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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Senator Brownback and Evolution

During the first debate for Republic presidential candidates, Senator Sam Brownback raised his hand when the candidates were asked who did not believe in evolution. Brownback later published an editorial in the New York Times entitled "What I Think About Evolution," which explained his position on the topic. An excerpt:
If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it. . . . The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers - myself included - reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.
I don't see anything objectionable in Brownback's statement and I think that Brownback has the proper perspective on evolution. However, Brownback has gotten a lot of criticism from Catholics for his statement as being ignorant of the scientific "fact" of evolution. (For example, see Mirror of Justice's Garnett and Penalver.) The criticism is that macroevolution, one species evolving into another species, has been proven by science, and that those who question this truth (like Brownback) are dunces.

Now, I'm not a biologist and I'm not familiar with all the evidence, but since when did macroevolution become proven as fact? TalkOrigins gives various "proofs" for macroevolution, but I'm not convinced. TalkOrigins admits that macroevolution has never been observed and there is no scientific consensus for how macroevolution happens. Instead, the evidence in support of macroevolution consists generally of observations that organisms are similar to another and that there have been fossil discoveries of organisms that appear to be common links between other organisms. From this, evolutionists say that it is fact that all organisms are descended from one common ancestor. But that's not compelling to me: yes, a cat has four legs and a dog has four legs, but I recognize that they are two different types of organisms, and I don't see why it's necessary that they have a common ancestor. Am I missing something?

Also, in the case of humanity, isn't evolution incompatible with the Catholic faith? Even assuming that monkeys evolved into apes, and apes into hominids, the Catholic faith requires that there was one instance of time when God infused a human soul into one collection of matter (whether it was dirt or the body of a hominid), and that from this one non-evolved/created human being, the rest of humanity is descended. Furthermore, the creation of humanity is not something I believe just because "the Church says so." It is the only thing that makes rational sense to me, philosophically and theologically. All scientific evidence I see confirms the fact that a human is an entirely different type of thing from any other animal; and the doctrines of original sin and the Incarnation are only compatible with creation, not evolution. Again, am I missing something? Are Brownback and myself just a couple of dunces ignorant of science?

(Note: I usually dislike these debates because, on both sides, there is a great deal of misunderstanding, a lack of knowledge, and too much rhetoric. Also, I take absolutely no position on how old the Earth is or on how life began or how different species were created because I'm not familiar with the science. And I'm not afraid of science, because I'm not afraid of the truth.)