Evolution and the Catholic Faith

Evolution is a theory but not an established fact, because the origins of human life are not now observable, since, according to the theory, life arose from inert matter millions or billions of years ago. If evolution were a fact, it would be scientifically testable, but it is not testable. 

In 1996, Pope John Paul II gave an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in which he said that: “new knowledge leads to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis.”  It is not altogether clear what the Pope meant exactly by the comment to the scientists, who were meeting to discuss evolution and the origin of man.

A scientific theory is composed of various hypotheses.  Hypotheses and theories are working models, not established fact. They are conditional, that is, if all the assumptions are correct, then the theory is valid until such time as contrary evidence might show them to be false. Evolution is a theory in this sense: it is certainly not an established fact, because the origins of human life are not now observable, since, according to the theory, life arose from inert matter millions or billions of years ago. If evolution were a fact, it would be scientifically testable, but it is not testable. So evolution is not scientific in the sense that certain results of the physical sciences are observable, testable and, therefore, “scientific.” It is more correct to say, as many do today, that evolution is a philosophical theory, or metaphysical “faith” in the idea that biological evolution took place.

John Paul II’s statement about evolution suggests that he was much more favorable towards the theory of evolution than was his predecessor Pius XII, notably in his Encyclical Letter, Humani Generis (1950).  If you wish to compare the two popes on evolution, I strongly urge you to get a copy of Humani Generis and study it carefully.  Back in 1950, in a Letter that merits being called “prophetic,” Pius XII put his finger on most of the problems that are plaguing the Church and the world today.

In his remarks to the scientists, John Paul II did not define a doctrine concerning faith or morals in that he did not speak to the whole Church, but just to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences; he did not insist on his opinion, again and again. Papal infallibility and the Ordinary Magisterium were not involved, so Catholics are not bound to follow his opinion in this highly speculative area of science. If Pope John Paul II favored theistic evolution (which seems to be implied in his words) as opposed to the direct creation of Adam from the dust of the earth, the probability of his opinion on this scientific theory depends on the factual evidence that supports it.

An important book of evolution is Dr. Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution.  The evidence adduced by Behe from biochemistry against evolution is very convincing and, in my opinion, is a dagger in the heart of evolution—whether naturalistic or theistic.

Why did the major media in the United States give so much prominence to a minor statement of the Pope to a few scientists? They twisted his words to give the impression that the Pope has endorsed evolution as they understand it, namely: the material universe spontaneously produced the first form of life, from which all living beings have developed, including man. This means that man is a part of nature and not directly created by God. It results in a rejection of creation, the historical value of the Bible, Adam and Eve, the Fall and original sin, the need for redemption, the Incarnation, the divinity of Christ, the Church and the sacraments. In short, it leads logically to the denial of the Catholic faith.  Obviously, that is not what the Pope meant.

Modern thinking in the social and physical sciences, in philosophy and theology, is shot through with atheistic evolutionism. It is taught as a fact in public schools, as well as in most Catholic schools. Secular humanism, communism and liberalism, are based on it. There is little hope for true human advancement, for the “civilization of love,” as long as evolutionism, which diminishes man as made in the image of God, marches on unchallenged. Thanks to Dr. Behe, and many other researchers, the days of evolutionism may be numbered.

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avatar About Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ

Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., is editor emeritus of HPR, having served as editor for over 30 years. He is the author of the best selling Fundamentals of Catholicism (three volumes) and of the popular introduction to the Scripture, Inside the Bible.

Comments

  1. avatar Sharon says:

    Thank you for this article, Father. I have read Catholic articles that say seem to accept that evolution occurred essentially as it is taught in school, that is, that living matter evolved from non-living matter and that humans evolved from various humanoid beings. According to these commenters, there could have been a time when God infused a soul into a humanoid, and that eventually we all became related to that humanoid and therefore ensouled humans ourselves. According to this line of thinking, Eve is not relavant, only Adam is. I believe that this is also what my son’s Catholic high school would teach. Personally I cannot accept that theory. It doesn’t even make very much sense to me logically. Somehow all the other humanoids died out, every last one of them? And somehow I inherited the sin of this original humanoid-turned-human because after some unknown number of generations a humanoid in my lineage procreated with a “real” human? I just don’t buy this. Have you come across this argument, Father? Can you tell me what you think of it? Thank you, Father!

  2. avatar c matt says:

    There does need to be more clarification regarding evolutionary theory, not least of which is the differecne between macro-evolution (speciation) and micro-evolution (variation within species). There does not appear to be much doubt about the truth of micro-evolution. However, the extrapolation from micro to macro is much less convincing. Macro still requires quite a few assumptions that have not been (and may never be?) completely proven. It reminds me of that joke about the economist’s method for opening a coconut on a deserted island – “First, assume a hammer.”

  3. avatar G-Veg says:

    “This means that man is a part of nature and not directly created by God. It results in a rejection of creation, the historical value of the Bible, Adam and Eve, the Fall and original sin, the need for redemption, the Incarnation, the divinity of Christ, the Church and the sacraments. In short, it leads logically to the denial of the Catholic faith. ”

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter Father. I trust that you will forgive my questioning this conclusion. Might this piece be a small portion of a more robust argument?

    I have been teaching my children that evolution is likely the mechanism that God employed to create the universe. God certainly could have caused everything to come into being but He employes complex mechanisms to accomplish His ends in many other areas and there is evidence that is difficult to reconcile with creationism.

    God knows the Man that He created. He knows the insatiable intellect of Man and it strikes me as more likely than not that He established creation to feed that intellect; like layers of an onion, no matter how much we peel away from the marvelous mystery of creation, there is more to discover.

    I just don’t see how it necessarily follows that believing in a God-centered evolution strikes at the core of Christian beliefs of God. Can I coax you to expand on your piece a bit and show the connection? I am willing to be convinced.

    • I don’t pretend to respond for Fr. Baker, of course, but if I may interject some thoughts of mine: evolution presumes a world of chaos, struggle and death (“survival of the fittest”) that could “weed out” the weak and leave the strong to (somehow) “evolve up” to higher species. If man evolved, in other words, he came out of – originated from – a world of pre-existing chaos, struggle and death.

      Creation presents man formed in a world in harmony and peace (Gen 1:31), placed in a Garden in fellowship with one another, with nature and with God (Gen 2:15-25). Only after falling into sin did struggle, contention and death come – not only among men but in the natural world. Not until after the flood did men (and it seems, animals, considering the harmony on the ark) eat meat (Gen 1:29-30; Gen 9:2-3).

      Evolution presents a world evolving in the midst of, and because of, death. Creation presents a world of life – where death entered because of, and only after, sin (Rom 5:12). Creation presents a world longing for a return to original peace and justice existing before the fall of men into sin (Rom 8:19-23). Evolution sees chaos, struggle and death as foundational, from the start until now, until the end of all life.

      Is it any wonder that our society embraces an amoral culture of death? Our children have been trained to believe in evolution, the survival of the strongest, where might makes right and the beginning and the end of all is death. The Christian Gospel is an anomaly to them – an immediate contradiction – a story having no basis or context in what they presume to be “reason.”

      In our culture of death, even the existence of a natural moral law is denied: all is accidental; the only virtue is viability – strength. After secular education, poor catechesis and the cultural orthodoxy of atheistic evolution, our children can have precious little room in their hearts for the foolishness of holy faith.

  4. avatar G-Veg says:

    I think I understand your view but I don’t take it as the necessary conclusion.

    God’s plan uses creation and destruction as tools to His ends. Even in simple things like in Mark 2:23 – 28, we find Man destroying something God created for His purposes. (Christ and his disciples are walking through a field and eating grain on the sabbath.) It is clear in Genesis that God gives all of creation to Man – something that I perceive to mean that everything was created for us. It seems to me that destruction isn’t the result of the Fall from Grace but was part of the order that God ordained. Indeed, the Genesis seems to flow from order (God’s Will) to Chaos (the formless void) to order (the universe as Adam experienced it) to a new order (the universe after the Fall).

    My point is that all is within God’s control and that, therefore, nothing is truly chaos.

    Consider the more perplexing questions in science such as how a photon can be both matter and energy, depending on perspective. As perplexing and fascinating as that is, the observation demonstrates only that there are natural laws at work that we do not, at least as yet, understand. What does it tell us about God? Well, it affirms that He is great and that we are not for one thing. It confirms too that we are special in all of His creation since the birds and the flowers don’t worry about whether the light that warms them and the air that flows around them is energy or matter. It tells me that God knows that the extraordinary nature of Man needs to be awed if it is to respond to God properly.

    Evolution can comfortably coexist with a firm belief in a God or order and unfathomable power. We just need to stop placing human limitations on God.

    God is the master of time so time doesn’t matter to Him. “Now” is, to Him, the same “moment” as a week, a month, or a million years ago. To the Master of Time, He sees all moments at once. Thus, the slow evolution of a species hardly indicates that God was sitting back, uninvolved. He orders nature according to His will. As such the idea that Man’s physical form evolved over millions of years until such time as He made that form into something new, doesn’t trouble me a wit. I actually am in greater awe of Adam for that contemplation.

    Consider what the Theory of Evolution adds to our understanding of Adam and Eve.

    Genesis is “simplistic” in the sense that Adam and Eve 1) know first hand that they are created by God for God and that the universe was created by God for them, 2) Adam and Eve have no rivals in nature when they are created and encounter natural opposition only after the fall, and 3) have to contend with the hellish loss of God’s favor after the fall. It is “simplistic” because it is a narrative meant for a pre-scientific world.

    We lose much if we leave Genesis there, unable to contend with human observation such as hominids whose bones pre-date our species and other hominid species whose DNA is found in much of modern Man’s form.

    I propose that evolution is a blessing to us because it makes the Genesis narrative a living story worthy of investigation. It allows us to see Adam and Eve as the first humans, conscious that they were not part of nature, that they were distinct from the natural world, that they were Man. Evolution allows us to place the Genesis narrative in the broader context of the Universe’s relationship to God. Evolution is nature as a whole being changed by God to respond to Him.

    It is extraordinary and affirming and I just don’t see that science and faith are in opposition on this point. As I stated before, I am willing to be convinced but find Creationism to be unconvincing because its response to human observation is that either Man has misinterpreted those observations or there is a supernatural explanation for those observations that God hasn’t shared with us. God doesn’t work that way and Man was made by Him to be able to contend with the natural world with the use of Reason.

    • avatar TW says:

      As a high school science teacher, I am in complete agreement with you, G-Veg. Awhile ago, I was at a Catholic education conference and the presenter was discussing this. He commented that recent fossil discoveries indicate the possibility that one of the more advanced humanoid forms pre-dated a lesser humanoid – and tossed out the idea that this might be related to “the fall.” Food for thought.

  5. avatar DJ says:

    G-Veg is absolutely right. Thank you for voicing your well-thought-out perspective!

    Here are the failings that I find in this editorial.

    1) It’s not accurate to imply that the evidence for macro-evolution is weak because it’s not “testable”. While it’s certainly true that the firmest form of evidence is laboratory evidence and that we have not yet seen that kind of evidence for evolution (it takes hundreds and thousands of generations for changes on a macro-species level to occur; that would be extremely difficult to replicate in a laboratory setting), it’s also nevertheless true that we do have tons of laboratory evidence of mechanisms producing micro-level changes (John Paul II’s letter to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences later spoke more specifically of “theories” of evolution, and here he was referring to this variety of mechanisms involved.) It is these mechanisms that can safely be extrapolated to macro-level changes with a high degree of certainty because the fossil record is overwhelming in terms of showing gradual change of species over time. We’ve got a lot of gaps in the fossil record to be sure, but some (e.g. horses and whales) are quite complete and show this progression very well.

    2) Even Michael Behe acknowledges evolution insofar as it means the common descent of living things. His particular critique of evolution is really more directed at the concept of “randomness” as an evolutionary mechanism.

    3) Fr. Baker’s suggestion that evolution undermines everything about the Catholic faith unnecessarily pits science against theology here. It *may* require some development of our understanding of Adam & Eve and the potential location of the Garden of Eden, sure, (why must the Garden, where creation was in harmony and peace, have been in our current universe at all? All we know is that it was somewhere in the realm of physical creation where the angel expelled them in such a way as they could never return.) but as G-Veg indicated, it really draws us deeper into the mystery of God’s creation. Just as the cosmological discovery that the earth was not the center of the universe does not disprove man’s central place in God’s creation, the discovery that man’s physical form developed from the earth out of natural processes does not disprove man’s special creation for union with God. It is in the *soul* where man is made in the image of God, not the body.

    A Catholic is not morally required, of course, to adhere to any particular scientific viewpoint one way or another. But it is dangerous, in my opinion, to posit too great a dichotomy between any given scientific hypothesis and the theological truths of the faith, since a later validation of that scientific hypothesis would then lead to a crisis of faith. It’s better to have the calm and patient confidence of John Paul II and be willing to be led deeper into the truth, as he asked again in that letter to the Pontifical Council of the Sciences: “And if at first glance these views seem to clash with each other, where should we look for a solution? We know that the truth cannot contradict the truth.”

  6. avatar MarylandBill says:

    With respect, I think it is often unfortunate when a priest talks about a subject he clearly doesn’t really understand. Fr. Baker is right to be critical of evolutionism as a secular religion but, unfortunately in my opinion, weakens his arguments by making claims about what evolution (as opposed to evolutionism) says.

    1. Evolution does not say that life arose from inert matter. Evolution only explains how life developed once it existed. Many who espouse evolutionism will believe that it arose from inert matter… but evolution itself only depends on life already existing.

    2. A scientific theory is not valid until it evidence shows it to be false — that is an hypothesis. Scientific theories need to be testable in some form and it must stand up to these tests. Yes, it is true that a new test could over turn the theory, but many of evolution’s predictions have been born out by observation.

    3. It may not be possible to directly observe the origin of man, but it is certainly possible to obtain many indirect observations that support the broad claim that humans evolved from the same common ancestor as the great apes. Australopithicus, homo habilius, homo erectus, etc… all seem to show a chronological progression of species from an ape like ancestor to a human like creature.

    God created Adam and Eve as a special creation and the current state of the world is a direct result of the fall. Of that fact I have no doubt. I also believe in an old Earth, billions of years old and that modern species developed by means of evolution (at least until I see much stronger evidence than presented in Behe’s work). How the two come together is, I think a mystery that is beyond clear human understanding.

    • avatar Marija says:

      Neanderthal man can no longer be used as evidence for ape-to-man evolution. Theoretical evolutionary models once held that Neanderthal man was one of the “missing links” between an ape-like ancestor and modern man, but the repeated discoveries of Neanderthal remains right next to those of modern humans—instead of in separate, lower, older strata—have forced him out of the pool of “pre-human” evolutionary ancestor candidates. Anthropologist Marvin L. Lubenow has shown that Neanderthal, other than having a larger cranial capacity, was anatomically the same as Homo erectus.

      For over 100 years the human evolutionary candidates have turned out to be either man or beast, with not one clear example of an intermediate that could even suggest that man somehow “evolved” from an ape-like creature. Even “Lucy” who was claimed the best evidence so far for ape-to-human evolution is held in doubt by many scientists, especially because the man who discovered the Lucy bones found her knee joint almost 3 kilometers away in a rock layer 200 feet below.

  7. avatar Seraph says:

    Evolution is one of the biggest frauds ever invented in history. It is not scientific and is a complete absurdity.

    1. The key teaching of evolution is that life comes from nonliving matter. A physical and metaphysical impossibility. There is zero evidence of it in the fossil record. If evolution were true, there would be an abundance of transitional creatures. There is zero transitional creatures and zero transitional fossils.

    2. There is no such thing as a missing link. God created a perfect man and a beautiful man in Adam. Man did not evolve from a monkey. All the fossils found are either fully man or fully monkey. Australopithicus was a monkey. Homo habilis was a monkey. Lucy was a monkey. Every fossil is either man or monkey. In the case of piltdown man, even fraud was used to cover up the fact that is was a monkey.

    3. If Theistic evolution is true, it reinterprtes our entire understanding of death. The book of Wisdom states that God did not make death. If the body of man is the product of lower forms living and dying over millions of years, then death was here before the fall, and most importantly, death is a necessary part of God’s creative process. That God created death and that death was good. A blasphemy.

  8. avatar G-Veg says:

    “Blasphemy?” when did it become blasphemy to ask questions? That is one twisted faith you have going on there.

    First, let us be clear that nowhere did I say or intend to stake out my views as Truth. I don’t pretend to speak for others but I read a lot of questioning and not a lot of dogmatic secularism above. You do me a great and unchristian disservice in stating otherwise.

    Second, you are wrong in your statements about evolution. The “facts” you cite are fundamentally wrong. Genetically speaking there is a fair amount of Neanderthal in much of the human race. To reject human reason and science because it doesn’t fit your narrow views is unwise.

    Finally, I am troubled by the creationist presentation of God as limited to our deeply flawed understanding of the universe. You seem to be saying that the Old Testament is flawless, that the oral tradition on which it is based is not subject to the application of reason. Thus, Adam must be literally made of clay and Eve fashioned from Adam’s rib. If so, there is nothing more to discuss because you reject the application of reason to human experience and I cannot accept the concept of a literally perfect biblical text, not subject to scholarly, scientific, or theological analysis.

    I wonder though if you have, perhaps, overstated your position as a visceral response to a perceived assault on our faith. If so, I apologize for the offense.

    • avatar Seraph says:

      I wasn’t responding to anyone in particular. I just wanted to state the position that evolution is completely absurd and a fraud. Evolution is a philosophy. There is nothing scientific about it.

      Evolution and Theistic evolution are incompatible with the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church has always taught special creation. That God created Adam from the dust of the Earth and that he was a perfect, beautiful, and complete man through special creation.

      “I cannot accept the concept of a literally perfect biblical text, not subject to scholarly, scientific, or theological analysis.”

      That is a profound statement. You can’t accept that the Bible is the word of God? That the human writers of Genesis and the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit and wrote the word of God? The Bible has no errors. There are no errors in history, science, or theology in the Bible. What you call a scholarly and scientific analysis is what I call a bunch of Atheists whose mission it is to demythologize the Bible and turn it into a book of myths and legends that will serve their prior commitment to naturalism, materialism, and Atheism.

  9. avatar Seraph says:

    Thankfully, Catholic scientists and Catholics in general, are cathching up to the good work done for decades by Protestants and evangelicals in exposing evolution.

    The Kolbe Center is a great Catholic apostolate that is dong good work for the study of creation. Worth a look:
    http://www.kolbecenter.org/

  10. avatar G-Veg says:

    The Bible is the unerred word of God. I have not said otherwise. However, the text IS subject to error, HUMAN error. You are missing that distinction and it is a critical one. Our Low Protestant brothers (“Low Protestant” as opposed to “High Protestant,” meaning those who reject the idea that God reveals himself through the Word as represented in scripture but also through natural law, tradition, and reason) miss the same distinction and it is a millstone around their necks.

    The Old Testament was penned many thousands of years after the events described therein occurred. It was penned in many languages, all of them different from the languages in which those oral traditions were first passed down. This is true for the New Testament too, though to a far lesser extent because the events in that portion of the text occurred in and among literate peoples.

    In the last two hundred years, Christians have made giant leaps in biblical scholarship due to the discovery of earlier texts and the systematic study of language, archeology, art, and culture. It is indisputable that the bibles printed today are more technically correct than was the King James Bible that was the standard for many Protestants for hundreds of years or the bible that St. Jerome gave us. That so many Christians whose denominations used to preach that ONLY the King James Bible was legitimate and that every punctuation mark and word in it was without error have abandoned that text in favor of modern texts. It is also why the Protestant and Catholic texts are so much closer today than they were even fifty years ago.

    Does this mean that scripture is not the Word? Does applying human reason and experience mean that God did not inspire the bible? No. Read your catechism, my friend. I assure you that the position I stake out is entirely in accord with the teachings of the Church.

    If you are with me so far, perhaps you will walk a little farther.

    Just as human reason can uncover truth in the bible and correct human error in preparing that text, human reason can assess the universe around us and, prayerfully, modify long held beliefs to accommodate what we learn.

    We can, for example, conclude that the evidence of the Big Bang is substantial and that it fits what we know from scripture – that God willed everything into being. We can then follow the evidence that the universe is expanding and that stars are created and die and conclude that God willed it to be so. We can follow the evidence that the probability that the right mix of matter and energy to form our little blue planet is infinitesimal and that this came to be is proof that there is a god with direct concern for His creation. We can follow the evidence that that energy and mass, over millions of years hardened and cooled on the outside into the crust and that it remained molten at its core, thereby providing the necessary ingredients for an atmosphere and water. We can observe evidence that heavenly bodies were crashed into our planet to deliver the necessary ingredients for sustained life and that God used that seeming destruction to create – like a baker kneading dough. We can see in that process God’s great care to make precisely what He wished – a little blue planet on which to place his favorite creation. We can look at the abounding evidence of plate tectonics to describe the interaction of that molten core and the Earth’s crust and can observe evidence that explains the presence of the energy sources that power our modern world. We can look at what remains of creatures that lived long ago and can date them by where their remains are found and, in some cases, by carbon dating those remains. We can critically asses the evidence that Man is linked through the ages by genetic signatures that affirm common ancestry; all of this with human reason, prayerfully and playfully exploring the extraordinary universe that was given to us by a loving god who willed it into being.

    You appear to take issue with evolution because it is an incomplete story. Indeed it is, though the products of human reason usually are. Consider that “gravity” was generally thought to be the settled explanation of the relationship of mass. Bit by bit we discovered that it was a piece of a far more magnificent puzzle. So too with evolution for we can be relatively certain about some things and not certain about others. We can thank God for both that which is more certain and that which perplexes us.

    Reason, experience, tradition, the Word – all vehicles through which we learn to know, love, and serve God in this world so that we can be happy with him forever in the next.

    I propose nothing more or less than that God willed all into being according to His divine will and that it is good. I do not understand all I observe but I am in awe of it. I acknowledge that He is great and I am almost nothing yet, Man is the greatest thing He created. I don’t understand this. I don’t understand His love and wisdom and plan for us but I am grateful for it.

    The god you present appears to be confined to the mind of man – to what we can immediately grasp. I am sure that this is not what you intend but I suggest to you that, if that representation is true, the being you hold up is not god. The only god worth worshiping is the one God who is greater than we can imagine. He is not bound to our concepts of time and space. He is not bound by our inability to put together the threads of his plan. He is not bound by our wishing or our will in any way.

    He gave us Reason to learn to come to know him and love him. That reason is informed by observation, theorizing, testing, and prayer. There is nothing of hell in using reason to expand our knowledge of God and his plan for us.

    • avatar Seraph says:

      1. The texts of the Bible are without error. Every word of the text was inspired by the Holy Ghost and the writers wrote down the truth without error. When they wrote the text it was impossible to have human error. The texts were protected by God and the texts are the word of God. Every single letter and word.

      2. Moses wrote Genesis. Moses wrote the first five books or the Torah. Thousands of years did not pass in the writing of Old Testament books.

      3. Modern Bibles are horrid and their translations are terrible. They use gender inclusive language and give different meanings to the texts. Instead of using the word “angel”, they subsitute and translate it to “messanger”. That’s just one example among many of these bad translations with their Liberalism and Modernism. The Latin Vulgate is still the best Bible translation in history and the official Bible of the Church. The best English translations are those based on the vulgate, like the Douay Reheims or even the Knox Bible. The NAB used by the American church in the liturgy is down right horrid. It’s worse than the NRSV. The NRSV itself is a bad translation of the more acceptable RSV Bible.

      3. The last 150 years of Biblical exegesis and scholarship has been downright heretical and a disaster. Back then we had St. Pius X and Cardinal John Henry Newman combating the errors of Biblical scholarship. The 1909 Pontifical commission condemned all the Biblical errors of that time. The Church tried her best, but could not keep out the poison much longer. Pius XI made weak attempts, but by the middle 20th century, the Modernists had triumphed and had their heretical scholarship spread far and wide. There were heretics like Teilhard De Chardin leading the way. By the time of the late 20th century, you had one of the most dangerous heretics of all time in the person of Raymond Brown. Raymond Brown’s followers became legion and spread his utter heresies, blasphemies, and apostasy all over seminaries and the Church.

      4. The Protestants made two attempts to find the historical Jesus in the 19th century and utterly falied with their biblical scholarship. It was impossible to separate Jesus from his miracles. The Biblical exegesis and scholarship of the 18th and 19th centuries destroyed Protestantism. John Henry Newman saw that Liberalism was destroying Protestantism through Biblical scholarship and worked hard to combat it is his theology. As a Catholic he knew Protestantism was lost, but never dreamed it would affect the Church a mere century later. Mainline Protestantism today is dead. In a decade or two, there will be no more High church Protestantism or mainline Protestantism left. The evangelicals will be the only Protestants left. Biblical scholarship destroyed the Bible for Protestants and this liberalism will finish them off soon.

      • avatar Seraph says:

        Beliving in creationism does not go against reason. Beleiving in special creation as did the theologians and saints for centuries does not go against reason. Leo XIII and Pius X were adamant in their oppostion to evolution, nor did they think they were against reason. GK Chesterton shredded evolution to pieces as have many in the 20th and 21st centuries. Cardinal Ruffini even wrote a book against Evolution titled “The Theory of Evolution Judged by Reason and Faith.”

        In fact you have to against reason to believe in evolution. Given all scientific evidence against evolution in the last couple of decades and years, more and more people are rejecting the swindle.

      • avatar G-Veg says:

        Your conviction and faith are admirable and I will not be a party to shaking either.

  11. avatar Brian Jones says:

    G-Veg,

    You have made many excellent points on this website, to which I commend you. Your thorough and detailed analyses are wonderful, and often not present on internet discussion forms. Since you have elucidated many points, I would like for you to clarify the following point you made which can, and has, lead to much confusion and error:
    “The Bible is the unerred word of God. I have not said otherwise. However, the text IS subject to error, HUMAN error.”

    In what sense are you attributing human error to the text? Are you referring to errors of transcribing and later editorial aspects? Thanks for the responses that you have provided thus far.

  12. avatar Marija says:

    Fr. Baker sure got a good discussion going regarding an ever hot topic– evolution vs. creation!

    When I was a biology major in college in the 1960′s, I was not yet a Christian so did not even know about any arguments for creation ex nihilo or evolution. I got the full dose of evolutionary biology at the college I attended and was absolutely amazed at what I was hearing. My evolutionary biology professor told me life started when lightning struck some primordial soup and one cell was made which finally developed over billions of years to humans! Wow. That was really hard for me to swallow. It sounded like a fairy tale. I did ask the question where the lightning came from and he just brushed me off and continued on to explain how life further developed to fish, frogs, birds, mammals and humans. And it took billions and billions of years. I guess anything can happen if you give it enough time. I was doubtful of the evolutionary explanation throughout my four years of college.

    After becoming a Christian in later years, I still never could believe in the theory/religion of evolution. Why?

    1. It seems the Bible teaches us that the wages of sin is death. If that is true, was there death before Adam and Eve sinned? Evolution claims it took billions of years for life frms to develop and finally make it to a human. Before humans appeared there were billions of years of death as life forms struggled to survive, adapt and reproduce.

    2. Regarding theistic evolution: That God messed around for billions of years trying to create a human from a single cell and finally got it right with an Adam and Eve is a sad story. How many mistakes did He have to endure while He finally got a fin to become a leg? How much “time” did it take Him between levels of development? Was this just His creative ability that we cannot understand or appreciate?

    In the end, we all choose to believe what we want to believe. None us us know for sure how God produced our world, but hopefully “one day” we will be in His presence and He will reveal to it to us.
    Pax et bonum.

  13. avatar John Pinto says:

    Fr. Baker, You might want to read Dr. Behe’s latest book “The Edge of Evolution”. He does believe in evolution so his work is not a dagger in its heart as you say. But he does not believe in atheistic evolution which is quite a different thing. Behe believes (for now) that God created the universe with the built-in capacity to evolve into the creatures we see around us and in the fossil record of past life-forms. This is something like Augustine’s view of the history of life on Earth. However, he is open to the possibility (if it can be shown with scientific evidence) that God was more actively involved in creating new species over time. So he is a committed theistic evolutionist but he isn’t committed to any particular form of theistic evolution.

  14. avatar DJ says:

    An additional thought of mine:
    Anyone wishing to dive a bit deeper into the arguments surrounding the subject of how Catholics can or should approach evolution & intelligent design should be sure to read and consider the arguments that make up a common Thomistic critique of intelligent design. Undoubtedly one of the reasons JPII did not object to evolution was due to his solid background in the thought of Aquinas.

    Here’s an excellent summary of this viewpoint:
    http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/aquinas-vs-intelligent-design

  15. avatar Marcus says:

    Seraph: I am a bit confused, you say that the bible is completely free of errors but then comment that modern translations are horrible. Is that not a contradiction? Is there a version of the bible (i.e. translation) that is free of error?

    • avatar Seraph says:

      The Bible is free from errors as it was originally written. There is no contradiction in that. The Old Testament being written in Hebrew and the N.T. in Greek. So the Bible is free from errors, but that doesn’t exclude the possibility of a mistranslation or bad translations. The error is not in the Bible but in the translation, which the translator is responsible. As Catholics we have the right to expect faithful translations, but in our modern times that is not the case.

      The Catholic Church considered St. Jerome’s translation of the scriptures to be the official Bible of the Church. That is the Latin Vulgate. The best English translation of the Vulgate is the Douay Rheims Bible, which was translated in the 16th century and revised by Bishop Chanoller in the 18th century. The Knox translation and RSV are acceptable translations also. Bad translations include the NRSV Good News, Jerusalem, and NAB editions.

  16. avatar Sharon says:

    “Genetically speaking there is a fair amount of Neanderthal in much of the human race.”

    G-Veg, how do you know this? Has someone determined the genetic makeup of Neanderthal man? And how can we know that Neanderthal man was an evolutionary precursor to humans? How could it be known that the reason he was different from modern man is because his kind evolved, rather than assuming that he was a creature whose kind died out? Just because a species dies out does not mean that any other species evolved from the earlier species.

    I remember reading about a tribe found by LaSalle when he was searching for the mouth of the Mississippi. The book I read noted the natives’ short height, their rather flat heads and unpleasant features. Yet we would assume they were all human, not Neanderthals. When do you believe “Adam” was ensouled, and wouldn’t his ensoulment, although it made him genetically not one whit different from the other ‘humanoids” of his time, make him superior to those around him, so that we could argue that genetics alone does not make one on a par with other humans? That some are more “human” than others?

    I would tend to think Marija is more on the right track. I don’t think God made mistakes with evolution, but I do find hit-or-miss evolution to be an inglorious way for a glorious God to bring about the human race.

    • avatar DJ says:

      Sharon – in the event that G-Veg is no longer reading this thread, I’ll answer your question.

      Neanderthal (Homo Sapiens Neanderthalis) is a recent enough species that some fossils still contain DNA molecules that haven’t degraded. A few years ago a collaboration of scientists known as the Neanderthal Genome Project analyzed 4 billion base pairs of Neanderthal DNA (collected from three 38,000-year old Croatian fossils, plus a few others) and released an initial draft of the Neanderthal genome in 2010.

      One of the surprising findings of this study was that there were certain markers in Neanderthal DNA that were distinctively shared by modern humans, or to be more precise, *some* modern humans. Humans of African descent do not have these markers; pretty much everyone else does (as one of European descent, I almost certainly have them myself!). This is not surprising, since Neanderthals lived in modern day Europe, where they lived side-by-side for a time (15,000 years) with the biological species Homo Sapiens Sapiens (us!). This fact suggests quite strongly that there was some interbreeding between the two groups.

      Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, there is some counter-evidence to this view that was released just a couple days ago, suggesting an alternative explanation for much of this genetic overlap. It doesn’t rule out interbreeding, but does offer another explanation that minimizes the amount that would need to have happened. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-08-13/neanderthal-human-similarities-not-due-to-mating

      It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years as more, and better, evidence helps to zoom in on the best explanation here. This, of course, is how the scientific method works.

      In regards to your question about the first “ensouled” person, I don’t have any strong conjecture one way or the other. But I would like to draw your attention to a couple attempts by Catholic thinkers to conjecture their way through this issue. We obviously don’t have any further guidance from the Magisterium since Pius XII’s Humani Generis (over 60 years ago!), but given Pope John Paul II’s statements and others made by Pope Benedict XVI (I highly recommend his book “A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall” from when he was Cdl Ratzinger) it seems likely they are open to this kind of line of thinking. But I suspect, given the cautious nature of the Church, it will be some time yet before the Magisterium weighs in on this issue again with any further clarifications.

      The important point to remember here, by the way, you already alluded to. It’s that, *ontologically* (that is, at the level of “being”) Man is understood to be a “rational” animal; that is, it is in his *rationality* that he is made in the image and likeness of God. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us this quite beautifully. What this means is that the deepest understanding of What Man Is is not fully defined by the species categories that biologists use – Biology is distinct from Ontology, which is the level of truth that Philosophy and Theology are getting at. It may be possible that the first Man was surrounded by man-like hominids of species Homo Sapiens Sapiens. It may also be possible that the first Man was surrounded by man-like hominids of some other species that came *before* both Homo Sapiens Sapiens and Homo Sapiens Neanderthalis. (Might these, by the way, be the “daughters of men” referred to in Genesis 6? Just a thought.) We simply cannot say, given current scientific knowledge, where that point was. But what we CAN say with certainty is, whereever it was that the first Rational Animal appeared, there was Man.

      I understand your concern that all of this might seem to us to be an “inglorious way for a glorious God to bring about the human race”. Yet, doesn’t our faith teach us that God’s understanding is above our understanding? All of God’s providence is, in a sense, like this – as the saying goes, “God writes straight with crooked lines”.

  17. avatar ypoulaki says:

    I have an idea, since this a pastoral review for Catholics, why don’t we all start with Church teaching before we follow the whimsy of science. It seems that even here good Christians are laying their foundation on scientism rather than Catholicism. Start with the simply clear Fides Pelagii in 557 A.D., where Pope Pelagius I, in this profession of faith, declared: “For I confess that all men from Adam, even to the consummation of the world, having been born and having died with Adam himself and his wife, who were not born of other parents, but were created, the one from the earth, the other [al.: altera], however, from the rib of the man [cf. Gen. 2:7, 22],” Denz 228a. Over and over the Church has spoken on this issue, such as Pope Leo XIII, from his encyclical Arcanum, “The true origin of marriage, venerable brothers, is well known to all. Though revilers of the Christian faith refuse to acknowledge the never-interrupted doctrine of the Church on this subject, and have long striven to destroy the testimony of all times, they have nevertheless failed… We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep.”
    There is no room for natural transformation in Catholic discussion, unless the Tradition and Magisterium are forced to transform to the whimsy of science. So which is it, the Holy Spirit and His literal word, or the anthropocentric scientism of natural man?

  18. avatar Ted Heywood says:

    Terrific discussions and very educating.
    At the same time that smart people look for the related strings that physically brought us to our present state maybe we can accept Christ’s admonitions not to worry about it . Just accept that …’for You all things are possible.” and not let it cause dissent amongst us. Chill out. As one contributor sort of said — when we get to Heaven maybe then He will let us in on the secret.

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