What are Catholics to make of Evolutionary Psychology?


I have a few questions.

  1. What is the church’s stance on evolutionary psychology: the belief that EVERYTHING is just an evolution of biological matter, including our minds, with no meaning other than basic biological instincts?

  2. If the church is against that belief, how can the belief be refuted or made compatible with Christian teaching?

This science seems to indicate that humans don’t have free will and just make choices based on instinct, including things like the arts, morality, etc. etc.

I’m not sure that it precludes free will. You can still override your emotions. But evolution has certainly passed on a whole suite of psychological reactions which are used automatically.

Address of Saint John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Section 5, October 22, 1996
“Consequently, theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the spirit as emerging from the forces of living matter or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. Nor are they able to ground the dignity of the person.”
Incompatible is a strong designation.

  1. If the church is against that belief, how can the belief be refuted or made compatible with Christian teaching?

Decide if you are going to follow Catholic doctrines about your goal being joy eternal in the presence of the Beatific Vision. Then decide if you have a peerless human nature. :smiley:

This science seems to indicate that humans don’t have free will and just make choices based on instinct, including things like the arts, morality, etc. etc.

Don’t waste your time on anything that seems to indicate….

A related question is what are psychologists to make of evolutionary psychology since not all of them subscribe to it?

“Evolutionary psychology” is speculative and based on purely materialist concepts.

Regarding man, it is refuted by Divine Revelation. Man was given reason by God in the beginning. Although animals behave in predictable patterns, human beings are more complex.

Morality is not an instinct, Art is not an instinct.


From what I have read about it, it is a theory and many psychologists don’t agree with it. (A lot of psychology is speculative anyway.)

As a Catholic I feel free to disregard it.

More accurate to say…more complex animals.

By “spirit” he meant the soul, not the mind, not consciousness, not the ability to reason. All these things we share with the animals.

By precluding free will, I believe it is meant that, if all were materially evolved including intelligence and will, there is no understanding beyond what is material, therefore all things willed and all free will choices of means to attaining what is willed (or abstaining or doing something else) are still directed at what is desired. And all that “can be desired” is also material with nothing beyond material satisfaction available. “Love” is purely for what is material, with no available options beyond that, other than in imagination. And the “survival of the fittest” would eliminate “imaginers”. If evolutionary psychology were true, there would be no Aristotle, no Plato, no Jews, no Catholic Church. It is an attempt by little minds to categorize all in foolish consistency with what is visible to their eyes.

“Survival of the fittest” is a caricature of evolution. Don’t take that literally.

I am thinking of hominids, say 100,000 years ago, creating something they saw as beautiful. The guy who did the first sketch of what he saw or imagined. We can only find paintings in caves because that’s the only way these works of art could survive. I can’t see why these hominids should have produced fewer descendants.

Isn’t the very idea of evolutionary psychology self-refuting?

That is, “Ok, Dr. of evolutionary psychology, what psychological evolutionary imperatives are you obeying in telling us about evolutionary psychology? What’s that? None? Well, if you are not at the mercy of evolutionary psychology, why can’t anyone else be?”

In the same way that a giant redwood would be more complex than the grasses around it.
Do people simply not see the world as it is?

If human beings don’t have free will, then criminal law and civil law should be abolished, since humans are unable to do other than what is biologically determined.

If evolutionary psychology is true, then it is simply a biological development of neurons arranged in particular ways, as are the plays of Shakespeare and the theory of relativity and the works of Michelangelo. It’s all just biology. No human need take credit for such deterministic outcomes.

I would add prayer as a differentiator too. Maybe animals pray but I would need really convincing evidence.

Here is what inspired this question for me:

I had to videotape a key-note of a professor named Dr. Joseph Carroll (professor from University of Missouri)

He was the one lecturing about this and few things really stood out to me that caused me to ask these questions:

  1. He said if everything about our bodies evolved from material sources…then so should our cognitive behavior.

  2. He said that in 20-30 years, EVERYONE will be practicing all forms of philosophy, medical, psychological, humanities under the guise of biology; not culture, or human expression. He said it is INEVITABLE and can’t be turned back now. EVERYTHING will be understood to happen based ONLY by biology, everything else is a side-effect of deeper adaptive biological motives under the guise of evolutionary biology…he said this is an AXIOM that won’t be denied

  3. He said that non-evolutionists/darwinists (such as freudian psychology, marxism, etc.) are obsolete right now and are already on their way out while darwinists are getting more relevance and validation in their claims. Basically he was saying that anyone who doesn’t agree with this evolutionary psychology will be backwards or in denial.

  4. Then the big red flag was this one…in regards to whether evolutionary psychology and religion are incompatible: “It is theoretically possible that someone can say God created them and put this into process, but in practice, after gaining a deep knowledge into materialism (of the body, not the sin), a providencial God slims down to be insignificant (used the example of Darwin losing his faith after his research). It just becomes imaginatively compelling That kind of stuff can just fade away over time” (I paraphrased)

The spiritual soul is also known as the rational soul. The spiritual soul is how we share in God’s life. Perhaps, it is time to notice the dramatic shift from Genesis 1: 25 to Genesis 1: 26.

Dang! My bad. I forgot that no one can refer to the first three chapters of Genesis because they are not a scientific text book. ;):smiley:

P.S. Readers, if any one is really brave enough to check the above reference, please be careful with the words “dominion over”

Well said. If we are nothing but biological robots that happened to stumble into certain behavior patterns then what’s the point of anything? Live, eat, reproduce or not, and die? Animals do that. Human beings are not constrained by any type of imaginary scenario. If it can be done, it will be done by individual human beings. Including personally harmful things.


Different people have knowingly or unknowingly adopted certain worldviews. If these worldviews revolve around what I call “accidental living,” then some people will make this or that choice without regard to any other standards but their own. And this includes not planning for the possible outcomes. Unfortunately, there are a few self-proclaimed experts that are influencing people to look at reality their way. If adopted, that then becomes their guide to life and how they should live it and define it. Evolutionary psychology tells people that we all share certain behavior patterns that are built-in. Right or wrong? It doesn’t really matter as long as individuals get what they want and a lot of pleasure.

Evolutionary psychology does not and cannot explain the diversity of worldviews.


Jesus Christ died as a sacrifice for all men - not animals. We don’t baptize animals.


Who named him the explainer of all reality? These are old ideas, wishes really.

From a review of the book Against All Gods:

“Darwinism may refer either to a specific theory of biology or to an episteme, a way of thinking about things in general,” (page 49) When teaching the theory of evolution, the student must first adopt the `correct’ worldview, which is to say, a purely naturalistic worldview. (page 50) Otherwise, the evidence for the theory will not be persuasive. The student must first be indoctrinated in the belief that science is the supreme and only arbiter of what is true and that the first great commandment of science is that the world is devoid of an Intelligent Creator, but rather is composed “only of material causes that act on each other according to physical laws or chance.” (page 50) Scientific knowledge of the universe is incomplete but metaphysical certainty about the absence of a Designer is absolute. According to Darwinism, only when the student has fully converted to the naturalistic paradigm can she begin to learn about the world. (page 50)"

That’s all this boils down to. A tool that may be used for indoctrination.


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