Today as promised a follow up post on why Catholics should view evolution as our friend. First lets again reiterate a couple of points. Evolution does not conflict with any doctrine we hold on the basis of Faith as revealed truth. This issue has been addressed multiple times by several popes including Pope John Paul II and Benedict, and even Pius XII. A reasonably good summary of the Catholic Church’s position regarding evolution can be found on Wikipedia at this site. At time concerns have been raised regarding how evolution affects our understanding of original sin, and I would answer it affects it hardly at all beyond compelling us to think more carefully about it.
The nature of the primordial sin of the primordial man (the first protohuman who was sufficiently neurologically developed to have a human soul) is not a matter that can be addressed scientifically. There has been ( and continues to be) theological speculation on the nature of these things in light of what we know about evolutionary theory and such, and I imagine there will continue to be such speculation, for now that is not my immediate concern.
I am much more interested in the idea that evolutionary biology helps point out something that is much in dispute. Much evil today relies on the assumption that there is no fixed human nature, and as such no human actions are right or wrong because of what they are, or because they in fact conflict with “what” a human is. We have previously discussed a similar idea in an earlier post when we discussed the association of modernism in the Church and the left wing political vision. As we stated at the time they both share the “unconstrained vision of man”, and in fact deny that human nature is fixed or a given, and that people who are smart enough can manipulate man and make the world a better place. This vision of course leads to all kinds of hubris, mischief and even tyranny. Witness the evils done under the name of Communism’s attempts to build the “New Soviet Man” or Mao’s “Great Leap Forward. We wrote a bit about this way of thinking here .
Of course many of the modern social movements are infected with a similar virus. Currently there is a developing consensus that the many millenniums old practice of only recognizing unions of males and females as “marriages” was a grave injustice and we now should recognize same sex unions as “marriages”. There was a time when one might have assumed that the states interest in recognizing any unions of private individuals at all had less to do with the emotional or sexual satisfaction of the individuals ( about which it would seem the state has no compelling interest) but had something to do with creating a legal structure around the union that tended of its nature to produce new human beings, and that certain things associated with producing new human beings ( like lines of paternity, imposing legal obligations on males for the children they helped bring into being,and encouraging the care of females who were pregnant and caring for young children) and that sort of thing was the reason why marriage “evolved” if you will. I suppose of course it is common to assert that this traditional family structure is archaic and we will have all kinds of new family structures. This phenomenon is not however confined to the recognition of homosexual marriage. There are new unusual kinds of reproduction made possible by technology such that woman of advanced age are able to bear children, using donor eggs and what not, and we even have unusual situations of women bearing their grandchildren. Most recently there have been attempts to use recombinant DNA techniques to create children with the DNA of more than two parents. In one of the more repulsive attempts at genetic manipulation there have been efforts to create embryos that are a combination of human and animal such as pig-human hybrids. The efforts of course to create such “pig-men” at present are mostly aimed at harvesting the interesting stem cells of such creatures and killing them early in embryonic development, all for the very valuable cause of curing cancer or Parkinson’s disease or who knows. Of course the morally finicky among us might ask if there is any other possible way to cure cancer that does not involve macabre experiments vaguely suggesting something dreamed up on the Island of Dr. Moreau. At present we are merely at the making and killing embryo stage.Still scientists now are clearly not content to do the boring old fashioned animal experiments like the scientists back in the old days used to do , (and who in spite of these terrible shackles managed to do reasonably well at curing disease, since we do have antibiotics and insulin and transplants and all… ). Now modern scientists forge ever forward into strange new worlds. Still, no immediate plans to create things like… well like this
But with the scientists being very clever and simultaneously without anything remotely resembling a functioning moral compass, who knows what wonders tomorrow will bring.
So what does this have to do with evolution? Well all this seems to be preceding rapidly without a lot of forethought that there could be any unforeseen adverse consequences to humanity. The Church may issue objections to some of these things ( rather sheepishly lately) suggesting that they are often violations of the natural law, that is the violate what a human being “is”. I would suggest they are often dangerous and particularly revolting violations of the natural law.
Let’s bounce back a bit to gay marriage. One might suggest that humans have evolved over the last half a million years to basically be conceived by two parents and raised by same. Now of course at times we know this arrangement goes awry and there are abusive parents or one parent dies or leaves and someone must be raised by only one parent. And we know many people do a very fine job coping with these difficult circumstances and raise fine wonderful children. Still these are exceptions. We know that children in single parent households for example are several times more likely to be impoverished. There is some evidence that a good father daughter relationship for example is associated with better psychological health in women as noted here . There are reports that sons are also adversely affected as noted in this report in Britain which can be read about here . Needless to say Mothers are crucially important, and I neglect citing a reference only because I think If our society is so debased that I must actually defend motherhood… well then we are lost, We would need an exorcism rather than an argument.. Anyway I digress.. My point is not to absolutely prove the very reasonable hypothesis that we need two parents of opposites sex to ideally raise a member of our species, but to suggest that this is a reasonably theory that is supported by some evidence and can be presumed probably to be true based on the fact that evolution evidently has naturally selected for this arrangement, and it presumably has significant adaptive value. I would argue that the folks who would suggest implementing a wide spread and systematic official sanction to alternative arrangements (not as exceptions but as the routine) are advocating a large human experiment. Something even secularists regard as immoral without consent of the planned subjects, who in this case are children and future generations. Perhaps you see how this theory works then… the logic can be extended to all kinds of other things the secularist/ modernist left wants to do to remake the world along the lines they envision. The guardian of tradition have a powerful ally in that much of what the left wants to reconfigure is in conflict with our evolved nature, which we all agree is if not the will of God is at the very least “adaptive”.
We know based on human evolution some common arrangements like a two parent family which have obvious biologic roots may have adaptive benefits that are quite strong. It seems presumptuous at the least to reject this “human nature” formed by 500,000 years of natural selection in favor of the latest fad of intellectuals desiring to alter human nature.
In fact once we concede that evolution gives rise to a particular set of characteristics that make a human being what he or she “is” we are battling on a turf that moves to favorable ground. A morality based on humans having a “nature” is ultimately a morality rooted in the idea that things are “good” when they conforms to their nature. This morality is rooted in the tradition of Aquinas and Aristotle (that is a Catholic tradition). We care little if the events that lead to that “nature” can be described scientifically or not, all that matters is that a thing has a nature that makes it a certain kind of thing. Things then of their nature are oriented to certain ends. (A topic we will come back to again and again!) As we have mentioned before we are good then when we seek actions consistent with our proper “end”.
Evolution may have its roots in random mutations but the process itself is not random at all, it is rather driven by adaptation and tends to optimize (not consciously of course) survival and reproduction. These are good things! They are not our ultimate human goods of course. Our ultimate human goods involve human elements which are not affected by evolutionary biology as they are spiritual elements and as such orient us to specifically supernatural ends. But what evolution does tell us is that an unconstrained vision suggesting human nature is infinitely malleable is very likely false. We have a fixed nature (or at least very slow to change nature) the product of an eons old process of random mutation and natural selection and as such efforts to remake it are hubris.
So when the liberals want to argue otherwise tell them that Darwin says they are wrong.
In the meantime let’s ask St Ambrose to pray for us, and take it as a sign that a dinosaur fossil was found in the Cathedral of St Ambrose near Milan, Italy. take a look at this below: