By Engr. Carlos Cornjeo
Catholics are free to believe either of the literal creationism or the theistic evolution. Literal creationism means literal interpretation of the account of creation in the Book of Genesis, accepting it as an accurate historical account of the creation of the universe in essentially its present form over the course of six 24-hour days. Theistic evolution or God-guided evolution on the other hand means all things in the universe evolved over time under the guidance of God. Within theistic evolution there are two schools of thought. One is the so-called Special Creation wherein man is part of all evolving organisms. This would mean that at a certain point in time man evolved into near-human animal and was given a soul by God, and became fully human. The other school of thought teaches that all things in the universe evolved from a lower form to a higher one except humans.
Here’s the official teaching of the Catholic Church on Evolution from the Papal Encyclical of Pope Pius XII in 1950 entitled Humani Generis: “The teaching authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.”
The Church focuses on things of faith and not on science. Thus, it gives us the freedom to adhere to any of the two whether creation by six literal days or evolution by millions of years. The important thing the Church emphasizes is that the soul is always directly created by God and did not evolve with matter because it is spiritual in nature. In other words, contrary to common belief, the Church is not against evolution as long as it is evolution under God’s guidance who is a God of purpose and not of chance.
The common question about evolution is that, “If we’ve evolved from monkeys, why are monkeys still around?” or if evolution is really happening, “Why don’t we see half-way evolving organisms or animals?” Scientific laws are supposed to be repeatable and observable regardless of the era or time. The law of gravity for example should be the same whether it’s today, 5 years ago or a million years ago. So, the evolution of animals or organisms should have been happening as we speak. But why we don’t see it?
One theory says that evolution is not really by species but by genes. Marriage of different races for humans for example produces another form of genes. Adaptation to the environment could likewise alter genes both of animals and humans. This explains why we have different colors and other features depending on which area in the world we live. The same thing goes with animals, the tiger found in Asia is different to that in Africa.
Evolution is not a settled science and is still a theory. There is strong evidence that the universe evolved some 13.8 billion years ago through quantum fluctuations. Again, the Catholic Church has no problem with this claim because God could have created the world gradually and we don’t have to interpret the days in Genesis as 24-hour cycle but could be epochs or era. The essential thing is that evolution should not be random or by chance that would render a higher intelligence unnecessary and that everything is only material and that there is no spiritual dimension in man we call soul.