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What does the Catholic Church teach about evolution?

The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain in a scientific framework how life forms change through time. Concerning evolution as a scientific model, the Church has no quarrel. The Church does not agree with those who say that the evolution model denies that God is the creator or that it denies the spiritual reality of the human soul.

But what do we mean by evolution?
Put simply, the evolution model states that life forms have changed through the ages; the word "evolve" simply means to change. Two scientists, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace, proposed the theory during the 19th century. Darwin amassed a tremendous amount of data, which indicated that many plants and animals that once lived on the Earth had become extinct or had changed through time to become the present-day forms. He described a process of change that he called "natural selection." Although some scientists were at first hesitant to accept Darwin's conclusions, evolution has become a cornerstone of science during the last century.

Doesn't the theory of evolution go against the biblical account of creation?
This question can be answered only if we understand clearly what the Bible actually says about creation. A careful reading of the account in the Book of Genesis indicates clearly that the so-called "six day" account of the creation is a poetic description of the origin of the world, which makes two points very clear: first, that everything in the universe was created by God and that, therefore, contrary to what some other religions teach, nothing in creation is to be worshipped as though it were a god or a part of God. The story of the creation in the Book of Genesis in the Bible is not, and was never meant to be, a scientific document giving the scientific details of how the universe came into being and how it has developed since its origins.

The view prevailing among most theologians today is that there is no conflict between the evolution model of the origin and development of life and the truths presented in the Book of Genesis. It still remains true that the origin of every human soul is a new act of creation by God and creator. (That is why the evolution model cannot explain completely the leap from highly developed animal form to the fully conscious, thinking, feeling and deciding human person.)

The Bible tells us who created the universe and all that is in it; science tells us, at least partly, how this happened. We can say simply, as Christians who learn from science, that God created the universe, which evolves as time goes on.

But isn't it true that evolution denies God? Do not the evolutionists say that evolution can explain everything about creation without any need for God?
No, they do not. There may still be a few people who try to use the evolution model as a way to deny God, but if so, they are very few. Scientists, including those whose specialty is evolution, do not even try to answer the question "Why does anything exist in the first place?" The Bible answers that question for us: Because God created everything.

To obtain a printed copy of the Evangeline Scripts write to:
Evangelization Office
Diocese of Lake Charles
P.O. Box 3223
Lake Charles, La. 70602

Copyright 1991 Diocese of Lake Charles, La.
With Ecclesiastical Approbation
+ Jude Speyrer, S.T.L., D.D.
June 1991
Used with permission