Continuing the Theme


Natural and supernatural--the relationship between them is the key to understanding much of the natural world. This excerpt from a longer essay by Orlando's Bishop Thomas Wenski is a hint in that direction:

from an Essay in the Orlando Sentinel
Bishop Thomas Wenski

And so the church supports the teaching of evolution as the best available account of how nature works. But, at the same time, the church rejects certain erroneous philosophical theories that are sometimes associated with it. To insist, as some scientists have done, that evolution requires a materialistic or an atheistic understanding of the human person or of the entire universe is to stray beyond the proper realm of science itself. To argue such a neo-Darwinist conception of a mechanistic universe without any sign of intelligent order is to argue from a philosophical bias and not from the results of any scientific investigation.

The scientific method has proved to be a powerful instrument in assisting mankind to come to a greater understanding of the world and how it works. However, as a method, it is limited to the physical objects and their relationships. Scientific knowledge does not extend beyond the physical, and, therefore, it is not sufficient to answer all the questions that men inevitably pose about themselves and their world.

As Catholics we believe that mankind was created by God for himself; that is, we are destined to share the communion of the life of the Holy Trinity. We are in physical continuity with the rest of life on the planet through the process of evolution. But, because we each have a spiritual soul created directly by God, we also are qualitatively different from other living beings. Science can rightly explore man's continuity with the rest of life, and thus uncover the causal chains by which God prepared the way for appearance of the human race. But, it is theology's realm, aided by Divine Revelation, to explore those dimensions of human existence that cannot be the objects of scientific explanation.

The Catholic Church does not have to reject the theory of evolution in order to affirm our belief in our Creator. As Catholics, we can affirm an understanding of evolution that is open to the full truth about the human person and about the world. With appropriate catechesis at home and in the parish on God as Creator, even our children in public schools should be able to achieve an integrated understanding of the means God chose to make us who we are.

(The Entire Essay)

Properly understood, the natural world takes its essence from the supernatural but its form (existence) from the rule governing the natural. God does not normally choose to intrude upon these governing principles. If evolution is one of these organizing principles, it is not in contradiction to the supernatural.

It has been pointed out before, by many and myriad, that evolution as a scientific understanding of the origin of life and development of diversity is not a problem. What is a problem is the unprovable and unscientific philosophical trappings that come with it. As Bishop Wenski points out--the development of life through evolution does not necessitate a materialistic or atheistic interpretation of the universe. Indeed, such an interpretation is far outside the bounds of science. Science has no intelligible comment to make on the existence or non-existence of God. Science exists to explain the natural world--a subset of the supernatural world. With its instruments and its philosophical underpinnings, it is incapable of plumbing the depths of the supernatural; however, it can occasionally point in that direction. As Gödel pointed out there are propositions and theorems that can be made from within a system that are unprovable with the axioms and corallaries of that system. The existence or nonexistence of God is one of those theorems that are unprovable and therefore beyond the bounds of the natural system we call science.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 25, 2008 9:31 AM.

The Supernatural Life was the previous entry in this blog.

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