Thursday, August 19, 2010

Augustine on Genesis

Ernan McMullin is a distinguished philosopher of science. He gave a talk "Darwin and the other Christian Tradition" at a conference last year. Here is the abstract.

The leading theologian of the early Christian church, Augustine of Hippo, argued against taking the Six-Day account of the creation literally (in our sense of that term) and proposed instead that the Creator implanted the seeds of all the living kinds in the original creation, each to mature when conditions were right. Aquinas later regarded this as a viable interpretation. Perhaps it was the turn to biblical literalism in the sixteenth century and the reliance on the literal Six-Day account in the natural theology of the seventeenth century that sent this alternative reading of Genesis into decline. In any event, it seems to have been almost forgotten, only to be recalled soon after the appearance of The Origin of Species, when its obvious consonance with the Darwinian account was noted by several Catholic writers, among them St. George Mivart. In the years that followed it was emphasized by a sequence of Catholic writers reflecting on the significance of the theory of evolution for the Christian view of creation. It was rarely noted outside the Catholic tradition and, quite surprisingly, has played hardly any role in the evolution/creation debates of recent years.

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