In responding to my article, Did Humans Evolve From Monkeys? (CN, Feb 9), Mr Gerard Goh and Ms Estella Young (CN, Feb 23) were keen to affirm that “religion does not clash with science” or that “faith and reason can go hand in hand”.

I readily agree with this position. I agree that academic disciplines of natural science, philosophy and theology can attain common conclusions when they all strive to seek truth.

As Pope Leo XIII says, “truth cannot contradict truth” (encyclical Providentissimus Deus). My initial article is certainly not to wage a battle between religion and science, but to refute the layman’s expression that “human beings evolved from monkeys”.

In fact all of us agree that whether we agree with the theory of evolution or not, the theory itself does not answer the ultimate query about the origin of existence, the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And specifically how does man come about? I believe we agree this is of utmost importance.

Pope John Paul II in his Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (Oct 22, 1996) applauded the work of the researchers and remarked that “new knowledge has led to the recognition of more than one hypothesis in the theory of evolution”. (One translation of the pope’s text put it as “new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis”).

He also cautioned that “a theory’s validity depends on whether or not it can be verified; it is constantly tested against the facts; wherever it can no longer explain the latter, it shows its limitations and unsuitability. It must then be rethought.”

My view is that if scientists and researchers are able to provide evidence to argue for certain expressions of evolution, we could accept them as reliable theories and not just hypotheses. So let them research and argue, show their evidence and present their papers, and let the thinkers reason out if they can accept or must reject them.

Some scientists have placed monkeys, chimpanzees and humans in the same category, calling them all primates, claiming that they share a common ancestor. I rationally reject such claim of common categorisation.

No matter how similar humans and monkeys seen to be biologically or physiologically, they are two distinct categories of beings. Man as man is both body and soul. We cannot talk about man without referring to his soul. And his spiritual dimension is expressed in his use of reason and will, and other cultural manifestations.

My philosophical and theological position is that in His image and likeness, God created man, both body and soul, physical and spiritual, in unity. Physical similarities, even in terms of proximities of DNA sequences, do not identify monkeys with humans, even if we are just talking about their ancestors.

In the address by Pope John Paul II mentioned above, he stated that “‘man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake’...With his intellect and his will, he is capable of forming a relationship of communion, solidarity and self-giving with his peers…man’s likeness to God resides especially in his speculative intellect, for his relationship with the object of his knowledge resembles God’s relationship with what he has created (Summa Theologica I-II:3:5, ad 1).

But even more, man is called to enter into a relationship of knowledge and love with God himself, a relationship which will find its complete fulfilment beyond time, in eternity.

The thrust of my article is to distinguish the four categories of beings (things) – namely mineral beings (such as stone, water, iron etc), vegetative beings (all kinds of greens), animal beings (all kinds of insects, birds, animals) and human beings.

Within the first three categories, there are huge varieties and multitude of things. And the fourth category – man, is uniquely itself. Philosophically, these four categories of beings are distinct and different, one from another. And that human beings cannot be “evolved” from any of the animal beings, insects, birds and animals such cats, dogs, horses, lions or monkeys.

Men today may be evolved from “primitive men” who had limited cultural expressions, yet they were the human kind.

Present human races, Africans, Chinese, Indians, and Europeans etc. could probably have had a common ancestor(s), but that ancestor could not be a non-human which did not have the integration of body and soul. Human persons are not animals, not monkeys; we are uniquely our own category.

In laymen language, when we are to make some simple propositions if we accept certain expressions of evolution, I believe it is still more helpful to our knowledge, morals and faith to say that “humans are totally different from monkeys” than to say “humans evolved from monkeys”.

Fr Henry Siew

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