PBS concluded a four part series tonight, Nova: Becoming Human. It was a study of anthropological study of evolution, examining the development of the fossil record from the beginning of the journey of the human species. I highly recommend it.
To quote the wisdom of Louis Black (for the pro-evolution camp)when bemoaning the label "theory" that was attached to "evolution"... FOSSILS, FOSSILS!! FOSSILS!!!
I remember too of the wisdom of my earliest priest mentor. From the first moments of my life on earth, through the first ten years of my priesthood, Fr. J.J. Delaney, - Diocese of Sault-Ste-Marie, who has been the most primal source of my understanding of what it means to be a priest. He was the priest who baptized me into the Church as an infant. He was there through the transition of the Catholic world from the latin world of the 1950's through to implementation of those first steps of Vatican II. He was the homilist at my first mass, I at his funeral.
"Know your enemy" he would thunder from the pulpit as he rallied the town in the fight for miners rights; "know your enemy" he would speak to me, in moments of counsel and advice. "Learn the arguments of those who would challenge the faith so that you might best him on his own ground."
Therefore, no matter one's position on evolution, creationism or intelligent design there are good reasons to watch this series.
For me, I recommend the series another another reason: the amazing convergence of Thomism and anthropology in the past 30 years.
Archeology is now proving, that by the standards of science itself, the essential element which marked the start in the genetic evolution of the human genus, was the understanding of the "divine-other". The first intelligence was the knowledge of God.
A God that received and appreciated offerings: a species certainty of an intelligent "other" that ordered life. That moment gave birth to culture, to morality, to the knowledge that there is a pattern to all that exists which "yearns" (Rm 8:22) for fulfillment.
Faith is the lens that we can watch series such as this PBS Nova series and see within it that the essential element of what it is to be human is knowledge of God, a.k.a., faith.
Science tells us that all that is human today can be traced back to a small handful of individuals. They grew from one of the few habitable areas of the earth during the last great ice age, in the southern region of south Africa. A temperate verdant oasis of the remnants of millions of years of biological life on a planet which was rendered virtually inhabitable by ice and desert. There was the one single place where all humans alive today came from.
Is it just me, but is that not also what Genesis teaches? That from the moment the first humans came to understand the knowledge of the tree of life, the poison which stole our innocence with the knowledge of life and death, mankind began a journey away from the Garden from which they had been expelled to exercise dominion over the earth. Science describes the same process.
Faith is not incompatible with science, for with faith we can see within every single element of creation the reflected image of the Creator. From astrophysical descriptions of the shape of the universe, through to the world of the quantum elements which are described in the physics of the very small, we find the blueprint of the "first caused, uncaused", the "first mover, unmoved" and "first knower, unknown". The knowledge of the Divine is a free gift of the Creator. It is essential to acknowledge that we can only know "of God" that which is revealed and made known through God. Jesus, the perfect embodiment of Emmanuel, the teachings of sacred scripture and those tantalizing glimpses of the Divine plan which sciences grants to us guides the study of His creation. Is science not then a support to faith and not its' substitute?
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