How does the science of evolution fit into God’s creation?
For several years there have been debates on the subject of “how the world came to be,” with many reducing the answer to this question to one of two
explanations: either evolution or creation (creation being referred to as “intelligent design” by secularists who weigh in on this subject). Unfortunately, for all of the accusations against the Church as “anti-science” and rigid, it is ironically those who say it is either one or the other whose position is truly uncompromising and stubborn.
At the very core of the issue is the reality of truth. As Catholics, we believe that God Himself is the Truth, and all that is true comes from God, is of God, and leads to Him. All truth, whether it is “revealed” to us by God Himself through the Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church, or is observed and “proven” by
science, comes from God and leads to Him.
Let’s apply this perspective on the truth to the creation/evolution debate. Secularists and even many people who are religious see this question as having an “either/or” answer—either it is evolution or it is creation. However, this attitude is a violation of truth, as it is unwilling to look at the elements of truth in both
perspectives. That God created the world is the truth. That God created from nothing and that He made man in His image, male and female, is of this truth.
However, that there is scientific evidence that the world is several million years old is also true. The key then is to see how these truths are one.
In short, the Church’s perspective begins here: that God created the world, creating man and woman in His own image, by His own direct willing of it. The image of God is not some “visible” image (not a body), but love, truth, free will, etc. – the very essence of God’s being. In the creation of man and woman, we believe that there was a time when no man and woman existed in the world. However, our faith necessarily says that the first man and the first woman were the direct work of God, and that all other men and women (even if this does not seem “fitting”) came from the first man and first woman.
How, then, does evolution fit with our faith? Simply put, evolution is understood to take place within God’s creative work. We are not consigned to the rigid “either/or” mentality of the secular debate, but can clearly identify the “both/and” answer on this topic – pointing to how revealed truth and scientific truth are complementary. Such complementarity acknowledges the following truth of both God’s revelation and of natural science: God indeed created all things visible and invisible from nothing – and in His providence, all that has been created remains subject to any and all true evolutionary processes that exist in nature. In this way, our faith acknowledges that while species continue to evolve (mainly in what is called “micro-evolution” within the species itself), the creation of man was a completely separate and deliberate work by God and not the work of chance. In this way, the Church believes strictly that God created the world, creating man in the Divine Image. Likewise, the Church accepts scientific proof of evolution (when accurate, of course). Yet, the Church would reject a strict concept of evolution without God being the creator and initiator of everything that evolves – and likewise, we would reject anything that denies scientific discovery on these matters, as all truth is one, with God’s revealed truth remaining primary and scientific truth complementing what has been revealed.