God’s Periodic Table & Evolution — Guest Post by Bob Kurland

Note: This post first appeared at Reflections of the Catholic Scientist.

“Those distinct substances, which concretes generally either afford, or are made up of, may, without very much inconvenience, be called the elements or principles of them.” — Robert Boyle, The Sceptical Chymist

“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.” — Fred Hoyle (who predicted the triple-alpha process), The Universe: Past and Present Reflections. Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20:16

“Through his Word and wisdom he created the universe, for by his Word the heavens were established, and by his Spirit all their array. His wisdom is supreme. God by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding he arranged the heavens, by his knowledge the depths broke forth and the clouds poured out the dew.” –St. Theophilus of Antioch, Letter to Autoylcus

Evolution: “The process by which different kinds of living organism are believed to have developed from earlier forms during the history of the earth; The gradual development of something.” — Oxford English Dictionary

Evolution, Is It True?

A few weeks ago an email was forwarded to me by Father Robert Spitzer’s Magis Institute (I’m on the Academic Advisory Board) for comment. The correspondent—let’s call him “John Doe”–insisted that evolution violated Catholic Teaching, was in fact heretical, and cited the following pronouncements of the Ecumenical Councils—Lateran IV, Vatican I—and of Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Humani Generis, to support his claim.

  • “God…creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal; who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual and corporal, namely, angelic and mundane, and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body.” [emphasis added by John Doe] — Lateran IV (D.428).
  • “If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God; or holds that God did not create by his will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself; or denies that the world was created for the glory of God: let him be anathema.” [emphasis added by John Doe] — Vatican I (Article 5).
  • “Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.” [emphasis added, RJK] — Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis

John Doe agreed that “microevolution” could occur by mutation (slight changes of phenotype and genotype within a species due to mutation of genes), but disagreed with the central tenet of evolution that all living things today descended from one primal original living thing.

Against Joe Doe

Evolution—the gradual change into different kinds from a single kind as per the second OED definition—is not limited to biological things, but to matter in general, so if evolution is forbidden for biology by John Doe’s interpretation of the Council pronouncements, it is forbidden also for matter in general, and thereby is forbidden all of physics and chemistry.

The evidence for evolution of living organisms is impressive. Without going into detail, I’ll cite the convincing features and also note that evolution—in the sense given by the first OED definition–is NOT the same as the proposed neo-Darwinian mechanism for evolution, which is a theory.

The Council pronouncements and the quote from Humani Generis have to be parsed very carefully to understand the full scope of the meanings of “at once” and “out of nothing”; moreover, the quote from Humani Generis must be put in context and related to other statements in that encyclical.

The position of the Catholic Church on evolution has been well stated by Pope St. John Paul II (see also “On Pope St. John Paul II’s Feast Day“), that the Church does not deny the scientific evidence for evolution, the descent of species. Indeed, Pope St. John Paul II in a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Science said that there is no conflict between evolution and Church teaching: “there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points.”

Pope St. John Paul II emphasized that various theories have been proposed to explain this evidence, but that as Catholics we cannot accept any theory which denies that God creates the soul. Neo-Darwinism is one such theory to explain evolution; and it is one not universally accepted even by some atheistic scientists and philosophers.

God’s Periodic Table & the Evolution of Matter

In trying to reconstruct how the universe has evolved (pardon that word!), we have to keep in mind that before a time of about 380,000 years after the Big Bang (the presumed origin of the universe from a singularity, i.e. “Ex Nihilo“), the history has to be reconstructed—speculatively—from what we know about the physics of elementary particles—the so-called “Standard Model” (see “God, Symmetry and Beauty I” and “Philosophic Issues in Cosmology 1“). The reason we have to infer what happened before this 380,000 year benchmark is the opacity of the early Universe to radiation–it consisted of a high energy plasma of quarks, gluons, photons and, in the later stages, elementary particles such as protons, electrons, neutrons. (See Luke Mastin’s “Timeline of the Big Bang” for a complete, if perhaps somewhat speculative account of the early stages of the evolution.)

For purposes of this discussion, I’ll accept (as do most physicists) that “In the Beginning” there was a super-hot tiny ball of energy, “one thing”, that changed to quarks, anti-quarks, gluons and then yielded elementary particles—protons, neutrons, electrons. Subsequently gravitation induced star formation with protons and alpha particles (helium-4 nuclei) present in early stars. There would have been a serious obstacle to further formation of the elements because a three-body collision of three alpha particles would be required for the formation of carbon-12 (the next step in formation of the elements) and as those of you who have shot pool know, the probability of a triple collision from random motion of particles is small.

Fred Hoyle (who had derisively labelled creation from a singularity as “The Big Bang”—the name stuck) saw a problem in the abundance of carbon-12 and other elements in the universe and the lack of a mechanism for their creation. He predicted an excited, higher energy state of carbon-12 nuclei that would enhance the formation of carbon-12 by the so-called “triple alpha process” (see the diagram here). His prediction was verified experimentally.

In this process, two alpha particles (helium-4 nuclei) collide to form a beryllium-8 nucleus, which is unstable. However, the likelihood of forming carbon-12 from a collision with an alpha particle is enhanced by a “resonance effect“. This effect comes about because an excited, high energy level of the carbon-12 nucleus has almost the same value as the nuclear energy levels of beryllium-8 and helium-4.

Carbon-12 formation would be the bottleneck; if carbon-12 could not be formed, then no oxygen, nitrogen, or heavier elements. All these reactions take place at a very high temperature in the interior of giant stars. When these stars implode, go nova (as with the Crab nebula picture above), all the heavy elements formed in the interior are scattered through the universe for the formation of planets and living organisms.

Here’s the important point to be emphasized in this: it is fundamental physics that enables the formation of the elements, the evolution of the Periodic Table, if you will. It is not a simultaneous creation of each element. It is a much more wonderful thing to have this occur as a consequence of “natural law”, rather than an ad individuum, separate and simultaneous creation of each element. It is evolution, not creation all at once. And it is God who created the rules of physics that enables this evolution.

Evidence of Evolution of Biological Organisms

That evolution of biological organisms, gradual changes in species and groups, occurs, is based on two types of evidence: fossil evidence of transitions between different types of organisms (see here) and similarities in DNA and protein composition. Perhaps the most illustrative of the transitional record is that of dinosaurs to birds.

Nevertheless, there are large gaps between groups in the fossil record, such that the paleontologists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge proposed a modification of the Neo-Darwinian theory, Punctuated Equilibrium. Their theory posited large, discontinuous changes in species, rather than the gradual changes given by Darwinism.

Here’s a question for those who propose an instantaneous creation of all species: why does the fossil record of more than a billion years ago contain indicators of only microbial species, and why do the fossil records of different geologic eras contains a progression of types, with no recent phyla (e.g. mammalia) in older records?

The table below gives example of changes in the composition of DNA coding for proteins and random DNA for different species.

Chimpanzee 100% 98%
Dog 99 52
Mouse 99 40
Chicken 75 4
Fruit Fly 60 About 0
Round Worm 35 About 0

From Francis Collins, The Language of God, pp.127,128. Note the similarities between mammalian species, and the differences between different groups (e.g. round worm vs chicken). Also note that the differences are much greater for “random (non-functional?) DNA” since mutations here won’t affect survivability as much.

I want to emphasize again: evolution is the change of species one into another, along with the supposition of common descent from some single-celled organism in the distant past. Many people—including scientists—confuse evolution with the neo-Darwinian proposed mechanism for evolution, mutation leading to small changes that enhance survivability and thus gradually yield different species. Many scientists and philosophers do not think that neo-Darwinian model is sufficient to explain evolution. Some of these critics are atheists or agnostics, so it isn’t a question of neo-Darwinism violating their religious beliefs. (See, for example, Thomas Nagel’s book, Mind and Cosmos.)

Parsing Lateran IV

“John Doe” emphasized the phrases “at once” and “each creature from nothing” in citing the dicta of Lateran IV against evolution. Now there are two ways of getting at the meaning, parsing, “at once.” First, if we believe the universe evolved from an instant of creation, The Big Bang, Creatio ex Nihilo, as described in the section above, then we can believe, along with St. Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic Catechism (CC 308), that God is a First Cause, and that He can operate through both primary and secondary causes. As St. Augustine posited in de Genesi ad Litteram (the Literal Meaning of Genesis)

…each one [type of creature] fulfills its proper function, comes to creatures from those causal reasons implanted in them, which God scattered as seeds at the moment of creation…Time brings about the development of these creatures according to the laws of their numbers, but there was no passage of time when they received these laws at creation.

Second, God is eternal, timeless—like a photon of light, time does not exist for God. He sees our future and our past and our present simultaneously, so the term “at once” to imply a single moment in past time is a limitation on this Godly timelessness.

With respect to the phrase “out of nothing,” I can’t believe that God, like a magician conjuring a rabbit out of a hat, made each individual species out of nothing. Certainly God created the whole universe out of nothing; I firmly believe in the dogma of Creatio ex Nihilo, but again, we have to consider not only primary but secondary causation.

Church’s Present Position on Evolution

The Dogma of Original Sin and the Dogma/Doctrine of monogenesis are crucial in determining the present position of the Church on evolution, I’ll use quotations from Pope Pius XII and Pope St. John Paul II to illustrate this. Unfortunately John Doe’s quote from Humani Generis was out of context and thus did not reveal the full import of what Pope Pius XII was trying to impart.

    “…with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter [but] the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.” [emphasis added] — Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis

    “Pius XII underlined the essential point: if the origin of the human body comes through living matter which existed previously, the spiritual soul is created directly by God…” — Pope St. John Paul II, Address to Pontifical Academy of Sciences: “On Evolution“.

    “And to tell the truth, rather than speaking about the theory of evolution, it is more accurate to speak of the theories of evolution. The use of the plural is required here—in part because of the diversity of explanations regarding the mechanism of evolution, and in part because of the diversity of philosophies involved. [emphasis added] — ibid.

    “As a result, the theories of evolution which, because of the philosophies which inspire them, regard the spirit either as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a simple epiphenomenon of that matter, are incompatible with the truth about man…” — ibid.

I’ve given a more detailed account of this in a post, “Do Neanderthals have a soul?”


Pope St. John Paul II in his Encyclical, Fides et Ratio, said

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.

Because we do not understand at present how evolution works are we to reject it as a magnificent work by God and rely on a literal interpretation of Scripture and Medieval Councils (which required Jews to dress differently from Christians)? We don’t do this for the creation of matter and the universe, for which physics gives a clearer explanation than molecular biology does for evolution. The Church today does not require that we do so; the Church requires only that we do not fall into the trap of believing materialistic theories that attempt to explain evolution.

I’ll close with a quote from my favorite saint, St. Augustine of Hippo from De Genesi ad litteram, that says it all for living with science and faith:

Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,…and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.

Note Kurland’s position of the Church on evolution is explored in greater detail in Chapter 6 of his ebook Science and the Church: Truth Cannot Contradict Truth.


  1. Here’s a question for those who propose an instantaneous creation of all species: why does the fossil record of more than a billion years ago contain indicators of only microbial species, and why do the fossil records of different geologic eras contains a progression of types, with no recent phyla (e.g. mammalia) in older records?
    These folks erroneously invoke Noah’s cataclysmic flood physically sorting out the sequence of fossils. However, the bigger heavier ones should have settled first and the smaller lighter ones last, rather than the way they are found. That leads to accusations of misreading the fossil record at best and conspiracy to mislead the public at worst. The arguments just get sillier from there.

  2. A more important question with respect to fossils is: “Why do these exist?”, before trying to make vast conclusions from half-vast data.

    With respect to theories of evolution, at their essence is one tautology. Once a contingent being becomes an actual being in a dynamic system, time is inherently a feature and such beings are subject to change, either essentially or accidentally or both.

    Evolution is trivially true. How many of the competing theories are more true than others is a different question. That suggests that evolution is contingently true and only absolutely true in the sense that given the necessary and sufficient conditions plus the necessary actors, results will be made manifest. Evolution, in itself isn’t a thing though, so evolution didn’t cause anything and explains very little.

  3. Bob —

    Most of your arguments for evolution are simply confirmation of your cosmological worldview. Of course, my arguments against suffer from the same.

  4. Nope. Can’t follow that at all.

    You stated that “For purposes of this discussion, I’ll accept (as do most physicists) that ‘In the Beginning’ there was a super-hot tiny ball of energy…“

    Where did THAT come from?

  5. I sincerely appreciate you engaging on this topic Dr. Briggs. That is exactly what Pius XII called for and I think both sides of the debate spend too little time actually engaging with each other in dialogue.

    The full quote from Humani Generis

    ” For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith.[11] Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.”

    It does not address what one may believe or not believe (since the Church only teaches what must be believed now and forever), but rather indicates that respectful research and discussions should take place with those competent to have them, and that when the Magisterium speaks we faithfully submit whatever the ruling ultimately will be on evolution.

    As far as “Creatio Ex Nihilo” generally working through primary causes: all the Fathers of the Church affirmed this including Augustine (who believed everything was created instantaneously).

    I would further argue that the question of which passages are to be interpreted literally with respect to creation is a question of scripture not of science because:

    1. Pope Leo XIII taught that Scripture is to be “interpreted in its literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes is untenable or necessity requires,” (Providentissimus Deus, II, C, d.)
    2. Pope St. Pius X condemned: “Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted” (Lamentabili Sane, prop. 64)

    Therefore, scientific progress cannot create the necessity requisite to depart from the “literal and obvious” sense of scripture.

    An example of a probable “de fide” creatio ex nihilo via primary causes statement (I say probable because I have no such authority) is that Eve was created immediately and directly from the side of Adam:
    “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.” (Arcanum Divinae, Pope Leo XIII)

    Moreover, speeches to the Pontifical academy of the Sciences are not magisterial (I’d welcome evidence of the contrary). The majority of popes when speaking on creation in the past refer to the six day creation. So the statement of popes speaking in their capacity as a private theologian cannot be used to resolve the issue.

    Finally, we are to hold false any scientific theory that contradicts scripture according to Augustine in De Genesi Ad Litteram:
    “When they are able, from reliable evidence, to prove some fact of physical science, we shall show that it is not contrary to our Scripture. But when they produce from any of their books a theory contrary to Scripture, and therefore contrary to the Catholic faith, either we shall have some ability to demonstrate that it is absolutely false, or at least we ourselves will hold it so without any shadow of a doubt. And we will so cling to our Mediator, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” that we will not be led astray by the glib talk of false philosophy or frightened by the superstition of false religion.”

  6. Bob Kurland has written this gem, “The evidence for evolution of living organisms is impressive. Without going into detail ..” and yet Bob fails to support his claim of the supposed impressiveness. Worse, Bob colors his lame attempt as “convincing features.”

    Bob is guilty of the fallacy of begging the question in both incidences.

    Bob mentions the “fossil record.” Yet, the complete fossil record fails to reveal all of the necessary intermediate forms to substantiate Darwin’s descent with modification. If Darwin were right, the complete fossil record would have those previous species. The record simply fails to have them.

    Bob mentions “similarities in DNA and protein composition” as a requisite factor in supporting the theory of descent with modification, aka evolution. Many things have similar characteristics and no one would consider such things to be the same. Trees have carbon and so do rocks.

    Bob tries to limit the discourse by having written this: “[E]volution is the change of species one into another, along with the supposition of common descent from some single-celled organism in the distant past.”

    Yet, evolution is spoken or written as short-cut word for speciation, or what Darwin called the theory of descent with modification. That theory hinges on random mutation.

    Mutation proves to be fatal in individuals of species. If evolution is real, it isn’t explained by Darwinism, neo-Darwinism. Bob fails to explain it.

    What Bob gets right is this. Since the fossil record fails to show all the intermediate forms, if there is evolution, no one has yet to discover what it is and how it has worked.

    At last, why has evolution stopped? If evolution were real, there should be countless examples of new intermediate forms exhibiting mutations that could lead to new species. Why does no one see these?

  7. Curious Comment: “Evolution—the gradual change into different kinds from a single kind as per the second OED definition—is not limited to biological things, but to matter in general, so if evolution is forbidden for biology by John Doe’s interpretation of the Council pronouncements, it is forbidden also for matter in general, and thereby is forbidden all of physics and chemistry.”

    THAT shows that whatever “evolution” is, it is determined in substantial part by how one defines the word “evolution.” Carbon can be said to “evolve” into diamond under the right conditions, or not, depending on how one defines “evolution.” One ought not help but notice that another’s views on the human-from-ape context of “evolution” can be inferred, quickly, from how another defines the term!

    I can’t help but notice B.K. omitted from his remark the “evolution” of theological dogma — turns out the Vatican has a position regarding just that:

    VATICAN: “Dogmas and their evolution are to be harmonized with science and history. In the Catechism no dogmas are to be inserted except those that have been duly reformed and are within the capacity of the people.”

    Since the Vatican ‘evolves dogmas’ and when it does so correctly (by its precepts) does so in ‘harmony with science’ … makes one wonder if Briggs’ recurring lamentations about “scientism” and “scidolotry” and so on & so forth apply to the Vatican’s way of doing things — is the Vatican doin’ it wrong and should Briggs straighten out that institution?

    Here’s the link to the encyclical that discusses at great length the evolution of Catholic doctrine & related themes (the word “evolution” is used there 26 times, all in the context of changing official Church theology, etc. and never in the human-from-ape sense; in contrast, Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Humani Generis, incorporates “evolution” something like only five times, all in the human-from-ape sense — such metrics often give key insights, such as what’s important to the entity involved and from this one might infer that changing [“evolving”] its doctrine to suit the times and doing so properly is a broad matter of much greater significance to the Church than confronting the threat to faith posed by a theory of human-from-ape “evolution”):


  8. The quoted passage from Pascendi Dominici Gregis is, in fact, being condemned in that passage as a position held by the Modernists. Its from paragraph 38. Immediately preceding paragraph 38 Pope St. Pius X writes:
    “Such, Venerable Brethren, is a summary description of the apologetic method of the Modernists, in perfect harmony, as you may see, with their doctrines – methods and doctrines brimming over with errors, made not for edification but for destruction, not for the formation of Catholics but for the plunging of Catholics into heresy; methods and doctrines that would be fatal to any religion.”

    Then he continues
    “It remains for Us now to say a few words about the Modernist as reformer. From all that has preceded, some idea may be gained of the reforming mania which possesses them: in all Catholicism there is absolutely nothing on which it does not fasten…. Dogmas and their evolution are to be harmonised with science and history. In the Catechism no dogmas are to be inserted except those that have been duly reformed and are within the capacity of the people.”

    To hit home just how strongly Pope St. Pius X disagrees with the modernism described in par. 38 (above) he writes in par. 39:
    “We have had to give this exposition a somewhat didactic form and not to shrink from employing certain uncouth terms in use among the Modernists. And now, can anybody who takes a survey of the whole system be surprised that We should define it as the synthesis of all heresies?”

  9. @Ken

    The above comment is in response to the selective and misleading quote provided. I intend this in a spirit of charity and by writing “misleading” I mean it only the objective sense: I refrain from making any judgment about you. I do hope that you will be more careful in future, though.

  10. To various and sundry: if evolution is defined in the second OED sense, “The gradual development of something”, then I fail to see how someone examining the phylogenetic tree, the similarities and differences between DNA for different species, can not understand the principle of common descent, which is another name for “evolution”. And to use the formation of the elements as an example of evolution is, I believe, a valid analogy to biological evolution, except that we understand that. Do any of the commentators dispute that physical scheme?
    Had I been required to adhere to a literal interpretation of Scripture–e.g. Eve being formed from Adam’s rib–then I would not have converted to the Catholic faith, nor would I, were I required to hold, as the geocentrist followers of Sungenis do, that the earth is literally the center of the universe and the sun revolves about the earth.
    Let me say that some of the comments show a confusion between biological evolution, i.e. common descent, and the Darwinian model for this. Many philosophers and scientists who are not theists reject the Darwinian model as inadequate–it doesn’t explain the facts. I’m thinking in particular of Thomas Nagel–see his book “Mind and Cosmos”, which proposes a teleological principal (shades of you know who!!!) for cosmology and evolution–yet, he’s still an atheist.

  11. I’ll add one other comment: if the edicts of medieval Councils, e.g. Lateran IV, are cited to support a literal interpretation of Scripture, then I will ask should we not also follow the other edicts of such Councils, such as requiring Jews and Muslims to wear special dress so they can’t be confused with Christians?

  12. The miraculous creation of Eve from Adam’s side is “never-interrupted doctrine” and “cannot be doubted by any” according Pope Leo XIII states in Arcanum Divinae:

    “Though revilers of the Christian faith refuse to acknowledge the never-interrupted doctrine of the Church on this subject …. 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.”

    One submits to the authority of the Chair of Peter or one does not. Pope Leo XIII indicates that the above miracle is to be held by all and those that dissent from it are “revilers of the faith”. He enjoyed infallibility or he didn’t. Vatican I and her teaching on infallibility is accepted or it is not.

    On Lateran IV on clothing v.s. creation. The question of clothing is disciplinary in nature, while it may be based on certain universal and unchanging principles it was not promulgated as essential unchanging doctrine that different populations are morally compelled to distinguish their clothing in that way. The canon on creation in Lateran IV makes clear that it is a profession of Faith and therefore binding upon all at all times.

    For instance, in the Canon on Jews the Latern IV fathers are making clear that its a disciplinary measure meant to prevent confusion and error–not that it is an expression of Christian doctrine:
    Canon 68 on jews:
    “In some provinces a difference in dress distinguishes the Jews or Saracens from the Christians, but in certain others such a confusion has grown up that they cannot be distinguished by any difference. Thus it happens at times that through error Christians have relations with the women of Jews or Saracens, and Jews and Saracens with Christian women. Therefore, that they may not, under pretext of error of this sort, excuse themselves in the future for the excesses of such prohibited intercourse, we decree that such Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province and at all times shall be marked off in the eyes of the public from other peoples through the character of their dress. Particularly, since it may be read in the writings of Moses [Numbers 15:37-41], that this very law has been enjoined upon them…”

    Dogmatic Confessions of Faith by the Holy Ecumenical Councils are, by their nature, binding upon all Catholics since they are promulgated as statements of Faith and, therefore, supernatural and eternal revelation:
    Canon 1, On Creation
    ” We firmly believe and openly confess…God…at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual and corporal namely angelic and mundane (“earthly” CCC 327) finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body (DZ, 428).”

  13. @Bob

    Previous comment is a response. To clarify, I think that evolution is obviously a clever and rich explanation for some of the observations made, I have studied it in university and I continue to study it. Briefly I did some of my graduate work on it (approached from a neutral scientific vantage point), and I may continue such research in the future depending on time and available grants. I think it is essential for Catholics to learn the theory and the theological arguments in favor of using various evolution-based natural history theories to fit in with the Genesis account of the faith. I emphasize that its essential to learn the arguments so well that an interlocutor hearing you explain the argument would not be able to guess that you ultimately submit your intellect to the Roman pontiff’s decision about whether they are compatible with Catholic doctrine.

    For Catholics, there is an important difference between the teachings that we must believe, which are infallible and unchangeable (doctrine), and the rules that we must obey but which are changeable (disciplines). Finally, there are areas where we are free to believe or not believe without offending against faith (theological opinions).
    see: http://catholicexchange.com/difference-between-doctrine-and-dogma

  14. Mark, I will ask my priest to see if you are correct. If so, then of course I will leave the Church. With respect to the edict of Lateran IV concerning clothing to be worn by Jews–you say this is a matter of “discipline”. Could you expand on that and cite the authority for this interpretation, or is it your own?

    By the way, I also firmly believe and openly confess that God at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing… But I believe that it was not the instantaneous creation of each creature and thing all at once, but the potentiality for their existence, from the laws of nature which God instituted, via the Word. That is to say, I argue that God works from both first and second causes.

  15. Mark, by the way, do you dispute the physics for the formation of the elements, or is that also not in accord with the Scripture account in Genesis?

  16. @Bob

    Thank you very much for the engagement–as I pointed out earlier this is precisely what Pius XII calls for–and I pray that we have sufficient competence for the dialogue to proceed fruitfully.
    I’m sorry to hear that the belief in a particular miracle is a lynchpin here. I’m very happy to continue the discussion and provide reasoning.

    The doctrine on what is infallible is in part explained by Lumen Gentium in Vatican II:
    “And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith,(166) by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals.(42*) And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.(43*)”

    As far as the mutability of discipline: there are numerous canons that are no longer observed. They do not met the requirements of infallibility as explained in the passage from Lumen Gentium (or the canons of Vatican I), so it is clear that discipline is mutable. I don’t know of a magisterial pronouncement that explains this clearly, but I will look for one for you:
    A good article on Church discipline that covers its mutability is: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05030a.htm

  17. @Bob

    I don’t know definitely if the description you gave is in accord with Genesis or not. I am interested in the arguments either way, and I’m interested in the physics research on which the physical claims are made.

    Pope St. Pius X granted dogmatic authority to the Pontifical Bible Commission of 1909 (and later popes did not grant such authority to later Commisions so its only the earlier ones that command it) indicated a number of interesting things:

    Science can’t be used to exclude the literal historical sense:
    “I: Do the various exegetical systems excogitated and defended under the guise of science to exclude the literal historical sense of the first three chapters of Genesis rest on a solid foundation?
    Answer: In the negative. ”

    But, we don’t have to interpret everything literally word by word:
    “V: Must each and every word and phrase occurring in the aforesaid chapters always and necessarily be understood in its literal sense, so that it is never lawful to deviate from it, even when it appears obvious that the diction is employed in an applied sense, either metaphorical or anthropomorphical, and either reason forbids the retention or necessity imposes the abandonment of the literal sense?
    Answer: In the negative. ”

    And the question of exactly how long each of the 6 days (Yom) is may be argued freely in discussions among experts:
    “VIII : In the designation and distinction of the six days mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis may the word Yom (day) be taken either in the literal sense for the natural day or in an applied sense for a certain space of time, and may this question be the subject of free discussion among exegetes?
    Answer: In the affirmative. ”

    Certainly, Big Bang accounts of the universe are consistent with Yom (the reference to day in the Genesis 6-day account) being considered as very long time. This would indicate that there may be free discussion among experts about the Big Bang account and the role it played in the formation of the universe. I don’t assent to anything here, I just want to humbly collect, understand, reason, and test the arguments. None of my practice as a scientist requires assent, I just need to work out whether given theories are consistent, coherent, and correctly make testable predictions on uncertain quantities.

    Ever since learning the history of Lysenko I’ve been wary (indeed before I converted) of secular professions of assent to propositions and statements about natural science or natural history. Indeed, the motto of the Royal Society was “nullius in verbum” precisely because you were supposed to treat things skeptically. Indeed Feynman said: “Science is the organized skepticism in the reliability of expert opinion.” I’m not perfectly skeptical about everything because I am Catholic, but I have yet to find a proposition of interest to the scientific community that I did not, as a Catholic, liberty to examine and investigate it as a scientist.

    All I can say definitively is that I submit myself to the divine authority of the Magisterium which I regard.

  18. @Joe
    Bob mentions the “fossil record.” Yet, the complete fossil record fails to reveal all of the necessary intermediate forms to substantiate Darwin’s descent with modification. If Darwin were right, the complete fossil record would have those previous species. The record simply fails to have them.

    The fossil record is anything but complete. Actually, it’s a exceptionally poor filter with gaping holes. On top of that, recovery of fossils is exceptionally tiny compared to what actually lies buried. The odds of finding particular forms is very very small.

    At last, why has evolution stopped? If evolution were real, there should be countless examples of new intermediate forms exhibiting mutations that could lead to new species. Why does no one see these?

    Has it? Absence of observation is not sufficient evidence of non-existence. Countless examples? Asserting that something should be does not make it so. Why does no one see? Several possible reasons: not looking enough, not seeing what’s there, scarcity of the subject. Until we can say the fossil record is complete enough to rule out intermediate forms, we can’t reject the idea that they may exist.

  19. On the mutability of discipline: Canon 6.1 n.1 of the 1983 Code of Pope St. John Paul II explicitly invoked the papal authority to abrogate disciplinary laws:
    “Can. 6 §1. When this Code takes force, the following are abrogated:
    1/ the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1917;
    2/ other universal or particular laws contrary to the prescripts of this Code unless other provision is expressly made for particular laws;
    3/ any universal or particular penal laws whatsoever issued by the Apostolic See unless they are contained in this Code;
    4/ other universal disciplinary laws regarding matter which this Code completely reorders.
    §2. Insofar as they repeat former law, the canons of this Code must be assessed also in accord with canonical tradition.”

    This is, at least, an indication that a pope as exercised the abrogate discipline. Moreover, the discipline you mention from Lateran IV was long ago abrogated.

  20. @Bob

    On the miracle of Even from Adam’s side. I don’t understand why this should be viewed much differently than any of the resurrection miracles recorded in the New Testament. We already hold as Catholics that the soul is created by God immediately and that resurrections happen (even after 4 days of rot in the case of Lazarus) so God creating somebody by forming their body and soul immediately and ex nihilo should not be excluded from the possible. This is also talking about the origin of a single person, and I’d be curious how that as interferes with the assent to a particular, required doctrine of evolution.

  21. “The fossil record is anything but complete. Actually, it’s a exceptionally poor filter with gaping holes. On top of that, recovery of fossils is exceptionally tiny compared to what actually lies buried. The odds of finding particular forms is very very small.”

    This was the excuse in Darwin’s time and Darwin was right to argue that. Now after a century of unburying fossils, this doesn’t cut. Some transitional forms should have been found. Their absence have led to scientists to formulate theories such as the punctuated equilibrium, which have their own problems.

    A theory cannot be proven based on the absence of evidence or in the difficulty of finding evidence.

    “We can’t find evidence, but if the evidence were gound it would be as I say. Believe me”. Complete fail

  22. Mark, an interesting reply to my question about whether you credit the physics story for the evolution of matter, but you didn’t in fact say whether or not you do believe the physics, or any part of it.
    I don’t see how the facts of physics can be fit into any literal account of Genesis, no matter how elastic the timeline is made. For one thing, if you go to the original account in Hebrew for Genesis 1: 1-2, you find translations of the Hebrew that are not at all compatible with the Big Bang and Standard Model story. There is no “Creatio ex Nihilo” in Genesis. That came later with 2 Macabees 7:28, Hebrews 11:3 and Theophilus of Antioch’s letter to Autolycus (2nd Century AD). For example, “Tohu Bohu”, which is usually translated as “formless and void”, actually should be translated (according to a Hebrew scholar–i.e. a scholar in Hebrew–this guy was a retired Irish physician) as “topsy-turvy”, “a mess”, “chaos”, which is a picture more in accord with creation arising from quantum fluctuations (a story not credited very much any more). There are so many other things in Genesis that require cognitive dissonance to fit what physics and cosmology tells us–water appearing before land and appearing before light.. that I cannot take Genesis to be literally true. But if you can,… more power to you.

  23. Well, imnobody00, let’s say the fossil record doesn’t show evolution–common descent–to hold. What do you say about the evidence from the phylogenetic tree?

  24. No evidence of evolution from the phylogenetic tree, Bob. When I get to my office, I will explain. Now I am in a bank line

  25. @Bob

    Thank you again for your response and analysis. I am hesitant to flatly declare my beliefs one way or another on creation because its essential to doctrine and has not been fully dogmatically defined. I reserve profession of belief for sacred doctrine rather than for things of this world.

    In day-to-day life, I’m more interested in the physics underlying various big-bang cosmogonies than others (but I don’t completely rule them out), so in practice I guess I believe in them (in a much weaker sense than in the faith sense of the term “believe”). I do take your arguments, along with the arguments of Sungenis et al. that Big-Bang Cosmogony is incompatible with Genesis seriously, and I interested in the responses to them (if there are any). Against the position you (who may be a cosmologist I don’t know) take along with Sungenis are astrophysicists like Sarah Salviander (https://sixdayscience.com/2013/02/25/six-days-of-creation/). I’m not really competent to say much on cosmogony as I am not an expert Genesis exegete nor do I have particular expertise in physics. I won’t take a definitive stance on the issue until when the magisterium speaks other than day-to-day I’ll reason from the big-bang consensus as a starting point for thoughts about physics and argue for what I understand the magisterium teaches.

    Does one need to make such professions anyway? What are their use or purpose? In order to do science one simply needs to be able to make and evaluate arguments/experiments/observations for particular theories. None of that activity requires or is conditioned on a particularly profession of belief. Indeed, dogmatic scientists unwilling to question their theories do real damage to science: see this list of vindicated mavericks http://amasci.com/weird/vindac.html

  26. @Bob.

    Ok. In my office. Firstly, a disclaimer. I am a Catholic but I don’t have any theological problem with evolution. I don’t think Adam and Eve really existed and I don’t think that Genesis has to be interpreted literally. Having said that, the problems with evolution are scientific.

    Secondly, let’s define the terms. Common descent = all living organisms descend from a common ancestor. Biological evolution = change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. Macroevolution = species derive from other species through biological evolution. Microevolution = inside the same species, some specific features are selected through biological evolution. Mutation evolution = the way that evolution happens is through DNA mutations. Darwinian evolution = the way that evolution happens is through RANDOM (blind) DNA mutations. (I know, I know, Mr. Briggs, maybe this “random” is not accurate, but bear with me).

    Bob asked me about the evidence about the phylogenetic tree. Well, to begin with, there is no inequivocal evidence about the existence of a phylogenetic tree. As you see in the Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylogenetic_tree), the definition of phylogenetic tree IMPLIES acceptance of evolution. That is, talking about the evidence of evolution in the phylogenetic tree (defined in evolutionary terms) is the fallacy named “begging the question” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question).

    — To be continued—-

  27. @imnobody00

    As a Catholic, my understanding that at the very least some aspects of Genesis 1-3 has to be interpreted literally, particularly those areas relating to Catholic doctrine. Do let me know if you have any further insight into that.

    Here’s a citation on the magisterial authority of the Pontifical Bible Commission under Pope St. Pius X:
    Pope Pius X, Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae, 18 Nov. 1907 (ASS [1907] 724ff; EB nn. 278f; Dz 2113f): “We now declare and expressly enjoin that all Without exception are bound by an obligation of conscience to submit to the decisions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, whether already issued or to be issued hereafter, exactly as to the decrees of the Sacred Congregations which are on matters of doctrine and approved by the Pope; nor can anyone who by word or writing attacks the said decrees avoid the note both of disobedience and of rashness or be therefore without grave fault.”

    Here’s a citation for what needs to be treated in the ‘literal historical sense’ according to that same Pontifical Bible Commission under Pope St. Pius X:
    Concerning the Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis
    June 30, 1909 (AAS 1 [1909] 567ff; EB 332ff; Dz 2121ff)
    “III: In particular may the literal historical sense be called in doubt in the case of facts narrated in the same chapters [Genesis 1-3] which touch the foundations of the Christian religion: as are, among others, 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; 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; and the promise of a future Redeemer?
    Answer: In the negative. “

  28. — Comes from above —

    What is the evidence in favor or against Darwinian evolution?


    Living organisms are very similar, not only in a macro way but also in a micro way (the cell, chemical reactions).

    This similarities are not equal. There are organisms that are more similar than other ones. So you can classify organisms in a cladistic tree (this is what Carl Linnaeus did).

    Complexity of living organisms increases over time.


    Transitional forms have not been found.

    Mutations cannot produce the kind of change we see from a species to another (irreducible complexity). See for example, https://www.amazon.com/Chance-Shattering-Modern-Theory-Evolution/dp/1880582244 . For some complex structures, several mutations must be produced at once to be advantageous, which is extremely unlikely. If the mutations are produced serially, natural selection removes them from the gene pool.

    If you see the evidence in favor of Darwinian evolution, Darwinian evolution is only one of the theories that can explain this evidence. The similarity of living organism could be explain by the fact that they are designed by the same designer (not necessarily God). The web pages I produce are similar and they can be classified in a cladistic tree, as I learn new tricks or I derive a design from a previous design.

    A directed evolution would fit the evidence too. A designer producing the kind of mutations needed to go from a form to another form will explain all the evidence in favor and against.

    So there is no evidence of Darwinian evolution, only because you can derive a cladistic tree. This is a piece of evidence that fits with several theories and cannot be taken as a proof of only one theory.

    In addition, Darwinian evolution has several pieces of evidence against it.

    — To be continued —

  29. — Comes from above —

    [Mark, I don’t want to talk about the theological problem of Genesis 1-3 because I know nothing about it. You might be right, but I don’t have the knowledge to say it. My understanding is that these chapters can be taken in a metaphorical view, but I could be very wrong. I don’t like to talk about topics I have not studied in detail]

    Rodney Stark writes in the link I include below: “I write as neither a creationist nor a Darwinist, but as one who knows what is probably the most disreputable scientific secret of the past century: There is no plausible scientific theory of the origin of species!”

    Atheist Thomas Nagel writes in Mind & Cosmos :”‘ … the general force of the negative part of the intelligent design position – scepticism about the likelihood of the orthodox reductive view, given the available evidence – does not appear to me to have been destroyed …At least the question should be regarded as open.”

    If it was about science, the fact we don’t have a certainty about the origin of species would be well known and all theories would be assessed according to their merits. Real science does not hide from the lack of knowledge. There are a lot of scientific aspects that we don’t have explanation for (at least, until now). We don’t hurry to present one theory as a fact, only because we don’t understand something.

    Why is different with Darwin? Why Darwinian evolution is presented as the only theory, as something proven by science, and indisputable and undeniable, as a fact?
    As said Richard Dawkins, “the theory is about as much in doubt as that the earth goes round the sun”

    Because it was never about science. It was about atheism (or materialism). As Dawkins said: “Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”. This article explains that evolution was motivated by atheism: http://www.aei.org/publication/fact-fable-and-darwin/

    It was about fighting traditional religion. As geneticist Richard Lewontin said (I emphasize using *):

    “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.*”

    This is why you see cars with a bumper sticker of Darwin (the Ichthys Christian logo with two legs) and not with a bumper sticker of Newton or Einstein. This is because evolution can be undeniable and cannot be discussed in a classroom, only accepted without question. It is because it is not about science. It is about the cultural war.

  30. @imnobody00

    Thank you for the response. Also, this is a very interesting line of reasoning and analysis of the present state of knowledge about the origin of species. I will checkout that book and probably realign my own thinking.

  31. Thank you, Mark. I have to check the material you posted about theological interpretation of Genesis. Thank you for sharing.

  32. BK said, “Mark, by the way, do you dispute the physics for the formation of the elements, or is that also not in accord with the Scripture account in Genesis?”

    Mark said, “Does one need to make such professions anyway? What are their use or purpose? In order to do science one simply needs to be able to make and evaluate arguments/experiments/observations for particular theories. None of that activity requires or is conditioned on a particularly profession of belief. Indeed, dogmatic scientists unwilling to question their theories do real damage to science”

    Bob, Mark is exactly right, and we can see it playing out in the hot (pun intended) mess that is AGW.

    Climatologists start with the hypothesis/premises/first-principle/theory – call it what you will – that CO2 is the main driver of temperature and then go about looking for evidence to confirm it. This is science done backwards – and often leads to horrible results.

    Science, when done correctly, proceeds from observations/experiments which cannot be explained under current theory, thus leading to either scrapping current theory or expanding it.

    The Big Bang was not just pulled from thin air – it seemed/seems to account for observations at the time it was proposed that could not be explained otherwise. Also, I don’t think anyone will be too surprised if some day it is either greatly modified or discarded altogether. If so, what impact would that have on your faith in Genesis or the formation of elements? I think you would just try and “force” Scripture into the, then, current theory.

    I’m reading a very good book right now called “Einstein’s Clocks and Poincare’s Maps.” And even though Einstein liked to be seen as having arrived at Relativity from “pure thought”, the author of the book points out that central to Einstein’s “solution” was the very real-world problem of how to synchronize clocks for railroads.

    Theory always follows Practice….

  33. Bob —

    “Had I been required to adhere to a literal interpretation of Scripture–e.g. Eve being formed from Adam’s rib … ”

    What about science and that three-days-later resurrection? I assume you got over that scientific sticking point.

  34. Whelp. Just one point in response to one commenter, and then I’ll go.

    The historical status of Adam and Eve, and hence the historical status of the Fall, is of fundamental importance to the Catholic faith. It is not the same kind of thing — at all — as the question of whether, for example, “All the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years.”

    For the Fall can not be real if Adam and Eve did not have actual historical existence. If ‘Adam and Eve’ is only a metaphor (for what, pray tell?), then the Fall becomes something that actual human beings were not responsible for. How could we be? We weren’t there.

    It is not the faith of the Church that the Son of God, the Second Adam, endured torture, crucifixion, and death for a metaphor.

    If Adam and Eve were not historical, responsible human agents, then name the first historical human agents who could, personally and responsibly, by a free choice, personally bring sin into this historical world. Call them Fred and Ethel Mertz for all I care, but find me at least one.

    To put this plainly again, but in another way, if sin did not enter the world by the personal choice of real historical human beings, then where is sin? It instantly becomes ‘sin’, a vague idea of ‘bad’, and we all become incapable of actual moral agency that matters.

    ‘Adam and Eve’ MUST name actual, personal, historical human moral agents whose personal and responsible actions were capable of breaking the whole world, and did break (not destroy, break) the whole world.

    If they are but a metaphor (again: for what?) where then is responsible human agency? Is it some bad feelz that afflict us late at night? A bit of gravy that went down the wrong way?

    We are, genuinely, really, dangerous. He died, freely, because that was never a metaphor.

  35. Consistent readers of this blog will recall that I have crossed swords with Bob and his ideological mates (notably Billy Briggs and Y.O.S) on this very matter. My objections have never relied on Scripture or Papal pronouncements or the opinions of theologians; but purely on the precepts of logic and observation of well known, easily demonstrable facts of physical reality.

    This “Evolution” business is purely an ideological assumption and all the so-called evidence for it is completely inadmissible according to any kind of valid scientific method because it necessarily assumes what it claims to “prove”… classic circular reasoning.

    The kind of “science” these ideologues rely on is succinctly evidenced by Julian Huxley when he was selling the “idea”; he quoted some mathematician/statistician as stating that the chance of even one simple protein by a series of random accidents as 10 to (some unimaginably large power that I forget) to 1 against. “It’s impossible”, he said, “yet it has happened because here we are!” All the problems of natural laws of physics, chemistry, irreducible complexity etc. dismissed in a single sentence. Although more recent proponents of the ideology are careful not to state such, it assumed by all.

    The celebrated “Big Bang” and the “Evolution” of the elements is nothing more than speculation, conjecture, assumption, based on THE assumption. With such a formula “evidence” can be invented or interpreted to fit the programme because there is no way to judge the veracity of such other than that it fits the original assumption!

    I, personally, am deeply suspicious that many sub-sub atomic “particles” have no existence except as something plugged into an hypothetical “equation” to make it seem to work.

    On a more pragmatic level, the “descent” of species from a common ancestor is a linguistic and logical idiocy. What is being gratuitously claimed is the physiological and metaphysical ASCENT from mud to Man by some “natural” mechanism that does not exist in observable physical reality… it only exists in the imagination of the proponents of the ideology.

    Maybe more later.

  36. Oldavid said, “On a more pragmatic level, the “descent” of species from a common ancestor is a linguistic and logical idiocy. What is being gratuitously claimed is the physiological and metaphysical ASCENT from mud to Man by some “natural” mechanism that does not exist in observable physical reality… it only exists in the imagination of the proponents of the ideology.”

    I believe in evolution, but I don’t make a “mud to Man” claim. Do I know the origin of life? No. Can I sleep at night? Yes.

    Knowing the boundaries of what you know – and what you don’t know – is perfectly fine.

    And speaking on a “pragmatic level,” William James (Pragmatist) said that (paraphrasing) the history of philosophy is one of two temperaments. Those who can’t live with anything less than complete and absolute knowledge, and those who can. The former tend to invent “explanations” when none is possible whereas the latter just get on with living.

  37. I’ll add that the “former” referenced in the above post includes not only some of a religious bent, but also scientific reductionists.

  38. @Jim F. Yes, I did. see my post “Top Down to Jesus” on why I became a convert.
    @Oldavid. I was hoping for a comment that you that would be more than a bald assertion that Big Bang cosmology, the Standard Model and molecular biology were just so much hogwash. Can you cite anything specific and convincing to back up your assertions, or is it just IMO?
    @John K. I totally agree with you that Adam, Eve and the Fall are critical components of Catholic faith–i.e. that monogenesis is true: two humans created by God who were initially in a state of grace and then sinned. How to justify this with evolutionary evidence–other primates, evidence of population size for ancestral humans by way genetic bottlenecks? See Kenneth Kemp’s article, Science, Theology and Monogenesis ( http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/kemp-monogenism.pdf )
    The point here is that it takes a soul to be human, and it is the Holy Spirit–God who endows each of us with a soul at conception, and did that for the first two humans.
    @imnobody00 You conflate common descent with the Darwinian model for how evolution occurs–they aren’t the same. Until you recognize the distinction there’s not much point in further discussion.

  39. Ho hum. Ideologues will be ideologues. Shape shifting is the order of every day. If I base my case by quoting supposed authorities you will dismiss me as a “parrot”. If I present the arguments in my own language and idiom you demand “citations” from your ideological gurus. What you will not do is to address the issues with other than vague assertions of the “fashionably correctness”. If you don’t believe me try asking an approved “climate scientist” just how I/2 a completely transparent, relatively inert CO2 molecule mixed up with 10000 other similarly transparent, relatively inert gas molecules that make up the dry atmosphere can cause “catastrophic global warming” or any other kind of “catastrophic climate change”. You’ll get the same treatment you’re giving us… guaranteed!

    This “Evolution” ideology is entirely an invention of egomaniacs who want to believe that their “evolving” opinions competing in an eternal dialectic are part of a process that inevitably creates a new and better everything! For the most diabolically insane pushers of this ideology reality itself is in a process of “becoming”.

    I’m not finished yet.

  40. Orrite! It’s time to get seriously defensively aggressive.

    I suggest that anyone who likes to worship some ideology that is contrary to Reason and Faith should, with some semblance of vestigial honesty, detach themselves from the bothersome business of any kind of scientific method and unite themselves to a faith that has no connection to observed reality or revealed “why”.

    There is a whole new religion “out there” where truth and virtue are becoming what “you will be as gods” proclaim it to be according to your ideological convenience.

    We have the likes of Ed Feser’s sycophants on this blog who try to sell the nonsense that the utility of the result is the cause of the change, the improvement.

    Well, as I said before, without any reference to Scripture, papal pronouncements (infallible or just politically convenient); fashionable opinions are not infallible just because they are commonly held…

  41. Mark – ‘re evolution of Church doctrine’

    You kind of missed the point — the quote I referenced, “Dogmas and their evolution are to be harmonised with science and history,” was used in context against Modernist views.

    But how could you or anyone miss the obvious fact that even while the encyclical is presenting ‘harmonization with science and history’ as bad, the Catholic Church has done/does precisely just that when it needs to!

    The topic du jour is evolution of humans from earlier animals. Religious doctrine, still held be evangelicals & that ilk, holds the Bible’s Adam & Eve story, or at least selective creation of man, has arising from the hand of God. THAT WAS the R. Catholic position…until inconvenient facts [“science” and geologic “history”] made that doctrine suspect. Having learned from the Galileo debacle, the Church did exactly what it chastises in that quoted encyclical — it harmonized science and history to concoct a new version of creation that can survive the trend science seems destined to prove (humans raised via evolutionary mechanisms from lower life forms) … and concocted that however humans arrived on the scene, the soul is unique and directly inserted by God.

    The rejection of a literal Adam and Eve, and God’s direct creation of humans in body, would have been burn-at-the-stake heresy in days of yore. But since that view won’t last for much longer, the Church harmonized science and history….

    That encyclical is chock-full of clues that, should one care to cross-reference with objective reality, shows some the Church’s hypocrisy and other stratagems for maintaining it’s power & control. Consider:

    “For faith occupies itself solely with something which science declares to be unknowable for it. Hence, each has a separate field assigned to it: science is entirely concerned with the reality of phenomena, into which faith does not enter at all; faith on the contrary concerns itself with the divine reality which is entirely unknown to science. Thus the conclusion is reached that there can never be any dissension between faith and science, for if each keeps on its own ground they can never meet and therefore never be in contradiction.”

    That much is fair enough (it may have been Galileo who said something like, astronomy is about the heavens, and the Bible is about how to get to heaven — emphasizing the two views are very different and have no need to intersect).

    But the Church cannot have just the above:

    “Yet, it would be a great mistake to suppose that, given these theories, one is authorised to believe that faith and science are independent of one another. …”

    However, earlier in the encyclical the Church expresses this view:

    “….in their explanation of this history, to ignore God altogether, as if He really had not intervened, let him answer who can. Yet it is a fixed and established principle among them that both science and history must be atheistic: and within their boundaries there is room for nothing but phenomena; God and all that is divine are utterly excluded. We shall soon see clearly what, according to this most absurd teaching, must be held touching the most sacred Person of Christ, what concerning the mysteries of His life and death, and of His Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.”

    What one finds permeating that encyclical is a view that religious doctrine must necessarily intrude into science. Think about that — such viewpoints lead, in other closely related faiths that:

    – evolution is impossible–because it contradicts Genesis
    – ditto for geology (e.g. a billion-year vs 6,000 year old Earth)
    – etc.

    Science done credibly will lead independent researchers to the same conclusions, and, the same points of uncertainties where the likely truth for a given hypothesis, if not agreed upon, are at least respected. Same goes for credible historians.

    But not same — not even close — when science is imposed upon by faith. The R. Catholic Church can accept evolution (and Carbon 14 dating methods); but faith-based evangelical scientists find all manner of creative rationales for alternative explanations. Think about the implications of that on school text book selections and future learning and developments!

    As Mark correctly argues earlier, above, the encyclical I quoted from does rebut harmonization of science and history with religious doctrine — when the “Modernists” apply that. The encyclical is not about how the Church should go about harmonizing doctrine with science & history.

    What Mark & so many others [choose to?] miss is that the Catholic Church does EXACTLY the same harmonization of science and history with its doctrine when it suits that institution’s long-term viability/interests. Evolution (and the rejection of a Garden of Eden and Adam & Eve) — this essays topic — is one such example where it did precisely this kind of harmonization.

    It is very easy to read someone’s or some institution’s propaganda and reach the obvious conclusions therefrom…much harder to cross-reference such presentations with other tangible actions to ferret out examples of hypocrisy.

    Consider further this quote of Pius IX:

    “In matters of religion it is the duty of philosophy not to command but to serve, but not to prescribe what is to be believed but to embrace what is to be believed with reasonable obedience, not to scrutinise the depths of the mysteries of God but to venerate them devoutly and humbly.”

    Pius IX said one should NOT “scrutinize the depths of the mysteries of God” — isn’t such scrutinization what science does! (rhetorical question). Instead one is “to embrace what is to be believed” — isn’t that mindless acceptance of dogma/doctrine?

    In other words, if facts are discovered via science [via the scrutinization of the mysteries of God] and those facts disprove dogma/doctrine, ignore the facts and believe the dogma — don’t think, just believe…and as the evangelicals show, also rationalize away those pesky inconvenient dogma/doctrine-shattering facts (any review of their rebuttals to Carbon 14 dating are revealing, as are so many other rationalizations of geological sedimentation, etc., etc.).

    Isn’t that the ultimate hypocrisy — in a faith that prizes “truth” as a high fundamental principle, the same faith concurrently endorses, in fact overtly endorses by its top leader [a pope], willful self-deception to retain a false doctrine over a learned truth about some of the “depths of the mysteries of God”.

    When a scientific inquiry reveals a fact about the “mysteries of God” and that fact(s) contradicts a doctrine, and we are expected to reject the fact for the doctrine — isn’t that a pretty good indication the doctrine is false, AND, those needing us to believe the doctrine have some ulterior motives/needs??!! There’s a continued flow of $$ via collection baskets that depend on the doctrine being believed at all costs.

    Follow the money, as the saying goes….

  42. I asked a few friends about this matter:

    It is therefore, causally that Scripture has said that earth brought forth the crops and trees, in the sense that it received the power of bringing them forth. In the earth from the beginning, in what I might call the roots of time, God created what was to be in times to come.
    — Augustine of Hippo, On the literal meanings of Genesis, Book V Ch. 4:11

    This was the origin of the Catholic notion of secondary causation, which led to the development of natural science.

    Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship.
    — Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Physics II.8, lecture 14, no. 268

    3. This builds on Augustine’s comment and points out that things that move according to natural laws are no less moved by God than are things that move by miracles. In his commentary on the six days, he notes like Augustine that the six days could be categories or some other way of parsing creation and need not be elapsed times at all, but he would treat them in the commonly accepted way, since he has no reason not to. In the course of this he comments on the idea than nothing came to be after the six days’ works:

    Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.
    — Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, Part I Q73 A1 reply3

    IOW, new species occur by natural powers that God put into things that “unroll” in their own good time. The Latin for “unroll” was evolare, and we leave as an exercise to the reader what English word is derived therefrom — and why Darwin resisted using it. Now, Thomas was wrong about the putrefaction bit, although if we replace it with “corruption” or “mutation”, it wouldn’t be too far off from the 1920’s understanding.

    4. This was summarized by the B-16 thusly:

    Creation should be thought of, not according to the model of the craftsman who makes all sorts of objects, but rather in the manner that thought is creative. And at the same time it becomes evident that being-in-movement as a whole (and not just the beginning) is creation…
    — Benedict XVI, in Creation and Evolution: A Conference with Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo

    IOW, God is not limited to physical time and creation is not something that happened a long time ago. Nor is creation to be confused with moving matter around like a secondary, physical cause. God is not just one more physical cause in rivalry with electromagnetism or gravity or the statistical effects of differential survival. That is a demotion from the divine to the mundane. The mere fact that there are natural laws are his works. That is the essence of Aquinas’ fifth way.

    Of course, modern genetics has moved on since the 1920s. The old idea of a “random” point mutation controlling a single trait is so yesterday. We understand a great deal more about intracellular mechanisms. Phenotypic changes can be sudden and massive and even directed. (Which is why most evolutions take place rather rapidly, and, geologically, few of them leave footprints. Cf. wall lizards transferred from a barren to a lush island, helmeted water fleas raised in different tanks, pupfish raised in tanks at different temperatures, and so on.) “Natural genetic engineering” may be a better image than “natural selection.” A nice summary here:

  43. Thank you YOS, as usual, you’ve done a much better job of rebutting literal Scripturalists than I did. And thanks for the link to “Natural Genetic Engineering”.

    Jim S., I have read “Einstein’s Clocks and Poincare’s Maps” and I agree–it’s a fine, insightful book. I disagree that the proponents of AGW do science in any sense that I understand it, so I don’t see how arguing about the bad things these people do has any relation to Mark’s notion that we are obliged, by virtue of acceding to the edicts of Church Councils and Dogmatic Pronouncements, to believe in the literal truth of Genesis 1. By the way, I have been and am asking priests for their opinion about this. Poll so far: I’ll have to research it further , 1; I don’t believe in the literal truth of Genesis 1, but you have to follow what the Church says, 1; answers yet to be procured, 2. And of course, polls don’t determine what is true.
    In the last analysis, I’ll go by what St. Thomas Aquinas says about following the dictates of conscience (and I don’t recall the exact citation or quote): that it is a sin not to follow the dictates of your conscience after you have made every effort to learn about all the things involved.
    Accordingly, I am going to continue to try to spread the word that there is no conflict between what science truly tells about the world and Catholic teaching.

  44. @YOS, well, there certainly is a thing as natural genetic engineering. The necessary parts are there. One of the things viruses do is shift DNA/RNA around.

    About mutations, well, the genetic codes (yes plural) were made to work with wet chemistry, which is susceptible to ‘accidental’ disruption by lots of other things. Most mutations are neutral. A few are currently detrimental. A few are currently beneficial. On the other hand, that is not something guaranteed into the physical future. There is a lot more ‘in-built’ variability than generally known.

    @Bob, the phylogenetic tree was initially one based on physical form only. Even as late as the 1970s, much of how DNA/RNA replication happens, including its error correction mechanisms and control, was not known and even when known, not well known.

    I have a degree in chemistry and was two classes short of earning one in biology. Given my chemistry training, it was glaring how much of biology was, and maybe still is, ignorant of chemistry. That was the 1970s. One would think that things wouldn’t be like that now; but given human nature, I’d not be surprised if the biologists still resist the implications from chemistry.

    I don’t have much of a quibble with Bob’s essay, as long as one realizes that there are unstated fundamental premises that he accepts by faith as true. As long as that faith remains conditional, I can agree with some of your points, Bob. I want to ask God about that.

    What I do have a quibble with, though, is elevating estimates to the status of facts, without making clear the conditions and errors involved in creating the estimates.

  45. @Bob @Ken @YOS

    Thank you for all your responses and engagement.
    Below I have quotes from Papal Magisterial Documents to support the following statements
    1) Popes sometimes write as theologians, sometimes as teachers of the Universal Chuch. Until the magisterium speaks on an issue there is generally a liberty of discussion from multiple viewpoints (Humani Generis, for instance, specifically grants the liberty to discuss freely questions of human origins and evolution). [1]

    2) Augustine (or any theologian for that matter) does not outrank a Pope. Quotes from them cannot “rebut” exercises of the Papal Magisterium. To say otherwise is not Catholic and inverts the hierarchy of the Church. [1,2,3]

    3) The sense of “literal history” in Genesis is a topic where theologians may freely debate (as the commentators have with thankfully very little vitriol) except on a small number of points. Evolution (e.g. creation by secondary causes) can be freely discussed [3,5]

    4) Genesis has literal history [6, 7]

    [1] Pius XII, Humani Generis, 1950″It is true that, in general, the Pontiffs grant free­
    dom to theologians in those matters which are disputed with varying opinions, but history teaches that many things, which formerly were subject to free discussion, later cannot permit any discussion. It is not to be thought that what is set down in Encyclical Letters does not demand assent in itself, because in this the popes do not exercise the supreme power of their magisterium. For these matters are taught by the ordinary magisterium, regarding which the following is pertinent: “He who heareth you, heareth me.” [Luke 10:16]; and usually what is set forth and inculcated in the Encyclical Letters, already pertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their acts, after due considera­tion, express an opinion on a hitherto controversial matter, it is clear to all that this matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot any longer be considered a question of free discussion among the theologians.”

    [2] Alexander VIII, Errors of the Jansenists, 1690
    “30. When anyone finds a doctrine clearly established in Augustine, he can absolutely hold and teach it, disregarding any bull of the pope.”

    [3] Pius XII, “Divino affiante Spiritu,” September 30, 194
    “But what the literal sense is in the words and writings of the old oriental authors is very often not as clear as it is among the writers of our age. For what they wish to signify by words is not determined by the laws of grammar or philology alone, nor by the context of the passage alone; the interpreter should by all means return mentally, …. In this work let interpreters keep in mind that their greatest care should be to discern and define what the so-called literal sense of the language of the Bible is. Let them bring out this literal meaning of the words with all diligence through a knowledge of languages, employing the aid of the context and of comparison with similar passages; indeed, all these are customarily used for assistance in the interpretation of profane writers also, so that the mind of the author may become quite clear. Moreover, let the exe­getes of Sacred Scriptures, mindful of the fact that they are dealing with the divinely inspired word, no less diligently take into account the explanations and declarations of the magisterium of the Church, and like­ wise the explanation given by the Holy Fathers, and also the “analogy of faith,” as Leo XIII in the Encyclical letter, Providentissimus Deus, very Wisely notes.”

    [4] Council of Trent:
    “[N]o one who distorts the Sacred Scripture according to his own opinions, shall dare to interpret the said Sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which is held by holy mother Church, whose duty it is to judge regarding the true sense and interpretation of holy Scriptures…”

    [5] PBC “Three first chapters of the Book of Genesis”, 1909, (Granted Magisterial Authority by Pope Pius X, Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae, 18 Nov. 1907)
    “Question V: Whether all and everything, namely, words and phrases which occur in the aforementioned chapters, are always and necessarily to be accepted in a special sense, so that there may be no deviation from this, even when the expressions themselves manifestly appear to have been taken improperly, or metaphorically or anthropomorphically, and either reason prohibits holding the proper sense, or necessity forces its aban­donment?-Reply: In the negative”

    [6] PBC “Three first chapters of the Book of Genesis”, 1909, (Granted Magisterial Authority by Pope Pius X, Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae, 18 Nov. 1907)
    “Question III: Whether in particular the literal and historical sense can be called into question, where it is a nlatter of facts related in the same chapters, which pertain to the foundations of the Christian religion; for example, among others, the creation of all things wrought by God in the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the oneness of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immor­tality; the command given to man by God to prove his obedience; the transgression of the divine command through the devil’s persuasion under the guise of a serpent; the casting of our first parents out of that first state of innocence; and also the promise of a future restorer? -Reply: In the negative.”

    [7] Pius XII, [Letter of the Secretary of the Biblical Commission to
    Cardinal Suhard, Archbishop of Paris, January 16, 1948]
    “If anyone under the light of this commendation of the Supreme Pontiff should consider and interpret the three replies given officially by the Biblical Commission on the questions already mentioned, i.e., on the 23rd day of June, 1905, regarding the stories in the historical books of Sacred Scripture, which have only the appearance of history [n. 1980]
    on the 27th day of June, 19°6, on the Mosaic authenticity of the Pen­tateuch [no 1997-200°1, on the 30th day of June 1909, on the historical character of the three first chapters of Genesis [n. 2121-2128], will con­cede that these responses are by no means opposed to the earlier and truly scientific examination of these questions, which was instituted ac­cording to the information obtained within the last forty years. Therefore, the Biblical Commission does not think that, at least for the present, new decrees on these questions should be issued.”

  46. Here we go as usual. The “Evolution” ideology is fraudulently sold as “science” yet when real science shows that the ideology is impossible the “argument” degenerates into a mess of irrelevant “citations” and a quote-fest of vague, out-of-context assertions that have nothing to do with the science involved.

    As I said before, “Evolution” is an ideology in which anything that can be made to appear convenient to the ideology is ipso facto “true” and anything that is inconvenient to the ideology is ipso facto “false”; no investigation based on a valid scientific method is allowable.

    “Evolution” is an irrational quasi-religious dogma; an irrational belief; a superstition sold with fraud and deceit; snake oil purveyed by malicious con-men. Real science reveals that there is no active ingredient and logic reveals that none is possible.

    But it must be true “because here we are!” Julian Huxley again: “Evolution must be true because the alternative is unthinkable!”

  47. Bob —

    However, you rely on science to overrule the Bible in other matters. How is that so?

  48. I’m getting to really, really hate the Bible because it is an excuse for all manner of irrational assertions.

    There are nutcases that have confidently asserted that Faith and Reason are incompatible… unless Faith and Reason subjugate themselves to an irrational religious prerogative… “Evolution”.

  49. For those who don’t understand why the phylogenetic tree is not evidence for common descent, there’s a fine comment in Biologos by George Brooks, that does a much better job than I did (or could) of justifying this …see

    For Jim F. I respond to questions that are meant to elucidate information, but not to snarky comments… Again, I refer you to my blog posts if you really would like to see where my Catholic faith lies and how I justify my belief that nothing science truly tells about the world contradicts Catholic teaching.

    For Mark: In the class on Canon Law I took in Ecclesial Lay Ministry program for our diocese, the teacher made the distinction between discipline and dogma as follows: discipline had to do with practice, but not faith and morals; discipline could be set by a Bishop, but not matters of faith and morals. For example–whether women’s heads were covered at Mass; how long the fasting period should be before receiving Communion. I don’t see that distinguishing Jews and Muslims by dress to prevent intercourse in Lateran IV is a matter of discipline. But if it is, can you tell me if there were official pronouncements to negate this discipline?

  50. Bob —

    I am not (trying) to be sparky.

    Here is another question to understand more. You write, “(H)ow I justify my belief that nothing science truly tells about the world contradicts Catholic teaching.”

    I’d really like to know if Catholic teaching changes each time science changes? In other words, I believe you would state that Catholic teaching implies eternal knowledge. However, science is only the current explanation of observed phenomenon. No one should ever claim science is eternal.

    So when the scientific explanation of observed phenomenon changes, is Catholic teaching so inexact that it can bend to the new explanation? Or is your worldview driving your interpretation of Catholic teaching?

    I believe that is a fair, unsnarky question.

  51. @Bob

    Herein I establish that unlike doctrine of creation, the Lateran IV clothing rule is disciplinary and can be/has been abrogated through common consensus of the faithful and theologians. I hope this is helpful, and I really appreciate the argument.

    1) Defining Discipline (related to temporal matters) and Dogma (related to
    divine revealed truth) are two separate functions of the Church’s magisterium:
    Pope St. Pius X distinguishes between the triple authority of the Church
    disciplinary, doctrinal, and liturgical [1] and Pope Boniface VIII speaks of two
    swords [2]

    2) Dogma and Doctrinal authority have been granted infallibility when taught in
    a particular manner by a pope [9]

    3) Morality depends on the object of the act [8], in the case of the Lateran IV
    the object is the separation of Jews/Saracens and Christians by different
    clothing and its clear from the text [10] that this is instrumental for a particular
    good (avoiding religious mixed marriages). So the object–distinguishing clothes
    for different faith confessions–is not being taught as
    moral and therefore would not fall under the infallibility criteria expressed in

    4) Moreover, the prohibition of clandestine marriages made without priestly
    approval was only universally passed by Lateran IV [11] so mixed marriages
    happening in secret were a particular problem prior to Lateran IV and the
    introduced law preventing such marriages potentially reduced the need.

    5) Disciplinary authority (regulations of rules of life) in Church have always
    been subject to temporal circumstance and custom [5,6]

    6) This prohibition has not been active for many years and the
    faithful/theologians as a group cannot collectively be in error [7], moreover,
    the universal consent of theologians has with it the force of the magisterium
    [4]–since this disciplinary practice has been removed everywhere with the
    common consent of theologians the rule itself has been abrogated.

    [1] Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis: “Hence the triple authority in the Catholic Church, disciplinary, dogmatic, liturgical”

    [2] Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam: “We are taught by the Gospel sayings that in his power there are two swords, that is, the spiritual and the temporal. Both are therefore in the Church’s power, that is the spiritual sword and the material …The spiritual should surpass any temporal power whatsoever in dignity and nobility, and we should confess this the more clearly insofar as spiritual things surpass temporal things…

    [3] Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors, 1864: condemned “The obligation by which Catholic teachers and writers are absolutely bound is restricted to those matters only that are proposed by the infallible judgment of the Church to be believed by all as dogmas of faith”

    [4] Pope Pius IX, Tuas Libenter, 1863: “For even if it were a matter of [a perfect adherence and submission to revealed truths] which must be manifested by an act of divine faith, nevertheless, this would not have to be limited to those matters that have been defined by explicit decrees of ecumenical councils or by the Roman pontiffs and by this Apostolic See, but would also have to be extended to those matters transmitted as divinely revealed by the ordinary Magisterium of the whole Church dispersed through the world and, for that reason, held by the universal and constant consensus of Catholic theologians as belonging to the faith.

    [5] Pope Leo XIII, Libertas Praestantissimum, 1888, “For this reason, while not conceding any right to anything save what is true and honest, [the Church] does not forbid public authority to tolerate what is at variance with truth and justice for the sake of avoiding some greater evil or of obtaining or preserving some greater good… But if, in such circumstances, for the sake of the common good (and this is the only legitimate reason), human law may or even should tolerate evil.”

    [6] Pope Leo XIII, Testem Benevolentiae, 1899: “Now the history of all past ages is witness that this Apostolic see, to which not only the office of teaching but also the supreme government of the whole Church were assigned, has indeed continually adhered ‘to the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same mind’ but, on the other hand, that it has always been accustomed to regulate the rule of life so as never to overlook the manners and customs of the various peoples it embraces, while keeping the divine law unimpaired. If the safety of souls demands this, who will doubt that it will do so now?.”

    [7] Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 1964, “The entire body of the
    faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief.
    They manifest this special property by means of the whole people’s supernatural
    discernment in matters of faith when ‘from the bishops down to the last of the
    lay faithful’ they show universal agreement in mattes of faith and morals.”

    [8] Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 1993 “The morality of the human act
    depends primarily and fundamentally on the ‘object’ rationally chosen by the
    deliberate will, as is borne out by the insightful analysis, still valid today,
    made by St. Thomas… One must therefore reject the thesis, characteristic of
    teleological and proportionalist theories, that holds that it is impossible to
    qualify as morally evil according to its species–its ‘object’–the deliberate
    choice of certain kinds of behavior or specific acts apart from a consideration
    of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable
    consequences of that act for all persons concerned.”

    [9] Lumen Gentium, see http://wmbriggs.com/post/22004/#comment-171839

    [10] Lateran IV, Canon 68, http://wmbriggs.com/post/22004/#comment-171835

    [11] Lateran IV, Canon 51

  52. @Bob and YOS and Ken

    Speaking of what Augustine taught about Faith and Physics that has been confirmed by the magisterium (the quote I gave earlier in http://wmbriggs.com/post/22004/#comment-171828) :

    Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 1893: “There can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us, “not make rash assertions or to assert what is not known as known”. If dissension should arise between them, here is the rule also laid down by St. Augustine for the theologian: ‘Whatever they can really demonstrate to be true of physical nature, we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures; and whatever they assert in their treatises that is contrary to these Scriptures of ours, that is to Catholic faith, we must either prove it as well as we can to be entirely false or at all events we must, without the smallest hesitation believe it to be so.'”

    As shown earlier the Pope and the Church retain the authority to interpret the true sense of Scripture so physical theories must be in accordance with the interpretation laid out through the Magisterial authority of the Church. For Genesis 1-3 this is precisely what is laid out in the Pontifical Bible Commissions of 1909, but many things were not precisely defined and Humani Generis confirmed the present liberty of discussion we enjoy. I pray that we may continue moderately, humbly, and honestly so that the unchanging truth of creation may be known by all.

  53. Jim F, thanks very much for a very good and deep question. Along with Ken, I do think that the ideas held by those at the head of the Church change with the times, although not for the motives he suggests. I do believe the truths held by the Church which don’t impinge on science, that is to say, which are beyond the dominion of science are eternal: 1) a Creating God, 2) a personal God, 3) a Triune God, 4) the Sacraments, 5) the Immaculate Conception and Assumption into heaven of Mary, 6) the Virgin birth of Jesus, 7) the Resurrection of Jesus, 8) the Ascension of Jesus, 9) the implanting of a soul at conception by the Holy Spirit, 9) Heaven, Purgatory and Hell, 10) Creatio ex Nihilo.
    That being said, were I to have lived in the 1920’s, when scientists commonly held the universe to be eternal, I would have had a more difficult time avoiding cognitive dissonance, namely that both what science and my Catholic faith told me was true. If, in the future, by some means (and I don’t think this will occur) either life is created by artificial means or artificial intelligence is created that seems to be (like Star Trek’s Data) endowed with a soul, then I may also have a hard time reconciling the truths of faith and science. But I don’t see that happening. It is a much more wonderful and awesome thing that God has done in creating the universe and life, by setting up physical laws (including those we don’t know about or yet understand) than the Creation story of Genesis 1 and 2.

  54. Mark, one more question for you, which has occurred to me after looking at 12 year old class notes on Church structure. Are the the statements you cite by Popes Leo XIII and Pope Pius X “ex Cathedra”? That is to say, do they stand as dogma or as, with other Papal Encyclicals, Doctrine? Looking at my class notes the only two “ex Cathedra” edicts in recent times were about the Assumption of Mary and the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

  55. @Bob

    “Along with Ken, I do think that the ideas held by those at the head of the Church change with the times”

    I can’t comment with certainty on the private thoughts of the Roman pontiffs, but I would agree that their private opinions are subject to change, however the teaching of the Church, her Magisterium is unchanging:

    Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (Immaculate Conception of Mary): “Indeed, the Church of Christ, watchful guardian and protector of the dogmas deposited within her, never changes anything, never diminishes anything, never adds anything to these, but with complete diligence, she faithfully and wisely draws upon those things shaped from antiquity and sown by the faith of the Fathers; and, in this way, she strives to refine and polish them so that these ancient dogmas of heavenly instruction may attain clarity, light, and precision, but they still retain their fullness, integrity and proper character, and they grow according to their own nature, namely, within the same dogma and in the same sense and the same meaning.”

    Pius IX’s Ineffabilis Deus mentions, among other propositions two things:
    1) Immaculate Conception of Mary
    2) Church’s unchanging teaching

    I don’t see how one can claim to accept the authority of the Roman pontiff, and hence the Catholic Church, and pick and choose among the her teachings.

    The same pope in Tuas Libenter, 1863, wrote “But, since it is a matter of that subjection [to the Church’s teaching] by which in conscience all those Catholics are bound who work in the speculative sciences … it is not sufficient for learned Catholics to accept and revered the aforesaid [infallible] dogmas of the Church, but that it is also necessary to subject themselves to the decision pertaining to doctrine that are issued by the Pontifical Congregations and also to those points of doctrine that are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics…”

    and that subjection of science to the teaching authority of the Church is again reiterated by Pope St. Pius X when he condemned: “Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted” (Lamentabili Sane, prop. 64)

    The notion that science somehow has a “dominion” to which the Church’s teaching authority on the dogmas of the faith (e.g. pertaining to Creation and the Genesis account) must submit is contrary and inimical to the defined and considered teachings of these Popes promulgated using their authority as supreme teacher to the universal Church.

  56. @Bob

    I really appreciate the continued engagement, I have definitely recalled a lot dusting off some of my books and notes as well!
    There are two universally agreed-upon “ex Cathedra” statements (Immaculate Conception, Assumption of Mary) because they use the language and the precise formula given in the Vatican I definition of papal infallibility. However, there are two further points:

    1) Speaking Ex-Cathedra means: (quotes from Pius IX, First Vatican Council, 1870)
    a. “acts in the office of shepherd and teacher of all Christians” (e.g. no private theological opinions–these have to be teaching statements in particular)
    b. “by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority” (must make clear the definition comes from his authority and not necessarily by other means–e.g. argument)
    c. “a doctrine concerning faith or morals” (e.g. pertains to what is good to believe and what is good to do and needs to be definitive)
    d. “to be held by the universal Church” (e.g. indicated as unchanging)

    2) Submission is due to the teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium which, while not infallible commands the assent of the faithful:

    Pope Pius IX, Tuas Libenter, 1863: “For even if it were a matter of [a perfect adherence and submission to revealed truths] which must be manifested by an act of divine faith, nevertheless, this would not have to be limited to those matters that have been defined by explicit decrees of ecumenical councils or by the Roman pontiffs and by this Apostolic See, but would also have to be extended to those matters transmitted as divinely revealed by the ordinary Magisterium of the whole Church dispersed through the world and, for that reason, held by the universal and constant consensus of Catholic theologians as belonging to the faith.

    I can make an argument that the statements provided meet the four requirements of an Ex-Cathedra statements, but even if they don’t they at least belong to the Ordinary Magisterium as they are definitive on faith and the moral obligations due to the faith. There are no recent acts of the Ordinary Magisterium that contradict them either (believe me, I tried looking for that as well when I was initially discerning the faith).

  57. Bob —

    “It is a much more wonderful and awesome thing that God has done in creating the universe and life, by setting up physical laws (including those we don’t know about or yet understand) than the Creation story of Genesis 1 and 2.”

    Is Genesis the words of God?

    Also, should I understand your response to be that science drives (at times, of course) Catholic teaching?

  58. @Jim F: by quoting my belief and wonder in God’s natural law as saying that I believe science should dictate Catholic teaching, you either completely misunderstand what I’m trying to get at, or are simply trying to make a debating point. In many, many places I have written that science can neither prove nor disprove anything about God or religion. In what I write, and I’ll repeat this again, I say that nothing that science truly tells about the world contradicts Catholic teaching, i.e. that there is a consonance between the two. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the other way around. It’s Catholic teaching that informs my view of science. I believe Catholic teaching about the soul and therefore do not believe that artificial intelligence, i.e. a robot or computer like the Data of Star Trek, will ever be achieved. It’s Cat Moreover, you should be aware that it was Pope Pius XII who wanted to make the “Big Bang” cosmology a part of Catholic teaching but was dissuaded from doing so by Abbe LeMaitre.

  59. The mere fact that “Evolution” is impossible ideological nonscience renders all quibbles about the validity of ecclesiastical pronouncements, theological opinions etc. irrelevant to the issue.

    The proponents of “Geocentrism” write books full of spurious declarations from all kinds of “experts” and “authorities” that the whole cosmos goes round a stationary Earth and that well known, easily demonstrable natural laws (in this case gravity and inertia) are completely abrogated by some magic that only exists in their imagination to make their system “work”. They also supply a grand array of diagrammatic “artist’s impressions” of what they assert is going on “out there” to impress the naïve and gullible with their supposed scholarship.

    The “Evolution” superstition is sold by exactly the same process except the magic invoked is not to abrogate the first laws of thermodynamics (concerning force and motion) it is to abrogate the second law (concerning decay of order and dissipation of energy).

    However, “Evolution” is much more relentlessly and enthusiastically proposed and accepted because it implies that everything is “becoming” a newer, improved version of everything… captivating to unrestrained egos. There are no absolutes! no immutable being! no reality! it’s all inexorably in a state of “becoming” new and improved everything! Of course T’Googlio Monster is doing his bit “updating” old, passed-the-use-by-date “ideas” that may have served some purpose in a long ago “unenlightened” age.

    Woe betide any vestigial, reactionary, impediments to this New Age Messiah’s programme.

    The mere fact that the “Evolution” paradigm is physically (scientifically) and logically impossible is of no concern to the ideology. “Truth” is “becoming” according to ideological requirements and is solely the product of those requirements. No one will get kudos or reward except by burning incense to the nonscience idol.

  60. @Mark, and this will be my final comment. I’ve talked to several priests, I’ve reread the 12 year old notes in my year long Old and New Testament Scripture classes for the Ecclesial Lay Ministry (ELM) program in our diocese, I’ve reread Cardinal Ratzinger’s (Benedict XVI) “In the Beginning”, and I am reinforced in my belief, to quote Cardinal Ratzinger, that

    “It says that the Bible is not a natural science textbook, nor does it intend to be such. It is a religious book, and consequently one cannot obtain information about the natural sciences from it. One cannot get from it a scientific explanation of how the world arose; one can only glean religious experience from it. Anything else is an image and a way of describing things whose aim is to make profound realities graspable to human beings. One must distinguish between the form of portrayal and the content that is portrayed. The form would have been chosen from what was understandable at the time -“

    This was the view given by the priests who taught the Scripture classes.
    Moreover, if the Church held the views propounded in your quotes of Leo XIII and the Biblical Commission, why would Pope St. John Paul II have said “there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith”? Why would he have called conferences on cosmology, quantum cosmology, evolution?
    Further, I find your remarks on the distinction between dogma and doctrine, between ex cathedra statements and edicts and those bearing lesser authority, vague and confusing. As far as I know there have been only two Papal Ex Cathedra edicts: the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. If you can show that the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII were in fact matters of dogma and not doctrine, then I’ll have to decide whether I can, in good conscience, remain in the Roman Catholic Church. By the way, I went again back to my ELM notes on Church structure, canon law, and history, and looked again at the distinction between dogma and doctrine. The course was given by the Chancellor of the Diocese, and it was quite clear.
    Finally, there an apt quote from Aquinas on conscience:

  61. @Bob

    I agree with everything written in that last comment. I just think that if Pius XII had defined the Big Bang as the authentic interpretation of the Genesis account (or indeed some theory of evolution) then that would be the interpretation. If a Pope defines and declares a geocentric universe created from nothing through primary causes, then that would be the Catholic interpretation of scripture for all time. I think the Holy Spirit prevents error here; my powers of reasoning (or indeed that of the scientific communities) can’t obtain certainty on the creation of the world without divine revelation and the assistance of the Holy Spirit to authentically interpret that revelation.

  62. Bob —

    ” … I’ll repeat this again, I say that nothing that science truly tells about the world contradicts Catholic teaching, i.e. that there is a consonance between the two.”

    Science tells me there are no virgin births and no three-days-later resurrections.

    If what you say above is true, and I am wrong, please provide scientific explanations for those two truths.

  63. Bob —

    By the way, do not take offense by my direct questions. I assume you have thought through them beforehand. It is fair, at some point, to simply say, “This is what I believe on faith.” And that ends it.

    However, until then, I want to understand your stated position.

  64. @Bob

    My agreement was with http://wmbriggs.com/post/22004/#comment-171958 not with http://wmbriggs.com/post/22004/#comment-171960

    Bob Kurland, you have thoroughly demonstrated both objectivity and a willingness to listen, I hope I have demonstrated the same.
    I do appreciate that you’ve spoken to priests and the work that you have done in this discussion. I will continue to refine my exposition that I gave here for future debates and discussions. You will be in my prayers.

    “In the beginning” was written as a private theological work and carries with it no magisterial weight, John Paul II’s remarks in the speech were not defining anything for Catholics as a teacher but expressing an interpretation of a magisterial document (Humani Generis) in forum not generally understood to be magisterial teaching (unlike say an encyclical letter or papal bull). Moreover, from the text of the Humani Generis, its clear the compatibility of evolution with Church doctrine is held a position that can be discussed until the Magisterium resolves the matter (earlier Popes affirmed that one can assent to such theologically “probable” opinions and my understanding is that Pius XII and JPII established the compatibility of evolution and creation as theologically probable). These do not accord with them the direct assistance of the the Holy Spirit promised in Vatican Council I, Tuas Libenter, and Humani Generis since the former was made prior to elevation to the papacy and the latter comments did not state that all Catholics must hold a particular view on faith and morals (the teaching is in Humani Generis) so neither represent a defined magisterial action.

    In practice, of course, Vatican Council I, Tuas Libenter, Humani Generis, Arcanum Divinae, and so many of these beautiful teachings are relegated to the dustbin and instead all we get are non-magisterial theological opinions and interpretations. So be it. Somewhere between 85-95% of polled U.S. Catholics believe birth control is morally acceptable against Humanae Vitae. 60% of Catholic support gay marriage. The hierarchy for the most part does not correct these views, and probably many priests support contraception and gay marriage whether vocally or not.

    I’m not surprised then when people disregard the magisterium of the Church or her documents. Tuas Libenter and Lumen Gentium 25 establishes that we owe ordinary papal teaching “religious submission of intellect and will”. Arcanum Divinae declares that no Catholic can doubt the miraculous creation of Eve. If 90% of professed Catholics don’t assent to the teaching its just part of a broader pattern of a loss of faith in the Church’s authority. Indeed, Pope John Paul II said we are amidst a “silent apostasy”.

    I think your concern about young people and science is a good one (indeed I was a young atheist who liked Bertrand Russel at one point). I think your solution implicitly involves ignoring consistent traditional magisterial teachings in favor of recent theological opinions so that under this vision of Catholicism Divine Revelation can never rule out a given scientific theory (although Pope Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII, and Pope Pius X explicitly grant that such is a possibility). I think the opposite approach where we accept Church teaching according to the traditional understood scope of that teaching with docility, and we use our reason as best as possible to provide proofs for that reasoning is the way to go. But, we should remain humble about what actually has been demonstrated.

    I’ll conclude with Cardinal Ratzinger’s encouragement for continuing debate on the doctrinal status of evolution:
    “Within the teaching about evolution itself, the problem emerges at the point of transition from micro- to macro-evolution, on which point Szathmary and Maynard Smith, both convinced of an all-embracing theory of evolution, nonetheless declare that: ‘There is no theoretical basis for believing that evolutionary lines become more complex with time; and there is no empirical evidence that this happens.'”
    “There is . . . no getting around the dispute about the extent of the claims of the doctrine of evolution as a fundamental philosophy . . . This dispute has therefore to be approached objectively and with a willingness to listen, by both sides—something that has hitherto been undertaken only to a limited extent” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), pp. 179-181)

  65. There have been lots of proposals as a mechanism for “Evolution”. If the pontifications of prelates and the opinions of theologians had prescribed or proscribed Lamarck’s “use inheritance” idea would it have made the slightest difference to the possibility that a lizard flapping its arms could fray its scales into feathers and turn its progeny into birds?

    From my pedestrian, abjectly un-esoteric point of view the academic “experts” are wrong again! It’s almost as if to be an “expert” requires one to be patently stupid and blind to the most apparent operations of reality… a reality that mothers and farmers and fishermen know with an intuition born of cumulative experience.

    Tell us again how mud turns itself into man. In all my 60 odd years I’ve heard lots of declarations that it does but never any description of how.

  66. “Evolution” … implies that everything is “becoming” a newer, improved version of everything.

    It does no such thing as that. It implies only that over time a line of descent becomes more apt for a particular niche and that on occasion may change niches if presented with new challenges. In some senses, this may be thought of as “improved,” but only in a relative sense. A bird with a long, thin beak is no improvement over one with a short squat beak — unless it is to sip nectar rather than crack nuts. As often as not, it is the bird that changes its occupation in the course of its struggle to exist. The mutation in the beak shape is in itself not an “improvement.” It is not an “advantageous” mutation. It is perhaps an “opportunity.” Herbert Spencer indeed wrote of evolution in this sense of continual improvement, which is why Darwin resisted using the term in his book. Spencerians ever since have been selling this erroneous metaphysic.

    (“More apt” ? “ad-apt-ation”)

    For an interesting light on this, consider the emergence at various times of tritylodonts, multituberculates, and rodents; or the formal similarities of ichthyosaurs, sharks, dolphins, and penguins.

  67. “The writers of the Bible were illuminated more or less – some more than others – on the question of salvation. On other questions they were as wise or as ignorant as their generation. Hence it is utterly unimportant that errors of historic or scientific fact should be found in the Bible, especially if errors relate to events that were not directly observed by those who wrote about them.

    The idea that because they were right in their doctrine of immortality and salvation they must also be right on all other subjects is simply the fallacy of people who have an incomplete understanding of why the Bible was given to us at all.”

    – Fr. Georges Lemaître, originator of the Big Bang

  68. Jim F, thank you for your last question, which I’ll take to be rhetorical. If you’ve read any of my blog posts you would know that my view is that science is descriptive, not prescriptive. Therefore science says nothing about what is possible or impossible. If I were to believe otherwise I would be subscribing to “scientism” as a relgion.
    And of course, I’ve stated above and in other places that I fully believe in the tenets of the Church–the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Ascension, etc.
    If you want to know how I think science works, there is a post (with links to earlier ones) “Which is winning, scientism or religion–what science is all about”; see

  69. YOS and Bob —

    So you believe fallen men included their own errors while writing the text of the Bible. And you are able to discern those errors through a process defined and used by — though rarely adhered to — fallen men.

    I wanted to understand where you are coming from. Now I do.

  70. Jim:
    You seem to think that because man is prone to error that everything man does is error. But that is absurd. That’s like saying because our senses are fallible, everything based on the senses — like natural science — must be wrong. In fact, the Traditional Churches do not take their faith from the Bible. They took the Bible from their Faith, since the Church existed before the texts were finalized or, in some cases, even written. The Eastern Orthodox did not even have a Bible as such until recently. They had a book of the Gospels; they had a lectionary, a psaltery, and so on. The Traditional Churches based themselves on the traditions handed down from the Apostles, which included the Biblical texts (the Gospels, Acts, the letters, the Septuagint, et al.) but also the writings of the Fathers. They understood that a text could be understood in four classic senses and in multiple meanings, even in the literal sense (cf. Augustine, “On the literal meanings of Genesis”) and averred that one could hold different interpretations, even those that conflicted, so long as they did not conflict with the doctrine of double-love (of God and neighbor) and so long as one did not hold an interpretation so strongly that, if it were shown by certain knowledge to be wrong, one could not abandon it (cf. Augustine again, “On Christian doctrine”).

    In this latter case, he warned, the pig-headed wound up elevating his own opinion above the word of God until his interpretation of one passage fell into conflict with his interpretation of other passages, at which point, he would blame the book and not himself.
    As far as determining when something is in error, we have three broad methods available:
    1. Science (old sense) We can accept a thing through demonstration, and therefore cannot admit the possibility of its opposite. For example, that two lines erected at right angles to the same line are in parallel to each other.
    2. Opinion. We can accept a thing through probability, that is through a partial, but not complete demonstration, and therefore we do not deny the possibility of the opposite. For example, that the aberration of starlight seems to demonstrate that the earth is in motion relative to the fixed stars. (This is Science – new sense)
    3. Faith. We can accept the thing without demonstration and yet deny the possibility of its opposite. For example, the faith in the existence of the universe, and of other human minds.

    Hence, when the Chaldean (“Neo-Babylonian”) king lists reveal that KIng A was succeeded by King C, but the Bible says he was succeeded by King B, the Faith is not shattered because a) it is not a matter of faith and morals and b) further research reveals that B, though not formally a King, ruled the kingdom as regent and was King for all practical purposes so far as the Judeans were concerned.

  71. Lemaître: “…it is utterly unimportant that errors of historic or scientific fact should be found in the Bible, especially if errors relate to events that were not directly observed by those who wrote about them.”

    In all likelihood, no events in the Bible were “directly observed by those who wrote about them”.

  72. YOS —

    “You seem to think that because man is prone to error that everything man does is error.”

    That is not my belief as I take the writings of the Bible to be the infallible, inspired word of God, requiring the writers to be error free, with respect to those writings of course.

    However, to assume the writers introduced errors into the text opens the complete Bible to suspicion.

    What is telling is your assumption that the Chaldean history is error free, while the Bible is suspect.

    One can only imagine what future historians will claim to know of the current age given the amount of “fake news” being recorded as truth.

  73. Forsooth: No events in MacPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom were witnessed by MacPherson, so perhaps the concept is more supple than you give credit.

  74. One last comment from me (I hope), but I am very confused about what edicts and statements from the Pope are regarded as infallible, required to be believed by Catholics, and which are not. For example, in his Encyclical “Laudatio Si”, Pope Francis I takes anthropic global warming to be a fact, scientifically shown. Must I and other Catholics believe that, or his proposed globalist solutions to economic and environmental problems? Another example: in his Encyclcial, “Rerum Novarum”, Pope Leo XIII makes the following statement:

    ” Women, again, are not suited for certain occupations; a woman is by nature fitted for home-work, and it is that which is best adapted at once to preserve her modesty and to promote the good bringing up of children and the well-being of the family.”

    Are we to take that to mean that women should be prohibited from certain occupations and required to be stay-at-home mothers? And to take this attitude as a point of faith and morals?
    There were other items in Rerum Novarum which, if adhered to, might not fit modern sensibilities but that’s for another day.

  75. Scripture is inspired, not dictated. That means that the authors were presented with the concepts which they had to describe with the tools that were available to them; their own language and idiom. The inspiration is infallible but the interpretation of the description is not except where the interpretation is that of an infallible authority. The opinions of theologians may very well be very useful as good food for thought… but they are not infallible.

    Papal infallibility is hog-tied. The Vatican 1 definition of papal infallibility was absolutely necessary to counter a rampant ultramontanism that said that if a lobby group could influence a pope to issue an edict then such an edict is ipso facto “infallible”… i.e. “became true” by proclamation. By defining Papal Infallibility the Council properly defined when a pope is NOT infallible.

    An infallible definition MUST be consistent with census fidelium… that is, in accordance with the teaching of the Apostles and the universal belief of their faithful disciples. A certain doctrine of Faith and Morals (or Scriptural interpretation) cannot be “manufactured” out of political convenience or fashionable opinions.

    Here we have an “infallible doctrine” of scientistic Materialism being manufactured out of a plethora of out-of-context quotes and fraudulent nonscience. (And papal political convenience).

    I say again: no amount of scientistic twaddle, artist’s impressions, or political convenience will change the laws of nature.

  76. Jim:
    Traditional Christians don’t worship a text; they worship God. The text is inspired, not dictated verbum de verbo as the muslims believe the Qur’an was. So when the Bible text describes the earth as flat with a blanket thrown over top of it to keep out the waters of the sky, we can understand that that is pretty much how people living around Old Sumer would have seen the World, living on their blankets under their tents on a flat and seemingly endless plain. The occasional rain had to come from somewhere up there, after all. But as we learned more about meteorology and the hydraulic cycle, and the meaning of the Scriptures we came to realize the it was never a geography and meteorology text to begin with.

    OTOH, the Assumption of the BVM, one of only two dogmas to be proclaimed by infallible papal pronouncement (November 1950) was preceded by Pius XII writing “to each bishop of the Catholic Church to ask (1) whether he believed in the Corporal Assumption of the Mother of God; and (2) whether he considered it opportune for the dogma to be defined. The subsequent Solemn Definition followed upon the overwhelming consensus apparent in the replies of the world-wide episcopate.” Furthemore, the belief, known as the Dormition in the Orthodox communion, was known in at least the fourth and third centuries in Greek and Syriac sources. So the Pope is not free to proclaim any old thing as a dogma ex nihilo. Nothing is made dogmatic unless there is a need to emphasize it and it cannot go against longstanding beliefs of the Church at large.

    This is distinct from Good Practices, such as that mothers should raise their children rather than permit them to run wild and fend for themselves on street corners. I have my grandmother’s marriage manual (c)1910 and it is far more nuanced than any proof text you may care to pull out from it to shock the pearl-clutching maidens of today.

  77. So what, YOS?
    Does your spiel in any way indicate that Creation is not governed by consistent natural laws? Without consistency there is no possibility of comprehension, or any possibility of any kind of “science”… otherwise it’s all Voodoo magic, contemporary fads, and all that.

    The prerogatives of the Great Mother certainly imply that that they are unique to Her and infer that all the rest of us fall short.

    (Heh, heh! Obviously, you and I don’t fall into the “all the rest” category).

    Now then, what you need to do to validate your fantastic superstitions is to demonstrate that our temporal reality is not governed by consistent natural laws.

  78. Does your spiel in any way indicate that Creation is not governed by consistent natural laws?

    What does this non sequitur mean? Or have you forgotten the fifth way?

  79. It is not non sequitur. I have not forgotten the fifth way, I simply deny your specious interpretation.

    All observations of natural laws unequivocally proclaim that the order of functionality does not spontaneously arise out of disorder by chance. A thing (like an orderly system) that does not exist cannot cause itself to exist no matter how imaginatively and didactically you speculate and proclaim otherwise.

    No amount of selective quotations from experts will change that universally observed, easily demonstrated, consistent, natural law.

    Men do not spontaneously ascend out of apeoids no matter how long you wait. Apeoids and acorns and arachnids do not spontaneously ascend out of mud no matter how spuriously or vigorously you glibly assert and proclaim otherwise.

  80. A thing (like an orderly system) that does not exist cannot cause itself to exist

    Duh? A thing that does not exist cannot cause anything whatsoever, for the excellent reason that it does not exist. Hence, for example, everything that is moving is being moved by another.

    All observations¹ of natural laws unequivocally proclaim that the order of functionality does not spontaneously? arise out of disorder² by chance³.

    1) You cannot observe a natural law. You can infer it from its effects. much as you can infer God or electrons.
    2) We have never observed a state of disorder out of which anything might arise. Always, the prior state is ordered in some fashion. An oak arises from an acorn; a man, from an embryo; a royal flush from a deck of cards.
    3) Chance is not a cause of anything. It is a word we use when we do not know the cause or when the cause is a complex of causes, no one of which is dominant, which would be uneconomical to sort out, as in the tossing of dice. So, for example, the order of the solar system arises not by chance but by gravitational forces acting on the masses of the planetary bodies. The order of the atom arises from electrostatic forces acting on charged particles in conjunction with nuclear and radiative forces.
    4) “Spontaneously” meaning “occurring without external stimulus,” from Late Latin spontaneus “willing, of one’s free will.” Used earlier of persons and characters, with a sense “acting of one’s own accord” (c. 1200). This is a word we use when we cannot observe the prior sequence of causation. Thus, men once thought semen “spontaneously” produced a simulacrum of himself within the fertile ground of the woman; or that flammable materials could experience “spontaneous combustion.”

    Supposing sec. arg. that biological humans arose by natural selection from not-quite-human creatures — or even that natural selection is the only mechanism by which an evolution might take place — you cannot suppose that these humanoids were without order — i.e., that they were not ordered by genus or species — or that their order was altered by some mystical “chance” in some “spontaneous” manner somehow “by itself.” This is impossible in any materialistic sense, although a miraculous event might appear so to an observer. But in any case, the appearance of a rational soul is not a material thing and so is not an evolutionary event. The best evolution can do is produce a body that is capable of receiving such a soul. Until then, it may as well be mud.

  81. An orderly system (like the physical/chemical process in any kind of live organism) does not, cannot, cause itself.

    Now you’re getting so desperate to defend your ideology that you’ll quibble and nit-pick and obfuscate and redefine terminology and concepts to deceive by confusion yourself and us.

    To sell “Evolution” disguised as some interpretation of your own that is not what is commonly understood to be “Evolution” is just a fraud by sophistry.

    Fact is that “Evolution” is philosophically (logically), physically, chemically, biologically, mathematically impossible. That there is limited potential for variation within species (built into their genetic potential from the beginning) is not in any way “proof” that one species or “kind” ever has, or ever can, turn itself into another.

  82. I’m not sure what your point is, since I have agreed with you: No thing can cause itself to be, since prior to its being it cannot cause anything. It must be first of all before it can cause. I’m not sure about these “systems” of yours. They may or may not qualify as things (ouisia, substantia) rather than as heaps by dint of the causal relations among the things that comprise them. But it is the things that comprise the systems that have causal powers, not the abstract systems.

    In what sense does a species “turn itself into” another? By closing its eyes, clicking its heels, and whispering, “there’s no place like home”? Of course, there is a sense in which the species of uranium “turns itself” into the species of lead by the emission of electrons and nuclei and this may be regarded as self-action as the weak force is a property of matter itself; but the opposite evolution, from hydrogen to helium to carbon, et al. requires the action of whole stars, not the self-action of the individual atoms. Two hydrogen atoms become one helium atom (more or less) by a combination of the gravitational command to collapse forever and the radiative pressure to expand indefinitely.

    What is “commonly understood” of any technical topic is often wrong. (Consider how often Certain Persons get creation utterly wrong and confuse it with moving pre-existing matter around. They “commonly understand” evolution to be an an alternative to creation, when they are two entirely different things!

    I’m not sure why you think it is mathematically impossible, since I have used it on several occasions in my career.

  83. Just what are you proposing, YOS?

    A lesser being can become a greater being with no cause or mechanism or that a lesser being can cause itself to “become” a greater being causing it’s own mechanism by the assumed utility of the result?

    Look, cobber, go and have a yarn with Hugh Owen over at Kolbe Centre
    Hugh is an erudite and gentle man who does not display any of my disagreeable personality defects.

  84. are you proposing [that] a lesser being can become a greater being with no cause or mechanism

    No, although I understand that some atheists, made anxious by First Cause arguments, are eager to assert that some things are uncaused and “Just Are.” Of course, anything that comes to be (be-comes) does so by some mechanism; although there are some who assert that the mechanism is all there is; as if the Moonlight Sonata were entirely explained by the physics of vibrating strings and the laws of chord resolution.

    are you proposing… that a lesser being can cause itself to “become” a greater being causing it’s own mechanism by the assumed utility of the result?

    I have reminded you on several occasions that nothing can cause its own existence because if it does not already exist it cannot cause anything.

    It is unclear what you mean by “lesser” and “greater” being. Is helium a greater being than hydrogen simply because it has more protons? It is indeed greater in mass, but is it greater in being?

    Some may argue that the maturation of an embryo is an example of something lesser in being becoming something greater in being through a self-contained set of instructions leading through cell division and differentiation to the adult form; and indeed “perfection” of the potentials inherent in one’s nature is one of the main forms of telos we find in nature. Yet, the Catholic and Orthodox Church denies that the embryo is in fact lower in being.

  85. Your sophistry knows no bounds.
    A human zygote is a human being; it has no essential or innate potential to ever be (physically) anything else but a cadaver, more or less developed, according to the prescriptions of its essence, nature or being.
    [quote]It is unclear what you mean by “lesser” and “greater” being. Is helium a greater being than hydrogen simply because it has more protons? It is indeed greater in mass, but is it greater in being? [/quote]
    Plain silly! Are you inferring that a Hydrogen atom is simply a potential He atom just as primordial slime is a potential human? Ordinary entropic processes that may physically transmute elements is nothing like the ideological assumption that one metaphysical life form can change itself into another.

  86. You are assuming that which you wish to prove: i.e., begging the question. You cannot demonstrate the origin of species by assuming species are pre-existing categories. Species either originate from pre-existing species or they poof into existence. Examples of poofing are welcome, if available.

    A “metaphysical life form” cannot change itself into another. Why do you continue to insist on this “change itself” straw man?

    For one thing, a species is not a self, not an ousia or substantia, but rather a collection of individuals that share a commonality. It is convenient in common speech to refer to a species as if it were a singular thing, but it is not in fact so.

  87. “Poofing” is the stuff of Materialism trying to ridicule or “explain” the sudden appearance of genera in an imagined (nowhere evident) “geologic column”.
    [quote]Why do you continue to insist on this “change itself” straw man? [/quote]
    It’s not a “straw man”, its a direct challenge to fashionable Materialism that the likes of Maritain and Rahner were selling way back.

    I revoke my suggestion that you should contact the Owen man… the poor fella doesn’t need idiotic grief from the likes of yous.

  88. I’m still waiting for what you mean by a species “changing itself.” I think that, like many Darwin-maniacs, you have a story-book understanding of evolution.

    No, seriously. Where do new species come from?

    “Genera” are even more abstracted from real things than “species” are, and so even more subject to human decision. The sudden appearance of new kinds of critters is adequately explained by the speed of adaptation evident in epigenetics and the observation that mutations are typically not random.

    An Aristotelian analysis of evolution (i.e., of an unfolding of potentials along the lines described by Augustine or Aquinas):
    Four Causal Factors of Evolution
    1. Material Cause: the tendency to variation due to constant small random mutations in the genetic code; i. e., a variety of differing individuals within a species capable of transmitting their differences.
    2. Formal Cause: the tendency of an interbreeding population to reproduce itself in a stable manner and increase in numbers; i. e., the maintenance of type.
    3. Efficient Cause: natural selection by the environment which eliminates those variants which are less effective in reproducing their kind; i. e., the agent determining in which direction species-change will take place
    4. Final Cause: the flexibility of living things by which they are able to occupy new niches in the changing environment; i. e., a feed-back mechanism which guides the selective process toward a new type which can exploit new environmental possibilities.

  89. Again, a specious reinterpretation (redefinition) of terms and concepts the whole purpose of which is to “sell” “Evolution” as a viable ideology.

    The mere fact that the ideology is impossible according to the known operations of reality is of no concern to a committed ideologue. The magic of sophistry is the ingredient that is presumed to render reality irrelevant or non-existent.

    [quote] I’m still waiting for what you mean by a species “changing itself.” I think that, like many Darwin-maniacs, you have a story-book understanding of evolution.[/quote]

    A change or “movement” that does not have an effective cause or causes must, therefore, cause itself.

    According to A T descriptions of causes any being only has potential to be what it is according to its nature and purpose.

    Variations within species, as I have said many times, is only the realisation or exhibition of a potential that was latent within the type (or kind) from its creation. Well known to observers and practitioners of stock breeders for thousands of diligent generations. Mutations are invariably entropic loss or damage to the physical operations of an organism.

    Get out of your Ivory Tower full of mirrors where reality is only a reflection of yourself flexing your specious ideological muscles for the adulation of fellow ideologues. Go and do some real homework that does not assume that philosophy is a creation of “reality” but that philosophy is the search for knowledge and understanding of reality using the scientific instruments of observation and logic.

  90. Once again, you insist that a species is a box with well-defined boundaries rather than a collection of actual real individuals which resemble one another. I don’t know why you say “mutations” are “entropic,” given how much we have learned. You seem to have a limited understanding of thermodynamics and the difference between closed and open systems. I’m not sure you can limit the powers of God by the natures of currently existing things, not when Aquinas allowed as how new species might arise from the potentials within existing species through the powers given them in the beginning. Natures are subordinate to God, not God to natures.

    Suppose a fish were to learn to use its swim bladder to subsist in air and to walk across the mud, perhaps at first to waddle from one drying-out pool to another pool not drying out. But then over time, it not only spends more time out of the water, but actually learns to climb trees. Is it still a fish or has it become something else, which God has endowed with a different nature? There are things still coming ashore.

    Besides, the substantial forms of living things (i.e., “souls”) are called “individuating forms” because they are unique to each individual thing; unlike inanimate forms, which do not distinguish one from another. You seen one sodium atom, you seen them all. But each dog or each fish or each petunia is distinct from all others. So it is not entirely correct, only a linguistic convenience, to talk about the soul of fishes, as if there were only one soul shared by all members of a species. (As regards the species of men, this has long been anathema.) Rather each fish possesses its own individual nature, but the natures are similar insofar as they are of the same species.

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