Clinging to St. Augustine

An excellent article by Prof. Kenneth Kemp (who was at the recent conference on evolution sponsored by Society of Catholic Scientists), critically reviews a recent intelligent design book by a misguided Dominican priest. But interestingly, Kemp highlights the self-inflicted problem genomics poses to Catholic theology when it comes to original sin, as it is understood in the Western tradition since St. Augustine.

He writes: ‘Many Catholic theologians, starting in the 1960’s have tried to recast the doctrine of original sin in a way that would be consistent with polygenism. This effort was perhaps given added motivation by new genetic evidence that seems to make a monogenetic anthropogenesis practically impossible.’

an ape sitting on concrete
Photo by Petr Ganaj on

Kemp’s not being quite accurate here. The genetic evidence doesn’t seem to make a monogenetic anthropogenesis practically impossible. It unequivocally does.

Then: ‘My judgment about their prospects of success in this effort is not as sanguine as is theirs. In 2011, I proposed an account of the origins of the human race in which an original first fully human (i.e., ensouled) couple interbreeds with their not quite human (i.e., biologically human but not ensouled) relatives in a way that produces fully human offspring and leads, within a few generations, to a biological population every member of which is fully human.’

All I’ll say about this, is what a gentleman in the audience said when he commented on Kemp’s account during a panel discussion at the conference.

‘That seems silly…’