Does Evolution undermines Catholicism?


#1

I have talked to some people who think it does and to others that think it doesn’t. What is your position about this? Is evolution compatible with Catholicism? Does it undermines any dogma and/or is it a direct treat to The Church?

I think it doesm’t.


#2

I believe it does. Not so much because of the whole model which we can get into a long argument about, but primarily because it assumes that death, pain and sufferring were things that existed at the beginning of the world. Why would a good God install such things into his creation as a prerequisite? And then pronounce it as being ‘very good’?

The Book of Genesis tells us that death was not something God wanted, but is an unfortunate result due to sin. It was a punishment meant to deter man from rebeling, and this was begun by Adam and Eve, and as a result, the whole of creation, which was placed under the dominion of man began to suffer. It is all because of this the Christ became our redeemer, to save us from death. If God intended death to be a part of creation from the beginning, then what was the point of the passion?

I’ll let Tom harpur, author of ‘The Pagan Christ’, explain it in an article defending evolution and ridiculing creationism:

“It’s important to understand why the fundamentalists are so fired up on all this. The reasons go far beyond thei misunderstanding that evolution and belief in God cannot peacefully co-exist… their difficulties increase exponentially. If there was no age of innocence in a historic Eden, if there has been an upward-moving process involving hundreds of millions, even billions of years, then there was no literal, primal “Fall” involving “original sin.” With this, the whole edifice begiins to shake. No “Fall” means no monumental problem of sin staining everything human. No “Fall” means no cosmic necessity for a Redeemer, no Cross of Atonement, no bloody Passion. The evangelical “plan of salvation” totters and collapses. It doesn’t make much sense anyway, but, evolution administers the coup de grace. This means bad news for the good news. What’s feared most of all is this call to change.”


#3

[quote=Asimis]Is evolution compatible with Catholicism? Does it undermine any dogma and/or is it a direct threat to the Church?
[/quote]

To a certain extent, yes. No, absolutely not. In Humani Generis (1950) Pope Pius XII stated that while the Church does not forbid inquiries into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter, we are not allowed to say that this theory is completely certain.

Four things that we must hold as true if we choose to believe in evolution:

  1. Is there is an evolutionary process, God is the cause of it in all respects.
  2. The human (rational) soul is directly created by God and does not (cannot) evolve.
  3. All human (rational) beings are descended from an original pair.
  4. The body of the first woman came in some way from the body first man.

Hope this helps!!! :slight_smile:

[quote=jdnation]It assumes that death, pain and suffering were things that existed at the beginning of the world.
[/quote]

No, it doesn’t. It simply implies that death and suffering may have existed, to a very imited extent, in nature before Adam and Eve were created. For example, the dinosaurs. Lucifer and his angels fell first before Adam and Eve did. Who’s to say that they weren’t already attacking God’s creation in other ways before humanity came along? It was only after Adam and Eve fell that sin (which requires a rational, free will choice) and its natural consequences entered into the world.


#4

[quote=jdnation]I believe it does. Not so much because of the whole model which we can get into a long argument about, but primarily because it assumes that death, pain and sufferring were things that existed at the beginning of the world. Why would a good God install such things into his creation as a prerequisite? And then pronounce it as being ‘very good’?

The Book of Genesis tells us that death was not something God wanted, but is an unfortunate result due to sin. It was a punishment meant to deter man from rebeling, and this was begun by Adam and Eve, and as a result, the whole of creation, which was placed under the dominion of man began to suffer. It is all because of this the Christ became our redeemer, to save us from death. If God intended death to be a part of creation from the beginning, then what was the point of the passion?
."
[/quote]

I’ll respond to your speculation with my own: I believe evolution doesn’t contradict the faith. (Not that I’m endorsing either view)

1.) The world could have evolved, with beings absent of the will and intellect that make us in God’s image. At some point, God could have breathed will & intellect into the first man, and sustained him from death… until the time he chose to rebel (which God, being outside of time, knew was going to happen). God then allowed death, as a natural effect of sin & rejection of God, to affect this “new species” of man who possesses the Godly attributes of will and intellect.

2.) Adam & Eve could have been expelled into the current world of death from God’s garden of Eden which one might think of as existing in a parallel universe (to use sci-fi terminology). In a loose analogy, it may have been similar to the way Jesus expelled the demons from the possessed man into the swine.


#5

That is interesting… but wouldn’t the parallel dimension also count as a part of creation, and isn’t it said that the whole of creation suffers due to the Fall?

Plus there are these verses to deal with:
Mark 10:6 - But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

Romans 8:20-23 -for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves


#6

[quote=jdnation]That is interesting… but wouldn’t the parallel dimension also count as a part of creation, and isn’t it said that the whole of creation suffers due to the Fall?

Plus there are these verses to deal with:
Mark 10:6 - But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

Romans 8:20-23 -for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves
[/quote]

  1. It could suffer by ceasing to exist as it had before.

  2. Mark 10:6>> So? Male and female do not necessarily refer to beings with will and intellect. It could also refer to the mere fact that our first parents were both male and female.

  3. Romans 8>> I don’t understand your difficulty with that passage.


#7

We are told that Creation suffers, but we are NOT told HOW. “Bondage to decay” is often misunderstood in modern English because decay has multiple meanings. The Latin used in the Vulgate does not use the term “to rot”, but simply the term corruption, which again has many connotations.

We know that humans were to be preserved from death, but we don’t know that about the rest of the animal kingdom or Creation. What we do know is that Creation was somehow corrupted by the Fall, and that it suffers until the Coming in Glory. There’s nothing that opposes evolution in saying that Adam and Eve were originally intended and designed not to die, and that the world became corrupt after their Fall.

If evolution was inherently incompatible with the Catholic faith, rather than just certain permutations of evolutionary theory, the Church would have said so by now, rather than saying that exploration of evolutionary theories is perfectly permissable.


#8

I wonder if, when discussing the temporal world in relation to the spiritual, it’s a mistake to think in terms of time. After all, if time is a part of the temporal universe, then it doesn’t really make sense to talk of it in relation to spiritual things such as Heaven, etc.

What I mean is, granted a specific temporal event (Adam and Eve) brought a spiritual effect (sin). But that effect would not necessarily be temporal. Rather, the whole nature of the temporal universe would have changed as a result, “backward” chronologically as well as “forward” so we would find death and suffering throughout the universe.

For instance, think of other spiritual events tied to temporal ones. Just as sin entered through Adam and Eve, salvation came through Christ. Surely Abraham, Joseph, and others who preceded Christ have been saved, and if they are saved, it must be through Christ. Or think about the sacrifice of the mass. Calvary is present at the alter. It doesn’t happen “again,” but rather the one single sacrifice becomes present.

Is this a valid view or does this run into theological problems?


#9

[quote=DeFide]1. It could suffer by ceasing to exist as it had before.

  1. Mark 10:6>> So? Male and female do not necessarily refer to beings with will and intellect. It could also refer to the mere fact that our first parents were both male and female.

  2. Romans 8>> I don’t understand your difficulty with that passage.
    [/quote]

  3. The argument made was that the dying world existed before, and that Adam and Eve were taken from a parallel universe and put there. If that’s the case, how is it ceasing to exist as it had before? God tells Adam that “cursed is the ground because of you.” If the ground was the same way before Adam was created then that wouldn’t make any sense. God also placed a cherubim and a flaming sword to prevent Adam from eating from the Tree of Life. If that was in another dimension, then Adam wouldn’t be able to get to it, so what good are the guards?

  4. Jesus is talking about marriage when he makes this point. Do unintelligent species get married? Of course not.

  5. It says that the whole of creation is in bondage to decay etc. and that it was subjected to it. It doesn’t make sense for something to be ‘subjected’ to be something that it originally was in the first place. All the sufferring, death etc that we see today is a result of man, not God, because the wages of sin is death.


#10

[quote=Philip P]I wonder if, when discussing the temporal world in relation to the spiritual, it’s a mistake to think in terms of time. After all, if time is a part of the temporal universe, then it doesn’t really make sense to talk of it in relation to spiritual things such as Heaven, etc.

What I mean is, granted a specific temporal event (Adam and Eve) brought a spiritual effect (sin). But that effect would not necessarily be temporal. Rather, the whole nature of the temporal universe would have changed as a result, “backward” chronologically as well as “forward” so we would find death and suffering throughout the universe.

For instance, think of other spiritual events tied to temporal ones. Just as sin entered through Adam and Eve, salvation came through Christ. Surely Abraham, Joseph, and others who preceded Christ have been saved, and if they are saved, it must be through Christ. Or think about the sacrifice of the mass. Calvary is present at the alter. It doesn’t happen “again,” but rather the one single sacrifice becomes present.

Is this a valid view or does this run into theological problems?
[/quote]

That is quite an interesting idea. Don’t rightly know whether it’s a theological problem or not… Though it doesn’t appear to work to compare the salvation of those before Christ to something like a biblical timframe and an evolutionary one.

For instance, the Old Testament characters are saved because of a future event. But this has not affected the history of the beginning. Now if we look at the area where the Fall affects the universe, then it is actually interfering with the history of the beginning, pushing the literal beginning back billions of years. So the timescale in that respect is being ‘physically changed’ if we can say that. So in that instance time for some reason is extending into the negatives of the ‘X-Axis’ if you can picture it, completely changing the way God created. If anything the way God seems to prefer to work is through history rather than changing it, so people can learn about Him in light of it.

That of course raises another problem. If that timescale changed, then why would God inspire Moses to write about it in the original way, or not make mention afterwards about this effect? Furthermore God went on to give a law about the Sabbath Day because He says, that in 6 days He created and then rested on the 7th, and God gave this law to the Hebrews a long time after Adam and Eve.


#11

This is just my opinion, but here goes:

If we believe that God has an influence on the world, and in our daily lives, and I assume that most of us coming to this board do, than how does he do so? He surely does not do so simply by miraculous things such as creating new species in an instant. I don’t doubt the existence of miracles, but they are few and far between. I think that the way God most influences the world, and our daily lives, is in ways that are a lot more subtle and gradual than that. So why would it “undermine Catholicism” to think that God created us, and other living creatures, through evolution?


#12

It does not undermine Catholicism; it enhances Catholicism. Science tries to find the truth; sometimes it goes down dead ends and sometimes it finds out things that improve our understanding of the God given universe.

Truth is truth, whether approached from a biblical perspective or a scientific perspective. They all help our understanding.

Pope Pius XII reportedly spoke on this:

Nonetheless, Pius XII states that nothing in Catholic doctrine is contradicted by a theory that suggests one specie might evolve into another—even if that specie is man. The Pope declared:
The Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experiences in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.

In other words, the Pope could live with evolution, so long as the process of “ensouling” humans was left to God. (He also insisted on a role for Adam, whom he believed committed a sin— mysteriously passed along through the “doctrine of original sin”—that has affected all subsequent generations.) Pius XII cautioned, however, that he considered the jury still out on the question of evolution’s validity. It should not be accepted, without more evidence, “as though it were a certain proven doctrine.” (ROA, 81)

JPII also addressed it:

Unlike Pius XII, John Paul is broadly read, and embraces science and reason. He won the respect of many scientists in 1993, when in April 1993 he formally acquitted Galileo, 360 years after his indictment, of heretical support for Copernicus’s heliocentrism. The pontiff began his statement with the hope that “we will all be able to profit from the fruitfulness of a trustful dialogue between the Church and science.” Evolution, he said, is “an essential subject which deeply interests the Church.” He recognized that science and Scripture sometimes have “apparent contradictions,” but said that when this is the case, a “solution” must be found because “truth cannot contradict truth.” The Pope pointed to the Church’s coming to terms with Galileo’s discoveries concerning the nature of the solar system as an example of how science might inspire the Church to seek a new and “correct interpretation of the inspired word.”
When the pope came to the subject of the scientific merits of evolution, it soon became clear how much things had changed in the nearly since the Vatican last addressed the issue. John Paul said:

Today, almost half a century after publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.

Even though the article quoted above says what I want it to, I will caution that the author might not be completely familiar with Catholicism, as he occasionally refers to “John Paul” as “Paul.”

Alan


#13

When you’re eternal and transcendent a few billion years is just the blink of an eye

No, evolution is not a “threat” of any sort
It is just the way God made things
a tool and nothing more


#14

[quote=Steve Andersen]No, evolution is not a “threat” of any sort
It is just the way God made things
a tool and nothing more
[/quote]

I think this glosses over some very serious challenges evolution poses to our conception of God, though. Don’t get me wrong; I’m in no way, shape, or form a Creationist. I accept science, and evolution, as a legitimate theory for the origin and development of life. But I’d like to see more substantive grappling with its theological implications. For instance, I recently read Richard Dawkins “The Ancestor’s Tale.” A good overview of modern evolutionary theory for a non-scientist like myself. However, it was also full of gratuitous swipes at Christians in general and Creationsts in particular. Even the terminology of evolutionary science seems to have an implicit anti-faith bias to it. Yet this is not surprising, as significant segments of the faith community have chosed to simply ignore evolution rather than to seriously engage it. In other words, we Christians have in effect conceded science to the atheists, and we are paying the price (Note that what I’m arguing for is more scientists who are Christian, NOT a replacement of science with religion, which I absolutely oppose).

Anyway, for me the major theological challenge of evolution is the question of original sin and temporal vs. spiritual timelines. My thoughts on the temporal/spiritual relationship are expressed in my earlier post, and I’d be interested in further comments. Also, this seems to challenge the idea of natural law. After all, “might makes right” seems to be “natural” but it is the opposite of morality, supposedly rooted in natural law.


#15

Oh how do I love this, let me count the ways. :smiley:

No, no it doesn’t. Let’s take Genesis 1-11 as myth, as I was taught to do at a Franciscan University. (Not saying that it is for sure, but, let’s just say…does this mean that we cannot learn what it teaches?)

Like I said, I learned this 5 or 6 years ago and I don’t have my notes in front of me.

Genesis 1: NOTE, will you please, that in this story, God created everything. It was by his Fiat, it was deliberate, and it was good. As a matter of fact, there was only thing that was NOT good, and God quickly had a solution to that, He created a helpmate, the Hebrew word, “bareshit” (Pronounced bar-uh-sheet), the fulfillment of man, the COMPLETION of man. Also, this is something to note, if one was…dying of thirst, or bleeding to death, I believe the bareshit was the one who would hydrate the person or tie a tournequette (sp?). That was the name given to the person who would do such a thing…that person is THAT important…they are LIFE sustaining!!! (But, I’m jumping ahead to Ch 2, I apologize.) ALSO, taking a look at the language. “Created”. The Hebrews are very specific about this. They only attribute “created” to the “Creator”. He is the only One who has this title. We can only “Make” with what we already have. God’s creative activity is divided into six days to teach the sacredness of the sabbath rest on the seventh day in the Israelite religion (Genesis 2:2-3).4 [26] Man is here presented as the climax of God’s creative activity; he resembles God primarily because of the dominion God gives him over the rest of creation. (last two sentences from nccbuscc.org/nab/bible/genesis/genesis1.htm)

Genesis 2: Now, keep in mind, the simplicity and story-like telling of all this; just like the myths that we have heard from other cultures. We can also know this is a myth because we know the myth that Lilith came before Eve (unless, THAT myth was created later.) But, SOOOOOOO many great things happen in 2. :smiley: Please check the footnotes nccbuscc.org/nab/bible/genesis/genesis2.htm here for more. Note that the “second” creation story (IF one wants to look at it as such) is older than the first. In the first, Man was God’s climax. In the second, God creates man and then the world for him (which isn’t altogether untrue.) 2:18. Really? God said this? Nobody was there to write it down, nobody knows as he didn’t dictate to anybody THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED. This is how we understand; this is what makes sense in our finite minds.

Gen 3 (here’s where it starts to get good…) We are introduced to Evil, to our Enimy. Keep in mind, for a big part of the Hebrew’s religion, they didn’t have a concept of afterlife, death WAS the punishment…but, I’m getting ahead of myself… Gen 3:3, man and woman are in this together. Gen 3:4, we have the concept of sin, we have the concept of right and wrong. This is how we understand it. We are not moral relativists (this is me now, not what I have learned); this religion was founded on a g v e concept. And so they ate, AND NOW WE HAVE SIN, and WHY do we have sin? 3:12 – According to Adam, because of God. 3:13 – According to Eve, the devil made her do it. Later, God destroys Eden…a bit too convenient?

We also have the Flood & The Tower of Babel, and allegations of men living to outrageous ages (which, could mean nothing more than how great they were).

Abram is when we start to acknowledge history in context.

Now, let’s assume that the above IS true, just a myth, and we evolved from a single cell organism to primates to us. The great thing about Gen 1 is that at some point, God, though He never left His creation, according to Genesis 1:27 & 2:7…LOOK AT HOW INTIMATE GOD BECAME WITH HIS CREATION!!! He gave us a SOUL!!! THAT is what distinguishes us from the monkeys!! He decided to make us different/special. We believe that we are created good and that we were deliberate and willed and not just the accidents after some other gods fought or here because of a ritual over which the gods have no control. We are here for a very real reason, even if we don’t know how we came to be.


#16

[quote=Philip P]I think this glosses over some very serious challenges evolution poses to our conception of God, though.
[/quote]

In gross terms, looking at the big picture, there is really no conflict (unless you’re a literalist) Theistic Evolution or Intelligent Design would be indistinguishable from a completely atheistic approach…at least in terms of what we can observe.

But yes, there are some sticking points for me in the fine details; apparently the same issues that you have. Specifically where/ when in the process did we become “human” i.e. imbued with a soul and did the soul arise in a single first pair or did it arise in the general population as some threshold was crossed?

Since the soul can’t be measured there is no way to answer this scientifically.

I like to kid myself and imagine that the great surge in creativity that occurred during the Neolithic period was when we took that last step that separated us from the animals

It seems an appropriate time in history for us to sample the fruit of knowledge

Since that can’t be measured I usually try to turn off the scientific part of my brain when those questions come up.

[quote=Philip P]…….Even the terminology of evolutionary science seems to have an implicit anti-faith bias to it.
[/quote]

Science is about measuring what we can observe and trying to fit a mechanism to what we can see…it isn’t really anti-faith it just doesn’t address it one way or another

[quote=Philip P]……. Also, this seems to challenge the idea of natural law. After all, “might makes right” seems to be “natural” but it is the opposite of morality, supposedly rooted in natural law.
[/quote]

Sometimes, but there are many examples of cooperation in nature
That’s why herding/pack animals (including those gregarious primates) evolved

In natural law for every mighty lion there are scores of meek little rabbits who seem to do fairly well despite things


#17

I want to go on record to say Catholicism is not undermined by biology, geology, astronomy, physics, trigonometry, paleobotany, or software engineering. :smiley: :eek:

See the Catechism of the Catholic Church 159, 283-284.

Dorothy, you are not in Kansas anymore. :mad: :rolleyes: :eek:

Phil P


#18

[quote=Steve Andersen]I like to kid myself and imagine that the great surge in creativity that occurred during the Neolithic period was when we took that last step that separated us from the animals

It seems an appropriate time in history for us to sample the fruit of knowledge
[/quote]

I do something similar. But to me that moment happened around 10,000 years ago when agriculture first appeared. It matches very well with the chronology of The Bible and the fact that God placed Adam in the garden to work on it, which probably refers to agriculture activity.

So Evolution is a sort of prelude which lead up to the garden of Eden.


#19

I usually put it around 20,000-30,000 YBP

So I really misspoke myself by saying Neolithic, I guess Holocene might have been more correct (correcter?) I forget the details of the nomenclature of the various periods…”Stone Age” seems to work well sometimes :wink:

But your 10, 000 YBP is probably a pretty good choice

The problem of course is that Neolithic describes a collection of technologies rather than a set period of time. Not all cultures arrived at these developments at the same time and even today there are some hunter gatherer societies. If that Neolithic flowering is the manifestation of sampling the fruit of knowledge…what does that say about folks that arrived at these milestone at different times or not at all?

We must avoid what others have done in categorizing these cultures as somehow subhuman/pre-human or idealize them as pre-Fall humans as some people have in the past.


#20

[quote=Philip P]I think this glosses over some very serious challenges evolution poses to our conception of God, though. Don’t get me wrong; I’m in no way, shape, or form a Creationist. I accept science, and evolution, as a legitimate theory for the origin and development of life. But I’d like to see more substantive grappling with its theological implications. For instance, I recently read Richard Dawkins “The Ancestor’s Tale.” A good overview of modern evolutionary theory for a non-scientist like myself. However, it was also full of gratuitous swipes at Christians in general and Creationsts in particular. Even the terminology of evolutionary science seems to have an implicit anti-faith bias to it. Yet this is not surprising, as significant segments of the faith community have chosed to simply ignore evolution rather than to seriously engage it. In other words, we Christians have in effect conceded science to the atheists, and we are paying the price (Note that what I’m arguing for is more scientists who are Christian, NOT a replacement of science with religion, which I absolutely oppose).

Anyway, for me the major theological challenge of evolution is the question of original sin and temporal vs. spiritual timelines. My thoughts on the temporal/spiritual relationship are expressed in my earlier post, and I’d be interested in further comments. Also, this seems to challenge the idea of natural law. After all, “might makes right” seems to be “natural” but it is the opposite of morality, supposedly rooted in natural law.
[/quote]

Dawkins et al. push scientism, whose main tenant is that scientific knowledge–that is, empirical science–is the only way we can know anything and that only questions that can be formulated in those terms are meaningful. But that begs the question: can all branches of science be reduced to the same terms? Can biology be reduced to physics? But exactly what IS physics?


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