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A well-read Catholic responds to claims that “The Pope believes in Darwin!”

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In response to “What Catholics didn’t like about Darwin – and still don’t:

Most people end the quote from John Paul II in support of evolution too soon. In his famous address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences [1996], he says that evolution is more than a hypothesis, and that the convergence of data are an argument in favor of the theory. But then, because he is a philosopher, he goes on to define his terms, and to clarify how far this should be taken.

He continues:

“What is the significance of such a theory? To address this question is to enter the field of epistemology. A theory is a metascientific elaboration, distinct from the results of observation but consistent with them. By means of it a series of independent data and facts can be related and interpreted in a unified explanation. A theory’s validity depends on whether or not it can be verified; it is constantly tested against the facts; wherever it can no longer explain the latter, it shows its limitations and unsuitability. It must then be rethought.”

Contrary to the interpretation given by many, this does not constitute a statement that evolution is an established fact. Rather, it is a theory subject to verification. When the facts no longer fit, evolution needs to be rethought.

(Note: The typical folk who wrote for the Catholic press certainly did not understand this distinction. They were vastly relieved that their much better paid secular counterparts could not now use evolution as a reason to scorn them. They could say, “The Pope supports evolution!” In the popular context, that meant, of course, “supports the 99% chimpanzee thesis regarding human beings.” And everything that follows, including abortion, all in good time.)

And that’s what this blog is about, and what ID scientists are about. It’s what Shapiro and Weber and many other non-Darwinist biologists are about. They are testing the theory of evolution against the facts of biology, and identifying the theory’s limitations and unsuitability. They are rethinking the theory.

Yes, these are exciting times. Imagine being young now, with the whole adventure before you … starting to really understand the history of life. …

I recommend people read JPII’s statement in full. It is a nuanced careful statement that identifies key places where Darwinism cannot be compatible with the Church’s understanding of who we are as human beings. It is not a declaration that evolution is proven fact.

Full text.

Note: The early twentieth century Catholic writers who “ trashed Darwinism lived and died long before John Paul II, but they inhabited the same non-materialist thought world.

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6 Replies to “A well-read Catholic responds to claims that “The Pope believes in Darwin!”

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    The bible, genesis, is true and clearly true and therefore anything thing that contradicts it is false.
    It is therefore without evidence worthy to persuade a thinking person seeking the truth.
    Evangelical Protestant Christians all or almost insist Genesis is true.
    The Roman Catholic Church should listen to their allies on these matters.
    Don’t be impressed with those who in one hand claim evolution has scientific evidence behind it and in the other hand dismiss the claims of Christianity and even a creator,.
    Who do they have more confidence in!

  2. 2
    StephenB says:

    The author is on the right track but not quite on the money.

    First, Pope Pius XII has already FORMALLY defined (in an binding encyclical) the Church’s teaching on evolution. While the theory is not proven, its materialistic expression, especially the unguided version proposed by Darwinism and neo-Darwinism, is unacceptable. This teaching is unchangeable, which means that anyone who interprets JPII differently, doesn’t understand the continuity of Catholic teaching.

    Second, John Paul II is saying INFORMALLY (in an unbinding way) that, in his opinion, common descent is more than a hypothesis (well established and corroborated by more than one science, yet provisional), but with respect to m mechanisms and purpose, Darwinism and neo-Darwinism are, as always, OUT.

    None of this is very complicated.

  3. 3
    MrDunsapy says:

    The question I wonder about is, why would a person follow a religion that does not believe what his God says? Or feels he can’t trust it.
    Nothing the scientists have proved show that there is any problem with creation, and just as it was written about thousands of years ago.
    Creation and science are the same thing. Creation was done using science.

    http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com/

  4. 4
    rhampton7 says:

    If you want to know where the Church is headed, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is a good place to start, but this is a fair summation:

    COMMUNION AND STEWARDSHIP: Human Persons Created in the Image of God
    International Theological Commission

    The current scientific debate about the mechanisms at work in evolution requires theological comment insofar as it sometimes implies a misunderstanding of the nature of divine causality. Many neo-Darwinian scientists, as well as some of their critics, have concluded that, if evolution is a radically contingent materialistic process driven by natural selection and random genetic variation, then there can be no place in it for divine providential causality. A growing body of scientific critics of neo-Darwinism point to evidence of design (e.g., biological structures that exhibit specified complexity) that, in their view, cannot be explained in terms of a purely contingent process and that neo-Darwinians have ignored or misinterpreted. The nub of this currently lively disagreement involves scientific observation and generalization concerning whether the available data support inferences of design or chance, and cannot be settled by theology. But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence. Divine causality and created causality radically differ in kind and not only in degree. Thus, even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation. According to St. Thomas Aquinas: “The effect of divine providence is not only that things should happen somehow, but that they should happen either by necessity or by contingency. Therefore, whatsoever divine providence ordains to happen infallibly and of necessity happens infallibly and of necessity; and that happens from contingency, which the divine providence conceives to happen from contingency” (Summa theologiae, I, 22,4 ad 1). In the Catholic perspective, neo-Darwinians who adduce random genetic variation and natural selection as evidence that the process of evolution is absolutely unguided are straying beyond what can be demonstrated by science. Divine causality can be active in a process that is both contingent and guided. Any evolutionary mechanism that is contingent can only be contingent because God made it so. An unguided evolutionary process — one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence — simply cannot exist because “the causality of God, Who is the first agent, extends to all being, not only as to constituent principles of species, but also as to the individualizing principles… It necessarily follows that all things, inasmuch as they participate in existence, must likewise be subject to divine providence” (Summa theologiae I, 22, 2)

    ——————
    The theme of “man created in the image of God” was submitted for study to the International Theological Commission. The preparation of this study was entrusted to a subcommission whose members included: Very Rev. J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P., Most Reverend Jean-Louis Bruguès, Msgr. Anton Strukelj, Rev. Tanios Bou Mansour, O.L.M., Rev. Adolpe Gesché, Most Reverend Willem Jacobus Eijk, Rev. Fadel Sidarouss, S.J., and Rev. Shun ichi Takayanagi, S.J.

    As the text developed, it was discussed at numerous meetings of the subcommission and several plenary sessions of the International Theological Commission held at Rome during the period 2000-2002. The present text was approved in forma specifica, by the written ballots of the International Theological Commission. It was then submitted to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the President of the Commission, who has give his permission for its publication.

  5. 5
    rhampton7 says:

    FYI: Church Law and forma specifica:

    Code Of Canon Law
    TITLE I.
    THE COMPETENT FORUM (Cann. 1404 – 1416)
    Can. 1404 The First See is judged by no one.

    Can. 1405 §1. It is solely the right of the Roman Pontiff himself to judge in the cases mentioned in ? can. 1401:

    1/ those who hold the highest civil office of a state;

    2/ cardinals;

    3/ legates of the Apostolic See and, in penal cases, bishops;

    4/ other cases which he has called to his own judgment.

    §2. A judge cannot review an act or instrument confirmed specifically (in forma specifica) by the Roman Pontiff without his prior mandate.

    What forma specifica means:

    Canon 34 – Instructions

    §1 Instructions are not laws, and laws cannot be enacted under the title of instruction. A Decree specifies or encourages observance to those bound. An instruction gives practical application to executives. An Instruction is a guideline, handbook, manual. Those with executive power can issue instructions within the limits of their competence.
    §2 Instructions can’t derogate from the law.
    §3 Decrees may be revoked, they fail when the underlying law ceases. Like POMS in the US.

    Ratzinger used the instruction a lot, it is used a lot in current Roman practice. Theoretically, instructions clarify and elaborate the law for executors and oblige executors. Issued by executors for other executors, not for the people or for clerics. In the 60s, there were even secret instructions. It cannot be more than explanation of what is already there, so it can’t narrow or limit rights. It is an inferior document, and isn’t necessarily even a public document. Theoretically, instructions clarify and elaborate the law for executors and oblige executors. Issued by executors for other executors, not for the people or for clerics. In the 60s, there were even secret instructions. It cannot be more than explanation of what is already there, so it can’t narrow or limit rights. It is an inferior document, and isn’t necessarily even a public document.

    Recently, however, the instructions are being approbata sub forma specifica. Some argue the approval change the nature of the document to be a law disguised as an instruction. In the past documents are sometimes used for other purposes. E.g. Pius X Pascendi condemned the ideas of modernism in a encyclical. However, technically, it remains an instruction but with the formal support of the pope. It may be a technique to support a particular application of the law – it may add a quality seal on the document. It may seem softer than a stricter law.

  6. 6
    MrDunsapy says:

    And where does God’s word come into this. Isn’t his word the highest authority?
    The pope doesn’t really have a say in this. Because the bible clearly point out the creation.
    No scientists has, with evidence, anything to contradict the bible.
    So creation and science are the same thing. The creation was done with the science.

    http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com/

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