Skip to main content

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

21 - 30 of 48 Comments

  1. F. K. Bartels
    4 years ago

    RickK: For information on the quote from Bonner, see John Harshman's post above. The quote was used in an accurate context, and can be found all over the Internet. The fact is, numerous scientists have expressed their concern over lack of transitional fossil evidence which is needed to provide support for the theory of evolution. Further, there are geneticists who disagree with some aspects of the theory as well. Simply, uncertainty remains -- that is why it is called a "theory". Remember, the main intent of this article was not to examine the theory of evolution in detail, but rather, a) briefly point out that there is indeed disagreement even among scientists concerning the theory of evolution as it is often presented; b) to briefly explore some definitions of evolution which are incompatible with the Christian faith; and c) point out what God has reveled through Tradition and Scripture concerning Adam and Eve, the special providence God exercised in creating Adam's body, the immediate creation of each human soul by God, and the fact that God created the universe from nothing. Again, theistic evolution, if properly understood and with the proper qualifications, is compatible with Church teaching on man's origin.

  2. RickK
    4 years ago

    Interesting. I've submitted two comments asking legitimate questions about the integrity of someone who uses out of date, out of context, un-cited quotes to portray something the original author never intended. Yet both posts have been suppressed. Of what possible use to humanity is a religion or an author that hides from questions?That is why science finds truths where religion fails - science doesn't hide behind apologetics. Science welcomes questions and demands to be examined in the cold light of day.

  3. Joseph
    4 years ago

    Appended is a summary of a few magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church on creation and the origins of man and the universe:

    - Genesis does not contain purified myths. (Pontifical Biblical Commission 1909)
    - Genesis contains real history - it gives an account of things that really happened. (Pius XII)
    - The body of Eve was specially created from a portion of Adam’s body (Leo XIII). She could not have originated via evolution.
    - All the Fathers who wrote on the subject believed that the Creation days were no longer than 24-hour-days. (Consensus of the Fathers of the Church)
    - The work of Creation was finished by the close of Day Six, and nothing completely new has since been created—except for each human rational soul at conception (Vatican Council I)
    - St. Peter and Christ Himself in the New Testament confirmed the global Flood of Noah. It covered all the then high mountains and destroyed all land dwelling creatures except eight human beings and all kinds of non-human creatures aboard the Ark (Unam Sanctam, 1302)
    - The historical existence of Noah’s Ark is regarded as most important in typology, as central to Redemption. (1566 Catechism of the Council of Trent)
    - Evolution must not be taught as fact, but instead the pros and cons of evolution must be taught. (Pius XII, Humani Generis)

    Partail quote from:
    Creation Doctrine
    What Does The Catholic Church Teach about Origins?

  4. RickK
    4 years ago

    Every day we answer some of life's hardest questions using our recently-acquired ability to read the language of biology in our DNA. Questions once asked in prayer can now be answered definitively by DNA. Questions like: Is this stranger really my birth mother? Will my baby be born with a horrible disease? Does this man belong on Death Row? Are these remains from WTC Tower One all that is left of my father? These are important, heart-wrenching questions - and we can now answer them with confidence using the tools of science. And it those same tools, and that same DNA, that tells us with confidence that we share physical ancestry with all life on Earth, and that chimpanzees are our closest non-human relatives. This is not an opinion. This is not a matter of faith. It is demonstrable fact to anyone educated in DNA just as relativity is demonstrable to anyone educated in math and physics. If your interpretation of scripture does not match these facts, then your interpretation is wrong or the scripture is wrong. Not one word of scripture was penned by the hand of God, and not one molecule of your DNA was created by the hand of man. So which do YOU think is more likely to be warped by human bias and human fallibility? "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." -- Philip K. Dick. "Every mystery ever solved turned out to be ... NOT magic." -- Tim Minchin

  5. Lonny D'Agostini
    4 years ago

    The word "evolution" needs to be precisely defined because it is being used in different senses. It is comparable to the word "homoiousios" (similar) which fifteen hundred years ago was taken to mean the "same" for the orthodox and "not the same" for the heretic. However, when the Church finally canonized the word "homoousios" (same), the heretics were finally forced to reveal themselves.

  6. John Harshman
    4 years ago

    John Bonner, a biologist at Princeton, writes that traditional textbook discussions of ancestral descent are "a festering mass of unsupported assertions".

    OK, I took a trip to the library and got the actual publication, which is Bonner, J. T. 1961. [review of] Implications of Evolution by G. A. Kerkut. American Scientist 49:240-244.

    This is the full sentence: "In the case of phylogeny our textbooks are little help; in fact they are, as a rule, a festering mass of unsupported assertions." It seems, then, that the fragment is a fair summary of the statement.

    Various questions remain. What, exactly, is Bonner talking about here? It's this, from the first paragraph of the review: "The particular truth is that we have no reliable evidence as to the evolutionary sequence of invertebrate phyla." In other words, he's talking about what textbooks say about the relationships among animal phyla. In 1961 we knew very little, and he was criticizing textbooks for giving unwarranted impressions of certainty. (Incidentally, Bonner's language sounds quaint today; he implies both a linear sequence of taxa -- a sort of scala naturae -- and that one phylum evolved from another.)

    Was he casting doubt on evolution? Of course he wasn't. He was just saying that we know much less about phylogeny than we like to think, and that textbooks exaggerate our level of certainty about certain features.

    The conclusion of the review: "In the study of animals and plants there must be a pooling of information from anatomy, physiology, behavioral studies, and ecology, and the facts of this study must be woven into the facts that lie fossilized in the earth's crust. It is only in this way that the evolution of living organisms will be properly understood."

    One problem with the quote mine is essentially that it is used to paint Bonner falsely as doubting evolution. But the main problem is simpler and more profound than that: the article is nearly 50 years old. And we have learned a great deal in that time. Most particularly, Bonner was writing before the revolution of molecular systematics was even visible on the horizon. Thanks largely to DNA, we now do have quite a good idea of the relationships among animal phyla. We now do have quite a good idea of the monophyly of life and of eukaryotes (Bonner's "Protozoa"). And modern textbooks, as opposed to those of 50 years ago, reflect this understanding. Bonner's complaint (which is just an echo of Kerkut's) is 50 years out of date, and any use of the quotes to attack our current understanding is grossly dishonest.

  7. F. K. Bartels
    4 years ago

    I would like to thank all of you for your comments, and the interest you have shown in this article. As expected, a discussion of man's origin is one that is sure to stimulate many ideas and opinions. I would like to remind everyone to please not draw incorrect conclusions from this article. As the quote from Rev. Francis Spirago reminds us, Pope Pius XII taught that the Church does not forbid the theory of evolution so long as it is understood correctly. As I wrote, theistic evolution is compatible with the Christian faith provided the proper qualifications are made. No one disputes that there is evidence for some aspects of the theory of evolution, so let us not assume that there need be conflict between science and religion. As Leo XIII wrote in Providentissimus Deus, “There can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physical scientist so long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us ‘not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known.’”

  8. singletrack
    4 years ago

    In the first para "John Bonner, a biologist at Princeton, writes that traditional textbook discussions of ancestral descent are 'a festering mass of unsupported assertions'."

    Can anyone provide the original citation for that Bonner quote?



  9. Carl LaFonge
    4 years ago

    I thought the Church had come to grips with the science vs. religion problem some time ago, having learned something from the Galileo episode.

    Use the web and search for Universities that have Evolutionary Biology and Evolutionary Ecology courses or degrees. Even Notre Dame and Loyola carry these courses.

    Take the advice of St. Augustine. Holding on to a religious belief the physical world when it has been shown to be wrong makes you, and the Church, look very foolish.

  10. Tim Noonan
    4 years ago

    I attended Catholic schools.

    We learned about evolution in the science classroom, Genesis in the religion classroom, and metaphor in the English classroom. Choosing to treat Genesis as scientific fact is choosing to ignore reality.

    Ignoring reality is not a virtue.

    Now I learn that there are some, who seem to have avoided learning English, science, and religion, who wish to drag Catholics back into the Dark Ages.

    Today, I received a link to the First Annual Catholic Conference on Geocentrism. According to Giorgio de Santillana, the prosecution of Galileo was more about the worship of Aristotelean science, than about Christianity.

    Are we trying to drive out all intelligent Catholics?

    Will we be required change pi, from 3.14159. . . to 3.0 to match what is written in the Bible?

    Is the Church evolving to where it becomes Catholic doctrine to ignore reality?

    As Augustus Carp pointed out, F. K. Bartels, Sarda Sahney, and everyone else involved in this article, do not appear to have actually read what Darwin wrote. Rather, they have been looking for quotes to take out of context. They should have realized that competition for available space is only one form of competition mentioned in On the Origin of Species.

    Catholic schools have a well deserved reputation for excellence. We need to improve that reputation, not abandon it in pandering to a carnal desire to avoid thinking.

    Creationism is just one form of expression of an inability to understand complexity. Let the Evangelicals pander to the masses. This fad may last 10 years, or 100 years, or longer, but this fad cannot change what is real.

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

Newsletter Sign Up

Saint of the Day

March 3 Saint of the Day

St. Katharine Drexel
March 3: Saint Katharine Drexel, Religious (Feast Day-March 3) Born in ... Read More