In the musical Hair, and so marvelously sung by the Fifth Dimension, there was that hope expressed that some new age will arrive and …
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars …
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation.
(Gerome Ragni & James Rado)
A few calmer commentators have pointed out that Cardinal Gerhard Müller didn’t cite Professor Elizabeth by name. But he did call out Barbara Marx Hubbard and conscious evolution as trending heretical. What the heck is conscious evolution? I went to the source. It seems pretty simple and non-theological to me:
(F)rom unconscious to conscious choice.
Simply put, human beings now have awareness that life changes. With this knowledge, can we affect, interfere with, or even guide our future? Of course we can.
Scientifically, we can alter human genetics and eliminate disease, deformity, and suffering on a large scale. Vaccinations did this in the last century. Advances in medical science date back centuries before that. Because of these advances, and the accompanying revolution in botany, the Earth is home to billions today, not just a few hundred million. And we can feed everybody. For the time being. That alters things quite a bit.
Soon we will be able to consciously do more. Some might question whether or not it is advisable to “repair” the genetics that lead to Down Syndrome, or even homosexuality. But the science of it all is a reality. It’s just a matter of time. And cost.
My daughter, for example, might be genetically repaired one day with a fully normal heart. Stem cells in her bone marrow will get “fooled” into building a heart on a “protein template.” Then a transplant. Her children in the womb might be tested in advance, then “adjusted” if need be, so that they would be born with normal hearts. That is an evolution by choice. We know that being born without a left ventricle is not God’s punishment. It is a flaw in her biology.
Ms Hubbard also speaks of environmental change on her web site. Human beings, when they live in space for example, will change to adapt to their new environment. Some of that change can be guided. If hundreds of generations, for example, live on the moon, that will be a conscious choice on their part. And people will be able to predict and guide changes for the good health of those who live there.
Another example of conscious evolution involves the use of lead in paint and fuel. If the rates of illness and violence drop due to our understanding of toxins in the environment, this is another example of conscious evolution. A paint factory worker going on a rampage and killing people is not God’s judgment against the innocent victims. The worker may not be a culpable sinner. His going mad is the natural consequence of poison in the environment. If the corporations involved know all this, then yes, there is grave sin, blame, and responsibility.
Obviously, there is a theological impact with the awareness that people now can and do affect their evolution. Is it moral for scientists to alter the genetics of an unborn child to cure illness? To alleviate Down Syndrome? What about to adjust the genes that govern homosexuality? To tamp down tendencies to addiction, violence, or anti-social behavior?
I can understand how people in ministry, theology, or in religious life would find the possibility fascinating. And frightening. I suspect the human predilection to sin would remain immune to genetic and environmental tinkering.
But would it be good if some occasions of sin were removed? If genetic defects made abortion a consideration for some couples, and those defects could be removed, would that be a good thing? What if it cost a lot of money to do so?
Is this conscious evolution a problem for the Church? Ms Hubbard is the messenger. Her web site seems devoted to selling stuff. Reminds me a bit of Father Z.
Are the sisters getting brainwashed by some new age snake oil salesperson? I don’t know. Father Marcial Maciel sure sold a lot of prelates and a pope or two, didn’t he? My sense is that this is a plank/speck affair.
But if the sisters can come up with new ideas about guiding the evolution of the Church to a more evangelical one, I’d like to hear them.
Getting back to the question of the post: is conscious evolution a heresy? No more than the heliocentric solar system. But it’s going to upset some people like heresy, so it’s worth watching and worth taking pastoral time to examine, think, and discern what it all means.