Humans are “programmed to seek eternal life in union with God, the personal source and goal of everything that is true and good,” said Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Ph.D., Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society, at the 37th McGinley Lecture, on Tuesday, April 17, at Fordham Preparatory School, on the Rose Hill campus.
The lecture, “Evolution, Atheism and Religious Belief,” drew a large, enthusiastic audience, despite the stormy weather. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, began the evening with a moment of silent prayer for the souls of those killed in the Virginia Tech tragedy and their loved ones. In his introduction, Father McShane noted that Cardinal Dulles, already the author of 750 articles and 22 books, would have a collection of his McGinley Lectures published by Fordham University Press in fall 2007, and that the lecture was the cardinal’s first since he received the Bene Merenti Medal for 20 years of service to the University.
Accompanied on the stage by Vincent J. Duminuco, S.J., rector of Fordham’s Jesuit community, Cardinal Dulles said that the church has consistently maintained that the human soul is created by God, rather than a product of any biological cause. “This doctrine, to my mind, raises the question whether God is not necessarily involved in the fashioning of the human body, since … the human body comes to be when the soul is infused,” he said. “Even though it may be difficult for the scientist to detect the point at which the evolving body passes from the anthropoid to the human, it would be absurd for a brute animal, say a chimpanzee, to possess a body perfectly identical with the human.”
In discussing three ways in which Christians might view evolution, the cardinal said that science can “cast a brilliant light on the processes of nature,” and used correctly can improve life on Earth, but science “performs a disservice when it claims to be the only valid form of knowledge, displacing the esthetic, the interpersonal, the philosophical, and the religious.”