A Turning Point
Advances in modern science undermine theory of Evolution

Peter Wilders

Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Apostle of theistic evolution
(Posted Dec. 1, 2007 www.RemnantNewspaper.com)
The Church’s Magisterium dogmatically teaches that from the beginning God created all things at the same time from nothing. Mainstream natural scientists disagree and insist that nothing was created from nothing and that all things evolved over billions of years from primeval matter to man. Whereas the Church declares that everything was created at the beginning, mainstream natural science says that even if there were a beginning—a subject about which there is little consensus amongst scientists—nothing existed apart from indefinite matter. The contradiction between the Church’s infallible teaching and evolutionary theory could not be greater. The Ecumenical Council Lateran IV states that God:

…creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal; who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing (D. 428)

Being an infallible dogmatic teaching, this definition of creation is tantamount to God speaking to the faithful through His Church. To impose upon it ideas contrary to those intended by its authors, the fathers of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 (and repeated by the fathers of the 1870 Vatican Council), is a serious matter.

So, what are those contrary ideas? Basically they are those taught in natural science classes around the world that:

…a primeval explosion (big bang) of elementary particles caused the formation of gases which developed into stars and planets. At least one planet developed the conditions for life, and by a process of chemical and molecular evolution single-celled living matter transformed into multi-celled plants and animals and eventually man. The mechanisms for this transformation are random chance, natural selection and mutation.

Why did the Church not intervene since these ideas contradict the definition of Creation given in the Lateran IV dogmatic teaching?

The answer is startling. It has nothing to do with theology as one would have expected but all to do with… geology! History reveals that the Council’s teaching on creation was upheld within the Church from its beginnings until the latter part of the nineteenth century. At this point in time theologians started to be convinced by geologists such as Charles Lyell in his “Principles of Geology” (1830 and 1831) that sedimentary rocks took enormous periods of time to form and that strata built up slowly one on top of the other. If this was a fact, as they thought, the traditional teaching that the world and all things in it were created at most in six days some six thousand years ago must be wrong. They appealed to St. Augustine’s rule that where the Church’s teaching appears to conflict with scientific facts the former teaching must be brought into line with the scientific evidence.

Theologians allowed themselves to be persuaded that proof had been provided of the enormous ages of rocks. After all, they reasoned, the Lyellian geological time scale was taught as fact in universities throughout the world. So why should theologians not accept the teaching of the professionals in geology? One could plead that changing the meaning of a dogma is an act of such profound importance that no effort should have been spared to ascertain with certainty the factual nature of the geologists’ claim. All the more so, since St. Augustine added the rider that if a hypothesis in science threatened any teaching of the Church, theologians had a duty to show that it was wrong. Unfortunately, the record shows little evidence that Catholic theologians contested the geological theory.

It is only today, over a century later, that an attempt has been made to verify the accuracy of the geological premise regarding the age of rocks. Experiments have been performed for this purpose and the reports published in the scientific media are unequivocal: The time needed to form a sequence of strata is generally speaking no slower than that needed for a water current to erode and transport the eroded sediments. For instance a current of 1m/sec would transport fairly large sedimentary particles more than three kilometres in an hour. The greater the velocity of current the larger the particles of sediments it can carry, and the faster the sedimentary strata will form. A current of 6 m/sec or more, for example, can transport masses of sediment, including boulders, over hundreds of kilometres before depositing them. Nineteenth century theologians felt constrained to accept the conclusions of natural scientists—not knowing that the latter had no empirical proof of the theories they were promoting.

Had the theologians been aware of this lack of proof, they could not have embraced the Lyellian geological time scale, particularly in the light of Blessed Pius IX’s statement in the Constitution of the first Vatican Council that the Council’s decision relied upon:

… the word of God in writing and in tradition, as We have received it from the Catholic Church, religiously guarded and authentically explained. All opposing errors We proscribe and condemn by the authority given Us by God.

Quite clearly, if those accepting the enormous ages of rocks had suspected that those ages were based upon speculation, they would have firmly rejected any modification of the established meaning of the Lateran IV definition of creation. But the explanation given by geologists concerning rock formations and the fossils in them seemed so reasonable that a theologian who questioned it seemed to be obstructing scientific progress.

Looking back, however, the consequences of the revised meaning given to the Council dogma were radical and revolutionary. Prior to acceptance of long periods of time needed to form rocks, scientists and theologians alike regarded the rocks and the fossils they contained to be remnants of the Great Flood. This view did not depend on a literal reading of the Bible but on the abundance of fossilised animals and plants across the surface of the Earth and their appearance of having been buried catastrophically. As all air-dependent life, apart from Noah and his family, was recorded in Scripture as having been destroyed during the Flood, paleontologists used the fossils to determine the various species that existed in pre-diluvian history.

Their approach corresponded with the Church’s teaching that all things were created virtually together at the beginning of time and that the sin of Adam was committed just before he was evicted from the Garden with his wife Eve. As we now know, the idea that life appeared on the earth in stages—with mankind evolving over millions of years from non-human ancestors—has obscured the reality that death entered a perfect world through the sin of the first man. Evolution postulates a world in which pre-hominids lived and died over thousands of generations. It allows no place for the creation of our first ancestors from nothing, their original state of perfection, and the original harmony of the Garden of Paradise in which they lived.

The evolutionary scenario has eclipsed the notion of original sin and its ancillary teaching of Redemption from the effects of the sin by Christ’s death and resurrection. At the same time, it obviates the need for baptism, which gives effect to God’s redemptive act, and removes the reason for the birth of Christ from the womb of his mother cleansed from the sin of Adam.

But how is it that the Lateran IV teaching on the subject of creation had not been applied earlier to prevent the spread of theistic evolution? After all it was well enough known and had been taught for over six centuries prior to the long age geological speculations being contemplated by nineteenth century theologians. The troubling response is that, according to recent research, the words of the dogma were re-interpreted to allow for the new geological theories to be taught, which paved the way for the teaching of biological evolution over long ages of time. A study documenting this catastrophic episode and bearing an imprimatur (“Lateran IV and Evolution Theory: The Importance of Simul”) is now available from the Kolbe Center, (email:  howen@shentel.net )

Despite the current enthusiasm for evolutionism, and looking at the facts, no objective scientist, Catholic or otherwise, when pressed, would claim that evolution has been proved. Factually, therefore, the oft-stated claim that God used evolution as a means to create cannot be scientifically validated. Evolution in this context refers to one kind of organism transforming into a totally different kind, for example, reptiles into birds, or land mammals into whales. Yet the theory of biological evolution taught world-wide takes such transformation as its basic tenet. It is closely and necessarily linked to the assumption that rocks formed very slowly. The fact is, however, neither macro-evolution nor the multi-million rock ages are backed by empirical proof. Such a statement is considered as temerarious and rejected peremptorily by natural science students trained in prestigious schools and universities.  But this is largely due to the failure of academic leaders to separate theory from fact for so long that the difference between them has become blurred and what is really theory is now taken to be fact.

One must remember that the community of natural scientists is no longer predominantly composed—as it was for centuries—of Christian believers. There is, therefore, no reason why its members would exercise caution when faced with the choice between their unproved hypothesis and a metaphysical affirmation by the Church.

The authors of the study have tried to explain why the Church hierarchy over the last one and a half centuries has come to contemplate propositions which for most of its history would have been rejected out of hand.  What new conditions have intervened to bring about the change?  Up to the latter part of the nineteenth century similar scientific hypotheses could not have taken root because the criteria, against which they had to be measured—the three pillars of Catholic teaching, Holy Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium—would have provided an insuperable obstacle.  

Previously, any proposition from science would not be considered as valid unless it (1) was provable by observation and scientific experiment and (2) did not contravene Catholic teaching. Today the situation has altered to the extent that scientific hypotheses are allowed even where they are irreconcilable with the deposit of faith. For instance, the theory that mankind existed millions of years before Abraham—although unsupported by proof—is taught in schools and seminaries even though it does not correspond with biblical genealogy. Anthropologists say that for the origin of mankind to go back so far, the scriptural account of a single man such as Adam being its ancestor is untenable; a group of gradually evolving anthropoids must be assumed. The Church’s teaching that death arose as a consequence of Adam’s pride and disobedience has no place in such a scenario. The dogmas connected with Original Sin such as Baptism, the Immaculate Conception and Redemption cannot easily be harmonised with evolution. Attempts have been made to reconcile them with the new geological theories and macro-evolution by reinterpreting Magisterial teaching. However, Vatican I, anathematises those who say:

… it is possible that to the dogmas declared by the Church a meaning must sometimes be attributed according to the progress of science, different from that which the Church has understood and understands (Faith and reason – canon 3)

Nevertheless, macro-evolutionary theories without proof which are incompatible with Catholic teaching are taught in Catholic schools. This can only be because of the wide-spread belief that the Church has never raised any formal objection against accepting evolution as a theologically acceptable possibility. The purpose of the aforementioned study was to explain how this belief arose and why it was ill-founded. The combination of a readiness to accept an affirmation of science without reservation with an equal readiness to remove any theological barriers which might oppose it succeeded in producing the conditions needed for evolution to flourish. It is only by going back to the drawing-board to examine the scientific facts in the light of today’s new knowledge of geology—and in light of the poor theological justification for accommodating the new geology in the first place—that the tangled knot has been unravelled.

Given the fundamental assumption that the world is millions of years old and that evolution has really taken place, natural scientists have produced a sophisticated model encompassing geology, biology, paleontology and the other earth sciences sufficient to convince the entire scientific community, Nobel laureates included. The fact that the worldview of many of these scientists is philosophically anchored in materialism and allows no alternative is evident from their writings. Biologist Richard Lewontin, for instance, is unequivocal:

…we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door” (“Billions and Billions of Demons,” The New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, pp. 28, 31).

If, as it must be, the teaching of Lateran IV is without error, a close examination of the assumptions involved in evolution theory reveals its weakness. Take, for example, the time element. This is fundamental to the whole theory. It is only by postulating enormous epochs of time that the concept of slow gradual change can be explained. The change according to evolution theory can be observed to have occurred by a study of the fossil record which consists of previously living organisms fossilised in the rocks. The rocks are assumed to have formed over millions of years and, therefore, the fossils in the earlier rocks would logically be millions of years older than those in the later ones. This line of reasoning would be accepted as indisputable by any intelligent student.

However, the question arises: “How can it be known for certain that the rocks formed slowly?” The answer, given in the geological manuals used in schools is that rock formations are composed of strata which apart from times of intense turbulence are assumed to form successively with each layer taking a long period of time to deposit. It is implicit from this reasoning that (1) it takes much time for a single stratum to form and (2) each stratum is completed before the next one is deposited.

This answer is also founded upon assumption, because examination of the geological records shows there is no experimental proof supporting either affirmation.  Both are based upon the observations of a clergyman natural scientist Nicolas Stenon in the seventeenth century, reported in his book “Prodromus” in 1669. The principles of stratigraphy published in the book, constitute the foundations of the geological principals taught today. They were based upon the author’s interpretation of his observations. These interpretations, however, were never tested. It is only quite recently that they were taken into the laboratory and examined.[1]

The experimental results showed the principles to be incorrect. First, because it was discovered that Stenon had not taken into account the effect of water current velocity (virtually all rocks were formed under oceans and seas); second, the experiments (published in the science media) showed the strata did not form successively by superposition, but laterally and vertically with several strata depositing at the same time; third, they formed as a function of the velocity of current.

The rapid formation of rocks, demonstrated by the experimental results, brought into focus the impossibility of determining the age of fossils from rocks.  Since evolution theory is based upon the position of fossils in geological formations, the theory has been stripped of its apparent scientific support.  Although the laboratory results have been subjected to peer review and published in scientific journals, geologists have yet to take them into account. Unfortunately, the now “out of date” geological principles continue to be promulgated in the academic system.  Moreover, they are still an obligatory requirement for obtaining a professional diploma in the earth science departments.

Thanks to the research described above, the situation has changed radically. The restoration of the correct interpretation of the Lateran IV definition of creation imposes a duty upon theologians to challenge much of the hierarchy’s support for evolution. Up until now, the scientific community could rely on the proposition that the convergence of evidence for evolution from the principal disciplines of the earth sciences, even though without specific proof, was indisputable. Now that the assumptions upon which the evidence was based have been refuted, objective scientists have, at last, the means to resist their dogmatic peers.

Not surprisingly, other weaknesses of evolutionary theory are also being studied more seriously. At the molecular level, for example, open-minded students are beginning to listen to biologists who have been saying that mutations and natural selection, the proposed mechanism for evolution, do not produce viable genetic change. In their biology classes they learn that mutations are injurious to life and responsible for most major diseases, whereas when discussing evolution they are led to believe that many are beneficial.

When told that there are three types of mutations, beneficial mutations, neutral and harmful, they can get the mistaken impression that there are more or less equal numbers of each. Statistics, however, show the ratio of beneficial to harmful mutations to be 0.0000001% (Sandford, I, 2005. Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome. Lima NY. Elim Publishing, 26). Even the rare “beneficial” mutation has a downside and the unequivocally beneficial are non-existent (Geneticist - Prof. Maciej Giertych, Ph. D. Polish Academy of Sciences). These facts show that the reality of the genome of every species is devolution, not evolution—the exact opposite of the evolutionary prediction.

Indeed, it seems that theology and natural science are finally converging once again. In the theological realm, the cloud that once obscured the understanding of the Lateran IV definition of Creation has been dissipated.  The world can once again see that the Church has spoken definitively on the matter of Creation in such a way as to exclude the hypothesis of evolution for the origins of things. As regards natural science, the experimental method has shown the error of the geological speculations that millions of years are needed to form rocks and the study of genetics has highlighted the reality of devolution rather than evolution in nature. 

The gravity of the current crisis of faith and morals that has beleaguered the entire Church for so many years is no secret, but now that the obstacles preventing the dissemination of Christ’s authentic teaching have been removed, perhaps the much-heralded “new springtime” can finally begin.

[1] www.sedimentology.fr