Evolution and the Pope


According to the Vatican Information Service in a news release on October 23, Pope John Paul II was reported as saying that evolution is "more than just a theory." This seems to mean, despite the tenuous wording, that he now considers evolution a scientific fact. His written message to his science advisers, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, speaks of "a series of discoveries made in different spheres of knowledge" which have convinced him to make this bold statement supporting evolution and suggesting that his millions of followers do the same.

One cannot help suspecting that the recent spate of events and media articles "puffing" evolution is being orchestrated somewhere to combat the modern resurgence of creationism around the world. The facts are so trivial but the propaganda has been so high and mighty. There was that widespread furor, for example, about the lone Colorado student who had the temerity to ask his local school to tone down its dogmatic teaching of the naturalistic origin of life.

And what about the sudden media announcement that a small rock found in Antarctica has now "proved" that life has evolved all over the universe? There is also the widespread publicity about Bill Moyer's series of public telecasts rethinking Genesis. And a new series of anti-creationist articles in such establishment journals as Time, Harper's, Life, Scientific c American, Newsweek, and others.

Now comes the Pope with his "surprise" announcement that it is acceptable for Catholics to believe and teach evolutionism. He did include the small proviso that they should still allow God to create each human soul. Atheism thus remains inappropriate for Catholics, and that's a relief to know!

As a matter of fact, this public papal evolutionism is hardly a surprise to anyone who has followed the pronouncements of the last four popes, or who is familiar with the teachings of the various Catholic colleges and seminaries in this country. Even the last true conservative pope, Pius XII, in his famous 1950 encyclical, Humani Generis, while not promoting evolutionism and still seeming to lean toward special creation, did make a point of allowing Catholics to study and accept evolution as a scientific theory of origins, again with the limitation that God created the soul, and that all men are descendants of Adam, along with the doctrine of original sin as inherited from Adam.

The freedom to study and teach evolution with this constraint seemed very quickly to result in the widespread acceptance of theistic evolutionism in Catholic institutions and churches everywhere. As far as the present pope, John Paul II, is concerned, he has been an evolutionist in this sense probably since his youth. Despite this sudden supposed surprising pontificating, it is nothing new to his personal beliefs.

Pope John Paul II was Karol Wojtyla, Cardinal of Krakow when he was named pope in 1978. He had earlier been an actor and was apparently quite comfortable as a government-approved ecclesiastic in Communist Poland. When he was elected pope, his election was enthusiastically endorsed by Poland's Communist Party and by World communism in general. Since his election, he has seemingly been promoting a syncretistic agenda, not only with Protestants but also with Hindus, Lamaists, and others. In any event, he is not a recent convert to evolutionism, as the media have implied.

Perhaps the most influential evolutionist among Catholic theologians was the Jesuit priest, Teilhard de Chardin, now considered in effect to be almost the "patron saint" of the New Age movement with his strong pantheistic evolutionism. Teilhard was involved in the controversial discoveries of both Piltdown Man and Peking Man, and vigorously promoted total evolutionism all his life, greatly influencing such leading secular evolutionists as Theodosius Dobzhansky, George Gaylord Simpson, and Sir Julian Huxley. His books were banned at one time by the Catholic church but have apparently become respectable, and even very influential among Catholics during the reigns of the recent more liberal popes.

There have been many other leading evolutionary scientists in the domain of Catholicism, and this description would certainly apply to most of the scientists of the Pontifical Academy. On the other hand, we need to recognize that there are many strong creationists, not only among lay Catholics, but also among Catholic scientists as well. We could mention Dr. Guy Berthault of France, for example, whose studies on sedimentation have been profoundly significant in refuting geological uniformitarianism. Two Italian creationists, Dr. Roberto Fondi (paleontologist) and Dr. Giuseppe Sermonti (geneticist) have published important scientific books and papers refuting evolution. There are many others.

In this country, Dr. Wolfgang Smith, born in Austria but educated in this country (at Cornell, Purdue, and Columbia, in physics and mathematics) and having served since 1968 as Professor of Mathematics at Oregon State, after previous faculty positions at M.l.T. and U.C.L.A., has written a devastating critique of de Chardin's teachings and evolutionism in general. In this book, he says that the doctrine of macroevolution "is totally bereft of scientific sanction" (Teilhardism and the new Religion. Tan Books, 1988, p. 5; emphasis his.) He then adds that "there exists to this day not a shred of bona fide scientific evidence in support of the thesis that macroevolutionary transformations have ever occurred." (Ibid., p. 6.)

It is too bad that Pope John Paul II (who is not a scientist) did not consult such real Catholic scientists as Wolfgang Smith before glibly stating, as he did, that "new knowledge leads us to recognize in the theory of evolution more than a hypothesis." Just what new knowledge would that be, Pope John Paul II? Possibly the Mars rock? Or the fantasy of a walking whale?

One wonders whether he might be thinking of Teilhard's famous definition of evolution when he says it is more than a hypothesis. Here is what Teilhard said:

Is evolution a theory, a system, or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all systems, all hypotheses must bow . . . .Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow. (The Phenomenon of Man. Harper and Row 1965, p. 219.)

Evolution was, to all intents and purposes, Teilhard's "god," and his goal was globalism, a unified world government, culture, and religion, with all religions merged into one.

There are more and more signs that such globalism is also the aim of Pope John Paul 11 and other modern liberal Catholics. If so, this publicized commitment to evolutionism would contribute substantially to such a goal. All world religions—including most of mainline Protestantism, as well as Hinduism, Buddhism, and the rest—except for Biblical Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, and Fundamentalist Islam, have embraced some form of evolutionism (either theistic, deistic, or pantheistic) and rejected or allegorized the true record of origins in Genesis. The pope has participated in important meetings with leaders of Communism, Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Lamaism, and others, as well as the World Council of Churches, the Trilateral Commission, the B'nai B'rith of liberal Judaism, and a wide assortment of still others. He has traveled to India, Australia, the United States, and all over the world in his bullet-proof "popemobile," speaking to immense crowds everywhere.

All cults and movements associated with the "new world order" of the so-called New Age Movement have two things in common—evolutionism as their base and globalism as their goal. It is disturbing now to see even many large evangelical movements (e.g., Promise Keepers, charismatic ecumenism) inadvertently drifting into the same orbit while eulogizing this evolutionist pope.

The pope insists, of course, that Catholic evolutionists must still believe that God started the universe with its Big Bang and still creates each human soul. The scientific establishment, however, will never be content ultimately with anything less than total evolutionism.

The man who is believed by many to be the world's greatest living scientist, Stephen W. Hawking, has an insightful comment regarding his own audience with the pope, in his best-selling book, A Brief History of Time (Bantam Books, 1988). He had been a speaker at a high-level papal scientific conference on cosmology. After which he describes his encounter thus:

At the end of the conference the participants were granted an audience with the pope. He told us it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the Big Bang, but we should not inquire into the Big Bang itself because that was the moment of creation and therefore the work of God. I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference—the possibility that space-time was finite but had no boundary, which means that it had no beginning, no moment of Creation (p. 116).

That being the case, according to his cosmological mathematics, he concludes: "What place, then, for a Creator?" (p. 140). Hawking's book refers frequently to God, but he ends up concluding in his heart: "There is no god." And such must inevitably be the ultimate logical conclusion of any consistent evolutionism.

Among the most poignant verses in the Bible, with its reality coming more and more into focus these days, are the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 18:8:

"When the Son of man cometh, will He find faith on the earth ?"

* Dr. Henry Morris is Founder and President Emeritus of ICR.

Cite this article: Henry Morris, Ph.D. 1996. Evolution and the Pope. Acts & Facts. 25 (12).