Page 2, 4th May 1951

4th May 1951
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Page 2, 4th May 1951 — EVOLUTION AND THE CATHOLIC
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People: Faith Ashford
Locations: Liverpool, Paris

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EVOLUTION AND THE CATHOLIC

SIR.-It is with deep interest that I read Faith Ashford's letter constrained once more to contriin your issue of April 20. I feel bute a few remarks on this important topic, the subject, in part, of the Holy Father's encyclical letter, " Human' generis" of August 12. 1950.

I do not wish here and now to develop a discussion on the relevant paragraphs of the encyclical but I would like to draw particular attention to the lines which state that " the teaching of the Church leaves the doctrine of evolution an open question, as long as it confines its speculations to the development, from other living matter already in existence, of the human bode." (Knox translation, C.T.S.) It therefore seems quite clear to me, that the Church does not for one moment condemn those, who find it expedient to use the evolutionary approach, so necessary for the solution of so many biological problems. In so far as the scientific attitude is concerned. it is not enough to speak of evolution in general but to delimitate one's viewpoint in terms of NeoDarwinism or Neo-Lamarckianism and so forth. Most modern bioloeists. Catholic or otherwise. unconsciously or consciously use the evolutionary method in their approach to the investigation of a scientific problem. As one who has carried out research in formal zoology. I shall never regret attempting to aim at achieving, with other biologists What J. F. Ewing, S.J.. calls so aptly, "a history of Life." And, I shall always recall to mind, the very able lectures of one of my teachers in clinical medicine, a distinguished physician, who demon

strated to so lucidly and clearly the futility of the concept of entities and the importance of the historical approach in the development of modern medicine.

However, what concerns us particularly is not the scientific aspect of the question but rather its impact on theology and philosophy, and, here, again, his Holiness in " Humani gcneris" counsels " discussions between experts (my italics) on both sides."

It is interesting to note that of recent years there have appeared several first rate studies by eminent theologians noted for their careful studies on the evolutionary theory. And not one of those I have read so far consigns it to the rubbish bin as some of your fiery correspondents seem to do-on the contrary! Mgr. B. de Solages (Bull. Lin. Eccles. April-June, 1947) exhorts us not to hide our heads in the sand like ostriches, and, that profound and sensitive thinker L. J. Moreau (Rel.. Phil. 39, 199, 1939) says, " cc qu'il convient surtout de retenir, c'est l'affinite de la position transformiste essentielle avec la conception hierarchique de l'univers chez Saint Thomas."

J. F. Ewing, S,I., of Fordham, in a most interesting study entitled

" Precis in Evolution " (Thought, March, 1950) says, " He (i.e. St. Thomas) 1 venture to say, would have found in a Catholic understanding of evolution a source of insight, an enhanced and pertinent apologetic. and a source of hope. '' Of course there is room for discussion this has always been the

mark of scientific progress. But why should anti-evolutionists brand those of us who are evolutionists as a species of demoniacal spirit-and why, oh why is this problem such a " bete noire" to certain individuals. One final word. To say that Catholicism has been an evil influence in history because heresies have originated from it is just about as ridiculous as saying that the theory of evolution is poppycock because some exuberant Marxists have warped it in order to suit their ends !

MICHEL LAY01PlERRE. Membre Correspondent du Museum National d'Histoire

Naturelle de Paris.

Catholic Society of the University Liverpool, 49 Bedford Street North, Liverpool.

Ste,-Faith Ashford seems to have been sadly misled by the lecturer on Palaeontology to 'A ham she listened.

Of the dozen great groups or phyla into which nearly all the members of the Animal Kingdom tit. thousands of fossils have been found of each of the following eight Vertebrates (back-boned animals), Moluscs oysters, limpets, etc.), Arthropoda (crabs, shrimps, trilobites, etc.), Bryozoa (sea-mats). Brachiopoda (lamp-shells). Coelenterate (corals and sea anemones), Porifera (sponges) and Protozoa (amoeba and all one-celled animals). Each of these groups is constructed on a different plan. So far not a single fossil has been found showing that any of these groups have evolved from or given birth to any other group. Each group was at its first appearance in the rocks as sharply marked off from all the others as it is today. All, with the possible exception of the vertebrates, make their appearance in great numbers in rocks of the Cambrian period. No undisputed fossil has been found in any earlier rock.

Darwin was not happy about the fossils. He devoted to them only 51 of the 431 pages of The Origin of Species, and his attempts to explain why the fossils are so unfavourable to his theory occupy 20 of these 51 pages. Since Darwin wrote, thousands of new fossils have been found, so that today the lack of fossils linking the phyla makes it almost certain that each phylum was independently created. and the evidence suggests that they were created simultaneously rather than

successively. DOUGLAS DEAmAR.

Almora, Park Avenue, Camberley.




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