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A Federal Court in Cobb County, Ga. is hearing arguments over whether a warning sticker in biology textbooks that says evolution is “a theory, not a fact” violates the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state by promoting religion.
The local school board had required the labels to be placed on the schoolbooks after more than 2,000 parents, many of them evangelical Protestants, signed a petition complaining that the texts presented evolution as the only explanation of the origin of life. Many evangelical Protestants deny any theory of evolution.
In contrast, Catholic teaching recognizes the “legitimate autonomy of science” to reach its own conclusions based on its own methods and within its scope of competence. Despite some historical misunderstandings and conflicts, the Church teaches that faith and science are not mutually opposed. As Pope Leo XIII put it, “truth cannot contradict truth.”
In fact, scientific findings can create a sense of awe in us, since they allow us, in some measure, to contemplate God’s immense works which reflect His immense love for us.
Regarding the various theories of evolution, the Church accepts the possibility that the human body may have come from “pre-existent and living matter,” as Pius XII called it in his 1950 encyclical “Humani Generis.”
The Church however, strenuously opposes any suggestion that our souls are part of the process of evolution. This would deny the action of God in creating the human person, mind and body. Pius XII and John Paul II have both stressed that “our souls are immediately created by God.”
Unfortunately, some theories of evolution are bundled with materialistic philosophical concepts that proclaim that nature alone is responsible for the creation of all that is. Those theories completely deny the creative action of God.
As long as evolution does not deny that creative action of God — who is creator of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen — we can accept the concept of evolution without having to reject any of our own beliefs.