Sunday, November 06, 2005

Evolution and Religion

I just came across this article on the Catholic Church and the Theory of Evolution. As it states the Church, and indeed the current, fairly conservative, Church sees no conflict between Christianity and Evolution. In the ongoing public debate on evolution and creationism one of the most persistent, and most misleading, claims of the creationists (here I do include the proponents of Intelligent Design with the creationists) is that there is an inherent conflict between religion and evolution. While it is true that many specific religious sects have a profound problem with evolution, there is no inherent conflict between the two. If, as the article clearly shows, the Catholic Church can coexist with evolution, then clearly it is possible to be a religious evolutionist.

The article also goes on to point out that
indeed, one can go back nearly 1,500 years before Darwin and find St Augustine of Hippo, the most commanding intellect of all the early doctors of the Church, teaching a doctrine of evolution in the early 5th century. In one of his greatest works, De Genesi ad Litteram, he stated that God did not create an organised Universe as we see it now, but in the beginning created all the elements of the world in a confused and “nebulous” mass. In this mass were the mysterious seeds of the creatures who were to come into existence.

Augustine’s thought does therefore contain the elements of a theory of evolution, and even a genetic theory, but does not have natural selection. St Augustine has always been orthodox. He did not foresee modern science in AD410, but he did have an extraordinary grasp of the potential evolution of scientific thought. Cardinal Poupard’s address to the journalists should not be seen as a matter of the Roman Church changing its mind and accepting Darwin after 145 years.
The faith of the Roman Catholic Church has therefore been truly religious and in accord with evolution for the entire history of the Church. To claim that evolution is inherently anti-religious is therefore a towering absurdity.

But this raises a further question with regards to the ongoing political debate about evolution and creationism. It has been shown that the Catholic Church has been both religious and in accord with evolution for over 1500 years. Given this, how can we place any trust in the honor and integrity of those who claim today that evolution is inherently anti-religious. Any person saying so must either be dishonest or profoundly ignorant of the topics being discussed. In either case, such an individual should be given no credence whatsoever.

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