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Editor: Janet Witalec
Date: 2003
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,080 words

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[(review date 23 April 1999) In the following review, Johnson focuses on the papal statement that Gould uses in his analysis of religion and science in Rocks of Ages.]

In October 1996 Pope John Paul II sent a statement on biological evolution to the Papal Academy of Sciences. After some general remarks, John Paul observed that Pius XII's encyclical Humani generis in 1950 had described the theory of evolution as "a serious hypothesis," worthy of in-depth study and not contrary to the Catholic faith--provided that it was not presented as certain, proven doctrine, and that it did not purport to displace entirely the role of revelation in questions of origins. John Paul updated that judgment, saying that since 1950 discoveries have been made in a variety of fields which support the theory, so that now evolution should be regarded as more than merely a hypothesis. "The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory."

Rocks of Ages is basically a heavily padded version of an essay that Stephen Jay Gould wrote about the pope's statement for his regular column in Natural History magazine. Gould quotes the part of the statement summarized above to support his interpretation that John Paul accepts evolution as "effectively proven fact." Gould ignores the remainder of the statement, which takes a different direction. The pope went on to say that the theory of evolution is not merely derived from data but also "borrows certain notions from natural philosophy." Next, he added that "rather than the theory of evolution, we...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100044772