Friday, September 2, 2011

Evolution before Darwin

Father Juan Ignacio Molina, a Jesuit priest from Chile, was a naturalist, geographer, and historian whose work so benefited his home country that they named a city after him and put his face on a stamp.   Less known to many is that he proposed his own theory of evolution in 1815, when Charles Darwin was only six years old:
Juan described an analogy between living organisms and minerals. He proposed an idea of the gradual evolution of human beings, thereby anticipating Darwin's theory of evolution. In an 1815 work on nature's three kingdoms (mineral, vegetable and animal) he describes the Creator's plan for a continuous seamless chain of life from mineral life to vegetable life to animal life with no discrete discontinuous steps. Crystalline minerals tend to gather together in preparation for the higher form of vegetable life which then evolve into animal life. John showed unusual insight as well as care to maintain the scientific method, basing his claims on scientific observations. Called a heretic by some observers, he was ordered by the Archbishop of Bologna to hand over his findings to a committee of 18 theologians. The latter found no difficulty with John's work and approved publication. (Source)

For more on the Catholic perspective on evolution, I suggest reading Pope John Paul II's 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Read more about Juan Molina, SJ.
Click here for a list of other Jesuit scientists and mathematicians.

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