.- Commenting on recent evidence that Darwin's theories on competition driving the survival of species may be wrong, one Catholic expert explained that the new information âcould be valid.â In an interview with CNA, Jesuit priest and scholar Fr. Robert Spitzer, also weighed in on the subject of evolution and its compatibility with Catholic theology.
Media outlets have recently buzzed over emerging evidence that the drive for habitat or living space â not competition, as scientist Charles Darwin believed â may have driven the survival of the species.
A recent study conducted by Ph.D student Sarda Sahney and colleagues at the University of Bristol and published in Biology Letters, used fossils to study evolutionary patterns over 400 million years of history, according to the BBC.
In their study, the research team proposed that big evolutionary changes happen when animals move into empty areas, challenging the idea that intense competition for resources in overcrowded habitats is the major driving force of evolution. The recent study ultimately critiques Darwin's widely held view that organisms clashing for dominance where only the fittest survived is what led to the evolutionary process.
CNA interviewed former president of Gonzaga University and noted scholar Fr. Robert Spitzer, who confirmed that âDarwin assumed that competition was what was driving the development of human species and particularly the dominance of one specie over another.â
However, âthere is no way of reaching back in time and finding empirical evidence of that fact.â
The priest explained that âDarwin's theories are based on a series of inferences,â which are rooted in genetics, fossil evidence, empirical evidence and even mere conjecture.
âFor all intents and purposes then, the argument that space may have driven the development of species or one species' dominance over the other could be very much valid and, frankly, just as valid as competition,â Fr. Spitzer said.
âBoth theories could be valid,â he stated, adding that the development of species could also have been driven âby another explanation that we don't yet know of.â
Fr. Spitzer then weighed in on the issue of evolution and the Bible and whether the two are at odds with one another.
âCatholics hold that the Biblical author is inspired,â he said, âand what we mean by inspiration is not that God dictated something to the Biblical author.â Rather, âinspiration means that the Biblical author is using his human capacities â he's using his human categories for things that he understands.â
âIn other words, God's not going to dictate a treatise to him about science that he can't possibly understand,â the scholar added, noting that when God âinspires a biblical author that biblical author is doing something that's important to him in his context and at his time.â
Instead of science being the main focus, the more important topic to a biblical author is âtheology,â said the priest.
âThe biblical author's purpose is not to write science at all,â Fr. Spitzer emphasized, especially given that âobviously science has not even been developed yet.â
âSo, can science and the Bible be reconciled?â he asked. âOf course â the Bible is doing something theological and science is doing science.â
Fr. Spitzer then cited two major encyclicals from Pius XII â âDivino Afflante Spirituâ and âHumane generisâ â clarifying that âCatholics can believe in evolution.â
âThe only real limitation is that we do not believe that the human soul came from an evolutionary process,â he added, âbecause evolutionary processes are material, they're bodily.â
âEven though human embodiment may have evolved over a varied period of time â and it could have evolved even from subordinate species â the human soul is a special creation of God - it transcends the material order.â