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 July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Living Faith

YOU CAN'T BELIEVE IT -- Is Pope Francis really about to endorse THIS man? Watch

Image of Although Pope Francis is celebrating Mass next to an icon of the Cuban revolution, that does not mean he is endorsing it.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online - (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Cuban officials have given the go ahead for the papal altar to be erected next to a giant outline of Che Guevara for the world to see. Work has already begun on the project and the placement of the altar will provoke commentary from those who accuse Pope Francis of ... continue reading


Catholic priest who blessed atomic bomb crews -- and his conversion

Image of

By Tony Magliano

Seventy years ago, on August 6, 1945, the single most destructive weapon ever unleashed upon human beings and the environment - the atomic bomb - was dropped by an American B-29 bomber on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing approximately 80,000 people. Three days ... continue reading


Pastor Tullian Tchividjian breaks his silence: Admits life felt like a bad dream after recent affair scandal Watch

Image of Pastor Tullian Tchividjian is the grandson of famous evangelist Billy Graham,

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Ex-Pastor Tullian Tchividjian of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida broke his silence after his recent moral failure admission and stepping down from his post. Billy Graham's grandson wrote an open letter to his supporters and friends, ... continue reading


Pope Francis warns of 'genocide' as Christian Persecution increases globally Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Christians all over the world are suffering from increasing prejudice and persecution. It is no secret that Islamic extremism and repressive governments are trying hard to perpetuate the oppression of Christianity. Pope Francis has been moved to warn of "a form of ... continue reading


'Let Jesus satisfy your hunger for God': Pope Francis encourages people to make offers to God Watch

Image of Pope Francis reflected on the Sunday reading from the Gospel of John in which a vast crowd follows Jesus, but lacks enough food to eat.

By CNA/EWTN News

Jesus Christ's miraculous multiplication of the loaves shows that he offers "fullness of life for hungry man," Pope Francis said Sunday. He encouraged everyone to offer what little they have to God so that God can multiply their gifts and good deeds. Vatican ... continue reading


What to wear to church: What's more important, physical or inner beauty? Watch

Image of

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Wearing your best outfit or putting on a little makeup in preparation for Church isn't too looked down upon. A leading Christian writer shared with Crosswalk.com what she has realized over years of church participation. Although she loves beautiful clothes and make-up, ... continue reading


'Nothing can separate me from the love of God': The first American Ebola patient shares his profound realization on deathbed Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

He was the first American who contracted the deadly Ebola virus - fearful and sick, Dr. Kent Brantly came to realize something important for Christians and their relationship with God. Amid the pain and moments of uncertainty, from being diagnosed positive with ... continue reading


J. Matt Barber: The Meaning of Life

Image of Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law.

By J. Matt Barber

So this was rock bottom. The day, which yet again wore into night with fast food and old Bonanza reruns, would end like all the rest. Where were my car keys? As I searched in preparation for another trip to the liquor store, I made my way to my bedroom and opened ... continue reading


'There is no hope, no life, no hope for an end': 'Donor fatigue' setting in among those helping Christians in Middle East fleeing ISIS Watch

Image of Refugees now realize that they will be unable to return to their homes in Iraq or Syria.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With no end in sight, "donor fatigue" is setting in for those trying to help Middle Eastern Christians fleeing ISIS. There appears to be no solutions, only increasing refugees and more need. The refugees' situation is only getting worse. Refugees now realize ... continue reading


Giant cross at veteran memorial to stay standing with game-changing agreement made Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Legal battle over the issue of a giant cross standing over a veterans' memorial has been a long and tedious fight, but an agreement may now put it all to rest, keeping the monument on the land. Atheists and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed legal ... 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, Numbers 12:1-13
1 Miriam, and Aaron too, criticised Moses over the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 6-7, 12-13
3 For I am well aware of my offences, my sin is ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 14:22-36
22 And at once he made the disciples get into the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 4th, 2015 Image

St. John Vianney
August 4: St. John Vianney, Priest (Patron of priests) Feast day - August ... 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