Sunday, March 20, 2011

On evolution

There has been a discussion on creationism and evolution in our homeschool email list, and I was so pleased to read the latest this morning, from a homeschool dad who has a degree in theology and works for the diocese. His clear explanation of a subject that is confusing to so many is like a breath of fresh air. This is what I learned at home my my parents who were educated, faithful Catholics and who devoted much of their free time in pursuit of solid Catholic formation. For their example and for the Catholic culture they passed to their children, I am forever thankful.

One of the difficulties in talking about the subject of evolution is that the term "evolution" can mean more than one thing, and when those meanings are not distinguished, confusion arises. As a purely scientific concept to explain the origin of species, there is nothing inherently contradictory between the theory of evolution and Catholic belief in God and His Providence. The purpose of the creation accounts in Genesis is not to make scientific claims, but to make theological ones: that ultimately, God is the creator who created everything out of nothing and with a certain hierarchy in creation with man at the pinnacle. It *may* have been that God used evolution for the development of the various species of life on earth.

The problems with evolution arise more from those atheists who attempt to use the theory of evolution to make larger philosophical (metaphysical) claims about the nature of reality. But these attempts are faulty on both the philosophical and scientific levels.

The Church has explicitly allowed for the possibility of the truth of evolution; Pope Pius XII did so in 1950 in Humani Generis and Pope John Paul II did more recently in an address he gave.

With regard to the human being, the Church allows for the possibility that the material aspect of the human person (the body) may have been the product of evolution, but the Church explicitly teaches that at some point, God infused a rational, immortal soul into *something* (dust, an animal form, etc.), and the first human being was created (followed, of course, by his wife). That is, God did directly "intervene" to create the immortal human person at some point.

I'd recommend two articles in the magazine First Things by Stephen Barr, a particle physicist who is a solid, orthodox Catholic as well. Both are available online here
( and here (

Those are a few thoughts.