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Baptizing Darwin?

By Fra Domenico;
Thursday, 26 July AD 2007

For those Catholics who are keeping track of the Holy Father's words, the question and answer session with the clergy of the Diocese of Belluno-Feltre e Treviso should convince the Motu-maniacs that the new hermeneutic of continuity is actually an attempt to sythesize contradictions. The Motu Proprio, of course, makes the claim that in the reformed liturgy, there is no rupture with the past, that what appear to be two rites are really only one. The meeting with the clergy which took place a few days ago in northern Italy provides yet other instances wherein the great reconciler takes on the matter of evolution. The relevant passage follows in the Italian original and a private translation:

"...Vedo attualmente in Germania, ma anche negli Stati Uniti, un dibattito abbastanza accanito tra il cosiddetto creazionismo e l'evoluzionismo, presentati come fossero alternative che si escludono: chi crede nel Creatore non potrebbe pensare all'evoluzione e chi invece afferma l'evoluzione dovrebbe escludere Dio. Questa contrapposizione è un'assurdità, perché da una parte ci sono tante prove scientifiche in favore di un'evoluzione che appare come una realtà che dobbiamo vedere e che arricchisce la nostra conoscenza della vita e dell'essere come tale. Ma la dottrina dell'evoluzione non risponde a tutti i quesiti e non risponde soprattutto al grande quesito filosofico: da dove viene tutto? e come il tutto prende un cammino che arriva finalmente all'uomo?"

"I see presently in Germany, but also in the United States, a quite fierce debate between so-called creationism and evolution, presented as alternative sides which exclude one another; he who believes in the Creator would not be able to think about evolution and that he, on the other hand who affirms evolution, should exclude God. This antithesis is an absurdity, because on the one side there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appear as a reality that we must see, and that enrich our knowledge of life and being as it is. But the doctrine of evolution does not answer all the questions and does not answer above all the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how everything takes a path that arrives finally at man?"

This statement by the Pope is sure to open anew the debate on evolution for it goes beyond the already controversial remarks of Pope John-Paul II which claim that evolution was more than a hypothesis. Here Pope Benedict XVI claims that there are enough proofs which push us to see the truth of evolution. But here the Ratzingerian magic is invoked, and we are told that in fact, that to oppose evolution and creation is untenable; such a stance is in fact, an absurdity. He tries to escape the dilemma by distinguishing scientific from philosophical knowledge, and of course, there is a difference between the two sciences. Philosophy asks deeper questions than does empirical science. However, it is precisely on the philosophical level that the problems arise. It is one of the axioms of philosophy that nothing can move from potency to act except by something which is already in act. As Saint Thomas says, "non potest aliquid reduci in actum, nisi per aliquod ens in actu..." To give an example: room temperature water has the potency to become hot. The perfection of "hotness" however, is one that it can never achieve on it's own. As long as there is nothing which possesses the perfection of heat already, such as fire, which can act on the water, that water will never heat itself. If a thing doesn't have a perfection already, it can never gain that perfection it doesn't have except by means of something else which already has it. The greater can never come from the less; unheated water never heats itself.

The theory of evolution contradicts directly this philosophical truth. Evolution claims that organisms develop through natural selection in such as way as to gain perfections which were never in the original organism. We are familiar with genetic mutations, but mutations do not increase the perfection of things; rather the changes take away perfections the species already had. There is underneath this theory the modern myth of progress. Things go from primitive, undeveloped beings to more developed and more perfect beings. Everything is always just getting better and better. Perhaps this is why Modernists are so keen to embrace the idea of evolution. It is a way by which they can justify their own hubris, their own presupposition that because they lived after other men, they must know more.

The only way in which there can be new perfections added to creatures is through the agency of a being which already has that perfection; and so, if we are to admit a development of species into other species, the intervention of the Creator would be necessary. God would have to have intervened and transformed the creature into another being Himself. Now it is of couse possible that God could have intervened over and over at each juncture when He wanted a thing to change into another species, but if that would be the case, it would no longer be evolution. It would be a series of acts of creation wherein new perfections were given to creatures. That, in fact, would overturn every presupposition governing the theory of evolution.

The Holy Father seems bent on a mission of trying to reconcile things which cannot be truly reconciled. One wonders what kind of philosophy he is thinking of which would enable him to synthesize evolution and creation.... Hegel or Siger de Brabant?


[Editor's Note:  Out of the other side of the mouth comes "Pope Says Evolution Can't Be Proven" USA Today, 12 April AD 2007.]


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