Cardinal Dulles on Theistic Evolution and Darwinism


New article in First Things (Oct 2007)

God and Evolution by Avery Cardinal Dulles

Excerpts: Theistic evolutionism, like classical Darwinism, refrains from asserting any divine intervention in the process of evolution. It concedes that the emergence of living bodies, including the human, can be accounted for on the empirical level by random mutations and survival of the fittest.

But theistic evolutionism rejects the atheistic conclusions of Dawkins and his cohorts. The physical sciences, it maintains, are not the sole acceptable source of truth and certitude. Science has a real though limited competence. It can tell us a great deal about the processes that can be observed or controlled by the senses and by instruments, but it has no way of answering deeper questions involving reality as a whole. Far from being able to replace religion, it cannot begin to tell us what brought the world into existence, nor why the world exists, nor what our ultimate destiny is, nor how we should act in order to be the kind of persons we ought to be.

Good stuff! :thumbsup: He addresses some of the more recent evangelist atheists and their books. Not in too much detail, but at least he is familiar with them.

Phil P


The Cardinal has correctly outlined the current views of evolution. Here, and elsewhere, there is too much of a tendency to remove God from His creation or give Him only a token role. The goal is clear: Science becomes the only source of knowledge and God is rejected.

Whatever evidence there may be for some kind of evolution, the entire picture must include God.

Thank you for posting that.

God bless,


Phil, since you are the resident expert on these matters, I was recommended a book entitled Darwin’s Black Box. Is it worth the time to read?


tdg << I was recommended a book entitled Darwin’s Black Box. Is it worth the time to read? >>

Probably, maybe once. It was all the rage 10 years ago when it came out, but has since been pretty well thrashed. I would read the book once, and then read the direct and cross-exam (days 10,11,12) that Behe went through at the 2005 Dover Trial which is online at TalkOrigins and elsewhere. It covers his main examples of “irreducible complexity” and debunks them.

What Behe has admitted and agrees with in this book and other books and debates is that the earth and universe are very old, common descent or macroevolution is true, that we evolved from ape-like ancestors, Darwin’s natural selection explains many things (see Darwin’s Black Box, page 5), and that Darwinism – like that accepted by most biologists, such as his main opponent, Ken Miller of Brown Univ – is compatible with Catholicism (Uncommon Dissent, page 143-144).

“The point I’m trying to drive home here by discussing my own work as well as the work of [Ken] Miller [of Brown Univ] and [John] Haught [of Georgetown Univ], is that a very wide range of views about the mechanism of evolution is consistent with Catholic teaching, from the natural selection defended by Miller, to the intelligent design I have proposed, to the animated, information-suffused universe that John Haught sees. Those mechanisms are all proposed by persons who attach the same bottom-line philosophy to their ideas that Pope John Paul described: that ‘it is the God of Israel who acts’ and that ‘it is the one and the same God who establishes and guarantees the intelligibility and reasonableness of the natural order of things upon which scientists confidently depend, and who reveals himself as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Indeed, the range of possibilities that are available under a Catholic viewpoint is much wider than under a materialistic viewpoint.” (Michael Behe, from “A Catholic Scientist Looks at Darwinism” in Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing edited by William Dembski [2004], page 143-144)

Which is pretty much what Cardinal Dulles is saying in that First Things article. And what I agree with. :thumbsup:

Behe has a new book The Edge of Evolution which is already heavily criticized. He takes a lickin but like the Paley watch keeps on tickin.

I may seem like an expert since I post a lot on this topic, but far more knowledgeable folks on the science in here are Alec (HECD2), Rossum (buddhist), Orogeny (Tim), SteveAndersen, zian, wildleaf, and perhaps a few others but these folks always come to mind. :slight_smile:

Phil P


Cardinal Dulles is so smart. Thanks for the link, PhilVaz.




OK I’ll tack this onto the thread. New book by Cardinal Schönborn available next month too (Oct 2007) :

Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith

Available October 15

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s article on evolution and creation in The New York Times launched an international controversy. Critics charged him with biblical literalism and “creationism”.

In this book, Cardinal Schönborn responds to his critics by tackling the hard questions with a carefully reasoned “theology of creation”. Can we still speak intelligently of the world as “creation” and affirm the existence of the Creator, or is God a “delusion”? How should an informed believer read Genesis? If God exists, why is there so much injustice and suffering? Are human beings a part of nature or elevated above it? What is man’s destiny? Is everything a matter of chance or can we discern purpose in human existence?

In his treatment of evolution, Cardinal Schönborn distinguishes the biological theory from “evolutionism”, the ideology that tries to reduce all of reality to mindless, meaningless processes. He argues that science and a rationally grounded faith are not at odds and that what many people represent as “science” is really a set of philosophical positions that will not withstand critical scrutiny.

Sounds good, but I’m sure he’ll still have critics. He may be the Phillip E. Johnson of Catholicism. But I’ll wait for the book.

Phil P


A wonderfully clear-thinking article by the Cardinal on evolution and it’s relationship to God. Thanks for the link.


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