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Evolution: Facts, Assertions, Theories and the Catholic Faith Comments

Although evolution is often taken by some as an hypothesis proven beyond doubt, the scientific debate over the theory is one which, due to lack of empirical evidence, shows little if any signs of subsiding. John Bonner, a biologist at Princeton, writes that traditional textbook discussions of ancestral descent are "a festering mass of unsupported assertions". Continue Reading

11 - 20 of 48 Comments

  1. Todd
    3 years ago

    Why does it always have to be either/or? My theory is that evolution is how God created man. At some point, he put his spirit into "modern" Homo Sapiens. The Bible isn't a technical manual but a manual for the soul. I see no conflict with the bible and science. But what do I know. I'm just an accountant.

  2. F. K. Bartels
    3 years ago

    Those who insist that there is no controversy around Darwinian evolution (often termed "macroevolution") are simply refusing to admit to the facts. Here is a quote from Dr. George Sim Johnston: "There has always been an informed minority of skeptics about Darwin,...Those who doubt this might consult a technical volume, Beyond Neo-Darwinism (Academic Press, 1984), in which two American biologists, Gareth Nelson and Ron Platnick, write, "We believe that, in short, a theory that has been put to the test and found false." Molecular biologist Michael Denton weighed in with Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Adler & Adler, 1986), in which he showed that recent developments in molecular biology are at complete variance with Darwinism. Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box (Free Press, 1996) has caused a stir by pointing out that Darwinian evolution is biochemically impossible. And more recently, the physics and computer prodigy Stephen Wolfram published a 1,280-page tome, A New Kind of Science (Wolfram Media, 2002), which questions the explanatory power of natural selection. Quoted from:

  3. Michael
    3 years ago

    What an impressive amount of thought and effort you put into your article and comments! Good job, Fred.

  4. Dr. Christopher O'Brien
    3 years ago

    F.K. Bartels already knows what he believes about evolution and his "arguments" are nothing more than the typical creationist cherry-picking of old data, out-of-context quotes, and repetition of creationist misinformation needed to bolster his faith. There is no critical thinking in these pages. The Wile and Durnell citation cinches it - Wile has never presented an actual fact about evolutionary theory in any work. The arrogant ignorance expressed by Bartels in both his article and the responses is one of the primary reasons my family and I left the Catholic Church. I could no longer stomach the immoral representation of science, scientists and especially evolution presented by the church apologists. While their science was certainly lacking, please understand that my rejection of the church was primarily based on the lack of professional, personal and moral integrity with which they present evolution (and other issues). Bartels' writing and responses reflect the difficulty they have presenting an issue, and opposing positions, honestly. Ironically, Darwin expressed far greater moral integrity addressing the critics of his theory - he actually tried to understand their arguments before attempting to refute them. I'll follow Darwin, stick to the higher moral ground, and stay out of the church.

  5. John Harshman
    3 years ago

    What? A quote from a creationist textbook? That's not disagreement among respected and well-known scientists. Your quotes are going downhill fast. If you don't believe me and you don't believe John Tyler Bonner, just visit any randomly selected university (including any Catholic institution) and talk to any randomly selected biologist. There is no controversy over whether macroevolution happens/has happened, and the evidence in its favor is overwhelming. If all you read is creationist web sites, as I strongly suspect, you are being egregiously misinformed.

  6. John Harshman
    3 years ago

    If you won't take my word that the Bonner quote from 50 years ago is invalid today, will you take Bonner's? This is an email from John Tyler Bonner to a friend, just a few days ago: "This not the first time that old book review has been used as anti Darwinism. I think I would put it differently today! It was featured in WatchTower years ago for the same reason. We have made enormous progress since 1961, especially in molecular phylogeny, and the gaps in evolution and our knowledge of relatedness of organism has made a mega leap since then. But that won't calm them down."

    Note that Bonner is saying exactly what I've been saying. Now, you can try to refute it with more little quotes pulled from creationist web sites, taken from books you haven't read and will never read, but is that a wise way to proceed? You will note that I'm not lecturing you on Catholic doctrine, since I know little about it. How is it that you presume to lecture me on evolutionary biology, about which you apparently know nothing other than those little snippets you pull from creationist web sites? Is that a prudent or honest way to behave?

    As it happens, the Dawkins quote is also out of date. We keep finding more and more Precambrian fossils. Their state of preservation often makes it hard to figure out just what they are, but there are many potential precursors to Cambrian animals. The Blind Watchmaker makes no mention of the Ediacaran or Doushantuo faunas; they were either unknown or obscure in 1986. And so science progresses.

    And Darwin? You defend the currency of a 50-year-old quote using a 150-year-old quote? Surely you can see that there's a problem with that idea.

    I don't mean to say there are no current controversies in evolutionary biology. There are. Nor do I mean that there is nothing we don't know. There is. But on the other hand, there are many things we do know, and many things are are uncontroversial. The controversy within the field is most definitely not about any of the things you are discussing. Your attempt to paint the situation as otherwise may most charitably be laid to ignorance. But willful persistence in ignorance must be some kind of sin. Isn't it?

  7. F.K. Bartels
    3 years ago

    An additional quote follows below that highlights the difference of opinion among respected and well known scientists regarding some aspects of the theory of evolution: namely, macroevolution (often termed Darwinian-evolution). It is from a textbook called Exploring Creation with Biology, by Dr. Jay L. Wile and Marilyn F. Durnell: "The distinction between macroevolution and microevolution cannot be overemphasized. There is so much evidence to support the idea of microevolution that it is a well-documented scientific theory. There is so little evidence for macroevolution and so much evidence against it that it is, at best, an unconfirmed hypothesis" (2nd ed., [Cincinnati, OH: C.J. Krehbiel Company, 2005], 268). For these reasons and others, the Venerable Pope John Paul II was careful to point out that the hypothesis of natural evolution is not a scientific certainty.

  8. F.K. Bartels
    3 years ago

    For those of you who are interested in further study, following is the address of a brief article which provides some good background on the issue of Darwinian evolution: The author pointed out that in John Paul II's catechesis on creation given during a series of general audiences in 1986, he stated that "the theory of natural evolution, understood in a sense that does not exclude divine causality, is not in principle opposed to the truth about the creation of the visible world as presented in the Book of Genesis." However, John Paul II hastened to add that "this hypothesis proposes only a probability, not a scientific certainty."

  9. F.K. Bartels
    3 years ago

    John Harshman: The fact that Bonner's quote is 50 years old does NOT automatically render it irrelevant. The quote reflects the current problem involved with lack of transitional fossil evidence, and the assertions that are often made regarding some aspects of the theory of evolution. The context in which the quote was used is correct and applies to the present situation. The observation of an expert does not become irrelevant simply because it was made in the past. Let us consider what Richard Dawkins had to say about the lack of transitional fossils and the issue of the Cambrian Explosion: "It is as though they [fossils] were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists... Both schools of thought (Punctuationists and Gradualists) despise so-called scientific creationists equally, and both agree that the major gaps are real, that they are true imperfections in the fossil record. The only alternative explanation of the sudden appearance of so many complex animal types in the Cambrian era is divine creation and (we) both reject this alternative" (The Blind Watchmaker, [New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996], 229-230). Many will disagree with your assertion that fossil evidence is secondary to the question of Darwinian evolution (macroevolution). It should more appropriately be called primary, for it is, in Darwin's own words, "the gravest and most obvious of all the many objections which can be raised against my views" (The Origin of Species, 6th ed, [New York, NY: Collier Books, 1962], 462). Again, I have no interest in arguing for or against every aspect of the theory of evolution, but rather to point out that there is indeed controversy involved in the theory, and, most importantly, what Christians are to believe according to Tradition, Scripture, and the Magisterium. In the final analysis, God's revelation is not a theory but a certainty: it's what we know to be true, and God has indeed revealed a great deal concerning the origin of man.

  10. John Harshman
    3 years ago

    I have to take issue with you. The quote was not used in an accurate context for the simple reason I explained: it's 50 years old, and represents the state of our information (specifically about the relationships among animal phyla) 50 years ago. Your use (and the uses of others all over the web) implies that it reflects current knowledge. Which it most certainly does not.

    Your most important error in your recent post is the implication that the evidence for evolution comes mostly from the fossil record. It does not. It comes mostly from living species, especially from their genes. While fossils also provide good evidence, it's secondary.

    You are attempting to exploit long-past uncertainty about matters other than the ones you're talking about, as well as current disagreements about various details that are irrelevant to your point. Let's be clear. While there are many disagreements and unanswered problems in evolution, only a negligible minority of biologists, all of whom have prior religious commitment, doubt its essential outlines: common descent, the importance of natural selection, etc., as well as many of the lesser details such as the descent of modern humans from a population, not a single pair. To allege otherwise is either ignorance or dishonesty. There are many ways to reconcile faith with science, but this is not one of them.

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