Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By F. K. Bartels

9/12/2010 (4 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Traditional textbook discussions of ancestral descent are 'a festering mass of unsupported assertions'.

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".

The Church transmits the fullness of truth concerning man's origin, the state of his existence, and the life to which he is called as a child of God.

The Church transmits the fullness of truth concerning man's origin, the state of his existence, and the life to which he is called as a child of God.

Highlights

By F. K. Bartels

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/12/2010 (4 years ago)

Published in Living Faith


DENVER, CO (Catholic Online) - A recent study conducted by Ph.D student Sarda Sahney, et al., at the University of Bristol, published in Biology Letters, used fossil evidence as a basis for analyzing evolutionary patterns over 400 million years of history. Sarda Sahney and colleagues posit that the availability of "living space" rather than  competition for survival -- as Darwin proposed -- is the governing factor behind the evolution of species. Their theory is based on the concept that the process of evolution in which an organism is involved is highly influenced by its "ecological niche," which includes such factors as food resources and habitat conditions. According to the study, large evolutionary changes occur in animals as a result of their migration into living spaces which are unoccupied by other animals.

Former president of Gonzaga University and noted scholar Fr. Robert Spitzer confirmed that "Darwin assumed that competition was what was driving the development of human species and particularly the dominance of one species over another." Fr. Spitzer pointed out that "there is no way of reaching back in time and finding empirical evidence of that fact."

Fr. Spitzer observed that "Darwin's theories are based on a series of inferences, which are rooted in genetics, fossil evidence, empirical evidence and even mere conjecture."

Although the above mentioned study is not directly related to a discussion of the origin of man, the topic of evolution often raises questions in the minds of believers. In a culture which often attempts to stamp out God's revealed truth, replacing it with dozens or even hundreds of suppositions concerning the origin of the created universe and the life within it, it is both necessary and helpful to familiarize one's self with the teaching of the Church God willed should exist -- the Catholic Church -- on the subject of man's origin.

The Evolution Debate Among Scientists

While 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."

George Sim Johnston, author of Apes "R" Not Us: Catholics & the Debate Over Evolution, observed that "the two most famous figures in hominid paleontology, Richard Leakey and Donald Johansen (discoverer of "Lucy") are in complete disagreement over man's ancestry."

In light of the controversy over evolution, it is important to possess a sound understanding of Church teaching concerning the origin of man, for there are some aspects of the theory of evolution which intrude upon Catholic doctrine, and, as a result, can be the cause of serious errors in understanding. Although the Church herself is, of course, not directly involved in scientific study, she nevertheless is the authoritative transmitter of God's revelation, and therefore provides the faithful with the certainty of God's revealed truth as it relates to the origin of humankind.

It is also worth noting that many think discussions of man's origin began with Charles Darwin, whose writings on the subject did raise quite a stir; yet for the Church the issue is an old one, dealt with many times over the course of history.

A Brief Examination Of The Concepts Involved In The Theory Of Evolution

Evolution can be simply defined as a theory which posits that something was or is in a state of necessary development. We can see evidence of this type of evolutionary action all around us. However, the word "evolution" is often used today in a variety of ways, and can have numerous meanings to as many people. Therefore when we speak of the theory of evolution as it relates to man's origin it is necessary to narrow our definition in order to prevent ambiguity, misunderstanding, and errors which result from sweeping statements.

Materialistic evolution
-- is a theory which assumes the eternal existence of uncreated matter, and posits that all living creatures emerged from it through a process of evolution. Such a theory is incompatible with God's revealed truth, for we know that God indeed created the material universe and all the matter within it from nothing. The notion that uncreated matter exists without a point of beginning, uncaused and without origin, stretching infinitely into the past is pure nonsense.


Evolutionism
is a theory which posits that everything in the universe, including the spirit or soul, is explained by a development from lower to higher orders, or from simple to complex. Evolutionism holds that the human soul is the result of a natural process of development over eons. Again, such a theory is contrary to God's revealed truth. The Church teaches that each soul is immediately created by God out of nothing. The notion that the spiritual and immaterial human soul evolved from a material substance is entirely incorrect.

Theistic Evolution is a branch of evolution theory which is compatible with the Christian religion so long as it includes these two qualifications: 1) God's special divine providence is involved in the creation of the human body; and 2) the separate and immediate creation of each human soul by God.

Rev. Francis Spirago reminds the faithful that, in accordance with the teaching of Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis, the "Church does not forbid the theory of evolution, for Catholic faith only obliges us to hold that the human soul is immediately created by God. However, one cannot go too far and act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already fully demonstrated by the facts discovered up to now, as if there nothing in the sources of divine revelation that demand great reserve and caution in this controversy" (The Catechism Explained, ch. 5).

Pius XII insisted that regardless of the amount of research completed on the topic of evolution, Catholics must believe that 1) by virtue of man's human soul, he is essentially superior to the animals; 2) the first woman was derived in some way from the first man; 3) it is impossible that the immediate father of man could have been anything other than a human being; that is, it is impossible that the first man was the son of an animal.

The First Human Beings That God Created Were Adam And Eve

Rev. Spirago explains: "The Church, through the Biblical Commission, requires us to believe in the special creation of Adam, that is, we must believe that Adam came into being through no merely natural process, but through some special intervention by God. God creates every human soul immediately out of nothing. The Church also teaches that God, by a special act, formed the body of Eve from the body of Adam" (Ibid).

Further, there are some who think that a population of humanoids evolved on the surface of the earth, and that the human race descended from that group. In other words, there is the incorrect notion that all human beings are not the descendants of one human pair (Adam and Eve). This theory is known as polygenism, and is contrary to the official teaching of the Magisterium.

Pope Pius XII declared: "it is unintelligible how such an opinion can be squared with what the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Magisterium of the Church teach on Original Sin, which proceeds from sin actually committed by an individual Adam, and which, passed on to all by way of generation, is in everyone as his own" (HG, 38).

-----

F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever have. He is managing editor of catholicpathways.com, and a contributing writer for Catholic Online.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

The Experience of the Resurrected Christ: A Divine Dream Worth Dying For

Image of

By Deacon Frederick Bartels

The dream of God is a dream of unending, divine love. His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, sacrificed his human life for this Dream: the redemption of humankind and the gift of eternal life and perfect happiness. Heaven is the divine dream that is not but a dream, it ... continue reading


Pope Francis 'considering' visit to Cuba Watch

Image of A nun waves a Vatican flag while attending Mass with St John Paul II in Havana in 1998.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is said to be considering a trip to Cuba this coming September. The papal visit would tie into his visit to the United States. The gesture could lead to improving relations both between Cuba and the U.S. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Vatican ... continue reading


Could Yoda be a Biblical character? Medieval manuscript features a painted figure resembling the Star Wars hero Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a 14th century book, a green-skinned character was painted, resembling Yoda. Just like the Star Wars icon, the painted character in the old religious documents is donning a white cloak and has spiky, long fingers and the pointed ears sticking out. Although there is ... continue reading


Pope Francis pokes holes in 'gender theory,' saying male, female roles are separate Watch

Image of The Bible, Pope Francis says, shows how

By CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis has warned against gender theories which seek to eradicate differences between man and woman, saying they perpetuate the very problems they are trying to solve. (CNA/EWTN News) - "Experience teaches us: to know each other well and grow in harmony, ... continue reading


6 types of men Christian women should dismiss for marriage Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Women, and men, should be wary of whom they shall live with for the rest of their lives. Marriage is not a temporary commitment, it lasts for a lifetime no matter how you will put it --- two people still shared the same vows to cherish one another through a sacred ... continue reading


Pope Francis to host major conference on climate change Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis will host a major summit on April 28 entitled "Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development." MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The conference will feature famous American economist, ... continue reading


Can Catholics Practice Yoga and Transcendental Meditation?

Image of

By Deacon Ian VanHeusen

Among many Christians who are honestly seeking to deepen their prayer life, there is a genuine concern about erroneous forms of prayer. People should be careful to accept practices which diverge from the faith they have received, whether through the family or in a ... continue reading


Is there a war between feminism and the Catholic Church? American nuns' 'radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith' Watch

Image of The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ended an investigation into radical feminist ideals held by the U.S.'s largest nun group, warning the organization to fall in line with Catholic orthodox stances.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The year-long inquiry into American nuns by the Holy See's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has concluded, and will not take any action against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the body that governs around 80 percent of nuns in the ... continue reading


Passionate pastor attempts to fix the missing spiritual link in churches across the U.S. Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Reverend Percy McCray suggests that leaders of faith should undergo in-depth training programs to better deal with cancer-stricken patients and their hurting families. According to McCray, as it stands now, most churches across the United States lack the proper ... continue reading


Dialogue: an essential ingredient for peaceful relationships Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

According to the New York Times, during a White House luncheon in 1954 Winston Churchill said, "To jaw-jaw [talk-talk] always is better than to war-war." While clearly not a pacifist, the United Kingdom's World War II prime minister had seen upfront the absolute horror ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 6:8-15
8 Stephen was filled with grace and power and began ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30
23 Though princes sit plotting against me, your ... Read More

Gospel, John 6:22-29
22 Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 20th, 2015 Image

St. Marian
April 20: When St. Mamertinus was Abbot of the monastery which St. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter