Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Christian Evolutionism in Apologetics

Christian Evolutionism in Apologetics

At the outset, I must acknowledge that the Theory of Evolution (macro-evolution as envisioned by Charles Darwin) does nothing to disprove the existence of God.  Most would argue that it does not disprove Christianity.  The Catholic Church, in fact, has said that Catholics have the freedom to believe in it, provided they acknowledge God as the Creator, the direct creation of our souls by God, and certain truths about our first parents (among the other principles of the Faith).

          Given all that, I was unsure about whether to even write this post.  And it is understandable why many apologists don’t bother touching on evolution.  Trent Horn, in his book Answering Atheism, recounts a debate between theists and atheists on a college campus at which he noticed that the atheist literature was exclusively about evolution.

          Given that evolutionism essentially misses the point, and is frequently used to advance straw man arguments, isn’t discussing it playing into our opponents’ hands?  Most of the time, it probably is.

          However, there is one pet peeve of mine (of which Mr. Horn is guilty despite the quality of his book) that I do think is a mistake.  That is the uncritical acceptance of evolution within arguments for theism.  Modern apologists apply the highest standards of scientific rigor to our arguments supporting the existence of God.  We want no stone left unturned in order to display beyond any doubt where the evidence leads.

          When it comes to evolution, however, there are often no critical standards applied at all.  Again, I understand the reasoning.  It does us no good to get bogged down over theories that are essentially irrelevant to our purposes.  And given the success atheist professors have had turning young people away from faith using evolutionism, it would seem that taking the sword out of our enemy’s hand would be quite wise.

          My only concern is this: by setting such a standard (or really a lack of standards), we are giving uncritical credibility to a belief system that hasn’t earned it.

          This is why, despite the theological differences I may have with him, I appreciate the recent documentary by Ray Comfort, Evolution vs. God.  In it, he asks professors at top universities for one piece of observable evidence for Darwinian macro-evolution, and he gets none.  There are a few examples of micro-evolution, such as certain fish, or Darwin’s finches.  Horn gives the impressive example of bacteria that have developed the ability to metabolize harsh acids.  (It is important to note that though this ability was designed over 50,000 generations of bacteria by the intelligence of scientist Richard Lenski, the bacteria never began to become anything other than bacteria.)

          All of these examples show adaptability, and impressive foresight in creation.  These are forms of micro-evolution and are certainly not Earth shattering.  The many breeds of dog, for example, are thought by virtually all creationists to have come from a few on Noah’s ark.  And we have heard of antibiotic-resistant bacteria for years.

          But in none of these examples did the birds, fish or bacteria become something else entirely (what are often called different “kinds”).  When the professors were asked to confirm that none of these creatures actually gave rise to any other type of creature, they responded, “Well, of course not,” even though that is exactly what Darwinian evolution would suggest.

          But we have to imagine these small principles put into effect over millions of years.  Then these small changes, applied to single-cell organisms at the start, could give rise to the massive diversity we see around us today, right?  I would argue that they could not.  There are many good, scholarly works out there that explain exactly why they could not, and I could not do them justice.  They are not hard to find.
          My point is that there are scientific standards that the Theory of Evolution can not meet.  We are still free to believe in it, but no one should blindly accept it as truth.  And though it is not at the heart of apologetics and is probably most often best left on the shelf, I think we need to be careful about setting a bad example in that regard.