Evolution and the Catholic church


#1

Hi. I have a question for my fellow Catholics in regards to how we should reconcile science, specifically evolution, with what the bible and the Catholic church says in regards to Adam and Eve. I am a geneticist currently working for one of the largest health systems in the world. I know that the church tells us it’s OK to accept evolution as the process in which god engineered us. As a scientist I of course don’t have a problem with this. My focus on genetics has given me a deeper understanding then most into the origin of our species and the processes that have shaped the biological development of human beings over time. The issue I’m having right now as it relates to my faith, is the concept of Adam and Eve and original sin as it is described in the bible an in Catholic doctrine. I know with absolute certainty that it is not possible for there have ever been only two human beings on this planet. The processes that govern life just make this an impossibility. The smallest bottleneck for humanity actually occurred about 100K years ago. At that time humans were reduced to around 15k in population. So if Adam and Eve never existed in the way it’s written in the bible, then how can the concept of original sin have happened? I guess I’m looking to understand how we can accept evolution and still accept many of the other core beliefs that are built on the biblical accounts of creation. Thanks in advance!


#2

the church teaches that until definitive and/or empirical proof is found beyond nigh indubitable impossibles for a belief/theory: is alright to explore and hold any of 4+ prominent theories on the origin of life and “energy;” as long as God is the first cause, we have two ancestors, and only God creates and imbues souls.

God bless


#3

Evolution is a banned topic. Adam and Eve are our first parents.

Peace,
Ed


#4

The OP does not seek to argue the scientific merits or the theology of evolution, but seeks rather to reconcile a scientist’s understanding of evolution with church teachings. Wouldn’t forum rules allow us to discuss that?


#5

I very much doubt that Evolution would be taboo here. One of the greatest strengths of our faith is our ability to have open discussions about stuff like this. And while our church gives us the leeway to explore scientific theories that are not at odds with biblical teachings or official Catholic doctrine, my question is what do we do when we follow one of those theories and it leads to a conclusion or a picture of reality that does not line up with our faith based teachings.

God bless!


#6

This from the Catechism of the Catholic Church might be helpful:
159 Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.” “Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.”


#7

wrong


#8

Thanks for that. So knowing that the church does not believe there can be a discrepancy between faith and science (since god is the creator of all things), my question is essentially; what do we do when we actually find discrepancies. For example, my ten year old son who has recently found his own thirst for science, has been asking a lot of questions such as “why does the bible says this” when we know it’s actually “this.” This is where I believe our church is going to get into trouble down the road. I don’t really believe you can have it both ways. You either believe in what the scriptures say, or your don’t. I can’t just tell him that part of the bible isn’t true without compromising the entire thing (if that makes any sense).


#9

It’s a good question and it is one that used to trouble me as well. The key is in understanding what a human being is. In order to be a human being, one has to have the form of a rational animal which basically entails having the powers of intellection and will, which are essentially immaterial processes (note that there is a difference between these processes and imagination/sensation, which are material processes). So a Neanderthal or “proto-human” is not human unless it has these powers. Since they are immaterial in nature, intellection and will cannot be the result of a purely material process such as evolution.

Here is an article by Prof. Edward Feser who is a Catholic philosopher for whom I have great respect discussing the issue of evolution, modern science, and Adam and Eve: edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/modern-biology-and-original-sin-part-i.html

I think he does a good job of explaining things. He also has a number of articles defending the immaterial nature of intellect and will if you need/want more arguments for that as well.


#10

The basic premise being missed here is:

  1. Science is silent about the supernatural. Science cannot study God, gods or supernatural events.

  2. This often results in comments like “your Bible is wrong, here, here and here, according to science.” What peer-reviewed papers are they referring to? “A Scientific Examination of Claims Made in the Christian Bible book tittled Genesis” does not exist. So, science cannot say anything.

The Church tells us the following:

"Real History

"The argument is that all of this is real history, it is simply ordered topically rather than chronologically, and the ancient audience of Genesis, it is argued, would have understood it as such.

"Even if Genesis 1 records God’s work in a topical fashion, it still records God’s work—things God really did.

"The Catechism explains that “Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine ‘work,’ concluded by the ‘rest’ of the seventh day” (CCC 337), but “nothing exists that does not owe its existence to God the Creator. The world began when God’s word drew it out of nothingness; all existent beings, all of nature, and all human history is rooted in this primordial event, the very genesis by which the world was constituted and time begun” (CCC 338).

"It is impossible to dismiss the events of Genesis 1 as a mere legend. They are accounts of real history, even if they are told in a style of historical writing that Westerners do not typically use.

"Adam and Eve: Real People

“It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2–3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism).”

Peace,
Ed


#11

When it comes to Adam and Eve, Catholics can believe in evolution as an explanation for how the material part of man was formed. However they do not need to; a Catholic can be a creationist if they think they can support that in spite of modern scientific discoveries. But for those of us who accept the modern scientific account of man’s origin and development, it is important to point out that there is nothing in the doctrine of Adam and Eve as the first two real humans which contradicts the modern theory of our origin. Here are a few ways we can know this:

  1. Catholics only need to maintain a few principles about Adam and Eve that are drawn from Genesis 1-2 and there is room for these few points to be surrounded by much that is symbolic. The things we need to maintain mostly concern the historical actions of the first man and woman, and thus they cannot be disproved by a scientific understanding of what humanity was generally capable of at the time.

  2. We need to believe that there was a first man, and that at the beginning of his existence he was endowed with a special human soul. It is possible that mankind emerged from a primitive pre-human species. But one of them must have been the first actual man. That was Adam. His biological make-up may have been identical to his peers, or nearly-so; in fact you might not be able to tell him apart physically from other proto-humans if you set them side-by-side. But his soul was different and was special. He was endowed for a time with special holiness, an understanding of justice and a relationship with God, and he was immortal. Science cannot disprove that these qualities were in him, especially if the hand of God was involved. In fact Adam soon lost this special status, so even if science could tell us about the very person of Adam, it probably couldn’t discover his special qualities.

  3. We need to believe that the first human woman was formed from the first human man. That is a claim about the historical facts and it is not incompatible with science. Science obviously knows that women do not ordinarily develop out of men, so this must have been something like a miracle.

  4. We need to believe that Adam and Eve lived very special lives for a time. This does not mean they were not primitive in various ways. But they were protected from death and sickness and were naturally inclined toward goodness. They had a relationship with God and a marital relationship with each other, even if their understanding of marriage was simple. A divine command was laid upon them to prove their obedience to God, and Satan influenced them to sin. It may have been a simple matter or it may have involved some special observance – the tree and the fruit may be symbolic, but there was something they were not supposed to do, and they did it. The state of holiness, justice, and immortality was then lost. This is all Catholic dogma, and it is not incompatible with science because it mostly concerns a temporary historical situation regarding the first man and woman which scientific theories do not propose any obstacle to. Science can show in a general way what the state of the early primitive humans would have been like; but that does not disprove that certain ones among them were granted special status for a temporary period, and we do not need to deny that in many ways they were still primitive and returned to their primitive neighbors. Our species has developed considerably since their time, but they had something special for a period, though they lost it. For all these reasons, there can be no objection to these dogmas on scientific grounds.

  5. We need to believe that every real human is a descendant of Adam and Eve. This does not mean that there were no others who were biologically identical to them, or as identical as different members of a species can be. They may have been identical to their peers as far as biology goes, but their souls were different. When members of primitive humanity mated, only those born of Adam and Eve and their descendants were the true humans as far as the soul is concerned. Science is aware that primitive species intermated with closely-related species. The fact that Adam and Eve and their descendants were just as primitive as their neighbors makes this a pretty common-sense reality. However that may be, all modern humans derive our DNA from the original Adam and Eve. If there were anything in this that scientists could disprove, it would be here: but science shows us that we do all share a common ancestor, in the sense that one person’s genes have made it into all our bodies. Thus it is not impossible for the two original ensouled humans and their descendants to have gradually dispersed their genes throughout early proto-humanity so that not very much time passed before all the members of their species owed their existence to Adam and Eve.

I hope this explanation helps show that the Catholic doctrine of Adam and Eve can be maintained within the framework of evolution. The primary doctrines concerning them are simply not incompatible with modern scientific discoveries: namely, the special creation of Adam’s soul, his immortality and original innocence, the creation of woman from man, the transgression of a divine command, the fall from grace, and the fact that, after Adam and Eve, there existed no real human (with the human soul) who was not a descendant of them.


#12

There is/was a ban on some subforum not because the subject is problematic in itself, but because people were incapable of discussing it civilly. I don’t remember if it was on this forum, or if it is still in effect, but if so well find out soon.

But to address the more general question of what to do when it seems like science and our faith contradict each other - figure out which one we misunderstand and correct our issues. Science makes no claims about the supernatural, and Catholicism doesn’t make any scientific claims about the workings of the mechanisms by which material objects interact, so if we think there is a contradiction then it’s because we’re wrong about what one of the two says.


#13

That goes back to my original point. I’m not going to tell my son to disregard what we (meaning humanity) know is true. The Adam and Eve story as it is described in the bible simply didn’t happen that way; and I wouldn’t be a good father if I chose to lie to my son and say that it is (nor do I think he would believe me anyway) Now that doesn’t mean the concept of original sin isn’t real, it is just a bit harder to explain without the context of the story.


#14

I would like to add the following:

Personally, I beleive that Adam & Eve were either the first Homo Sapiens or the the first Homo Sapien Sapiens. They were not any other Homo species.

I reconsile Eve being made from Adam as that it’s possible that God may have actually simply used Adam’s Soul to create a Soul for Eve and then made sure her DNA was compatable with Adam’s. I believe this scientific explanation works and since early humans would not understand what DNA was, God reveled it in simple terms.

All homo sapiens are direct direct decendents from Adam & Eve.


#15

Adam and Eve: Real People

"It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2–3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism).

“In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).”

There is no basis for the following: “but their souls were different.”

There is no Scriptural basis for it, and certainly no scientific basis.

Peace,
Ed


#16

Nope. The Church clearly tells us that Eve was formed by God and the material used was taken from Adam’s side as he slept.

“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.” Arcanum, Pope Leo XIII

De we have a God that has no God-like powers?

Peace,
Ed


#17

:thumbsup:

yes, our holy God Is Love and Almighty. with Him nothing is beyond impossible.

God bless


#18

Can God perform miracles? Is that a lie? Is the Eucharist the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus? Did Jesus cause people to rise from the dead? Did He rise from the dead? Can God create things out of nothing?

"It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2–3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism).

“In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).”

Otherwise, we have a God that can perform no miracles, cannot create from nothing, is not actually present in the Eucharist and can do nothing a God can do.

I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but God id God. The same Jesus that rose from the dead will come again, and is alive at this moment. Science cannot study God. You will find no references to God in science class.

Peace,
Ed


#19

If you read carefully, the five points you quoted are a direct attempt to defend the descent of all human beings (who have the human soul) from the original pair of humans. So it is intentionally written in accord with that statement, and incorporates the decisions that the Pontifical Biblical Commission made regarding these issues in this document.

Moreover, there is support for the state “but their souls were different” in Scripture, reason, and Humani Generis. Their souls couldn’t be the same as their predecessors if they were capable of a higher level of cognition; their souls couldn’t be the same if they, and they alone, were made in the image of God; and their souls couldn’t be the same if their souls were created directly and uniquely by God, as Humani Generis says they were.


#20

DukeAJuke :: Did you see anything unreasonable with my explanation? (The five enumerated points on the first page of this thread.) I don’t think it disregards any of the data that the Church says is literal in the Book of Genesis, and it is also in line with modern science. Of course, it is only one possible explanation; there are other, more creative ones; but this one is simple in that it merely takes the things we have learned from science, compares them to the things the Church requires us to believe about Genesis, and finds that they aren’t incompatible.


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