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The Catholic Darwiniacs

Fatima Perspectives #1202

The late Joe Sobran, writing back in 2010, coined the term “Darwiniac” to describe the fanatical ideologues who promote Darwinian and Neo-Darwinian evolutionism in the public schools and who succeeded in persuading a federal judge that the teaching of “intelligent design” in nature as an alternative to the Darwiniacs’ insistence on the blind evolution of molecules into men constitutes “religion.” 

The “dogma of Darwinism,” wrote Sobran, “passes for ‘religious neutrality’ (at least among the modern mainstream of the irreligious). As always, liberalism is playing its old game of ‘Let’s compromise my way.’ The happy medium between theism and atheism is atheism. As long as you don’t call it atheism, of course. (You should call it Science.)”

But this so-called science, which cannot even explain the origin of the first living cell, is really a pseudo-science thinly concealing an ideology.  That much was admitted, with remarkable candor, by the evolutionary geneticist Richard Lewontin, in his review of a book by his fellow ideologue, the late Carl Sagan:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural.

“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

“It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.

“Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

And yet, ironically enough, it is precisely the true science of genetics that has made a shambles of Darwin’s quaint 19th century notion of the transformation of one species into another through small mutations conserved by natural selection.  Genetics, along with molecular biology, has demonstrated the impossibility of changing one body plan for an organism into another through what are essentially copying mistakes or omissions in the genetic code.  As even the atheist Thomas Nagel has observed of this development in his Mind and Cosmos:

The more details we learn about the chemical basis of life and the intricacy of the genetic code, the more unbelievable the standard historical account becomes

“I have argued patiently against the prevailing form of naturalism, a reductive materialism that purports to capture life and mind through its neo-Darwinian extension…

I find this view antecedently unbelievable — a heroic triumph of ideology over common sense.

But wait!  Just as it is becoming obvious that evolutionists really haven’t a clue about the origin of species but are simply passing off just-so stories as science, Catholic Darwiniacs, thinking themselves enlightened, rush to the defense of Darwin’s failed theory, declaring that God “directed” 3.5 billion years of evolution.  Which is just another way of saying that evolution is impossible on the natural level.

So what is the point of this exercise? As I argued recently in a debate on the subject, no model of biological evolution can be reconciled with the Genesis account of the creation of all things, including man, at the beginning of time, not after billions of years of evolution. It would be necessary to reduce Genesis to a mere allegory, thus contradicting the constant teaching of the Church on those elements of the Genesis account that are to be understood in a literal historical sense.

In 1909, the Pontifical Biblical Commission under Pope Saint Pius X defended the constant teaching of the Magisterium as to “the literal historical sense” of the Genesis account “in the case of facts narrated in the same chapters which touch the foundations of the Christian religion.” The Commission specified those facts as follows:

  • the creation of all things by God in the beginning of time;
  • the special creation of man;
  • the formation of the first woman from the first man;
  • the unity of the human race [as descended from Adam and Eve];
  • the original felicity of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immortality;
  • the command given by God to man to test his obedience;
  • the transgression of the divine command at the instigation of the devil under the form of a serpent;
  • the degradation of our first parents from that primeval state of innocence…

Moreover, in Humani Generis, Venerable Pius XII, while allowing discussion of evolutionist claims by experts, provided they were not presented as fact, positively forbade the faithful to embrace the opinion that the human race descended from a group of proto-humans evolved from hominids, which notion cannot be reconciled with the dogma of Original Sin as the inheritance of our two first parents. Pius also affirmed the Church’s bimillennial belief that Adam was made from the dust of the earth and that Eve was made from Adam, the creation of Eve ex Adamo being an infallible teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium, as Father Brian Harrison has shown.

No one has better expressed the folly of the Catholic Darwiniac enterprise than the brilliant scientist-philosopher Wolfgang Smith:

“Instead of letting the Darwinist hypothesis fail on scientific grounds, it seeks to bolster that now faltering theory by the ad hoc postulate of divine intervention, for which, to put it mildly, there is not a shred of theological rationale. 

“In a word: theistic evolutionism compounds bad science with spurious theology…

“Is it not the height of folly, on the part of Christian apologists, to bolster the atheistic and now discredited hypothesis through the no less gratuitous postulate that God steps in to consummate the anti-God scenario?  One is hard pressed to name a doctrine as flagrantly inane!”

Just how inane is shown by a proposed evolutionary revision of Genesis on a website laughably named thomisticevolution.org — a shameless abuse of the name and teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who, being a Doctor of the Church, of course held to the literal sense of the Genesis account on the points noted above.  You can read this nonsense in its entirety here, but it reduces to the following propositions and their necessary implications, all contrary to the Faith:

  • Adam had subhuman parents with human bodies but no souls.
  • Eve was not made from Adam but also had soulless subhuman parents.
  • The human race did not descend from Adam and Eve, but rather from a group of “speaking bipeds” in southern Africa, some of whom were given souls.
  • The prior capacity for speech and reason did not require a spiritual soul but had already emerged from mere matter after billions of years of genetic mutations, not special creation by God.
  • The “speaking bipeds” given souls engaged in bestial relations with their anatomically compatible but soulless subhuman contemporaries of the same southern African tribe.
  • There was no temptation of our two first parents by the devil under the appearance of a serpent nor any specific divine command which they disobeyed in Paradise.
  • There was no Paradise, but only a tribe of first humans in southern Africa, whose capacity for speech conferred a Darwinian survival advantage.
  • Original Sin is not necessarily the sin of two first parents but could be the unspecified sins of various ensouled members of the African tribe.
  • Some members of the original African community of “speaking bipeds” with souls might not have sinned but could have retained their original state of sinlessness, in which case there could be lines of human descent not tainted by Original Sin, unless one further assumes that every one of the ensouled first humans was induced to commit his or her own “original sin” by fellow tribe members.
  • There was no murder of a literal Abel by a literal Cain, the sons of Adam and Eve, but only unspecified sins committed by unknown members of the aboriginal African tribe, which means the genealogy of descent from Adam and Eve following their expulsion from Paradise, down through Abraham, is fictitious.

Sad to say, the ranks of the Catholic Darwiniacs appear to include the current occupant of the Chair of Peter.  In his unprecedented environmentalist encyclical Laudato si’, which weighs in on all manner of scientific subjects concerning which Popes have no competence to make pronouncements, Francis inserts a totally gratuitous reference to evolution as if it were an indisputable fact: “Although change is part of the working of complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution.” 

What does such verbiage have to do with the teaching of the Magisterium on matters of faith and morals?  Nothing, of course.   What authority does a Pope have to assume as a matter of fact “the slow pace of biological evolution” when the very claim that one kind of being can evolve into another is hotly contested by experts in the field of biology and philosophy and even by atheist philosophers such as Thomas Nagel?  None, of course.

Then there is Francis’ statement “I’m joking. That was a joke” immediately after he had made reference to “The fact is that woman was taken from a rib” in the context of a discussion of supposed misogyny in the Church.  Thus it appears we have a Pope who considers the creation of Eve from Adam to be a joke even though it is one of the dogmatic facts in the Genesis account the Church has constantly defended as literally true.  To quote Pope Leo XIII on this point: “We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep.”

Think of the Catholic Darwiniacs as another symptom of an ecclesial crisis the likes of which the Church has never seen, in the midst of a pontificate for which, as my friend the historian John Rao has observed, there is no adequate comparison in 2,000 years of Church history.

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