Saturday, December 16, 2006

Evolution and the Catholic Church

One of the main issues non-religious people have with religion has to do with their perceived conflict between religion and science. This may come from non-believers or people who hold non-Christian views. Of the topics related to science and religion, the top one would be the subject of evolution.

Evoluation is a concept which was most fully developed in the writings of Charles Darwin. It concerns species' adaptation to their environments in various ways. I will not go into the subject very deeply here, because I am not a scientist. One thing I think everyone should keep in mind is that this is the "theory" of evolution, not the law of evolution, therefore, assuming science itself knows what it is talking about, they do not consider this a law, they consider it a theory.

I find people put more trust in science than science puts in itself. Science is constantly changing and theories are constantly evolving (excuse the pun). Scientists of old were convinced the Earth was flat, and that some insects came from mud or from nothing. These theories were widely accepted. Most people nowadays who are adherents of the theory of evolution have not done any firsthand experiments to determine its validity, yet would not hestitate to accuse someone of just blindly following a belief, even though they are doing this very thing. Many scientists are questioning the theory of evolution in its present form. No one disagrees that animals evolve in order to adapt to their environment and people are not denying the existence of dinosaurs and animals that have gone extinct, etc. But scientists are re-evaluating long-held beliefs about evolution. One thing which comes to mind is the missing link. Some evolutionists hold that human beings evolved from apes. This is a theory. Yet there are significant problems with this theory, especially concerning the missing link. Scientists so far have been unable to find a link between humans and monkeys, the gap is simply too wide. These are evolutionary scientists who are experts in this area, and even they are questioning many of its tenets.

I would now like to explain the position of the Catholic Church with regards to evolution. The most important thing about anything related to the Christian faith is that the Catholic Church does not teach science. The job of the church is not to make pronouncements concerning science. For that matter, it does not make pronouncements on literature, arts, math, or sports for that matter either. The Church's function is to be a guide for faith and morals. Therefore, the Catholic Church does not accept any scientific theory, including that of evolution. Catholics are free to believe in any theory of evolution they feel is most plausible. If people want to believe that God directly created Adam and Eve and from there all humans came into existence, they are free to do so. People are also free to believe that human beings evolved from animals if they would like. Catholics can believe the Earth is 6,000 years old or so, or they can believe it is billions of years old. The Church simply does not make any specific pronouncements in these areas.

Having said this, the Catholic Church of course makes statements about morality and faith that Catholics in full communion with the Catholic Church are obliged to follow. The first is that there were two first human beings. This means that there were two first people, a man and a woman who were the first to have a human soul. Perhaps God created them on the spot, perhaps they came from an evolutionary chain, but they were the first with human rational souls. We are, as Catholics, obliged to believe that these two original human beings sinned against God in some way. The most accepted theory in theological circles is that the sin of Adam and Eve was pride. They were proud because they wanted to be equal with God, they did not wish to serve him. This is a problem which we continue to see in our world. Some people reject God, and by doing so, reject humanity. They become self-absorbed and proud, only concerned for themselves. It was the sin of Adam and Eve, our first parents, which sent them from a land of complete obedience to God, to one where they were infected by pride, pride in themselves.

Do not be stuck on the names Adam and Eve, either. The purpose of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, is not to be an historical record of what happened during the creation of the world. Again, this is an area the Church does not teach in. “Adam” and “Eve” simply mean first man and first woman. These are not necessarily the given names of Adam and Eve.

The Catholic Church is in no way in contention with the findings of science, and in fact welcomes them, knowing full well that “truth cannot contradict truth”. John Paul II speaks about evolution by saying: “Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical [referring to an encyclical by Pope Pius XII on evolution], new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis.”

Pope Benedict XVI shows that evolution and God are two aspects of the same thing: “In freely willing to create and conserve the universe, God wills to activate and to sustain in act all those secondary causes whose activity contributes to the unfolding of the natural order which he intends to produce. Through the activity of natural causes, God causes to arise those conditions required for the emergence and support of living organisms, and, furthermore, for their reproduction and differentiation.”

In conclusion, I would like to say that those who accept evolution are not at odds with the Catholic Church, but they should not rely too heavily on this theory. Remember, the Church teaches faith and morals, not science.

No comments:

Post a Comment