Anthony R. Brach brach at OEB.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Oct 2 07:40:59 CDT 1997

re. Thomas Schlemmermeyer's concern about "religious fanaticism" among
"creationists", at the same time, (as my philosophy professor reminded us
in college) let's not forget the other half of the title of Darwin's
classic work: _The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or The
Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life_. and the horrors
of genocide during this past century.

>>    Thomas Schlemmermeyer <termites at USP.BR> wrote:
>>Interesting I considered, as well, the suggestion to discuss it all out =
>>with some illiterate peasant.
>>That the beauty and poetry of our planet won=B4t be destroyed be some =
>>religious fanatics!!!!!!

let's try to leave out the name-calling on the list please.

As Warren Lamboy pointed out on this List, science and theology deal with
different areas, one measurable and one beyond.

The following quote (and I apologize for its length) from the Pope (the
Bishop of Rome) to the Pontical Academy of Sciences in Oct 96 seems useful
to mention:
 the Pope expressed delight on the Pontifical Academy of Science's plenary
theme on the origin of life and evolution, "a basic theme which greatly
interests the Church, as Revelation contains, for its part, teachings
concerning the nature and origins of man." If the scientifically-reached
conclusions and those contained in Revelation on the origin of life seem to
counter each other, he said, "in what direction should we seek their
solution? We know in effect that truth cannot contradict truth." The Pope
drew the academicians' attention to "the need for a correct interpretation
of the inspired word, of a rigorous hermeneutics. It is fitting to set
forth well the limits of the meaning proper to Scripture, rejecting undue
interpretations which make it say what it does not have the intention of
"'Humani Generis'," he stated, "considered the doctrine of 'evolutionism'
as a serious hypothesis, worthy of a more deeply studied investigation and
reflection on a par with the opposite hypothesis. ... Today, more than a
half century after this encyclical, new knowledge leads us to recognize in
the theory of evolution more than a hypothesis. ... The convergence,
neither sought nor induced, of results of work done independently one from the
other, constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory."
He continued: "The elaboration of a theory such as that of evolution, while
obeying the exigency of homogeneity with the data of observation, borrows
certain ideas from the philosophy of nature. To tell the truth, more than
the theory of evolution, one must speak of the theories of evolution. ...
There are thus materialistic and reductionist readings and spiritual
"The magisterium of the Church is directly interested in the question of
evolution because this touches upon the concept of man, ... created in the
image and likeness of God. ... Pius XII underlined this essential point:
'if the origin of the human body is sought in living matter which existed
before it, the spiritual soul is directly created by God.' Consequently,
the theories of evolution which, as a result of the philosophies which inspire
them, consider the spirit as emerging from forces of living matter or as a
simple epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about
man. They are moreover incapable of laying the foundation for the dignity
of the person."
"Consideration of the method used in diverse orders of knowledge allows for
the concordance of two points of view which seem irreconcilable. The
sciences of observation describe and measure with ever greater precision
the multiple manifestations of life and place them on a timeline. The moment
of passing over to the spiritual is not the object of an observation of
this type, which can nevertheless reveal, on an experimental level, a
series of
very useful signs about the specificity of the human being. But the
experience of metaphysical knowledge, of the awareness of self and of its
reflexive nature, that of the moral conscience, that of liberty, or still
yet the aesthetic and religious experience, are within the competence of
philosophical analysis and reflection, while theology extracts from it the
final meaning according to the Creator's designs."

here's a report on the above by Mark Brumley, a convert to Catholicism from
"Obviously, John Paul II distinguishes between evolutionary theories
compatible with sound philosophy and theology, and those, such as
naturalism, which aren't. In his talk to the Pontifical Academy of
Sciences, he spoke of "theories of evolution," rather than simply the
theory of evolution, to make the distinction. Believers who defend or
attack evolution should make the same distinction.  When a philosophically
or theology unsound version of evolution is proposed, it should be
challenged on those grounds. But when a view of evolution doesn't
contradict sound philosophy or theology-when it is compatible with what
John Paul II calls "the truth about man"-then its validity depends on the
scientific evidence. Ultimately, the evidence will either corroborate or
undermine the theory. Those who accept or reject such a theory should do so
on scientific, rather than philosophical or theological, grounds. That
distinction will, no doubt, displease those who think the theory of
evolution not only scientifically false but theologically erroneous. Little
can be said to persuade Fundamentalist Protestants otherwise. But Catholics
who criticize Pope John Paul II for not condemning evolution should recall
Pope Pius XII's now half-century old teaching, and avoid trying, in their
anti-evolutionary fervor, to be more Catholic than the pope. "

For those so inclined to further discussion regarding these and related
topics as they relate to Catholicism and Christianity in general, I'd
rather recommend the Listserv "Catholicity-Talk", you can find out more
about the List and how to subscribe and more info at
Also, the second of two novels available via may be interesting for some.

my apologies in advance for the length of this post and I hope that this
may be useful to at least a few.

Anthony R. Brach

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