A reconciliation with Darwin? Divergent views on evolutionism in Erich Wasmann and Jaime Pujiula, biologists and Jesuits


Unlike the case of Galileo, the Catholic Church has managed evolutionism and Charles Darwin’s work with discretion. Among Catholic scientists, some defend a variety of evolutionism which is peppered with remarkable exceptions, such as the divine origin of life and of the human species. The Jesuit entomologist Erich Wasmann came to the conclusion that the evolutionary theory could explain his observations about myrmecophiles, so he adopted a Catholicism-tinged evolutionism, which Ernst Haeckel considered false and very dangerous. The Jesuit biologist from Catalonia, Jaime Pujiula, continued Wasmann’s work but adopted stances that were more radical than the Austrian entomologist’s, like invoking the inescapable need for God’s intervention in the transition from inert matter to life.


spontaneous generation; origin of life; Ernst Haeckel; Charles Darwin; Catholic dogma

Full Text:



Artigas, M., Glick, T. F., & Martínez, R. A. (2006). Negotiating Darwin: The Vatican confronts evolution, 1877–1902. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Català, J. I. (2013). Los jesuitas españoles ante el evolucionismo durante el período restauracionista (1875–1922). In R. Ruiz, M. A. Puig-Samper, & G. Zamudio (Eds.), Darwinismo, biología y sociedad (pp. 211–233). Mexico DF: UNAM; Ediciones Doce Calles.

Durfort, M. (1995). Jaume Pujiula i Dilmé, S. I. (Besalú, Garrotxa, 1869-Barcelona, 1958). La morfologia microscòpica. In J. M. Camarasa, & A. Roca (Eds.), Ciència i tècnica als Països Catalans: Una aproximació biogràfica (pp. 827–858). Barcelona: Fundació Catalana per la Recerca.

Fry, I. (2000). The emergence of life on Earth. A historical and scientific overview. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Haeckel, E. (1906). Last words on evolution. New York: Peter Eckler.

Lustig, A. J. (2002). Erich Wasmann, Ernst Haeckel, and the limits of science. Theory in Biosciences, 121, 252–259. doi: 10.1007/s12064-002-0013-8

Peretó, J. (2011). Book review. Creating life in the lab: How new discoveries in synthetic biology make a case for the creator. Reports of the National Center for Scientific Education, 31(6), 8.1–8.3.

Peretó, J., Bada, J. L., & Lazcano, A. (2009). Charles Darwin and the origin of life. Origins of life and evolution of biospheres, 39, 395–406. doi: 10.1007/s11084-009-9172-7

Peretó, J., & Català, J. (2012). Darwinism and the origin of life. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 5, 337–341. doi: 10.1007/s12052-012-0442-x

Pujiula, J. (1905). La moderna biología y la teoría de la evolución. Razón y Fe, 11, 496–508; 12, 59–69.

Pujiula, J. (1910). Conferencias biológicas. Estudios críticos sobre la teoría de la evolución. Barcelona: Tipografía Católica Casals.

Pujiula, J. (1915). Conferencias sobre la vida y su evolución filogenética esta última particularmente con relación al hombre dadas del 23 al 28 de noviembre 1914 en el paraninfo de la Universidad de Valencia a petición del Instituto Médico Valenciano. Barcelona: Tipografía Católica Casals.

Richards, R. J. (2008). The tragic sense of life. Ernst Haeckel and the struggle over evolutionary thought. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Wasmann, E. (1910). Modern biology and the theory of evolution. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.

Wasmann, E. (1912). The Berlin discussion of the problem of evolution. Full report of the lectures given in February 1907, and of the evening discussion. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.

Creative Commons License
Texts in the journal are –unless otherwise indicated– published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License