Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Genesis & Evolution

The Catholic Church has understood for some time that evolution and creation are congruent, but it is the rare article that expresses it so well, as this one does.

An excerpt.

“When speaking about origins, the challenge for Christians in our time is that of living a dual citizenship: an intelligent fidelity to the teaching of Genesis 1, and an attentive openness to the proposals of scientific research. [...] Today, in any case, they must refine this twofold loyalty, at a time in which some enjoy pitting the notions of creation and evolution against each other, under the form of ideologies – creationism and evolutionism – that are mutually exclusive.

“For the supporters of evolutionism, referring to the opening poem of Genesis means regressing into a form of obscurantism that is incompatible with the rationality of the modern age. In this essay, we will seek to demonstrate that referring to the first chapters of Genesis does not at all imply a surrender of the intelligence. [...] A brilliant rationality permeates these texts, which are capable of speaking to every reasonable man, and in particular to the contemporary man of science. [...]

“Genesis 1 could be subtitled "Process and Reality": the act of creation is divided into successive moments, in the sequence of a week. [...] Far from being an explosion of blind power, creation – according to the narrative poem of Genesis 1 – is an action that takes place progressively, in an ordered sequence that reveals a plan.

“The progression – as Paul Beauchamp has demonstrated in his essay "Création et séparation" is above all that of successive separations, expressed at first with the verbal root "badal": "And God separated the light from the darkness" (1:4; cf. 1:6, 7, 14, 18). Beginning with the third day, once the macroelements of the cosmos have been put in place, the verb of separation does not appear anymore (except in 1:14, 18, regarding the "great lights"). It is replaced with another expression: "according to its kind." This formula, which is repeated ten times, is applied first to the plant species (1:11-12), and then to the animal species (1:21, 24-25). From the beginning, God drives away formlessness and indeterminateness, gradually constituting a differentiated world.

“In their sequence, the days of creation amplify the succession already connected to speech. From the first day the divine acts, as immediate as they are, are manifested in a discursive manner. [...] Succession is without a doubt a law of language, and of narrative discourse in particular, which can only say things one after another. In a reflection of theological "realism," the account of Genesis 1 takes care to refer this succession back to the divine freedom itself. [...]

“Following the divine initiatives step by step, the narrator takes pains to accentuate what is fixed and finalized about the divine plan. The act of creation, in its sequence, is not a random process or an extravagant dispersion of energy. The divine act – the narrator asserts – unfolds between "beginning" (1:1) and "completion" (see the verb "finished" in 2:1), and in a series ("first day," "second day," etc.) which appears gradually in its completeness, that of six days plus one. “Finally, at the end of the account we discover that God brings to fulfillment precisely that which he had begun to create at the beginning, "the heavens and the earth" (2:1; cf. 1:1). In other words, the process is part of an intelligent plan, which governs each of its phases.”