“Evolution and Faith: What Is the Problem?”, an essay by Georgetown University Distinguished Professor of theology John F. Haught, was published earlier this year by the Portsmouth [RI] Institute for Faith and Culture. 

Having asked the same question myself many times, I read the article with excitement and interest.

I am no scientist, and admittedly, even after reading several books on Darwin, I don’t fully grasp his theory.

But if God is the maker of all that is seen and unseen: it is simply impossible that science could be at odds with religion. If it seems to be, it’s because we have misunderstood, misinterpreted or misconstrued God.

That’s because we see things from our human standpoint, and from a human standpoint our major goals are always 1) to avoid  suffering and 2) to amass as much power, property, and prestige as possible. We assume a “loving” God must want those things for us as well.

So we reject God as antithetical to our idea of love, instead of accepting the Trinitarian God and re- examining our idea of love.

In the beginning was the Word—and I wonder if, in the simplest terms, God and therefore love are built on, formed around, the idea of story. Atheists have no story; followers of Christ have the greatest story ever told.

If life is not to be inert, static, one-dimensional, boring, we need drama and story built into the whole notion of ongoing creation. Drama is not possible without conflict, desire, obstacles—which is to say without suffering.

Moreover, the laws of science have to be immutable. In order to perpetuate the species, natural laws have to be in effect that over time favor the strong, the intelligent, the able-bodied and minded. “The rain falls on the just and the unjust,” as Christ observed, which is perhaps another way of saying (among other things) that the fittest do indeed survive.

To the nonbeliever, Haught points out, this suggests “an indifferent and mindless universe.”

But from an unschooled layperson’s, admittedly intuitive point of view, Christ’s whole ministry was in one way a transcending—a fulfilling, as he put it—of these immutable laws of nature.

His mission wasn’t to abolish the laws of nature, but rather to establish that even with those laws in place, we can live in interior freedom, integrity and love.

In his Cross and Resurrection, Christ gathered all of creation to himself: all those who had been born in chronological time before him and never had a chance to follow him. All those in hell, where he descended for three days after his death. All those who have died or will die forgotten, discarded, abandoned, in agony; all failures, losers, misfits: all those disordered by a propensity to sin. All those too weak to survive, prosper and procreate in this red-in-tooth-and-claw world.

In so doing, he assured that in nature’s scheme, we may be dispensable; in God’s scheme not a sparrow falls but what He knows.

The world favors the strong; God favors the poor in spirit.

The world favors efficiency: God favors love and extra, “useless” labor that love inevitably entails: “Who would not leave the ninety-nine and go in search of the one lost sheep? “

The driving goal of strong, healthy parents may be to produce strong, healthy offspring. But Christ asked: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?…Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

In his infinite humility and love, in offering up his only Son, in a sense God voluntarily constrained himself from using more power than he gave us. He will accompany us, suffer with us, suffer insofar as possible, as Christ did on the cross, for us. Suffer, in the Eucharist, as us.

But he won’t interfere. He won’t force. He won’t do for us what we could do for ourselves. Children will suffer: he gives us the hearts, hands, and strength to succor them. Natural disasters, illness, old age will cause untold numbers of deaths: ditto.

As Haught observes: “Debates about God and evolution are usually so obsessed with the idea that God is a “designer” that the biblical sense of God as an infinite self-giving love that opens up an ever new future for the world goes unnoticed.”

Science can discover the intricacies of human conception; it can’t form the human conscience so as to cherish and protect all life.

Science can give us astrophysics; it can’t explain why we weep at the sight of the stars.

Science can describe the phenomenon of human starvation: it cannot begin to “explain” St. Maxmilian Kolbe, who offered himself up to die in place of a fellow prisoner in a bunker at Auschwitz.

Science has a word, in other words, and a fascinating word: but science never has the last word.

The last word is the same as the first Word. The alpha and the omega: Christ.


  1. Barbara Schmidt-Runkel says: Reply

    Hello Heather, the link doesn’t work.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Sorry, Barbara, it’s fixed now: thanks for letting me know!

  2. Heather–entirely possible the problem is on my side, but I am not getting the link to your Archdiocese article from this blogpost.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Right you are–so sorry, fixed!

  3. I do not have the education to understand all the writer is explaining. I do believe there is a direction to our world and our lives that must exist in the mind of God. He made us in his image. We are being transformed into that image by grace and creation itself shares in that destiny. Our drama is unfinished . I do not see a conflict in God giving a meaning to our existence as well as having a plan or design, as we do participate in it. We are being changed into His glory. How all that works out is beyond my understanding. We are not puppets, we do have a freedom with dignity.As St Paul said, what is ahead is beyond anything we can imagine.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Right, Ingrid! In fact, the point of my reflection, if you were able to read it, is that we don’t need degrees in science nor theology in order to filter our own experience and hearts through the lens of the Gospels–“Survival of the fittest” is the credo of this world–but Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. Science can describe things–and that is in its own way wondrous and useful–but it can’t “explain” or “solve” the human condition. That doesn’t mean science and faith are antithetical to one another–simply that faith subsumes and transcends science. “I came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law”…Those are just the musings of a layperson, unschooled in theology, but schooled as much as any of us are, in life. Thanks for weighing in–

  4. Tom Still says: Reply

    The world was a formless mass, and the sprit moved over the waters. What happened, before then, has nothing to do with me. What happens since, whenever it was in time does. He creates them male, and female, in His image, and likeness. Darwin preaches a badspel of endless, violent, competition ( like the monopoly capitalists, of his day, practiced, and still do). Only the last one standing is actually ‘fit’. His buddy, Marx, says the same thing, Endless violence, death to the ‘other’. Who wants to live this way? Experience does not verify their ideas. All yearn for peace, for a lack of violence, for love. Darwin despised love, even his own. Marx preaches hate, with vigor. I have been allowed to see into the depths of my heart. My deepest desires, my greatest need, was for a lover. One, who is perfect. One who loves me permanently. One who loves me passionately- so much that, even if it is I who do it, they love me before, during, and after, I torture, and kill them. A lover who loves ME this way. Jesus Christ, crucified, is this lover. Those who deprive me of Him, are agents of Lucifer. This desire of mine, this need, and this love of Jesus Christ, is inside of, and offered to, every human person. Only as a Catholic may I experience the complete presence of this lover- including the Authority He gives to the Church, and it’s Officials. Evolution, schmevolution. Live to hate, to compete, to be the last one standing, or live to love, to cooperate, to help everyone to stand? What is your experience?

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Tom–my experience is written in every blog post, book, essay, and in particular in the reflection I posted–obviously-love-and to the most broken, fallen, fragmented and imperfect, in and among us. In short, we are totally on the same page–Blessings to you–

  5. This ripe, dripping delicious white peach I’m enjoying whilst reading your reflection suddenly seems lovingly gifted to me this bright, early morning…its natural origin, Genus and species necessarily intact somewhere… indeed, someplace easy to reference should I require further study. But not now. I am in Your presence. I simply desire to marvel its blessed beauty. What mystery of mysteries should desire its creation and evolution across the centuries, cultures, terroirs and oceans to find purpose and a place in my heart…a beholding presence that tugs me deeper still by its warm splash of colours and its sweet, alluring perfume…are those wondrous hints of as far as the eye can see sun-drenched orchards on earth, as it is in heaven?!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      In brief, Philippe–yes! Long live white peaches–and you are a poet! Thank you for this–

  6. “Science has a word … but science never has the last word.” The truth and humility in that statement reminds me of one of my favorite Piet Hein Grooks*:

    Simply Assisting God

    I am a humble artist
    moulding my earthly clod,
    adding my labour to nature’s,
    simply assisting God.

    Not that my effort is needed;
    yet somehow, I understand,
    my maker has willed it that I too should have
    unmoulded clay in my hand.

    * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piet_Hein_(scientist)

    Wonderful piece, Heather! (P.S. Hot enough for you here in AZ?🥵)

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Love this, Bill, so on point and so true, the poem! As for AZ in June–thank the Holy Trinity for A/C. Holding steady, though–as you know, we figure out how to adjust…off to noon Mass, then to have my oil changed! The fun never ends. Thanks for all and stay cool–

  7. Christopher says: Reply

    It’s looks like at least one of the comments and maybe even the post itself is misunderstanding the term ‘ survival of the fittest’ ( not a term coined by Darwin) In reality fittest rarly means the most aggressive or violent. Fittest could mean the clerverest or the best camouflaged, it could mean those that care most for their young. It is a term that has been misused particularly in commerce, to justify greed. Its not a term which is in conflict with the teaching’s of Christ. In many ways Christ taught us how to survive. He saw that largely human behaviour as practiced was a path to self destruction. This is coming to pass now. What does fittest mean now in this world, how should we be to survive?

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Right, Christopher, agreed, but whatever it means, the point of the post was that Christ doesn’t try to upend or eradicate the phenomenon that the strongest, smartest, cleverest, best camouflaged “win” or survive. The point of my reflection was that Christ gathers unto himself all those who have NONE of the traits that allow people to “get ahead,” or make their way in the world, whatever those traits might be… I know, because he has been doing it for me my whole life…

      1. christopher clack says: Reply

        But how do you know you have NONE of the traits? What you have my be what is truly required for us to survive.

        1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

          Could be!

          1. christopher clack says:

            Thanks for replying:-)

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