by David Pence, MD
Most events in the physical world can be explained quite nicely by physical causes. When I ask my students how eukaryotic cells capable of forming multicellular organisms came from the prokaryotic world of bacteria, I expect an explanation of endosymbiosis -- not a shout out to God. There are certain pivotal events, though, that cannot be explained without the direct spiritual hand of God. The manifestation of electromagnetic radiation and matter 13.7 billion years ago is one such event, but it is by no means the last one. The daily sacraments, each conception of a human life, the Incarnation of Christ, the creation of humans, the appearance of the first life all require the direct intervention of God. There is a lot of agreement about these interactions in Catholic circles, with a notable exception that the theological poetry of Adam and Eve is not always so well received. To call the story of Adam and Eve "theological poetry" is no great offense. But to deny the truthful essence of the story in the name of Science is a trivializing of the poetry and a denial of the theology.
Here is a tape of Bishop Robert Barron on the subject, with his critic attaching many relevant Church documents presenting a different interpretation. Bishop Barron is a great defender of the faith, and has brought more souls to the Lord than most of us. However, this video is a good man at his worst as his explanation concedes way too much to a lesser authority.
Do all humans have the same original parents? Are all the races and tribes of humanity truly monogenetic? Was human creation a unique shaping by God of a new species and kingdom? Did man by the hand of God come from matter, and woman by that same hand come from man? Was there an original state of unity between God, man, and woman that was disrupted by the disobedience of our first parents leading to the dispersal of humanity deformed by original sin? We answer unequivocally YES to all these questions.
The proposal that accident and adaptation are an adequate explanation of the universe and man -- this becomes more untenable each day to the eyes of both religious men and materialists. We are not here making an extended argument against the materialist evolutionists, but warning good religious men not to concede so much so quickly to a failing paradigm. If Marxism found its last defenders in university professors, it seems Darwinism has organized its last stand among Christian clerics.
Sometime between 100,000 and one million years ago, human beings appeared on earth. We will learn in the next decades that the emergence of new species of living beings will appear more as multiple developments from very primitive forms of life, rather than a well-defined animal like a mole altering one protein at a time over a long period of time to eventually evolve into a horse. The Cambrian Explosion of 500 million years ago hints at this quite dramatically. Our picture of the development of species will look like many different stalks of a bush coming from some less differentiated multipotent stem cells in the roots. The oak tree picture with smaller branches emanating from larger branches growing out of larger trunks will become less and less defensible. We will think of the first cell of life as a kind of stem cell from which other stem cells and then more differentiated organisms develop. No one says that a zygote evolves into a human. Speaking of the development of various life forms from the original information-laden cell (a procaryote 3.8 billion years ago) will replace the older term of evolution which is irreversibly tied to accident and adaptation as its chief mechanisms of change.
When God picked up that original matter and breathed forth an adult man, it is not clear what was in the clay. But he breathed into something that looked much more like a primitive cell or chunks of soil than a baboon just waiting for one more protein sequence to break into speech. I am fairly confident that this picture of the development of differentiated life forms from more primitive undifferentiated organisms will become mainstream biology in the next few decades. I am even more confident it will not cause conversions of hard-core materialists. The source of their disbelief has nothing to do with biological facts or providing adequate causality for observed historical sequencing.
A major difference between Christian biology and materialist evolution is that Christians contend the fulfillment of matter as having already occurred. Our developmental task as a species is to conform ourselves to the new Adam—the fruition of nature and life already present on earth. We are not pointing to some indefinite future moment or mutation that will lead to a more highly evolved human. We look back to when Eternity entered the Temporal, and try to conform ourselves to that Person-Event. The Head has shaped a template meant to be perfected by our participation. We do not seek utopia in an indeterminate future, but seek perfection in an interpersonal order which was present in the distant past and is present today. Not only are Christ and Mary the perfect male and female, but Adam and Eve before the Fall are also exemplars of our true nature and ultimate destiny. We are not evolving to some new type of organism. With the grace of God, we are recovering from a Fall.
Biblical truths like the creation of all matter by a spiritual God and the existence of a single set of human parents for all people are indispensable explanatory events in the narrative of reality which we are meant to proclaim to a darkened humanity. The Christian intellect cannot block out these ordering truths. In explaining reality there is no reason to flee from facts which we learn from the Bible because we cannot yet surround them with a continuous biological narrative. We are still piecing together connective tissue, but the bones are in place. Christian revelation is the real Enlightenment, and we should not turn off the floodlights to win favor with our atheistic friends by stumbling with them in the dark.
Stammering through Genesis betrays a lack of trust in God (a deficit of the theological virtue of hope) which is deeply tied to courage in facing the atheist court of respectable opinion. Retelling Genesis as a meta-narrative of non-violence is not a better explanation of the full reality of creation. In fact, that modern flight from violence exposes an ignorance of the violence constituent in the universe. This does not help our argument, especially with astrophysicists. The unwillingness to stand by the essential Christian account of God’s work calls to mind the original cowardice of Adam. The science of Satan was offered as the fruit of the tree to the woman -- but only after he had scared the male protector away from his guard post. It is not intellectual rigor but intellectual fear that paralyzes our pastors and "Catholic intellectuals." This leaves the sheep vulnerable, as once Adam left Eve with the Evil One. Let us face that Liar and his modern materialist scientists today in a more courageous way than Adam did so many years ago. Our courage will come from a more radical trust in God who has told us the truth in the theological poetry of His Holy Word.
David Pence practiced Radiation Oncology (treating cancer with radiation) for thirty years. He then earned a Masters Degree in Education with specialty licenses in Earth and Space Sciences and the Life Sciences. He has designed and presently teaches a four-year science curriculum at a Catholic seminary.