July 02, 2008

Evolution and the False Dichotomy

My fellow thinking Catholics,

In recent news, scientists have discovered a 365 million-year-old fossil that helps link fish and four-legged land animals (tetrapods). This is the most primative four-legged animal that we have a fossil record of, to date, and it serves to bring the question of evolution back into our minds.

What is a Catholic to think about evolution? There are some who propose evolution as the solution to God - the proof that we have no Creator. There are others who find evolution completely incompatible with their belief in God - that if God created everything, evolution can't possibly be true. Both of those groups would likely have you believe that those are the two choices - God or evolution.

This is simply a false dichotomy - a logical mistake that occurs when an issue is presented as having two options, when really there are more than two. The Bible is not a science textbook (despite getting some surprising scientific points correct) and does not try to explain the "how" of our creation; the Bible and Church Tradition tell us why we were created. In contrast, science addresses how things work - including how we were created. There is no contradiction if we view them in this way - a complementary pair, faith telling us why God created us and science telling us how.

To assume that God could not have devised evolution as a mechanism for creating us is giving God far too little credit. God created everything, so everything - include science - is God's. They will never contradict and cannot ever contradict, so, clearly, we have nothing to fear from the theory of evolution and everything to gain. What a rich, complex system it is, if that is God's means of creating us. What an amazing care and planning to make so many small movements to lead to His end in us.

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