Lack of experience diminishes our power of taking a comprehensive view of the admitted facts.

Hence those who
dwell in intimate association with nature and its phenomena grow more and more able to formulate, as the foundations
of their theories, principles such as to admit of a wide and coherent development: while those whom devotion to
abstract discussions has rendered unobservant of the facts are too ready to dogmatize on the basis of a few
Thomas !uinas Commentary on De gen. et corrupt. ", #, n. #$
A Philosophical Critique of Darwin’s The Origin of Species
ny investigation of %harles &arwin's The Origin of Species must acknowledge the fateful fact that it ranks as the most
influential treatise of the nineteenth century, The Communist Manifesto being its only real competitor for this dubious honor.
(oth books ignited destructive fires which consumed the faith of untold millions, and which have yet to burn themselves out.
nd both books contributed to this holocaust by inspiring their readers to sacrifice themselves and others to )rogress, the
insatiable god of the nineteenth century.
There can be no doubt that belief in progress was already a well*established pseudo*religious dogma long before
&arwin published The Origin of Species. "ndeed, &arwin's theory of evolution would never have been so readily and rapidly
received had it been otherwise, which illustrates +ust how pernicious blind faith in progress really is, because it makes possible
the acceptance of almost any error, no matter how absurd, so long as it seems to confirm the progressive world view.
,odern man will balk, of course, at the suggestion that &arwin's theory of evolution is really a pseudo*religious
dogma, because modern man is convinced that evolution is the pre*eminent scientific teaching of modern times. ,odern man
does not know that even his understanding of what science is reveals a mindless acceptance e!uivalent to what he himself has
been taught to dismiss as -blind faith.. (ut if, for one moment, modern man were to direct his skepticism towards his own
unexamined belief in modern science, he would see that he has no real scientific knowledge of evolution, but merely a
thoughtless allegiance to what is best termed -scientism.. "ndeed, modern man looks to the contemporary scientist as the high
priest whose authority to speak infallibly cannot be !uestioned. nd if anyone dares to do so, his ob+ections are met either with
scorn and silence, or with hopeful expressions of pseudo*faith such as -Look how much man has accomplished in the last
century/. 0o powerfully does the modern god of )rogress tyrannize over men's souls, that no evidence to the contrary, of which
our daily news provides an abundance, will shake his devotion to the belief that man has progressed throughout the ages and will
inevitably continue to progress in the future. (orn of pride and complacency, the progressive world*view is nothing other than
the terrestrialization of the %atholic world view. Having captured the untutored spiritual longings of modern men, the cult of
progress has perversely imposed upon the natural world a notion of progress proper to the supernatural world alone. "ndeed, the
spiritual progress or ascent of the %hristian soul, so beautifully portrayed in &ante's Divine Comedy, finds its satanic parody in
the world*view of the progressivists.
(ut let us leave this more general consideration of the progressive world*view, and consider &arwin's theory of
evolution in its particulars. 0ince no appeal to the %atholic 1aith will carry weight with modern scientists, to say nothing of
%atholics themselves, it is important to meet &arwin on the ground which he claims for himself, namely, that of science. (ut
how can we, who lack the specialized knowledge of modern scientists, even hope to understand this theory, let alone demonstrate
its deficiencies2
The problem of confronting a writer like &arwin, who is considered an intellectual giant of the nineteenth century, is
not so difficult a task as may be supposed if we recall ristotle's understanding of a liberally educated man as distinguished from
the specialist. 3very science, ristotle explains, admits of two different kinds of proficiency: the first is properly called scientific
knowledge of the sub+ect4 the second is a certain educational ac!uaintance with it. ccording to ristotle, a man who has this
latter kind of ac!uaintance should be able to form a fair -off*hand. +udgment concerning the method used by a professed expert
in the field.
(ut how is it possible for a mere amateur in a given science to make a critical +udgment of the alleged expert2 man
who has received a liberal education, ristotle argues, will be able to +udge the arguments of a specialist in any given field,
because the liberally educated man will know the first principles of the various sciences. Thus, even without specialized
knowledge, the liberally educated man can determine whether the arguments of the specialist are consistent with and follow from
that which the liberally educated man knows to be true. ,oreover, even apart from knowing the first principles of any particular
science, the liberally educated man will know the first principles that are the foundation of all the sciences.
(ut what do we mean by -first principles.2 principle is a beginning, a starting point from which we reason. s such,
the first principles of a given science are not arrived at by proof, but are themselves the starting points of all proof. 1or example,
one of the first principles of the science of geometry is that -the whole is greater than its part.. This first principle is not
something the geometrician proves4 rather, it is that from which he begins and proves other things. 5sing this, and other
principles of this science, the geometrician is eventually able to prove, among other things, the )ythagorean theorem. The first
principles themselves, however, are not known to us through proof. "ndeed, we grasp these principles immediately * by which we
mean without a middle term * for they are grasped through the intuitive power of the soul, not through discursive reasoning. 6e
cannot prove that the whole is greater than its part4 it is not a conclusion that emerges from reasoning scientifically from one
thing to another. 7ather, this principle is simply something that we grasp once we know what is meant by -whole. and -part..
This is not to say that we may not need examples and explanation in order to see the truth of this principle. (ut those examples
and any explanation are not what make the principle true. 3xamples and explanation of terms simply bring the principle to the
attention of our intellect, but they do not prove it. nd once we grasp this principle, our certainty concerning it no longer
depends upon the examples and explanation that led us to it. )roven or deduced knowledge, on the other hand, can never be
grasped apart from the steps that brought us to it.
"t should be clear, then, that first principles must be self*evident, for our knowledge of them does not depend upon
some prior knowledge. "ndeed, first principles are better known to us than that which we come to know from these principles.
6ere this not the case, then there could be no knowledge of anything, because we must know something first before we can
arrive at the knowledge of something which we previously did not know. "f there were no self*evident first principles, no sure
starting points of our knowledge, then there could be no scientific knowledge at all. "f someone, for example, demanded a proof
for the principle that -the whole is greater than its part,. then whatever was used to prove that principle would itself re!uire a
proof. (ut this, of course, would lead to an infinite regression. 6e conclude, then, that all strictly scientific knowledge * that is,
all proven knowledge * depends upon pre*scientific knowledge, namely, self*evident first principles that are themselves not
sub+ect to proof.
6e should note here that there are not only first principles with respect to each of the particular sciences, but also first
principles in the un!ualified sense. That is to say, there are first principles which are first simply insofar as they pertain to
scientific knowledge in general. The very first principle of the speculative intellect is the law of non*contradiction, namely, that a
thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. The law of non*contradiction is first not with respect to
any particular science, but it is first in an un!ualified way, for it is that which must be grasped before we can know anything else.
3ven the first principle of geometry, that -the whole is greater than its part,. is subse!uent to the law of non*contradiction, the
first of all first principles. This order, even among first principles themselves, is immediately evident when we recognize that we
cannot grasp the principle that -the whole is greater than its part. unless we first grasp the law of non*contradiction4 for if a
whole could also be a part at the same time and in the same respect, that is, if a piece of pie could at the same time also be the
whole pie, then we surely could never know that the whole is greater than its part, nor could we say anything about anything and
make any sense. (ecause being cannot be other than what it is, and because the first and most certain thing we grasp about being
is this very fact, it is impossible to deny the law of non*contradiction without rendering the denial itself unintelligible. That is to
say, implicit in any denial of the law of non*contradiction is the assumed truth of the very law that is being denied. 1or example,
if someone were to say that an elephant can both be an elephant and not be an elephant at the same time and in the same respect,
he would have to assume * if he intends to say something intelligible * that we have already grasped what an elephant is, and that
an elephant is in fact an elephant and not some other being. nd yet this simple fact * that an elephant is an elephant * is what is
being denied when the law of non*contradiction is denied, even while the very truth of the fact is implicitly assumed in the denial.
To state this more generally, if being were such that things could both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect,
then strictly speaking nothing could be known because things would have no fixed natures, no way of being that makes them one
thing rather than another. "ndeed, to form the proposition -This is an elephant,. would itself be impossible, for the referent for
the word -this. would be a referent without a fixed being, and therefore no referent at all. 3ven the word -is. itself would be
nonsensical. "n such a universe, all would be chaos, and yet even this could not be known * let alone enunciated * as such.
(ut how does this understanding of first principles, and especially the law of non*contradiction, help us to evaluate
&arwin's theory of evolution2 %onsider what ristotle had to say about the importance of first principles: 3ven a small mistake
at the beginning of our reasoning about things, that is, a mistake with respect to first principles, will have dire conse!uences for
the conclusions we draw from these mistaken principles, no matter how well we reason from them. Like a builder who makes a
small mistake in the foundation, which mistake is then amplified as he builds ever upward, so in reasoning a mistake in first
principles leads to false and even absurd conclusions, which later reveal themselves as false problems, and which in turn invite
still greater errors in an effort to correct these problems. %ertainly much of the history of philosophy involves the construction of
seemingly magnificent castles, the foundations of which are more often than not in sand, such that when they begin to sink, other
philosophers come along and build upon the prior castle, supposing that the problem can be addressed without returning to the
faulty foundations. The history of philosophy in the nineteenth century exhibits this kind of perverse ingenuity perhaps better
than any other century, with the likes of Hegel, ,ill, ,arx, and 9ietzsche attempting to build upon the philosophic architecture
be!ueathed to them by &escartes, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, 7ousseau, and :ant.
"f we are to consider &arwin's theory, then, with an eye to uncovering and evaluating his first principles, we must first
be clear as to what the proper first principles of natural science really are. Here the ancients and medievals are of great help to us
because they observed the natural order without the mindset of modern man who is, for the most part, in the grips of the theory of
evolution. 6hat the ancients and medievals saw, of course, is exactly what we can still see today, if only we would remove our
&arwinian spectacles and actually look at the natural world: birds collect sticks to build nests4 elephants use their trunks to
gather food4 beavers use their teeth to cut down trees4 and spiders build webs to catch their prey. ,oreover, sparrows produce
more sparrows, dogs produce more dogs, and potatoes * thank goodness * always produce more potatoes. 9ow, whatever
happens always or for the most part cannot happen by chance, and this self*evident first principle, which we grasp simply by
virtue of observing the world as it is, is the necessary starting point for all our scientific knowledge of the natural order. 9ote that
our use of the word -order. here is not only intentional, but also cannot be otherwise, for it is evident that order is necessarily
prior to disorder. "ndeed, the concept of disorder has no meaning unless we have first grasped what order is. Likewise, chance is
nonsensical unless we have a prior grasp of what is not by chance, but rather by intention or design. ,ore broadly, we see that
truth and reality are necessarily prior to falsehood and illusion, for truth and reality can be understood without reference to
falsehood and illusion, but we would have no understanding of falsehood and illusion if we had no prior experience of truth and
"t should be evident, then, why the ancients and medievals held that nature must be understood teleologically, that is,
nature must be understood in terms of an end or purpose, telos being the ;reek word for -end.. To be a teleologist is simply to
recognize that animals and plants have purposes4 that they come to be and continue to act for the sake of something. The
teleological view is best summarized by the traditional formula that -nature acts for an end.. 9ow, we know that nature acts for
an end because whatever happens always or for the most part happens not by chance, but by design. "t is the nature of an acorn,
for example, to become an oak. n acorn, as well as all other living things, has a regularized pattern of growth such that it will
reach its proper end always or for the most part, provided it has both the proper material conditions, i.e., soil, water, and sunlight,
and no material defects of its own. Thus, while certain material conditions are necessary for it to achieve its end, the acorn is not
what it is because of these material conditions4 rather, the acorn utilizes these raw materials in such a way as to bring itself to its
perfection as an oak. The acorn does not become an oak simply because of external causes that act upon the acorn4 rather, the
growth of the acorn is governed by an innate principle of motion that directs the acorn to its proper end. Thus, an oak tree is not
what it is simply by virtue of the -stuff. of which it is composed. lthough we do call the matter from which the oak grows its
-nature. in one sense, nevertheless we call the completed form of the oak its -nature. in a superior sense, because the form is the
end to which the oak grows, and that which gives structure, order, and purpose to the matter. s ristotle says in the Physics,
-The form indeed is <nature' rather than the matter4 for a thing is more properly said to be what it is when it has attained to
fulfillment than when it exists potentially..
Let us pause here to consider more closely ristotle's famous hylomorphic theory, his explanation of natural bodies in
terms of the principles of form and matter. "t should be emphasized that we must distinguish ristotle's theory from the novel
theories of modern scientists that are intended as hypothetical and heuristic models of the physical structure of matter. %ertainly
ristotle did not claim to have invented form and matter, for this fundamental distinction arises from our immediate experience
of things. "n its simplest terms, form is the essence of a thing, its -whatness.. 6hen we look at a cat, for example, we see
-catness,. that which allows us to recognize it as a cat, regardless of those particular features which distinguish it from other cats,
for example, its color, size, breed, etc. 1orm, then, signifies a thing's intelligible reality. =ne must therefore not confuse form in
this sense with -form. in the everyday sense of something spatially or otherwise limited. s for matter, it is the plastic material
substratum that receives form and gives it finite existence. The matter, then, is the cause of the differences we see between this
large, fuzzy, black cat and that small, short*haired, yellow one, whereas the form is the cause of their sameness, that which allows
us to identify them as belonging to the same species. Hence, the form of a thing is its nature in a truer sense because the form
determines and shapes the matter so that it becomes the kind of thing it is intended to be. The form is the perfection of a thing.
Thus, all growth, even at the earliest stages, aims at this perfection or final end4 and it is the character of that end which organizes
the matter from the beginning and throughout its growth in order that the final end may be reached.
The principles of form and matter in nature are more easily understood by analogy to art. %onsider an artist who
imparts a certain form, preconceived in his intellect, to a material such as clay, in order to make a bowl. The matter of the bowl is
that out of which the bowl comes to be and that which persists once the bowl has been made, namely, the clay. 6e therefore call
the clay the material cause of the bowl. The form, however, is the !ualitative seal imprinted on the clay by the efficient
workmanship of the artist. The artist imparts a certain shape * a form * to the clay so that the clay shows itself to be a bowl, and
not any other artifact that the clay may have become. nd this formal cause constitutes the essence * the -what is it. * of the
thing. "n the wonderfully illuminating words of (oethius, a thing is known by its form, which is -like a light by which we know
what a thing is.. ,atter, on the other hand, is precisely that which is not yet formed and which by that very fact escapes all
distinctive knowing. ,atter is the plastic substance that receives the seal of form while conferring on it a concrete and limited
Through our analogy to art, we can see that there are two other causes that bring a thing into existence: the agent or
efficient cause4 and the final cause. The efficient cause is simply the primary source of the change, which in our example would
be the artist and the tools he employs to shape the clay into a bowl. nd finally, but most important of all, the final cause is -that
for the sake of which. a thing is made, that is, its purpose, which, in the example of the bowl, would be to hold food or drink.
9ote, then, that it is the final cause which determines the other three causes, for the final cause looks to what is best and is the
completion of all that leads up to it. 6e call this cause -final. because it is the last to come into existence upon completion of the
bowl4 and yet, this cause must be in the mind of the artist prior to his actually beginning his work. The artist must choose his
material, his tools, and the shape of the bowl, all with a view to the finished product and its ultimate purpose. The clay, or
material cause, on the other hand, is not the pre*eminent cause because the bowl would still be a bowl even if it had been formed
out of bronze, tin, or gold, or any other substance that is receptive to formation, and yet rigid once formed. ,atter * in this case,
the clay, bronze, gold or tin * is not determined to any one artifact, but is capable of being shaped for any number of purposes that
the artist has in mind. The matter, then, does not determine the form, but it is the form that determines the matter and its
development or growth.
9ow, the analogy to art is helpful because clearly the things we make ourselves are better known to us than that which
is produced by nature, for we endow our artifacts with purposes which are fully known to us. "t is upon these grounds, of course,
that modern science has accused traditional science of being anthropomorphic, of imposing the human mode of production upon
the natural order. (ut the charge of anthropomorphism is more aptly directed at modern science itself, because modern science
consistently reduces !ualitative distinctions to !uantitative ones, which it then counts and measures, as if the fullness of nature
could be exhausted by a purely mathematical account of things. 6hat modern science fails to recognize is that the traditional
analogy between art and nature is valid insofar as all art is an imitation of nature. 6e can therefore understand nature's
productions by analogy to our own, because it is actually nature's handiwork that establishes the original standards by which
human art is made and understood.
0etting aside for the moment the analogy to art, we recognize immediately that our own nature acts for an end, even
apart from our conscious endeavors. To take an extreme example, if a man were to try to end his life by cutting himself on the
wrist, the blood would still attempt to clot in order to thwart the man's perverse intention. Likewise, my eyes blink when ob+ects
approach them, " cough when something is stuck in my throat, and " sweat under certain conditions without any conscious
intention. 3ven if these mechanisms might be cause for embarrassment under certain circumstances, " recognize that they are
good for me because they protect me and keep me alive.
6e see this same principle operating in the larger natural order of which we are a part. 1or example, the purpose for
which birds build their nests is immediately known to us. "n fact, everything we know about the birds and the bees testifies to the
teleological nature we see in all organisms. The parents produce a specific seed which, although relatively undifferentiated at the
beginning, develops and unfolds from within in an orderly fashion until, having passed through successive stages, it reaches its
completed form. nd all this growth, which leads to this perfected end, is determined by the end toward which the organism is
ordered. ,oreover, the undifferentiated seed is progressively differentiated at each stage in its growth such that the differentiated
parts are ordered not only to each other, but also to the organism as a whole.
s for the final form of the organism that comes to be, it is an organic whole, which means that it has organs or tools
which function for specific ends, all of which serve the good of the whole. (irds have wings to fly, beaks with which to break
seeds, claws with which to grab, and eyes to see. 3ach part of a bird, both external and internal, contributes to the maintenance
and functioning of the other parts, as well as of the whole. The whole itself is an essential unity, not an accidental heap of parts,
and this whole is known to us through its outward form, which immediately reveals what kind of thing the individual bird is.
"ndeed, our word -species. comes from the Latin e!uivalent for the ;reek word -eidos,. which means -form.. The Latin verb,
specio, means to look at or behold, and the ;reek word -eidos” shares this same root meaning. =ur word species, then, refers
directly to the -looks. of an organism, which brings us back to the relation made famous by )lato between the outward
appearance or form of a thing and its transcendental archetype, its 1orm in the )latonic sense, which exists outside of the natural
realm of coming to be and passing away. 6e will return to the significance of this relationship when we consider &arwin's use of
the word -species..
The essential unity of an organism is revealed to us not only by its looks, but also by its characteristic activities, and by
its tendency to maintain or to restore its wholeness. 9ot only do organisms organize themselves, produce themselves, and
preserve themselves, they also heal themselves. nd in all these things they exhibit an innate striving toward an end. ?oung
birds, at the slightest movement above or around their nests, open wide their mouths so that their parents can feed them. nd
once they leave the nest, these same birds will work to coordinate wing and tail movements until they are capable of flight. 3ven
plants exhibit this same striving for an end when their sprouts grow upward, twisting and turning when necessary in order to
reach the sun, while their roots simultaneously plunge downward in an effort to find water and minerals.
"t would be a mistake, of course, to argue that such strivings in nature demonstrate a conscious effort on the part of
every organism to achieve a certain end. 3ven in man * the only natural being who can consciously direct himself towards an end
* there is always action for an end, namely, happiness, which he cannot but will even if he is free to choose various means of
pursuing it. The very fact that natural bodies act for an end without deliberation is used by 0t. Thomas !uinas to prove that
there exists an intelligent 0upreme (eing, who exists outside of and above the natural order, and who has implanted purpose in
things. 0t. Thomas' fifth proof of the existence of ;od reads as follows:
The fifth way is taken from the governance of things. 6e see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies,
act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best
result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end not by chance, but by design. 9ow whatever lacks knowledge
cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence, as the
arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are ordered to their
end4 and this being we call ;od.
9ote that 0t. Thomas' proof summarizes beautifully everything we have argued up to this point. 0tarting from the first
principle, that whatever happens always or for the most part cannot happen by chance, 0t. Thomas notes that nature acts for an
end in order to obtain the best result. "n fact, the end, which is the completed or perfected whole, is identical with the good for
each thing. nd yet the thing itself, except in the case of man, lacks the capacity to know the good to which it is directed.
%ertainly it can be shown that organisms operate in an intelligible manner in order to achieve their proper ends, and yet those
same organisms can also be shown to be completely ignorant of those ends. 1abre, the famous 1rench entomologist, whom
&arwin himself called the -incomparable observer,. has demonstrated this more vividly than anyone else. t the conclusion of
this paper, we will consider one of 1abre's most famous observations, but for now it is sufficient to note that 1abre, along with 0t.
Thomas and ristotle, recognized that the study of natural science culminates in the proof of the existence of ;od, for there is no
other way to account for the intelligibility exhibited by organisms which themselves are utterly lacking in any intelligence. 0t.
)aul, in his etter to the !omans, makes the same claim in explaining why man has no excuse, even apart from divine revelation,
not to have acknowledged ;od's existence:
1or what can be known about ;od is plain to them, because ;od has shown it to them. 3ver since the creation of the
world His invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been
made @8:8A*#BC.
6e should note here, before turning to &arwin's re+ection of teleology, that the ancient and medieval teaching on final
causality explains not only the ways in which individual organisms act for an end, but also the coordination among the activities
of individuals within a social species, as well as the marvelous interdependence of different species, to say nothing of the
complex relationship between the organic and the inorganic world. 6hile we cannot pause here to pursue any particular
examples, we can see that it is meaningful to speak of wholeness as it pertains to three distinct levels: first, the organization
within individual organisms4 second, the unified order of a given species4 and third, the entire natural order itself. The unity
which is exhibited on each level * individual, species, and nature as a whole * reflects the unity of unities, ;od himself, whose
uni!ueness is manifested in each of the many distinct beings which play a part in an ordered whole. s 0t. Thomas explains in
the Summa Theologica, the distinction and multitude of things comes from ;od, the first agent and final cause of the natural
order. ,atter alone is insufficient for this purpose not only because matter itself was created by ;od, but also because, as we
have already seen, the distinction of things comes from their proper forms. ccording to 0t. Thomas, the plurality of these forms
corresponds in the divine mind to the plurality of things. nd the divine purpose behind this plurality of things is explained by
0t. Thomas as follows:
1or He brought things into being in order that His goodness might be communicated to creatures, and be represented by
them4 and because His goodness could not be ade!uately represented by one creature alone, He produced many and
diverse creatures, that what was wanting to one in the representation of the divine goodness might be supplied by
another. 1or goodness, which in ;od is simple and uniform, in creatures is manifold and divided4 and hence the whole
universe together participates in the divine goodness more perfectly, and represents it better than any single creature
whatever @)art 8, 8a, E. DFC.
Having reviewed the traditional teaching concerning natural science, let us consider now the reasons &arwin and his
predecessors re+ected that tradition. (eginning with (acon, &escartes, ;alileo, and Hobbes, modern science re+ected final
causality. "n doing so, they returned to the non*teleological position of some of the pre*0ocratics, such as 3mpedocles,
&emocritus, and Heraclitus. "n )lato's Phaedo, 0ocrates explains this pre*0ocratic view while he sits upon a table in his prison
cell. "n response to the !uestion * -6hy is 0ocrates sitting2. * these pre*0ocratics would have answered by referring to the
muscles, tendons, and ligaments in 0ocrates' leg, as if the mechanisms there were sufficient to explain why 0ocrates is sitting in
+ail. 6hile this materialistic explanation may well have been correct insofar as it explained the way in which the material
components operate when a leg bends at the knee, this explanation fails to reveal the final and truest cause of why 0ocrates is
sitting, namely, that he has refused to give up philosophizing, has been put in +ail for it, and chooses to remain there.
The pre*0ocratics, however, thought that the nature of a thing was to be found in its matter, not its form. 1or the pre*
0ocratics, -form. was merely an accidental outcome of the way in which the matter happened to fall together, such that what
appears to us as an essential unity is really +ust a heap or bundle of -stuff,. like a pile of books arbitrarily stacked upon one
another. 7ather than the matter being determined by the form, the pre*0ocratics held that the form is determined by the
properties of the matter, as if a house, for example, could come to be from a pile of the materials that compose it without those
materials being arranged according to a predetermined plan. ristotle thus criticizes 3mpedocles as follows:
3mpedocles, then, was in error when he said that many of the characteristics presented by animals were merely the
results of incidental occurrences during their development4 for instance, that the backbone was divided as it is into
vertebrae, because it happened to be broken owing to the contorted position of the fetus in the womb. "n so saying he
overlooked the fact that propagation implies a creative seed endowed with certain formative properties. 0econdly, he
neglected another fact, namely, that the parent animal pre*exists, not only in idea, but actually in time. 1or man is
generated from man4 and thus it is the possession of certain characteristics by the parent that determines the
development of like characteristics in the child @On the Parts of "nimals GDBa#B*#$C.
3mpedocles and the other pre*0ocratics made this mistake because they concerned themselves with the material cause alone.
ristotle summarizes the pre*0ocratic error as follows:
(ut if men and animals and their several parts are natural phenomena, then the natural philosopher must take into
consideration not merely the ultimate substances of which they are made, but also flesh, bone, blood, and all the other
homogeneous parts4 not only these, but also the heterogeneous parts, such as face, hand, foot4 and must examine how
each of these comes to be what it is, and in virtue of what force. 1or to say what are the ultimate substances out of
which an animal is formed, to state, for instance, that it is made of fire or earth, is no more sufficient than would be a
similar account in the case of a couch or the like. 1or we should not be content with saying that the couch was made of
bronze or wood or whatever it might be, but should try to describe its design or mode of composition in preference to
the material4 or, if we did deal with the material, it would at any rate be with the concretion of material and form. 1or a
couch is such and such a form embodied in this or that matter, or such and such a matter with this or that form4 so that
its shape and structure must be included in our description. 1or the formal nature is of greater importance than the
material nature @On the Parts of "nimals GD8b8$*#HC.
6hen the pre*0ocratic view reasserted itself in the sixteenth century, formal and final causality were explicitly re+ected
in favor of purely materialistic and mechanistic explanations. The novelty of &arwin, then, was not his re+ection of formal and
final cause, but rather the popularization of this re+ection through his theory of evolution, which seemingly explained the
appearance of order in nature without reference either to formal natures or to final causes, and thus without reference to ;od.
"t is important to understand that &arwin's re+ection of formal and final causality, his denial that nature acts for an end,
was not the result of his denying that it appears as if nature acts for an end. "ndeed, in the introduction to The Origin of Species,
&arwin emphasizes that he wishes to show how the species have been modified so as to -ac!uire that perfection of structure and
co*adaptation which most +ustly excites our admiration.. Thus, &arwin takes for granted the appearance of purposefulness in
nature, but he wishes to demonstrate that this is not the result of design, but rather of accident.
There are two ma+or parts to &arwin's theory as presented in The Origin of Species: the first is chance variation4 and
the second is natural selection. (y upholding chance variation * what today is generally called -mutation. * &arwin argues that
the species are neither eternal, as ristotle argues, nor are they separately created, as the (iblical account would seem to suggest.
"nstead, &arwin holds that the innumerable species have come to be through the modification of pre*existing species. The second
part of his theory, natural selection, is &arwin's explanation of the means by which that modification takes place.
"f we reflect upon the first part of &arwin's theory, namely, chance variation, we can see that for &arwin chance is more
fundamental than order. ccording to &arwin, although offspring resemble their parents for the most part, there are slight
variations in offspring that are the result of nature's random motions. 9ature tosses out these haphazard variations such that they
may occur in any part of the offspring. 9ow these variations, &arwin insists, can be -beneficial. or -in+urious. depending upon
the environment in which the organism happens to find itself. &arwin calls the variation -beneficial. if it increases the
organism's chances of survival, whereas he calls it -in+urious. if it results in the contrary. Here is where natural selection, the
second part of &arwin's theory, comes into play. Having accepted the theory made famous by Thomas ,althus in his #ssay on
Population, that population will always outrun the food supply, &arwin posits the necessary death of a large number of each
species. Therefore, in the intense struggle for existence that inevitably follows, those organisms that have accidentally received a
-beneficial. variation will more likely survive, whereas those which have accidentally received an -in+urious. variation will not.
,oreover, the survivors, by virtue of having survived, will pass on their -beneficial. variations to their own offspring, because
the offspring, as &arwin acknowledged from the beginning, generally resemble their parents. Thus, according to &arwin,
organisms gradually evolve from one kind of thing into another, as determined by accidental variations that make the organisms
progressively more fit to survive.
"t should be clear, then, that chance variation, not natural selection, is the key to &arwin's theory, for as &arwin himself
admits in The Origin of Species, -5nless profitable variations do occur, natural selection can do nothing.. "ndeed, whatever laws
govern the process of natural selection, these -laws. are obviously secondary to the whimsical actions of nature which make
adaptation possible in the first place. "ronically, &arwin's account of the teleological appearance of things is grounded on a
blind, purposeless, and non*teleological nature. 1or &arwin, order * at least the appearance of order * follows from chance. The
apparent unity of organisms is, according to &arwin, a mere accidental unity, not an essential one. Living things, then, despite
their appearance, are really +ust heaps of matter which are arranged into temporary, accidental, and ever changing -bundles..
"t is worth noting that &arwin's theory was fully anticipated in ristotle's Physics. Having first argued that nature acts
for an end, ristotle then raises this very difficulty for his own position:
6hy should not nature work, not for the sake of something, nor because it is better so, but +ust as the sky rains, not in
order to make the corn grow, but of necessity2 6hat is drawn up must cool, and what has been cooled must become
water and descend, the result of this being that the corn grows. 0imilarly if a man's crop is spoiled on the threshing*
floor, the rain did not fall for the sake of this * in order that the crop must be spoiled * but that result +ust followed.
6hy then should it not be the same with the parts in nature, e.g., that our teeth should come up of necessity * the front
teeth sharp, fitted for tearing, the molars broad and useful for grinding down the food * since they did not arise for this
end, but it was merely a coincident result4 and so with all other parts in which we suppose that there is purpose2
6henever then all the parts came about +ust as they would have done if they had come to be for an end, such things
survived, being organized spontaneously in a fitting way4 whereas those which grew otherwise perished and continue to
perish @8HAb8A*>8C.
"n answer to this difficulty, which anticipates the fundamental argument of &arwin's theory of evolution, ristotle states that it is
impossible that this view should be true: -1or teeth and all other natural things either invariably or normally come about in a
given way4 but of not one of the results of luck or chance is this true. @8HAb>$C. 9ote that ristotle, in order to refute this
position, returns to the first principle of natural science, namely, that whatever happens always or for the most part cannot happen
by chance. %learly &arwin's theory of evolution is grounded upon the denial of this self*evident first principle. 6e can
reasonably conclude, then, that &arwin's first principle is absurd. 6hen &arwin states that chance is the cause of the regular
order of the teeth, &arwin makes the words -chance. and -order. meaningless, because chance, by definition, is the absence of
intention, and intention alone can result in an invariable or normal order. (y claiming that there is no intention whatsoever in
nature, &arwin's argument self*destructs because it undermines its own claim to knowledge. 1or if the ordered nature which we
see is merely accidental and not essential, then nature cannot be a real ob+ect of our knowledge since it lacks any necessary or
intelligible order, and there can be no scientific knowledge of that which is in a constant state of flux. s ristotle writes, -the
person who asserts this entirely does away with <nature' and what exists <by nature'. @Physics 8HHb8D*8$C. "n sum, when &arwin
claims there is no intention in nature, he is implicitly arguing that there is no such thing as nature. "n other words, were &arwin
to be correct in the conclusion he draws from his study of nature, it must follow that he would have had literally no nature * as
such * to study. That &arwin has in fact studied nature is possible only because his theory of nature is false.
ristotle's anticipation and re+ection of the &arwinian position is all the more striking given that &arwin himself
!uotes this passage from ristotle's Physics on the very first page of The Origin of Species. &arwin places this all*important
!uotation in a footnote to a sentence where he indicates that he intends to pass over the allusions to the origin of species in the
classical writers. Then, after !uoting ristotle's pre*&arwinian explanation of how the orderly pattern of the teeth may have
arisen accidentally, &arwin writes: -6e here see the principle of natural selection shadowed forth, but how little ristotle fully
comprehended the principle, is shown by his remarks on the formation of the teeth.. &espite &arwin's niggardly recognition of
ristotle, it is evident that ristotle grasped the essentials of &arwin's position over two thousand years before &arwin made it
his own. "ronically, ristotle demonstrates a better understanding of &arwin than &arwin does of ristotle, even though &arwin,
having written long after ristotle, had the obvious advantage of the benefits of further natural selection.
&arwin's treatment of ristotle here is paradigmatic of the progressive world*view of the moderns, which fails to take
seriously the arguments of the ancients and medievals. lthough one often finds in the ancient and medieval writings a more
powerful presentation of the modern view than that found in the moderns themselves, nevertheless it is extremely rare to find a
modern writer demonstrating a thoughtful grasp of any ancient or medieval doctrine. This testifies not only to the extraordinary
devotion to reason found in the ancient and medieval philosophers, but also to the largely rhetorical dismissal of the ancient and
medieval teachings by the moderns. Had the moderns truly given themselves to the ancient and medieval arguments, many
pernicious modern doctrines would undoubtedly not be with us today, for they lack any foundation in reason. 9ote, for example,
that &arwin !uotes only that part of ristotle that -foreshadows. his own position, but &arwin makes no attempt to engage
ristotle's reasons for re+ecting this -foreshadowed. position. "mplicit in the progressive world*view is the unexamined
assumption that one who lives in a later age need not demonstrate mastery of those who have come before4 ridicule and facile
footnotes are sufficient refutations. "t is patently foolish, however, to suppose that our ancestors were morally, intellectually, and
spiritually inferior to us. ,oreover, the self*destructive nature of the progressive world*view is evident from the fact that it
renders every doctrine obsolete as soon as it has been expressed. fter all, there will always be another doctrine to replace the
latest and greatest teaching, which suggests that even the progressive world*view itself must give way in time. ,odern science,
like the modern machines which it has spawned, is e!ually sub+ect to planned * or rather, unplanned * obsolescence.
Let us return to ristotle's claim that a person who accepts chance as a first principle of natural science -entirely does
away with <nature' and what exists <by nature'.. Here is where the amateur, who knows first principles, can evaluate the
specialist and find the theories of the specialist wanting, if the specialist contradicts what is self*evidently true. ristotle explains
as follows:
That nature exists, it would be absurd to try to prove4 for it is obvious that there are many things of this kind, and to
prove what is obvious by what is not is the mark of a man who is unable to distinguish what is self*evident from what is
not @Physics 8H>a8*$C.
6hen ristotle says, -there are many things of this kind,. he is not speaking of anything esoteric, but simply of things like
s!uirrels, pine trees, dogs and dandelions * plants and animals that exist by nature and which everyone immediately recognizes as
distinct types of things. &arwin's account, however, which reduces all of nature to material reality alone, destroys the
intelligibility of nature since matter without form cannot in principle be known. 1orm, we should recall, is precisely that which
gives matter its !ualitative seal so that a thing is known as this kind of thing rather than that. s (oethius says, form is the light
by which a thing is known. (ut if the outward forms which are apparent to us are nothing but temporary collections or accidental
heaps of matter, then there is no essential being in the natures of things, but rather, only becoming.
Here we have reached the heart of &arwin's theory of evolution: the reduction of being to becoming. nd here lies its
evident absurdity. "f all is flux4 if, as Heraclitus said, -ll things flow,. then this universal claim must also include the creature
who can make such a statement. (ut since that creature and his mental operations are also sub+ect to this flux, then on what
ground does this statement stand such that it can claim for itself a permanence that everything is said to lack2 "f everything flows
like a river, this very fact about the nature of things could not be known unless there were a bank to that river upon which the
observer could stand to observe the flow. (ut if such a fixed place exists, then the claim that -all things flow. cannot be
universally true. "ndeed, the very concept of -becoming. is unintelligible unless we have already grasped what -being. is, for
-becoming. means -to come to be.. The contradiction at the heart of &arwin's theory can therefore be succinctly expressed as
follows: &arwin posits for his newly discovered laws themselves a permanence and necessity that these very laws themselves
9ow, &arwin must say that man's intellect either is capable of grasping things as they are, or it is not. "f he claims that
man's intellect * being itself sub+ect to evolution * cannot know things as they are, then we need pay no further attention to
&arwin since his own theory must fall under its own denial of ob+ectivity. (ut if &arwin insists that we can know things as they
are @which his conviction concerning his own theory of evolution would seem to suggestC, then there must be an affinity between
the mind of the knower and the ob+ect known. (ut if things have no permanent essences, no forms, but are +ust accidental unities
that are always changing from one bundle of stuff into another bundle of stuff, then how can &arwin account for our recognition
of these bundles as belonging to a species in the first place2 "ndeed, the problem that &arwin purports to have solved, namely,
the origin of species, would be unintelligible to us even as a problem if the species were not immutable, so that we could
understand what &arwin means by -species. in the first place. 7eading &arwin's account is like listening to a man argue that
everything is an illusion, as if we could possibly grasp what is meant by -illusion. without already grasping reality, the very thing
we were told does not exist in the first place.
6e have already seen the same problem with &arwin's use of the words -nature,. -order,. and -chance.. &arwin uses
these words * as indeed he must * as if they have the self*evident meanings that men have always understood. Likewise, on
almost every page of The Origin of Species, &arwin uses teleological language to describe living things even while attempting to
undermine teleology itself. 1or example, &arwin uses the words -profitable,. -useful,. -fit,. -good,. -perfection,. -in+urious,.
-beneficial,. -advantageous,. -welfare,. -low. and -high.. t one point &arwin even uses the phrase -the good of each being..
"n each case, &arwin uses these teleological expressions as if their meanings were self*evident * as indeed their meanings are *
conveniently forgetting that his own thesis undermines the self*evident purposefulness of nature. pparently there is no way to
speak about nature without using teleological terms, for there is no other way to say anything about nature unless one first
recognizes that which makes nature what it is. Thus, &arwin proceeds like a man who would use reason to argue that reason is
6e are compelled to conclude that &arwin's theory of evolution is not science at all, but rather scientism, because
&arwin is not able to account for his own ability to know what he claims to know, nor does he apparently care. &arwin presents
himself as an ob+ective witness of nature and its becoming, while implicitly claiming @and in The Descent of Man, explicitly
claimingC that even the human intellect is nothing but a product of that becoming. (ut how can an effect in this sense +udge
concerning its own cause2 0uch a +udgment could only be possible if there were something necessary and unchanging in both the
cause and the effect. @)ausing to speak theologically for a moment, the effect would have to be made in the -image and likeness.
of the cause. nd since this observation brings us to the truths which are known to us not only by reason, but also I and more
fully * by the %atholic 1aith, we should note that, if man in fact is not a timeless mirror of reality, if man has yet to evolve into a
more perfect accident of becoming, then it would make no sense to say that ;od became man, a doctrine that would be utterly
absurd unless man already possessed that god*like form which most perfectly reflects ;od Himself. %learly it would render
%hrist's humanity contemptible if human nature is not a nature at all, but merely a passing fancy.C
(ut let us return to the shortcomings of &arwin that are known to us by reason alone. ;iven the absurdity of the
starting points of &arwin's theory, we should not be surprised to find that there is no valid empirical evidence for the theory of
evolution. 0tarting from sheer con+ecture rather than observed fact, &arwin consistently interprets his observations so that they
conform to his predetermined theory, and he is e!ually consistent in directing his vision away from any facts that might tell
against it. "ndeed, &arwin begins by re+ecting what is most evident of all, namely, the immutability of the species. &arwin
claims that all species have evolved through variation and natural selection in such a way that they are eventually transformed
into some other kind of thing that is infertile with its original stock. nd yet, there has never been a single example of one
species evolving into another species. &espite endless attempts to speed up the evolutionary process in the laboratory with fruit
flies @which produce twenty*five generations in a yearC, scientists have never been able to transmute one species into some
different kind of thing that cannot breed with the parent stock. (y sub+ecting fruit flies to J*rays in order to increase the rate of
mutations, scientists have produced hundreds of varieties of the fruit fly, but all of them breed freely with the original stock, if
they are capable of breeding at all. s for the sterile hybrids, they cannot reproduce their own kind, much as a mule cannot be
produced by breeding two mules, but only by crossing a horse and a donkey. %oncerning the mule, it is as if 9ature has cried
out: -Thou shalt be sterile and, to those who must work with thee, a curse/.
"t is evident that the central thesis of &arwin's theory of evolution is not based upon observation. ,oreover, one
hundred and forty years of scientific observations, which have been expressly undertaken to confirm &arwin's theory, have not
produced the desired result. 6hile all sorts of individual variations within a species can be observed, there is not a shred of
evidence demonstrating that -beneficial. variations have led through natural selection to intermediate species, which then
produce new species infertile with the original species. "n fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that these intermediate species
have ever existed, and the fossil record that was supposed to establish their existence has been singularly uncooperative.
9onetheless, because the existence of these so*called -missing links. is necessitated by &arwin's original hypothesis, their
existence has been posited as scientific fact, and thus false assumption has been laid upon false assumption. @6hile we cannot
pause here to consider the alleged restorations of prehistoric man, all the evidence suggests that such restorations are works of the
imagination rather than of science. ,oreover, the numerous outrageous examples of supposed transformation, which no amount
of time could effect without miraculous intervention, further demonstrate the unscientific basis of the theory itself and its
subse!uent promotion by the progressivists.C
%onsistent with his position, &arwin argues in the conclusion of The Origin of Species that there is no essential
difference between species and varieties, because species are continually being transformed into new forms, and varieties are
nothing but incipient new species. &arwin then concludes with a truly incredible statement. He writes: -6e shall at least be
freed from the vain search for the undiscovered and undiscoverable essence of the term species.. ;iven the title of his book, it
would seem that the irony of this statement was not apparent to &arwin. fter all, if the term -species. has no real meaning
because species do not really exist, then what can &arwin possibly mean when he claims that one species can evolve into
another2 ,oreover, if there are no true species, but only individuals, then the differences between these individuals certainly
cannot prove the mutability of species @which, we should recall, is the thesis of &arwin's bookC.
3ven if the content of &arwin's book did not render meaningless its own title, the ancients and medievals would have
been puzzled by the title alone. s we noted earlier in our discussion of form and matter, the name -species. or -forms. refers to
the -looks. of things, which reflect the immutable essences which stand behind their outward appearances, namely, what )lato
called the 1orms. 0ince these immutable essences are eternal, it would not be proper to speak of them as having an origin in the
strict sense, though one could speak about the origin of those creatures into which the transcendental 1orms are, so to speak,
incarnated. "t is important to realize, however, that these creatures can come to be and pass away without ever compromising the
eternity of the species. 1or even if one destroyed every elephant in the world, one could not destroy the archetype of an elephant,
that is, what an elephant is. ,oreover, because each individual in any given species bears the trace of an immutable essence or
archetype, there is no possibility of one species evolving into another, though there can be, of course, variation within a species.
"n sum, the entire theory of evolution rests upon a confusion between species and simple variation, a confusion made inevitable
by &arwin's re+ection of formal and final causality. 3ven more fundamentally, &arwin is confused about the metaphysical order
of things when he argues that more being can evolve from less, that an effect can be superior to its own cause, and that the parts
are greater than the whole.
&arwin's theory of evolution, like the modern scientific outlook which gave birth to it, begins with the re+ection of
everything but empirical evidence, but ends by ignoring empirical evidence altogether. ,odern science fails to see that its own
arbitrary first principle * that empirical evidence alone is valid * cannot itself be established empirically. (ecause form cannot be
weighed or measured, modern science re+ects it out of hand. (ut the final result of this hubristic re+ection is that modern science
is reduced to speaking nonsensically, since it will not accept that which every child grasps immediately and surely: that cats are
cats, and not dogs. 6e are reminded of the mysterious conclusion to the parable of the talents: -1or to every one who has will
more be given, and he will have abundance4 but from him who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.
@Matthew #$:#HC. 0o, too, the modern scientists who, having no knowledge of the immaterial world, have even had their
understanding of the material world taken away from them. "ndeed, by denying the existence of an intuitive faculty of the soul
that can grasp self*evident first principles, modern scientists have necessarily lost their ability to reason, to imagine, and even to
sense. Theirs is the outer darkness, where there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This need not be the case for natural science as such, of course, as 1abre, &arwin's contemporary, makes wonderfully
clear. %onsider 1abre's magnificent description of the transfiguration of the grey cricket, which " will !uote here at some length.
%onsider, as you listen to this passage, how naturally the language of form and matter emerge from 1abre's observations, as well
as the doctrine of archetypes and the recognition of a &ivine rchitect:
"t is perfectly evident, when we have the preparatory as well as the final condition of the wing before our eyes, that the
wing*sheath of the larva is not a simple mould which elaborates the tissue enclosed in its own image and fashions the
wing after the complexities of its own cavity.
The future wing is not contained in the sheath as a bundle, which will astonish us, when expanded, by the
extent and extreme complication of its surface. =r, to speak more exactly, it is there, but in a potential state. (efore
becoming an actual thing it is a virtual thing which is not yet, but is capable of becoming. "t is there as the oak is inside
the acorn.
fine transparent cushion limits the free edge of the embryo wing and the embryo wing*case. 5nder a
powerful microscope we can perceive therein a few doubtful lineaments of the future lace*work. This might well be
the factory in which life will shortly set its materials in movement. 9othing more is visible4 nothing that will make us
foresee the prodigious network in which each mesh must have its form and place predetermined with geometrical
"n order that the organisable material can shape itself as a sheet of gauze and describe the inextricable
labyrinth of the nervuration, there must be something better and more wonderful than a mould. There is a prototypical
plan, an ideal pattern, which imposes a precise position upon each atom of the tissue. (efore the material commences
to circulate the configuration is already virtually traced, the courses of the plastic currents are already mapped out. The
stones of our building co*ordinate according to the considered plan of the architect4 they form an ideal assemblage
before they exist as a concrete assemblage.
0imilarly, the wing of a cricket, that wonderful piece of lace*work emerging from a tiny sheath, speaks to us
of another rchitect, the author of the plans according to which life labours.
The genesis of living creatures offers to our contemplation an infinity of wonders far greater than this matter
of a cricket's wing4 but in general they pass unperceived, obscured as they are by the veil of time.
Time, in the deliberation of mysteries, deprives us of the most astonishing of spectacles except our spirits be
endowed with a tenacious patience. Here by exception the fact is accomplished with a swiftness that forces the
6hosoever would gain, without wearisome delays, a glimpse of the inconceivable dexterity with which the
forces of life can labour, has only to consider the great cricket of the vineyard. The insect will show him that which is
hidden from our curiosity by extreme deliberation in the germinating seed, the opening leaf, and the budding flower.
6e cannot see the grass grow4 but we can watch the growth of the cricket's wings.
mazement seizes upon us before this sublime phantasmagoria of the grain of hemp which in a few hours has
been transmuted into the finest cloth. 6hat a mighty artist is Life, shooting her shuttle to weave the wings of the
cricket . . . -6hat power, what wisdom, what inconceivable perfection in this least of secrets that the vineyard cricket
has shown us/.
" have heard that a learned in!uirer, for whom life is only a conflict of physical and chemical forces, does not
despair one day obtaining artificially organisable matter * protoplasm, as the official +argon has it. "f it were in my
power " should hasten to satisfy this ambitious gentleman.
(ut so be it: you have really prepared protoplasm. (y force of meditation, profound study, minute care,
impregnable patience, your desire is realized: you have extracted from your apparatus an albuminous slime, easily
corruptible and stinking like the devil at the end of a few days: in short, a nastiness. 6hat are you going to do with it2
=rganize something2 6ill you give it the structure of a living edifice2 6ill you in+ect it with a hypodermic
syringe between two impalpable plates to obtain were it only the wing of a fly2
That is very much what the cricket does. "t in+ects its protoplasm between the two surfaces of an embryo
organ, and the material forms a wing*cover, because it finds as guide the ideal archetype of which " spoke but now. "t is
controlled in the labyrinth of its course by a device anterior to the in+ection: anterior to the material itself.
This archetype, the coordinator of forms4 this primordial regulator4 have you got it on the end of your
syringe2 9o/ Then throw away your product. Life will never spring from that chemical filth.
"t would seem very likely that &arwin himself was the -ambitious gentleman. to whom 1abre addressed his admonition.
%ertainly the difference between 1abre and &arwin could not be drawn in a more striking fashion, and there is perhaps no more
fitting condemnation of &arwin's -survival of the fittest. than the fact that everyone in these progressive times knows who the
inferior &arwin is, whereas almost no one knows the superior 1abre. 5nlike &arwin, 1abre, the true scientist, begins not with a
theory, but with observable facts. nd the facts, as we have seen, lead us to ;od. The protoplasm may indeed be made of the
same stuff as the cricket, yet the cricket is more than the protoplasm because of the divine imprint or form which bespeaks a
wisdom which transcends the natural order, but which is nevertheless manifested through it.

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