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  • Origin of the Human Speciesby Dennis Bonnette
  • Earl Muller S.J.
Origin of the Human Speciesby Dennis Bonnette, ed. Peter A. Redpath, 3rdexpanded edition (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, 2014), xxviii + 266 pp.

T he third editionof Dennis Bonnette's Origin of the Human Speciesis substantially the same as the first edition, which came out in 2001. There has been a minor emendation of the text, and the footnotes and bibliography have been corrected where that was necessary. This expanded edition includes two articles by Bonnette published since this work first appeared: "The Myth of the 'Myth' of Adam and Eve," from a Polish publication edited by Mary Helen Klinge-Drucker, Humanistyka i realizm, which has not yet appeared, and "The Philosophical Impossibility of Darwinian Naturalistic Evolution," in Faith & Reason33:1–4 (2008): 55–67. The index has been revised to include these two appendices.

This is fundamentally a philosophical and theological analysis of the issues underlying the theory of evolution from a Thomistic perspective. Bonnette is well-informed on the scientific data brought to bear on the question and the positions taken by atheistic naturalists and "scientific creationists." Intelligent design proponents are also represented—indeed, Michael Behe wrote the foreword to the second edition. Bonnette will side with paleoanthropologists on the antiquity of true humans. The artistry of the Acheulean tools, for instance, indicates true intelligence but is associated with Homo erectus(and not Homo sapiens). Recent earlier dating of these tools has proved awkward for some theories of evolution, and Bonnette reports the arguments from all sides with considerable detachment, tracing the debate from Darwin's original theory of gradualistic transformism to the theories of "punctuated equilibrium."

As a philosopher, Bonnette examines the logical, epistemological, and metaphysical foundations of various, at times conflicting, claims of natural scientists. He notes that the process of classifying fossil remains, or of connecting them into a series, is itself a "mental, not an extramental, act," an interpretation imposed on the empirical data (11). This interpretation is based on a convergence of evidence that "persuades ' beyond a reasonable doubt'" (13). Bonnette does not challenge this as such (though he is conversant with the inconsistency in the evidence), but he points out that "perinoetic speculations, especially as they extrapolate from present data to prehistorical conclusions, forever foreclose the possibility of apodictic certitude" (14). [End Page 345]Metaphysics, on the other hand, is able to achieve such certitude. Thus, for example, metaphysics can establish that there is a Creator. Any theory of evolution that purports to do away with the necessity of God is philosophically incoherent. This does not preclude the possibility of an evolution that "may give greater glory to the First Cause by preserving the natural efficacy of secondary causes" (18).

Bonnette's study begins in earnest in the second chapter. Anti-evolutionists are generally willing to concede that there is variation within a given species and that there can be development in these variations (intra-specific evolution). The problem enters in with claims that "a form has transcended its species" (extra-specific evolution). Bonnette sets himself the task of determining whether "natural species" exist and "how inter-specific transformism, if it occurs, can be compatible with traditional philosophical principles." The nominalist understanding of "species" as "only convenient words to describe mid-ranges of ever-blending series of unique individuals" (28) is rejected. The "biological species concept" is likewise set aside: "The biologist seeks perinoetic knowledge: knowledge in which, by purely descriptive substitute signs, we conceptually grasp an organism's sensible or common accidents. The philosopher pursues dianoetic knowledge in which, by careful examination of essential properties or proper accidents, we understand a thing's essence or nature" (30). He concludes that "several progressively more perfect natural species exist" and that "more than one natural species of animal exist" (38–39). This philosophical definition of species would place mice and elephants within the same species (possessed of five senses) but oysters (not possessed of those senses) in another. He examines only the most important natural species—plants, animals, and human beings—to determine whether they are truly distinct and to determine...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2470-5861
Print ISSN
1542-7315
Pages
pp. 345-350
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-06
Open Access
No
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