Sunday, September 24, 2017

Views of Evolution

Because it provides an explanation of our origins, the scientific theory of evolution has provoked a variety of reactions.  Some have denied it, some have accepted it, and some have extended it beyond its domain.  A brief summary of some key positions:

Young-earth creationism: Evolution did not occur.  God created the universe in six days, and humans are descended from Adam and Eve.

Theistic evolution:  Evolution is an acceptable scientific explanation, and God doesn’t intervene with the material process.  “God, eternally foreseeing all the products of evolution, uses the natural process of evolution to work out his creative plan,” according to Avery Cardinal Dulles [1].  Pope Benedict proclaimed, “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary” [2].

Intelligent Design: Evolution can explain some aspects of life, but not all.  God produced irreducibly complex organs that a sequence of small random mutations, under the laws of evolution, could not produce.

Teleological evolution: Evolution is an acceptable scientific explanation, and it has a purpose.  According to Cardinal Dulles, “Biological organisms cannot be understood by the laws of mechanics alone. The laws of biology, without in any way contradicting those of physics and chemistry, are more complex. The behavior of living organisms cannot be explained without taking into account their striving for life and growth” [1].  Evolution is a process that is not complete; God activates new classes of life within that process; and through it God will unite the whole universe in Himself.

Neo-Darwinism:  Evolution not only explains the origin of life but also shows that God does not exist and the universe has no purpose.  

1. Avery Cardinal Dulles, "God and Evolution," First Things, October 2007.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Faith and Reason

Pope John Paul II took up the relationship of faith and reason in Fides et Ratio, his encyclical about theology and philosophy.  This is his introductory passage:

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.
As humans, we ask some fundamental questions:

Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life? 
Where do we get the answers?  First, from God, who speaks to us as one person speaks to another:

By the authority of his absolute transcendence, God who makes himself known is also the source of the credibility of what he reveals. By faith, men and women give their assent to this divine testimony. This means that they acknowledge fully and integrally the truth of what is revealed because it is God himself who is the guarantor of that truth. They can make no claim upon this truth which comes to them as gift and which, set within the context of interpersonal communication, urges reason to be open to it and to embrace its profound meaning.
And this inspires our rational search to understand the answers:

Revelation therefore introduces into our history a universal and ultimate truth which stirs the human mind to ceaseless effort; indeed, it impels reason continually to extend the range of its knowledge until it senses that it has done all in its power, leaving no stone unturned.
For more about Fides et Ratio, see the article by Richard John Neuhaus.