Some Thoughts On Evolution
The recent words of the Unholy Father concerning Evolution would, perhaps, justify some words. The problem with that is that the topic is absolutely vast, and not apt for a blog post. I will, therefore, limit myself to expressing some of my thoughts on the matter.
“Evolution” is used in many and confusing ways. I mention today three which, in my experience, are the most commonly found:
1. The idea that species evolve.
Today’s cat is different from the cat of many years ago. Japanese are, on average, 20 cm or more taller now than they were before WW II. The smartphone evolves into, say, the Sony Z3. The Porsche 911 evolves in the “991” iteration currently on sale. An awful lot “evolves” in life, and it is clear that this is in God’s plan. The human body himself evolves from a tiny and defenceless being into a strong being able to give and protect life, etc. This isn’t rocket science, and is nothing unorthodox. In my experience, most people who say they “believe in evolution” think of this. Asked whether they really believe that a dog evolved from a monocellular organism, they would stop and pause.
2. The theory of evolution.
This is the idea that, for some reason unknown to me, from something that is not there something should suddenly be there. Out of the simple genetical structure of the amoeba, a more complicated structure would, one day, have been born. Just so. How from nothing something can be born was never clear to me. It defies a rational, scientifical explanation. It is, in fact, unproven (which is why, 150 years after Darwin, we are still talking of “theory”). It is the idea that from nothing something is born. If cars were able to reproduce, it would be like saying that a Toyota Prius, one day, begets a Ferrari, the Ferrari a jet fighter, and the jet fighter an aircraft carrier. How can it be that out of a Prius comes a Ferrari? “Evolution”.
The logical absurdities of this are, in my book, many. Why are dogs still unable to drive a motorbike? Why have mice not evolved microweapons against cats? Why are some insect-like animals able to evolve into dogs, or apes, but the world is still full of insects that keep going into the spider’s net? Where are all the intermediate species between the dog and the very simple animal that would be his pro-pro-pro-progenitor? How could this simple progenitor create something from nothing, which is: a more complex genetic code out of thin air?
I don’t buy the theory of evolution. I am just not sold. But I would not accuse of heresy someone who would defend this strange theory, if he manages – as it is certainly possible – to make it someway compatible with Scripture.
Here I must open an aside: don’t be a Protestant (those who scream loudest about the Scripture generally come from there) and read attentively Humani Generis and Providentissimus Deus. You will find here the proper hermeneutic expressed out of many examples, and with brilliant quotations from St. Augustine.
Say, for example, that a Catholic would see in God’s Divine Intervention the progressive enrichment of the genetic code from that of the very simple animal to the dog; that would, certainly, be worthy of consideration as an exercise meant to make the theory compatible with Catholicism, as only Protestants tend to fall in the error and heresy of Literalism. Only, at that point it would not be a theory of evolution anymore; merely an explanation of the Genesis in light of the fact that God spoke, in those times, to less enlightened people in a language they could understand. Which is, before you scream, what the Church has always believed, and if you disagree the priest who cared for your conversion could have done a better job.
God’s scripture has only Truth in it. It has, because Scripture is Divinely inspired, which means that in the Scriptures that and only that went in, which God wanted to get in. Which does not mean that God would – much less: should, in order to please the Literalists – explain to simple people the immense complication of His cosmos in the Book of Genesis. The Divine Revelation is presented in the way God wanted it to be presented, and God wanted it so presented so that the Truth may be understood. Scripture is, though, still Divine, and True in its entirely. It merely is not a scientific treatise.
How can you know, then, what is what? How can you know what of the words of the Bible is divinely revealed Truth, and what is a way used by God to let your average, not-so-terribly-smart Jew get it? The Church tells you.
The Church, as the custodian of the Truth in the Scripture, will tell you in which way this or that passage must be read; and when in the exegesis a “progress” should be made, it would never be in contradiction of what was said before. It would be, rather… an evolution. Again, refer especially to Providentissimus Deus for the methods used, and learn that apparent conflicts between science and faith are not new to our age, but were very well known to the theologians of old and to the Church Fathers.
It is, for example, de fide that God created man, it is not de fide that He used clay (see Humani Generis if you have any doubt), albeit we must not rush to espouse theories that exclude the clay, which is in the Bible, unless we have a solid evidence rather than a nebulous theory. It is de fide that we are all children of Eve, it is not de fide that the world was created so and so many years ago. It is de fide that Man is the result of a willed Creation of a good Creator, instead of the result of a mad mixing of genetic codes which, miraculously, improve and expand itself from itself, creating something from nothing; & Co, & Co.
Darwinism is not a scientific theory, but a philosophic position. It has been, since the XIX Century, the atheists’ Creed. It maintains that everything evolved from (ever) lower species, with no exceptions, and no God involved. Men are glorified apes, and all species are evolved from extremely primitive organisms. It is in the atheist’s view a great pity, and a merely provisional stand of things, that in 150 years and an immense amount of excavations no freaking shred of evidence has been found to prove this very extraordinary claim, and I often suspect the only ape-likes humans are the ones who believe in this outlandish idea. Similarly,the atheist believes there was never a point where God created man by giving it an immortal soul (which is what distinguishes a human from every other animal; for a Christian an hypothetically “evolved” ape, similar in all to a man but without a soul, would still be an ape), and obviously there was, for the atheist, no common descending from Adam and Eve.
This is utter blasphemy, because all these credences go against Divine Revelation. Darwinism cannot be accepted without refusing Truths of Catholicism. If you’re Catholic you reject Darwinism.
This is a panorama to the best of my knowledge. I will stand corrected and gladly modify it or rephrase it more accurately as the argument against it is taken from Church tradition and past encyclical. But do not come to me bashing a Bible, because you are not a Protestant anymore. You are a Catholic now. You must see Scripture in light of what the Church tells you, not of what you learned years ago at Sunday School.
Again, Providentissimus Deus is a wonderful document. Read it first, comment later.
Posted on October 30, 2014, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.
These statements might be Francis’s most heretical yet. Lets over look the usual stupidity of protestant Anglophilic hogwash that the Church is anti-science. Francis actually said:
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,”! So God cannot do everything? He is denying the infinitely powerful transcendent nature of the creator of everything by saying he can’t create everything. Then he seems to limit God to only working within the confines of the Big Bang and evolution. Lastly he touts a distant god within that created man to live up to his internal capabilities. This so called pope does not believe in God!
I wanted to write about that in another blog post, actually. You will notice in the post just published Francis is not mentioned with a word. But I think a frame is necessary.
Although I think the timing and the wording (it all looks as if there’s some HUGE concession on the part of the Church, which is nonse, especially when it comes to the “Big bang”) of this are most unfortunate (could be deliberate), to be fair, I don’t think that is what Francis said.
Intuitively, I think, the emphasis is on the magician part. And the Thrice Holy Trinity surely is not that. God (qua God) is certainly not just a human with no body and a magic wand. That view violates Catholic dogma (divine simplicity, among other things). That’s why it is sort of wrong-headed to think that God manipulates powers – for He Is Power, creating and sustaining all of creation each moment. It’s related to “evolution” because a lot of people seem to think God is an actual artisan toiling on making lifeless bits into a clock. I’m not implying you adhere to this view.
Nor I’m not saying Francis is some orthodox Thomist, for example, but I fail to see heresy here.
What I think’s really terrible is the context. If anything, it makes him look better and the Church worse, as if “Francis is being so up to date and cool and progressive, he’s bringing Catholics with him”. Possibly followed by “whereas this Church he leads is largely backward and not entirely supportive of this great man”.
That’s how it’s being reported (at least the first bit), even in countries like Russia.
It’s a double-tongued, Francisspeak thing.
Is he saying that God is no Gandalf? Fine.
Is he saying that God could not create – and could not have created – the Universe just like that? Wrong.
Post coming hopefully today.
Question: did Bergoglio evolve from a monkey or from a horse’s arse?
This is a very informative post from Unam Sanctam, http://www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/theology/81-theology/451-catholic-solemn-enthronement-of-evolution.html It shows how the Church’s opposition to Darwinian evolution has been 1) from day one, and 2) never based in a biblical approach. The classical opposition from Popes and theologians has been almost exclusively philosophical, and based in the difference between the theology of being /essence vs “becoming”. Anyway, it’s a great read, I highly recommend it for this topic.
I have decided to let this post pass, but I am critical of the article after his first perusal.
To say that there is contradiction between Humani Generic and what came before is the fruit of a warped reading of what came before, and the definition of Humani generis as “crack in the wall” assumes Pius XII went around cracking walls and no one noticed.
On the contrary, the author of the article fails to put Humani Generis in the proper contest.
Ratzinger is, as already noticed, at times disquieting.
Overall this was an excellent post, and I have but one issue with it.
You say “…it is not de fide that the world was created so and so many years ago”. As St. Robert Bellarmine says, if the unanimous consent of the Church Fathers teaches something, we ought to believe it. The Fathers unanimously accepted that the Earth was created c. 5000 B.C. Further, I see no reason to interpret the Book of Genesis any other way than literally. It is Sacred Tradition that Moses wrote the Pentateuch to record the history of the world until his time, and that he was under divine inspiration when writing it. I see no reason for him to deviate from an accurate and literal history on the first page, only to return to it at some undefined point later without explanation or clarification.
If I am wrong, please correct me.
The correction is very simple. A Pope who in an encyclical would correct this statement would be, if the statement were authentic, in error. Pius XII was not accused of being in error when he wrote Humani generis. He must, though, have done his homework, and it is not thinkable the “unanymous” opinion of the Fathers either escaped him, or he knew it was binding to him and decided to ignore it.
Evidently, it applies here what Providentissimus Deus so clearly states: theologians, however prestigious, don’t decide what the Church believes.
The Church does.
Pius XII said:
“…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 faithful. 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.”
Basically, he said that we should investigate the matter, but never gave a firm declaration either way. However, we must keep in mind the decrees of the Council of Trent.
“Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,–in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, –wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,–whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,–hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established.”
Yes, of course Pius did not give a firm interpetation. It’s a theory, for heaven’s sake, and not even a functioning one! What he said, is that the theory must not be in contradiction with Scripture itself.
He did not say “this must stop because the Fathers unanymously thought otherwise”. He said “it can even be, and it is not heretical, to opine that Adam and Eve may have been formed from evolved organic material; but we should be very careful in ditching traditional interpretations for something unproven and new”. It has, basically, not contradicted what past popes have said (theologians do not have the key of biblical interpretations; the literal meaning is preferred; the church says if it is de fide; when we deviate from the literal meaning we must be sure it is not in contrast with truth, and must not do so rashly, etc.), but at the same time he has stated that for a perfectly orthodox Catholic evolution must not be taboo.
Coming back to your original message, he has stated this: theologians can be wrong no matter how many of them agree among themselves. Popes can’t be wrong (under pain of heresy) when they speak in accordance with the truth as exposed by other Popes or councils in the past.
We look at Popes in order to know what the Church says it is the truth. We look at theologians as at the “researchers”, whose theories might or might not be adopted.