This email is different than the usual rants and threats and claims about creationism disproving evolution — instead, my correspondent claims that the Catholic church knew about evolution all along. All I learned from the letter, though, is that he doesn’t have a clue about what evolution is.
Dear Professor Myers,
I am very confused [Ah, if only he’d stopped there, the letter would have been perfect] as to why you think evolution is incompatible with Christianity. Since its earliest days, Catholics have maintained the mutability of species. For example:
1) Saint Jerome commented on Jeremiah 13:23: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (RSV.) In a letter to Oceanus, Saint Jerome wrote: “By the reading of the prophet the eunuch of Candace the queen of Ethiopia is made ready for the baptism of Christ. [Hang on now…so this eunuch somehow changes the skin color of the queen of Ethiopia to something acceptable to the Catholic church, and this is evidence of evolution? I don’t think so. Racist magic tricks aren’t valid evidence.] Acts 8:27-38 Though it is against nature the Ethiopian does change his skin and the leopard his spots. Jeremiah.” In a letter to Paulinus, he writes “[Jeremiah] speaks of a rod of an almond tree Jeremiah 1:11 and of a seething pot with its face toward the north, and of a leopard which has changed its spots.”[I don’t think Ryan understands evolution at all if he thinks this hodge-podge of biblical nonsense is evidence that they were keeping up with Darwin.]
2) Saint Francis de Sales, in his book Living Love, wrote: “I heard of a little land animal in the Indies that enjoys swimming with fish. By engaging in this activity, it becomes a fish. A land animal actually turns into a marine animal. When we enjoy God, we become conformed to God.” (Living Love, page 69)” [This ain’t evolution. An individual animal magically changing form has nothing to do with evolution. Where’s natural variation and populations changing over time?]
3) Athanasius Kircher, a 17th century Jesuit polymath, thought that environmental pressures caused species to change over time, according to Professor Will Parcell of Wichita State University (http://georegister.org/publications/2010_presentGSA_Kircher.pdf). He also thought that God created a changing world because it “shows forth the infinite power of God and the incertitude of human fate.. [A]ll things are fleeting and subject to the variable fates of fortune and destruction so that [we] might raise [our] minds, studies, soul and intellect, which no created things can satisfy, to sublime and eternal possession, and gaze at God alone, in whose hand are all the powers of the realms and the destines of universal nature.” (translation of Kircher by Goodwin) [This ain’t evolution, either. There were lots of people arguing for the transformation of species before Darwin; where it changed is that Darwin provided a mechanism, and it wasn’t god showing off his immortality by making things die.]
4) Blessed John Henry Newman, writing in 1868, said that “”the theory of Darwin, true or not, is not necessarily atheistic; on the contrary, it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of divine providence and skill.” He also wrote against Paley’s argument, in his book Idea of University, published before Darwin’s publication, saying that it leads to pantheism and belittles God. [You can accept evolution for the most part while believing in some kind of god; you cannot accept the full implications of evolution while believing there is a master plan behind it.]
5) Blessed Pope John Paul II, in 1996, re-iterated that evolution is compatible with Catholicism. [As long as you accept the reality of Adam and Eve and a magical moment of ensoulment sometime back in the paleolithic.]
Please stop hating Christianity. [No. I find nothing of worth in Christianity, and smug ignoramuses quoting bible verses at me confirm my contempt. Thanks for doing your part.] I know it’s trite to say, but Jesus loves and wants you to be happy.[No, he doesn’t exist. And if he did, you have no claim to knowledge of his desires.] You will be in my prayers, [Keep on wasting your time. I’m sure it’s about as effective as this letter.]
Poor Ryan is at the Catholic University of America. He has my profoundest sympathies for his continuing mental debilitation.