Evolution or Intelligent Design?

One of the many debates currently raging in the United States and Germany is whether the universe is part of a blind evolutionary process or the creation of a loving and intelligent God. Like most of our present debates this debate has often been sensationalized in the media with intellectually shallow arguments that force people into an “either... or” position without first defining terms or trying to approach the topics with calm and tranquility. The purpose of this post is to give an overview of the debate and then to put forth what is acceptable for a believing Catholic.

Contrary to what you will hear or read from the media, there are three distinct positions which are normally taken with regard to the origins of the universe.

1. Darwinian/Materialistic Evolution: This theory claims that man and the universe ultimately have their origins in a pool of material that randomly evolved into the universe we encounter today. This view is called “materialistic” because all reality consists only of physical “stuff” and thus the possibility of a spiritual, intelligent and loving God are out of the picture. This view of the origin of the universe has very serious moral implications that are in force today and is obviously unacceptable for a believing Catholic.

2. Theistic Evolution: This theory claims that the universe and man indeed evolved from material “stuff” but that this process was initiated, guided and is sustained by a supremely Intelligent Being whom we recognize as God. Many scientists such as Francis Collins, the head of the human genome project, hold to this position saying that it is utterly insane to look at the universe and man and reject the fact that an Intelligent Creator is at their origin.

3. Theistic Creationism: This theory holds that God created the world as literally told in the story of Genesis 1 and 2.

A faithful Catholic may hold to either of the last two arguments (2 and 3) and he must believe, if he holds the 2nd position, that man's soul does not evolve but rather is created directly by God and given to him at the first moment of his existence. On top of that, faithful Catholics must also believe that God created the universe out of nothing, creatio ex nihilo, and that He did so in a completely free way.

"Catechesis on creation is of major importance. It concerns the very foundations of human and Christian life: for it makes explicit the response of the Christian faith to the basic question that men of all times have asked themselves: "Where do we come from?" "Where are we going?" "What is our origin?" "What is our end?" "Where does everything that exists come from and where is it going?" The two questions, the first about the origin and the second about the end, are inseparable. They are decisive for the meaning and orientation of our life and actions." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 282)

Further reading:
Catechism of the Catholic Church on Creation
Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith: by Cardinal Schoenborn

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    # by Dave - December 8, 2007 at 10:10 PM

    Hi:

    This is a great site. I am so pleased to see folks living out their vocation with such authenticity. Your joy is quite evident and reflects the great happiness, not just of those called to a priestly vocation, but the joy that is evident in ANY faithful Catholic who, like Mother Mary, says YES and makes a total gift of self--no matter what vocation he or she is called to.
    My name is Dave, I'm a third year law student at Ave Maria in Ann Arbor, right up the road from Toledo. I am also discerning a vocation. I would really appreciate your prayers, especially with you being so close to so many holy sites there in Rome. Be sure that I pray for you and all seminarians whenever I can. God bless you, and thanks for responding to God's call with generous hearts! --Dave

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    # by Ted Martin - December 12, 2007 at 3:56 PM

    Dave!

    Thanks for the encouragement and prayers. It is an amazing gift from the Lord to be studying to be a priest. Know of my prayers and I will certainly remember you at the tombs of JPII and St. Peter next time I am under St. Peter's Basilica.

    Talk to you soon brother.

    In Christ,
    Ted Martin