Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Evolution. Status Quaestionis from circa 1909 in Catholic Encyclopedia

In the interest of informing evolutionary biologists like Dr. Richard Dawkins about what actual believing Catholic Christians have had to say about "evolution", here are the conclusions of a longish article from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Clearly, though 100 years old or so, this article has no axe to grind about the science. (And note the three components, in the author's opinion, of any future scientific theories of evolution!)

General conclusions

The most important general conclusions to be noted are as follows:—

1. The origin of life is unknown to science.

2. The origin of the main organic types and their principal subdivisions are likewise unknown to science.

3. There is no evidence in favour of an ascending evolution of organic forms.

4. There is no trace of even a merely probable argument in favour of the animal origin of man. The earliest human fossils and the most ancient traces of culture refer to a true Homo sapiens as we know him today.

5. Most of the so-called systematic species and genera were certainly not created as such, but originated by a process of either gradual or saltatory evolution. Changes which extend beyond the range of variation observed in the human species have thus far not been strictly demonstrated, either experimentally or historically.

6. There is very little known as to the causes of evolution. The greatest difficulty is to explain the origin and constancy of "new" characters and the teleology of the process. Darwin's "natural selection" is a negative factor only. The moulding influence of the environment cannot be doubted; but at present we are unable to ascertain how far that influence may extend. Lamarck's "inheritance of acquired characters" is not yet exactly proved, nor is it evident that really new forms can arise by "mutation". In our opinion the principle of "Mendelian segregation", together with Darwin's natural selection and the moulding influence of environment, will probably be some of the chief constituents of future evolutionary theories.

Source: Muckermann, H. (1909). Evolution (History and Scientific Foundation). In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved January 6, 2010 from New Advent:

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