Gerry Keane responds to Dr. Mullan
I Am Not a Fundamentalist
by Gerry Keane
The following response by Gerry Keane to Dr Dermott Mullan’s April 2003 article in New Oxford Review was published in the September 2003 NOR edition.
(The Keane response is quite lengthy and it was pleasing to see the rebuttal published by NOR. However some most important points made in the original response submitted by Keane were not published and are included here in Endnotes for the information of readers.)
I Am Not a Fundamentalist
In his article “Fundamentalism Inside the Catholic Church … How Old Is The Earth?” (April), Dermott Mullan has drawn the wrong conclusion in portraying me as a fundamentalist and I reject his misrepresentation.
The term “fundamentalism” has come to have various meanings and is now used mostly in pejorative dismissal of others. Mullan focuses on a narrow definition of fundamentalism as a critique of natural science, but this is not the original and principal meaning of the word. Fundamentalism is more properly defined as a literal interpretation of the Bible without regard to historical or literary context, sacred Tradition, or the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The non-Catholic scholars who wrote The Fundamentals did not have a Magisterium to defer to. Their attempt to find doctrinal authority solely within Scripture was inherently flawed as it lacked an authority outside of Scripture such as that divinely instituted in the Catholic Church.
The Church teaches that every passage in the Bible has a literal sense, and that the proper sense of the term “literal” is the meaning intended to be conveyed by the sacred Writer. As the 1994 Catechism declares, the truth conveyed by the sacred Writer may be given in various forms, one of which is the literal, obvious sense. There are other senses such as the figurative sense, and more than one sense may be employed in some passages. A loyal Catholic who defers to Tradition and the Magisterium cannot without gross misrepresentation be labeled a fundamentalist.
I wish to thank Mullan for stating that I wrote “a well-written criticism of Darwinian evolution.” However, I really addressed what is wrong with evolution per se, of which the Darwinian concept is a modern version. Punctuated equilibrium is another version. Evolution per se is all about the natural gaining of truly new, “higher” genetic information not possessed by one’s ancestors and this has been shown to be impossible. Mullan deserves praise for his courage in openly opposing biological evolution, for this places him in opposition to the strongly pro-evolutionist stance of the 80 members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (whose members include the famous atheist Stephen Hawking).
I am surprised, however, that his article did not mention that my book also examined what is wrong with the idea of Progressive Creation. According to this concept, God created matter and energy and intervened periodically over long ages of time to produce the variety of life forms in the Universe. Those who reject evolution but believe that the Universe is billions of years old, such as Mullan, are driven unavoidably to accept the concept of Progressive Creation (PC), and I submit that PC clashes with Catholic Tradition on several points.
Mullan’s article suggests that long ages be accepted as a “given” and claims that “the first cell could not have come into existence by chance [after billions of years]: It requires the intervention of an Intelligent Designer.” On the contrary, the first cell required an act of Special Creation early in the Creation events, not in a supposed act of intervention billions of years later. Modern scholarship has established that the author(s) of Genesis 1-11 fully intended to give an accurate account of the descent of man from Adam and Eve. It follows that the genealogies in the Bible are reliable (despite Cainan being in contention) and so it follows that Adam and Eve must have been specially created less than 10,000 years ago. According to a literal, obvious reading of Genesis, before the creation of Eve, Adam was called by God to name all the beasts of the earth therefore he must have seen and named the dinosaurs less than 10,000 years ago; the dinosaurs could not have perished mysteriously 65 million years ago as most long ages theorists hold.
Mullan’s article cites the 1909 ruling of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC) on yom allowing the improper sense of a certain space of time, but the same ruling stated that a 24-hour natural day is the proper sense of yom, so let us not forget that the long held belief in a 24 hours day is still permitted by the Church. It is known that the most specific Hebrew term for singular day (yom) was used in the opening passages of Genesis, despite the plural form being available. Moreover, it is generally accepted that the Hebrew word yom preceded by an ordinal number always refers to a 24-hour day. So what actually constitutes the exegetical case for a longer period of time as distinct from theories mainly based on physics? It is not enough simply to imply that the PBC ruling alone validates the case. How can “day” be a symbolic term the very first time it is used in the Bible?
Progressive creationists do not inform us on their belief about what happened on Earth during the supposed 4,499,990,000 years before mankind came into existence (let alone an earlier 10 to 15 billion years while the Universe was supposedly forming). With evolution out of contention, nothing much could have been happening other than entropy having its inevitable bad effects! So why not allow the Creator to create things rapidly, as Isaiah 45 indicates: “I am the Lord God … [who] made the earth and created man upon it …[who] stretched out the heavens …[who] formed the earth … [who] formed it to be inhabited.” God did not make things in the Universe with the appearance of age; that idea arose from mistaken conclusions drawn by modern scientists/scholars who regard the idea of eons of time as a given.
Look again at the rapid creative actions of our gracious Creator/Redeemer. He acted rapidly on many occasions in bringing the dead to life, curing the sick, and turning water into wine. So why not consider the strong possibility that He rapidly implemented the Creation? Indeed, in whom do we trust the trustworthy Creator who cannot deceive, who was present at the Creation events, who ensured that a partial account of Creation was revealed to the sacred Writers, and who was present on Calvary paying the dreadful ransom of torture and death for fallen man or do we believe modern fallible human beings who were not there at Creation and can reach incorrect conclusions?
Another aspect which progressive creationists seem to misunderstand is the Catholic doctrine of Secondary Causes (praised in the Catechism). Biosystems have to be brought into existence rapidly -almost concurrently- so that true interdependence can then begin to function. The idea of various life forms being created at long intervals of time apart doesn’t make sense--plum trees need bees to be around fairly quickly! Thus, interventionist scenarios over eons of time do not truly accord with the reality of Secondary Causes, in which God creates life forms and then lets them run their way without constant tinkering, notwithstanding His use of miracles whenever He sees fit.
Mullan distorts a key directive of Pope Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus: “carefully observe the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity permits.” It follows from this teaching that the onus of proof is definitely upon the person who contends that another sense is superior to the literal, obvious sense. To satisfy this requirement, Mullan has to:
Succeed in overturning the long held belief that the Creation days were 24 hours each. It’s not enough simply to cite various scientific arguments as supposedly providing irrefutable proof that the meaning of each Creation day cannot be 24 hours. There are powerful arguments in exegesis which must be addressed and theological reality is superior to physics.
Show where is the clue given by the Sacred Writer that the Genesis Creation account was intended to be understood completely differently from its literal and obvious meaning.
Show that the Fathers were wrong in holding their unanimous, or near-unanimous, Origins views. Leo XIII insisted that we must believe what the Fathers unanimously believed and none of the Fathers, including Augustine, thought that the days of Creation were longer than 24 hours each. (Origen was not canonized a saint and technically is not properly regarded as a Church Father.)
Show that the Fathers and later Church scholars were wrong in holding that the work of Creation formally ceased at the end of the Creation events (which rules out interventionist creation of truly new life forms afterwards).
Show that the Church got the overall package of Origins beliefs wrong for 1,850 years until the time of Darwin, and that Catholics were misled during all those years.
Mullan faces a formidable task, for once a teaching is declared true in Catholic Tradition it cannot be overturned. There is no getting away from the fact that the Catholic Church (e.g., Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis) officially teaches that Genesis is an historical account of things which truly occurred and that it should not be distorted by revisionist attempts at re-writing history to suit fallible modern scientific theories.
As for proof of eons of time and the consequent revision of Genesis, to what authority do we defer when specialist scientists disagree? The article suggests that the scientific Big Bang/long ages view is irrefutably proven but other competent scientists do not agree (e.g., Halton Arp, the non-Creationist who strongly opposes Big Bang theory; John Woodmorappe, who wrote The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods, concerning the limitations of isotopic-based dates; various physicists associated with the Kolbe Center.) Since objective truth is not determined by majority opinion, then the minority who reject Big Bang theory should not be brushed aside, and genuine counter-induction should be welcomed by all who are seeking the truth. If scientific arguments end up in conflict with objective truth known from Tradition then à la evolution beliefs the conclusions that flow from those arguments are likely to be unreliable.
The very integrity of Genesis is at stake in the Origins debate, and with it the future of Catholicism. How many more young attendees of Catholic schools will drift away from the practice of the Catholic Faith after being fed a poor form of Religious Education often reinforced by either Evolution or Progressive Creation? Let us re-evangelize anew by proclaiming far and wide the truth of God’s Revelation, especially with regard to Special Creation. In this way, let us hope to inspire renewed devotion to Jesus Christ, our awesome and gracious Creator/Redeemer.
Gerard J. Keane
Endnotes: The following important points were included in various places within the original response submitted by Gerry Keane to Dr. Mullan’s article, but they were not published in the NOR September 2003 edition:
Proponents of Progressive Creation (e.g., Hugh Ross) tend to deny the fact of the global Flood of Noah, yet the Flood is firmly held in Catholic Tradition and the 1994 Catechism refers to it as most important in typology. To not believe that there was a global Flood long after the time of Adam and Eve, a cataclysm which gave rise to the strata and fossils and destroyed all except the eight human beings aboard the Ark, and referred to in Scripture by both St. Peter and Jesus Christ is to deny an important foundational Church teaching. If Prof. Mullan does believe that there really was a global Flood less than 10,000 years ago, he must be one of the few long agers’ who hold this view.
Since evolution per se could not have occurred, it is little wonder that the fossil record is devoid of transitional evolutionary stages. Most importantly, neither strata nor fossils can be cited in support of long ages. The fossil record is a vast museum of sudden death which took place long after the sin of Adam and Eve not a supposed record of new creations and extinctions which took place long before the disobedience of our first parents. To avoid admitting that Earth’s strata and its entombed fossils do not date back eons of time, most long agers’ believe the Flood was a series of localized floods which if true means that God’s “rainbow” covenant not to destroy mankind by flood has been broken many times.
All three divine Persons were involved in the Creation, but the Second Person of the Divine Trinity “through whom all things were made” carried out the work of Creation, just as He later carried out the work of Redemption. As the Litany of the Blessed Virgin states, “Mother of our Creator, pray for us!” We know that Christ, in discussing marriage (Mark 10:6), is recorded as asserting “from the beginning of the Creation, God made them male and female.” This passage is much debated but can anyone assert with certainty that Christ did not intend to use the words “from the beginning of the Creation” to affirm that the Creation is “young”?
The specifics of supposed interventions are not enunciated by proponents of Progressive Creation. These “interventions” reduce down to vague gratuitous impositions about which there can be no objective verification it all has to be accepted on faith and yet they regard a literal, obvious reading of the Genesis account as untrustworthy! Further depending on what one believes about the Flood and about the question of death before Adam and Eve sinned the PC package can be open to bizarre concepts such as creatures being eaten alive by predators with great bloodshed, and rampant diseases in existence when God supposedly intervened to create Adam. (Indeed, the Church has long taught that our first parents were created in a tranquil state of paradise. Only after their disobedience did the Universe begin to suffer in travail.)
The notion of an acentric Universe does not sit easily with the Genesis account of Earth being created before the heavens. Moreover, the “lumpiness” of the Universe poses a challenge to Big Bang expectations; with the emerging picture of immense “walls” of clusters of galaxies found in concentric circles beyond the Milky Way.
Just as life forms on Earth display the work of a brilliant unseen Designer look at our own unique fingerprints so also the solar system displays the work of a brilliant transcendent Designer. Scientists still cannot show how the solar system arose naturally from the supposed Big Bang; the very existence of Neptune and Uranus is a nightmare for such a scenario. And there is incredible variety and puzzling aspects within the solar system, such as two moons of Saturn which swap orbits instead of colliding every four years, and tiny shepherd satellites which patrol the “rings” of Saturn.
Since no-one can fully fathom the functioning of our own solar system, how can anyone fully comprehend the origin and functioning of the gargantuan Universe which dwarfs the solar system? A paradigm shift may have to be addressed by Prof. Mullan, for Psalm 32:6 declares, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth.” On what grounds should we rule out the possibility that the Second Person literally stretched out the Universe in the twinkling of an eye, on one of the Creation days, away from the region of Earth?