Evolution and Creation I – Scripture and Tradition

From Hugh Owen's The
Importance of the Traditional Doctrine of Creation

My comments are in red.

1. Theistic evolutionism fosters contempt for Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and undermines confidence in God and his Word. The traditional understanding of Genesis fosters a love and appreciation for Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and strengthens trust in God.

Theistic evolutionists and defenders of the traditional doctrine of creation both agree that the literal historical interpretation of Genesis was upheld by all [Not true!] of the Fathers, Doctors, and magisterial pronouncements of the Catholic Church for more than 1800 years. According to this common doctrine:

  1. God created all of the different kinds of creatures [that is, plants, animals, fish, etc.–that "species" or "kinds" are fixed in such a way that new kinds could not develop after creation is not common patristic or magisterial teaching] ex nihilo in six days or less. [Irenaeus allows that the sixth day could be a thousand years, in accordance with the text "a day of the Lord is as a thousand years," and Justin Martyr makes the same interpretation. Origen and Augustine do not take the six days as a narrative of the historical order of creation at all, but as a manner of revealing God's creation of the world.]
  2. Adam was created before Eve who was formed from Adam’s side. [This is not necessarily contradicted by the theory of evolution. If someone interprets the formation of Eve from Adam's side figuratively, it will be primarily for exegetical reasons rather than scientific ones.]
  3. God created a perfectly harmonious world for Adam and Eve. There was no human sickness, death, disease, harmful mutations [nothing harmful for man, or nothing harmful for any living being? The latter cannot be affirmed as common doctrine in the same way as the former] or man-harming natural disasters prior to the Fall. ["Prior to the fall" can be taken as referring to the state of Adam and Eve before they fell, regardless of what preceded them, or as referring to the entire history of time before Adam and Eve's fall. The former account is sufficient for the doctrine of the introduction of evil into the world by the fall. Precisely speaking, the common doctrine is that the death and pain we experience is a result of the fall. But this does not imply that pain did not exist at all before Adam and Eve.]
  4. Prior to the Original Sin, all of nature was under the dominion of Adam and Eve and was subservient to them. [Yes, but it is not clear how this should be understood.]
  5. Original Sin brought human death, disease, harmful mutations, and man-harming natural disasters in the world. [Inasmuch as it withdraw God's special protection from man. Man is subject to death, disease, etc, according to his nature, and would only have been preserved from them by God's special gift and providence.]
  6. There was a global flood in Noah’s day which killed all of the people and animals on the earth except for those on Noah’s ark. [According to the Septuagint chronology, Methuselah lived a good fourteen years after the flood, which suggests that the flood is not understood as absolutely universal. (According to the Hebrew chronology, he died just aroung the time of the flood.) According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1912), Tostatus exempts the earthly Paradise, were Enoch was, from the flood. We might also note that the narrative is written as an eye-witness account, which would fit with a limited flood. The Fathers do teach "doctrine" is that Noah's ark is an image, a "type" of the Church, outside which no one can be saved–but this does not imply the actual death of all persons on earth.]
  7. Early man was physically and mentally, superior to modern man. The patriarchs lived to the long ages ascribed to them.
  8. All of the basic language-families complete with their unique grammars and modes of thought were instantaneously created by God during the Tower of the Babel incident. [As far as I am aware, this was never a magisterial doctrine, and in most cases the Fathers and Doctors do not intend it as doctrine of faith, either. The Fathers do not take up the question directly enough to affirm this as a common doctrine; in particular they do not address the narrative of Genesis 10 which indicates differences of language prior to Babel–which suggest that either there were some differences of language before, and that the unity was local (Gen 11:1 being then "the whole land" rather than "the whole earth" was of one language, or that the account of Babel is a figurative/spiritual description of God's providence.]

Only number 1 (and probably number 6) is contrary to the theory of evolution. Neither of these in fact pertain to the substance of the Christian doctrine of creation.

Like Jesus, who taught that the Scripture "cannot be broken," all the Apostles and Fathers of the Church taught and believed that Scripture was "God-breathed" and free from all error, and that the Holy Spirit moved the sacred authors to write exactly what He wanted them to say. Later, at several ecumenical councils, the Church recognized the unanimous interpretation of the Fathers as a certain rule of Scriptural interpretation. Without exception [not quite!], the Apostles and Fathers believed and proclaimed the literal historical truth of Genesis 1-11, including all of the particular ideas mentioned above. [Misleading, since they don't all address all of these issues.]

Consequently, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, backed by the authority of an ecumenical council, authoritatively taught this interpretation of Genesis and interpreted the words of the Apostles Creed and the Fourth Lateran Council on creation in accord with that interpretation. [The Catechism of the Council of Trent does not have the authority of the Council of Trent. Moreover, it does not in fact teach this interpretation of Genesis, not because it teaches something different, but because it is more general. If we take the whole order it presents as definite sequence over time, we would have to say that man first existed (and was subject to pain, corruption, etc.) and then was granted the gift of original righteousness, by which his natural defects were removed.]

It follows that if theistic evolutionism is true then God permitted his one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church to teach authoritatively—if not in every instance dogmatically—a completely erroneous account of the creation and early history of the universe. Moreover, He willed that the correction of this error come not "from the contemplation and study of believers" and the teaching of the bishops—as Dei Verbum says that it should—but from the speculations of non-believers whose theories eventually fomented a revolution in the conventional wisdom within the Catholic Church. If this is true, who would trust such an incompetent, self-contradictory "god"? [The teaching was not completely erroneous, but was in its essential points correct, and only these essential points were definitely taught by the Church! (Lateran IV, for example, does not make any statement about "six days.")]

Theistic evolutionism not only proclaims an incompetent god who contradicts himself, but breeds contempt for any kind of wisdom handed down from the "primitive" past. Since theistic evolutionists believe that the world is in a state of continuous evolution, they hold that man’s knowledge is continually superseded by "new developments." [First, the theory of evolution in the natural order does not imply a continuous progression from imperfect to perfect. Secondly, evolution in the natural order does not imply evolution in knowledge. The theory that man's knowledge increases is also based on experience and evidence. Aristotle, seeing that man's knowledge had increased, but was not infinite, though he held that the universe was eternal, was led to posit indefinite cycles of knowledge lost and gained. Thirdly, that the premise that knowledge increases leads to contempt for wisdom handed down from the past applies only where present knowledge is independent of the past.]

[A not completely relevant anecdote removed.]

[Of course, if one thinks that what Scripture teaches is incompatible with the theory of evolution, then accepting the theory of evolution can lead to "contempt" for Sacred Scripture. But in fact, the actual teaching of Scripture is not incompatible witht the theory of evolution. Similarly, the actual teaching of Sacred Tradition is not incompatible with it. If we take an "all or nothing" approach to tradition (in a broader sense), thinking that either every traditional and common opinion in the Church is right, or that tradition is useless as a vehicle of revealed truth, then interpreting Genesis in a manner different from the traditional manner of interpretation can lead to contempt for tradition. But if we can distinguish what is taught as essential to the faith, and what is taught as an opinion, even when that opinion is a common one, then the fact that a mistaken view (as granted the theory of evolution, the view of six-day creation presented in this article is mistaken) was not declared definitively as part of the faith is even an indication of God's providence over tradition, and so far from leading to contempt for tradition, can lead to a greater confidence in it.]

2 thoughts on “Evolution and Creation I – Scripture and Tradition”

  1. Very good article reports why evolution can't be true: koti.phnet.fi/elohim/evolutionofman.html [No longer online – JB]

  2. This blogpost was not actually about the quantity of scientific evidence for or against evolution, but about its consistency or inconsistency with the teaching of Scripture and tradition on the creation of the world by God. Nor was it about evolution of man specifically.

    Nevertheless the article you linked to is poorly researched, and out of date. The claim that all the evidence for the evolution of man could be fit into one coffin is simply wrong. First, fossil evidence is not the only evidence for the evolution of man. Cardinal Newman wrote, "It is as strange that monkeys should be so like men, with no historical connexion between them, as that there should be no history of facts by which fossil bones got into rocks." DNA is also evidence for that.

    Leaving aside these other kinds of evidence for the evolution of man, however, even the human and humanoid fossils are far greater in quantity than asserted. See Prominent hominid fossils, a list of just some of them, yet even this selection is more than enough to fill a coffin. It is also a poor choice to quote Lyall Watson in support of a claim regarding the fossil evidence, since his work and writings were not in the field of paleontology, but in botany, zoology, anthropology, and new age.

    The Guadeloupe skeleton and the Calaveras Skull, mentioned as examples of modern humans found in (according to evolutionary theory) older layers, were hoaxes or practical jokes.

    The statement about how scientists treat evidence of great discrepancies is to some extent valid. When a new piece of evidence is greatly contrary to a well-established theory, they are rightly somewhat suspicious that it is a hoax… but they do not simply assume that, or simply ignore the evidence. In the case of the Piltdown man, the fossil was in some cases used to form particular tentative hypotheses, despite the fact that the fossil did not fit very well with the common evolutionary theory–which turned out to be because it was a hoax. (Note that because the majority of evidence pointed in another direction than the Piltdown man, this hoaxed fossil had only a limited effect on theories.)

    The handling of the fossil evidence in this article also seems to show a misunderstanding of the theory of evolution. According to the theory of evolution, one would expect very few fossils to represent direct ancestors of present living beings; most of them would represent various relatives of the ancestors of present living beings.

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