Evolution as Philosophy

What is the attitude of the Catholic Church towards the theory of evolution?

Considered strictly as a scientific theory, evolution starts with the hypothesis or conjecture that higher forms of life have developed from lower forms over a period of millions of years. The scientist then tries either to prove or disprove this hypothesis by searching for evidence to be found in the geological record. If he can show that there is a record in the rocks which shows the development of some lower form of animal into a higher form, he has proven his hypothesis. Consequently, there has been a great effort among scientists to search the geological record for evidence that modern man has indeed descended from the lower animals like the ape. There are, however, too many missing links in the record to allow any reputable scientist to claim that evolution is a proven fact.

Since, however, the cultural elite of today have a strong bent towards atheism or at least agnosticism, they push the theory of evolution as a proof that the world has not been created by God and that man is simply a higher animal without an immortal soul. In this propaganda effort they have taken a scientific hypothesis and turned it into a philosophy. They claim that their beliefs are somehow more rational or scientific than the belief of Christians. A true scientist, however, will recognize that physical science has nothing to do one way or another with proving or disproving the existence of God or the immortality of the soul. A true scientist will stick to his trade and recognize that such matters are beyond his competence as a scientist. If he is of the opinion that there is no God he will hold it as his personal belief and not as a proven scientific fact.

Obviously, those who embrace evolution as a philosophy oppose Christianity. Thus today there is a struggle in the public schools between the "Creationists" and the "Evolutionists." The Creationists, who are those Protestants holding for a strictly literal interpretation of the account of creation in the Bible, oppose evolution not only as a philosophy but as a scientific theory. Holding the God created man directly from the earth, they insist that the hypothesis of man descending from the apes must be wrong. Hence they regard the teaching of evolution even as a scientific hypothesis as anti-Christian.

The Catholic Church is united with these Christians in opposing evolution AS A PHILOSOPHY. With the Protestants, the Church insists that God created the world and that man has an immortal soul. The Church, however, does not oppose evolution AS A SCIENTIFIC THEORY. The reason is that she does not hold for an absolutely literal interpretation of those chapters of Genesis. Thus the Church sees no necessary conflict between the belief that God created the world from nothing and the scientific hypothesis that the world has evolved over millions of years. Again, the Church sees no necessary conflict between the belief that God created directly the souls of Adam and Eve and the scientific hypothesis that Adam and Eve descended from non-human ancestors. Thus even if can be proven scientifically beyond a reasonable doubt that man has descended from some lower animal like the ape, the Church will not have to change its position. Thus the Church is content to let the scientists go about their business and will only react when some step beyond the limits of science in making the claim that the theory of evolution has made Christianity obsolete.

Answered by Dr. Richard Geraghty, PhD

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