Franciscan biology department chair addresses church’s position on evolutionary theory


Franciscan University biology professor Dan Kuebler addressed the topic of the Catholic Church and evolution in an Oct. 9 lecture, focusing on the difference between philosophical and scientific arguments about evolutionary theory.

Dan Kuebler, who holds a doctorate in molecular and cell biology and is chair of Franciscan’s biology department, said, “The most important thing is to be able to distinguish evolutionary claims that are philosophical.”

He also addressed the reactions that the church has had to evolutionary theory.

He said that philosophic arguments included those that used evolution to make a claim about the importance or purpose of human life. Scientific arguments, however, can be discussed because they only include information about the change of organisms over time, he said.

Kuebler said that the Catholic Church has not followed a pattern when responding to evolutionary theory in the past. He said that the church’s responses, always unofficial, have varied because of the changes in scientific, historical and geographical issues.

Kuebler used the example of Galileo in support of this idea, saying that the reason Galileo’s writing was not accepted by the church went beyond a conflict between faith and science. It was affected by the Reformation and the fear that people such as Galileo would start to interpret Scripture themselves, he explained.

When Darwin published his work on the theory of evolution, the situation was similar, said Kuebler. The first unofficial church responses to Darwin’s theory were highly negative, he said, but over time, the church started to have a more positive outlook on the theory.

Kuebler used the example of two recent popes, Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He said that both had similar statements, saying that while the soul requires divine intervention, evolution of the human body is a plausible theory and should be researched.

The lecture was attended by both students and faculty and was held in Anathan Theater.


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