Roman Catholic Church and Creationism

I have raised this in DH because it probably is one, though tangentially.

Can anyone explain what the Roman Catholic Church’s official position is on young Earth Creationism? I suspect they reject it and that the RCC’s official stance is that the Big Bang is probably correct, that the universe is circa 14 billion years old and the Earth is about 5 billion years old, and that the best explanation for life being as we see it today is genetics and evolution.

In other words, their official position is that God is not involved in creation in the way that is literally described in the Bible.

I use the word “official” deliberately to distinguish between the Church and individual Roman Catholics, who will presumably have views ranging from Big-Bang, old universe types, through to Biblically-inerrant YECists.

I don’t know if IngoB is still around but he may know, but if not I hope someone can help.

I’m Anglo-Catholic but would like to know what the official position is for the Church that arguably represents the majority of the worlds Christians – I could look it up, but I don’t know where to start, nor how long that would take, and I promised someone that I would try to find the answer out as quickly as possible. I think the Ship is the quickest way possible providing that my laziness is overlooked!

Thank you.

Comments

  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    My esteemed colleague Dr. Google recommended this article in the scholarly journal Wikipedia, which claims that "[t]he Catholic Church holds no official position on the theory of creation or evolution", but tends to unofficially adhere to theistic evolution.
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited April 2018
    I have heard an individual RC priest refer to Young Earth nonsense as "a modern heresy". Here is the present Pope on the subject.
  • It's a long time since I read any Teilhard de Chardin. He might have something to say. He was both a scientist and a Catholic priest.
  • I went prowling for a de Chardin quote I like, and came across something that might be useful:

    "God Of Evolution: Theology With Attitude". Not specifically RC; but it tries to be sort of a middle ground between non-theistic evolutionists and Young Earth Creationists. Looks very interesting.

    Oh, and this is the Chardin quote I like:
    “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

    (“The Evolution of Chastity,” in Toward the Future, 1936, XI, 86-87)
  • Thank you so much. I knew the Ship would come up with the goods! Sorry for being lazy and I will try to up my game in future.
  • This is not infallible dogma but there John Paul II once encouraged the idea of the Big Bang in talking informally to Stephen Hawking - not that he was trying to tell science what to believe or teach - and told Hawking that he was emphatically against any notion that the universe had always existed.

    At least one lower level RC prelate has written regarding evolution that there is nothing in RC teaching that is opposed to it, but that the "Neo-Darwinian" notion (which is the current scientific consensus) that natural selection operates due to completely random mutations (the mutations or the fact that they drive evolution aren't the problem - it's the idea that human beings arose due to a random process) is opposed to Catholic teaching. But this may not count as the teaching of the Church.

    I'm no expert on the subject though!
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    This is not infallible dogma but there John Paul II once encouraged the idea of the Big Bang in talking informally to Stephen Hawking - not that he was trying to tell science what to believe or teach - and told Hawking that he was emphatically against any notion that the universe had always existed.

    At least one lower level RC prelate has written regarding evolution that there is nothing in RC teaching that is opposed to it, but that the "Neo-Darwinian" notion (which is the current scientific consensus) that natural selection operates due to completely random mutations (the mutations or the fact that they drive evolution aren't the problem - it's the idea that human beings arose due to a random process) is opposed to Catholic teaching. But this may not count as the teaching of the Church.

    I'm no expert on the subject though!

    The best reconciliation of that I've come across (if one is deemed needed) is to take a phone book and hide all but the last digit of every phone no. You now have what appears to be a completely random series of numbers. In reality, anyone with access to the phone book source can, in theory, predict the next number in the series. However, viewed as an independent series of numbers, they are entirely random, and no mathematical analysis of them would reveal a pattern. It's an imperfect analogy, but the point is that a random series from one frame of reference can be entirely deterministic from another.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    At least one lower level RC prelate has written regarding evolution that there is nothing in RC teaching that is opposed to it, but that the "Neo-Darwinian" notion (which is the current scientific consensus) that natural selection operates due to completely random mutations (the mutations or the fact that they drive evolution aren't the problem - it's the idea that human beings arose due to a random process) is opposed to Catholic teaching. But this may not count as the teaching of the Church.

    It should be noted that while mutations are random, they are subject to non-random selective pressures.
  • I'm just curious as to what completely random means. I vaguely remember that that was ruled out, but that was probably saying that a machine could not generate such a thing, as it is constrained by its own algorithms.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    I'm just curious as to what completely random means. I vaguely remember that that was ruled out, but that was probably saying that a machine could not generate such a thing, as it is constrained by its own algorithms.

    Computers have a hard time generating truly random numbers for more or less the reason you gave. It can generate numbers which appear to be random, or are at least "random enough" for most applications, but if you know the underlying code you can predict which "random" number will pop up next. I believe Doctor Who used this as a plot point in the most recent season.

    In essence, randomness means a lack of predictability. It should be noted that an aggregate of random occurrences can sometimes lead to predictability if the aggregate is large enough. For example, there's no way to predict if a particular unstable atom will decay in a given timespan. However, if you gather enough of the same type of atoms together you can predict fairly accurately how many of them will undergo fission in a given timespan. You just can't predict which ones.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    I'm just curious as to what completely random means. I vaguely remember that that was ruled out, but that was probably saying that a machine could not generate such a thing, as it is constrained by its own algorithms.
    That's true. If you want "true" random numbers from a computer, you need sites like random.org that use things like temperature fluctuations in their office.

  • I'm just curious as to what completely random means. I vaguely remember that that was ruled out, but that was probably saying that a machine could not generate such a thing, as it is constrained by its own algorithms.

    Quantum level events are at least modelled as random. Whether there is some unidentified cause we don't and possibly can't know. Quantum mechanics (and I speak as someone who studied it to masters level) is weird.
  • And, mutation is almost certainly not entirely random. There will be positions on each chromosome where mutations are more likely. And, at the base level I'd be stunned if the bonds between different pairings of nucleic acids would all be equally stable.
  • I'm just curious as to what completely random means. I vaguely remember that that was ruled out, but that was probably saying that a machine could not generate such a thing, as it is constrained by its own algorithms.
    That assumes that no input is allowed, which is absurd. There are many ways to generate randomness.
  • Excellent VSauce video on "what is random?" (VSauce is a brilliant channel).

    Also, this obligatory Dilbert cartoon.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Croesos. Ohhhhh no you can't. That's what entropy is for.
  • And, mutation is almost certainly not entirely random. There will be positions on each chromosome where mutations are more likely. And, at the base level I'd be stunned if the bonds between different pairings of nucleic acids would all be equally stable.

    People tend to use the word "random" to mean "unbiased". If you have a (fairly weighted) die, but replace the 1 with another 6, rolling the dice is still "random", but the possible random outcomes are not equally likely.
    Quantum level events are at least modelled as random. Whether there is some unidentified cause we don't and possibly can't know. Quantum mechanics (and I speak as someone who studied it to masters level) is weird.

    The routine violation of the Bell inequalities demonstrates that you cannot explain quantum mechanics with a local hidden variable theory. Any kind of deterministic "unidentified cause" must at least be nonlocal.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    I'm just curious as to what completely random means. I vaguely remember that that was ruled out, but that was probably saying that a machine could not generate such a thing, as it is constrained by its own algorithms.

    Quantum level events are at least modelled as random. Whether there is some unidentified cause we don't and possibly can't know. Quantum mechanics (and I speak as someone who studied it to masters level) is weird.
    Aye, that's reality for you.
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