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Magisterium on Creation and Evolution

Interview With Father Rafael Pascual

ROME, DEC. 15, 2005 (Zenit) - Evolution and creation can be compatible, says a philosopher who goes so far as to speak of "evolutionary creation."

Legionary Father Rafael Pascual, director of the master's program in Science and Faith at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, puts his comments in context by clarifying that the "Bible has no scientific end."

The debate on evolution and faith heated up last summer after Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna published an article July 7 in the New York Times in which he affirmed: "Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of 'chance and necessity' are not scientific at all."

To understand the issue better, we interviewed Father Pascual, author of "L'Evoluzione: crocevia di scienza, filosofia e teologia" (Evolution: Crossroads of Science, Philosophy and Theology), recently published in Italy by Studium.

Q: Yes to evolution and no to evolutionism?

Father Pascual: Evolution, understood as a scientific theory, based on empirical data, seems to be quite well affirmed, although it is not altogether true that there is no longer anything to add or complete, above all in regard to the mechanisms that regulate it.

Instead, I don't think evolutionism is admissible as an ideology that denies purpose and holds that everything is due to chance and to necessity, as Jacques Monod affirms in his book "Chance and Necessity," proposing atheist materialism.

This evolutionism cannot be upheld, either as a scientific truth or as a necessary consequence of the scientific theory of evolution, as some hold.

Q: Yes to creation, no to creationism?

Father Pascual: Creation is a comprehensible truth for reason, especially for philosophy, but it is also a revealed truth.

On the other hand, so-called creationism is also, as evolutionism, an ideology based, on many occasions, on an erroneous theology, that is, on a literal interpretation of the passages of the Bible, which, according to their authors, would maintain, in regard to the origin of species, the immediate creation of each species by God, and the immutability of each species with the passing of time.

Q: Are evolution and creation compatible?

Father Pascual: Evolution and creation may be compatible in themselves; one can speak -- without falling into a contradiction in terms -- of an "evolutionary creation," while evolutionism and creationism are necessarily incompatible.

On the other hand, undoubtedly there was an intelligent design but, in my opinion, it is not a question of an alternative scientific theory to the theory of evolution. At the same time, one must point out that evolutionism, understood as a materialist and atheist ideology, is not scientific.

Q: What does the Church's magisterium say on the matter?

Father Pascual: In itself, the magisterium of the Church is not opposed to evolution as a scientific theory.

On one hand, it allows and asks scientists to do research in what is its specific ambit. But, on the other hand, given the ideologies that lie behind some versions of evolutionism, it makes some fundamental points clear which must be respected:

-- Divine causality cannot be excluded a priori. Science can neither affirm nor deny it.

-- The human being has been created in the image and likeness of God. From this fact derives his dignity and eternal destiny.

-- There is a discontinuity between the human being and other living beings, in virtue of his spiritual soul, which cannot be generated by simple natural reproduction, but is created immediately by God.

Q: What are the fundamental truths on the origin of the world and the human being which the Church indicates as basic points?

Father Pascual: Clearly, the magisterium does not enter into scientific questions as such, which she leaves to the research of specialists. But she feels the duty to intervene to explain the consequences of an ethical and religious nature that such questions entail.

The first principle underlined is that truth cannot contradict truth; there cannot be a real contrast or conflict between a truth of faith -- or revealed truth -- and a truth of reason -- that is, natural -- because both have God as origin.

Second, it is emphasized that the Bible does not have a scientific end but rather a religious end. Therefore, it would not be correct to draw consequences that might implicate science, or respect for the doctrine of the origin of the universe, or about the biological origin of man.

A correct exegesis, therefore, must be done of the biblical texts, as the Pontifical Biblical Commission clearly indicates in "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church."

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