by Eric Bermingham
With an Introduction and a Conclusion by Fr. Thomas Hickey
Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things?
The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together,
against the Lord, and against his Christ. (Ps 2:1–2).
Eric Bermingham has done us a valuable service by critiquing the recent work of Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. and the so-called “Thomistic” evolutionists. Certainly no one should doubt the sincerity of the faith of Fr. Austriaco and his colleagues, nor impugn their motives, nor disparage their credentials. Nevertheless, Mr. Bermingham finds serious errors in almost all of their apologetic for molecules-to-man evolution. At times, Mr. Bermingham points out more recent discoveries that Fr. Austriaco seems to be unaware of. At other times, he calls attention to flaws of reasoning, to self-contradictory claims, to unsupported conclusions, and to unwarranted assumptions. Still at other times, Mr. Bermingham points out Fr. Austriaco’s unwillingness to acknowledge the depth of the clash between the current conclusions of the majority of natural scientists and the deposit of faith.
Lest the reader get lost in these individual critiques and arguments, it seems necessary to offer a sort of meta-analysis – to zoom out, so to speak, and view the forest before marking the trees. Here one can see more clearly what is at stake. Without this wider perspective, the tendency might be to view each individual critique dismissively, as if to say it’s just one bad tree in the forest. It is not until we see the totality of the “bad trees” that we may conclude that we are in the wrong forest altogether.
To that end, let us examine the purpose or intention of Fr. Austriaco in writing these articles. Like many others in our time, he wants to demonstrate that there is no conflict between natural science and our faith. What needs to be added, however, is the qualification of “sound” natural science and “true” faith. Just as there are poor representations of what the Church teaches as true, so there are flawed suppositions presented as scientific fact. Science can only be “sound” to the extent that it follows the scientific method to conclusions that can be repeated and verified by observation. And faith can only be “true” to the extent that it holds fast to what God has revealed and verified through His Church.
The whole issue of Fr. Austriaco’s articles and Mr. Bermingham’s critique boils down to one statement: Fr. Austriaco believes that evolution is an incontrovertible fact. Thus this “truth” of science must be reconciled with the truth of revelation. Notice that Fr. Austriaco can only believe that it is fact, for it cannot be demonstrated. What is surmised to have happened over millions of years cannot be repeated and verified, and thus it can never be “sound” natural science. One can only believe that it is true. So the primary concern of reconciling natural science with faith is not at all what it appears to be, i.e. fact vs faith. There is no “fact” to deal with in evolutionary hypotheses; there is only the “faith” that it is so.
Thus, the premise on which the whole series of articles is based is false. What is taken for fact must not be confused with what is true. There is no need to reconcile the “facts” of natural science with the beliefs of the Church. The real issue is that there is indeed a clash between two belief systems. It is the “beliefs” of naturalistic science – not the facts – that must be examined beside the beliefs of the Church. It takes the consent of faith to accept molecules-to-man evolution as true, a fact. This is demonstrated in the commonly asked question one encounters when this issue arises in a discussion: “Do you believe in evolution?” Even if the question is altered to say “Do you believe that evolution is a fact?” the question still begins with “Do you believe…?” The failure on the part of the Thomistic evolutionists to acknowledge this explains the urgent need for Mr. Bermingham’s critique of Thomistic evolutionism.
In essence, Mr. Bermingham merely points out the repeated ways in which Fr. Austriaco fails to recognize that he is not dealing with “fact vs faith” but “faith vs faith.” One faith system seeks to understand all things without God, and the other seeks to understand what God has revealed. Fr. Austriaco feels forced into a choice of whom to believe. He, with many others in our generation are back in the Garden, so to speak, wrestling with the first question ever asked of man: Has God said…?
In seeking an answer to this question, the Thomistic evolutionists have abandoned the primary assumption that all of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church made in regard to the natural order. In the Summa Theologica St. Thomas Aquinas summed it up as follows:
In the works of nature, Creation does not enter, but is presupposed to the works of nature (ST, I q. 45, a. 8.).
In other words, the origin of the different kinds of creatures – stars, plants, animals and men – cannot be explained in terms of the activity of created things – that is, in terms of the same material processes that are going on now. Thus, according to all of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers, in their authoritative teaching, it is IMPOSSIBLE to extrapolate from the present order of nature and from the material processes that are going on now – things like genetic mutations and supernova explosions – to explain how these things came to be in the past.
This assumption was not based on human reasoning or experience. It was based on God’s revelation to Moses in which He clearly stated that the work of creation was a fiat creation and that it was finished on the sixth day with the creation of Adam and Eve. Therefore, ALL the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers drew the boundary between theology and natural science AFTER the creation of Adam and Eve. From this starting point, they recognized that the work of creation was the proper realm of the theologian. The natural order – which began AFTER creation was finished – was the proper realm of the natural scientist.
Those who defend atheistic or theistic evolution – like the Thomistic evolutionists – do not accept this premise from Divine Revelation. They believe that the same material processes that are going on now have been operating in the same way since the BEGINNING of creation – in contradiction to all of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers in their authoritative teaching. What is truly remarkable is that St. Peter the first Pope actually predicted this revolution in men’s ideas when he wrote that scoffers would come in the latter days, asserting that “things have always been the same since the BEGINNING of creation.”
Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3).
St. Peter went on to predict that these scoffers – Descartes, Kant, Hutton, Lyell, Darwin, Teilhard de Chardin and all of their modern disciples – would have to deliberately ignore the FACT – not the pious belief – that it was the Word of God that brought the heavens and the Earth and all they contain into existence, NOT a material process like what we observe in the world today. And this is, indeed, the fundamental error of all evolutionists, theistic or atheistic.
René Descartes (1596-1650) was the first Catholic thinker of note – i.e., the first baptized Catholic “scoffer” – to propose that it would be “more reasonable” to explain the origin of stars, planets and other kinds of creatures in terms of the same material processes going on now than by fiat creation. In his Discourse on Method (of Rightly Conducting the Reason), Part V, Descartes wrote:
But it is certain, and it is an opinion commonly received by the theologians, that the action by which He now preserves is just the same as that by which He at first created it. In this way….we may well believe…that by this means alone all things which are purely material might in course of time have become such as we observe them to be at present; and their nature is much easier to understand when we see them coming to pass little by little in this manner, than were we to consider them as all complete to begin with (emphasis added) (Great Books of the Western World, Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor, Vol. 31, Descartes / Spinoza, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. Chicago, William Benton, Publisher, pp. 55-56.)
In reality, Descartes wittingly or unwittingly distorted the “common opinion” of theologians which identified the creative action of God in creating the universe with His action in maintaining it. Rightly understood, this common opinion held that God created and sustained the universe by His divine omnipotent power, but it distinguished (on the side of the effect) between the exercise of that power to create the corporeal and spiritual creatures ex nihilo and the maintenance of the universe after it was finished and complete. To appreciate the importance of this conflation of the order of creation with the natural order of providence, consider the following statement by humanist philosopher John Dewey about the pivotal importance of this concept in Descartes’ writing and its link to Darwinism:
When Descartes said: “The nature of physical things is much more easily conceived when they are beheld coming gradually into existence, than when they are only considered as produced at once in a finished and perfect state,” the modern world became self-conscious of the logic that was henceforth to control it, the logic of which Darwin’s Origin of Species is the latest scientific achievement. (John Dewey, The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy and Other Essays (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 997), p 8.)
In light of the fact that John Dewey (1859-1952) – the man most responsible for destroying the moral integrity of public education in the United States – identified Descartes as the one who laid the FOUNDATIONS of modern evolutionary thought, we might ask ourselves: WHY was René Descartes the first Catholic thinker of note to embrace this idea? Was he really so much smarter than St. Augustine, St. Thomas and all of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church? Is it a coincidence that Descartes dabbled in the occult and then had three “mystical dreams” brought to him by a “spirit of truth” who “possessed” him and gave him the key to igniting a revolution in men’s thinking – a revolution that would overturn the traditional teaching that “the past – as revealed in Divine Revelation – is the key to the present” with the new mantra of the evolutionists, “the present is the key to the past”?
Perhaps we need look no further for an answer than to Descartes’ devout Catholic contemporary Blaise Pascal. Pascal was as great a genius as Descartes but, unlike Descartes, he had true piety and he saw the terrible consequences of Descartes’ arrogant denial of the traditional teaching on fiat creation in favor of a naturalistic account of origins. Pascal wrote in Pensees:
I cannot forgive Descartes; in all his philosophy he did his best to dispense with God. But he could not avoid making Him set the world in motion with a flip of His thumb; after that he had no more use for God. (Blaise Pascal, Pensees (669) Sect. 4, No. 6).
Pascal realized that if “the present is the key to the past,” man has no need of God or of Divine Revelation to explain the origins of man and the universe. He can figure it all out for himself by extrapolating from the present order of nature all the way back to the beginning of the universe. Thus, he only needs God to “set the world in motion,” as in the mythical Big Bang singularity.
St Thomas followed Aristotle in teaching that a small error in the beginning becomes a huge error later on. But in the case of Descartes, a huge error in the beginning became an unimaginably monstrous error in the end. And this explains why highly intelligent and virtuous people like the Thomistic evolutionists can be completely wrong in their conclusions about origins – because in regard to the origins of man and the universe they have accepted the false premise of Descartes and unwittingly rejected the premise that was held by ALL of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers in their authoritative teaching. Indeed, a man could be the smartest person in the world – and virtuous and well-intentioned to boot – yet if he starts from a false premise, he will always reason (perhaps even sincerely and brilliantly) to a false conclusion – as all evolutionists do.
In the fourth century, one generation after the Council of Nicea defined the divinity of Christ as “of the same substance as the Father,” a still larger council approved a watered-down version of the Creed which styled Him only “of like substance with the Father.” Of this dark moment in Church history, St. Jerome wrote that “The world groaned and found itself Arian.” Less than 150 years ago, Vatican Council I reaffirmed the teaching of Lateran IV verbatim – that God created all the different kinds of corporeal and spiritual creatures by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time – but it went further. In response to the errors of Descartes, Hutton, Lyell, Darwin and other evolutionists, already gaining widespread acceptance among intellectuals in Europe and North America, the Council pronounced the following anathema:
If anyone says that 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, let him be anathema (Vatican I, Faith and reason – Canon 3).
In the light of this forgotten and most charitable anathema, the case is clear: No Catholic is permitted to argue that the progress of the natural sciences requires that the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation be changed. Therefore, if fiat creation IS the traditional teaching of the Church – as even theistic evolutionists admit – then the progress of the sciences may not be used as grounds for changing that teaching. And yet, if St. Jerome were walking the earth today, he would surely say of our time, “The world groaned . . . and found itself Cartesian”! And, we would hasten to add, not only the world, but the Thomistic evolutionists as well!
Fr. Austriaco demonstrates that he has decided that the Cartesian framework for doing natural science is correct and that the consensus in natural science cannot err. He is then faced with a second dilemma, as was Eve: Does God, then, lie? He realizes that he cannot say this. And so he settles for assigning the burden of fallibility to the Church. In his mind, it is fallible men who have misunderstood what God has said, and he may go so far as to say that the very authors of Holy Scripture have misstated what God revealed. He is willing to excuse them in a magnanimous gesture of condescension, for, he would say, they could only write from their limited understanding of the world.
Those who take this line of reasoning are legion in today’s world. It may well be the Devil’s cleverest deception. They fail to realize that what they are willing to excuse is exactly what they are doing – they too are writing from their limited understanding of the world and within a framework that was bequeathed to them not by the Apostles, Fathers and Doctors, but by Enlightenment philosophers! Thus, having embraced the naturalistic uniformitarian framework of Descartes and his disciples, the Thomistic evolutionist exalts the authority of the majority view in natural science to a level equal or superior to the Church’s magisterial authority. In an attempt to reconcile these two authorities, the direct teaching of the Church on our origins is ignored and the promise of our Savior that the Holy Spirit would lead the Church into all truth (John 14:17, 16:13) is overturned. What is lost in the entire discussion is the understanding that the only assurance of infallibility mankind has ever received from God abides in the Church.
Whether consciously or not, those who are persuaded by arguments like the ones that Fr. Austriaco presents have transferred the locus of Christ’s promise of infallibility from the Church to whatever passes itself off as sound science. Thus Scripture, theology, and definitive authoritative statements of Popes, Doctors, and Fathers of the Church are made malleable to adapt to the current consensus in academia. But those who do this ignore the history of natural science which contains many examples of long-held consensus views that had to be revised or overturned in the light of new evidence or through a more thorough examination of existing evidence. What should be evident is that there is no infallibility in the world of science, while there is a divine promise of infallibility for the Church as well as specific recognition of this promise in definitive statements of the Magisterium.
One can only hope that Mr. Bermingham’s work will be read and appreciated in this light. May our search for approval never be confused with a sincere search for the truth!
Fr. Thomas Hickey
Development of Doctrine or Diabolical Deception?
A group of Dominicans has published a book and website called “Thomistic Evolution” (www.thomisticevolution.org) which claims to be able to reconcile the Genesis creation account with evolutionary theories and the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. That would be quite a tall order on the face of it! Rev. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. proposes a “theological narrative” that synthesizes the theological and scientific data into a coherent whole.
A set of parish bulletin inserts has been produced to explain all of this in easy-to-read snippets. Some of them are sound – those which hold to traditional Church teaching. But others are highly speculative and reduce the Genesis account to allegory if not myth. While claiming to be faithful to both faith and reason, modern evolutionary views are presented as proven facts, without much criticism. To synthesize the Genesis account and traditional teachings with evolutionary views, it is the Holy Bible and Sacred Tradition which must be sacrificed.
The first 11 bulletin inserts do a good job of explaining faith and reason, and show how one can know that there is a God from reason alone. Insert number seven, “The Nature of Creation,” starts to go wrong when it rejects St. Thomas’s teaching on the “first perfection of the universe” – which the Angelic Doctor defines as a complete and harmonious universe – and proposes instead a continuous creation. In this view, the creation of the world is reduced to God giving being to contingent things, at any point in time.
All of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers in their authoritative teaching agreed with St. Thomas that God created a perfectly beautiful, complete and harmonious universe for man from the beginning. Thus, they distinguished between the supernatural work of creation in the beginning, and the natural order of things – or the order of providence – which only began when the work of creation was finished. It was not until the so-called Enlightenment that Rene’ Descartes and his disciples began to propagate the false notion that it was more reasonable to explain the origins of man and the universe in terms of the same material processes that are going on now in the order of nature than by the supernatural fiat of God in the beginning.
St. Peter warned the Church about this deception in his second epistle when he prophesied that in the last days scoffers would come, mocking the Word of God in Genesis and saying that “things have always been the same” from the beginning of the universe (cf. 2 Peter 3). This is the fundamental error that undergirds every system of evolutionary thought, the theistic and the atheistic, including “Thomistic evolutionism” whose proponents are, wittingly or unwittingly, disciples of the uniformitarian naturalist Descartes rather than the Angelic Doctor with respect to the fundamental relationship between the work of creation in the beginning and the natural order. Indeed, this fundamental error lies at the root of all of the other errors described below.
The discussion of randomness, chance, providence and free will is good. However, when it comes to the matter of evil in the world in insert number 12, “Divine Providence and the Mystery of Evil,” things head south. That there is violence in the world is recognized as fact. But the discourse on carnivores and physical evil prepares the way for the acceptance of evolution. In reality, carnivores can survive without meat, so they were not necessarily created to kill.
The text states that some Fathers of the Church thought that the bloodiness of nature was a result of Adam’s sin, and, indeed the vast majority of the Fathers held this view. This is supported by the Bible when it says, “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death …” (Rom. 5:12). Insert number 12 claims that this view was rejected by Aquinas. The footnotes with references to the Summa point to a discussion of Adam’s dominion over the animals and how his sin did not affect their nature. However, one of the references says that death and defects are punishments of Original Sin (Summa Theologica, I-II 85).
To say that Aquinas rejected the idea of Adam’s sin affecting nature is a stretch, at best. The Catholic Church and the ancient Jews have always maintained a connection between human sin and disorder in the world. Part of the curse of Adam was that weeds would grow (Gen. 3:18). There are various prayers against lightning and earthquakes that attribute them to sin. Many of the 10 plagues of Egypt involved animals and insects sent to punish the Egyptians.
In the discussion of the “days” of creation, it is rightly said that there are different views among the Fathers of the Church. St. Augustine is famous for his belief in the one day of creation as opposed to the Biblical six. Aquinas was open to either the one-day interpretation or the six-day interpretation, but neither one considered creation to have taken place over millions or billions of years. Moreover, in his later work St. Thomas favored the six-day view, as is evident from the discussion of this topic in the Summa Theologica, where he teaches that “day” in Genesis One is defined as a period of 24 hours (Summa Theologica, Ia, Q. 74, a. 3).
Bulletin insert 15, “Interpreting the Creation Narratives in the Bible,” unfortunately makes the common mistake of asserting that Chapters One and Two of Genesis are contradictory, if understood literally. It is said that the second account presents creation in a different order than the first account. It seems as if Adam is created before the animals and plants in the second account.
You would have thought that Moses would have caught that when he originally wrote Genesis, or that some Father or Doctor would have picked up on that later. But it was not until after the evolutionary hypothesis came to be generally accepted, and after modern Bible translations appeared, that this dichotomy was discovered.
The second chapter of Genesis mentions that God formed a man out of the slime of the earth, and then mentions the trees. It afterwards mentions that the animals were brought to Adam for him to name and that, having found none to be his helper, Eve was then created as a help-mate for Adam from one of his ribs.
The New American Bible (NAB) has Gen. 2:8 as: “The LORD God planted a garden …” whereas St. Jerome’s Vulgate, as faithfully translated by the Douay-Rheims Bible (DRB), has: “And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure …” The Douay-Rheims makes it clear that the garden had already been created before Adam was put into it.
The NAB has Gen. 2:19 as: ”So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals …” whereas the DRB has it: “And the Lord God having formed out of the ground all the beasts of the earth …” Again, the DRB makes it clear that the animals had already been created when Adam went to name them.
So, a faulty interpretation of a poor translation of a Bible text is used to justify rejecting the literal interpretation of Genesis – in spite of the fact that orthodox Jews have always understood Genesis to be actual history and the Church has always proclaimed it to be history in a true sense. (This constant teaching of the Church was reaffirmed in recent times by Humani Generis, an Encyclical of Pope Pius XII – Concerning some false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of Catholic doctrine, paragraph 38)
The scientific evidence in support of molecules-to-man evolution is presented by Fr. Austriaco in inserts 20-29. He starts off by comparing the “theory of gravity” to the “theory of evolution.” The concept of gravity is generally held to be a “Law” of physics whereas the “theory” of biological evolution has not been proven and is more of a conjecture than a scientific hypothesis. The usual idea of all life evolving over millions/billions of years from a single life form is presented as fact, although no organism has ever been proven to have evolved into a different kind of organism at any time, in nature or in the laboratory – or even to have developed the genetic information for a new organ or function that was not present in the genome of its immediate ancestors.
The fossil record is presented as evidence of evolution, and in particular the Tiktallik roseae fossil, which is a fish with appendages. Although several fish species have appendages of some sort that can be used to drag them over wet ground, no fish has proper arms or legs that would support the weight of their bodies out of the water.
The Cambrian explosion is also mentioned, which is the name given to the unusually large number of already developed fossil forms present in rocks that are in the strata just above the pre-Cambrian. It is admitted that “we still do not understand the Cambrian explosion completely.” It is still one of the biggest enigmas for the theory of evolution. A global flood, such as mentioned in the Bible, explains it rather well. The fossils are what is left of the animals buried in the flood.
Fr. Austriaco tries to salvage the evolutionary hypothesis by saying that the Cambrian explosion is not beyond the explanatory power of the theory of evolution. If you attribute to evolution the power to do anything, that might be true. However, that ends up making a god out of evolution.
Next, vestigial organs are used as an argument for evolution. It was once thought that organs like your appendix or tonsils were only useful in ages past. But recent medical discoveries have identified an important role for these organs in the immune system. Further, if vestigial organs are left-overs of evolution, there should also be nascent organs, which would be organs in the process of becoming something else. No such organs have been identified.
The next supporting argument for molecules-to-man evolution is DNA, the molecular code which controls cellular production. It is suggested that since the DNA of humans and chimpanzees is 96% similar, that constitutes proof of a common ancestor. While it may be true that the DNA of humans and chimps is similar, 4% is still a big difference considering that the number of base pairs in humans is about 3 billion. That would mean differences in 120 million base pairs. Even one difference can have a large effect on the body.
A better explanation of the similarity in DNA between humans and chimps is common design. An engineer designing a new product will often use the same or similar parts from a previous product. If God created everything in the beginning, it is not unreasonable to think that He used a similar design for different creatures.
One point that creationists and evolutionists agree on is adaptation. It is a proven fact that organisms can adapt to various conditions and that the differences will be represented in their DNA. Dog breeders can mate dogs with similar traits to come up with a new breed. There is a great diversity in dog breeds from the tiniest Chihuahua to the largest Great Dane. But you never get a cat from a dog.
In bulletin insert number 21, “The Web of Evidence for Evolution / Part II,” Fr. Austriaco says that God would not intentionally mislead His creatures, implying that similarities in DNA should lead us to believe in a common ancestor. But it is Fr. Austriaco who is being misleading because the Bible, the Word of God, says that God designed and created each kind of creature in the beginning.
In bulletin insert number 22, “The Fittingness of Evolutionary Creation,” it is argued that since God wishes His creatures to participate in His creation, the concept of descent from a common ancestor would be very fitting since the lower organisms would have participated in the design of the high organisms. It is also argued that since a T-Rex would have eaten an elephant, they both could not have existed together.
Well, if God wanted his creatures to participate in evolution, then His Word would say so, but it does not. Further, some creatures are co-dependent on other creatures for survival. Monarch butterflies need milkweeds. So unless they were created at the same time, butterflies could not have existed in the first place. And an elephant could probably figure out how to stay away from a T-Rex.
The title of insert 23 is “How does God create through Evolution?” That is rather gratuitous since it has not been proven that anything has ever evolved into anything else, ever. At least it is admitted that God does not change, as it says in His Word. However, if things were continually evolving into other things, we would not be able to even give names to things because they would have no fixed description.
Not intimidated by the fact that he has so far not proven that evolution has ever occurred, Fr. Austriaco goes on to the next bulletin insert, “How did God create Homo sapiens through Evolution?” It is claimed that humans originated in a group of non-humans some 100,000 years ago in Africa. At least he admits that the soul does not evolve and that Eve was created from pre-existing matter (the rib of Adam).
Ironically, it is the concept of an original pair of humans that is one of the greatest pieces of evidence against evolution. Genetic studies have suggested that all women are descendants of one woman (often called “Mitochondrial Eve”) who lived less than ten thousand years ago, and that all men are descended from one man (often called “Y-Chromosome Adam”) who also lived less than ten thousand years ago. That is very fitting since the Bible says Eve was taken from Adam and that she was the mother of all the living.
Fr. Austriaco uses the next four bulletin inserts to discuss the historicity of Adam and Eve. He correctly cites Pius XII in Humani Generis as excluding the possibility of polygenism because of the incompatibility of that concept with Original Sin. Unfortunately, Fr. Austriaco discards the teaching of Pius XII and the preceding 1950 years of Church teaching, together with the 1500 years of Old Testament belief and argues that Original Sin can be compatible with multiple human ancestors, if only you redefine Original Sin!
That is very typical of a committed evolutionist – he will redefine any concept to save the hypothesis of molecules-to-man evolution. Original Sin is redefined as some sort of inherent weakness instead of a single act. However, it is only because of Original Sin that we need a Redeemer. Evolution reduces Redemption to Christ giving us a good example instead of sacrificing Himself for our salvation.
The idea of polygenism also makes a mockery of the Immaculate Conception. If the Blessed Virgin Mary was the one and only Immaculate Conception, as She revealed to Bernadette at Lourdes and as defined by the Church, then there were no other immaculate conceptions. But if Fr. Austriaco is right, then Adam and Eve would both have been conceived without sin. So you can either believe Fr. Austriaco, or believe Our Lady and the Church.
In the third part of the Adam/Eve series in insert 27, Fr. Austriaco comes up with his “theological narrative” to synthesize science with his bad theology. He does admit here that human language is derived from one language, which would be compatible with the story of the Tower of Babel. But of course, he would never admit that the Bible is literally true in that instance.
In the fourth and final part of the Adam/Eve series in insert 28, Fr. Austriaco admits that “how” his “theological narrative” happened is a matter of speculation. He even admits that Adam and Eve would have been infants at some point, directly contradicting the Word of God. So, you can either believe in this story-teller, or in God and His Church.
Fr. Austriaco directs his final insult at the Intelligent Design movement. Michael Behe is famous for his concept of “irreducible complexity.” The idea is that if several components of a single, functioning organism are necessary for its operation, then they could not have evolved in small steps.
Of course, that is unacceptable for an evolutionist because it would disprove his core belief. So it is speculated that the individual parts could have evolved independently in other organisms to come together in a different one.
An example is given of how the HIV virus has only come about recently by attaching itself to two specific human proteins. That argument is unconvincing because a virus cannot live on its own anyway, it must have a host. So, the fact that a virus can adapt to a host does not disprove the concept of irreducible complexity.
The title of the last bulletin insert is, “Evolution’s End: The Beatific Vision.” That is highly ironic since most evolutionists are atheists or agnostic! The author wonders if humans are still evolving, since if we are the current high-point of evolution, then there logically will be a next step. But even the author of this insert cannot see how that fits into Catholic theology.
What is missing from the entire series is the concept of genetic load, which is the accumulation of all of the genetic defects that you have acquired and that have been passed down to you from your ancestors. Dr. John Sanford wrote a book Genetic Entropy which explains this in detail. The book shows the rate at which genetic defects accumulate, and that the human population today has accumulated so many defects that it is possible that in just a few more generations, it will not be possible to for anyone to have a healthy child.
This also illustrates the Achilles heel of evolution in general. On a natural basis, things deteriorate. It is inexorable. But the evolutionary hypothesis proposes that everything is getting better, by accident. Some Christians, like the Dominicans who produced this highly speculative and downright blasphemous series of bulletin inserts, like to say that God guided the process of evolution. But that is just inserting God into an otherwise godless hypothesis to save the Catholic Church from being perceived as opposed to scientific progress.
Many scientists will admit that the theory of evolution is unproven but they accept it anyway because they do not want to believe in God. But how foolish it is to warp sound Catholic theology and the literal sense of Scripture to accommodate a godless theory which its most vocal advocates admit to be unproven!
Fr. Thomas Hickey
Hopefully, Mr. Bermingham’s critique has been read as more than a merely academic exercise. The integrity of our faith is at stake. Fr. Austriaco believes that he is preserving this integrity by showing how our faith can accommodate whatever is presumed to be scientific fact. The undercurrent of his thought is “We must avoid another Galileo affair,” as if the Church lost credibility when Galileo’s speculations were questioned. In fact, all the Church ever asked of Galileo was proof of his hypotheses, proof that is still lacking today. To ask for proof in the realm of science is a legitimate request, for that is the method of science. But in a clever manipulation of popular opinion that can only be attributed to diabolical influence, the common perception today is that the Church opposed the progress of science. Galileo’s unproven speculations have been accepted as fact, and even many Church leaders have been cowed into accepting them as such. Yet Galileo himself at the end of his life admitted that he had overstepped his bounds and erred in using an unproven hypothesis to dictate how the Church should interpret the Word of God.
Today, most Churchmen have chosen to be silent as the world of consensus science continues to spin more and more wild fantasies that cannot be proven, tested, or verified. We have yet to wake up to the fact that the Devil often manipulates his losses into perceived triumphs. The strongest recent pronouncement of the Magisterium defending life and condemning the evils of contraception, Humanae vitae, is often ridiculed, even within the Church. The Pill was viewed as a medical and scientific breakthrough, and once again, the Church was portrayed in the public eye as opposing “progress.” Examples of this kind could be multiplied to demonstrate that some kind of mesmerism seems to fall upon the public mind when scientific claims are made. The result is an absolute confidence in any claim that has the label “science” attached to it.
The damage wrought by this misplaced confidence is incalculable. Millions of Catholics are led to doubt and dismiss Church teaching in favor of something deemed to be more accurate, true, and reliable. Who is going to remain in a Church that has been steeped in error from the beginning? The constant litany of “There is no contradiction between science and our faith” falls on deaf ears, as it becomes evident that the contradiction is only removed by altering the faith. Again, why should someone trust Church leaders who are willing to “sell out” their faith to gain the approval of the consensus science community? Why should the faithful bow before the altar of God when their leaders are bowing at the altar of godless science?
Science need not be godless, but consensus science has become godless in regard to origins. The Church has long recognized the autonomy of the natural sciences (cf. Fides et ratio, 45), but a similar autonomy should also be afforded to philosophy and theology, as St John Paul II noted in Fides et Ratio (75). Within her proper realm of autonomy, the Church has held that unaided human reason can rightly conclude that there is an all-powerful Creator (CCC 34,35, Rom. 1:19-20). Thus, anyone, scientist or not, who denies the existence of God is not reasoning properly. It is well within the scope of our autonomy to correct those who misuse natural science to undermine our faith.
Instead, we have been intimidated by the very word “science” to the point of inviting open and avowed atheists to sit on our Pontifical Academy of Science. Instead of pointing out the theological and philosophical errors of modern scientific speculation, we have been all too willing to sacrifice even sacred dogma so as not to offend the scientific community. Rather than stand our ground in demanding proof from the natural sciences, we have cowered in fear of criticism from those outside the Church. And within the Church we have offered to accept whatever consensus science proposes – without proof – and bend our Creed to accommodate it.
Where are the churchmen who will boldly point out that the emperor has no clothes? Certainly not with our Thomistic evolutionist brethren. The Evil One has been using the aura of science to breach the walls of the Church for several generations, and writings such as those of Fr. Austriaco effectively call off the battle and throw open the gates to the invaders. We cannot impute pure motives to all who work within the realm of the natural sciences. To do so is to tear down the very walls they are attacking.
Long ago, St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle, warned that a “small error in the beginning becomes a great error later on.” The Thomistic evolutionist apologetic of Fr. Austriaco and his colleagues flows logically from their false premise that everything the majority of “scientists” currently say about the age of the universe, the age of the earth, and the slow development of life from simpler to more complex forms is correct and true. In reality, all of these assertions rest on unwarranted extrapolation from the present natural order back to the beginning of creation. But, rather than examine these claims and ask for proof, the Thomistic evolutionists accept it all as fact and then propose that this in no way conflicts with our faith. Only afterwards, as if under his breath, Fr. Austriaco admits, “Of course, we have to alter the faith.”
This is all eerily reminiscent of the warning issued by the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonian believers:
Let no man deceive you by any means: for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition Who opposeth and is lifted up above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God. Remember you not that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh: only that he who now holdeth do hold, until he be taken out of the way. (2 Th 2:3–7)
What we are facing is indeed a “revolt” against the authority of the Church, as supposed knowledge is “lifted up above all that is called God” in a great “mystery of iniquity.” Jesus warned that there would one day be a deception so great that it might possibly deceive even the elect (Mat. 24:24).
It is time for the elect to recall the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Pharisees, “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote of Me. But if you believe not his writings, how will you believe My Words?” (John 5:46)
Fr. Thomas Hickey
(Fr. Thomas Hickey and Mr. Eric Bermingham are members of the advisory council of the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation. For a detailed explanation of the theological, philosophical, and natural science arguments in defense of the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation and in contradiction to molecules-to-man evolution in its theistic and atheistic forms, please see the articles in theology, philosophy, and natural science on the Kolbe website www.kolbecenter.org )