QUESTION: Hello there expert!
Is it ok for Catholics to believe that we humans evolved from animals?
Wouldn't that be problematic if we have the story of Adam and Eve? If we accept evolution we must at least be able to figure out when we became humans and was given a human soul and human dignity. In 1800 Victor of Aveyron was found. People at that time started to argue what the definition of a human is. Then how do the Catholic Church define a human being/person?
ANSWER: Dear John,
catholics do not intepret all the verses of the Bible literaly.
Jesus himself often used a symbolic language, therefore it is logical that a symbolic language was used also in the Old Testament in order to teach the moral and spiritual truth.
I do not think that the Genesis is to be interpreted literally and I think that in the beginning God created the laws of physics which give origin to all natural phenomena.
I believe that God inspired the authors of the Bible with the purpose to teach us the spiritual and moral Truth, and not with the purpose to teach us science or history.
I would like to quote a verse from the Bible:
Ti 2:15 And because from thy infancy thou hast known the holy scriptures which can instruct thee to salvation by the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.
In these verses Paul says that Scripture is profitable to teach in JUSTICE, and not in science or history.
The official teachings of the Catholic Church are given in the Cathechism. I report here a verse from the Cathechism
136 God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth.
Observe that in this verse points out that the Bible teaches without errors "the saving truth"; since history, geography or science has nothing to do with the saving truth, there is no reason to expect that the Bible cannot contain scientific errors.
Before discussing the theory of evolution, let me explain some fundamental considerations:
I think that faith cannot come only from logic, because to have faith in God means to trust and love God.
I think however that logics and science prove the existence of our soul and the existence of God and that there are many rational arguments strongly supporting the christian faith.
Basically, science has proved that the state of the universe is determined by some specific mathematical equations, the laws of physics; the universe cannot exist independently from such equations, which determine the events and the properties of such events.
However we know that a mathematical equation cannot exist by itself, but it exists only as a thought in a conscious and intelligent mind. In fact, a mathematical equation is only an abstract concept, which existence presupposes the existence of a person conceiving such a concept.
So the question is: how can matter obey mathematical rules? Has ever matter studied maths?
I think that the only possible answer to these questions is that the existence of this mathematically structured universe does imply the existence of an intelligent God; this universe cannot exist by itself, but it can exist only if there is a conscious and intelligent God conceiving it according to some specific mathematical equations.
Since the universe cannot exists by itself, but only because God conceive it, God certainly knows everything in every instant. God knows everything becuase eberything is under His control and everything exists only because of Him.
There are some other arguments, which explanation is rather long and Allexperts allows only to give short answers. You can find such arguments in the following site
where I analyse the incongruencies of the materialistic conception of the mind, on the basis of our present scientific knowledges about brain and matter.
This analysis points out how the laws of physics prove that the brain cannot generate consciousness, which existence implies the presence in man of a unbiological/unmaterial element. The problem of consciousness is then strictly connected to the one of the existence of the soul and, consequently, the existence of God.
In the first article entitled “Mind and brain...” you can find a general discussion of the mind and brain problem from a scientific point of view.
In the second article entitled “Scientific contraddictions in materialism”
you can find an explanation of the fundamental inconsistencies of the typical arguments used by materialists, such as the concept of emergent, macroscopic or holist property, complexity, information, etc.
In the section called “FAQ: answers to visitors' questions” you can find the answer to many typical questions, such as "Are there any scientifically proved miracles?", "Does the existence of the universe imply the existence of God?", "Can science explain God?", "Can science establish which is the true religion?", "Can science explain consciousness in the future?", and many others.
The theory of evolution is based on the recovery of fossils, therefore this theory can at most conclude that our biological organism is the result of the evolution of a previous biological organism.
The point is that what really distinguishes us from animals is our psychical life, which has no biological origin, but a trascendent origin ; our biologial organism is certainly not mush different from the one of other animals.
Since it is not possible to find fossils of psiche, the theory of evolution can say nothing about the way we have become conscious and intelligent persons.
Even if our organism was derived from a previous animal organism, only the divine intervention could have given this organism the human mind.
So God could have created the whole universe through the laws of physics and our organism could have been the result of an evolutive process ; however our organism would have been only another animal orginism if God would have not given us our psiche, changing a pure anomal organism into a human person.
It is important to understand that it is possible to simulate with a computer every aspect of the animal life, including the capacity of learning and the capacity to regognize oneselves at the mirror.
The software allows thre computer to keep in memory the input data, analize them and produce a given output, but all this occurs automatically, without any consciousness.
It is then not possible to exclude the possibility that the animal life is only a pure biological process without any consciousness ; in other words, science cannot exclude the possibility that animals are only biological robots that feel nothing and have no consciousness, which actions and reactions are determoned only by a “biological software” implanted in their brains.
I hope this may help,
please let me know if you need any clarifications,
Your brother in Christ,
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: The debate in the Catholic scientific world seems to be about whether humans were created just like humans without any evolution or if there in fact was an evolution.
One person who is a Christian (but not a Catholic) argued that in a certain time/period of evolution we suddenly became humans and then had a special relationship with God. We evolved and then suddenly God said that we should have a special relationship with Him. This is really difficult for me to understand.
What do you say about this?
You wrote "there is no reason to expect that the Bible cannot contain scientific errors". How will that go well with theory/belief that nothing of the Catholic Faith can contradict human reason (ratio)?
I think that most catholics accept the fact that the human biological organism is a product of evolution; evolution is a consequence of the laws of physics, and since God is the Creator of the laws of physics, evolution simply represents the way used by God to create the human beings. The point is that a human biological organism without a soul wouldn't be a real human being because, as I explained in may previous answer, such a biological organism wouldn't have a psichical life. So it is not correct to say that "we evolved and then suddenly God said that we should have a special relationship with Him"; the truth is that God created man's soul so that man could be a conscious and intelligent being, able to have a relationship with Him.
God created us with the purpose to lead each of us to the eternal life and to the true happiness; and we can find the true happiness only in communion with Him, who is the source of every good. On the other hand, we cannot be in communion with Him if we are not fully sanctified, because evil and sin cannot is incompatible with God's nature. I think that at this point there is a fundamental question: Why did Jesus have to suffer on the Cross?
I believe that each of us needed know that God was willing to accept such a terrible suffering for us, in order to really trust God. Every man needed that proof of love, and God, who knew this, has accepted to give him what man consciously or unconsciously asked to Him. Jesus had to suffer and die that way to convince us about God's goodness and God's love towards us. It is man's obstinate distrust against God that has forced God to give man that proof of love, the proof he needed to trust God. By His death on the cross, Jesus destroys our distrust and our doubts, and He gives us the strength to believe in Him and trust Him. This means that each of us is personally responsible of Jesus ' sufferings and death. This distrust, this lack of faith in God is just the essence of the original sin. Christ's Passion has reconciled us to God because it has uprooted from our heart, our distrust and doubts about God; it has satisfied our (conscious or unconscious) desire and need of a proof of love, so that it has given us the strength to trust God and feel loved by Him. I can summarize my thoughts as follows: Salvation implies a deep change of ourselves. God has the power to change us but He wants to do that with our consent. Man cannot really accept to be changed by God and he cannot be in comunion with God as long as even a shadow of doubt and distrust remains in his heart ( it must be stressed that such a distrust may exist even without the man is aware of it, at the unconscious level). God had to destroy every shadow of doubt and distrust in our heart and He has chosen to give us the greatest proof of love that may exist: Christ's Passion.
I hope this may help,
your brother in Christ,