Chapter 3 The Theory of Evolution

Praise Him sun and moon, Praise Him hills and rivers,

Praise Him all the creatures of the sea, the birds of the air,

Let all that has breath, Praise the Lord.

As early as the year 1947, I felt the need to face the Theory of Evolution! I was bent on preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. But then, I began to hear people beginning to say that there was no Creator of all, but only blind evolution. People were beginning to ask if they were created in the image of God or were they descendents of apes. Was there any meaning in life? Are we struggling just for survival? Do we have a destiny?

I was struck recently by the words of Stephen Hawking of Cambridge, who visited Hong Kong in June 2006. He actually brought up the questions of :”Where are we from? And what is the meaning of our life?” He is an enemy of religion and especially of Christianity and answers to him are as pressing as they seemed to me sixty years ago./

These are indeed serious questions and need to be addressed. In my world

view, this beautiful world comes from God, Our Father, who is near us, as Protector and Guide, but also as always keeping us in being and closer to us than our breathing. We are destined to be with God for all eternity. All is a gift from God. This is the basis of our praise and thanksgiving and Christian living. “Evolution” seemed to confront us with opposite thinking. I determined to equip myself to meet his challenge.

Evolutionary thinking seemed a challenge to Christian Truth and teaching. People with a scientific frame of mind needed some one to talk their language and lead them to Christian Faith and Living. Turning away from the ambition to be a medical doctor helping people in their pain and suffering, I wanted to concentrate on the issues of how to think of ourselves and how to live in this world. I wanted to be qualified to deal with those of an “evolutionary frame of mind”.

Even today sixty years later, I see the challenge to Christian Faith from secularists and some of the scientific community. Natural Selection seems to be “scientific”, but is it the truth to govern our lives. The universe is not only evolving but does it have meaning? Does Science teach that only the fittest survive in this evolving world and that is all! I am thinking not only of names like Charles Darwin, but Stephen Hawkins to day, and many other who follow this line of thought.

This was also in my mind as I struggled in the following years with my future. When I sensed my call to be a Jesuit, the challenge of “evolution” was also in my mind. In 1953, I was at the stage of university studies in Dublin with thirty other young Jesuits. I had been interviewed some months previously about what I should study at university. The first option seemed to be Physics, to lead to Geophysics as a major, with Mathematics and Botany as minor subjects. Talking to Professors of these subjects, I felt I was most welcome to take such a choice. Thinking of what it entailed, I finally made my decision by the third week of September 1953. I applied and was accepted for studies at the College of Science in Zoology, Botany and Geology. I considered this a good preparation to deal with “The Theory of Evolution”, as I would familiarize myself with scientific thinking on our universe and forms of life.

My choice of subjects involved five afternoon periods of laboratory work. I was on my own as a Jesuit, while the other young Jesuits were studying English, Latin, French, Irish, History, Physics, Chemistry or Mathematics, No young Jesuit had by that time ever enrolled in Geology in that university, as it was a subject taken mostly by students of Engineering. I finished my degree course, often being the only other student of the subject at lectures!

I got to know those who taught me personally, and in the process many other people. I was a sight in my immaculate black clerical suit, wearing a black hat! But I was not a good student, never buying any textbook, or reading anything outside what I had to know from my lectures. I had fun. I was popular and outstanding- but not as a scientist or serious student.

The fieldwork involved in the three subjects was very demanding on me, as I am not capable of drawing and I was weak in writing up descriptions and the deficient in analytical work. But I got acquainted with these fields of study and their methodology. Positive Sciences involves observations and drawings, measurements and analysis, and this is mostly done in the laboratory, with a minor part in fieldwork. There was the continual effort to be objective through measurements and relating things to each other, rather than to self or people. The Theory of Evolution was mentioned as a help to place things in series, but there was never any mention of the opinions of those who challenged religious teaching. This is very wise, as subjects have their methods and also their limitation.

When it came to university graduation in 1956, I was the only one to get my B.Sc. Degree in Natural History, among the 180 science students, who were mostly graduating in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Botany and so on. I then went on to study Philosophy. I was always thinking how I could use what I learned in preaching or helping people in their Christian life and thinking.

My present stance on Evolution is that there is an obvious development in the natural world. I see the value of fossil evidence, and accept the concept of geological development of our present planet and of all living things. I do not see the world in a static state- it is constantly changing. Some would like to say things are evolving with no meaning, but people of Faith say that God is continually present and working in keeping all in existence and guiding events.

What is “scientific” is limited to relating what we know to other things that we know by observation and measurement. Science does not talk of Beauty and Truth, or of the ultimate origin of things. That belongs to Metaphysics and Religion, or even Literature!

My training in the positive sciences involved careful description of forms of life and an analysis of what is found in nature and in the laboratory. We deal with scientific evidence, comparing and contrasting. Hypotheses are made to explain and then experiments devised to substantiate that thinking. The Theory of evolution is used to put things in sequence and give an explanation in terms of the evidence observed. In Botany and Zoology, there is just an acceptance of evolution. In Geology, there is a perspective of the evolution of our present world in terms of millions of years. It is probable that things happened in a time scale this way. As for human life, it is very recent geologically! I can also say that I have seen great changes in scientific thinking as the years pass. New evidence gives rise to new theories and explanations.

As to the origin of the human race, and of the world and universe, there are many models or theories. Scientifically speaking, there is no need to bring God into the picture, because we are dealing with positive sciences, which means relating what is measurable and repeatable in a laboratory. Science tries to make sense of data in terms of other things that are visible. Religion is on another level, which we could say is of Faith and the Heart, or Authority and Tradition.

Christianity is Christ centered, who leads us to the Father. Figurative language is always used to lead us to Truth. The methods we use determine the limits of what we know. For example, as a scientist we do not say something is beautiful, as it means relating to ourselves. Beauty is something outside science, but very much to do with being human. It is the same with meaning. Science deals with functions and cycles, not with meanings.

Today, there is controversy over teaching Intelligence Design at secondary level- meaning to teach that there is only random selection and blind development in nature. Intelligent Design leads us to God! Intelligent Design leads us to bow to the Sovereign Lord and Creator of all. That is surely religious teaching and the world of Faith.

Certainly the belief in God and Christianity involves an act of Faith. This is always free and never a mathematical conclusion. As long as people have been on earth, there has been this free choice given to each person. All I can teach is that there is strong rational evidence for acceptance of Faith, but it never compelling. We are free in face of Our Creator and Lord.

In my early teens I was aware of the so called conflict between Science and Religion, which other people see as a conflict of traditional thinking and scientific reasoning and logic. Now I see it as a difference in methods and ways of thinking.

God did not created the world in the sense that I could say I painted this beautiful picture. God is creating the world and keeping it in existence. God can be with me, and within me, and in fact is guiding me! That is religious truth and faith. It is to be presented to the scientific community as the ultimate explanation, which they are to verify in their hearts.

Verification is very much a scientific pursuit. Statements are authenticated and given assent if they are reasonable and based on what is accepted as truth- deduced from principles and assumptions, and verified by experiment and reduction to principles, postulates and assumptions and consistence.

From a historical perspective, in the 1550s there was known as the Copernican Revolution. People had imagined that the world was flat, that we were the center of creation. Poor Galileo had a rough time, even from the Church. He made observations and understood that the earth was revolving around the sun. His calculations were based on measurements and relations of things to one another, rather than imagining and seeing things related to self. Galileo was a Christian and did not want to contradict Church teaching, but he persisted in explaining his observations, which most Church people could not understand. In an astronomical sense, humans are just a speck in reality- they are not the center of the universe! But in Christian thinking, God is Father of us all, and made all to help us to come to eternal life which begins by our loving each other as He loves us.

Preachers and those who proclaim the Good News of Salvation should respect scientific conclusions, made with enlightened reasoning and sincere understanding. There is just more than what we can conceive in science or even philosophy. There are the mysteries of Faith, which reasoning can lead us to, but which the heart has to accept with intelligent understanding.

Teaching Biology and reading scientific papers just takes evolution as a given. As for the Intelligent Design in the universe, there are reservations, as it does not fall in with strict scientific observation and thinking. Science just limits itself to speaking about what it does in observation and experiment. As for the ultimate explanation, which many scientists and philosophy love to discuss, I see it as the realm of Faith and Christian Revelation. Faith ultimately bows before the Mystery of Reality and God, and says I BELIEVE.

Christian Faith is presented in terms of ordinary life. Stories are used to give the Truth. Science is an endeavour to explain reality in terms of relations to things to each other. It is not in the realm of religious truth, which is often spoken of as knowing with the heart.

On the part of scientists, there is little acceptance of what cannot be tested in a laboratory. Deeper than this is the understanding of knowledge at different levels. Each study and discipline has its limits and competence. Even in school, the different subjects have their terminology and specific approaches. With researches at university level, there is the desire to unify knowledge and have inter disciplinary approaches. There is the glittering dream of achieving “formula” or “equation” which explains everything. The Theory of Evolutions seems to offer this explanation. But what is deeper is the theory of knowledge, reality and objectivity.

Most people think of knowing as seeing. There is no doubt that we need pictures or models to start our analysis and conclusions. Those of a mathematical frame of mind know that when they know they are not imagining. They are making conclusions as a result of logical steps and of grasping the relations which make it logical or conclusive. They use symbols to make statements. However, if our thinking is only visualizing we are far from being scientific and objective. What is true eventually is not imaginable but consistent with principles, intelligible and reasons.

All truth leads of the knowledge of God, but we have to be sure what we mean by God who calls us to be co-creators. Everything depends on God- all it a gift of God.

Evolution has been as excuse for a view that there are only the survivors of the fittest. There is based an excuse for getting ahead at the expense of others, while I teach that we are to be managers of God’s creation, living in respect of Our Creator and our brothers and sisters, working for a civilization of love, not a jungle of selfish competition.

I look on the theory of evolution as a tool to lead us a way to explain the evidence we discover in nature. This is implicit in most of so called scientific thinking. The issue becomes where is it leading? Is there any meaning in life? I now smile at all those worried about the challenges that science seem to have on Christian Faith. I feel the challenges of social injustice and the oppression of people is more pressing. Then the apprehension of the limits of our expertise and knowledge needs always to be present.

In fact, I left the university in 1956 for another field of study, which showed me my limitations and inability to contribute to the conversations on the philosophy of science and the congruence of scientific truth with what the human mind can know.

Such then were my endeavours in my vocation to be a Jesuit in the modern world. Many other talented people also struggled with this mission. I did it in my small way, and formed myself for the future.

第三章 進化論





早在一九四七年,當我一心去傳播耶穌基督福音時,我覺得需要面對「進化論」,我開始聽到有人說:世上是沒有創造者衹有難解的進化,有人問,人是否上帝依祂的模樣創造出來的,或者人是猿人的後代呢? 生命有甚麼意義呢? 我們是否衹為生存而掙扎呢? 我們有命運嗎?




時至六十年後的今天,我看到非宗教主義者和一些科學團體對基督信仰的對抗,自然淘汰看似很符合科學規律,但這是否控制我們生命的真理? 宇宙不單止在進化,還有其他意義。科學教義指出在進化的世界中,適者生存,這是否代表一切呢? 我想到的不止是查理達爾文這些名字,還有今天的霍金,和很多其他跟從這種想法的人。



我於一九五六年畢業,全班一百八十名理科畢業生,我是唯一一個主修博物學(Natural History) 而取得理科學士學位的。之後其他一百八十名理科生,大多是主修數學、物理學、化學、植物學等,我繼續修讀哲學,我無時無刻都在想著,如何以我所學來傳道或幫助基督徒的生命和思想。

我個人對進化的觀點是: 在大自然的世界堿O有很顯著的發展,我明白化石的証據是很有價值的,我認同我們現在地球的地質是不斷在發展這個觀念,我不認為世界是在一個靜止的狀態,而是在不停的改變,有些人喜歡說事物的進化是沒有意義的,但有信仰的人會說上主常與我們同在,衪令萬物生長和帶領著我們。