The Problem of Polygenism in Accepting the Theory of Evolution

In the blog over the past few days we have discussed the Genesis account, evolutionary theory and how these can be reconciled with Catholic thought and teaching.

At one level, the genre for the Genesis accounts must be taken into consideration wherein figurative language is sometimes used to confer the sacred truths that God alone created everything out of nothing. Further, that God oversaw every aspect of creation with intelligence, and purpose, and that he created everything out of nothing, each according to its kind. However the genre, or literary form, of Genesis  does not purport to be of nature of a scientific journal article, or of a comprehensive historical genre with exact dates and geographical descriptions. What Genesis tells us is true, but it speaks to us in a summary sort of way, more as a poetic description than an earth science textbook. (More on this HERE).   As the Catechism states:

Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine ‘work,’ concluded by the ‘rest’ of the seventh day” ….”nothing exists that does not owe its existence to God the Creator. The world began when God’s word drew it out of nothingness; all existent beings, all of nature, and all human history is rooted in this primordial event, the very genesis by which the world was constituted and time begun” (CCC 337-338).

Material Sufficient Causality? Not! We also discussed that Catholics may be open to the scientific teachings of evolution but that they cannot accept it uncritically, without certain distinctions. Catholics are free to believe in some sort of evolutionary or gradual process as a secondary cause of biodiversity.  But we simply cannot accept a theory which says that the sufficient cause and complete explanation of all life is the combination of natural selection and random mutations.  The words NATURAL and RANDOM are positively meant to exclude intelligent activity by God by most proponents of the Theory of Evolution. Catholics can come to accept a kind of theistic evolution wherein God is the primary cause of all secondary causes. But we are not free to accept the Theory of Evolution as most commonly proposed without the necessary distinction that natural selection and random mutations are not sufficient causes or a complete explanation for the existence of all things as they are. (More on this HERE).

Here too the Catechism provides an important and balanced approach that respects the role of science but also announces its limits:

The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator…..The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin: is the universe governed by chance, blind fate, anonymous necessity, or by a transcendent, intelligent and good Being called “God”?  (CCC 283-284)

The Problem of Polygenism – There is also another matter which the Theory of Evolution gives rise to that a Catholic must be aware of and realize that he or she cannot give it uncritical acceptance. This is the usual premise in evolutionary theory of polygenism.  Polygenism is a theory of human origins positing that the human race descended from  a pool of early human couples, indeterminate in number.  Hence Adam and Eve are merely symbols of Mankind. Rather than being an historical couple, they represent the human race as it emerges from the hominids that gave rise to them as they become homo sapiens, properly speaking. This is opposite to the idea of monogenism, which posits a single origin of humanity in Adam and Eve. In this understanding, Adam and Eve are historical figures who actually existed and from them alone the whole of the human race is descended.

Polygenism is the proposed vision of almost all evolutionary theorists. It obviously flows from the theory. As life emerged from one-celled organisms, ultimately more complex forms of life arose to include fish, then reptiles, mammals, higher forms of mammals and early humanoid forms, and then the first homo sapiens. But, presumably this process did not occur only in one case. Rather, it is usually supposed that a larger, indeterminate number of this new species of Man arose. So what we had was an emergent group, rather than simply two individuals: Adam and Eve.

But this presents a problem for a Catholic who might wish to uncritically accept evolution, for, simply put, we cannot accept polygenism. Pope Pius XII in 1950 specifically addressed the problem of polygenism in the Encyclical Humani Generis:

[T]he 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…..When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own (Humani Generis, 36-37).

Hence, it seems clear that a Catholic is not free to accept polygenism. There are some in theological circles who have attempted to assert that the Pope is merely saying it is not apparent how such a theory can be reconciled, but not actually indicating that such a view must be rejected. But this seems fanciful since the Pope says quite clearly that Catholics “by no means enjoy such liberty” and “cannot embrace” the opinion of polygenism. No later Pope or Council has chosen to distinguish or, in any way, limit the conclusion of Pius XII in this matter. Perhaps this does not preclude some eventual theory of polygenism that can be acceptable,  but none has been offered.

Some Catholics will point to an oversimplified notion  presented in the media some ten years ago that science has “proved” that all humans trace their origin to one woman. This woman was dubbed “Eve” or “Mitochondrial Eve.” But, most people have over-simplified understandings of this finding. It does not mean that there were not other women who predated this woman, and other genetic lines that died out. She is merely our most recent common matrilineal ancestor and seems to have lived at a time significantly prior to Y-Chromosomal Adam who is also an important fork in the genetic road. The point is that the theory of one woman is more complicated than the popular conception describes it. [1] It is not likely a resolution to the problem of polygenism.

The heart of the problem in terms of polygenism is, as the Pope notes, the doctrine of original sin as expounded in Scripture:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—….Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:11, 19)

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor 15:22)

We are thus all linked not to a group, but to a man, Adam. And when he sinned, we sinned. Sin reaches us all since we all share one common ancestor. Further, it is hard to conceive a group of early humans, all sinning in such as way as all our ancestors went into this state commonly. Scripture says, sin came through one man. Scripture is inerrant in such a matter. We cannot simply set its truth aside.

Scripture also affirms our connection to the one man, Adam when it records that God sent one, Jesus Christ, as the New Adam. This sets up a parallelism: One Adam, One New Adam. God did not send a committee, or a squadron to save us which would be the parallel for polygenism and/or group sin.

So the problem of polygenism is a significant matter for Catholics who want to uncritically accept evolution or understand it in a simplistic and easy-going way. And herein is the central point of this and previous articles of mine on this subject: Namely, it is essential that we make proper distinctions and exclusions if we choose to embrace some aspects of the Theory of Evolution. The Catholic approach to this whole matter is carefully balanced. We are not fundamentalist and creationists but neither do we uncritically accept the Theory of Evolution. We must make proper distinctions, exclusions and clarifications in order to accept what I might term a theistic evolution as a tenable theory. Even here, Catholics are free to reject aspects of a theistic evolution on the grounds of science. But this last distinction (scientific objections) is beyond the role of the Church. Perhaps again,  the old advice is helpful here: Seldom affirm, never deny, ALWAYS distinguish. We need to be careful and sober when it comes to Evolutionary Theory.

Perhaps it is good to conclude with the words of Pope Benedict which remind us that we are dealing ultimately with a deep mystery for which we must ultimately have great reverence:

The clay became man at the moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought of “God.” The first Thou that – however stammeringly – was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which the spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed. For it is not the use of weapons or fire, not new methods of cruelty or of useful activity, that constitute man, but rather his ability to be immediately in relation to God. This holds fast to the doctrine of the special creation of man . . . herein . . . lies the reason why the moment of anthropogenesis cannot possibly be determined by paleontology: anthropogenesis is the rise of the spirit, which cannot be excavated with a shovel. The theory of evolution does not invalidate the faith, nor does it corroborate it. But it does challenge the faith to understand itself more profoundly and thus to help man to understand himself and to become increasingly what he is: the being who is supposed to say Thou to God in eternity. (Creation and Evolution: A Conference With Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo, S.D.S. Stephan Horn (ed), pp. 15-16)

172 Replies to “The Problem of Polygenism in Accepting the Theory of Evolution”

  1. Hats off to you! I do have to say that when I had said earlier that I thought that God made many humans that was before I had joined the Church. You explain this all so well. There has to be only ONE pair from whence we all come from and of course ONE redeemer.

  2. We are thus all linked not to a group, but to a man, Adam. And when he sinned, we sinned. Sin reaches us all since we all share one common ancestor.

    So, you are saying that Original Sin was passed biologically/physically/genetic, and not spiritually? That is, the physical bodies of Adam and Eve directly “infected” the bodies of their children, and not their souls.

    Because if Original Sin was transmitted spiritually, the soul being transcendent, it would not have been necessary for there to be a direct biological connection. Rather, the moment that sin entered into the world via Eve and Adam, the moment it infected their souls, it would have transcendentally infected the souls of every other human being then in existence (if we were to assume for the sake of the argument that there were others (such as those whom Cain was afraid of)).

    But that raises the question of on what level Baptism operates? Does it cleanse our DNA of Original Sin or some other physical aspect? Or does it operate to wipe away the stain of Original Sin from our souls? To be sure, Baptism leaves an indelible mark, a seal on the soul, but if it removes Original Sin on the spiritual level, then that would mean that it was not transmitted biologically. And, although one effect of Original Sin is “death,” the more problematic effect is that it caused a defect in the will, it impaired our judgment and ability to thereafter know and thereby choose right from wrong, all of which is at the spiritual level of the person.

    Yes, it is true — “the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand.” CCC 404.

    1. I suppose that raises other questions —

      Do we inherit Original Sin from our own personal mothers and fathers? Or do we inherit it directly from Adam?

      What about the modern-day baptized husband and baptized wife who are both in a state of grace when they conceive a child, how is it that Original Sin should be transmitted to that child (as we know that it is) even though they are in a state of grace, if Original Sin comes from them and not from Adam himself?

      1. I don’t think you need to jump to those conclusions. Lots of things pass from one generation to the next, without them being biologically or spiritually transmitted.

        For instance, in some countries, when your parents die, their property and their debts become yours. I see the transmission of the guilt of original sin as being more akin to a hitherto unpaid debt passed from generation to generation.

        The solution does begin at baptist, of which the Council of Florence says “The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all sin, original and actual” and the Council of Trent anathematizes anyone who says it does not take away original sin (sess. v, canon v). However, because we (excluding our blessed Mother) were conceived in original sin, it remains as part of our corporeality, perhaps like a scar, and thus, we remain partially in Adam’s lineage, until the Resurrection. St. Paul, not one to understate the effects of Baptism, still cried “Who will free me from this body of death?” to which he answers “The grace of God, by Our Lord Jesus Christ” (note the future tense).

        As you see, the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and of the Resurrection of the Flesh are very much entwined with this topic.

      2. The dogmatic tradition on this point is that we inherit original sin from our fathers (specifically our fathers, as they have actively passed on human nature to us, while our mothers passed it on to us passively).
        Yet, we were all present in Adam according to his active generative power — thus, he has passed original sin on to all of us through our fathers.

        N.B. — St. Thomas tells us that, when scripture says we were present in Adam, it is properly understood that we were present not in the way a tree is present in a seed, nor in the way a child is present in the womb, but in the way a chair is present in an ax or hammer (and not in the way a chair is present in a tree) — i.e. we were present in Adam insofar as he had the active power of generating us…
        Moreover, Christ was not present in Adam according to this active power of generation … for he was actively generated by God and passively generated of Mary. Thus, Christ was in Adam only according to the passive generative power. Thus, he did not contract original sin…(Cf. ST III, q.31; especially articles 6,7, and 8).

      3. Do we inherit Original Sin from our own personal mothers and fathers? Or do we inherit it directly from Adam?

        We inherit it from Adam, through our parents, in the form of a damaged nature (i.e., deprived of sanctifying grace). A brief paraphrase from Chapter 14 of Theology and Sanity. Man in united in his nature under Adam, and now under Christ. Thus all partake of original sin (the act of one man) and all can partake of redemption (the act of one man).

      4. The Catholic Encyclopedia tackles this issue:

        St. Thomas thus explains this moral unity of our will with the will of Adam.

        “An individual can be considered either as an individual or as part of a whole, a member of a society . . . . Considered in the second way an act can be his although he has not done it himself, nor has it been done by his free will but by the rest of the society or by its head, the nation being considered as doing what the prince does. For a society is considered as a single man of whom the individuals are the different members (St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 12). Thus the multitude of men who receive their human nature from Adam is to be considered as a single community or rather as a single body . . . . If the man, whose privation of original justice is due to Adam, is considered as a private person, this privation is not his ‘fault’, for a fault is essentially voluntary. If, however, we consider him as a member of the family of Adam, as if all men were only one man, then his privation partakes of the nature of sin on account of its voluntary origin, which is the actual sin of Adam” (De Malo, iv, 1).

        Thus the principal difficulties of non-believers against the transmission of sin are answered.

        “Free will is essentially incommunicable.”
        Physically, yes; morally, no; the will of the father being considered as that of his children.

        “It is unjust to make us responsible for an act committed before our birth.”
        Strictly responsible, yes; responsible in a wide sense of the word, no; the crime of a father brands his yet unborn children with shame, and entails upon them a share of his own responsibility.

        “Your dogma makes us strictly responsible for the fault of Adam.”
        That is a misconception of our doctrine. Our dogma does not attribute to the children of Adam any properly so-called responsibility for the act of their father, nor do we say that original sin is voluntary in the strict sense of the word. It is true that, considered as “a moral deformity”, “a separation from God”, as “the death of the soul”, original sin is a real sin which deprives the soul of sanctifying grace. It has the same claim to be a sin as has habitual sin, which is the state in which an adult is placed by a grave and personal fault, the “stain” which St. Thomas defines as “the privation of grace” (I-II:109:7; III:87:2, ad 3), and it is from this point of view that baptism, putting an end to the privation of grace, “takes away all that is really and properly sin”, for concupiscence which remains “is not really and properly sin”, although its transmission was equally voluntary (Council of Trent, Sess. V, can. v.). Considered precisely as voluntary, original sin is only the shadow of sin properly so-called. According to St. Thomas (In II Sent., dist. xxv, Q. i, a. 2, ad 2um), it is not called sin in the same sense, but only in an analogous sense.


    2. Bender,

      Original SIn is passed via our human nature. It is passes on regardless of one being baptized or not. It is in our nature. Baptism washes our spirits clean but is does not completely save us in most cases since most go on to live longer and commit personal sin. We will always be scarred by original sin and we will always pass it on via our human nature. This is why Mary needed to be saved prior to birthing Jesus. She was completely saved before the act of Salvation even happened because the inclination to sin again was removed from her. One of the effects of Original Sin is to be inclined to sin.

      1. MichaelP,
        I agree with everything you have written, except your discussion of Mary…
        The Tradition holds that Christ is free from original sin because he was conceived of the power of the Holy Spirit, not because Mary was free from sin.
        Christ’s holiness DOES NOT depend on Mary’s holiness.
        Even if Mary had had original sin, Christ would not have contracted this — as he was not generated of man, but of God.
        For a very good discussion of this, see Summa Theologica III, q.31, aa. 6-8. Peace!

      2. Reginaldus,

        It is my understanding that since the only human nature Christ took on was Mary’s, then she had to be saved prior to receiving original sin from her father so that she would not be inclined to sin again, not because she would pass original sin to her Jesus. Original or personal sin would have disqualified her from being the new Arc of the Covenant since Christ can not be defiled by sin. Only a pure vessel could house our Lord. I agree totally with you. Sin is passed down from the fallen human father, which Christ did not have. It is so much nicer when we agree.

      3. MichaelP, I too like it better when we agree, if we agree in the Truth. Thank you for the clarification regarding your understanding of our Lady’s Immaculate Conception…
        By the way, I responded to your comment on the last post (regarding my comment on Creationism, Primary Causality, and Secondary Causality)…please take a look at it. I think that there was a misunderstanding…

      4. Original SIn is passed via our human nature.

        That doesn’t address the question — is it (1) our physical nature or (2) our spritual nature or (3) both, inasmuch as we are both body and spirit?

      5. Bender,

        From what I was taught, original sin is passed just like hair color, talents, intellect and so forth. I may be wrong on the first line but it is surely passed from the father to the child. So if this is the case, then it has to be on a physical level since the soul is created by God instantaneously outside the conception process.

  3. Msgr., I am particularly grateful for the way you have dealt with the “common ancestry” idea of modern science. I had not really understood how this fit with the faith, and I was probably leaning toward the “uncritical” acceptance side…now I see that the “Mitochondrial Eve” solution is quite far off from the Church’s teaching.

    What is more, if monogenism is affirmed on account of the doctrine of original sin and the redemption in Christ, defending “Eve” doesn’t really help us too much. The whole point of monogenism is to affirm that we all come from Adam (Eve coming from his side, the rest of us being of his seed) — all are said to be in Adam, not in Eve; and so all now are meant to be in Christ. Original sin comes from Adam (not really from Eve), and redemption comes from Christ.
    Great post!

    By the way, could Humani Generis be the greatest encyclical of the 20th Century? How often do you get biblical interpretation, evolution, the ‘new theology’, grace/nature, obedience to the magisterium, historicism, and the modern obsession with the Greek Fathers (over and against the Latin Fathers) discussed in the same encyclical? The pontificate of Pius XII was indeed a great time for the true theology!

      1. That’s a rather interesting impression.

        I think almost everyone would rate HG at the bottom.

        Most people would find in it a caricature of their assertion, and others would be rehabilitated at and through Vatican II. That to me shows the absense of staying power this document has, in constrat to others of Pius’s (I can think of three specifically that have had a powerful influence).

        Further, I think ecclesiologically we misunderstood the response owed to teaching, if we think that just because Pius condemned something in HG, that we are bound to agree, or that Pius was even right.

        Like I said, most people would consider this quite a poor document, since philosophically it engages in strawmen.

  4. Thank you Msgr. Pope for bringing this discussion to the forefront. It seems that Creationist do make a critical point in regard to connecting the flood to practically all discussion about evolution and all discussion about earth age. We as Catholics cannot ignore that the scripture states in very clear terms that God covered the earth with water and that it had never rained before that time. This basically destroys any theory that God created “different kinds” over time through natural selection. Variation which is microevolution is undeniable. Just look at insects and dogs, birds and spiders, or whatever, that happened after the flood. Reptiles becoming Aves is absurd. Give it a billion, billion years and it remains statistically absurd, let alone inanimate atoms becoming animate cells. Yikes, it’s easier to believe in alligators taking flight than that, however flying alligators would be great for a fairy tale. The real room for disagreement, as far as I am concerned is about earth age, NOT macroevolution. As much as I love Beckwith and other Thomists, I don’t get their apprehension in denying macroevolution apparently because they don’t like the philosophical arguments for ID. This is really a no brainer that every grade school kid understands until the government schools brain wash it out of them. Frankly, discussing whether or not the King looks good in his new clothes is mute when the King has no clothes. Oh wait a minute; perhaps he is actually wearing graphene. Now that would be cool.

    1. Yes, the scripture seems clear that God created everything according to its kind. I am not a scientist but I will say as a layman in that regrad I am unimpressed with the fossil record in regard to the theory. It seems to me that there should be more evidnce in the fossil record. But that is science and not theology and I am willing to accept my limits. I am less aware of Beckwith et al. and so will simply accept what you say here. I am personally a fan of ID at least as I understand it.

    2. @David,
      I am not familiar with much of Beckwith’s writings, but I can assure you that, for the Strict Thomist, the philosophical problems with Intelligent Design theory are far more foundational than you seem to be giving them credit for.
      ID treats God after the manner of secondary causality, but God is the primary cause. Thus, for the Strict Thomist, there is not necessarily a problem with saying that evolution comes about through chance and random mutations and that (on the level of secondary causes) there is no intelligent guiding force. However, St. Thomas is very clear that even those things which happen ‘by chance’ are yet guided by the providence of God on the level of primary causality.

      As I wrote in a comment to an earlier post:
      THE PROBLEM WITH ATHEISTS is that they conclude that because God is not a secondary cause, neither is he the primary cause.
      THE PROBLEM WITH INTELLIGENT DESIGN THEORISTS is that they conclude that because God is the primary cause, he is also a secondary cause.
      And, finally, THE PROBLEM WITH STRICT CREATIONISTS is that they conclude that because God is the primary cause, there are no secondary causes.

      BUT THE THOMIST (calm and collected as he must always be) concludes that because God is the primary cause, all else must be secondary causes — and he never confuses the two.

      1. Reginaldus,

        This was from the other article in which we exchanged thoughts. I figured I would move it over here so that we wouldn’t have to keep checking multiple articles.

        “Primary Causality” does not mean the “First Chronological Cause”, it refers to the foundational cause of all existence at every moment…Hopefully, this helps to ease our differences somewhat…

        I understand your point now but I will admit I did not come close to getting it the way it was originally posted. I don’t know much about STRICT CREATIONISTS since I believe God is constantly sustaining the life of His creation so I will take you at your word. However, I am a Creationist that has yet been compelled to abandon this belief and I am not sure science can ever offer that cookie to win we over. But hey, I will go with what the Church declares since the Vicar of Christ alone holds the keys.

        Pax Christi,

      2. MichaelP, my point is that creationists seem to think that because God created the world and all the species of life, there could not have been evolution. Or, put in another way, they seem to think that if there is evolution, then God did not create each and every species of life.
        There is a problem here of not recognizing the difference between primary and secondary causality. Even if evolution is true, this would in no way negate God’s role in creating every species of life (at the level of primary causality).

        If someone is a creationist because of their interpretation of Genesis 1-2, I would say that they are taking a pretty narrow reading of the text, which is not necessitated by the Tradition.
        If someone is a creationist because they think it is the only way to defend God’s work in creating and sustaining the universe, I would say that they have made a metaphysical error.

        It is not that Strict Creationism is contrary to Church teaching or the Bible, but it does seem to contradict science if we are claiming that every species of life was created in the specific order of Genesis (e.g. that all plant species were created before any animals).

  5. Msgr. Pope,

    So what do we call these people that teach with authority in the Catholic domain that polygenism is a possibility and allow room for discussing it or even defending it, while claiming to be teaching authentic Church doctrine? Should they be called out and censored from teaching this or should they be allowed to espouse it further?


    1. Well I think they should be questioned. However, some have felt free to re-examine polygenism since nothing has been said for 60 years from the Pope or any other authoritative source. Hence I think the safe and clear position is “no” to polygenism but, the recent silence of the Church on the topic is curious and it leads to speculators thinking they can advance it. I think they are wrong. Perhaps censoring them would be considered too extreme given the paucity of source material. Nevertheless a clear reminder of Humani Generis seems in order.

      1. Thanks for the response but why is it good for the Church to censor those that want women ordained as priest, and even excommunicate them, but not good to do the same in this instance? They both deal with doctrine, correct? The absence of a reminder does not seem to be a very good reason. Can you expand a little further? I ask this because I am dealing with this very issue in my parish. There is a theologian coming that teaches that polygenism is possible and dismisses Adam as being a real historical individual. She teaches he was a representation of all mankind and that Genesis is purely mythical. Your input will help me address this problem with my Pastor.

      2. I think the difference is that Pontifs have recently and repeatedly reiterated the CHurch teaching on this matter of rejecting women’s ordination. JP II went so far as to invoke the Petrine office to confirm and strengthen. In the matter of polygenism there has really been only one statement. An authoritative one at that. Hence I think that some dialogue would be had before censure of some sort. Frankly many need some education on this whole point. This is why I think corrective dialogue would precede penalties in this case. The rejection of Women’s ordination has been reasserted frequently by comparison and would require less remedial measures and more swift discipline. IMHO

      3. Well I think they should be questioned. However, some have felt free to re-examine polygenism since nothing has been said for 60 years from the Pope or any other authoritative source.

        This seems a curious thing to say, Monsignor. Communion and Stewardship, 2004, a document from the International Theological Commission, and one that was drafted under the direct oversight of our current pontiff and available on the Vatican’s website, can hardly be said to represent “silence” on this subject. And while it is not at the level of an encyclical, I would not characterize it as trivial. It is unfair of you to claim ‘speculators’ are advancing it without any guidance.

        “70. With respect to the immediate creation of the human soul, Catholic theology affirms that particular actions of God bring about effects that transcend the capacity of created causes acting according to their natures. The appeal to divine causality to account for genuinely causal as distinct from merely explanatory gaps does not insert divine agency to fill in the “gaps” in human scientific understanding (thus giving rise to the so-called “God of the gaps”). The structures of the world can be seen as open to non-disruptive divine action in directly causing events in the world. Catholic theology affirms that that the emergence of the first members of the human species (whether as individuals or in populations) represents an event that is not susceptible of a purely natural explanation and which can appropriately be attributed to divine intervention. Acting indirectly through causal chains operating from the beginning of cosmic history, God prepared the way for what Pope John Paul II has called “an ontological leap…the moment of transition to the spiritual.” While science can study these causal chains, it falls to theology to locate this account of the special creation of the human soul within the overarching plan of the triune God to share the communion of trinitarian life with human persons who are created out of nothing in the image and likeness of God, and who, in his name and according to his plan, exercise a creative stewardship and sovereignty over the physical universe.” (emphasis mine)

        It seems to me that there is quite a bit more room for Catholics to accommodate polygenism–as it is currently understood by scientists–than you are claiming. Further, it is not evolution per se, but genomics and population genetics that points to a sizeable population rather than a single couple at the foundation of the human race. You would find the subject fascinating, I think.

        It should also be pointed out, that in the 19th century, polygenism was understood to mean a separate origin for each of the human races, not that humanity started from more than a single pair, and further that it was taken by many as a justification for racism. Darwin considered himself a monogenist, but in the sense that he believed that all humanity shared the same biological origin.

      4. John,

        The article does not state such a thing. All paragraph 70 is saying is that if a human species existed prior to the direct creation of man via the injection of the soul by God, then more than one human species could have already existed. It is not endorsing polygenism. If you read the entire article, you will see that it is constantly quoting Gaudium et Spes that makes clear that there was one Adam, meaning one of the human species that God selected to inject a soul into. From that point on, he was called Adam and we all stem from him.

        p22- The Son is the perfect Man who restores the divine likeness to the sons and daughters of Adam which was wounded by the sin of the first parents (GS 22).

        52. “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord. Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling.

      5. Or maybe I am wrong. It seems like the authors are purposely trying to be vague and speak in a way that they please both sides. It is confusing to me and does cause some concern, especially in light of what Scripture tells us about the nature of Adam and him being one. I am not sure how they can reconcile this with Scripture. It would also be nice to know if this document has any authority what so ever.

      6. After sleeping on this and reading it anew, I withdraw my second post concerning my response to John. The document he offered is not talking about the first Adam or Man but the first individuals of the human species, meaning the first to evolve from something else, prior to God breathing a soul into the one called Adam. I wish the authors would have made that clearer for the simple minded like myself.

  6. I think the theology of recapitulation might shed some light. Jesus Christ recapitulated human history in his life and his human life began in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. I think it’s consistent with Catholic teaching to think that Adam and Eve were indeed the first humans but that they began their human lives in their mother’s wombs. Their mothers being genetically the same as Adam and Eve but lacking the full humanity that God bestowed on the First Humans.

    1. Hmm… not sure this conforms well enough to the biblical account which speaks of Adam and Eve being directly created by God. It is true the accounts may use figurative language and so I suppose your notion would not be entirely excluded. But though the language may be figurative it seems the truth that Adam and Eve were created by direct and special acts pf God may be a truth we cannot ultimately call figurative. Recapitualtion is a fine theology but may also have its limits and need to be balanced with the actual accounts.

      1. Making Adam and Eve fully human (body/soul) in their respective mothers wombs (who themselves were not fully human) seems to me a direct and special act of God.

      2. Since Genesis was written 2000-3000BC, it is not an “actual account” of the origins of humanity if by “actual” you mean historical, eye-witness reporting.

      3. While it may be true that Genesis uses figurative language and is not written in the form of a modern history it is historical in that it confers to us what God did. My concern with your in utero theory is that it does respect the biblical data enough accroding to me. Adam and Eve were created by God by direct act but both in different ways: Adam from the clay of the ground and Eve from the side of Adam. Even if this is figurative language it bespeaks something far more basic than your in utero theory. IOW what if Adam were to be concieved as you say? OK but the text seems to be very clear that Eve came forth very differently. Hence, to state simply that they both came forth from homind ancestors may be a theory but it does not respect the data that Eve came forth from Adam.

  7. Father Pope, Blessing and thanksgiving for initiating such a wonderful discussion on such an important and basic topic.

    As I understand Church teaching, God created man with 3 gifts: 1. Basic humanity (i.e a material body and spirtual soul, with a mind, a will, and physical needs and drives, 2. Integrity (i.e. the ability to coordinate those physical needs and drives in harmony with God’s will. This includes an exemption from physical death.), and 3. Sanctifying grace (i.e. the ability to share directly in the divine life of the Trinity and walk hand in hand with the Creator). The Father intended ALL of these gifts to passed onto Adam and Eve’s progeny. However, as gifts, we have no claim upon them, and numbers 2 and 3 were revoked by God as a result of The Fall.

    This is how JPII described Original Sin…i.e, a privation of Sanctifying Grace or the abscence of what was intended from the beginning. Not a genetic defect to passed onto future generations or something that we children of Adam are considered guilty of, but instead, the lack of something that God originally intended to be there. In the context of heredity and original sin, this makes sense to me, because if Original Sin is the abscence of something, then there is nothing to “pass on” to future generations, since one can not pass on something he does not have. This does not obviate Baptism, since the end of man is to share in the life of God, which Baptism makes possible by providing the Sanctifying Grace necessary to make that possible.

    1. Well, I’m just trying to indicate what Humani Generis says. Whether the sin comes to through physical descent or moral unity, or both, the point seems to be that having that common ancestor Adam in whom all sinned and Eve who is the mother of all the living, is essential to Pius Xiis rejection of polygenism.

      1. Father, as the CCC states, is that ultimately it is a mystery (which is a truth that can only be partially comprehended by our limited human abilities). But it seems to me, that just as it is natural for birds to fly and fish to swim, it is natural for man to exercise his free will to disobey God because of the abscence of integrity…it is this tendency that is passed along from our first parents, and is why polygenism is rejected. Thus the true physical connection to Adam is essential because we share the same physical drives with him because they are passed down from him.

        However, the other aspect of being human includes the soul, which is fashioned individually with each and every conception by God, as Genesis states that once God breathed life into clay, man became “a living being”. IMO, this gives credence to what JPII was alluding to in defining Original Sin as a privation or the lack of something that should be there….God withholds the gifts of integrity and Sanctifying Grace not as a punishment for an act of commision, but because he wishes us to make a choice just as Adam had to make a choice.

        God, bless.

  8. I have not read everything in each post in this series so please point me in the correct direction if you have already discussed this. It is fine to say that we can theologically agree with evolution, but I think it is necessary to point out that we can agree with creationism. I used to accept evolution before I became a believer, then I thought it was okay to agree with it and still be Christian, then I started reading up on creation science (which cannot academically be denied out of hand without honestly answering the questions it poses about evolution and, more to the point, the age of the earth) and so now I basically do not agree with anything. I simply refuse to choose, and I think this is one instance where refusing to choose is not simply choosing one. I think scientists, both young earth and old earth, have valid points on both sides. I think it is important to validate both positions as in agreement with the church teachings… unless I misunderstand the church teachings on this. But it seems to me that these days if you are a fundamentalist/evengelical/protestant then you must believe in “young earth” and if you are Catholic then you must believe in “old earth.” We were not there, we will never know for sure how old the earth is; at least this side of heaven. And I wonder if on the other side, in heaven, we will really care.

    1. Denise – I found your comment interesting. I am not a scientist, but I’ve always wondered if God might have created the earth “older” just as Adam and Eve were created as adults. Just speculation on my part.

  9. With all respect, IMHO I don’t think that polygenism need come into it. Assuming via evolution (and knowing that God started it all and has been involved in every step), X hundreds of thousands of years ago, God picked 2 Homo Sapians (or Neandrathals) of the thousands that were living, and gave these 2 immortal souls, and He revealed Himself to them. They rejected Him and sin entered the world. The rest is history.

    1. Your hypothesis doesn’t seem to contradict Scripture, IMO, since man is actually created in Genesis 1 and given a soul in Chapter 2. Dude…maybe you should write an encyclical?!

    2. As Msgr. Pope pointed out. Genesis is historical even though we don’t get all the information. Eve was created from the side of Adam, whom already had a soul. So your theory falls on its face. This is why the Church has come out against making Genesis 1-3 myth and held to the teaching that it is historical. Once you make it myth or imagination, you can do whatever you want with it.

      1. MichaelP, I agree that Genesis 1-3 is historical…but again, this does not necessarily mean what many think it means.
        Catholics are free to hold that Genesis 1, in particular, is a metaphor…not myth, not imagination, but metaphor/parable. So, I agree with your comment, but we must be careful not to get too carried away…moreover, claiming that Genesis 1 is metaphorical would not mean it is not “historical” (in the way the Tradition has understood the historical/literal sense).

  10. The problem with Benedict XVI statement is that by the time men was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought of “God” (50,000 BP or so) humans were already present in at least three continents. Moreover, such an ancient date for the Adam and Eve account makes any historical content of it, kept by oral tradition up to Moses, very unlikely.

  11. “It was Wisdom who protected the first man to be fashioned – the father of the world who had been created alone”. (Ws 10:1)

    It might be tempting to look for points of agreement between the account of creation in the book of Genesis and modern science but, disappointing as it might be, that kind of scientific information is simply not there.

    The book of Genesis is the revelation that the entire universe and everything in it was created by the one transcendent God and that the human race is the crown of His creation.

    It seems reasonable to believe that God wants us to learn everything we can about His creation, so every step we come closer to understanding our human origins the better. We should investigate such matters with confidence and a sense of awe, knowing that whatever God created is good (Gn 1:31).

    Msgr Pope, thank you for ths and other very thought provoking articles.

  12. Caveats regarding “evolution” are in order. No one can deny evolution, if it is merely defined as biologic change over time. Where the rub comes in, is accepting Darwin’s theory and “evolution” as one and the same, since they are not. Darwin was ostensibly offering a theory to explain his observations concerning biology. It basically stated 3 things: 1. All life as we now know it, came from ONE primordial living organism, 2. The variety of biodiversity is explained by random changes at the genetic level which propogate via natural selection into the future, 3. There is no room or need of a creative intelligence. That’s it…that’s all it says, and it was certainly influenced by a materialisitc and atheistic worldview, which he harbored, which, IMO, is the real reason it has been enshrined as one of the “holy grails” of modern day “science”. It sure can’t be because of its explanation of the fossil record or the predictions it makes, neither of which support his theory.

  13. There are many theories on the fact of evolution. And the fact that evolution is science, there need be no reason why any Catholic should not believe in it, because science and faith do not contradict. The polygenist theory is just one theory of evolution. The fact of evolution is not summarized in any one theory, so to claim that evolution is wrong or presents a problem for Catholics is to base the argument against evolution on a fallacy.

    In addition, it is nonsensical to claim that this theory or that theory is godless, or to claim that God belongs to such and such a theory, because religion and science, while they do not contradict, also do not mix but each belong to their own domains. Religion is not scientific and science is not religious. Ergo, for an atheist scientist to make a so-called “godless theory of evolution”, or for a Christian scientist to make a so-called “Godly theory of evolution”, is to make an unscientific theory. There is no empirical empire for or against God’s existence.

    So the whole issue on polygenism should not be about evolution, as if science is not scientific, but about the problem that the theory (polygenism) has with Christian doctrine. That’s all. You don’t need to even bring up evolution, you just need to bring up the theory and state why it contradicts Church teaching, and leave it at that. Yes some people need more information and yes some people will go against Church teaching and yes some people will confuse theory for fact, yet priests are suppose to be spiritual masters, not scientific masters. So leave the science to scientists and leave the matter to God.

    I’m not saying don’t learn science. I’m saying don’t try to go beyond your limits and remember who you are.

    1. I do understand your point but there is a mainstream in the evolutionist school that just about everyone swims in. There may be a few other tributaries but the mainstream is polygenism, non-directed random mutation etc.

      1. Msgr., since God knows the future, would that make the “non-directed random mutation” truely random? If not then what other possibilities that the concept of “non-directed random mutation” will contradict to our Catholic faith? Thanks.

      2. Stephen,

        The way God ‘knows’ the future is different than the way in which we might ‘know’ the future. God is outside of time, He knows the future the way an author ‘knows’ the entire story after he writes it. Only, for God, everything is an eternal now, there is no future for Him. He only knows the future because He is outside of time. He ‘knows’ it as it happens, He does not have foreknowledge.

  14. “But though the language may be figurative it seems the truth that Adam and Eve were created by direct and special acts pf God may be a truth we cannot ultimately call figurative.”
    How does one determine this ? That is, in a story that is said to contain figurative language, how does one determine what is not figurative ?

    Truth cannot contradict truth. So, far in the comments there has been a lot from the Bible and Catholic teaching both of which subject to interpretation, but not much from the science side which can also provide truth.

    Whatever the fossil record may be, what about the molecular record ? The cells that make up our human bodies contain many thousands of proteins that are very similar in all animal cells. That is why we can do so much medical research on rats and mice. When you compare proteins from the cells of animals you find that the sequence of a particular protein is more similar the more closely the animals are related by evolutionary theory. For example, take one of the thousands of enzymes working in a cell, lets just call it enzyme A for simplicity, and compare its sequence in a mouse, a rat, a dog, an ape and a human. You find that the sequence of the mouse enzyme A is most similar to rat enzyme A and the ape enzyme A is most similar to human enzyme A while the dog sequence in somewhere in between. This is the relationship predicted by evolutionary theory and is suggestive of a gradual process. In this manner the sequences of thousands of proteins taken from present day animals can be compared and when they are, they all reflect the relationships predicted by evolutionary theory. The fact that this is so is also very compelling for a gradual process to explain the origins of different life forms.

    We humans have not only cells full of proteins that are very similar to all animals (and in a similarity that reflects evolutionary theory as just mentioned) but also very similar organs and systems. So, from molecules to cells to organs to patterns of behavour (we eat, sleep, reproduce, fight, etc.), we are very much like animals and in what seems to be a gradual step by step relation. This is the power of evolutionary theory;the ability to offer an explanation of so much data. There is no other theory out there that can explain all this data, so I think it deserves some respect.

    Our present day ideas of evolutionary theory may be very simplistic and naive. Convergent evolution, when a similar structure evolves multiple times, seems very common and this would not be predicted by a totally random process. I don’t think scientists these days would say evolution is only from random mutation and natural selection. It seems like the proposed mechanism(s) are getting more complex.

    It is difficult to see why all living things would evolve, but humans would be created by direct and special acts and not only by direct and special acts but in a way that makes it look just like they evolved. That would seem in a way deceitful. I think the human soul is what is said to be created immediately by God. However, definitions of ‘soul’ and ‘immediate creation’ do not seem real clear in terms of understanding them in relation to the part of creation we are most familiar with.

    Also, if God creates a world in which there is evolution (a biological process) that accounts for living things, why would God use a more direct intervention to say create different species as from what I can see is postulated by ID ? That would seem like God was not ‘smart enough’ to create everything by evolution and has to intervene to ‘make it right’.

    I don’t think there are easy answers here. As Christians we have to get the whole symphony instead of just one or two sections. And this is not easy. We need to respect all sources of truth and realize that in our ignorance there may seem at times to be friction between the two. But, I think a better understanding of God, ourselves and our faith is the reward.

    1. Well, molecular biologists aren’t all on the same page when it comes to this. But remember, I am theological by training and likewise the Church must point to the deposit of faith. At some point, positing as John Di and it would seem you as well, that Adam and Eve had parents is a bridge too far for a Catholic. Though Genesis may use figurative language it does teach historical truth and the truth to preserve here is that Adam and Eve were directly created by God in a way somehow unique from other creatures and distinct from eachother. I am just not comfortable saying the basic elements of the text are fundamentally at odds with biologists and then choosing the biologists’ account. Once a gain, my bigger problem in this theory is not with how it might apply to Adam but with Eve who is said to come from Adam, not from the dust etc.

    2. It is my understanding that DNA has turned out to be much more complicated than we originally thought. Before we thought it was like a series of letters, sentences for instance. However, it turns out that it is more like paragraphs. So, it seems, we are more dissimilar than similar to animals. I am not a scientist, so maybe one could add to this. .

      1. This comment makes little sense. If DNA is “more like paragraphs” than a “series of letters,” then it would be the same for animals as well as humans. The only argument you could be make is that eukaryotic DNA is translated differently than prokaryotic DNA, but this only says that humans, other mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles, insects, plants, etc are more dissimilar than similar to bacteria. This does not at all change the argument made my Matt. Matt brought up very good points that shouldn’t be dismissed. Msgr Pope did nothing to respond to the article other than suggest that molecular biologists are divided, without providing any evidence, and relying on the “deposit of faith.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t answer Matt’s initial question of how the “deposit of faith” determines what is figurative and what is literal.

  15. DARWIN vrs. GOD. Jesus believed in one Adam: Matt. 19:4; “And he answered them and said, ‘Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female.'” Jesus being the truth cannot contridict the truth. Jesus does not LIE! Therefore at the end of the day, I chose to follow the Truth, Jesus!
    St. Paul believed in Adam: Acts 17:26; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth; and 17:29; Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God…. Paul said in 1 Tim 2:13: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” Paul gives referrence to Adam in 1 Cor. 11:8-9; Man not created for woman, but woman for man; 1 Cor. 15:22; As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all are made alive. 1 Cor. 1:45: And so it is written the first man was made a living soul; the Last Adam a quickening spirit. In the Epistle of St. Jude it says in paragraph; “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam…. They all believed in Adam. Jesus did not instruct His disciples to go forth into all nations and tell fairy tales.

    The book of Genesis refers to Adam over a dozen times both in name and noun. In Gen. 2:7; And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed innto his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Psalm 119:73; says; Your hand have made me. In Ezekeil, God’s Divine breath gives life in chapter 37 where the Lord God said unto these bones; Behold I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. In Gen. 2:20; And Adam calls his wife’s name Eve; because she is the mother of all living.
    Msgr. Pope is correct to instuct the Catholic laity that we cannot belive in evolution, or polygenism, the belief of a group of Adams. Do Apes have an Adam’s Apple? The 1950 Humani Generis summarized “All men have descended from an individual Adam.” Adam could properly speaking be called: “The Progenitor of all mankind, both in sin and flesh.”

    To gamble on the view that evolution is accepted along with scripture that Adam came from monkey meat is similar to “Pascal’s Wager,” that God is, or He is not. If you win, you gain Heaven, if you lose you can meet Darwin in hell. Wager that God created Adam, what is at stake is the salvation of your soul. In Ecclesiastes (xii) it concludes: “the dust return into its earth from whence it was; and the spirit return to God who gave it. The soul will live beyond this live. If Jesus did not redeem us and atone for the sin of Adam, then our faith is in vain. The Doctrine of Jesus Christ’s atonement for one man’s sin is based on the book of Genesis, and Adam. If you take away Genesis, you kill the root of the Tree, and the Tree will die. We cannot have Christ without Adam. At the Easter Vigil we sing: “Oh Happy fault, Oh necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a redeemer!”

    Jesus said in John 14:6; “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” I choose to follow His Way, His Truth, and Life in Him. II Tim 2:12-13; “…If we deny him, he also will deny us; If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself.”

    “But thanks be to God, which giveth us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor15:57.

    1. Grandpa Tom,

      I love you. This is the exact position I have but you have let Sacred Scripture speak for itself. Some of the Scripture passages you gave somewhat allow people to wiggle around them but taken as a whole, they have no case. Remember, the Bible is like a library, but unlike a library, all the books have one goal, and that is to lead all mankind to the Truth who is Jesus. In the end, we have to choose the Word of God, or the word of man. Out of science and Scripture, only one has the divine authorship of the Holy Spirit. If science was protected from lies like Scripture, then I would give it more credence, but it doesn’t. I will stick with what I know to be Truth. The risk just isn’t worth it. The Evolutionary Theory was started by godless people so their target is the root of the tree (Genesis), like you have stated. The same goes for those that reject any teaching of the apostles in the New Testament. They go for the root which is the Apostolic Authorship of the Gospels. If they can make that disconnection, then they can claim that there was no eyewitness account and that those stories rose out of here say and are not reliable. Same goes for JEPD. I am amazed at how many times I hear that the Beloved Disciple John was not the author of the Gospel of John, even through OFFICIAL Church teaching has always maintained that John did indeed write the 4th Gospel. Just look at what has happened to the layman’s belief on the Eucharist since this has been the common theme. John 6 is so damaging that John had to be discredited. This is always the modus operandi.

    2. I am with you in temperment on this matter Granda Tom however I think we also have to accept that the Church allows some liberty here, not about polygenism but about some aspects of evolution. Hence, while I’m an ID kinda guy, I also have to say that Catholics are free to be creationists or to hold a modified version of evolution as set firth above.

  16. What amazes me, is that everything that you explained in the last three posts, my mother, who only had a high school education, explained to me when I was in high school. When I asked here where she learned it, she told me she was taught it in sixth grade by the good sisters. And while I had forgotten most of it as time went on, she reminded me of it again while I was taking Biology in College!

    God bless mothers.

  17. I think the hardest thing about this discussion is the difficulty in saying, based on fossil evidence, “Homo sapiens sapiens is ‘true man’ in the theological sense, but not Homo sapiens neanderthalensis is not” (even Neanderthals buried their dead) or saying, “Anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals are both ‘true men’, but Homo heidelbergensis is not” (even though they also apparently buried their dead). There is no convincing point at which we can look at the fossil evidence and say, “The creatures before this point were not quite human, but the ones afterward clearly are human, so Adam must have lived at such-and-such a time and been a member of such-and-such a “species”.)

    It is worth pointing out, on the other hand, that a great deal of theological speculation points in the direction of Adam not being some crude being barely able to conceive of the idea of God, but actually of being a far more perfect and complete human than any of us.

    Finally, it does seem that there is some small wiggle room in which one could say, in the language of a few centuries ago, that the offspring of a human and an elf is always a human, or the offspring of a human and a nymph is always a human. Thus all humans would be descended from Adam, a real, individual man, from whom they derive both their spiritual souls and the taint of Original Sin — yet the mothers of some of them might be elves. Adam would not be a mere symbol of a generation, but there would not be the genetic bottleneck, either. The Church is very careful in what She says, and I don’t *think* this contradicts any authoritative teaching so far, but if it does, I repudiate it.

      1. Surely you’ve heard of the hobbits on Flores in Indonesia?

        I just mean something that is very much like a “true human”, but not exactly the same thing. Folklore is full of such creatures. In THE LIFE OF SAINT ANTONY, St. Jerome mentions both a satyr and a centaur, whatever you may want to make of that.

      2. It seems that things were much more perfect before sin entered the world. After sin, there was disorder, even in a natural order. That was not plan A, so to speak. Evolution, on the other hand, seems to posit a world in which things are always advancing towards greater perfection. There seems to be a contradiction there, and as G. K. Chesterton would say, chronological snobbery (just because we came later, we are better, smarter, etc).

  18. What I don’t understand is how the high ages for the first men fit into the evolutionary picture. What symbolic value does it have to say that Adam lived to be 930 years, Seth to be 912 years, and so on?

    1. Many of the ages turn out to be quite normal (for today, with modern medicine and sanitation) if you replace years with months. A man who dies at 930 months old would die at 77 1/2 years old, for example. Coincidence?

  19. In order to account for the existence of apparent pre-humans for tens of thousands of years, perhaps “evolving” along the way, such as acquiring bigger brains, learning to walk upright, etc., before the current homo sapiens appeared on the scene, some posit that Adam and Eve actually come on the scene at the end of the evolutionary process.

    But the better hypothesis it seems to me, and one more in line with scripture, is that “Adam” and “Eve” were indeed the first and originally only human beings, the prototype for all that follow, as it states in Genesis (even if not historically exactly as depicted therein). This would be so whether or not God later also created other peoples throughout the world, whether they are the actual biological parents of everyone or whether they are the symbolic “parents” of all (who would have nonetheless been stained by Original Sin, albeit by non-physical means). That is, Adam and Eve appear before those tens of thousands of years of pre-history. And while in the Garden, although non-technological (to the extent of not even having clothes), they had a rather advanced intelligence, including speech, etc., not to mention a profoundly intimate knowledge of God.

    However, upon what we call the Fall, they fell so far away from God, so far away from their prior condition, that they fell into a state of savagery. Perhaps losing the ability to speak, losing the ability to walk upright, perhaps descending nearly down to the level of animals, in a sense. And, worst of all, they lost almost all knowledge of God and began to adopt all sorts of wild and absurd ideas about Him, especially polytheism. Then, it took tens of thousands of years for man to “evolve” back to close to where he had been at the beginning of Creation. That would mean though that there is a considerable gap in the historical portion of Genesis between Adam and Noah.

  20. C. S. Lewis in his book, “Mere Christianity” discusses the idea of evolution in a different way. In chapter 11, (last chapter) called The New Man, Lewis says that everyone has been told man evolved from a lower type of life. Consequently, people wonder what is the nexr step? When will the thing beyond man going to appear? Will writers give him extra legs or arms? Will they get bigger brains or new power?

    The next step in evolution is the Christian view that the Next step has already appeared. And it is really new. It is not a change from brainy men to brinier men; it is a change that goes goes off in a totally different direction -a change from being creatures of God, to being sons of God. The first instance appeared in Palestine two thousand years ago. Lewis explains that we arrived at our idea of ‘Evolution’ from studying the past. If there are real novelties in store, our idea of the past will not really cover them. And in fact this New step differs from all previous ones not only in coming from outside nature, but several other way as well.

    The ‘first instance’ which appeared in Palestine was Christ the New Man. He is not merely a new man, one specimen of the species, but THE NEW MAN. He is the centre and life of all the new men. He came into the created universe, of His own will, bringing with Him the Zoe (Spirit), the new life (new to us). Men have become ‘new’ by being ‘in Him’. Until we rise up and follow Christ, we are still parts of Nature….

    On this view the ‘thing’ has happened; the new step has been taken and is being taken. Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the earth. They cross every brrier of colour, sex, class, age, and creed. In that way to become holy is like joining a secret society. To become a new man means losing what we now call ‘ourselves’. We must get what we call ‘ourselves’ and let Him take us over, the more truely ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christ’, all different will still be too few to express Him fully. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. The End.

    (Grandpa Tom says): So, like there never has been, there never will be in the future any macro-mutations in the biological man. But like Lewis show us, evolution is dependent on transformation of one’s inner most being. To be perfect like Christ. So evolution in Christ continues, and hopefully will continue to rise up all over the earth.

    1. Yes, if there is evolution then why are there still monkeys! I think that questions needs to be answered.

      1. If Protestant theology came from Catholic theology, why are there still Catholics?
        If Americans came from colonists from Europe, why are there still Europeans?
        If I am descended from British Royalty, why is there still a Queen in England?

        Seriously, Blake- that question’s been answered for over a century. Think of a new one.

  21. Evolution and Chance: Chance has been elevated to a status of magic force, exploited by atheists , to”explain” events that cannot be explained.According to Dawkins life on earth appeared by chance alone. Well, chance only refers to a probability of an event.One is still obliged to provide mechanism that produced a given event.
    Polygenism is a theory and not a proven fact.I agree with Msgr. Pope that we need to be careful when we enthousiastically accept evolution.

  22. The Bible is book of theology. Evolution is science. They deal with totally different subjects. I am a biologist and I have no trouble believing in both. As for creationism it is nonsence! It makes christians look like ignorant fools.

  23. The polygenist has to explain how a random mutation would occur in an entire population at the same time. If a mutation is unlikely, this would be unlikely^nth power. More probable is that some one individual was first and would be attracted to a mate who likewise shared the power of reason. Their children would tend to inherit this rational ability, and the gene would spread in the usual way. What else can it mean to say that Cain took wives from among the children of men than to say there were other hominids about, even if they were not strictly H. sap.

    Besides, I have four great-grand fathers. To say I am descended from one does not mean I am not descended from the other three as well. As I understand it, every present-day human is descended from Adam; but surely that doesn’t necessarily imply that there were no other great-great-…..-great grandfathers? But from a probabilistic basis, it is unlikely that all these other ancestors were human in the modern sense.
    + + +
    The words NATURAL and RANDOM are positively meant to exclude intelligent activity by God by most proponents of the Theory of Evolution.

    Of course, at that point they cease to be scientists. God is the author of nature; so to describe the natural [secondary] causes to a thing does not exclude God. In fact, it includes him. Secondly, as I’ve said, Randomness is not a cause of anything, but a statement of ignorance as to which of many small causes was responsible.

  24. My two cents:
    It is ironic to hear people argue against science but then interpret the Scriptures in a merely factual/evidence based way. To equate what is true with what is factual is a very scientific worldview. I propse that Truth need not be [primarily] factual…
    There are a lot of people improperly claiming or expecting some kind of scientific certainty regarding the creation of humans. HOW it happened is clearly not what’s being described in Genesis, since there are two distinct stories which are radically contradictory in detail (order of events, etc.), but not in terms of the truth about the relationships between God and humankind.
    To treat these stories as primarily factual leads us to more polarization which is clear from so many posts as people try to prove their interpretation as correct or to anathematize others or claim that the Church is a scientific authority. Faith is not about scientific certainty or being “right” in an argument, and it certainly is not about self-righteously condemning others–It is trust. Scienctists can compete for rightness based on the nature and amount of evidence, but people of faith trust.
    The Church’s realm is not science but faith and morals, which deal with our contemporary struggle to live lives of holiness. The Genesis stories serve very well in the genre of “creation myths” to transmit ideas about God which are TRUE, but most probably not factual. Otherwise, how does one reconcile the two separate accounts?
    They are stories of deep meaning about God’s will for us and about our struggle with the MYSTERY of Original sin. To try to reduce Original sin or any other mystery to a measureable molecular process of transmission is counterproductive as it tries to bring the reality within our control and shows a lack of trust in God (as if understanding it would allow us to somehow “cure” it ourselves?). We can let scientists theorize all they want about how the world came to be–that’s what they do. That’s not what the Church does–it guides us in our struggle through this messy mystery of life.
    That God created us out of love and yet that SINCE the beginning we have tended towards evil is true. See Gaudium et Seps 13.1: “homo tamen, suadente Maligno, inde ab exordio historiae, libertate sua abusus est”.

    1. The historicity of a first pair of parents, and of the Fall, seems to be closely connected to the Faith, so the Church has something to say about it. The “messy mystery of life” doesn’t start with us and our confusion; it starts with the creation of Adam (well, the messiness starts with the Fall). The Church’s vision of salvation history is based on historical events. We can’t lose that dimension.

      1. I don’t deny a first set of parents or a fall. I just suggest that the Genesis stories are more likely speaking about these realities in metaphor rather than presenting them as historical. To say the stories don’t relate fact is not a refutation that facts exist, just that they’re not intended to be found in these type of stories. There are many other Scriptural accounts which relate the historicity of salvation: Abraham and the patriarchs, the Exodus, the period of the Judges, the Kingdom, the exiles, the rebellion against the Greeks, the Incarnation, the crucifixion and Resurrection, etc.

  25. Dear Fr. Pope,

    I was hopeful in reading this post because this issue is a big concern of mine. I see too many Catholics acting like evangelicals/protestants on this issue. I dont think this post was doing that…. but I felt you are a way too spooked by evolution. And I think you inadvertantly misrepresented it.

    Please read John Farrell’s comment above…

    Fr Pope said –
    “The words NATURAL and RANDOM are positively meant to exclude intelligent activity by God by most proponents of the Theory of Evolution.”

    Only if you CHOOSE to interpret it that way. I would say that is the WRONG way to interpret it. The science by itself is not making a theological argument. It is not ALLOWED to. They are not theologians. What words would you expect them to use?

    Evolution is good science. All the complaints only have to do with fears about its misapplication toward human theology only. And by misapplication, I mean making statements that are outside the domain of science. Other than that, evolution tells a story for millions of species that have come and gone. It explains PERFECTLY without any serious objection. Your objections are for one species not based on science, but on the misapplication of science toward the thelogical. I have no problem with evolution science as a Catholic, and I dont think you should either. The fears described above are just that. Fears of conclusions you *might* draw, but are not compelled to.

    Nowhere in evolutionary theory does it say that I must be a polygenist.

    Saying ideas can lead to others does not mean it must. It also does not falsify it.

    Another poster wrote –
    “Secondly, as I’ve said, Randomness is not a cause of anything, but a statement of ignorance as to which of many small causes was responsible.”

    Well said!

    As God was the first cause, every cause and effect that followed still bears his fingerprint. Including the evolution of species. All truths find their souce in God, including scientific truth. If there is an apparent conflict, it is either bad science or bad religion, because one must has overstepped its bounds.

  26. Here is evolution and natural selection on the laymens level, in 20 seconds.

    You get sick and you are supposed to take an anti-biotic for 10 days. You are feeling good on day 7 and stop taking it. On day 9 you have a relapse. The reason the relapse is always worse, and tougher to beat is because the bacteria that survived the anti-biotic, and reproduced, are genetically stronger and more resistant. Natural selection in this case was based on survival of the fittest. The bacteria which was genetically more immune to the anti-biotic had offspring that were more immune like them.

    Now imagine that with species that reproduce at a much slower rate, but over millions of years.

    The fossil record is convincing, but you dont need to look to fossils to explain it.

    1. Except, Alan, that while bacteria reproduce so quickly, humans reproduce slowly, such that, in fact, it would take many more tens if not hundreds of millions of years than have actually passed in order to evolve from a couple of cells in the ooze all they way up to present-day human being. That is, not enough time has passed for it to have happened that way.

      And the fact is that what there is of the fossil record shows that, far from evolving from lower forms, homo sapiens more or less just suddenly appeared on the scene.

      Human evolution works much better from the comfort of one’s armchair while gazing at our navels, but once one really starts to get into it, more than a few things begin to not add up. It all sounds rather credible at first, but does not stand up to greater scrutiny.

  27. When one analytically examines the methods and materials in a basic “polygenism” research paper, one may be a bit surprised at the assumptions especially since they relate to millions and millions of years going backwards. What is really needed is a blog which points out where the extrapolated result of polygenism is not warranted by the presented evidence. If there were such a blog, I would be the first to comment.

      1. Maybe? However, to be an effective apologist, one needs to understand the other person’s turf which in this case is evolutionary research. One does not have to be bullied by “mountains of evidence” against the possibility of two, real, sole parents of the human species (monogenism). One simply needs to keep a “cheat sheet” as to where the cracks in the foundation are.

  28. Bacteria can achieve antibiotic resistance by sacrificing non-essential systems. I think it’s very rare for the total information contained in the genome to actually increase upon the occurrence of a positive mutation. Entropy is on the side of negative mutations almost always outnumbering positive ones. I think the process is similar to a man trapped in the forest with a boulder on his leg. He cuts his leg off and lives, but he is still impaired. One example: Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder with all kinds of negative effects, and yet it gives you an advantage: resistance to Malaria. By no means would I want to give myself anemia just to get malaria resistance, but it is one slight perk at a very high cost.

  29. It seems rather obvious to me that a teaching’s mere inclusion in a papal encyclical is not enough to relegate it to the status of unquestionable dogma. If that were the case, it would preclude all theological development whatsoever until such time a Pope wish to promulgate a new encyclical, which is ridiculous. A teaching that isn’t dogmatic, but promulgated in ordinary teaching documents, is due respect and deference, and may even be the “official” teaching at a given point in time, but it does not mean theologians may not respectfully dissent from it.

    I think it’s rather obvious that the contemporary magisterium does not consider Pius XII’s position vis-a-vis polygenism to be binding on Catholics.To my knowledge, nearly every evolutionary biologist on the planet is a polygenist, and I assume this is the case of every–or nearly every–evolutionary biologist who is a Catholic. In science departments all over the Catholic academic world, Catholic scientists are teaching and publishing literature that either presuppose polygenism or defend it. Yet, outside of the Catholic Answers website (and now the blog of the Washington Archdiocese, we don’t hear a PEEP from the magisterium reminding Catholics that we’re still bound by Pius XII’s undestanding of human biology.

    I’m sorry, count me unconvinced. We’re Catholics, not fundamentalists, and quite frankly on matters that are not dogmatic fact the Church has *NO* God-given right to tell theologians that they cannot so much as entertain the hypothetical possibility that a Pope can err, and has erred, in a theological opinion expressed an encyclical.

    No, I’m not promoting ex-cathedra-minimalism. The Church also teaches infallibly in her “ordinary and universal magisterium” but this is NOT the same thing as “common teaching.” The Church can AND DOES err in her common teaching – just ask Galileo. The common, or even the official, teaching is due respect and reverence, and should not be dismissed lightly, but we can’t allow it to stifle theological speculations to the contrary — otherwise,there would be no development of doctrine in the first place.

  30. I think we’re also missing an important point here: The creation accounts of Genesis are MYTHS. Inspired myths which convey inerrant truth, but myths nonetheless. The book SCREAMS “myth” as to its genre, which is why we find poetic language, contradictory details in the two creation accounts, fantastical stories of talking snakes and God apparently punishing all snakes for the disobedience of one (who we later learn is the Devil), etc. Myth is a universal human phenomenon, and it seems radical incredible to assume that the only people on the planet never to cultivate and develop their own creation mythology was this obscure confederation of Western Semites called the Hebrews.

    The prehistoric setting of these narratives precludes them from being historical works too, although like all myths they definitely contain kernels of historical truth. There’s no possible way any of the Biblical authors could have had any natural knowledge of the events taking place millions of years BC; to treat Genesis 1 thru 11 as historical writing, we have to assume a “divine rapist” theory of inspiration, whereby God takes possession of the Bible writer, and infuses knowledge into his mind that he didn’t have before. This is certainly not how the Bible writers come across (divinely “possessed”), and I see no reason to assume it.

    We have to keep in mind that a belief is not binding on us, or even worthy of respect, just because it’s ancient. When it comes to *natural* knowledge, of which they have no special expertise, the Church Fathers are no more worthy of our deference than joe-schmoe in the pew. The Fathers, given their historical proximity, certainly are authoritative witnesses as to, say, who authored the Gospels (and in what order), but they certainly aren’t in identifying the precise literary genres of works written centuries BC,especially when it’s obvious they’re doing nothing more than regurgitating the received assumptions by their rabbinic predecessors,who themselves were not historically close to the original authors of these works.

    Trying to derive lessons in human biology from God having formed Eve from Adam is as ludicrous as deriving lessons on cosmology from Hindu creation myths, zoology from Aesop, astronomy from Joshua, or horticulture from the Lord’s assertion that the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds (or his assertion that seeds are “dead”).

    Let’s not over-reaction to Catholic leftists and modernists by embracing fundamentalistic extremes. We’re not at our best when we do this — again, ask Galileo!

    1. Books don’t scream (though bloggers may use ALL CAPS). I’m not convinced that the first chapters of Genesis are so mythical that they exclude history. This division of genres is a modern phenomenon, not an ancient one.

      Of course we always try to aim at the middle, but the “via media” sometimes deviates from the mean — just ask Blessed Cardinal Newman. He found that the Roman Church had often been right when adopting a doctrinal position then considered extreme. I’m not saying that we should all become New Earth creationists (I’m not a scientist and therefore can’t make this specific judgment), but it doesn’t always work to posit a thesis and an antithesis and then let the waves carry the triumphant H.M.S. Synthesis between and over them both.

    2. Eric,

      You are absolutely wrong with this post and the one above. Definitive teachings put forth in encyclicals are do submission, not just respect. If they are left open for debate, the Church will say so. How can you respect something while actively trying to undermine it? We do not have the liberty to interpret Scripture on our own outside what the Church teaches. This has lead to all the schisms we are experiencing now. I just don’t understand why so many people have a problem with submitting to a higher authority and accepting the teachings of the Church without always crying like a little baby about how unfair or wrong daddy may be. The Church says Genesis 1-3 is history and can’t be looked at as myth. It leaves room for symbolism but not all out myth. That is it. No more has been said about it from the Magisterium. Polygenism is also a topic Catholics do not have the liberty to teach. It doesn’t matter what others teach or how many teach it. The Church is a monarchy with Christ as the King. It is not a mob rule form of democracy. If you believe that the Catholic Church holds the fullness of Truth, then you have to submit to every teaching that the Magisterium promulgates. Otherwise, you admit that it lacks truth in an area dealing with our salvation.

    3. St. John Chrysostom exegetes “myth” in 1 Timothy 1:4 as “inventions and forgeries and counterfeit doctrines” (Homilies on First Timothy 1). Theodore of Mopsuestia understands “myth” in 1 Timothy 4:7 to mean St. Paul is “rejecting apocryphal books that profess to contain his teaching or that of other apostles but that are really misrepresentations” (Commentary on First Timothy). St. Augustine hearkens back to the “myth” in 2 Timothy 4:4 when discussing heretics who “color the impertinencies of their inventions” (Tractate on John 97.3-4). Theodoret of Cyr treats “myth” in Titus 1:14 as a false “interpretation of the law put forward by the Jews” (Interpretation of the Letter to Titus). St. Bede the Venerable construes “myth” in 2 Peter 1:16 as referring to pagans and heretics who “paid no attention to the teaching of Scripture but by wrongly interpreting it did their best to twist it to suit their own falsehoods” (On 2 Peter). Even with their exegetical variations, the Fathers above are united in criticizing “myth.”

    4. Humani Generis, 1950, p39

      Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths [Latin: mythologiis] or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers.

  31. First, I must repudiate the idea that science is a separate domain from religion. The origin of science comes from the development of a belief in ONE God – an immutable, omnipotent Creator, who has reveled Himself to us.

    Some centuries ago, after Christianity spread and Western Civilization came to believe that there was One and only one God, immutable, the primary Cause of creation, omnipotent, who was the very definition of good and had created the natural world in a very orderly way, people decided that this orderliness was so orderly that people could take note of characteristics of nature and arrive at “laws of nature”. A philosophy thus developed from this and it became known as “science”. Well after a few generations, some people (who took such great pleasure of taking notes of characteristics of nature and arriving at “laws of nature”, and who enjoyed others’ notes and “laws” so very much) actually lost track of the context of many notes, those having been so greatly convoluted. Now what’s illogical is that some of these “natural law note takers” (i.e. scientists) propose that the One and only God doesn’t exist, because they can’t take note’s of Him. But wait, … none of their “laws of nature” are valid without the context on which they were based. Without ONE, immutable, omnipotent Creator, there is no basis for assuming the “natural laws” are in fact universal.

  32. Second, the theory of Darwinian Evolution has become a religion in itself, in which belief in it are preeminent to the facts of it.

    Darwin chronicled only a plethora of variation of life forms, noting that there were “progressive” levels of order of sophistication. He then (wrongly) hypothesized that this was because the “higher” forms evolved from the lower. There is NOTHING SCIENTIFIC about that hypothesis, but pure speculation – it was totally religious. He went about trying to propagate a worldview which “explained away” the origin of life which was revealed in the Genesis narrative, just like his liberal colleagues of today.

    As far as “progressive” levels of order of sophistication of similar attributes being evidence for evolution from one species to another similar species, let me illustrate. I was only about 13 when I discovered “Body by Fisher” trademark emblem in all GM cars. I understood that the reason for the similarities was that all GM car bodies were designed by the same team of designers. If Darwin’s theory were true, then it would necessitate that Chevrolets were required to be made into Oldsmobiles and Buicks, and those in turn were required to be made into Cadillacs. Notice the common vertical tail light of the Deville – it obviously was made from the Oldsmobile. Whereas, the Sevilles were obviously made from the Buicks with the horizontal taillights. Pontiacs apparently were an offshoot perhaps a dead-end species. 🙂 All living creatures have similar biological structures because they were created by the same Creator.

    It is NOT deceitful for God to create biological beings which someone might speculate evolved one from another. Rather, it is arrogant to assume we know how He MUST create them, or how they had to have come into being. No Darwinian Evolutionist has ever even posited a process to get from one species to another, yet they KNOW it HAD TO have happened that way.

  33. Third, I find the argument between “Old Earth” and Young Earth” (pertaining to the Genesis creation narrative) to be missing one alternative – “Old Earth, Young Life”. “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.” (Gen.1:1-2, NAB) I believe basically that the narrative (that God revealed to Moses) starts with the earth (and the stars and planets) already created. God’s Holy Spirit is hovering over the planet, earth, which is covered with water and water vapor so dense that light cannot penetrate to the surface (from where the “vision” perspective is revealed). This is consistent with science’s view of formation of the planet; however, most scientists speculate the process took millions of years (assuming a passive force).

    God then (described in 4 days) caused the water vapor to condense out of the atmosphere.
    Day1 -“Let there be light,” then
    Day2 -“Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.”, then
    Day3 – “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”
    Now notice that while the earth was still covered with clouds (like a green house), God created the vegetation.
    Day3 still -“Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it.”
    Then clearing the sky completely:
    Day4 – “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth.”
    So then “carbon-based” life (as we know it) could live.

    My main point here is that it seems to me that the best interpretation of the narrative is that, first, the earth already exists in the first verse, so then what about the rest of the “heavens”. Well, in Day 4 it said He “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky”, and before the next sentence said “And it was so.” But then in a separate (next) sentence it said He created them, but if it had meant “right then”, it would have been stated before “And it was so.” It said “God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.” But that making could have been in the distant past. After all, all of this is still in the time “when God created the heavens and the earth”. You must realize that this is written in Hebrew, and they don’t talk like American English. When it says “lights in the dome” it doesn’t mean that the author thought he saw (in his vision) a hemispherical covering over the earth with lights attached at that point, it is simply a “perspective description” from the point of the vision. He OBVIOUSLY wasn’t purporting to be physically there to see it.

  34. Fourth, the argument over how long was creation of everything is an argument of passive versus active forces.
    Many who study modern science have fallen into the trap of the materialists in thinking.
    (Materialism: The theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena, that everything is deterministic.)
    Materialism is diametrically opposed to Christianity. Darwinian Evolutionism has at its core Materialism. It depends on the “PASSIVE” forces of the universe to drive it, rather than the “ACTIVE” forces of a Supreme Being, who has a Personhood, a Supreme Intelligence, and Divine Will. His ways are not like our ways, nor His thoughts like our thoughts. When “the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground” (Gen.2:7, NAB) how long did His process take? One might envision the process of God coalescing all the necessary biological elements to form an embryo and an enclosure like a mother’s womb, and the embryo grows into a fetus and then to a born baby and then growing to a full size man – all in a matter of hours. How long does it take for an omnipotent creator, who created time, to create something?

    Fortunately for us, this Supreme Being has revealed His nature and will to us in the Bible – if only we read it and seek to understand it, and live by that understanding. Establishing a worldview of truth is very important, but we must always humbly accept that we can never fully know the truth until we see Him face to face.

  35. People who choose not to believe in one individual Adam, usually also dis-believe the story of Noah and the flood, and the story of Jonah who spent 3 days in the belly of a fish (Jonah 1:17), just like Jesus spent 3 days in the bowels of the earth. Jesus believed in Adam (as I have already stated), and in Jonah. In Matt. 16:1; The Pharisees also with the Dadducees came and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. At Matt. 16:4; Jesus says: A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.

    Bishop Sheen told a story of how when he was giving a presentation, he was interupted by a heckler who shouted: “Did Jonah really spend 3 days in the belly of a fish?” Father Sheen answered: “Yes, I believe he did.” The heckler went on: “How did he do that?” Father Sheen replied; “I do not know, but when I get to heaven I shall ask him.” “But what if he’s not there,” the heckler went on. Father Sheen said: “Then, you ask him.”

    If Catholics want to pick and choose what to belive, and what is not comfortable to believe, then a Catholic treads on the danger of Sola Scriptura. If we become arbitrators who decide we can reject Pope Pius XII’s Humani Generis which says Catholics may not believe in “Polygenism,” then we need to decide if we are really Catholic. Can a person say with their mouth there is no Adam, then go to receive the Holy Eucharist, the true presence of Christ who believes in Adam with that same mouth, with true reverence. That would be pretence.

    Signs, signs. every where signs, even a sign that says “no signs.” Everybody wants a sign, when the sign is the Sign of the Cross.

  36. This is an interesting article although an appeal to Humanae vitae seems a bit dated. The eastern church’s view of human sinfulness does not require any genetic transmission of original sin, which seems a bit bizarre at this point.

    A key point it seems to me is that science and religion are not in the same conversation vis a vis these topics.

    A fundamental assumption of all science since the Greeks is, ex nihilo nihil fit. Nothing comes from nothing.

    In Christian belief we say, God creates ex nihilo.

    These are totally different conversations

    For us who are religious, the world is meaningful, because God is its ultimate source. But there is no scientific access to this belief, though perhaps some philosophical considerations vis a vis contingent and necessary being has some relevance.

    Our scientific understanding of the universe prescinds from the question of meaningfulness.

    Perhaps the point I am making is not so very different from the point that Kant makes when philosophical theology emerges in the Critique of Judgment but not in the Critique of Pure Reason..

    In any case I think it makes no sense to nit pick with theology scientific discussions. Theology has nothing to add to these discussion because its conversation is of a wholly different order.
    Peter Baker

  37. Folks:

    While it’s true that the ancients did not divide their literature neatly into various genres, so that there is often significant genre overlap in any given work, this is ALL THE MORE reason why we should not treat texts like Genesis 1 thru 11 as if they are strictly or even principally historiographical. In point of fact,however, although they themselves did not divide their literature neatly into different genres, these are still roughly discernible. Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is not the same kind of work as Plato’s Republic, which is itself not like the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides. Genres overlapped, but they can still be roughly distinguished.

    Secondly, if Catholics are not supposed to so much as question non-dogmatic teaching, then we’ve capitulated to ultra-montanism, made theology as a scientific discipline superluous, and have nullified any and all real distinction between different grades of teaching. Let’s not get ridiculous.

    Thirdly,I am not bound, and neither is any Catholic, to Pius XII’s personal prejudices against mythology as one means (of many) to convey religious truth. I for one believe it irresponsible to dismiss ancient mythology generally as “more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth.” Pius XII is one of my favorite Popes,but there’s no possible way he’d be in a position to know this.

    I think it’s instructive that no one here can adduce a single CONTEMPORARY condemnation by the magisterium of Catholics who propound polygenism. It’s rather obvious,from my reading of the colloquium Benedict XVI himself hosted on this subject (published by Ignatius Press as “Creation and Evolution”) that he does not consider Papal Encyclicals to be the etched-in stone deliverances of divine oracles that are forever immutable and unquestionable.

    1. To Eric:

      “Pius XII is one of my favorite Popes,but there’s no possible way he’d be in a position to know this.” Isn’t the position of Pope one possible way?

  38. St. Luke said: “It seemed good to me also, having a perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee….(1:3). Then Luke at 3:23-38 says: Jesus being about 30 years if age, the son of Joseph, then proceeds to list every generation back to Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.

    Before Adam entered into sin, he enjoyed “Original Justice.” Once he sinned it became “Original Sin.” The Garden of Eden is not a myth like the Harry Potter books. The Garden belonged to God. See Ezk. 28:13 where it says the Garden was God’s Garden. Also, there were two trees mentioned (Gen. 2:9), one being the tree of knowledge which had the forbidden fruit. The tree of good and evil became the tree of death. The other tree was the Tree of Life. It became the Cross, which is the tree the Jesus atoned for Adam’s sin upon, that is way it is called the Tree of Life, becuse Jesus is the God of the Living. Adam’s sin was not in the actual eating of the fruit, but in transgressing over the boundry God had set for him. This disobedience to God stemmed from “Pride.” Pride blinds and darkens the intellect. Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

    People who compare the book of Genesis, or the first chapters of Genesis are taking an ax to the root of all scripture. People who believe Adam and Genesis are myth, metaphors, or fantacy like Harry Potter should not read books like the Bible intended for grown-ups, then talk about them.

    When someone tells me they believe they descended from an ape, or their grandparents were apes like evolution claims, I ask: “On whose side, your mother’s, or your father’s?”

  39. It is obvious that Eric Giunta is a dissenter. Encyclicals are part of the normal magisterium of the Vicar of Christ. The Second Vatican Council states in Lumen Gentium, Number 25, Paragraph 2: “This religious submission of will and of mind must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra. That is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mand and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known chiefly either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repitition of the same doctrine, or from the manner of speaking.”
    I imagine Eric Giunta would also dissent from Humanae Vitae.

  40. To Everyone on this blog:

    I recommend Evolution And Other Fairy Tales by Larry Azar. Professor Emeritus Azar received undergraduate and graduate degrees in math, physics, and philosophy from Boston College and a Doctorate in Philosophy from the Pontifical Institute of the University of Toronto where he studied with Etienne Gilson, Anton Pegis, and Armand Maurer.

    Dr. Azar proves that Darwin’s answers to all of the following were affirmative:

    Was he a racist? a sexist? (Did he consider Negroes and women inferior to Caucasians and males?)
    Would he maintain that there is no free will?
    Are dogs religious?
    Do plants reason?
    Did he consider all things as fundamentally the same?
    Is it true that he did not discuss the origin of even one species in his Origin of Species?
    Was he coerced to describe his principal contribution to evolution (natural selection) as only a metaphor?
    Is his species only a variation?
    Would he confess that his theory proved nothing?

  41. It is sad to read that so many, including Catholics, are unaware that the Evolution Hypothesis has no scientific value. The many people that “work” in that field, merely conjecture about the “gaps” between fossil records. THAT IS ALL. It is the only “science” with no Laws, No Quantitative Theories, No Predictions and No Results.
    There is not even one prediction of any kind, ever, on anything. Their major accomplishment is to shout “Aha!” when they decide a fossil comes after another and before another, “Filling The Fossil Gap”, they call it.
    After over 150 years of work they have not proposed, or accepted, a single predictive rule or “law”.
    It is a “science” found in Major Universities, with great endowments and no results, no products, no predictions, in short nothing. It is so much ado about so little.
    Did Evolution predict that the oldest ancestors of a dog would be in any specific part of the world?
    I could go on and on. And, get this, they are no embarrassed by their totally unproductive efforts. Sad waste!

  42. Dear Msgr. Charles Pope,

    What if I were to tell you that the whole question you are discussing here has been answered by the Holy See. That is the question of the reality of evolution, as a natural process, one created by God, and the very important issue of human origins in the light of authentic Catholic theology vis-a-vis polygenism. Well it has been answered. First, the answer is not a Darwinian one. Darwin proposed a legitimate hypothesis regarding a “mechanism” (his language, not mine nor that of the Church) to account for the transmutation of species. What he proposed in the Origin of Species is worthy of serious consideration. But it was immediately seen as only a partial answer. Church authority knows this well. So do evolutionary biologists including some of the most highly respected ones. So while accepting that which is scientific in Darwin’s work, the Church has never accepted any of Darwin’s “philosophy”. His philosophy is plain silly in itself, but very dangerous in its implications. Back to the main point. Your discussion is indeed lively and interesting, but it is not well informed by the Catholic theology of Creation, which includes all that is true in evolution. Therefore, as long as your discussion goes no deeper than the CCC (which is a wonderful treasure) it remains general, and not the way to approach the issue of evolution. The editor of the Catechism, and Pope Benedict have both said this. You have been looking in the wrong places for Catholic answers to the evolution question. So Father, if you would like to know where to look for the Catholic answer please send me an e-mail. I am a very devout Catholic, always looking to the Magisterium for direction and correction in these matters. I am reluctant to write more here because I have been writing (and lecturing) on the evolution and Catholic Church issue for approximately three decades now, and the specific questions you have raised in your postings I have answered, in accordance with the Teaching of the Church, but which I am in the process of preparing for publication; and I would simply like to preserve Copy write priority. If don’t at least do that much I am afraid that my long patient wife might want to “kill” me. In short please drop me a line, if you would like. Most sincerely in Christ God, Richard

  43. Adam and Eve’s burial site is in Hebron, Gaza (Palestine) in an Islamic Mosque. They are there together with Abraham and Sarah, and other bibical persons. Yes Adam is a true person. It is said his body was placed on Noah’s Ark to preserve it. If you are ever in the Middle-East, take them some flowers, show some love.

    Remeber when you cannot figure out God’s plan, He said: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your way my way saith the Lord; For as the Heavens are Higher than earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher; Isaiah 55:8-9.”

    1. I wonder where you have this information from Grandpa Tom. When I have gone to the Holy Land, the tomb of Adam is shown beneath the Golgotha in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I am not saying you are wrong, I am just curious as to the orgin of what you have said.

      1. Adam’s burial is mentioned in St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theogolica. I have the massive V (Five) Vol. set. It is in Vol. IV; Pt. III; Q. 46; Art. 10 (p.2270) – “The Passion of Christ.” St. Thomas wrote:

        Reply Obj. 3. According to Jerome, in his commentary on Matth. xxxvii. 33, someone explained “the place of Calvary” as being the place where Adam was buried; and that it was so called because the skull of the first man was buried there. A pleasing interpretation indeed, and one suited to catch the ear of the people, but, still, not the true one. For the spots where the condemmed are beheaded are outside the city and beyond the gates, deriving thence the name of Calvary –that is, of the beheaded. Jesus, accordingly, was crucified there, that the standards of martyrdom might be uplifted over what was formerly the place of the condemmed. But Adam was buried close to Hebron and Arbe, as we read in the book of Jesus Ben Nave. But Jesus was to be crucified in the common spot of the condemmed rather than beside Adam’s sepulchre, to make manifest that Christ Cross was the remedy, not only for Adam’s sin, but also for the sin of the entire world.

        Google Adam’s burial site, and it will direct you to wikipedia which says Hebron. But if you saw Adam’s burial site is in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I will take your eye witness account to Adam’s burial site as having the preponderance of the evidence for belief. We both agree that Adam was created as a real individual. I like to search out Adam, like Christ who went to Hades to search and deliver Adam and Eve from the bondage of sorrow. I belived Adam, when created would have been about 30 (although he was new), the age of Christ when He begin His mission. I believe Adam would have beared a very close physical resembelence to Jesus.

        I have read in “;” That according to the Book of Jubilees (4:29-30) Adam lived 70 years short of 1,000 years, because God measures one day as a thousand years, and it was told to Adam that he would die on the day he ate from the tree of good and evil. Therefore he did not complete the years of this day because he died in this day. Also the Tora opens with the story of the human “family” – the descendants of Adam and Eve. It then proceeds to tell the story of the family of Israel – the descendants of Abraham and Sarah, Issac and Rebecca, and Jacob, Rachel and Leah. Jacob was given the name “Israel” (Gen. 35:18).

        Abraham believed The Cave of Machpelah is the burial site of Adam, and purchased the plot in the City of Hebron. The Torah records Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah are buried there;( Gen 25:9, 49:29-32, 50:13. The Talmud records the ancient tradition that Adam and Eve are buried in this cave (Eruvin 53a). It is believed this particular cave was important to Abraham because it was a place for him and his family to pray at, hoping the site would remind his descendants of their spiritual goal. And to remind them that they are all descendants of one extended family since they all descended from Adam and Eve. Isaiah in 11:9; wrote; “They shall neither injure nor destroy in all My sacred mountain; for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Compassionate One as water covering the sea bed.” Abraham and Sarah referred to the Creator of Life as the Compassionate One.

  44. I am an ignorant lay person, and so what I surmise may be completely incorrect, but here are my thoughts for what they are worth:

    I believe that original sin manifests itself in our genetic code as weaknesses or tendencies toward sin. Baptism does not remove those weaknesses but gives us a kind of armor to protect us against Satan using those weaknesses to lead us into sin. For instance, we may have a weakness in our genetic code toward alcohol. Baptism does not remove that particular weakness but instead strengthens us in another area to help us fight against that weakness.

    1. Brandy, You are not ignorant. Your explanation is perfectly valid.

      I see original sin as communicated to humanity through Adam in the same way as supernatural life is communicated to the Church ( the new humanity) through Jesus Christ (the New Adam).

      1. Peter,

        Are you saying that God supernaturally injects a broken and fallen human/rational soul into a person at the time of conception because Adam sinned? Is it just me or does that sound a little satanic?


        You are pretty much dead on. I can’t say for sure if it is genetic but it is surely on a natural level. Original sin is passed from the father to the child via his human nature, NOT supernaturally. The soul is not passed on or created by the human father. The soul is created outside the conception process by God. God is good and all things from Him are good. It is impossible for Him to inject a fallen state into man. This is passed from the one man that fell (Adam) to all his children (us). This is why polygenism is not an option for any faith that believes in Original Sin.

      2. That’s alright Michael. If I’ve lapsed into heresy, I’m more than happy to be corrected. God bless.

  45. Two thoughts – 1) If there is such a thing as evolution why are there still apes?
    2) Original Sin is not so much passed on as Original Justice is not passed on. Original Justice is a gift that was lost and cannot therefor be passed on. Sin, including Original Sin is a privation (since all that is – is good). Christ Jesus came to reunite human nature with the divine nature. Baptism alone does not restore one to Original Justice, rather the life of grace is usually increased gradually in the one living a holy life.

    1. To briefly answer your question 1 (it is one constantly and incessantly asked).
      The Theory of Evolution does not propose that any population will go extinct in generating a population of a new species. The most commonly found mode of speciation comes about through splitting off of groups geographically. The original population remains as it is, and can indeed remain so for millenia if the conditions remain favorable to their state of adaptation (that’s how we find so-called ‘living fossils’). The new population finds different conditions and therefore gradually changes until they are no longer a compatible species with the original group.
      To presume apes must go extinct before different apes like you and me can emerge is just as resonable as to presume Europeans must all die before someone can become an American.
      The great apes still exist because we no longer live with them. To be precise and to preempt the common misconception, we never did (we did not evolve from any living ape species), as they emerged parallel to us from a common ancestor.

  46. Catholic Apologists need to recognize that the evolutionary theory regarding the origin of the human species has to be addressed from the scientific turf.

    St. Thomas Aquinas faced the same dilemma regarding scientific research and Catholic doctrine that we face today. The basis for the statement “truth cannot contradict truth” is Aquinas’ admonishment to understand Catholic teachings in depth and to equally hold science to high standards.

    Michael W. Tkacz writes: “Into this medieval debate comes Aquinas, who reasoned thus: God is the author of all truth; the aim of scientific research is the truth; therefore, there can be no fundamental incompatibility between the two. PROVIDED we understand Christian doctrine properly and do our science well, we will find the truth.”

    The mountains of evidence for polygenism include anthills of assumptions. How reliable are estimated populations living millions and millions of years going backwards? Fossil discoveries are impressive. But since when do measurements of bony skulls indicate the use of the tools of reason, self reflection, logical evaluation, and analytical thought? Or the presence of free will? The results of evolutionary research cannot be extrapolated to ruling out the possibility of a real Adam and Eve who are the sole parents of the human species..

    Michael W. Tkacz writes: “In the Thomistic view, the teachings of the faith are fully compatible with what we learn of nature through scientific research, PROVIDED we both understand those divine teachings correctly and we do our scientific research consistently and rigorously.”

  47. RE: grannymh statement: “Catholic Apologists need to recognize that the evolutionary theory regarding the origin of the human species has to be addressed from the scientific turf.”

    The problem is the paradigm of “scientific turf” – what does that mean, specifically? Usually that causes Christians to bow to the rules set forth by materialists; namely, that everything that is real must be repeatable. When God causes things to happen, He might use natural forces or processes or supernatural forces or processes. I posit that these forces or processes, if not already natural, become natural by the fact that they were performed on nature. However, they might only be invoked by knowledge or powers reserved by God. Certainly, the miracles performed by Jesus would be declared fiction by the “scientific turf”.

    We must start or world view with the conviction that:
    * God is outside of time and space, which He created.
    * God created the Universe.
    * God has revealed Himself and His plan in the Holy Scriptures – the Bible.
    * The Holy Scriptures is authored by God’s Holy Spirit, in perfect conjunction with human writers.
    * All humans are descendants of Adam, who sinned and brought sin into humanity.
    * Jesus is the Living Word of God – the Logos – the perfect example of Man, the Way, the Truth, & the Life.
    * We are saved/justified by Christ’s death and resurrection.

    With that world view, a Catholic can pursue scientific inquiry. But if there is a “scientific TURF” war, then a Catholic must measure scientific theories (claimed to be facts) against the Truth.

    1. Excellent reply. Thank you.
      As a response to your question about “scientific turf” may I slightly shift the wording of your last sentence. We need to measure scientific theories against the scientific method. This is what St. Thomas Aquinas was referring to when he talked about doing scientific research well, consistently, and rigorously. In other words, we need to understand the scientist’s turf, her or his methods for example, In his early books, Franklin Covey wrote about the same principle which is understanding the other person’s position *from* the other person’s position.

      Science should not be attacked as in a turf war. On the other hand, valid questions need to be raised regarding extrapolated conclusions which are not warranted by the evidence in particular research. Some may call this the logic of the Inductive Method. For example, certain genes can be traced millions and millions of years backwards. Sometimes comparative genes from humans and chimpanzees are studied as part of the evolutionary theory (polygenism) on the divergence of humans and apes from a common ancestor millions of years ago. Sometimes the logic of mathematics is used to say that Adam, as a sole parent of the human species, did not exist no way, no how.
      From the apologist’s position, the valid question is — where did the data for millions and millions of years going backwards come from? Or in regard to the genes used to determine polygenism, one can point to the 20,000 to 25,000 human genes and ask — what about synergy?

      In other words, Catholics can use a general idea of what composes the foundation for human origins research in order to question the universal application of this research. At all times, Catholics should respect the integrity of science even when dealing with misleading misinterpretations. We should not be attacking the person. Instead we can question computer made experimental simulated populations living at the beginning of history. Is there enough of real data to account for the actions of all pre-humans (an evolutionary materialistic term) all over the earth? More importantly, is there enough real data to absolutely rule out the appearance of a distinct species, separate by kind (an old scientific classification) from all other species. A species so distinct, due to its intellect and will (spiritual soul), that two parents can survive and procreate a single unique line of true, fully complete human beings which include you and me.

      We do not have to be working scientists. One simply needs to keep a “cheat sheet” as to where the cracks in the foundation are.

  48. Msgr Pope,

    The discussion regarding the passing on of Original Sin has brought up a question for me, ‘why, after man lost Original Justice, did God choose to wait so long to restore it and why did Jesus have to suffer in order to restore it?’ I guess what I am asking is, what was it about our nature or our condition as a whole that needed the Crucifixion, Ressurection and Assension. My question is not about justification, but rather why the Pascal Mystery to bring it about?

    1. This is sort of a loose reply, Blake, but it seems to me that everything God has done, does, and will do is motivated by multiple intentions, namely:

      (1) to effect what God wills according to His perfect knowledge
      (2) to communicate truth to Man in the most effective way possible

      I would relate the “literal” senses of Scripture to (1), while associating the other senses (e.g. the “anagogical”) to (2).

      Thus, to answer your question, God brings about our healing in the “fullness of time,” but it is left for us to ponder what may have made this particular moment in time the “fullness.” We will never know until we are beyond time, methinks. Second, the particulars of how He brought it about are meant to convey truth to us about all things we need to know. This is why exegesis is possible: Scripture and Tradition are multi-layered inheritances of the Church (perhaps infinitely so), and these layers are able to sustain us in our lives in Christ.

      Perhaps Msgr. Pope could address things more directly?

    2. Why, after man lost Original Justice, did God choose to wait so long to restore it?

      Because mankind fell so far away from God that it took that long before we were ready for Jesus Christ. The thousands of years of Salvation History set out in the Old Testament are all directed toward preparing mankind for Him.

      Why did Jesus have to suffer in order to restore it?

      The effects of sin are real. The suffering, the pain, the wounds caused by sin really happened. If Jesus had simply snapped His fingers and said, “OK, all is forgiven” and left it at that, essentially saying that the sin and suffering did not happen would have been contrary to truth — the sin and suffering did happen. And to do nothing about that sin and suffering beyond the forgiveness, to not address it at all, would be contrary to justice. Again, the sin happened, the world became disordered and unbalanced. Justice required the restoration of order, the balancing of the scales. You can forgive throwing the ball through the window, but the window is still broken. You cannot pretend that it isn’t. Someone needs to go to the trouble of fixing it.

      The Cross is Jesus acknowledging the truth of sin, it is Jesus taking that justice upon Himself. The sin and suffering actually happened, something must be done about it, either we have to pay for it or He does. He has chosen to pay the debt for us. And He does so by actually taking it upon His person — by manifesting sin in physical form, e.g. in scourging, in nailing to the Cross, in horrible physical suffering. What does sin really look like? What do the effects of sin really look like? Like a man being tortured and nailed to a tree, that’s what it looks like.

      He takes that manifestation of sin upon Himself and, because He is Love in addition to being Truth, and because He “makes all things new,” He tranforms that suffering to joy, He transforms that death to life.

      Death could not be destroyed by running away from it. Death could only be destroyed by grabbing hold of it and transforming it from within.

      Moreover, by Jesus taking this suffering upon Himself, as an act of Truth and Justice and Love, we can say to ourselves that God knows what human suffering is like. He may be all-powerful, He may be beyond hurt because of His divine nature, and yet, He knows what it is to suffer pain and anguish. He is not some distant far-off alien being — He has become one of us. He is compassion (from the Latin “to suffer with”). He had to suffer because man suffers, and He is truly man.

    1. Looks like you have to be a member to comment on his blog. I find the tone of the discussion, particularly in the comments section of his blog to be condescending and arrogant. It seems to me that a some mutual respect can be had in the discussion by recognizing the limits of both sicence and theology. It would seem however that many in the scientific world have come to regard their explanations and demonstrating sufficient cause. I would argue that science is able to offer theory and facts on material cause but material cause is not per se sufficient cause. I recognize that science cannot posit divine orgins but it seems to me that neither can it reject it absolutely. The best it seems it can do is to indicate that non-material causality is beyond its realm. To reject theological or philosophical notions (rather than remain neutral on them) is to go beyond science and to engage in theology and philosophy. Most of the commenters on his blog ranged from hostile to ridiculing of faith. They fail to appreciate that they are taking a philosophical and theological stance in what they assert.

      1. It seems that you are unfamiliar with the scientific method. In order for a hypothesis (such as yours of “divine origins”) to be valid it must be falsifiable. Because you said that science cannot reject your hypothesized divine origins outright, your ideas are not valid in the realm of evolutionary biology/anthropology and cannot be treated as such by responsible scientists.

        You did, however, put forth another hypothesis that is in fact falsifiable: namely that of “monogenism.” Assuming for the moment that the descendants of Adam and Eve would not fail to reproduce because of recessive genetic disorders, we can test this hypothesis by investigating whether there is any molecular evidence at all whatsoever that the human species passed through this smallest of all possible bottlenecks. There is not, in fact, any evidence. We could also investigate whether there is any evidence that humans share a common ancestor with, say, chimpanzees. The amount of evidence is overwhelming. So your monogenism hypothesis must be empirically rejected.

        As for your assertion that we “fail to appreciate that [we] are taking a philosophical and theological stance in what [we] assert,” there are plenty of philosophical and theological stances which “go beyond” their disciplines that can be rejected by the scientific method. We have not failed to appreciate the implications of our arguments, we just don’t feel the need to explain philosophically and theologically what we have already proven by looking at evidence. When philosophy and theology make scientific claims, it is perfectly reasonable to evaluate those claims scientifically. Was Galileo wrong, or were his theories of no consequence, because he could not reconcile his astronomical observations with the Vatican and the Bible?

        Also, it would be best for the sake of this discussion if you could focus on the substance of atheists’ arguments rather than their tone.

        1. You write: “Assuming for the moment that the descendants of Adam and Eve would not fail to reproduce because of recessive genetic disorders, we can test this hypothesis by investigating whether there is any molecular evidence at all whatsoever that the human species passed through this smallest of all possible bottlenecks. There is not, in fact, any evidence.”

          Prescinding from anything else you have said, this statement is a classic case for citing the principle: The absence of evidence is not the same thing as the evidence of absence.”

    2. I second that. Whenever I’ve asked priests questions similar to Dr. Myers’ I’ve been dismissed as someone who is just trying to cause trouble rather than someone genuinely trying to understand. Its been very off-putting and I’ve never received a satisfying answer.

  49. I and many others recognize the limits of science and theology. Science observes and explains, it tests and changes as new information becomes available. Theology builds intricate constructs of air from the imagination, it can make any claim since it’s stock in trade is belief without proof.

    I find it amusing that you, a person one assumes to be an educated adult, can fail to see your error.

    1. The tone of your comment illustrates well the kind of arrogance that has set up for many in in science. Your simple dismissal of Theology and Philosophy which date back thousands of years as “air” and “imagination” is bold to say the least. But your kind of repsonse has become standard fare for many in the scientific world who dismiss anyone who questions them as uneducated, ill-informed, or just plain stupid. You are poor advocate for your cause.

      Science can and does address material causality, but material causality is not the only causality and it is, by itself, not what philosophy would call “sufficient causality” You may wish to deny anything beyond the material world, you are free to do so but time will prove where wisdom lies.

      1. Science observes and explains, it tests and changes as new information becomes available.

        I would add that if a person were in fact so dedicated to observing and testing and looking at all the evidence, then he would be intimately familiar with all the many writings of people like Pope Benedict and John Paul II and others before them who demonstrate beyond dispute the compatibility between faith and reason, between science and religion. And being so familiar with such evidence, he would not make such an ill-informed statement as “theology builds intricate constructs of air from the imagination.”

  50. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    you said:

    “Science can and does address material causality, but material causality is not the only causality and it is, by itself, not what philosophy would call “sufficient causality” You may wish to deny anything beyond the material world, you are free to do so but time will prove where wisdom lies.”

    Could you please tell us what objective criteria a philosopher would use to determine which causes are “sufficient” (and what other kinds of causes there are) ? I’m afraid that objective reality is not bound by what a particular philosophical system thinks it is.

    Personally, I wonder what reason could be sufficient for the existence of an infinitely complex, disembodied mind. No wonder theologians have to postulate that God is uncaused. But that’s a different story.

    Thanks for considering my points!

    1. Aristotle distinguished four aspects of causality:

      The material cause is that “raw material” from which a thing is produced as from its parts, constituents, substratum, or materials. This causality limits the explanation of cause to the parts (the factors, elements, constituents, ingredients)

      The formal cause tells us what, a thing is intended and planned to be, using the analogy to the plans of an artisan or designer

      The efficient cause is that external entity from which the change or the ending of the change first starts. It identifies and so suggests all sorts of agents, nonliving or living, acting as the sources of change or movement or rest.

      The final cause is that for the sake of which a thing exists, or is done – It is the purpose, or end, that something is supposed to serve; or it is that from which, and that to which, the change is. Here we also consider things such as intention and motive.

      What I am referring to as sufficient causality would be the consideration of the whole causal chain. I think Science can and does contribute well to aspects of material causality and that is its “world.” But there are worlds beyond what science can consider. Not everything is physical and measurable. Hence science alone is not a sufficient answer to all that is.

      1. Msgr
        how can you know that something exists beyond the material?
        how can something that is not physical interact with the physical to make itself known?
        the old dualism/monism arguments have never been settled, hence the reason they still form a part of most philosophy courses today.
        Asking science to remain open to the possibility of something it cannot test or make predictions about seems silly to me. If science suggests any remedy/solution/prediction it appears that the church would like it to appear like this:

        “Geologists today discovered evidence in Greenland that helped explain how plate tectonics formed the country of Iceland. Or possibly some supernatural explanation, that we cannot possibly investigate, created it out of whole cloth.”

        Notice how we can’t even posit the identity of the supernatural entity, because who knows what it might be if it even exists. The last part of that sentence refutes the certainty of your statement:

        “But there are worlds beyond what science can consider.“

        Once you admit this what more can you add to the conversation? How do you determine what this entity wants? It becomes guess work or fantasy.

      2. The evidence for things non-material manifests itself in our very capacity to discuss non-material things such as justice, love, loyalty, the concept of the timeless, or eternal, infinitude, and so forth, the concepts of meaning, purpose, fulfillment, the reality of intention, will and so forth. Further, in our infinite longing and limitless desire is an echo of the eternal and infinite. Now concepts such as these cannot be measured by science. Science can measure only the physical and material. But as I am often repeating here, I do not ask science to measure these. I do not care that sceince chooses to limit its ponderings on Greenland to plate tectononics and volcanism.

        What I do ask of you as a fellow human being is to consider that sceince has limits and is not a complete explanation for all that is. Science is good at saying what but not so good at answering the ultimate question of why all this? I ask you to ponder that there is more to life than physical matter. You are free to deny this of course and go on to insist that matter is all there is. However, I would argue you are making a theological claim when you do this because atheism is a theological point of view. In such a case you have left science and are engaging the philosophical and theological community and you can no more use science to absolutely disprove God’s existence than I can use it to absolutely prove his existence. You are free to deny that there are worlds beyond what science can consider. But science cannot and does not concern itself with such questions.

        I know what this “entity” wants because he (God) has revealed it to me by faith. I have come to accept and trust that he has spoken to our ancestors, the Jewish people and revealed himself and fulfilled his promises through Jesus Christ. This is faith, it is not as you say, guesswork or fantasy. The Judeo/Christian tradition has existed for thousands of years and is based on a revealed body of truth that creates definite parameters. I do not ask science to prove matters of faith. I have found that there are many motives for credibility in what God has revealed in the natural order. I find what God teaches to be both rational and reasonable. But in the end I know what I know by faith. And faith opens a whole world to me. You seem to deny that it exists because you cannot weigh it on a scale but I walk in it every day. I have tested its teachings and found them true. There are billions of people like me. You discredit our world because it does not fit into your testube. But we have been here a long time and we will still be here well into the future. But in this conversation you are engaging in theology every bit as much as I for in saying there is no God you cannot verify this with science. Welcome to the wonderful world of theology harebell. There are billions of us here harebell!

      3. I’ve read Aristoteles myself. The question is why we should accept his philosophy – since it is correlated with his physics, which is definitely wrong. He projects human agency onto the universe – by assuming that things outside immediate human influence are “intended and planned to be”. This shows that both his “formal cause” and his “final cause” are pure anthropomorphism. In effect, what remains today of his ideas is the efficient cause.

        What is your evidence that there are worlds beyond what science can consider – and if such worlds exists, that any other discipline can give *testable and reliable* answers about them ? Giving answers is easy – my cat can do it (it purrs for “yes”).

      4. Msgr
        There was no reply option to your last post so hopefully this will suffice.
        Justice, love and loyalty are concepts that allow us to survive and as such are material in nature. Altruism is observed in many creatures including those who are biologically closest to us. Justice, love and loyalty are an offshoot of the requirements for survival.

        As to the insistence that matter is all that there is, well I know matter exists and science has done a pretty reasonable job of harnessing the power of material things. The onus however is on you to now show that something exists beyond matter.

        We both agree material things exist but now you insist that supernatural things exist too. Mine is not a theological claim as you agree material things and the means to investigate their existence are sound. Once you insist that something else exists that is a theological claim and you need to tell me how you will verify this statement.

        The ancestors I trust are those who have provided us with replicable means to verify what they claim and the ability to predict with accuracy what they claim. This seems to require no leap of faith, just an inquiring mind and a regard for accurately arrived at results.

      5. Hans-Richard and harebell. You both live in a tiny world closed in by arrogance and i suspect a lot of fear. You insist on living there so stay there. But I will say to you one last time: there is more to life than science or the scientific method. But as for you, fine. stay small.

        And for the record, you are making a theological statement when you say there is no God. You cannot use science to prove your point. It is not the purpose of science. You have been duped into making a thological point and I have duped you into it. welcome to the world of theology, you are well beyond the realm of science, like it or not. Perhaps I have drawn you both out of your little cave for a moment. Does the world of uncertainty scare you just a bit. I sense you fear any claims from outside your machine, your matrix. You cannot prove your denial of God scientifically, you are doomed to uncertainty. I on the other hand am content to live by faith and enjoy the fruits of science as well. My world is bigger.

  51. Dear Msgr. Pope,
    after reading your post i would like to ask a question with no intention to sound neither arrogant nor condescending.

    Your post is a summary ( i would say) of religious doctrine and what a christian can or can’t accept because of it. A summary of the postulates or claims given through the bible and other religious sources.
    What it lacks if evidence. You refer to your religious teachings but doesn’t it strike you as odd that after millenia it is science that tells us about the world in a verifiable or testable way while theology rests on mere claims?
    You kind of reject part of evolution not because you had actual evidence that would falsify the theory but rather because a held belief requires that of you. I personally do not think that this kind of “trust” that you seem to think God requires is a very good indicator for truth.

    Anyway, what i wanted to ask was:

    “What exactly is your doctrines unique contribution to mankinds knowledge or wisdom about the natural world?”

    Thanks in advance for any answer.

    1. What a remarkable question. My “doctrine’s” small and unique little contribution is called western civilization. The Catholic Church is also the founder of most of the great Universities of the Western world wherein the scientific method was developed. Just a small little contribution though, Wester Civilization. I am not surprised you knew nothing about it. 🙂

      You really need to study a little history. Oops, wait a minute the study of history is also outside of science too isn’t it? Darn. Well I guess the scientologists won’t consider that it has anything to say?

  52. Msgr. Pope
    Re: PZ Myers Blog answering your excellent presentation.

    I replied in the comments section of this Blog. Basically, I was looking for comments on the science aspect of the issue. LOL

    My brief experience is another affirmation that Catholic Apologetics needs the aid of biologists who are willing to reevaluate current research in terms of the Inductive Method, i.e. examining specific evidence to see if it warrants extrapolation to universal concepts or conclusions. It has been years since my logic class and my memory on exact terminology is faulty. I am an example of why philosophers and scientists need to work together from an analytical position.

    I would like to share my thoughts on the conflict over Adam and Eve with you, but I am computer-challenged and can’t find your e-mail address on this website.


    1. I suggest you take a look at the just published 2012-13 Supplement to the New Catholic Encyclopedia for the entry entitled “Monogenism and Polygenism” by me. There you will find some of the answers you are looking for regarding the claims by molecular biologists that a bottleneck (reduced population) of a single pair of mating hominins has not existed in since the Homo/Pan split some seven million years ago. The science is anything but definitive.

  53. I take issue with your statement that “The words NATURAL and RANDOM are positively meant to exclude intelligent activity by God by most proponents of the Theory of Evolution”. Please keep in mind that “most proponents” of the theory of Evolution are not loud-mouthed anti-Christian pundits.

    Most scientists who use words like NATURAL and RANDOM in their publications use them in a very specific technical sense that in no way excludes intelligent activity by anyone, and certainly not by God. Please note that when an English speaking Physicist, for example, uses the word RANDOM, he means thereby something quite distinct from what translator of, say, Aristotle might mean by the same word.

    The mathematical definition of RANDOM is even more restrictive than the physical definition, and it is used to describe an infinite uncompressable series. Obviously no infinite series can be created by any finite intellegence, but even this would not exclude God’s intelligent activity. Moreover, the mathematically definition of RANDOM is not needed to describe evolution; the physical definition is quite sufficient.

  54. One of the points that Dr. Myers emphasized, and seemed to worry him, is that the “version” of evolutionary theory that grows out of your considerations is simply not that which is understood and taught by (near as I can tell) the vast majority of biologists.

    In particular he notes your statements about natural selection as not being sufficient to explain how we got here in material terms is way off the mark. Quoting him: “The words NATURAL [selection] and RANDOM are not meant to exclude an intelligent agent: they are meant to accurately [and sufficiently] describe the process.”

    Others in this thread have responded to the monogenism vs. polygenism discussion and the biologist’s contention that the former is unsupportable by any biological evidence.

    I guess another of Dr. Myers’ concerns (although he doesn’t express it) is that an education system that teaches erroneous versions of well established scientific facts ill prepares people to understand the nature of the world around them. And as a consequence they may well make poor decisions leading to detrimental results.

  55. “The Judeo/Christian tradition has existed for thousands of years…”
    Argument from tradition. Invalid.

    “I have found that there are many motives for credibility in what God has revealed in the natural order”
    I find that there are many motives for killing people. So what?

    “I find what God teaches to be both rational and reasonable”
    And yet, you’ll be hard pressed to find two believers who will actually agree on what that is.

    “I have tested its teachings and found them true”
    But how can we test them? Can you present us with a test that doesn’t require us to first believe it? I suspect not. How can you call it a test if you have to believe it’s true for the test to work?

    “You seem to deny that it exists because you cannot weigh it on a scale but I walk in it every day”
    But you already believe it. Anybody who doesn’t believe it can’t sense it. Doesn’t that make you wonder? Just a little bit?

    Name one, single area of objective reality that requires your belief for it to affect you.

    “There are billions of people like me”
    Argument from popularity. Invalid.

    “But we have been here a long time and we will still be here well into the future”
    The same is true of schizophrenics. So what?

    My problem is this: What is the epistemology of theology? How do you know anything regarding this subject? How do you tell the difference between a correct belief and a wrong one?

    You claim faith is different from fantasy. How? What exactly is the difference?

    1. Come to Jesus Lukas. There is evidence (not the same as proof) for me in creation that God exists. I see order, purposefulness in creation. I see predictablity which suggests laws (eg. thermodynamics) and law suggests a rational law giver and one who ordained the nature of things. II see that there was a beginning to things and that something started it for effect presupposes cause. I see design, intelligence. I see movement which suggests a mover. I see all sorts of evidence

      But, as I have said that many of you are trying to insist that faith be science. You don’t put faith in a test tube. I have also said that you are engaging in theology when you insist there is no God. So let me take your approach and apply it to your theology: Prove to me that God does not exist. I want exact physical evidence. I want mathematical certainty. Since you are insisting he does not exist give me more than your theological opinion and your hostility. I want the numbers. I want to have God’s non-existience quantified and I want to see physical evidence of it in a test tube. Why don’t you answer a few questions and prove your theological opinion? You are making an assertion that God does not exist. I want the physical proof of his non-existence. Ultimately you are just as much a theologian as I. And I want from you the same proof you demand of me.

      Personally I have expereinced that Faith is a supernaturally infused gift from God and is its own proof. The Scriptures say that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.” This is not something you may currently understand but those who believe know the truth of it. I do not look to science alone for proof. Science is one way of knowing. It is good and has a purpose but it is not the only way knowing and not all things can be known or described through its tools, vocabulary and parameters. There is more to life than material things.

      As for the epistemology of theology it is in revealed truths, primarily the Scriptures and the teaching authority of the Church. These truths are different from fantasy in that they have been tested in the laboratory of Human experience for thousands of years now and have proved valuable as truthful guides to both moral living and ultimate meaning. The Christian faith is not a make it up as go thing. It has sources of revelation and time tested and clear parameters. Though I walk by faith I see clear evidence all the time that what I beleive is both rational and practical. For you to test this in the laboratory of your own life requires of you that you be able to duplicate the conditions of a believer. Now it is certainly possible for you to experience these conditions since Billions have been also able to experience them. But your will seems hostile and you want faith to be science (which is unreasonable).

      Perhaps your first step in setting up the laboratory would be to set aside your hostility and ridicule. Set those indicators to zero. The next step would be to set forth an array of other laboratory items such as small quantites of respect for ancient tradition, equal proportions of wonder and awe, reverence for mystery, and at least small quantities of humility. Also I would recommend liberal quantities of acceptance for the fact that not everything can be measured or predicted with certainty (you can consult your quantum physics manual for those materials). And finally, make sure the lab is scrubbed free from fear. This seems a huge factor in the atheist being able to recreate conditions for the faith experiment. For some reason atheists get very anxious when people say they believe something may exist beyond what is physical and measureable and in their fear they become hostile and use ridiculing languge and words like fantasy, schizophrenics, and so forth. It really messes up the results.

      I wish you well in replicating the conditions for a valid faith experiment.

      1. “I see predictablity which suggests laws (eg. thermodynamics) and law suggests a rational law giver and one who ordained the nature of things”

        Only because you’ve already accepted that conclusion. What I see is that things are what they are and are not what they’re not. That produces predictability and order.

        “I have also said that you are engaging in theology when you insist there is no God”

        I don’t insist there is no God. I simply point out the simple fact that there’s no good reason to believe there is one (or more).

        “Prove to me that God does not exist. I want exact physical evidence”

        By asking for physical evidence, you’re entering the domain of science. Science has found no evidence of god. By Occam’s Razor, we should reject the hypothesis.

        See, I can play your games, too. It’s just not very productive.
        Much of what you write seems designed to shelter your faith from any kind of critical inquiry.

        “Personally I have expereinced that Faith is a supernaturally infused gift from God and is its own proof.”

        See here we come to my problem again. Faith is its own proof, apparently, but people have faith in different things. How do you know that your faith is correct?
        Faith sucks. It’s just a bad way of getting at the truth.

        “As for the epistemology of theology it is in revealed truths, primarily the Scriptures and the teaching authority of the Church”

        And do you think this is a good epistemology? Basically, you’ve picked a set of old books, decided they’re true and then stopped asking questions. How do you know you’ve picked the right books? What about the books left out of the bible?

        How do you know that you’re right? Is it that personal feeling again? Because the people who picked different books also have that feeling. So how do I know which set of books are correct? How do I know if any of them are correct?

        “For you to test this in the laboratory of your own life requires of you that you be able to duplicate the conditions of a believer”

        That’s what I said earlier. I have to believe before I get any good reasons to believe. Does any part of reality fit this description? Do I have to believe in the power of microscopes for me to see the algae in the water sample? No, I just have to know where to look.
        Give me the same for your faith. Don’t tell me that I’ll believe it as soon as I decide to believe it. I already know that.

        “set aside your hostility and ridicule”

        I’m not hostile, I’m honest. I’m not ridiculing you, I’m pointing out what I see as glaring mistakes, such as multiple uses of logical fallacies and a generally evasive form of argumentation.

        Shall we play fallacy poker? I’ve got a straight
        Shifting burden of proof
        Begging the question
        Bald assertion
        Argument from tradition
        Argument from popularity

        “small quantites of respect for ancient tradition, equal proportions of wonder and awe, reverence for mystery, and at least small quantities of humility”

        Also known as shut up and stop asking questions. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. The truth doesn’t need to be coddled. The truth can take a bit of prodding and poking. Quite frankly, the truth can take a kick in the crotch and it’ll remain true. Only falsehoods need to be protected to remain whole.

        “Also I would recommend liberal quantities of acceptance for the fact that not everything can be measured or predicted with certainty”

        I’m aware of that. That’s science.

        “For some reason atheists get very anxious”

        It may have something to do with caring about the truth and knowing how easily human beings can be fooled. We’re not anxious, we’re careful. We don’t want to trow our lives away for a lie.

        “I wish you well in replicating the conditions for a valid faith experiment.”

        And of course, If I end up believing what you do, it’s a success. If I don’t, I failed. That’s not an experiment. It doesn’t test anything other than the gullibility of the tester.

        You’re too smart for this. I do not for a moment believe that you’re so stupid that you can’t see the problem with that.

      2. Lukas, you really do protest too much. I wonder what that is all about? Why do the existence of faith and conclusions outside your matrix trouble you this much? Time will prove where wisdom lies. Why don’t you just let things unfold rather than try to prove scientifically what science is not equipped to address? The fact is you ARE making theological statements when you declare that God does not exist. As such you have strayed outside your matrix. You are free to do so but do not pretend you are doing science any longer, you are merely stating your faith.

  56. We seem to have wandered rather far afield from the original topic of the incompatibility of standard evolutionary theory, “sufficient causes” and “monogenism”.

    Could we return to the scientific discussion of where the faith requires belief in historical/biological events that fail to comport with observed reality, please?

    1. i don’t know John, While I agree that topic has strayed from Polygenism I do not agree that this is a scientific discussion. This is a theological one. THis is a blog about faith and the terrain is theological. Further all the atheist and materialist commetors like to think they are doing science when in fact they are making theological claims when they insist that there is nothing outside the system. To say that the system (science) cannot account for God is acceptable to me. Science has its limits. But these folks are straying well beyond science when assertions are made that nothing exists outside the system. Science cannot address that one way OR the other.

      I began this blog by asserting that theology also has its limits. It cannot accept uncritically all the tenents of evolutionary theory. There are just some limits here. But for some reason there are a number of folks in the science field that cannot brook the notion that science is not the total answer to all there is. They seem to demand a closed air-tight system that denies anything outside. Anyone who suggests there may be more to the story and that other fields might have something to add to the discussion are excoriated as a bunch of yahoos, who subscribe to “fantasy” and are praying to the air. It is wholly undignified of true scientists to simply dismiss others in this way. A true scientist, IMHO, understands the focus of science and does not engage in theology and call it merely science. And to insist that there is is no God and physical matter is all that exists is a theological stance, it is NOT a scientific one for it cannot be scientifically demonstrated.

      And then to top it off they demand that I turn theology into the scientific method and demand I prove God in a test tube which I have said all along is not the essence of faith. God is not material and thus is not the focus of science.

      The method of these commentors is also abundantly clear: ask endless questions, insist on materialist answers and simply ignore that they are engaging in the very theology they ridicule by denying the possibility of God or anything outside their materialist system.

      1. Msgr. Pope,

        Please excuse my post, now under moderation, which speaks to the scientific issues. I was correcting it as you posted; thus, I did not see your comments. Being in the trenches, I have different battle scars.

        You are doing a wonderful job defending the faith. Your guidance is appreciated.


  57. Well, I agree that much of this “evolution vs. sufficient cause and monogenism” discussion has been theological/philosophical, but not all of it has.

    When you write, e.g., (in the original post) “Hence, it seems clear that a Catholic is not free to accept polygenism” this is a mixed theological and, by implication, scientific assertion.

    “Catholic is not free to accept” is certainly theological and the correctness of that mandate can be judged on theological grounds – fine and dandy, that is your department.

    But the implication that polygenism is an incorrect view of the natural world (and that monogenism is) places you squarely in a scientific context. It is in this context that the correctness of the assertions of polygenism and monogenism as correct descriptions of the natural world can (and must) be judged. And, from what I understand of the biological sciences, there is no evidence at all for monogenism, and plenty for polygenism.

    This leaves one in something of a quandary. The magesteria are no longer non-overlapping, to use Gould’s terms, and come to different conclusions.

    The questions of proving (or not proving) the existence (or non-existence) of God are not particularly relevant to the resolving of the quandary.

    1. I do not state that polygenism is incorrect, only that a Catholic is not free to accept it at this point. In so stating this I am speaking to a question of authority within the Church. Now this position of Church does not rise to the level of de fide definita, hence a future statement of a pope might open the door further to a Catholic being able to accept polygenism at least in some form. But that has not happened. But this is a theological claim based on the authority of the Church and Catholics obligation to accept that authority.

      From the standpoint of temperment, the Church is cautious to embrace all the latest theories and version of those theories, whether they be political, sceintific sociological or otherwise. Even in Science theories comes and go. I am only fifty but that is old enough to have seen some basic scientific theories (e.g. Steady State universe etc, emergence of quantum) undergo some pretty major overhauls. I respect science and enjoy many fruits of its study. But I do not regard it as unchanging dogma and have seen some pretty big changes. Quantum theory may usher in yet still bigger changes.

      I don’t personally care that much that science currently stresses polygenism. It may or may not change as a scientific conclusion. But in the end, I am not free to accept it uncritically since it runs afoul of basic and important understandings of original sin. I choose to balance my pondering of it. I hear what science says and I know that it runs contrary to some aspects of my faith. But things change and feel able to hold the tension that currently exists. I don’t feel a need to solve every mystery or conundrum.

    2. While I support whatever decision Msgr. Pope makes regarding the direction of this thread, Polygenism is in the title.

      You will find an outline of my approach to this issue in the “older comments” section of this thread. I posted October 21, 2010 @ 7.44 PM. J_Pat_H wrote an excellent reply October 22, 2010 @ 3:23 AM. I responded October 22, 2010 @ 8:27 AM.

      As a defender of monogenism in regard to the scientific aspects of the human species and in regard to the Catholic Deposit of Faith regarding God creating human nature, I can assure you that when one examines the nitty-gritty of biological evidence, one will realize that the possibility of two sole founders Adam and Eve does exist. When one examines human nature itself, not only does one find that monogenism is possible, but also that it is mandatory in explaining the difference between human populations and animal populations.

      From my experience on Catholic Answers Forums, there is a need to present *often* the complete Catholic teaching regarding Adam and Eve and Original Sin. Personally, I often paraphrase the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition”, because of its in depth treatment of who we are and why we are. This is accomplished by understanding Adam and Eve.


      1. Thanks for adding this. I am less aware of the scientific debate but knew there was some scientific debate. Too often it seems that some proponents of evolution like to dismiss fellow scientists as “marignal” who present alternate or nuanced theories.

  58. We appear to be left with the position of the church taking a theological position (for good theo. reasons, to be sure) that implies facts about the natural world that are (potentially) contradicted by the understanding of the scientists whose job is the study of that natural world.

    Fair enough. I guess we will have to leave it at that. Thank you for taking the time to clarify matters.


    1. May I respectfully point out that you have generalized where it is not necessary so it is difficult to address your concerns.

      The Catholic Church’s position is that Divine Revelation trumps. It teaches Divine Revelation as contained in its Deposit of Faith individually in particular dogmas in the realm of faith and morals. Because the visible Catholic Church has a human operating structure, everyone can study and offer opinions about the natural world which gives glory to our Creator. Normally, the Catholic Church does not dogmatically address information and speculations about the natural world because this would not be considered in the realm of faith and morals.

      The one exception is when a specific scientific theory rejects or denies a specific Catholic doctrine. When this happens, the Church presents its doctrine as a positive truth. It will point out the errors in a specific scientific theory theologically, philosophically, and scientifically while continually holding fast to the Divinely revealed dogma.

      Without going into the current milieu of our society, I will only say that any kind of science holds the place of honor. Thus, we often presume that specific science research is correct without us bothering to understand what is actually being reported.


  59. In debating with atheists who stood firm against faith in Our Lord, a man once said that if he lived his life following the truths of the Catholic Church only to die and find there wasn’t a God, heaven, or hell that he really hadn’t lost much because he would have lived a great life. However, if the atheist lived his life rejecting all that God asked, and died only to find he was mistaken….he would have bitter consequences for eternity.
    May the following sites lead your inquiring minds and hearts closer to the amazing grace and truth of Our Jesus!!
    *1. (Hugh Owen, founder) former atheist, son of first secretary general of International Planned Parenthood. Excellent site with Catholic articles supporting Church teaching, current scientific findings, articles and complete books.
    *2. Creation Rediscovered: Evolution and the Importance of the Origins Debate (Gerard J.Keane) A review of this book can be found at:
    *3. Creation vs. Evolution: What Every Catholic Should know (Eric Bermingham) Imprimatur & Nihil Obstat (this entire book can be read and downloaded from at the above link
    *4. (review of) The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11: A Compendium and Defense of Traditional Catholic Theology on Origins (Father Victor P. Warkulwiz, M.S.S.)
    *5. Biology versus Evolution web site by Joseph Mastropaolo Ph.D., and Karl Priest, M.A.
    *6 (Walt Brown, PhD.) Dr. Brown’s scientific book, In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood: can be read on the internet as well as purchased in hard copy. This one is non-Catholic, but excellent.

  60. Dear Msgr. Charles Pope,

    Your posts are thought provoking and often encouraging for Catholics to renew/strengthen their faith.

    I have recently read an old article from the Catholic Update ( about Adam, Eve, and Original Sin, and it seems to circumvent the issue of polygenism, by this I mean it got published with an imprimatur so it is deemed that there is nothing there that is contrary to doctrine. However, this seems opposed to the ideas you discuss here.

    Any thoughts on the matter?

  61. The following contain a list of links from a Thomist perspective on how Evolution is compatible with Theism especially from a Thomistic perspective. Simply copy/paste the urls into your browser

    Did Adam and Eve Really Exist in Human History?

    Dennis Bonnette, “Must Human Evolution Contradict Genesis?”, New Oxford Review (July–August 2007).

    Kenneth W. Kemp, “Science, Theology, and Monogenesis”, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 85.2 (2011): 217–236

    The above article IMHO solves the problem of polygenism vs a single Adam who is the Father of the human race.

    As for all the obviously philosophically ignorant Atheists who have come here asking for scientific proof. I just have to say 1949 called they want their Positivism back!

    New Atheism is intellectually inferior since it rejects or ignores philosophy in favor of Science alone as the sole means of meaningful knowledge.

    See these articles by philospher Dr. Edward Feser.

    Blinded by Scientism


    It’s at best a trivial view at worst a self refuting one.

    Don’t get me wrong I respect Atheist Philosophers but I have zero respect for anti-philosophy New Atheists like PZ Myers or Jerry Coyle. Give me a JLL Smart or Quintin Smith any day but not a Dawkins or Myers.

    Just as I would rather read Herbert McCabe then Jimmy Swaggart.

  62. May I again refer readers to my article in the just-published, peer reviewed 2012-13 Supplement to the New Catholic Encyclopedia entitled “Monogenism and Polygenism,” which refutes some who claim to speak in the name of science and allege that a literal Adam and Eve are scientifically impossible. Also, the third edition of my book “Origin of the Human Race” (Sapientia Press) will be forthcoming in a couple months. It will contain an article in its appendix entitled “The Myth of the ‘Myth’ of Adam and Eve,” which will refute the same overstated claims. It is time that the defenders of Church teaching on our first parents get some new rational and scientific ammunition.

    1. If anyone wants to see an article that I wrote that addresses the scientific possibility of a literal Adam and Eve, and which is easily accessible on the internet, see this one that was recently published by the Homiletic and Pastoral Review online edition:

      It offers a defense of our first parents which is not necessarily dependent upon an interbreeding solution, but which leaves open that possibility should it prove necessary.

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