A reader struggles with Polygenism and Genesis

A reader struggles with Polygenism and Genesis March 19, 2014

So, I’m sure you’ve heard this/discussed this/etc before, but I’m trying to reconcile my viewpoint on Adam and Eve, and I’m hoping you can help me.

Modern science contradicts a literal understanding of the creation of man. (Being Catholic, I’m not one for a fundamentalist view of the Bible, obvs)

Now, I don’t doubt the biblical account, but I do tend to lean on the side of allegory. However, I’ve read what Pope Pius IX had to say about monogenism and polygenism, and that we have to believe that all of us come from one set of parents, and that the story of Adam and Eve is not a wholly allegorical story. (Forgive me if I oversimplify that. Perhaps you can add some clarification).

At one point in time, I believed that everything up until Abraham was pretty much an allegory, meaning that it spoke truth about God and mankind, but didn’t happen exactly as it was written, and I still think there’s room for that viewpoint, but, going back to Pius, it seems I’d be in the wrong to believe it outright. Specifically on the mono/polygenism.

My current view is more like this: I believe that evolution and belief in God are totally compatible. The only way I can see to reconcile this viewpoint with reason is to believe that Adam and Eve were either the very first or among the first fully evolved, conscious, rational humans, and God chose them to establish a relationship with mankind by revealing himself and giving them a soul. He tested them, they failed, and thus the fall of man.

Now, I’ve heard it stated that Adam and Eve solely populated the world, but I’ve also heard it said (an idea I tend to lean towards) that there were other humanoids/neanderthals/’children of the earth” at the time, which would account for Cain fearing for his life after he murdered his brother, or him finding a wife. Of course, if that were true, were they soulless?

Honestly, this doesn’t pose any threat to my belief in God or His Church. But, as I’ve written to you about before, I’m very interested in the apologetics life. I’m also a sucker for theological/philosophical problems/exercises. This one is stumping me a bit. Can you give a little clarification to this mess of words and rambling? Do I misunderstand the Pope, or the meaning of allegory, or science, or Genesis?

Much appreciated!

See this piece (and the links in it too, especially Mike Flynn’s piece):

As to the question of Pius XII and polygenism, go here.

At various times in the Church’s history the Magisterium will cautiously say, “Hold your horses. Let’s take things slow.” So, for instance, before Nicaea, a local council actually forbade the use of “homoousious” to describe the Godhead. Why? Because the Church needed to hammer out what that word meant. Later, at Nicaea, it was adopted. Pius XII essentially says, “I don’t see how polygenism can fit with the Church’s tradition”. That’s not the same thing as saying it can’t. And so what is significant is what he does *not* do: He does not issue a definition here but simply urges that nobody run off into the blue declaring it a done deal.

We know a *lot* more about biological systems than we did when Pius wrote Humani Generis and one of the main things *Catholic* scientists are telling theologians is “Don’t bet the farm on monogenism.” So theologians are accordingly taking that into their cogitations. I will not at all be surprised if the Church, having noodled the matter for some 60 years (an eyeblink in the life of the Church), says “Okay, let’s talk about how polygenism can be reconciled with the Tradition. Flynn is already doing a bangup (and thoroughly Thomistic) job pointing the way to how that might be done. Like you, I see no serious difficulties for the faith here.

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