Monday, February 28, 2011

Did St. Augustine Teach Evolution?

creation of man, Michelangelo
The answer to that question must be no if the question means did St. Augustine teach a Darwinian type evolution of species through random mutations, natural selection, in which "chance" and the "survival of the fittest" are the critical factors. As Professor Alister McGrath has written, for Augustine,

God brought everything into existence in a single moment of creation. Yet the created order is not static. God endowed it with the capacity to develop. Augustine uses the image of the dormant seed to help his readers grasp this point. God creates seeds, which will grow and develop at the right time. Augustine asks his readers to think of the created order as containing divinely embedded causalities that emerge or evolve at a later stage. Yet Augustine has no time for any notion of random or arbitrary changes within creation. The development of God’s creation is always subject to God’s sovereign providence.
So if "evolution" means only this possibility, that God endowed creation with the capacity to develop in some mysterious way, then yes, it could be possible. But that is a long way from Mr. Darwin's pernicious doctrines built on chance / randomness. Of course the Church has never infallibly pronounced on Augustine's ---or any other---model of positive interpretation, though she has pronounced negatively on what must be rejected.

Pope Pius XII taught that free inquiry and discussion about various hypotheses or models of interpretation has never been forbidden so long as they remain within strict theological parameters (i.e, certainties), even if the details and specifics of the original creation must always remain a mystery, and so ultimately inaccessible in any final way to the human intellect---i.e., remain no more than hypotheses, because no human was present to witness the creation, the details of which it did not please God to reveal:

The Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experiences in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter; for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God...[Pope Pius XII writes of polygenism that] "the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with [the doctrine of] original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is everyone as his own." ---Humani Generis, 1950

For Catholic teaching, truth cannot contradict truth, but what is truth in the scientific realm of cosmology is very often speculative, subject to endless criticism within the scientific community. A Catholic, allowing for ultimate mystery in the matter, is just as free to see a more or less literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. And while a consensus has developed within the Darwinian community / philosophy regarding natural selection, random mutation and chance, it is precisely here that the Church decisively rejects it, because these "doctrines" or interpretative models are in essence atheistic and wildly speculative, even if the Darwinians are loath to admit it. It is clear that what passes for "science" in all of this is really an alien philosophy which precedes and shapes facts and observations to conform with specualtive presuppositions and premises.

Pope Benedict on "Theories" of Evolution

"The universe is not the result of chance, as some would like to make us believe. In contemplating it, we are asked to interpret in it something profound; the wisdom of the Creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God, his infinite love for us.

"We must not let our minds be limited by theories that always go only so far and that — at a close look — are far from competing with faith but do not succeed in explaining the ultimate meaning of reality. We cannot but perceive in the beauty of the world, its mystery, its greatness and its rationality, the eternal rationality; nor can we dispense with its guidance to the one God, Creator of Heaven and of earth."---Benedict XVI, Jan 7, 2011, emphasis added

So when any modern Pope (JPII for example) or other Catholics see with Augustine "seeds, which will grow and develop at the right time," that is one thing, even if this also must remain ever speculative. But no Catholic can accept Mr. Darwin's philosophically shaped hypothesis or the developments of his teachings by his heirs, because, as St. Thomas said, "a little error in the beginning becomes a great error in the end". Humility vis a vis the greatest mystery of all apart from the mystery of God Himself and the redemption of man is the Catholic way.

G.K. Chesterton in his autobiography said that for evolution to mean anything at all it can only mean the "unfolding" of what has been made, directed and "already there," not what is not there. This is consonant with the Augustinian view. Elsewhere Chesterton says that the most amusing notion of atheists is that they believe that in an undirected non-supernatural way "everything there is came from nothing at all".

Malcolm Muggeridge: "I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially the extent to which it’s been applied, will be one of the great jokes in the history books in the future. Posterity will marvel that so very flimsy and dubious an hypothesis could be accepted with the incredible credulity that it has. – Deceit, p. 164," The End of Christendom (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980, sp. 43.)

--->Follow articles also via the Label "Darwinism" below this post.

--->Msgr. Charles Pope: Pondering Abortion in the African American Community. "Last week came the news of a showdown of sorts in the New York area regarding abortion in the Black community. The Billboard that you see at the right was displayed in SoHo section of New York and says, The Most Dangerous Place for and African American is in the Womb. The billboard was placed by a local Chapter of group known as Life Always. After controversy, threatened protests, and even a plan by Al Sharpton to organize significant demonstrations, the group chose to remove the sign. The sign continues to appear elsewhere in the country...

Note: Any rhetoric about oppression from a black [or white!] "civil rights" leader who refuses to see the multinational Planned Parenthood's eugenical war against the Afro-American community isn't worth a bucket of warm spit in my opinion.

---> Placing the Crucifix at the center of the altar."..the cross on the altar is not an impediment to sight, but rather a common point of reference..."

Apropos: Vatican website: "Then-theologian and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger many times had underscored that, even during the celebration “facing the people,” the crucifix should maintain its central position, and that it would be impossible to think that the depiction of the Crucified Lord – which expresses his Sacrifice and therefore the most important significance of the Eucharist – could be in some way a source of disturbance..." Read it all

--->The 'Global Missal Dissent System' -- By Louie Verrecchio...

--->Court Sets Deadline in Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Case – Please Contact Congress Today!...

--->Jim Lobe: Neo-Con Hawks Take Flight over Libya...(click) "In a distinct echo of the tactics they pursued to encourage U.S. intervention in the Balkans and Iraq, a familiar clutch of neo-conservatives appealed Friday for the United States and NATO to "immediately" prepare military action to help bring down the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and end the violence that is believed to have killed well over a thousand people in the past week."

--->Shea's Rebellion: "There may be very good reason why modern practices of usury are compatible with the Christian tradition, says Mark Shea on the National Catholic Register's blog. Any other sins that modern practices make compatible with Catholicism, Mark?"---James G. Bruen, Jr. Culture Wars, Feb. 2011 [See comments]

--->Gadhafi Doles Out Cash to the People...

--->1. As Libyan Rebels Close In On Gaddafi, US And Europe Mull Intervention... 2. West moves military assets around Libya...

--->China's holdings of US debt larger than reported...

--->Wisconsin's Scott Walker's Budget To Include Major Cuts To Schools, Local Governments...

--->Bono: From Karma to Grace ...(Click) [Let's pray him into the Church, the penultimate link in the chain of grace]

Outside the Box. Proud Political Independent: In case it's not obvious after all these years, and for those new here, I have added a line to this website's Blogger profile. "As a political Independent I make it a point to pan the far Left and the far Right (and most everything in between) for nuggets of Truth, holding fast [only] "whatsoever things are true"--Phil 4:8

Schism simplifies everything; Strange comfort zone that, for frayed nerves.


  1. I don't believe in any type of evolution. Genesis One makes it quite clear all living things (those now extinct and those still living) were created during the sixth day within a twentyfour hour span, after their own kind. Nearly all the Church fathers taught that world was created within six days with twentyfour hours in a day. It's an absolute scandal that the hierarchy won't teach what has always been a part of the ordinary magisterium since day one. Since nearly all of the doctrines we subscribe to as dogma depend on a literal interptation of Genesis 1-11, evolution is a dammable heresy. Yet, several Catholic apologists, such as Mark Shea and David Armstrong push evolution and sneeringly claim only "fundamentalists" believe in the literal days of creation. It's sad the way so-called 'science' has trumped the Catholic faith in the minds of many.

  2. A good movie to rent concerning this subject is "Creation" , starring Paul Bettany and Jenifer Connelly. It concerns Darwin struggling with the death of one of his daughters and the decision whether to publish "Origin of Species"
    It deals with the conflict between his theories and traditional Christian faith. In one scene Thomas Huxley and some other guy come to visit him to convince him to get the book done. Here Huxley is stating that the book would be a great weapon to combat and ultimately do away with Christian faith. The struggle is particularly poignant considering that Darwin,s wife, at least as portrayed in the movie, was a devout Christian.
    Thus the film points out that Darwin,s theory was indeed used to continue the Enlightenment policy of remaking human society , indeed humanity itself, into what they believed was the image of pure reason. Darwinian teaching is more philosophy than science.

  3. Just did a search on Mark Shea and Usury on Google, and this is the article I came up with. It's from December 2010 and in it he explores the connection found in Dante's Inferno, between the sin of sodomy and that of usury.

    The connection is that both are the perversion of nature & art to the unnatural.

    The comment focused on by Culture Wars appears in a comment made by the author to the comments of others about the present banking system. His final sentence afterward is:

    "I’m not an economist. I simply write to point out that something which our civilization takes for granted as no big deal was seen as a very big deal for our ancestors in the faith and to suggest that should at least give us pause. "

  4. Yes, I see now the full quote is:

    "Posted by Mark Shea on Monday, Dec 13, 2010 1:11 PM (EST):

    "It is a Catholic tradition post. What it is not is a post about Rome or some sort of Vatican policy or initiative. Distrust of usury is found all over the place in both Scripture and the Fathers. Dante gives a small snapshot into *why* it was regarded with distrust. That doesn’t close the book on the matter. There may be very good reasons why modern practices of usury are compatible with the Christian tradition. I’m not an economist. I simply write to point out that something which our civilization takes for granted as no big deal was seen as a very big deal for our ancestors in the faith and to suggest that should at least give us pause."

    Moreover, I see that in the main piece Shea writes,

    "Our civilization is currently undergoing the consequences of its addiction to usury and we still do not know where the bottom is. God willing, his mercy will triumph over our folly. Whether we will likewise figure out that our addictions to unnatural sex whether contraceptive or homosexual shall likewise end in sorrow is still to be seen".

    That doesn't sound like Mark Shea is merely attributing anxiety about Usury to Dante's day at all. In view of the piece itself especially (which I have just now read), the quote clearly appears out of context. I've sent the quote to the magazine asking if they care to explain what they were getting at; otherwise I will have to retract in justice a comment I trusted was accurate and in context, and explain to readers. I'll wait to see if CW responds promptly and what they intended.

  5. There is no such a thing as a "modern" pope. Whatever the popes have said of evolution suffices for Catholics of that age.

  6. I wasn't suggesting Shea is merely attributing anxiety about usury to Dante's day. Indeed, he is suggesting we should take "pause" over what was a "big deal" for earlier Catholics. When challenged in comboxes on his main posting, though, he retreats to an "I'm no economist" position and then equivocates on usury: "There may be very good reasons why modern practices of usury are compatible with the Christian tradition." My Bullet in Culture Wars did not and could not quote Shea's entire blog post and the lengthy combox reactions, but it does him no injustice: the fact remains that when pushed by his combox commentators Shea suggests "modern" usury may be compatible with Catholicism (or, to use his term, Christian tradition).