Making Sense of Creation vs. Evolution

A note from the webmaster:

The topic of evolution is a difficult and complex issue. Within the framework of believing that God created the world and that the book of Genesis is not mythological, there is a great divide among Catholics regarding many particulars - the age of the earth, the possibility of limited forms of evolution, the role of science in interpreting the Bible, whether or not the six days of creation should be taken literally, etc. Ironically, faithful Catholics on both sides of these issues work diligently on their studies and arguments with the belief that their positions are essential for the continuation of the Catholic faith. It is not for me, with my limited understanding, to discern the correct positions on each of these issues on my own. On this page I will merely attempt to report, as fairly as I am able, on the positions and qualities of Catholic books that deal with evolution and related issues.

Some great quotes from Church sources regarding the Origins debates:

In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power: we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass. (St. Albert the Great circa 1200 AD)

The first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations, (and this may be conceded) , it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents. (Humani Generis)

Copernicus himself saw his discovery as giving rise to even greater amazement at the Creator of the world and the power of human reason... (yet) many people took it as a means of setting reason against faith. The split between reason and faith was the expression of one of humanity’s great tragedies. It damaged not only religion, but culture. ...Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth. Today we need to work for a reconciliation between faith and reason. Seeking the truth and sharing it with others is an important service to society, a service which scholars in particular are called to render. Remember that reason is God’s gift, a mark of the likeness to God, which every man bears within himself. (Pope John Paul II, from a 1999 address to a Polish university in Copernicus' home town)

Faith and science: Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.' 'Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are. (CCC 159)

Darwinism and the theory of evolution are by no means equivalent conceptions. The theory of evolution was propounded before Charles Darwin's time, by Lamarck (1809) and Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire. Darwin, in 1859, gave it a new form by endeavouring to explain the origin of species by means of natural selection. According to this theory the breeding of new species depends on the survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence. The Darwinian theory of selection is Darwinism–adhering to the narrower, and accurate, sense of the word. As a theory, it is scientifically inadequate, since it does not account for the origin of attributes fitted to the purpose, which must be referred back to the interior, original causes of evolution. Haeckel, with other materialists, has enlarged this selection theory of Darwin's into a philosophical world-idea, by attempting to account for the whole evolution of the cosmos by means of the chance survival of the fittest. This theory is Darwinism in the secondary, and wider, sense of the word. It is that atheistical form of the theory of evolution which was shown above–under (2)–to be untenable. The third signification of the term Darwinism arose from the application of the theory of selection to man, which is likewise impossible of acceptance. In the fourth place, Darwinism frequently stands, in popular usage, for the theory of evolution in general. This use of the word rests on an evident confusion of ideas, and must therefore be set aside. ("Catholics and Evolution" from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913)

It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into anything. (G.K. Chesterton in St. Thomas Aquinas)

Creation Rediscovered

Book cover: 'Creation Rediscovered'
Author(s): 
Gerard Keane
Copyright: 
1999
Publisher: 
TAN Books
Binding: 
Paperback
Number of pages: 
397 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This substantial book covering a wide range of topics relating to the great origins debate attempts to synthesize modern, largely Protestant, scientific arguments and evidence for a literal interpretation of the biblical creation story with Catholic teaching. Mr. Keane, a Catholic layman, has obviously studied these issues for many years and believes that such a stance regarding Origins questions - including a young earth (of about six thousand years), a direct creation taking place in six days and a rejection of all forms of evolutionary theory - is essential for the survival of the Catholic faith.

For my part, I found this book rather frustrating for a number of reasons. First, although there is a great deal in the book which is true and good and that I would readily agree with, this is, for the most part, rather obvious stuff for a faithful Catholic. Beyond this, there is a great deal of speculation, assumptions and logical fallacies amidst assertions that are, generally speaking, treated as essential to Catholic belief. To make things more complex, the author writes with a very persuasive tone - appealing to good people's faith and frustration with evil to accept his opinions. The problem is that many of his first principles are true, such as that God is omnipotent (e.g. "There should be no difficulty involved for Christians to believe that God could do this, because He is omnipotent and could have suspended the creatures' normal behavior patterns." pg. 67), but they do not necessarily point to the specific conclusions that Keane wants them to.

In my email discussions with the author I have been very up front about my frustrations with his book as well as my lack of knowledge regarding many of it's scientific details. I'm not capable of sorting out all the ups and downs of this book nor of writing with great clarity about many of the issues (particularly the scientific ones). I think my greatest weakness is not being very familiar with the different possible theories regarding Origins that fall within legitimate Church teaching. Nevertheless, I can say with great certainty that the teachings of the Catholic Church are very logical and that the Church highly respects the relationship between faith and reason. Because of the poor scholarship of this book, which includes many logical fallacies and speculative arguments, I am very skeptical of its value as a source of Catholic teaching, no matter how many of its conclusions are true. I'm always one for a lively discussion about these issues and I don't necessarily have a problem with creationist theories being presented in a humble fashion and under the guidance of the Church. Unfortunately, in addition to the weak scholarship, Mr. Keane writes with an authoritative tone which may confuse readers about true Church teaching.

A brief overview of my main problems with the book:

  • The author declares essential to our faith a number of points not recognized by the Church as essential (e.g. a literal 6-day creation week)
  • The author appeals to our trust in God or belief in Jesus Christ to lend credibility to his arguments as if his is the only "godly" position. e.g. Keane reminds us over and over that God is incapable of error and that God was the only witness to creation, etc., which is all true, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Keane's interpretation of Genesis is correct.
  • The author uses questionable Protestant soures such as the Institute for Creation Research as major scientific sources for his arguments. They're not bad simply because they're Protestant, but in the case of ICR, I believe that their flawed theology has led to flawed science. I believe there is no contradiction between Catholic teaching and the scientific method. In contrast, I believe that some of ICR's fundamental principles are incompatible with the scientific method. "All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the creation week described in Genesis 1:1-2:3, and confirmed in Exodus 20:8-11. The creation record is factual, historical, and perspicuous; thus all theories of origins or development which involve evolution in any form are false." (ICR Tenet 3)
  • The author cites Church documents and Biblical quotes that do not self-evidently support his assertions.
  • He continually misrepresents other possible Catholic theories by implying (numerous times) that Catholics who believe in some form of evolution are on par with Teilhard de Chardin or other dissident theologians and that the alternative to a literal interpretation of Genesis is a mythological one. It is both illogical and unfair to define or explain something according to its most extreme example. For example, I'm sure that Mr. Keane would agree that it is unfair to characterize all pro-lifers in terms of people who shoot abortion doctors.
  • By his own admission, he disagrees with a distinguished list of great Catholics in various particulars of his theory, including: Pope John Paul II (pg. 202-206) , Father John Hardon (pg. 244), Pope Pius XII (pg. 199-200), St. Thomas Aquinas (pg. 257-258) and St. Augustine (Ibid) . Please click here to read the specific quotes about each disagreement. I certainly agree that all of these authorities are capable of error, however Mr. Keane has failed to give me reason to trust his arguments and opinions over these others. Overall, my impression is that Mr. Keane appeals to authorities (particularly Catholic ones) when they support his position, and reminds his readers that authorities can err when they don't support his position.

Here is a collection of quotes from the book to give a sense of the style and content:

(pg. 242) "In the opinion of this writer, because of many conceptual problems, there is no credible third position between a young Universe without Evolution and an extremely old Universe with Evolution. When fully considered, the opposing set of beliefs could hardly be more different and do not really allow for another position."

(pg. 109) "This concept of punctuated equilibrium was proposed by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge and represents, at least in some of its more extreme manifestations, a partial return to the 'hopeful monster' idea."

(pg. 257) "Christ, the omniscient Creator/Redeemer who cannot deceive, knew that Scriptural passages would be grossly distorted and disbelieved many centuries later in an era plagued with doubts about Christian doctrine. As well as asserting that fidelity in marriage is most important, He may have included the reference to Creation to confirm to 20th century Christians that human beings were indeed created very soon after the creation of the Universe. Jesus would have known that all this was true and would simply be speaking in the context of actual history."

(pg. 235) "As to the scientific truth of the geocentrism/heliocentrism issue, it may be too soon to know if all the astronomical data is available and if all scientific aspects are fully understood. Some researchers argue that a valid scientific case can still be made for geocentrism, and various experiments have been conducted with respect to solar eclipses. Unfortunately, direct observation from outer space is impossible; to observe the solar system fully, in order to judge relative motion, would require traveling an impossibly long distance away from the Earth."

(pg. 264) "Even though human beings may never grasp fully the exact details of the Creation events this side of eternity, are we to be guided only by modern human experts who were not there at Creation, or rather, by what the divine Creator/principal Author of Scripture wished to reveal in Genesis via the human sacred writer(s)?"

I personally am still trying to sort out the cacophony of opinions being offered in the Creation/Evolution debate. I get exasperated both by public television programs that bend over backwards to avoid discussing any concept of intelligent design and Protestant science texts that ram it down your throat in every paragraph. Amongst all this chaos I rejoice in the great writings of the Catholic Church, such as Humani Generis, that define - with great clarity and simplicity - what is known to be true (and why) and what is still open to discussion and further understanding. Unfortunately, when I read Keane's work, I have more of the sense of someone, however unintentionally, manipulating these great works to fit his own particular ideas.

New Oxford Review, a very conservative Catholic publication has published several critiques of Mr. Keane's book. In September 2000, NOR published a 2 1/2 pg. review of Creation Rediscovered. A few quotations from the review give its overall sense...

"The 'information age' barrages us with more data than any person could posibly absorb or synthesize. The sort of universal knowledge which was sought by the philosophers of the classical age and reached its medieval height in St. Thomas's Summa is no longer seen as achievable by today's educators. Instead we find ourselves in an era of unlimited expertise. Most people receive not so much an education in the classical or medieval sense as training in some specific field.

The dominant figure in today's learning is thus neither the philosopher nor the Renaissance man, but the techno-serf. Like his feudal counterpart, he is highly skilled in his own area of experience, but is not accustomed to thinking about matters outside his limited domain. When the techno-serf turns his gaze to concerns outside his common experience, he finds himself without an appropriate intellectual framework with which to analyze and systematize what he sees.

In the introduction to Creation Rediscovered, Gerard Keane proclaims himself to be neither a theologian nor a scientist but rather a peculiar synthesis of the two which he terms an 'Origins Researcher.' Given such ambitiousness, it is clear from the beginning that his book will be either the product of an unusually broad and well-educated mind or a desperate floundering between two disciplines, neither of which is well understood. (Brendan Hodge, "'Scientific' Literalism", New Oxford Review, September 2000, pgs. 44-45)

The review concludes, "it is incumbent upon those Catholics like Keane - who would rather retain a strictly literalist interpretation of creation - not to embarrass the Church by claiming the Church is committed to a teaching to which she is not. The dangers involved were pointed out by St. Augustine in the fourth century, and can be seen in the Galileo fiasco of the 17th century, which still has repercussions today. Rather, let us follow the lead of John Paul and "fear not" - even in a world that is increasingly difficult to completely understand."

The April 2003 edition of New Oxford Review includes an article by Dermott J. Mullan titled "Fundamentalists Inside the Catholic Church: A Growing Phenomenon". This article criticizes creationists in general, and Mr. Keane in particular for their insistence on a "Young Earth" understanding of creation.

Why do I find the young-Earth development troubling? Because it flies in the face of reason.

In my profession as an astronomer, I am familiar with abundant evidence from the physical world indicating that the Earth and the Sun and the Universe have ages that are measured in billions of years.

The evidence for these ages comes from at least five distinct and independent areas of research in astrophysics: expansion of the universe, stellar structure, isotope dating, white dwarf cooling, and properties of the cosmic microwave radiation. The concordance of these five methods impressive because they rely on completely distinct types of observations, and different laws of physics, to arrive at their conclusions.

It is beyond the bounds of reason to suppose that, if the Universe were actually no older than a few thousand years (as the young-Earth proponents claim), many hundreds of researchers from diverse countries and all religious backgrounds would discover five completely different methods which all yield multi-billion-year ages. (Dermott J. Mullan, "Fundamentalists Inside the Catholic Church: A Growing Phenomenon", New Oxford Review, April 2003, pg. 32)

Now it is certainly true that New Oxford Review and their authors are capable of error, as am I. However, with all of Mr. Keane's throwing around of authorities who agree with him (and it should be noted that St. Thomas Aquinas describes argument from authority as the weakest form of argument), it's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who had problems with this book.

Sample quotes from Creation Rediscovered regarding disagreements with other Catholics:

a. Pope John Paul II (pg. 202-206) "Has Pope John Paul II been inaccurately informed by his advisers, to the deteriment of truth? Some of his other scientific comments made on October 22, 1996, seem most inconsistent with the actual findings of modern science..."

b. Father John Hardon (pg. 244) Mr. Keane includes this quote from Fr. Hardon on page 244 "The origin of planets, including the Earth, also has a variety of hypothetical explanations, but with one factor in common: The planets are derivatives from the stars. It is fairly agreed that the Earth and other planets are about four and a half billion years old."

c. Pope Pius XII (pg. 199-200) "In view of truth known from Tradition and highlighted by Cardinal Ruffini, why did Pope Pius XII even allow any discussion about the possible evolution of Adam's body, as though human Evolution could somehow be true? What need was there for further discussion - surely, enough was known already from Tradition? One can only speculate."

d. St. Thomas Aquinas (pg. 257-258) "With all due respect to the great Aquinas, his reason for not accepting the literal view, which he admits is more generally held in Tradition, seems quite astonishing."

e. St. Augustine (pg 257-258) "Despite this precedent within Tradition, the enchanting appeal of uniformitarian/evolutionary concepts made a profound impact upon many Church scholars in the last two centuries, with the result that the literal-as-given, obvious sense came to be considered virtually unbelievable. Perhaps some scholars were also influenced by the views of St. Thomas Aquinas, who preferred the theory of St. Augustine."

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Previously reviewed on 3-20-03, 6-6-03, 6-23-03

Donated for review by TAN Books and Publishers

Review Date: 
6-24-03
Reviewed by: 
Alicia Van Hecke

Creator and Creation (third edition)

Book cover
Author(s): 
Mary O. Daly
ISBN: 
978
Copyright: 
2005
Publisher: 
Ye Hedge School
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
106 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This readable volume is a great resource on issues of creation and evolution in light of Church teaching. I really appreciated the depth that Mrs. Daly brings to this topic in viewing it from many angles, all the while using our God-given reason in the light of His revealed Truth as evidenced in scripture, the Catechism, and other Church documents. She manages to avoid both of the usual extremes of biblical literalism and scientific absolutism (evolutionism).

This quote from the book explains its value very well:

Far too many discussions of creationism are scientifically too naive to help our children coordinate their education in the Faith with their education in other feidls which also approach truth, and if our children are confused about the relationship between science and faith, they may lose their faith just because they become convinced that the planets or the stars are old. This is such a simple matter; it should not be an issue that threatens faith.

The four classes of issues the book addresses are: doctrinal (Church teaching), scriptural, scientific, and philosophical. The section on doctrinal issues covers what the Church has officially taught on this subject, revelation, and the unity of Truth. Scriptural issues include the meaning of the first Genesis creation account and the story of Noah. The portion on scientific issues provides the evidence for an old universe and an old earth, as well as two sections I found especially informative: "Famous Battles: Christianity wins," and "Replies to Creationists." Philosophical issues addressed include epistemology, the nature of physical science, evolution-ism, and the question of authority in the church. Finally, the book includes an index, an annotated bibliography and the text of Pope John Paul II's message on evolution to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

The author addresses her subject with wit and humor, lightening and enlivening a topic which sometimes threatens to turn heavy and dull. Even more, she invites the reader to apply reason rather than emotion to the subject. While I don't agree with everything she says, I think this is an excellent resource; highly recommended.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Nihil Obstat, Imprimatur

Review Date: 
1-28-2008
Reviewed by: 
Suchi Myjak

Finding Darwin's God

A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution
Author(s): 
Kenneth Miller
ISBN: 
60 175 931
Copyright: 
1999
Publisher: 
Harper Perennial
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
338 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This book sat on our bookshelf for quite a while, unread. Honestly, I found the title offputting, especially given Charles Darwin's known rejection of God in his own life. Eventually, my husband read it, and encouraged me to do the same.

Dr. Miller says that he was perturbed by what he saw as some Christians' distrust of science, displayed specifically in their rejection of evolutionary theories in favor of creationism or intelligent design. This is a particular concern of Miller, who is himself a Catholic and co-author of the popular "Miller and Levine" high-school biology text. This concern spurred him to write this book defending not only the biological theory of evolution but also the idea that science and religion can be compatible.

In the introduction, Miller considers the background and the present situation with regard to these issues both in academia and in the culture at large. I appreciated his honest appraisal of the degree to which "the presumption of atheism or agnosticism is universal in academic life ... how common this presumption of godlessness is." (p. 19) In the following chapter, he explores scientific methods, assumptions, and establishing evidence -- specifically considering areas in which direct experimentation and observation are impossible -- using the analogy of detective work.

Following this, he very clearly lays out the case for evolution. He also notes the two distinct ways in which the word "evolution" is used: the first means the natural history of life on earth, characterized by change in time, leading gradually to modern species, while the second refers to the mechanism by which this occurred. Thus, he says, "Evolution is both a fact and a theory." It's important to keep both these meanings in mind.

In the next three chapters, Miller successively takes on three well-known ideologies opposed to biological evolution, exploring the religious and scientific flaws of each.

First, he takes on young-earth creationism. In a series of arguments from the physical sciences, he lays out a concise and compelling argument for an ancient earth. I was especially impressed with the table of radioactive nuclides and its implications. Then comes the section that explains the chapter's title, "God the Charlatan." Here, Miller provides quotes from a staple of creationist literature (Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris) to the effect that God created a young universe with an "appearance of age." In other words, it's all a hoax. The logical implications of this claim both for science and religion are nothing short of intolerable. In Creator & Creation, Mary Daly draws the same conclusion.

Next, he takes on critics such as Philip Johnson, who argue that "micro"-evolution is possible, but not "macro"-evolution. This form of Intelligent Design (ID) argues that evolution can produce minor changes within species, but not new species themselves. Logically, therefore, as Miller observes, God (or the Designer) would have to have created each individual species, including thousands of failed, dead-end species. Further, similar species would have to have been placed geographically and temporally close together and in the right sequences, giving the distinct impression of relatedness where, according to this version of ID, none exists.

I appreciated the scientific data that Miller provides in this chapter, as well as his analysis of Eldredge & Gould's "punctuated equilibrium" theory. However, I felt that he equivocated on the term "species" and failed to give a solid definition for it. On p 108, he writes "among bacteria, which is to say among most of the cells alive n the planet, it is particularly easy to see that the differences between species are indeed nothing more than the sum total of differences between their genes." This may indeed be true for bacteria, but among higher species chromosomal differences play a vital role, and no amount of mere gene-level mutations would change chromosomes. I would like to have seen at least some discussion of this.

The third criticism of evolution he addresses is the form of ID made popular by biochemist Michael Behe in his book Darwin's Black Box: the claim that certain structures within the cell are "irreducibly complex" and therefore could not have evolved but rather had to be designed. Miller acknowledges that the argument from design is not only the oldest, but the "best rhetorical weapon against evolution." Nevertheless, he argues, it comes up short. As a cell biologist himself, Miller points out that some of Behe's contentions are factually incorrect. For example, although the "9+2" flagellar structure that Behe discusses is the most common, many fully functional flagella and cilia exist that are missing many parts of the supposedly "irreducibly complex" 9+2 structure. He also offers some excellent commentary on the clotting cascade.

However, I thought Miller was excessively concerned about the negative impact of ID on research, saying for example, "If you believed Michael Behe's assertion that biochemical machines were irreducibly complex, you might never have bothered to check; and this is the real scientific danger of his ideas." To me this seems highly unlikely, since the nature of science is to test ideas -- even accepted ones. Indeed, Miller himself explains earlier in this book that biologists constantly test evolution knowing that the one who can prove it false will earn instant fame. I do not see why this would not apply equally to ID, were it to ever achieve the level of scientific acceptance that evolution has done.

In the next few chapters, Miller discusses the "gods of disbelief" that underpin atheistic materialism, and how these assumptions are contradicted by science itself. He addresses the question of God and evolution. Or, if evolution and other scientific theories explain everything, where does God fit in? His elucidation of the implications of the shift from 19th-century scientific determinism to the 20th century's quantum mechanics is enlightening. In essence, quantum effects mean that science cannot, even in principle, deal in certainties. It can never achieve complete knowledge. Quantum indeterminacy breaks the chain of knowledge and causality and thus, Miller says, it also breaks absolute materialism. He then argues that science and religion are not really contradictory, but complementary.

He also provides a fascinating analysis of how the concept of evolution is used (inaccurately) by scientists and intellectuals in support of a worldview hostile to God and religion; this worldview, rather than science itself drives many of the underlying concerns of creationists.

The author then looks at some of the findings of cosmology, concentrating on the "anthropic coincidences" of our universe. He argues persuasively that the "traditional explanation" for these -- i.e. God -- is every bit as reasonable as any materialist alternative. Indeed, he suggests, the materialists must be getting a little desperate because they are postulating multiple universes. In this chapter, he also explores the role of chance in life, and what that says (or doesn't say) about God.

In the final chapter, Miller ties it all together. I loved the part in which he questions the curious inequity whereby scientific theories can be extrapolated "legitimately" to materialism, atheism, and a non-existence of morality, but never in the opposite direction. Or, as Miller has it: "Apparently it is fine to take a long, hard look at the world and assume scientific authority to say that life has no meaning, but I suspect I would be accused of anti-scientific heresy if I were to do the converse, and claim that on the basis of science I had detected a purpose to existence." (p. 269) He's right on. It is refreshing to see a scientist who not only notices the problem but articulates the double standard so clearly.

Although Miller displays a sound understanding of the scientific facts and their implications, his philosophy and theology seem much weaker. Specifically, I believe he is wrong on the following points:

  1. He writes, "Given evolution's ability to adapt, to innovate, to test, and to experiment, sooner or later it would have given the Creator exactly what He was looking for -- a creature who, like us, could know Him and love Him, could perceive the heavens and dream of the stars, a creature who would eventually discover the extraordinary process of evolution that filled His earth with so much life." (p. 238-9)

    It seems to me that he is saying that mind and will -- the abilities to know and love God -- are products of the evolutionary process. But aren't they really powers of the soul, and therefore not evolved in any sense?

  2. Miller also writes that, "No God [sic] could have created individuals who were free to sin but never chose to do so." (p. 253, emphasis in original)

    He writes this as part of a paragraph making the point that we are the source of sin, not God. This is an excellent, valid point, but it could easily have been made without the additional (and unwarranted) claim that God could not have made us both free and capable of not sinning. In addition to the exceptional case of Mary, we know that God created angels with free will; some of them chose to sin, while others did not. In fact, Miller's statement is actually self-contradictory, as Dr Rioux explained to me.

  3. He recounts the tale of Fr. Murphy, who spoke to his First Communion class, saying that, "Flowers, just like you, are the work of God." Years later, at a scientific conference during which a presentation explained how plants make flowers, Miller says, "The real message was, 'Father Murphy, you were wrong.' God doesn't make a flower. The floral induction genes do." (pp. 261-2)

    I found this particularly jarring given the general thrust of the book that evolution is a means that God created to achieve His purposes. The reality is that God makes flowers by the agency of the floral induction genes. Fr. Murphy was right after all.

  4. I also thought he weaseled on his belief in God when he wrote (at the end of the book) that he believes in "Darwin's God." This may have been intended as merely a clever retort, but I would have been far more impressed if he had confessed belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Or better yet, tied the two together.

Finally, although Miller manages to be commendably charitable through most of his book, I was disappointed with his treatment of a quote from Behe's book to the effect that the "intelligent designer" might be a time traveler (p 162). The quote makes Behe appear to be a bit of a flake, but Miller fails to inform his readers that in this section of his book Behe is exploring ways in which a philosophical naturalist might avoid the implication of a Divine Designer, and toward the end says that: "Most people, like me, will find these scenarios entirely unsatisfactory." (Darwin's Black Box, p 249) Similarly, Miller quotes as Behe's definitive position a passage which is actually preceded in the original work by the words: "Perhaps a speculative scenario will illustrate the point." (ibid, p 227)

Nevertheless, I recommend this book to Christians who are interested in getting all the facts in the debate surrounding evolution, creationism, and intelligent design.

Perspective: 
Judeo-Christian
Review Date: 
5-7-2010
Reviewed by: 
Suchi Myjak

Genesis 1: House of the Covenant

Book cover
Author(s): 
Mary Daly
Illustrator(s): 
Catherine Billion and family
Copyright: 
2005
Publisher: 
Ye Hedge School
Binding: 
Stapled Softcover
Number of pages: 
29 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Printed on heavy paper in an approximately 9x12 format, this booklet is an explanation of the Creation account of Genesis 1. With thirteen inviting full-page line drawings to color, this slim volume packs a surprising punch.

Basing herself on the work of Fr. Stanley Jaki, Mrs. Daly explains the first creation account of Genesis in terms of its message about the Sabbath observance as an outward sign of the covenant between God and His people. Or, in her own words:

In Genesis 1, the message is about the importance of observing the Sabbath. In order to teach us the importance of this observance, Genesis 1 presents God Himself keeping a Sabbath rest after His creation of the universe, a vast work, suitable to his divine wisdom and his almighty power. and a work whose purpose actually to make a home for mankind, His partner in a solemn covenant.

Genesis 1: House of the Covenant is so different from many other works I have read on this topic. Each creative act described in Genesis 1 offers some specific and often profound insight into God of His creation, and insight which, ironically, is usually overlooked in insistence on the literal meaning of this portion of Scripture. In simple language, Mrs. Daly brings out these insights. One example, about Genesis 1:3 ("Let there be light.")

Nobody can work well in the darkness. The first thing we do (unless we are doing something bad) is to turn on the light.
... This light simply tells us that God did not work blindly, or for an evil reason, but purposefully, in light and goodness, and we are meant to see what he did. If we imagined God working in darkness, we might think the world was evil or accidental. What a mistake! We live in the orderly creation of a wonderful and loving intelligence.

Middle-schools students could use this book independently, but it is also a wonderful resource for parents introducing their younger children to Genesis. My oldest enjoyed it in 5th grade, and came away from it with a deeper sense of his heavenly Father's work in creation.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

8.75x12" heavy paper, suitable for pencils, markers, or crayons

Nihil Obstat

Review Date: 
1-28-2008
Reviewed by: 
Suchi Myjak

Fr. Laux's High School Religion Series:

Vol I pgs. 91-95; Vol. IV pgs. 32-33 and 42-44

I have always found Fr. Laux's series helpful, concise and surprisingly applicable almost a century after it was written. (A.V.H.) Here is some of what Fr. Laux has to say about evolution:

"Extreme evolutionists tell us that man was a new species sprung from some lower animal stock. They assume as their starting point one living cell. Out of this cell, they claim, all the myriad forms of plants, animals and men have gradually evolved (developed). This conjecture - for it is no more - does not do away with the Creator. The Creator is necessary to make possible the existence of the first living cell and of the germs required for such manifold developments. An examination of the very word 'evolution,' or development, makes this clear. Evolution means the act of unfolding or developing. Now, there was either something in the first cell that could be 'unfolded' and grow, or there was nothing there, and in this case evolution is impossible; for it remains eternally true that ex nihilo nihil fit, 'from nothing comes nothing.' You cannot develop a film, if there is nothing on the film to be developed or brought out.

Thus we see that the evolutionary theory does not exclude the Creator. Hence, if we assume that the evolution of created living cells took place under the directing hand of God, there is no objection against such an assumption. The Church has left the question open. Up to the present [text was written in 1928 - A.V.H.], however, no proofs have been forthcoming for such wholesale evolution. Scientists have made it seem more or less probable that evolution has taken place within the lower forms of animal life, such as mollusks and insects. It seems that new species of insects have been developed out of earlier ones. But not a shred of evidence has been produced to prove that higher orders of living beings havee been evolved from lower ones. The evolution of all the forms of life which we see in the world today, and therefore also of the human body, from one original cell, may be possible in theory, but it is actually highly improbable.

'Some theologians hold that the Bible does not preclude the theory of the descent of man from the beast. Yet this theory cannot be accepted save with certain reservations. It must be maintained that, in the final analysis, God really did form the body of man from the dust of the earth. He might have caused a species of animal gradually to develop into a more perfect species, until it was fitted to receive a rational, immortal soul. And then, into this body, formed by long evolution from the dust of the earth, He may have breathed a human soul; and when He did so, He created man or Adam.'" (The Chief Truths of the Faith, Fr. John Laux, 1928, reprinted by TAN Books)