In 1859 when Charles Darwin published his book “The Origin of Species”, it causedmuch controversy between the scientific and religious worlds. It caused many people toquestion their belief in the teaching of the Bible. The strongly held belief that the Biblewas the literal truth clashed with the Darwin theory. Some people rejected and scornedDarwin while others tried to reevaluate their beliefs. Darwin theorized that speciesevolved from other species. The belief that God directly created man seemed unlikelyto mix with Darwin’s theory.
Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England February 12, 1809. He had hispreliminary schooling at Shrewsbury. He was then sent in 1825 to the University ofEdinburgh where he entered a distinguished program for medicine. He did not likethe program. From 1828 to 1831 he transferred to Cambridge to prepare for theministry. Sciences were not included in University studies so he had no training in thatarea. Personal contacts with scientists gave him an informal science education. AfterCambridge he became a naturalist on a government sponsored map making trip. Darwincollected data and specimens during this 5 year trip. It was during the trip that he alsodeveloped the first ideas about species evolving. After the trip he married and moved toDown, England where he lived the rest of his life. Darwin did research and correspondedhis home. He had gained respect in the field of Natural Science from his research madeduring his 5 year trip. During that trip he gathered evidence that the species wasmutable. As a student he had accepted fundamentalist beliefs. As time passed he wasdeeply impressed by Charles Lyell’s theory that natural change occurred gradually inspecies. From his studies Darwin developed his Natural Selection Theory, which heannounced in 1858. In 1859 his book “The Origin of the Species by Natural Selection”,was published. The book advanced the theory and caused controversy. He wroteseveral other books during his lifetime but none was as significant as “Origin of theSpecies”. Darwin died after many years of chronic illness in his home in Down,England on April 19, 1882.
The theory of evolution is not contradicted by the Catholic Church today. TheChurch does not look at the Bible as literal truth. The Church encourages the study ofscience. In response to the controversy caused by Darwinism and questions about theBible Pope Leo the XII started a commission to apply new methods of archaeologyand linguistics to biblical study. This study which went on for many years now helpsthe Church to understand and accept how evolution can be a scientific fact and God canstill have created man. The theory of evolution is scientific, although there is still debateabout the theory, a religious belief does not have to be the deciding factor for a Catholic.
The Church encourages Catholics to study and examine scientific possibilities withoutfear of contradicting their faith.
As a Catholic and a student I can see the importance of Darwin’s studies in my life.
Darwin’s theory encouraged a great deal of biological research. This research was meantto prove or disprove his theory. In the end much of the research furthered ourknowledge of biology. This theory explained that species well adapted to their particularliving space developed from an accumulation of adaptations. The science of Geneticswhich is so important today was able to explain these adaptations. I also understandthat change had to occur in the way the church looked at creation for this growth inknowledge to be accepted. God did not have to be rejected because of a change inour thought about creation. I understand that God can lead us to intellectual growththat will help us. We must remember where the knowledge comes from and look forHis guidance.
Charles Darwin’s curiosity and research about the world around him helped him todevelop his theory