“The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.” Thomas Paine, one of the Founding Fathers of USA
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Charles Darwin published his On the origin of species by means of natural selection, on November 24, 1859. The first positive response from the Church came in 1996, when Pope John Paul II acknowledged that evidence from multiple disciplines was pointing to the truth of biological evolution.
The full title of Darwin’s book was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. For the sixth edition of 1872, the title was changed to The Origin of Species.
More than 150 years after the original writing of Darwin, on Monday, October 27, 2014, Pope Francis told an audience at the Vatican, Big Bang theory and evolution in nature “do not contradict” the idea of creation, adding God was not “a magician with a magic wand.” The Pope’s remarks to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences appeared to be a theological break from his predecessor Benedict XVI, a strong exponent of creationism.
Here, Pope Francis is supporting a concept of Guided or Theistic evolution, which has been suggested by several Muslim and Christian philosophers and scientists already. But, he purposely or unconsciously evaded a more important and relevant question and its ramifications, how is the concept of Original Sin reconciled with the biological evolution? If biological evolution is true, how can we have an Adam and an Eve, who are the common ancestors of all of humanity? How can we have the mistake or sin of Eve be transmitted to the whole of humanity? What process transfers our sins to our genome to be transmitted to our off spring?
If Homo sapiens were gradually evolving from other apes, over thousands or millions of years, there is no such person or couple, as common ancestor of all human beings. If you have hard time conceptualizing this idea then read a book, by Prof. Richard Dawkins’, The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution.
The delay in embracing Charles Darwin is not accidental, there is a deep seated conflict separating him from Christianity. No wonder only two Popes have had the courage to touch the subject of evolution in any positive way. Despite Pope John Paul II’s acknowledgment, Pope Benedict did not have much to say in favor of theory of evolution.
Pope Pius IX was the Pope at the time of Charles Darwin. There have been eleven Popes since him. The complete or partial silence of these eleven Popes since Darwin is very revealing.
If there is no Original Sin, Jesus had no need to die on the cross, for our sins. Would Pope Francis be kind enough to enlighten us? The great communicator that he is, would he dare to harmonize the two, the theory of evolution and the doctrine of Original Sin.
I have examined this conflict at greater length in my earlier article, Charles Darwin: An Epiphany for the Muslims, A Catastrophe for the Christians.
If history is any guide, we will hear the answer to this key question in another 150 years. I will alert my fifth generation, in my Will that they will be getting a response from the Catholic Church, why and how we should still believe in Original Sin and Jesus’ vicarious atonment and biological evolution, common ancestry of all life forms and our relationship with other apes. All these apparently contradictory ideas are all true, Catholic Church will inform us in year 2160 or later.
You and I will not be around to hear the new Papal verdict or encyclical as it is officially called.
In 150 years our off springs may be inhabiting other planets and the concessions made by the Catholic Church in favor of biological sciences, may need to travel millions of miles.
I am sorry, but, don’t expect an earlier response from the Church. Every establishment responds to new truths by ignoring them, before they start ridiculing the new found truths. Mahatma Gandhi has nicely summarized the process for us, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”