Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Evolution and the Pope

Echidne of the Snakes had a post yesterday about an article that suggests the Pope is considering moving more toward the idea of Intelligent Design than Evolution.

I Googled the subject to see what came up. This article came up on Catholic.net (these are the concluding paragraphs):

...At the time of the Scopes trail, Chesterton remarked that Catholics were not at all involved in a battle which set biblical and scientific fundamentalists against one another. As usual, there was a reasonable Catholic center which allowed both science and theology their due competence.

It makes no difference whether man is descended biologically from some ape-like creature, so long as we understand that there had to be what the Pope calls an "ontological leap" to the first human person. This would have involved the direct intervention of God, who creates each rational soul out of nothing....

The confusion over evolution among Christians boils down to the question of how to read the creation account in Genesis. Here the Pope simply reiterates what the Magisterium has argued tirelessly since Leo XIII’s Providentissimus Deus. Scripture does not teach science, period. Genesis tells us what happened in the archaic, pre-scientific idiom of the ancient Hebrews. It does not tell us how it happened. We can learn what we can about that "how" from science, always keeping in mind that there can be no real conflict between two very different orders of knowledge: science and theology.


I think it's a good thing that the Pope/Catholic Church does not expect Genesis to be a scientific account. Unlike fundamental literalist people who try to make the science fit a mythical account of something written thousands of years ago.

Even still - it sounds like the Pope - who has quite an influence on the world - may try to insert more of the hand of God into the interpretation of evolution than many have assumed. Maybe the Pope would not assume that God has a hand in every minute aspect of every cell that changes a little bit - or maybe he would.

It pretty much goes back to the idea of whether people think that people are special whether God created them or not. And whether a person accepts randomness/chance as being an essential part of life or whether one thinks that a being is directing every minute aspect of everything that happens. (I think that if one says that Nature - as a natural process is God/dess - THEN Nature/Goddess/Evolution are all compatible. Most people don't say that, however).


I was at a church service recently - the Old Testament verses in Joshua about leaving behind the gods of ones ancestors and embracing the "God of Israel" were read. It came up in conversation later that many people do not know that the snake was a symbol for wisdom - being part of the history that people were told to turn away from (an interesting essay about all this - here). As probably happens all over the world in Christian churches - there is still an emphasis on abandoning other gods and there continues to be a mischaracterization of those gods.

I don't think it's intellectually honest to say that what these people believed was evil. And it is interesting how it changes how one intreprets the Adam and Eve story - whether you think that the snake was evil or wise. And what does it mean if the woman embraced wisdom and knowledge - why would that be a bad thing? And why would God "kick them out of the garden for it"? It's very strange. Especially if you assume that God wants what is best for people - and if people are supposed to be such special creatures. (It makes more sense if you think of the Tree of Life as representing the Goddess that a group of people were/are trying to get other people to abandon).

But our churches don't generally have room for other ideas. As it happened - the Second Bible verse of the day was the one from Ephesians about women submitting to their husbands - so it seemed like the message of the day was clear. The religion that included Goddesses or any other alternative thinking was to be abandoned and people were to embrace the hierarchical order that included God - then Men - then Women (and maybe Nature below women - after children). And wisdom is evil - espcially in the hands of women. While the preacher at the service was a woman - and while it's nice to have women preachers - it doesn't change the message of the verses.


....And I should mention - the Sunday school teacher from Watertown, New York - Sunday School Teacher Fired For Being A Woman

"Lambert received the letter signed by Kendra LaBouf, wife of the pastor. "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission" the letter said. "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became sinner".

The way that ties back to the Catholic Church was that it was the Catholic Church - influenced by Augustine in about 300 AD. who successfully argued for that interpretation of the Adam and Eve story - and making that the foundation of people's need for the Church and for redemption. If you don't think that people are necessarily evil - they don't need to be redeemed. (While Paul made the case to some extent - Augustine took it further). And it has become the underlying message of nearly all Christian Chuches since that time. Some churches are more blatant about it (like the Baptist church in Watertown) than others.

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