Evolution in Catholicism?


#1

I have always personally believed in Evolution from a scientific viewpoint. Granted, I have not always believed in God, let alone Catholicism. (I’m a convert from Protestantism, which I first converted to from atheism).

It has been a blessing to me that my Catholic parish had never really hammered the issue on evolution. Maybe because they didn’t want the controversy? But recently, a third, less drastic conversion. Catholicism… to Traditional Catholicism, has made me uneasy.

Even though I hadn’t conversed with anyone about evolution, I can tell from my parish bookstore that this is a no-evolution community.

In between Tridentine Mass Missals and Latin-English Bibles, I find the occasional “Why Evolution is Wrong” publication.

Is there a place for evolutionary minded faithful in the Church?

A quick Wikipedia on the subject shows that Pope Benedict and Pope Pius XII were either neutral-to-friendly with evolutionary thinking.


#2

There is also room for you, if you don’t accept evolution in particular, or even science in general. Evolution is merely the way God did it, but it’s not going to be on the final exam.

If you want to accept Genesis as literal history, you are free to do it. Or, if you want to accept the teaching of the last two popes, you can do that, too.

Only evolutionary ideas that explicitly rule out God’s role in creation have been condemned by the church. And no scientific theory does that.


#3

Absolutely. The Church does not require you to believe in a literal 6 day creation.

A quick Wikipedia on the subject shows that Pope Benedict and Pope Pius XII were either neutral-to-friendly with evolutionary thinking.

Don’t forget Pope John Paul II.

Peace

Tim


#4

This interests me. I know about Benedict XVI and Pius XII, what is John Paul II’s stance on this?


#5

ICatholic…

I am also a convert from Atheism and still believe in evolution.

I completely believe that God created everything as is stated in the Book of Genesis, but because God is outside of time and space, the 6 Days of creation could have easily been 6000 years or even longer.

To my non scientifically trained brain, I believe that evolution is simply an organism/life form adapting to the environment in which it lives. Evolving over time to fit that environment.

I do NOT believe that we humans came climbing down out of the trees as evolved apes and I do NOT believe that all life on earth started as a single cell emerging from the primordial ooze.

God created it all, then it went forth and adapted and grew and yes, changed, but it all started with God.

BTW: The chicken came Before the egg.:thumbsup:


#6

I’m a geologist who was trained in evolutionary science. Part of the problem is that the term “evolution” encompasses a large body of material that ranges from science to philosophy to outright pseudo-religion. Some concepts in “evolution” are compatible with our faith and others are not. The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically how God created, but why. Genesis wasn’t meant to be a science book or even a historical reference. The creation account is designed to tell us who God is and who we are in relation to Him. Thus, we are free to believe that evolutionary processes were used by God to bring about the diversity of life. Human “evolution” is a bit more problematic because the soul cannot evolve even if the body did. Thus, it is incompatible with our faith to believe that man evolved from the apes in a gradual, uninterrupted process without a dramatic creation event that brought into being the first human souls (Adam and Eve). Many evolutionary proponents are atheists who reject the existence of a soul, thus, their only option is spontaneous generation of life that evolved to its current complexity. The scientific evidence is fairly strong regarding the evolution of life at certain levels, but there are big gaps in the data, such as how life first came to be. Even the theories in this regard are speculative and require as much faith as any religious belief. When the data gaps are presented to the evolutionary proponent, they are rejected and explained by what I call “faith in the passage of time.” In other words, they have faith that anything can happen if there is enough time. This is weak.

Anyway, my point is that there are elements of evolutionary science that are compatible with our faith and others that are not. Also, there are evolutionary theories that are supported by science and others that are pure speculation and require “religious-like faith”. In the end, it really doesn’t matter to me how we got here, just that God created us. That’s what I tell my children.


#7

Since science doesn’t present sufficient evidence that evolution occured, it is better to suppose that God didn’t start with an imperfect creation and build it up. Rather due to original sin, things start from perfection and subsequently fall into disorder.


#8

Hi iCatholilc,

There is no greet need for the Church to talk about evolution because it is a scientific, not a moral or dogmatic question. The church has spoken at times to specify that God is the creator of all things and that the soul, a spiritual being, has not evolved but is created by God for each individual.

The first time that a pope treated the subject at length is in the Encyclical Humani Generis (1950) by Pope Pius XII :

  1. For these reasons 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 experienced 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. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith.[11] Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question

[FONT=Arial][size=2]vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html[/size][/FONT]

[FONT=Arial][size=2]In 1996, John Paul II, speaking to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences went a step further than Pius XII :[/size][/FONT]

Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis.* In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory

.
[FONT=Arial][size=2]ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP961022.HTM

So there you are. You can study evolution at your heart’s content.

Does this answer your question?

Verbum
[/size][/FONT]


#9

I’m a geologist who was trained in evolutionary science. Part of the problem is that the term “evolution” encompasses a large body of material that ranges from science to philosophy to outright pseudo-religion.

Let’s forget Pokemon, and concentrate on the scientific theory.

Some concepts in “evolution” are compatible with our faith and others are not.

Do you know of any in evolutionary theory that are; use the theory you were trained in for this answer.

Thus, we are free to believe that evolutionary processes were used by God to bring about the diversity of life. Human “evolution” is a bit more problematic because the soul cannot evolve even if the body did.

Science can’t talk about that, but it’s perfectly consistent to admit the evolution of humans while accepting that the soul is given to each of us by God, and does not evolve.

Thus, it is incompatible with our faith to believe that man evolved from the apes in a gradual, uninterrupted process without a dramatic creation event that brought into being the first human souls (Adam and Eve).

That would be, as you suggest the immortal soul. Unfortunately, science cannot determine when that happened. Pope Benedict XVI writes:

While the story of human origins is complex and subject to revision, physical anthropology and molecular biology combine to make a convincing case for the origin of the human species in Africa about 150,000 years ago in a humanoid population of common genetic lineage. However it is to be explained, the decisive factor in human origins was a continually increasing brain size, culminating in that of homo sapiens.
bringyou.to/apologetics/p80.htm (#63)

Many evolutionary proponents are atheists who reject the existence of a soul, thus, their only option is spontaneous generation of life that evolved to its current complexity.

How life evolved is not part of evolutionary theory. Nor does truth become falsehood merely because someone who doesn’t believe in God agrees with us.

The scientific evidence is fairly strong regarding the evolution of life at certain levels, but there are big gaps in the data, such as how life first came to be.

Again, evolutionary theory is not about how life came to be. It’s always been like that. Darwn himself merely wrote that God did it.

When the data gaps are presented to the evolutionary proponent, they are rejected and explained by what I call “faith in the passage of time.”

Let’s test that one. Give me a gap. (BTW, there are still things we don’t know about evolution, as there are in geology. Let’s see how it goes.

Anyway, my point is that there are elements of evolutionary science that are compatible with our faith and others that are not.

Interesting. Show us.

Also, there are evolutionary theories that are supported by science and others that are pure speculation and require “religious-like faith”.

Let’s use the one accepted by scientists. Tell us about that one.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter to me how we got here, just that God created us. That’s what I tell my children.

Smart of you to do that. It may seem like a little thing now, but I have had many young people express to me a crisis of faith because they had been told evolution was contrary to God,and they discovered it was almost certainly true.


#10

[quote=iCatholic]I have always personally believed in Evolution from a scientific viewpoint. Granted, I have not always believed in God, let alone Catholicism. (I’m a convert from Protestantism, which I first converted to from atheism).

It has been a blessing to me that my Catholic parish had never really hammered the issue on evolution. Maybe because they didn’t want the controversy? But recently, a third, less drastic conversion. Catholicism… to Traditional Catholicism, has made me uneasy.

Even though I hadn’t conversed with anyone about evolution, I can tell from my parish bookstore that this is a no-evolution community.

In between Tridentine Mass Missals and Latin-English Bibles, I find the occasional “Why Evolution is Wrong” publication.

Is there a place for evolutionary minded faithful in the Church?

A quick Wikipedia on the subject shows that Pope Benedict and Pope Pius XII were either neutral-to-friendly with evolutionary thinking.
[/quote]

May I recommend ‘Finding Darwin’s God’ by Kenneth R. Miller?

God Bless.

Chris.


#11

Maybe I’m a bit slow, but I’m not sure quite how to respond to your comments. It was hard to tell through the sarcasm what your point is. I was simply stating that it is not required of Catholics to reject elements of evolutionary theory. In some places you would appear to agree with this notion and in other places you would not. I wasn’t trying to give the OP an overly technical answer, but if you’d like to discuss the scientific or philosophical elements of evolutionary theory, I’d be happy to comply (provided we can leave out the sarcasm) :).


#12

Evolution is more in line with the Catholic mindset.

*Genesis 1

11* And he said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done.

24 And God said: Let the earth bring forth the living creature in its kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth, according to their kinds. And it was so done. *2

*Just as we become co-creators with God when children are brought into this earth, and just the Blessed Virgin is co-redemitrix with Christ, so too the earth was involved in the creation.


#13

I was simply stating that it is not required of Catholics to reject elements of evolutionary theory.

That’s not a problem. This is:

Some concepts in “evolution” are compatible with our faith and others are not.

What, in evolutionary theory, is incompatible?

Be specific.


#14

Genesis 1

11 And he said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done.

24 And God said: Let the earth bring forth the living creature in its kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth, according to their kinds. And it was so done. 2

Just as we become co-creators with God when children are brought into this earth, and just the Blessed Virgin is co-redemitrix with Christ, so too the earth was involved in the creation.

This is certainly compatible with evolutionary theory, but technicaly, evolutionary theory is not about the orgin of life. These passage in Genesis certainly rule out the “life ex nihilo” beliefs of YE creationism, but there are some forms of creationism that are not opposed to Christian belief.


#15

Two items, one scientific and one philosophical. The theory that life came from nothing is contrary to God’s active creation of life and contrary to Scripture. The scientific community presumes this to be the case since the action of God or any supernatural force cannot be acknowledged. This presumption is not based on any body of scientific evidence, but on the assumption that it had to happen without the action of God or any supernatural force.

The second item is philosophical in nature and, thus, not technically part of evolutionary theory. However, even though science cannot address supernatural or spiritual matters directly, the scientific method implies the absence of the spiritual by definition and, thus, attempts to explain the world strictly in physical terms. Science cannot address the human soul, however, evolutionary theory claims to be able to explain the development of man from some lower form to our current state of existence in the absence of God or the human soul. In fact, many evolutionary scientists are atheists and teach that man’s whole existence is physical in nature. So, even though science cannot address philosophy or spiritual matters, it does implicitly by claiming to explain the nature of man in purely physical terms. The Church clearly teaches that the human soul is created by God and there had to be a point in human history where the first human soul was infused into a body. Evolutionary theory rejects this notion implicitly, which is obviously contrary to our faith.

The danger with claiming that all evolutionary theory is compatible with our faith is that people can have a faith crisis when faced with the proposition that we could exist as we are as purely physical beings, without a soul and without God, which is precisely how it is presented by most evolutionary scientists. Once this possibility is seriously considered, that man can have come into being and can exist without God and without a soul, then atheism is just around the corner. I’ve dealt with many scientists who have lost their faith for this reason.


#16

We should be careful not to assume a literal meaning to these books. Example of how this very same passage can be interpreted differently: anytime a plant springs up from the soil, the earth is bringing forth green herb.


#17

Catechism of the Catholic Church **116 **The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.”


#18

One is free to believe in evolution and may interpret the evidence to be indicative of evolution. One is also free to believe the available evidence does does not support the evolutionary theory.
For example, one of the biggest flaws with evolutionary theory is it posits that the available evidence indicates a progressive development resulting in the genetic diversity that exists today. One can view the evidence to just as well be supportive of devolution as opposed to evolution. In fact, that would even seem to be the more logical conclusion to make based on the available evidence, as well as real time observations of the tendency to degrade as seen during our own lifespans. Fossils may indicate the existence of greater genetic diversity at a prior point in time. Over time diversity is lost, not the other way around. New species don’t come into being. Old species become lost. The evidence of fossils can justifiably be interpreted to indicate this greater genetic diversity that once existed, but no longer does.

Indeed it would seem to make more sense to believe that God would not create imperfect and then improve upon it, but rather He would create perfect and allow it to degenerate due to man’s sin. The evidence can certainly be viewed to support this belief.


#19

What I mean when I say literal meaning is that your interpretation of the definition of what “bring forth green herb” means may be different from my literal interpretation. One must be careful not to assume they are capable of making such a literal interpretation of their own accord without proper guidance as protestants do. One may see “bring forth green herb” to mean the earth produced and evolved green herbs which would be a literal interpretation. Another may see it to mean a plant grew up from the soil as does in a garden and that would likewise be a literal interpretation.


#20

The Church has written a great deal about evolution as expressed in textbooks. The key points made by Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II is that current theories of evolution tell you that man arose due to random genetic mutations and natural selection, and that, from the Catholic perspective, that answer is incomplete. The Popes, knowing they are speaking to the faithful, are careful about selecting the correct words, and references, to make certain that what they say is precise.

I recommend you look at the document Human Persons Created in the Image of God, especially Part 69. It is made clear that God, written as “divine providence,” was necessary to the entire process. And that without the action of divine providence, the evolution most people learn in public school cannot exist.

You will find that people who do not believe in God will come here to tell you and others, that what they call evidence related to fossils and other remains of what they think may be primitive man, disprove certain Biblical accounts. No, the Bible is not a scientific text but it does record things God actually did. If you believe Jesus Christ was actually God and truly a man, as man was when God first made him, then you must know that God does indeed interact with His Creation, especially when He sent His only Son to die for us. The Church views scientific knowledge and knowledge given by God, what it calls ‘the deposit of faith,’ as complementary, like two halves that when combined, make up a whole.

Hope this helps,
Ed


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