Evolution, Catholicism, and Animal Rights
Response to this article
My question to Markos Alberto Moulitsas:
I understood that the Pope admitted that evolution exists (that life can evolve) but I didn't think he admitted we evolved from apes; I don't think he'd let go of Genesis that easily, considering how valuable a meme mortal sin is to the Catholic Church.
Actually, the Catholics have been straying from Genesis for quite a while. For example, the great flood supposedly came from waters released from the stars. I don't think many people read that literally, and instead understand that this is just symbolic prose.
But, to more directly answer your point, I have pulled this from the January 1, 1997 issue of Christianity Today:
Papal teaching had previously accepted the idea of the descent of all life forms from common ancestry. John Paul II was largely reiterating in a much less formal manner Pius XII's understanding and reminding the scientists that if they were to be faithful Christians there were limits beyond which their science could not take them. Those limits were theological: no theory of evolution was acceptable that was purely, materialistic and that did not recognize the direct divine origin of the human soul.
"Having laid down those limits, the pope encouraged the scientists to
follow where their researches led them. Truth cannot contradict truth, he
This pope's great concern - and ours - is not simply to achieve an accurate picture of human origins, but to preserve a basis for human rights. In the past, evolutionary teaching resulted in social theories that downplayed the worth of every, individual and justified the subjugation and even the elimination of the weak by the powerful, even to celebrating the qualities of a master race. If the human soul is nothing more than a highly evolved form of what animates monkeys or mules, there is no compelling reason not to treat people as laboratory animals or workhorses - or to eliminate them when they become inconvenient. Only by regarding each human being as embodying the image of God do we provide ironclad protection against oppression and the destruction of inconvenient human life.
So, while the pope did not come out and specifically say that we evolved from apes, he basically said, "we cannot avoid the truth, just remember --- our souls came directly from God." And, since there are few scientific "truths" more established than the fact that we evolved from apes, his words are basically a tacit surrender to evolutionary theory.
And, incidentally, note that last paragraph which talks about "human rights." It points to the very Christian thought that continues to place animals in a lesser position than man, and thus allows all sort of cruelty.
A summary of the last paragraph: If we don't have souls, then we are nothing more than animals. If we are nothing more than animals, then we can be treated as "laboratory animals or workhorses" and eliminated "when [we] become inconvenient."
The corollary of this is: Since we *are* manifestations of the image of God, and have souls, we can subjugate animals, treating them like "laboratory animals and workhorses" and eliminating then "when they become inconvenient."
Is it any wonder that Christians aren't drawn to the Animal Rights cause?