Robert Wild, S.J.
With the theory of intelligent design
significant attention recently, an age-old debate has heated up over how life
came into being. Tempting as it may be to characterize this as a pitched battle
between Darwinists and Creationists, not everyone is choosing sides.
mission statement reads, “As a Catholic university, we
are committed to the unfettered pursuit of truth under the mutually illuminating
powers of human intelligence and Christian faith.” We believe that science
and faith do not simply coexist under some sort of separate but equal détente,
but that both are, if pursued with methodological integrity, independent and
yet complimentary sources of truth.
True enough, not all Christians view human
reason so positively. And, true as well, there are those who view science alone
as a source of truth, dismissing
revelation as something that can never be demonstrated in scientific terms.
They therefore conclude that discussions about God and God’s
activity in the world only impede the search for truth and
so do not belong on a university campus.
This means that a major aspect of human experience, religious faith in all
its forms, is ruled out of bounds on many campuses. As I see
it, however, institutions,
such as Marquette, that encourage the study of religious faith and revelation
are in that respect more open to understanding the human condition in all its
So where exactly does this place Marquette along the Darwinism/Creationism
spectrum? While a university community ought to be open to debate on this
as well as anything
else, here at Marquette most professors who would concern themselves professionally
with this topic might say something like this.
First, while evolution may
technically remain a scientific hypothesis, it has proven
extraordinarily productive in
terms of explaining a great many facts in our natural world and is very
by a vast array of fossil evidence. Consequently, it must be taken very
Secondly, the account of creation in the first two
chapters of Genesis is not a literal history or scientific
statement nor was it ever intended as such.
Among other things, Genesis 1 is a conscious parody of a Babylonian creation
That is, Genesis argues that God is the sole ultimate creator of the
universe, that God accomplished this simply by a word of command,
and that God views the created universe as “good.” Because this biblical text is
a theological narrative and not a scientific account, it does not contradict
evolution or any other scientific theory. On the other hand, if science attempts
the ultimate origins of the universe by random causality alone, it
really is overstepping its methodological bounds. For just
as the Bible does not purport to be a scientific text, so
natural science can only speak about the natural world and natural
causality and therefore
must, if remaining true to its own methodology, leave open the question
of ultimate causality. That is, scientific methodology can
neither affirm nor deny the existence
of God since by definition it only deals with material causes, and
in religious understanding God is always deemed to be immaterial.
Having said all this,
I well recognize that questions of this magnitude will continue to provoke
debate as we humans continue to seek greater understanding
of ourselves and the universe around us. Such debates are a necessary part
of the intellectual work proper to a university, Marquette most certainly
Understanding better how we humans came to be leads naturally
to the question of why we are here. Such a consideration
also goes very directly to the
core of a Marquette education as we strive to graduate men and women
who are confident
in their abilities, cognizant of their responsibilities to other human
beings, and committed to fulfilling the unique purposes for which we
has placed each of us on this planet.