A few weeks back my cousin and I had a brief conversation whereby she mentioned her 'Christian' (I guess that means as distinct from 'Catholic')friend does not believe in dinosaurs. Stemming from that theology, it can be safe to conclude that her friend belongs to a fundamentalist evangelical form of Christianity deeply rooted in 'Fideism,' what is known in certain theological circles as a fear or suspicion of reason. In this light,..I think it is imperative to explain and articulate the Catholic understanding of Genesis,.the first book of the Bible.
To begin, we must understand the nature of scripture as it relates to the Church. The Bible, 'daughter' of the Church is understood in terms of God's love story to mankind. In this light, everything relating to salvation history is found in the Bible(yes even Purgatory, Mary and the Sacraments). Bible by definition, means 'collection' or 'library' thus giving credence to its latter form of understanding in 'Bibliotheque' in french. So this collection, inspired by the Holy Spirit and discerned by the Church, as to which books belong in scripture and which were just considered spurious (The Gospel of Thomas, Epistle of Peter and Paul,..etc..) contains many different forms of literary genre. The Bible is poetry, prose, Gospel, Psalms, history and apocalyptic literature. Coming back to Genesis, this particular book belongs to a genre known as hebrew poetry. Does that mean the Church doesn't believe that we descend from two sets of parents? Absolutely not! The Church looks to the Genesis account as a story which is so true, that this particular narrative (hebrew poetry..) explains it the best.
So what do we make of Adam of Eve? Well,.there names were probably 'Ugg' and 'Moog,' or something else very caveman-like. The point is, they fell and disobeyed God and were thrown out of the Garden, inheriting for us, original sin, the conflict between the intellect and the will, which resulted in our (mankind's) need for a Saviour. As Catholics, we read the Bible literally! Fundamentalists, however read the Bible literalistically, meaning they would probably hire an archeologist to 'dig up' Adam and Eve, along with trying to figure out what language the snake spoke...
My friends, Catholicism works simply because it is true. It is rational and thus will never be against 'science' as too many protestant Christians seems to shy away from. The position of the Church will always be, that what God uncovers, man discovers and thus Theology will tell you the 'why' while science will ultimately show you the 'how.' So as Catholics, we believe in dinosaurs, we know that the world is much older than 7000years and finally can accept the theory of evolution as not being contrary to the Faith. By the way, distinguishing 'Christian' from 'Catholic' is an error. Catholics are Christians,.infact we are the original Christians, the ones in the Upper Room, the ones commissioned at Pentecost.
St Thomas Aquinas,.........Ora pro nobis.