disputata De Virtutibus in Communi, art. 4, ad 13 regarding the need for the appropriate sense appetites (emotions) if one is to possess temperance and courage.

{60} The rationale for an exhaustive division of the emotions into eleven (love, hate, desire, aversion, joy, sorrow, hope, despair, fear, audacity, and anger) is found in ST I-II, q. 23, art. 4.

{61} Sloth (acedia) is not only in reason, but cannot be felt in beings without reason. See ST II-II, q. 35, art. 3: "Whence if the beginning of a sin lies in sensuality alone, and does not goes so far as to reach the consent of reason, is is a venial sin on account of the imperfection of the act. . . . So also the motion of sloth lies sometimes only in sensuality, on account of the struggle of the flesh against the spirit, and this is a venial sin." The same holds true for envy; see ST II-II, q. 36, art 3.

{62} See ST I-II, q. 94, art. 2.

{63} This is a paraphrase of Aristotle, Metaphysics, 993b10.

{64} Put in terms of natural inclinations, evolution would never produce an entire race of humans that did not strive to continue in existence, by seeking nourishment and other life necessities, and by fighting or fleeing dangers. Nor would it produce a human species whose members had no inclination to mate. As for the human inclinations to live in society and know the truth, these are natural to man because of his rationality (see ST I-II, q. 94, art. 2).

{65} See NE 1107a19-13, 25: "But not every action nor every passion admits of a mean; for some have names that already imply badness, e.g. spite, shamelessness, envy, and in the case of actions adultery, theft, murder; for all of these and suchlike things imply by their names that they are themselves bad, and not the excesses or deficiencies of them. . . . however they are done, they are wrong."

{66} I agree with Michael J. Behe's rejection of Arnhart's position: ". . . conservatives developed their political philosophy over the course of centuries with no help from Darwinists and with no reference to shifting Darwinian stories. I recommend that conservatives decline the kind offer of Darwinists to take credit for their ideas" ("Conservatives, Darwin & Design: An Exchange," 29).

{67} See NE 1166a17-20: "the good man wishes himself to live and be preserved . . . for existence is good to the virtuous man, and each man wishes himself what is good, while no one chooses to possess the whole world if he has first to become some one else."

{68} See NE 1118a8-18: "Of the appetites some seem to be common, others to be peculiar to individuals and acquired; e.g. the appetite for food is natural, since every one who is without it craves for food or drink, and sometimes for both, and for the "marriage bed" also, as Homer says, when young and lusty." See also Politics 1252a25-30: ". . . this is a union [i.e., of male and female] which is formed, not of deliberate purpose, but because in common with other animals and with plants, mankind have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves. . . ."

{69} See Politics 1253a3: "man is by nature a political animal" and 1253a30-32: "The urge to associate with each other is in all by nature. However, the one who first united people together is the cause of the greatest good." See also NE 1169b17: ". . . no one would choose the whole world on condition of being alone, since man is a political creature and one whose nature is to live with others. Therefore even the happy man lives with others; for he has the things that are by nature good."

{70} See Metaphysics 98022: "All men by nature desire to know."

{71} A good example of how what sociobiologists say may be true, but is not helpful for ethics is what they say about human "mating strategies." The story is that female animals in view of maximizing the spread of their genes either look to see whether the male is likely to be a good provider, or alternately go for a male that is extremely attractive. The reason for the former strategy is obvious. The latter strategy is based on the notion that if one goes for an attractive male, one will have attractive children; thus what one loses, as far as being provided for goes, is likely to be amply made up for by the greater likelihood that one's children find mates than would less attractive children fathered by the less attractive good provider. Now first of all, people have observed long ago, that some women tends to go for a man because he is wealthy, whereas other take no interest in a man, unless he is a "hunk." We didn't need sociobiology to tell us that. Nor will women who choose their spouses on such bases be convinced of the error of their ways by taking a crash course in sociobiology.

{72} It is possible to have human being who is unable to exercise his free will.

{73} See Thomas Aquinas, In Librum Boethii de Trinitate, ed. Decker. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1959), q. 5, art. 3: But finger, foot, and hand, and other parts of this sort are outside an understanding of 'man', whence the essential notion of man does not depend on them and man can be understood without them. For whether it has feet or not, so long as there is affirmed a conjunct of rational soul and body mixed from the elements with the proper blending that such a form requires, it will be a man. See also, Quaestio Disputata De Virtutibus in Communi, unicus, art. 4, ad 8: "not only is reason required for the integrity of human nature, but also the lower powers of the soul, and the body itself."

{74} ST I-II, q. 18, art. 1: "The fullness of being for a human being requires that there be a certain composite from soul and body having all the powers and instruments of cognition and motion."

{75} At first sight it appears curious that Aquinas would speak of "the mutability of human nature and the diverse conditions of men and things" (De Malo, q. 2, art. 4, ad 13), given that he thought that human nature was fixed, although the human condition was variable. However, changes in the non-necessary features of human nature are not all that different than changes in the human condition, e.g., that it is bad for an individual to eat sausage at a given time could arise due to having developed a serious cholesterol problem, or due to the sausage being recalled because of bacterial contamination.

{76} Kristin Leutwyler, "Partible Paternity," Scientific American, (May 1988), 28.

{77} See for example, William Provine, "Evolution and the Foundation of Ethics," in MBL Science, 3, 1, (Winter 1988), 25-29.

{78} Herbert Spencer and Sir Richard Galton are perhaps the best-known advocates of eugenics who take inspiration from Darwin.

{79} The basic notion behind eugenics was already enunciated by Darwin: "the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of men" (Darwin, The Descent of Man, [New York: The Modern Library, 1962], 501.

{80} See Ruse and Wilson, "The Evolution of Ethics," in Philosophy of Biology, 313.

{81} It has been argued that the notion of God is needed to establish that there is an ultimate end for man, because a key principle in the argument for an ultimate end is that all desire cannot be in vain (see NE 1094a22), and the notion that nature does nothing in vain can only be understood by bringing in the notion of God. While a full understanding of "nature does nothing in vain" does require bringing in God, this principle can nonetheless be understood simply by induction, e.g., nature does not give wings to dolphins, or fins to birds, etc.

{82} See NE 1097b23-1098a18.

{83} Aristotle's next major discussion concerns virtue. He begins by noting: "By human virtue we mean not that of the body but that of the soul; and happiness also we call an activity of soul. But if this is so, clearly the student of politics must know somehow the facts about the soul, as the man who is to heal the eyes or the body as a whole, must know about the eyes or the body" (NE 1102a15-19). Aristotle then proceeds to give a division of the parts of the soul drawn from natural philosophy, and uses this as the basis for distinguishing the main types of virtue (see NE 1102b34-1103a5). Later in Bk. VI, which concerns intellectual virtue, Aristotle again looks first at what is known about the parts of the human soul, before he goes on to investigate the virtues that perfect those parts (see NE 1139a1-16).

{84} There is another more obscure statement which appears to make a similar point in the NE: "But perhaps even in inferior creatures there is some natural good stronger than themselves which aims at their proper good" (NE 1173a4).

{85} Aquinas concurs with this reading. He takes Aristotle to be saying that: "all men desire the same pleasure according to natural appetite, but not nevertheless according to their own judgement. For not all think in their heart or state orally that the same pleasure is the best. Nevertheless all are naturally inclined to the same pleasure as the best, to wit in the contemplation of the intelligible truth, according as all men naturally desire to know. And this happens because all have in themselves something divine, namely, the inclination of nature which depends upon the first principle; or also the form itself which is the principle of this inclination" (In Decem Libros Ethicorum Aristotelis, #1511). There are other reasons for thinking that Aristotle reasoned to God as the Mind behind nature, for example, he maintains that "God and nature do nothing in vain" (De Caelo 271a33). As for the position that Aristotle does not regard God as the efficient cause of the order in nature, Aquinas for one explicitly rejects it: "It is to be noted that Aristotle here posits God to be the maker of the heavenly bodies, and not only a cause through the mode of the end, as certain were saying" (In Libros Aristotelis De Caelo et Mundo, Leonine edition [Rome: Society for the Propagation of the Faith, 1886) Bk. I, chap. 4, lectio 8, #14, 36).

{86} See Parts of Animals, 644a17-23: "[I]n all natural things there is something of the wonderful. As it is told about the strangers who wishing to see Heraclitus, hesitated when they saw him at the kitchen warming himself at the stove -- Heraclitus bid them not to fear entering, for there are gods even here, so too we should venture on the study of every kind of animal without distaste; for in all of them is something natural and beautiful."

{87} Darwin started out a theist and a great admirer of Paley. It was the apparent success of explanation of biological adaptations in terms of material causes alone that led to his questioning God's existence: "The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows." Darwin, Autobiography, quoted by Mayr, Towards a New Philosophy of Biology, 239.

{88} Richard Lewontin, New York Review of Books (January 9, 1997), 31.

{89} See ibid., 28: "[T]he primary problem is not to provide the public with the knowledge of how far it is to the nearest star and what genes are made of, for that vast project is, in its entirety, hopeless. Rather, the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth."

{90} Materialists come in many flavors, and doubtlessly some of them claim that their materialism leaves room for free will. The latter could formulate a science of ethics in their ignorance that they have undermined one of the very foundations of ethics.

{91} Here is an example illustrating how difference in attitude towards nature impacts on moral science: Aristotle would never countenance same-sex marriages, whereas Neo-Darwinians would be inclined to say that "we should not let nature dictate to us how we should behave, times have changed and our overpopulated planet is not in need of additional members."

{92} See Aquinas, In Librum Boethii de Trinitate, q. 3, art. 1, ad 3: "[I]t is necessary to anyone who is heading for happiness to know in what things he ought to seek happiness, and how: which certainly cannot come about more easily than through faith; since the inquiry of reason is not able to arrive at such things, unless many things are known in advance, which things are not easy to know. Nor even can this come about with less danger, since the inquiry of human reason easily errs because of the imbecility of our intellect: and this even is plainly shown from the philosophers themselves who seeking through the way of reason the end of human life and the mode of arriving at it, [and] not discovering it, fell into numerous and most base errors, and were disagreeing with one another to such an extent that in regard to everything concerning these matters there is scarcely one opinion common to two or three of them: while nevertheless through faith we see even many peoples agree in one opinion."

{93} See NE 1094b15-24 and 1104a1-9

{94} It seems that Aristotle made about half a dozen or so mistakes, some of which could only be recognized as such in the light of faith. In the Politics (1335b20-24), he advocates exposing deformed children. In the same place he also says that if the state is suffering from overpopulation, children should be aborted "before sense and life have begun." He thought that it was natural that certain human beings be the property of others (see Politics, Bk. I, chaps. 5, 6). As far as he could see, friendship with God was impossible (see NE 1159a4; although at 1162a4 he speaks as if it were possible). Although he thought that the ultimate mover and ruler of the universe was one, he still recommended that that money be spent in honor of the gods and/or the "daimons" (see NE 1122b22). And he thought that righteous indignation (nemesis) was a virtue (NE 1108a35-b6).

{95} See NE 1094a18-25: "If then, there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this), and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (for at that rate the process would go on to infinity, so that our desire would be empty and vain), clearly this must be the good and the chief good. Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what is right?"

{96} Super Ioan, 2.3.

{97} See Aquinas, In Librum Boethii de Trinitate q. 2, art. 3: "As, however, Sacred Doctrine is founded upon the light of faith, so philosophy is founded upon the natural light of reason. Whence it is impossible that those things which pertain to philosophy be contrary to those things which pertain to the faith, but they fall short of them."

{98} See Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate, in Quaestiones Disputatae, vol. 1, ed. Raymond M. Spiazzi, O.P. (Turin: Marietti, 1964), q. 14, art. 11, ad 2. See also ibid. ad 1 (cited in an earlier note).

{99} Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae (Boston: St. Paul Books & Media, c1968), #4.

{100} Ibid., #31.

{101} Aquinas deemed it a worthwhile endeavor to comment on the whole of the pagan Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, and upon part of his Politics. His frequent references to Aristotle in the parts of the Summa Theologiae devoted to moral matters further confirms the value he places on careful investigation of such questions in light of natural reason.

{102} It should be noted that a person who has it all together from a purely natural standpoint is prone to pride which is an obstacle to converting to Christianity. There is a certain openness to Christianity that comes from the acute awareness that one's life is profoundly disordered, as one sees in the case of St. Augustine: "tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of heaven before you" (Mt. 21:31).

{103} Frank Drake and Dava Sobel, Is Anyone Out There? (New York: Delacorte Press, 1992), 43.