My brother posted this on my Facebook wall last night with the comment, "Curious how you respond to this."

http://www.dominicanablog.com/2013/03/05/disputed-questions-in-evol...

There I was, listening to a Catholic argument for Young Earth Creationism. Only a week earlier, I had explained to a friend how Catholics aren’t really susceptible to the fideistic Creationism seen in many Protestant churches. Now, I found myself before a Catholic speaker arguing for a historical reading of the six days of creation and claiming that the earth was only 6,000 years old: Not only did the Bible say so, but the Fathers of the Church said so, and until this century, all the Saints and Councils and Popes said so as well.

To even think of overturning this traditional witness we would need certain scientific evidence, which the speaker claimed the theory of evolution failed to provide on account of a litany of objections. Finally, he went on to illustrate how every symptom of the moral decline of the last two centuries can be linked to a belief in evolution: Nazis, Soviets, contraception, abortion, the sexual revolution, and even the ongoing virtualization of our social lives. The key to the New Evangelization was a renewed confidence in the traditional teaching of God’s creation in six days and a rejection of evolution. Until we proclaim the traditional faith in toto we have little chance of converting people to that faith.

It was frustrating, even painful, to sit through. Frustrating, because of the way both modern science and the teachings of the Fathers and the Magisterium were presented out of context. Painful, because manipulating emotional arguments were employed to explain the evils of our society, ignoring the complexity of historical events and the sinfulness of our fallen human nature, hanging all blame around the neck of evolution—all, of course, in the name of faithful Catholicism. I could understand how the argument might be persuasive to someone seeking an answer to what was wrong with the world. We face so many problems in politics, in society, and in the Church itself; there has to be an explanation, and here was one neatly laid out on a platter.  Fix this evolution heresy and all will be right.

But, as you might expect, the Creationist argument hinges upon a false dichotomy. Ironically enough, it is the same dichotomy proposed by the New Atheists. The parallels are a bit disturbing. The Creationists claim that any difficult problem in science can and should be explained by God and that everything wrong with the world is attributable to belief in evolution. The New Atheists claim that any difficult problem in science can and should be explained by evolution and that everything wrong with the world is attributable to belief in God. Both sides set up their simplistic straw man—the atheists of the Christian faith and the Creationists of the science of evolution—and both proceed to knock their straw man down and declare their case proved to the satisfaction of no one but themselves.

In a sense, both sides are only arguing with each other, but they lump anyone who doesn’t fully agree with them into the enemy camp. Of course, most people don’t actually agree with either extreme, and for good reason. As much as a nice, neat dichotomy can be appealing to the human mind, it simply isn’t reflective of reality.

Your average person, and especially your average Catholic, looks at both of these extremes and intuitively sees something wrong. They may even be able to locate the incoherence in either or both positions. But few, I would guess, are able to articulate a coherent perspective of reality that takes into account the true value of both the truths of human reason and the truths of Revelation. While the coherence of faith and reason has always been an important tenet of Catholic teaching, sometimes it is difficult to see when specific arguments and objections come couched in technical scientific or theological language. While there has been a heroic effort from a variety of sources to show the harmony of faith and reason, there is clearly more work to be done.

In light of this pressing need, several Dominicans, myself included, are collaborating on a new project to better educate the faithful on the beauty and coherence of our Catholic worldview, especially in the light of the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas. The project is titled, “Disputed Questions in Evolutionary Creation: Thomistic Responses for the Catholic Faithful and Other Curious Minds.” Reflecting the broad range of disciplines engaged in the question of Creation and Evolution, this project will be a collaborative effort between Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, OP (PhD in Biology), Fr. James Brent, OP (PhD in Philosophy), Fr. John Baptist Ku, OP (STD in Theology) and myself (PhD in Physics).

For this exciting new project, we have received a grant awarded to Providence College from The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution Christian Faith program to create a series of twenty-seven bulletin inserts for Catholic parishes that explain the philosophical and theological foundations of the Thomistic synthesis of faith and reason in light of the findings of modern science. BioLogos was founded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins to explore and celebrate the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.

We especially hope to engage young Catholics at colleges and universities around the country and to create a website to engage an even broader audience. With the BioLogos Foundation’s generous support, I hope that my brothers and I can provide the resources that help many to discover the coherence of God’s gift of reason and his saving Revelation. For in the words of Bl. John Paul II, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”

Now before you start getting any ideas about my brother, let me say that he's a very intelligent individual, but a very devout Catholic, and he is by no means trying something duplicitous here. He's genuinely curious to know what I think.

But I am curious to know what you think! If your family member asked you your opinion on this with the intention to honestly hear what you have to say, what would you tell that person?

(Disclaimer: I haven't replied yet)

Tags: Catholic, Faith, Reason, creationism, design, evolution, family

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he's a very intelligent individual, but a very devout Catholic

A dark albino you say?

No need to continue reading this article, as it's clear the author doesn't know his asshole from a unicycle. The entire post is nothing more than sanctimonious rambling about how everybody else got it wrong but he has the right answer.

Gee, we never heard that from a cultist before.

If anything, that article only proves that education doesn't make a person any less of an idiot, just as putting a chimp in a tux doesn't make him a gentleman.

Delete that post, delete your brother, and tell him to stop reading this mental diarrhea and uninstall his browser as he can clearly not use it responsibly.

"A dark albino you say?"

Supernatural beliefs are irrational, but a person can have a rational basis for believing them. I really can't blame him for being caught up in it especially since I was the first one to take the dive. Considering the personal tragedy my family has faced, it hasn't surprised me one bit that he's become more religious.

"Fix this evolution heresy and all will be right."

I'm not sure if you read that part in the right context? The author is saying that creationists claim that if we "fix this evolution heresy" then "all will be right." It's a stance the author disagrees with.

"The entire post is nothing more than sanctimonious rambling about how everybody else got it wrong but he has the right answer."

I'm inclined to agree with this, yes.

Supernatural beliefs are irrational, but a person can have a rational basis for believing them.

Like what?

I'm not sure if you read that part in the right context

Yes I was wrong about that particular part actually, sorry. My opinion on the total sum of the article however remains.

My step-brother, for instance, married a die-hard Catholic woman. She got him going to masses held in Latin and chanting like a monk. He now has three kids. If he were to no longer be Catholic, he would no longer be married. He'd probably lose most of his friends, he'd would potentially enter into a long custody fight, and his world would get flipped upside down. I found out that he had substantial doubts about religion shortly after getting married, but has apparently either suppressed them or indoctrinated himself more. In order to keep his family together, he has a strong incentive to keep believing even if he doesn't necessarily agree. If his goal is to live a happily married life to the woman he has chosen, it makes the most sense for him to keep doing what he's doing.

I don't agree that he should, which is an entirely different argument, but that's one of the reasons I left the church and he's still in it.

That's not rational though. He's basically at gunpoint.

That's not quite how I see it. It's more like trying to figure out what's the best to do in a bad situation, which I guess being held at gunpoint is a bad situation.

Imagine trying to cross a chasm and all there is to use is a old worn out rope bridge. It seems stable enough so you try crossing. The bridge creaks ominously and strains beneath your weight. You get out to the middle and it finally occurs to you that this might not be the best idea. Do you risk going back over boards that might break under your weight or do you keep going forward? That's sort of how I see the situation.

With the gunman, do you outright refuse to comply and potentially get shot? Is that a rational decision? Or would it be more rational to comply with the person holding a gun to your face? If a guy points a gun at my head and tells me to put my ATM card into a machine and hand him $200, I have a decision to make. The fact that my life is on the line doesn't mean that my decision suddenly becomes irrational.

Believe or end up being a slave to alimony for a bitter religiously inclined ex wife and paying child support for three kids for the rest of your life.................yep, that might even make a "believer" of me ! :-)

I think he's missing a huge point.  The theory of evolution says nothing, of which I am aware anyway, about creation.  Of course evolutionary biologists do sometimes venture guesses as to how life arose, but evolution itself has everything to do with what happened after life began.  

Talk about a false dichotomy!  He doesn't have his argument straight at all, in any way, and now he's going to perpetuate it upon a captive, primed audience.  He may not be trying to be duplicitous, but his blind spots are clearly exposed.  And he's a physicist!  For shame!

p.s.  I don't know what tragedy your family has been through, but I have compassion for your family, even your confused, if well-meaning, brother.  We all handle things however we can, I guess. 

Thank you, Diane.

"the speaker claimed the theory of evolution failed to provide on account of a litany of objections."

How do you suppose creationism would stand up to a litany of objections? How well, for that matter, does anything stand up to objections posed to a like minded audiance in a one sided conversation?

"How well, for that matter, does anything stand up to objections posed to a like minded audiance in a one sided conversation?"

True, which might be why when the author talks about how New Atheists "claim that any difficult problem in science can and should be explained by evolution and that everything wrong with the world is attributable to belief in God," my brother has asked me my opinion.

I can't get over the irony of this guy saying that "both sides set up their simplistic straw man—the atheists of the Christian faith and the Creationists of the science of evolution—and both proceed to knock their straw man down and declare their case proved to the satisfaction of no one but themselves," when he is setting up simplistic strawmen and proceeding to do the exact same.

I have a very large vocabulary, but "fideistic" is a new word for me. Having looked it up, I see that it means basic beliefs on faith in religion, setting science, logic, and philosophy aside. 

The Catholic church, while still largely in the dark, has much more of an intellectual tradition than the Protestants (with a couple exceptions like the Unitarians and Episcopals, who simply seldom get worked up about theological matters).

I'd tell him that while I can't tell him WHAT to think, fideism abrogates thinking and he has to make a choice whether to lead some semblance of a rational life using the brain he believes God gave him, or whether he wants to be voluntarily stupid.

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