Catholic Primate Clings to Evolution

By Birx, H. James | Free Inquiry, Winter 1996 | Go to article overview

Catholic Primate Clings to Evolution


Birx, H. James, Free Inquiry


Surprisingly, on October 24, 1996, Pope John Paul II endorsed evolution as "more than just a theory" and thereby biblical fundamentalism as so-called scientific creationism was dealt yet another blow to its vacuous claims about the origin of this universe and the appearance of life-forms on the Earth. Biblical creationists continue to ignore the overwhelming empirical evidence for both the 4.6 billion-year age of this planet and the mutability of species, including our own, throughout all of organic history on the Earth.

In two major works, On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), Charles Darwin had presented the idea of evolution as his theory of "descent with modification" grounded in the explanatory mechanism of natural selection or the survival of the fittest. Discrediting both Aristotelian philosophy and Thomistic theology, the Darwinian worldview met with severe criticism, particularly from traditional Christian theologians. In this century, the additional mechanisms of genetic (DNA) variation and population dynamics gave rise to neo-Darwinism as a strictly naturalistic interpretation of life throughout geological time.

Attempts to reconcile science and religion range from the fundamentalist and naturalist Philip Gosse (1810-1888), whose preposterous interpretation of rocks and fossils argued that God instantly created this planet about six thousand years ago with a built-in past so that it only appears as if organic evolution had taken place, to the Jesuit priest and geopaleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), who believed that through a divine influence human evolution will end in the formation of a spiritual Omega Point on the Earth millions of years in the future. Obviously, both Gosse and Tellhard are unacceptable to the rigorous evolutionist as pervasive materialist.

Avoiding another Galileo-like incident, the Roman Catholic church has never rejected or ignored the Darwinian theory of organic evolution but, instead, must now try to incorporate it into its own natural theology. In sharp contrast, fundamentalist creationism is both a religious and sociopolitical movement that represents a serious and persistent threat to science education and evolution research.

The far-reaching implications and awesome consequences of evolution still occupy secular humanists at the end of this century. Issues range from the origin of life itself to ongoing brain-mind research. …

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