With the development of the human brain, the nature and rate of evolution were permanently altered: with the introduction of the uniquely human factors of consciousness, intentionality, freedom and creativity, biological evolution was recast as social and cultural evolution." (From the International Theological Commission, headed by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger now Pope Benedict XVI, statement "Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God," plenary sessions held in Rome 2000-2002, published July 2004) The purpose of this article is to reveal the scientific evidence in favor of an old earth and (more controversial) macroevolution (defined as "the theory of universal common descent with gradual modification").
Much of my material I have borrowed from the comprehensive Talk site, as well as the books I have listed below.
By means of it a series of independent data and facts can be related and interpreted in a unified explanation.
A theory's validity depends on whether or not it can be verified, it is constantly tested against the facts; wherever it can no longer explain the latter, it shows its limitations and unsuitability. "Furthermore, while the formulation of a theory like that of evolution complies with the need for consistency with the observed data, it borrows certain notions from natural philosophy.
It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge.Hence the existence of materialist, reductionist and spiritualist interpretations.What is to be decided here is the true role of philosophy and, beyond it, of theology." (Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, October 22, 1996) One translation of the above text can be found at the Catholic Information Network site -- another translation from the French is James Akin's Nazareth site. Father Robert Dempsey, editor of the English-language L'Osservatore, said Nov.(3) All men have descended from an individual, Adam, who has transmitted original sin to all mankind.Catholics may not, therefore, believe in "polygenism," the scientific hypothesis that mankind descended from a group of original humans [that there were many Adams and Eves].He also spelled out the condition on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith, a point to which I will return." JPII begins this section by reminding us that the encyclical of Pius XII considered the theory of evolution worthy of investigation and in-depth study, but on the condition that evolution should not be considered "certain" or "proven" or that it contradicts or totally prescinds divine revelation.Before I continue with the JPII message, I want to summarize the teaching of the 1950 encyclical Humani Generis.In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life.While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5 - 4 billion years ago.23 by the daily L'Osservatore Romano." The translation from the French that the theory of evolution is "more than a hypothesis" lines up with the context of the next sentence which states that "this theory [singular] has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge" and further that the convergence of the results of independently-conducted scientific work "is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory" [again singular].JPII does later suggest "we should speak of several theories of evolution" but in the sense of the possible mechanisms of evolution (natural selection, etc) and the various philosophical constructs and viewpoints of people who accept biological evolution (materialist/naturalist, reductionist, spiritualist/theistic, etc).