Catholic Answers: Misguided Attempt to Support the Theory of Evolution.

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During the program, Dr. Wiker made one of the more astounding statements I’ve ever heard from the mouth of a conservative Catholic. In answer to a question from the host concerning whether a Catholic could hold to a young earth and a six 24-hour day creation as one option among many, Dr. Wiker answered: “I’m pretty sure the answer has got to be this: NO.” According to Dr. Wiker, then, a Catholic is not permitted to believe in the traditional view of Genesis.

If you are not familiar with Dr. Wiker’s approach to science and Scripture, he insists that, because modern science has given us irrefutable evidence for an old earth, a Catholic must believe in an old earth as a fact of science. Accordingly, Dr. Wiker teaches that a Catholic must then adjust his interpretation of Genesis 1 in order to fit this supposed scientific fact. If it is a fact that the earth is old, the days of Genesis cannot be interpreted literally, and thus Dr. Wiker felt very confident in answering the host’s question with an emphatic “no.”

Subsequently, in place of a literal reading of Genesis, Dr. Wiker insists that we can modify it with some form of evolutionary theory. But since Darwin’s theory of evolution is atheistic, Dr. Wiker proposes that we can improve on Darwin’s thesis by giving it a theistic instead of an atheistic foundation. For example, whereas Darwin depended on natural selection as the driving force for evolution, Wiker proposes that we insert God as the driving force. This theory is otherwise known as Theistic Evolution.

Although Dr. Wiker’s proposal may sound like a worthy compromise between science and theology, in reality it is just as dubious as the atheistic version of evolution presented by Charles Darwin. Many Catholics, perhaps trying to save face for Catholicism as an institution that is up with the times, have mounted little resistance to the popular, media-driven conclusions of our modern yet agnostic society, conclusions that advocate an old earth and that man evolved from apes. Dr. Wiker, whatever his motivations, teaches his audience that these popular claims are the only ones to which we can listen. Over the years I have seen Karl Keating do much the same – any scientific evidence that does not support the popular view of cosmogony or cosmology is systematically ignored. As such, Mr. Keating and Dr. Wiker teach that the only means by which a faithful Catholic cannot fall into the trap of having theology conflict with science is to accept the popular version of scientific claims and subsequently adjust our theology and Scripture reading to accommodate those popular claims.

What Mr. Keating and Dr. Wiker do not tell their audience, however, is that there are many faces of modern science and they all say something different. The sad reality is, the scientific face that supports evolutionary theory is vigorously promoted by the secular media but the scientific face that denies evolution is consistently drowned out or categorically ignored. To promote this image, Catholic Answers and Dr. Wiker present modern science as if it were a monolithic consensus of facts and figures that no Catholic can rightly dispute. But the truth is that modern science has about as many beliefs regarding how the universe originated and perpetuates itself as there are major denominations in Christianity. Just as the Christian has what he believes are many facts gathered from his reading of Scripture, which, as he interprets them may lead him to follow one church or another, so the scientist has many facts that he gathers from his microscope and telescope that, as he interprets them, may lead him to one scientific theory or another. Unfortunately, as we all know too well, even with the best intentions interpretation is a mine field of uncertainty. The consequence of this uncertainty, of course, is that there now exist many churches who disagree with one another about what Scripture means, and a lot of scientists who disagree about what their various instruments are telling them. As the noted astrophysicist Gerard de Vaucouleurs put it:

“Less than 50 years after the birth of what we are pleased to call ‘modern cosmology,’ when so few empirical facts are passably well established, when so many different over-simplified models of the universe are still competing for attention, is it, may we ask, really credible to claim, or even reasonable to hope, that we are presently close to a definitive solution of the cosmological problem?…. Unfortunately, a study of the history of cosmology reveals…the borderline between sophistication and sophistry, between numeration and numerology…. Above all I am concerned by an apparent loss of contact with empirical evidence and observational facts, and, worse, by a deliberate refusal on the part of some theorists to accept such results when they appear to be in conflict with some of the present oversimplified and therefore intellectually appealing theories of the universe.”[1]

Or as physicist J. J. Thomson once put it.

“We have Einstein’s space, de Sitter’s space, expanding universes, contracting universes, vibrating universes, mysterious universes. In fact the pure mathematician may create universes just by writing down an equation, and indeed if he is an individualist he can have a universe of his own.”[2]

As such, science suffers from the same handicap as religion. Unfortunately, most Catholics, including Karl Keating and Dr. Wiker, either choose to ignore this handicap of science or deliberately hide it from their audience. Dr. Wiker’s whole approach to cosmogony and cosmology is based on the impression that modern science is a monolithic consensus of belief, but this is simply not true at all. Obviously, the key to arriving at the truth is wholly dependent on whether one can arrive at the proper interpretation of the accumulated facts and figures. Finding out who possesses the proper interpretation is another story altogether.

That being said, here are several reasons why Dr. Wiker’s “interpretation” of the facts and figures from modern science are not correct:

  • Dr. Wiker claims that the earth is very old, but he presented no proof for this assertion. The only evidence he mentioned in the Catholic Answers radio program concerned the “fossil record,” but any scientist worth his salt knows the fossil record does not support evolution. In fact, the fossil record goes the other way – it denies evolution. The fossil record could only support evolution and an old earth if science could show substantial evidence of transitional forms, that is, fossil forms between an ape and a man or between a fish and a bird. But even evolutionists admit there are no irrefutable transitional forms in the fossil record. The late Harvard paleontologist, Stephen Gould, the premier secular evolutionist of the last century, admitted the lack of transitional forms thirty years ago at the 1982 Chicago convention of esteemed scientists. It is the very reason that Gould invented the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium, the theory that evolutionary advances occur in random and punctuated spurts that happen so fast that no trace of transitional fossils can form in the process. There are scores of secular evolutionists who have gone on record stating that the fossil record offers no support for evolution. Either Dr. Wiker is oblivious to this evidence or he simply chooses to ignore it. In either case, considering the lack of proof in the fossil record, Dr. Wiker has no basis for teaching that a faithful Catholic cannot hold to a young earth created in six 24-hour days.
  • Dr. Wiker also mentioned on the program that the earth “appears old because of the different strata we see” in its crust. Here again the same problem surfaces – is Dr. Wiker’s interpretation of the scientific evidence correct? The reality is, there are a number of scientists who vociferously object to the interpretation that the Earth’s multi-layers of strata means that the Earth is old, and they make these objections based on experimental evidence published in peer reviewed journals. It is apparent that Dr. Wiker either is not familiar with these scientific findings or he has decided to ignore or not accept them. If Dr. Wiker would look more closely at the scientific literature he would find that these scientists have discovered to their amazement that the various layers of strata found across the earth were more likely created by instantaneous deposits of sediment from catastrophic events and not from slowly forming layers over millions of years. In fact, there are huge problems with the latter theory. At the least, Dr. Wiker should take account of these scientific facts and pause before he makes any dogmatic statements on a national radio program that a faithful Catholic must go against the consensus of the Church Fathers and the long-held tradition of the Church that the universe was created in six 24-hour days.
  • I will give just give one example of the scientific evidence on stratigraphy. Recent research published by the French Academy of Science in 1988 and the Russian Academy of Science in 2002 show from experimental evidence that sediments deposit according to the simple rules of physics. As demonstrated in the laboratory, and confirmed on terrain, sedimentary particles deposit as a function of the speed of the water current that carries them and the weight and shape of the particle. As such, they will deposit in various layers over a short period of time with each layer being of a different composition than the previous layer. Taking the Crimean peninsula as an example, the data show that the time of deposit of what evolutionists refer to as the Cambrian period is merely 0.01% of the time purported by the evolutionary/geological time-scale.[3] Hence, the documented results of these studies show that the fossil record can no longer be dated in millions of years. The rapid formation of the rocks in which the fossils are buried means that the time for the burial of the different fossils is in hours or weeks and certainly not over millions of years.
  • Although Dr. Wiker did not mention Carbon-14 and Radiometric dating as evidence of an old earth, we can preempt any use of these methods for establishing proof for an old earth for the same reason as I noted above – the conclusion one arrives at depends entirely on the presuppositions one has before he performs the measurement. Facts and figures don’t lie, but biased presuppositions and philosophical preferences always lead to fabricated conclusions. Science has worked this way for a very long time. It is anything but a monolithic consensus of belief, but the average man in the street simply isn’t aware of these problems. He has been brainwashed to believe that scientists are the epitome of honesty and objectivity, but in reality they represent one of the more dishonest and agenda-driven professions in academia today. (A study of this phenomenon is available upon request).

In regard to the problems with popular versions of radiometric dating, one scientist reports:

“Reviewing the history of radio-dating methods shows the oversimplified assumptions made at the beginning of the 20th century. The extreme simplicity of nuclear models, the lack of knowledge of radioactive decay series, the ignorance of isotopes, the ‘closed system’ hypothesis, but above all, the choice of initial conditions far from realistic, gave rise to contradictory results. We will show that, despite huge improvements in measurement techniques, these weaknesses from the beginning were never corrected. Results discordant with the geological time-scale are systematically discarded. Worst of all, no forum is provided in which scientists can formulate objections to the validity of the initial hypothesis.”[4]

As it stands, Carbon-14 and radiometric isotope dating, depending on the scientific assumptions one makes before he analyzes the data, can show an old earth or a young earth.

Be that as it may, Dr. Wiker did not provide his audience with even one proof that the earth is old, yet he was rather dogmatic about the assertion that a Catholic had no right to hold to a young earth made in six 24-hour days. If Dr. Wiker wants to believe in an old earth for his own personal reasons, I won’t bother him. But when he crosses the public boundary and begins telling impressionable Catholics that their only option is to accept his position and that no other interpretation is allowed, Dr. Wiker has then made this a very serious issue that deserves public refutation. Unless he has proof for his claims, Dr. Wiker has no right to make such sweeping demands from his audience. In effect, Dr. Wiker needs to make a public retraction of his dogmatic teaching on another Catholic Answers program.

Let me just give one example of the kinds of astounding evidence in Carbon-14 dating we are finding today that denies Dr. Wiker’s position and supports Scripture’s account of a young earth. In his new book, The Greatest Hoax on Earth? Refuting Dawkins on Evolution (Atlanta, Creation Book Publishers, 2010, 333pp) Dr. Jonathan Sarfati enlightens us to the ultra-sensitive “Accelerator Mass Spectrometry” machine that can detect quantities of Carbon-14 as tiny as one ten-thousandth the size of the previously measurable quantity. To the great perplexity of evolutionists, the AMS is finding measurable traces of Carbon-14 remaining not only in diamonds (which evolutionist’s claim to be billions of years old), but also in just about all fossils containing carbon (such as wood and coal), even though evolutionists purport that these fossils are millions of years old according to the strata in which they are found. The bottom line is this: because of the short half life of Carbon-14 (5700 years) if there are any traces of Carbon-14 in inorganic or organic materials on Earth, we then have persuasive evidence that the Earth and its fossils are only thousands of years old and nothing close to the millions of years required by the theory of evolution. According to Sarfati, “This reality [of the newly-discovered C-14 in diamonds and fossils] is also documented by scores of papers in the secular peer-reviewed radiocarbon literature” (p. 191), yet it is safe to say that hardly anyone in the general public knows about it. The secular media simply refuses to advertise these upsetting facts of science. I personally know of scientists from the Paleochronology Group in Columbus Ohio who have used the AMS machine on bone fragments containing collagen from a Triceratops and a Hadrosaur and who found them to be from 10,000 to 25,000 years old, not the 70 million years required by modern evolutionary theory. This kind of data is just dripping from documented sources yet we are never allowed to hear about it from either Richard Dawkins or Benjamin Wiker, and I don’t think it is any coincidence that both of them believe in an old earth and evolution.

Interestingly enough, similar to Dr. Sarfati, Benjamin Wiker and Scott Hahn also wrote a book with Richard Dawkins’ name in the title: Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins’ Case Against God (Emmaus Road Publishing, Steubenville, OH, 2008). Although I must give credit to Wiker and Hahn for attempting to refute Dawkins’ atheism, what they don’t seem to realize is that they have played right into Dawkins’ hands by accepting his evolutionary theory, for evolution, whether it is the atheistic or theistic variety, denies the consensus of the Church Fathers, denies the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church, and denies the straightforward reading of Scripture that the Catholic Church has taught for centuries and upon which its major dogmas have been formed. The expression: “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is quite apropos here. How can Dr. Wiker and Dr. Hahn expect us to take them seriously when it is quite apparent that they have rejected the Catholic Church’s traditional teaching and have accepted Dawkins’ scientific claims without prejudice, the very claims that led him and many other secularists to atheism? Wiker and Hahn’s attempt to pacify Dawkins by injecting God as the driving force for evolution is a convenient rhetorical device, but in reality it is merely a theological conjecture that is unsupported by Scripture, the Church Fathers, tradition, or any official teaching of the Catholic magisterium, and even modern science, at least if we consider the alternative interpretations of the scientific evidence presented to us from people such as Jonathan Sarfati and the host of creation scientists that have supplied us with decades of scientific evidence to refute evolution. Unfortunately, whereas Catholics of the past were not afraid to take Scripture at face value – which thus led them to interpret passages such as Matthew 26:26 (“This is my body”) quite literally in the face of the rest of the scientific and philosophical world which rejected such a primitive view of Scripture – today’s Catholics cower before the tendentious claims of popular science and are afraid to maintain the Catholic tradition of reading Scripture for what it actually says and not for what we would like it to say. To use a biblical analogy, most of today’s Catholic apologists have sold the word of God for a mess of popular scientific pottage.

In light of Dr. Wiker’s dependence on popular science to form his approach to Scripture, I am reminded of the wise words of St. Augustine against those who rely only on scientific theories and treat the word of God as if it were a collection of children’s fables.

“But more dangerous is the error of certain weak brethren who faint away when they hear these irreligious critics learnedly and eloquently discoursing on the theories of astronomy or on any of the questions relating to the elements of this universe. With a sigh, they esteem these teachers as superior to themselves, looking upon them as great men; and they return with disdain to the books which were written for the good of their souls; and, although they ought to drink from these books with relish, they can scarcely bear to take them up.”[5]

  • Let me mention another very important matter. Dr. Wiker’s premise during the entire Catholic Answers program was that science and theology cannot be in conflict. In turn, Dr. Wiker implied by this premise that a Catholic could not believe in six 24-hour days for creation since such a belief would “conflict” with science. What Dr. Wiker should have said is that true science will not conflict with true theology, for the difference between the popular, atheistic, agenda-driven science of our modern age and true science is like night and day. In the modern age there is a lot of false science claiming to be true science. False science is, for example, when someone claims that the fossil record and multi-layered strata give irrefutable proof for an old earth. As noted above, the fossil record actually gives more support for creationism than evolution, and the scientific evidence has shown that multi-layered strata can be formed by instantaneous deposits of sediment. So it is not true that science and theology will never conflict. Scientific theories are a dime a dozen and most of them will, indeed, conflict with theology. At most, only one of them will never conflict with theology.

The other danger in Dr. Wiker’s dependence on popular science is that, if his science is false it will invariably create a false theology, since the theology will necessarily have to bend to the assumed facts of science. Theistic evolution would have never come into existence if it wasn’t for various Christians accepting the secular claims of evolution as irrefutably true. As such, bad science creates bad theology. Hence, no one, including Dr. Wiker, should say that science and theology cannot conflict, since this generalization ignores the fact that both science and theology may be incorrect on various points. The only thing we can safely say is that true science will never conflict with true theology. This only begs the question, of course: who possesses true science and true theology?

  • Dr. Wiker also made mention of the fact that the idea of evolution did not start with Darwin but with the Greek and Roman philosophers, such as Lucretius. He is correct. I’ve been teaching the same thing for many years. Darwin merely developed a more sophisticated version of evolution. (For that matter, heliocentrism did not start with Copernicus but with the Greek philosopher Aristarchus). Dr. Wiker also mentioned the fact that because the Greeks had been promoting evolution for many centuries, the Catholic Church of that day “already knew about it [evolution] from the ground up.” Having admitted that fact, we must point out to Dr. Wiker that he missed the corollary fact. It wasn’t that the Church merely “knew about” evolution, rather, the Church, as represented by her Fathers in consensus, forthrightly rejected evolution, and she did so without feeling compelled to replace Greek atheistic evolution with Christian theistic evolution (as Dr. Wiker does); rather, the Fathers insisted that evolution, in itself, was false, and that God made the earth in six 24-hour days. As it stands, the Church’s position against evolution and for creationism was made in the crucible of polemical debate and not because the Fathers were ignorant of the alternatives. The only potential holdout was St. Augustine, but it wasn’t because he left room for evolution and an old earth, but only because he wanted to offer the possibility that God might have created the universe in one day instead of six. Even then, Augustine said his proposal was not dogmatic in the least. As such, Augustine was no evolutionist, although there are some Catholics who try to force him into such a mold. In any case, we see that Dr. Wiker failed to educate his audience to the Church’s early rejection of evolution, whether it was atheistic or theistic, and he chose, rather, to make it appear as if the early Church had little problem with Lucretius. The unadulterated truth is, the Church rejected evolution from the get-go by refuting the Greek philosophers point-by-point. Basil, Chrysostom, Augustine, and many others show by their voluminous writings on the subject of Greek cosmogony that they stood together in consensus to reject evolution while at the same time holding to a literal reading of Genesis, a position which persisted throughout the Medieval period right up to the beginning of the modern age.

During the Medieval period, the infallible councils of Lateran IV and Vatican I reiterated the early Church’s stand against evolution and gave dogmatic support for creationism:

Lateran IV: “God…from the beginning of time made at once (simul) out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthly, and then (deinde) the human creature, who as it were shares in both orders, being composed of spirit and body.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #327, from Denzinger 428)

Vatican I: “If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, as regards their whole substance, have been produced by God from nothing, let him be anathema.” (Denzinger 1805)

In the end, Dr. Wiker does not have any basis for declaring publically that a faithful Catholic “cannot” hold to six 24-hour days of creation. Dr. Wiker lacks:

  • Scientific proof for his scientific claims
  • Support for evolution and long ages from the patristic or medieval age
  • An official Catholic declaration either denying Lateran IV or Vatican I’s dogma on instantaneous creation
  • Any official teaching from the Catholic magisterium either affirming evolution or an old earth as a fact of science that must be used to interpret Genesis 1 as other than six 24-hour days.

In conclusion, I hereby submit an open invitation to Dr. Wiker to have a formal and public debate on these issues. Perhaps Catholic Answers would be willing to sponsor the debate on its radio program. This debate would give the Catholic faithful the opportunity to hear both sides of the story. I’m sure that if Dr. Wiker feels that his position is unassailable (which is the impression he left his radio audience on July 28) he would be more than willing to demonstrate its merits through a public debate.

Robert Sungenis, Ph.D.

August 3, 2010

[1] “The Case for a Hierarchial Cosmology,” Science, v. 167, No. 3922, 1970, pp. 1203-1204.

[2] Einstein: Life and Times, p. 301.

[3] “Analysis of the Main Principles of Stratigraphy on the Basis of Experimental Data,” Journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2002. A team of Russian sedimentologists directed by Alexander Lalomov (Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Ore Deposits) applied paleohydraulic analyses to geological formations in Russia (examples are the Crimean Peninsular and the North-West Russian Platform). In the case of the Platform it is shown that the time taken for the sediments to deposit would have been no more that 0.01% of that ascribed to them by the geological time-scale.

[4] “Are Radio-dating Methods Reliable?” Dr. Jean de Pontcharra, lecture given on November 9, 2009 titled: “The Scientific Impossibility of Evolution” at Libera Università degli Studi San Pio V Via Cristoforo Colombo, No. 200, Rome, Italy.

[5] The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book 1, Chapter 20, Para. 41, Ancient Christian Writers, p. 44.

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