For your consideration…
Ask Father Spitzer: Are the Bible and Darwinian evolution diametrically opposed?
by Magis Center of Reason and Faith (Notes) on Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 1:42pm
Are the Bible and Darwinian evolution diametrically opposed?
ANSWER: Perhaps the best way of answering this question is to begin with the bible and evolution (without your important qualifier “Darwinian”). The Church has taught, since the time of Pius XII, in two encyclical letters that
(1) the bible is not a scientific document, but rather, a theological one (Divino Afflante Spiritu – 1943) and
(2) that evolution is compatible with both the bible and Church teaching (Humani Generis – 1950)
With respect to the point about evolution, “Humani Generis” allows Catholics to believe in natural evolutionary processes. This would allow for evolution on a large scale. However, “Humani Generis” is very careful to specify that the human soul is not a product of mere material evolution. Certain features of the human body may have evolved from other less developed species, but the human soul is not matter, and it therefore could not have arisen from a merely material process.
There is considerable evidence for the immateriality of human beings besides our Catholic and biblical belief in a human soul. For example, there are excellent scientific studies of near death experiences which indicate the survival of human self-consciousness after bodily death – E.G., in the prestigious British medical journal, “The Lancet,” (see van Lommel, MD, van Wees, Ruud; Meyers, Vincent; and Elfferich, Ingrid. 2001. “Near-Death Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands.” The Lancet. Vol. 358, Issue 9298, pp. 2039-2045). There is also evidence of a soul from the transcendental nature of human understanding, conscience, love, beauty, and spiritual awareness (see for example, my book New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy, Chapter 8). This kind of evidence (along with our belief in a soul) indicates that God created the human soul and that this creation of the soul cannot be explained by evolution (which is a material process). Even if the human body arose in its early, middle, and late stages from an evolutionary process, it would have been transformed by an infusion of the soul in its final state.
So what does this mean about “Darwinian evolution”? If this term means pure evolution implying those human beings are merely material (and therefore devoid of a soul and embodiment which is influenced by a soul) then it would be inconsistent with Catholic teaching and also the biblical account. However, if it means something else, then that “something else” would have to be judged according to the Christian beliefs elucidated above.
One final point – is the biblical account of creation diametrically opposed to the scientific account of creation? It is not. There are many parallels. Both accounts allow for a creator transcending our universe (and even transcending time itself); both accounts see stages in the unfolding of creation; both accounts recognize that the universe is fine-tuned for the development of life and even human beings; and both accounts see human beings (and human intelligence) as the highest development in the created order of the universe