Evolution and the Age of the Earth
Does the Catholic Church teach that the Earth is 6000 or 4.5 Billion Years Old?
Like the theory of evolution the Catholic Church has no official teaching on the age of the Earth. Catholics are free to believe that the Earth is 6000 years old or that it is 4.5 Billion years old. The Catholic Church simply teaches that everything was created by the of Hand God in His own "time" and design. Many biblical scholars have concluded from the Bible that the earth is roughly 6000 years old. They have done this by going through Biblical genealogy (from Adam to Jesus to current) and counting the number of years. This gives them a time span of approximately 6000 years.
Scientist on the other hand have calculated the age of the earth by using radiometric dating and dating rocks from the earth, the moon, as well as meteorites and other geologic deposits.
So who is right, the Biblical scholars or the scientists? The Catholic Church teaches that we are free to believe either side of the debate as long as we stay within the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Did the Flood created all the layers of Sedimentary Rocks we see?
If Noah's Flood created all the sedimentary rocks then:
Wouldn’t the dinosaurs, mammals, and all the plants be on the bottom of the fossil record?
Why do we have animal tracks right in the middle of the fossil record?
Once the dinosaurs, mammals, and all the plants died from the flood water they should not appear in the sediments higher up, but they do. Why?
How do you explain petrified tree remains in the upper fossil record? Can trees grow in the water during a flood? If they did they would have had to grow at an extremely fast rate to outpace the accumulating flood sediments?
How do you explain sedimentary rocks that have depositional features that indicate that they were formed by wind and not water?
How do you explain fossilized mud cracks which occur in sedimentary rocks? Mud cracks do not form in a wet flood event environment.
How do you explain evaporative minerals like gypsum, selenite, and etc. occurring in the middle of so called “Noah flood sediments”?
Lot's to consider on both sides of the debate!
Does the Catholic Church teach Evolution as a Fact?
The Catholic Church is often accused of teaching that evolution is a fact. This confusion often comes through the misinterpretation of Church documents and statements. The Catholic Church has never made an official binding statement which says that evolution is a fact and must be believed by all Catholics. The Catholic Church neither teaches that evolution is true or false, but simply that it is a scientific theory.
The Catholic Church does allow for the possibility that man’s body developed from previous biological forms, under Gods guidance and insists on the special creation of his soul. Catholics are free to believe in evolution (under God's creative hand) and they are also free to believe in the creation story found within the book of Genesis. Catholics are not free to believe that man was created by some random process and that God had no role in it. Doing so would go against the teaching of the Church which says that God created everything visible and invisible. Whichever we believe we should always remain within the teachings of the Catholic Church. We should also remember that the Catholic Church does not make infallible statements on matters of science only on matters of faith and morals. Exactly how man came about through God's creative hand has not been revealed to man by God. It's a mystery!
It's also important to remember that the Biblical authors had very little to no knowledge about science and that it was not their intent to write a book answering questions concerning science or the exact way God created the universe. We should always remember that there are some things that we may never fully understand because God has not revealed them to us. Lastly, the Catholic Church teaches that true science cannot contradict the Faith. As the Catechism states: "methodical research , provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God."
Here is a brief excerpt from Humani Generis on what the Church teaches about Evolution:
(Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine)
Pope Pius XII - Encyclical Promulgated on 12 August 1950
36. For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter — for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faithful. Some however rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.
Scripture Verses on Creation:
(2 Peter 3:8) “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Is one day strictly 24 hrs? Genesis isn’t about how many days God created the Universe – it’s about the fact that God created everything we see and that God created man in His own image to rule over the Earth.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements -- surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk,or who laid its cornerstone.” (Job 38:4-6) We should keep in mind that with God there is no past or present - time as we know it only applies to us.
(Gen 1:13-19) “And there was evening and there was morning, a third day. And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.” How were the first three days measured if God created the sun and the moon on the forth day? How long did these first three days take? 72 hours? 1 week? 4.5 Billion years? Genesis is not a scientific account of how long it took God to create the Universe as some people believe. Again, Genesis was written to convey the truth that God created the universe and man. How he did it and how long it took we will never know. Many skeptics point to this verse and others and try to imply that the Bible contradicts itself so it cannot be considered reliable. These people are reading the Bible out of context and obviously do not understand how to properly interpret scripture.
“And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." (Gen 1:25-26) Beast of the earth were created before Man in this verse.
“Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:19-20) Man created before the beasts of the earth in this verse.
Something to think about: Does the Bible contradict itself in the above two verses? No. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 both convey the truth that God created all things visible and invisible. They are not to be taken as a scientific record of creation. The Biblical author (Moses) had no concept of evolution when he wrote Genesis. The story of Genesis merely conveys the fact that man was created by God to rule the Earth and all it's creatures. This story of creation had been passed down by the Jews long before it was ever written down by Moses.
"And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation." (Gen 2:2) Did God really need rest? No! It is not possible for God to get tired. If we interpret these two verses out of context it is easy to miss the point that the human author was trying to convey.
If you would like to learn more on the above subjects you will find the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the above mentioned Encyclical very helpful.
God - The First Mover
Saint Thomas Aquinas famously laid out five arguments for the existence of God, but he characterized one of them as “the first and more manifest way.” This is the proof from motion, which can be presented simply and schematically as follows. Things move. Since nothing moves itself, everything that is moved must be moved by another. If that which causes the motion is itself being moved, then it must be moved by another. This process cannot go on to infinity. Therefore, there must exist a first unmoved mover, which all people call God. Author: Rev. Robert Barron