Catholic Creationism in Canada

This one is so strange that there’s not much we can say about it — except that Catholics have a long tradition of rigorous scholarship, and we don’t see any trace of that here. But you can judge for yourselves.

In the B.C. Catholic, which seems to be incongruously named until we realize that it’s published in Vancouver, British Columbia, we read Sound reasoning requires clarity in evolution debate. The website says they’ve turned off their comments feature.

We can’t find any information about that publication, but their masthead says “Archdiocese of Vancouver,” and the footer of the site’s webpages says “Informing Catholics in Canada since 1931.” It seems to be at least a quasi-official newspaper. The author of the article is Steven Godenir, about whom we can’t find anything, but we assume that they think he’s qualified to express his opinions. We’ll give you some excerpts, with bold font added by us. He begins by mentioning an earlier article that was critical of creationism, and then he says:

The only real facts in science are sensory data, such as direct observations and measurements. They cannot change; hence they can be described as facts. Laws come next. They are the bedrock of science, because they are observable and repeatable patterns for which there is no contradictory evidence. Laws can never be proved; however, they can be disproved by just one contrary observation; hence, they are not facts.

That’s not bad, but we prefer the Definitions of Evolutionary Terms provided by the National Academy of Sciences. Also the National Center for Science Education defines those terms here: Definitions of Fact, Theory, and Law in Scientific Work. Then we’re told:

Evolution is primarily a set of claims about alleged, unobserved events, and so cannot be a fact, and it is certainly not a law. At best, evolution could be called a theory, or can it?

Oh dear, this isn’t going very well. Let’s read on:

Theories are made up of laws and reasonable hypotheses. They attempt to explain a much bigger picture. Reasoned hypotheses generally do not make predictions that contradict laws. Evolutionary belief, however, breaks two of the most well established laws in science: the law of biogenesis; and the second law of thermodynamics. Life only comes from life; and all matter in the universe is moving irreversibly toward a state of completely unusable energy, a heat death.

Aaaargh!! That’s raw, unadorned ignorance. We’ve discussed the fictitious “law of biogenesis” in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. As for the 2nd law of thermodynamics, that’s one of the most boneheaded arguments advanced by creationists, and it’s debunked at the TalkOrigins Index to Creationist Claims right here.

Then, if you can believe it, the article gets even worse:

Evolution is not part of experimental/operational science, which examines directly observable phenomena in the present. Operational science is replicable by anyone who follows the same process. This is the type of science that leads to the development of technology. … Evolution falls under the category of historical/origins science, where claims are made about the unobservable past. Proponents of a historical science position can make predictions and use experimental science to gather evidence that is either consistent or inconsistent with their viewpoint; however, the interpretation of data is heavily dependent on philosophical presuppositions.

Aaaargh!! That’s ol’ Hambo’s argument, which is debunked in our Common Creationist Claims Confuted.

That’s how the article begins, so you’ll understand that we’re skipping over an ark-load of further nonsense until we come to the end:

For Catholics to be truly prudent, we must work with clear definitions, carefully examine claims against evidence, and hold fast to God’s revelation. Interpretations held unanimously by Church Fathers and doctors must be held by us. In the study of natural science, we must follow St. Thomas’s counsel: “In the works of nature, Creation does not enter, but is presupposed to the works of nature.”

So there you are. We thought that Catholics were okay with evolution — see Pope Francis, Evolution, & the Big Bang. Apparently we were wrong — at least in British Columbia.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Catholic Creationism in Canada

  1. I’ve taken the liberty of emailing a link to your article to “BC Catholic”. Since they don’t allow comments, maybe they will enjoy a bit of healthy debate here.

  2. Kind of shoots the Hell out of the “Catholics are more intellectual” meme, doesn’t it. I also sent them an email deriding the cowardliness of publishing ignorance and then giving it cover from correction. Loosely analogous to the cover given their platoons of child molesters.

  3. Diogenes' Lamp

    Was this editorial marked “Nihil Obstat”? Nothing objectionable to Ken Ham.

  4. michaelfugate

    Godenir teaches “creation science” at Anchor Academy an Online Christian school (http://www.ark.net)

    His profile:
    I grew up on a farm in southwest Saskatchewan. My wife Val and I live in the lower mainland. I have over 16 years of teaching experience, largely in Montessori elementary classrooms. The Montessori curricula are built around 5 great stories, all taught from an evolutionary perspective. I initially believed these stories; however, I learned that they are inconsistent and assumption-based. They also do not match direct observations of the natural world, the clear teaching of the Scriptures, and the clear and long-held teaching of the Church. Since then, I have developed a solid Christian foundation for thinking and living. I am passionate about rigorous thought and clear communication. I am also a folk dance enthusiast, regularly teaching and participating in international folk dancing, contra dancing, and square dancing. I am an avid reader, writer, and ball hockey player. Sunday is my favourite day of the week, and most of all I enjoy worshiping God and being involved in my church community.

  5. I’ve always found it fascinating how easily the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility can be compartmentalized and defined to where it means virtually nothing to large numbers of Roman Catholics. The “Ex Cathedra” serves as a very handy wildcard disclaimer.

  6. Also the National Center for Science Education defines those terms here: Definitions of Fact, Theory, and Law in Scientific Work.

    As I’ve written previously, both high school and university science courses tend to barely address that bare-bones review of the scientific method and science terminology that appears in every chapter 1 of virtually every science textbook. During curriculum revisions, I’ve recommended a one credit hour “Intro to History & Philosophy of Science” for all Arts & Sciences undergrad programs, not because it stood any chance of happening but to underscore the importance of producing a science-literate citizenry. Every time I hear yet another science vs. philosophy blooper from Richard Dawkins or Neil Degrasse Tyson (e.g., “Philosophy no longer serves any relevant purpose” or “Science is superior to philosophy because it provides better answers that are based on evidence.” ), I’m reminded of just how poorly we teach the fundamentals or even give students any framework for evaluating epistemologies.

  7. michaelfugate

    How does one come to the conclusion that evolution does not match direct observations of the natural world, the clear teaching of the Scriptures, and the clear and long-held teaching of the Church if one is a Catholic?

    Why would a Catholic trust Ken Ham over Francisco Ayala or Ken Miller?

  8. @michaelfugate

    Why would a Catholic trust Ken Ham over John Paul II?

    Oh, right, Santorum told us – why trust a pope over a scientist.

  9. Oh Canada, some of your residents are truely as ignorant as some folks south of your border.

  10. Catholics have never been as approving of evolution as the media has portrayed. If I may:

    http://aeon.co/magazine/philosophy/can-the-vatican-evolve-before-it-dissolves/

  11. @John Farrell
    The case of John Augustine Zahm, in the early 20th century, is instructive. Zahm argued for the compatibility of evolution with Catholic dogma until he bowed to the pressure and shut up. Also, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in the mid 20th century.

  12. The Catholic church began a revivalist youth movement called “Arise” over two decades ago. The “youth pastors” had a basically fundamentalist tone back then. To see such sillyness surface in Catholic publications may be disappointing but it comes as no surprise. The struggle to maintain membership can obviously lead to cutting corners that were once cornerstones.

  13. The Catholic Church in Poland is also very ambivalent about creationism, perhaps because of fear of competition from fundamentalist evangelicals; see Blancke et al. Creationism in Europe

  14. Richard Bond

    TomS:

    I am not entirely clear from your comment, but it seems as though you might have some respect for Teilard de Chardin. If so, I suggest that you read Peter Medawar’s review of The Phenomenon of Man.

  15. Richard Bond

    Aaaarggghhh! I seem to have caught some unpleasant affliction. Please Oh Great Doctor, can you give me a shot for it?

    [*Voice from above*] I stretched forth my mighty hand …

  16. @Richard Bond
    Myself, I could not figure out what he was talking about, and didn’t have the motivation to find out. I think that Zahm didn’t appreciate natural selection. (Like just about everyone of his era.) Both of them were unjustly forced to shut up in defending evolution.

  17. Steven Godenir — truly a Disciple of Ham.

    (BTW, Curmy – “In the B.C. Catholic, which seems to be incongruously named…” That’s a perfect example of why we relish reading your blog!)

  18. American Catholics seem to split liberal and conservative in the same proportion as the population as a whole. Now that there is a liberal pope it is amusing to watch conservative Catholics like Santorum and Patrick Buchanan make no end of excuses as to why the Pope is right about abortion but not global warming.

    P.S. Thanks RSG, didn’t get the joke on the first pass.

  19. Thanks for noticing, retiredsciguy. Sometimes I think I’m only amusing myself.

  20. @SC — That’s why feedback is so important. Your wit and obvious intelligence is what separates your blog from the rest.

  21. When I meet people who profess to be Catholic I identify myself as a lapsed Catholic (baptized Catholic, 11 years of Catholic school). It amazes me the number of American Catholics who want to return to pre Vatican II ways of the church. They truly believe the church lost its way during Vatican II. Met a guy the other day who goes to an unaffiliated Catholic Church, Latin Mass, priest faces away from congregation, and on and on. So yes the more conservative Catholics are closer to Hambo than most of us would be comfortable with.

  22. Pope John Paul II is the hero to such Catholics.

  23. There is a Catholic creation organization called Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, Mt. Jackson, VA 22842 http://www.kolbecenter.org

  24. @Jim Linville
    There is a prominent Catholic participation in the geocentric movement.