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Re: Evolution - SaintSebastian - 10-26-2010

(10-26-2010, 06:18 AM)ggreg Wrote: Obviously God could have snapped his fingers and put everything into motion, but that would be a little unfair on the scientist who using his reason and knowledge of things like radioactive decay came the conclusion it was older.

Try as I might I cannot help feel differently about a God that took 13 billion years to get to where we are today and a God that took 6000.  I know time doesn't mean much to God, but it means something to me.

St. Robert Bellarmine wrote a good little book called "The Mind's Ascent to God by a Ladder of Created Things" which is about learning about God by looking at nature. He sees the immensity of the universe as a sign of God's infiniteness. In fact, he mentions that in his day they were discovering the universe was even bigger than they had previously thought which only furthered his point.

Time is just another dimension of the magnitude of creation, which points to the power and immensity of God. My point is, if the universe were that old, it would only contribute to the majesty of God, not derogate from it.

EDIT: I had forgotten about this address by Pope Pius XII in which he addresses the age of the universe, drawing from it proof of the existence of God (I think his opinion can be relevant to this topic):

http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius12/P12EXIST.HTM  (start at paragraph 31).


Re: Evolution - SaintSebastian - 10-26-2010

I posted some of this in another thread about this, but I just wanted to recommend St. Augustine's work "The Literal Meaning of Genesis." It actually discusses various readings of Genesis that are compatible with the Christian faith so that Christians can be equipped to show how the account of creation in Genesis is consonant with what can be discovered by reason (and also so we can refute what is not consonant with it.)

One explanation I found interesting explains how a very old universe is compatible with the shorter history of man.  In Book 6 on the creation of man, he explains the idea that the six days represent not literal days, but a scheme or plan of creation. The actual creation during those “days” was instantaneous and of things in potency and causation, but not necessarily their final visible form which would be shaped later over time. For example, he places the actual formation of man’s body after the seventh day:

St. Augustine Wrote:“There can be no doubt, then, that the work whereby man was formed from the slime of the earth and a wife fashioned for him from his side belongs not to that creation by which all thing were made together, after completing which, God rested, but to that work of God which takes place with the unfolding of the ages as He works even now.”

I find this explanation interesting as well because it explains why there are two seperate creation accounts of man.


Re: Evolution - formerbuddhist - 10-28-2010

I just listened to a great talk by a guy named Dr. Jeffery Bond where he critiques Darwin based on philosophy. You can buy the talk on KeeptheFaith.org. I don't know enough philosophy myself to comment further but it would be interesting to have someone else comment on this talk. Personally I don't buy evolution and and to be honest, if man really descended from apes after millions of years of death, disease and survival of the fittest than as far as I'm concerned there is no reason to believe in the God of revelation.  This guy is confident that Darwinism is fallacious on many levels based on Aristotelian philosophy. At any rate the talk is only $1.50 so I hope any interested and philosophically inclined folks will download it and post their take on it here.  I guess I'm more interested in finding reasons to argue against evolution than being in favor of it (My best friend is an ardent evolutionist). I just pray for a simple faith. That's all I can ask and as far as I'm concerned knowledge of science, while certainly not condemned by the Church, is not necessary for salvation.


Re: Evolution - INPEFESS - 10-28-2010

It is first important to note that evolution--considering here the broadest sense of the term--does not treat of the source of life; it treats only of its biological evolution from a common ancestor.

I haven't found micro- -- or even macro- -- evolution to explicitly contradict Scripture or the teachings of the Church, but that doesn't mean that it does not contradict them.

From what I have read, Genesis, if interpreted non-literally (days not equaling 24-hour periods, but eons of time denoting different stages of evolution), doesn't seem to contradict the theory. It could actually be said to support it in some ways. For example:

1. Genesis records that God brought all manner of living things from the sea, which is what most evolutionists say has the most evidence as the source of the single-celled organisms from which proceeded the evolution of complex fauna.

2. Genesis also records that God created plant life first, animal life second, and man last. If this is true, then this order could be said to be consistent with different stages of an evolutionary progression.

3. Finally, Genesis says that God formed man of the slime of the earth and breathed into him a soul. Some interpret this to mean that Homo sapiens were in existence first (what were they before he breathed into them an immortal soul raising them to a dignity infinitely greater than that of the animals?)--evolving perhaps from an ancient ancestor--before God breathed into him a soul, at which point the "species" became soul-infused man. This, so they say, was the action that separated man from all the creatures that had evolved up to that point. The forming by God's hand, of course, indicates that God guided the evolutionary process with the gentle protection of His hand so that it would continue to progress positively for His greater glory.

The natural order, therefore, was that the earth was created to serve the plants, the plants to serve the animals, and the animals to serve man: this to point, as it were, to the creative order of man relative to his creator. This would be so because: first, the natural reason of man would suppose a divine authorship of himself; and second, the natural reason of man would identify it's relative position in the hierarchical grand scheme of creation. 

From what I have read, the Church has taught that death didn't befall man until after he sinned. It doesn't teach that there was no death outside the garden, which was an earthly paradise created separately in the world, but after the creation of the rest of the world. When he sinned, he was banished from the paradise to labor in the soil of the earth for his survival. It doesn't teach that God changed the whole world to accommodate death, carnivorous animals, and disease. In fact, St. Thomas Aquinas rejected that position. It only seems to teach that, due to his sins, man was now a victim of all of these, whereas before he had received special protection from God in the Garden of Eden.

Pius XII treated of this subject in Humani Generis, and he did not condemn it as incompatible with the Faith. He said that more evidence was needed before anything could be concluded, that people should be prudent in studying this, and that the theory which says man's soul is a product of the matter from which he evolved is condemnable.

John Paul II took it a step further declaring that there now was sufficient evidence to support evolution, but then reiterating the prudence necessary in studying it.

Overall, it is an interesting topic to study, but one that requires prudence in so doing.


Re: Evolution - The Catholic Thinker - 10-28-2010

(10-26-2010, 06:18 AM)ggreg Wrote: Try as I might I cannot help feel differently about a God that took 13 billion years to get to where we are today and a God that took 6000.  I know time doesn't mean much to God, but it means something to me.

I rather disagree.  To me, there is a point to the almost incomprehensible age of the universe, just as there is to its almost incomprehensible size - it reflects the Mind of God, which dwarfs ours in all respects as an ocean dwarfs a puddle!

But the way either of us feel about it is quite unrelated to what actually is, since God didn't consult our emotions or hunches when creating the universe.  All of the evidence points to the universe being far, far older than ~10,000 years.  Indeed, the evidence is so overwhelming that one has to either be ignorant of it or propose what I would call rather preposterous ideas about God to "get around" it.

We (Catholics) believe God to be rational.  This is a core concept starting with the Fathers, including Augustine, up through Aquinas, and beyond.  A rational God is what makes science *possible* (as Fr. Stanley Jaki discussed at length in one of his works) - and this is precisely why, according to some, science first "took root" in Christian (Catholic) culture.

A rational God does not arbitrarily change the laws of physics - which are complex and beautiful and reflect their Creator - or change them to "fool" people or "test their faith" (an absolutely ridiculous line of reasoning I have seen advanced by young-Earth Creationists).  Or tell lies with fake photos.  And so on.

It does seem to me that YEC as a philosophy requires belief in an irrational God (or ignorance of the evidence).  And I think this is one reason YEC is so prevalent in Protestantism and so rare in Catholicism: Luther himself believed in an irrational God - one who did not need to respect even the basic laws of logic, and could both exist and not exist at the same time if He wanted to.  Such an image of God is completely ridiculous.  Oh, Islam, or parts of it, embraces this nonsensical view of God as well, from what I understand.

As for evolution, as I have said, I find the evidence against macro-evolution to be pretty impressive.  The concept of macro-evolution by purely natural processes now strikes me as untenable.  However, I can't claim to be an expert on the matter.

I wrote Dr. Bonnette concerning the evidence on sub-human hominid bones - are they definitely neither human nor ape?  Here's his reply:

"The back and forth on some of this is in the first chapter of my Origin book. You might also want to look at chapter eleven, where I discuss the current theory of human evolution.

There does appear to be solid evidence for the existence of the Australopithecenes, some four million years ago and their more recent varients, and for Homo erectus dating back to a couple million years ago, going forward to more recent fossil remains of Homo archaic, Neanderthals, and us. I don't think the bones are made up. While they are relatively few, they do exist. And they paint a picture of some sort of change taking place over time. Some references are in my book.

If I were a YEC type, I too would argue that these fossils were either just "apes" or true men. In a way, they are right, since intellect must instantly appear in the chronology at some point, when God makes Adam. But that does not gainsay the fossil evidence of genuine "progression" toward more "modern" looking fossil remains. The problem for YEC's is that you can find evidence of intellective activity going back far further than then can admit, e.g., those aesthetic stone hand axes that date back some half a million years. No YEC will go there. Some still deny that Neanderthals were true humans even!

The biggest problem a YEC has is the clear evidence that the Earth is older than 6000 years. That is gross ignorance of the science. They get pushed back to the claim that God created the cosmos instantly with the "appearance of great age." I answer that on in the chapter in my book dealing with chronologies: chapter 13 - last three pages.

Recall that all this stuff is hampered by the fact that in the last analysis, if one wants to really push the logic of science, natural science rarely if ever produces absolute certitude -- and this moreso as you go back in time and try to make absolute assertions.

That is why my book does not absolutely take sides on these issues, but merely insists that any scenario save naturalism is compatible with Christian doctrine."



Re: Evolution - The Catholic Thinker - 10-28-2010

Thanks for your thoughtful and reasonable post, INPEFESS - I was actually kind of hoping you might weigh in.

I think many people cannot discern their internal interpretation of what Scripture *must* say vs. what it does say plainly. 

This is why we need a Church to interpret Scripture.

I agree with you that macro-evolution does not contradict Scripture (I find it quite obvious it does not), but it, or the standard neo-Darwinian model, does strain credulity when examined closely!  If you're interested the book I referenced by Dr. Behe is really good.


Re: Evolution - Historian - 10-28-2010

A few problems I see with pre-Fall "evolution" in any sense of the word:

When God created, He saw it was good, human sin caused the fall and the state of the world.

Romans 5:12 Wrote:Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.

All our knowledge of biology is reliant on the reality of death. All living things can die.

The second issue is sexual reproduction. It is the robust design of living creatures (in appropriate environments) which allow genetic diversity, competition and sexual reproduction to make any sense of evolution possible.

So, pre-Fall evolution cannot involve death in the way we know it because there was no sin, and it cannot involve imperfection in God's creation.

I think it is rational to accept we cannot know the science of pre-Fall man at all. We have to accept we cannot know what it was like or what the rules were. We can see cause and effect now, but with the chaos in the system now, we cannot reconstruct perfection.

It is because of this I think "age" is meaningless once we get to pre-Fall times. For all we know, time did not exist in a way we could understand.

To speculate on the science of this pre-Fall times is to be like a child speculating on how a computer works. Scratch that...it is like the average person trying to explain how a computer works. One sometimes (often actually) has to say "I don't know and I can't find out at this time".


Re: Evolution - The Catholic Thinker - 10-28-2010

(10-28-2010, 09:50 PM)Rosarium Wrote: A few problems I see with pre-Fall "evolution" in any sense of the word:

When God created, He saw it was good, human sin caused the fall and the state of the world.

Unless perhaps your assumptions are actually mixing science and theology.

Adam & Eve were not necessarily in the world we know - the universe! - at all before the Fall, were they?  Is the Garden a place in our world or another world altogether?  No conclusions of the type you've drawn are warranted.


Re: Evolution - Historian - 10-28-2010

(10-28-2010, 10:02 PM)The Catholic Thinker Wrote:
(10-28-2010, 09:50 PM)Rosarium Wrote: A few problems I see with pre-Fall "evolution" in any sense of the word:

When God created, He saw it was good, human sin caused the fall and the state of the world.

Unless perhaps your assumptions are actually mixing science and theology.

Adam & Eve were not necessarily in the world we know - the universe! - at all before the Fall, were they?  Is the Garden a place in our world or another world altogether?  No conclusions of the type you've drawn are warranted.

Theology is a science. It uses human reason with revelation, like other sciences use human reason and the senses.

The issue is perfection becoming imperfect.

God is. There is no separation of truth into domains where they are allowed to contradict.

Adam and Eve were not in the world we know, but we live in the ruins of that world.




Re: Evolution - The Catholic Thinker - 10-28-2010

(10-28-2010, 10:09 PM)Rosarium Wrote: Theology is a science. It uses human reason with revelation, like other sciences use human reason and the senses.

The issue is perfection becoming imperfect.

God is. There is no separation of truth into domains where they are allowed to contradict.

Adam and Eve were not in the world we know, but we live in the ruins of that world.

You're correct that theology is a science - I should have said "natural science" to describe the distinction I meant.

Agree with the rest.

Some of this stuff can indeed be a mind-bender.  Yet all we can do (and what we should do) is describe the universe we see and make no presumptions about how God operates other than what the Church has declared.

Since God knew of the Fall before it occurred (I surely hope no one will debate that), since physical time is merely his creation, there is nothing stopping the consequences of the Fall from being baked-in our universe from the beginning, in ways we possibly can't understand.