Posted: October 26th, 2022

Answering Questions 4

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Many people mistakenly believe that a belief in evolution precludes a belief in God or intelligent design; in other words, some people falsely think that one must be an atheist or agnostic to believe in evolution and the Big Bang. The Catholic Church is one example of a religious institution that has long held the view that evolution and the Big Bang explain ‘how we got here.’ Read the below article


from the Catholic Herald, and then answer the following questions: Why do you think so many people are mistaken about the ability to believe in God as well as evolution and the Big Bang? Do you find anything problematic about combining religious and scientific explanations of the universe? Explain.

NB: In this discussion, students often misuse the word ‘theory’, saying things such as “the Big Bang/evolution are ‘just’ theories.” But to say this is a misuse of the word ‘theory’ as it applies to scientific theory. Many people misunderstand the word as it is used in the realm of science, thinking it to mean a guess, a hypothetical, untested idea. However, in science, ‘theory’ means something different. Please read the article below:

“Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words – Scientific American

Article from the Catholic Herald

By Patrick Cusworth October 31, 2014

Pope Francis’s comments on the Big Bang are not revolutionary. Catholic teaching has long professed the likelihood of human evolution

Perhaps it was inevitable that Pope Francis’ comments on the Church’s position on scientific theories such as the Big Bang and evolution would cause a stir. In his address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope cautioned against the image of God the creator as “a magician, with a magic wand”, arguing that belief in both theories around the beginnings of the universe and the birth of humankind are consistent with the Catholic faith.

“The Big Bang, which is today posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creation; rather, it requires it”, he stated. Similarly, he argued, “evolution of nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation because evolution pre-supposes the creation of beings which evolve.”

Yet despite further murmurings that Pope Francis was beginning (yet another) revolution in Catholic doctrine, it must be pointed out – the Pope’s declaration on either theory has not broken with established Catholic belief in the slightest.

The Big Bang theory, originally hypothesised in 1927 by Jesuit priest and physicist Georges Lemaître, is based on the central proposition that the universe is continually expanding. As a preposition, the universe was originally contained within a single point, in a highly intense state of heat and density. As the universe began to expand it cooled, allowing the formation of subatomic particles, which began a series of physical cosmological processes, which led eventually to the known universe. While this has become the most commonly accepted explanation for the beginnings of the universe, many scientists have previously expressed an instinctive opposition to the notion of a beginning point, since this would represent a question which science could not answer – as Professor Stephen Hawking concluded in his autobiography, “One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God to determine how the universe started off”.

Turning to Pope Francis’ comments on evolution, Catholic teaching has long professed the likelihood of human evolution – albeit with the proviso that this takes place under the guidance of the Creator, and that special creation of the human soul is performed directly by God. As Pope Pius XII stated in Humani Generis (art. 36): “the teaching authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions… take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God”.

Pope John Paul II specifically endorsed this position in his own address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1996, declaring that since publication of the latter encyclical, “new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis… The convergence in the results of these independent studies constitutes in itself a significant argument in favour of the theory”.

While it is refreshing to see the Pope’s pronouncements upon matters scientific reaching and being welcomed by individuals not generally well disposed toward the Church, the implicit suggestion that Pope Francis has somehow brought about a radical change in the Vatican worldview is a misleading one. The Church has a centuries-long history of promoting scientific inquiry – long may it continue.

Works Linked/Cited:

Cusworth, Patrick. “Pope Francis’s Comments On the Big Bang are not Revolutionary. Catholic Teaching Has Long Professed the Likelihood of Human Evolution.” Catholic Herald. 31 Oct. 2014,

Pope Francis’s comments on the Big Bang are not revolutionary. Catholic teaching has long professed the likelihood of human evolution – Catholic Herald

. Accessed 30 Apr. 2018.

Ghose, Tia. “’Just a Theory’: 7 Misused Science Words.” Scientific American. 2 Apr. 2013,

“Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words – Scientific American. Accessed 22 Aug. 2018.

One solution often given for the problem of evil is that evil is part of a divine ‘plan’ or ‘harmony’ that we cannot see. In 1734, Alexander Pope expressed this view in his poem “

An Essay on Man: Epistle I


“All nature is but art, unknown to thee; 

All chance, direction, which thou canst not see; 

All discord, harmony, not understood; 

All partial evil, universal good: 

And, spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite, 

One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.”


For some, however, this answer is unsatisfactory. Evil against children is one example given as a counterargument to this position: why would an all-loving god allow innocent children to suffer? The character Ivan expresses this view in Theodore Dostoevsky’s 1880 novel The Brothers Karamazov:


“I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer. But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them? That’s a question I can’t answer. For the hundredth time I repeat, there are numbers of questions, but I’ve only taken the children, because in their case what I mean is so unanswerably clear. Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It’s beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony.”


Sam Harris

, a neuroscientist and philosopher, addresses this problem in a debate with 

Dr. William Lane Craig

 at the University of Notre Dame. Watch the video below, and then respond to how Harris addresses this specific aspect of the problem of evil, evil against children. What argument does he make in this debate? What is your response to his argument? 

Read the below note carefully before writing your post; responses that do not accurately address the prompt will not receive full credit.

NB: One skill we work on developing in philosophy courses is understanding and summarizing arguments so that we can better evaluate them and respond to them. 

Because students often respond to this post without describing Harris’ argument and without providing a valid response (a valid response is one based on reasons, not simply on personal religious beliefs), I have included the example below as an example of how you should structure your response.

‘My friend Cecelia claims that covid is a hoax created by liberals to make Trump lose the election. She defends her claim by saying that nobody she knows has gotten covid, that the deaths being reported are not from covid but from other causes, and that the media is making everything up because the media is liberal. My response to her argument is that covid is not a hoax. Just because she doesn’t know anyone who has gotten covid, that doesn’t mean it’s not real. For example, I don’t know anyone who has gotten malaria, but, plenty of evidence exists that malaria is real. Just because one doesn’t know someone directly afflicted by a disease, that doesn’t mean the disease isn’t real. Her claim that the deaths being reported are not from covid suggests that every doctor all over the world is in collusion to falsely report causes of death. Maybe there are some doctors who would agree to do that, but not every doctor all over the world who has reported deaths from covid. And her point about the media is also subject to the same criticism. It is very unlikely that the media all over the world is liberal and is making up or even exaggerating covid to cause Trump to lose the election. For example, if that’s the case, why would so many people in the media in places like Japan, France, Australia, Brazil, and many other places, all be conspiring to make sure Trump isn’t elected? So, my friend Cecelia’s argument is weak, at best ’

Your response should take the following form:

‘Harris is arguing that x is the case. He defends his claim with these reasons (list reasons). My response to his argument is….(give specific reasons that directly address his reasons).’

Make sure to follow the instructions given in Unit 1 in the Discussion Forums: Protocol and Grading Criteria folder for making specific references to texts, videos, and podcasts; posts that do not make references according to these instructions will not receive full credit.

After completing the assignments in this Unit, students will have addressed the following measurable learning objectives for the course:  (SLO in parenthesis maps the objective back to the Course Objectives)

· describe major ideas and arguments related to God and the origin of the universe (SLO 2, 4)

· demonstrate understanding of theories and thoughts held by Western philosophers (SLO 2, 4)

· explain key terms in philosophy (SLO 2)

· juxtapose religious beliefs against scientific explanations of the universe (SLO 3, 4)

· analyze arguments given for the problem of evil (SLO 1, 2, 4)

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