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Pope defends Theistic Evolution

“Paris – Pope Benedict, elaborating his views on evolution for the first time as Pontiff, says science has narrowed the way life’s origins are understood and Christians should take a broader approach to the question.

The Pope also says the Darwinist theory of evolution is not completely provable because mutations over hundreds of thousands of years cannot be reproduced in a laboratory… ” (go to article)

You may recall that shortly after Pope Benedict’s inauguration, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna touched off a fire storm (July 2005) with an op-ed piece in the New York Times questioning Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and appearing to endorse the concept of intelligent design. This brought a quick response from Prof. Kenneth Miller, Prof. Francisco Ayala, and Prof. Lawrence Krauss by way of a published letter to the Pope, reminding him of Pope Paul II’s prior statements that Biological Evolution had progressed beyond the hypothetical stage, and was a “guiding principle” in the understanding of life forms. They requested that the Pope “clarify once again the Church’s position on Evolution and Science, that you reaffirm the remarkable statements of Pope John Paul II and the International Theological Commission, so that it will be clear that Cardinal Schönborn’s remarks do not reflect the views of the Holy See.”

According to an AP report, the Pope addressed the issue to a general audience in Rome on 11/9/05. He stated that the universe was made as an “intelligent project”, and criticized those who say that it is without direction or order.

Today’s report by Tom Heneghan (Independent Online, 4/11/07) reflects an update of the Pope’s position, and it will be interesting to read his complete remarks, when available.

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35 Responses to Pope defends Theistic Evolution

  1. Ahh… no offense to our Catholic friends, but WHO CARES what the Pope has to say? Not even most Catholics do.

  2. Good point there. Pope may technicly have the authority to speak for all catholics, but catholics dont often follow all the doctrines of their religion – remember that the Catholic Church still forbids any and all use of contraception, even within marriage.

    The RCC has not clearly came out in support or opposition to any form of evolution or creationism for a very long time now – their position is ambiguous. The previous pope stated that the church had no objection to evolution at all, providing humans still had their special place as seperate from the animals. They have also had one cardinal and the former vatican astronomer state very clearly that they consider literal seven-day creation to be so clearly false that Genesis must be interpreted as a metaphor or similar. That is only the view of two high-ranking individuals though – it doesn’t carry papal authority.

    No representative of the RCC has, to my knowledge, ever even mentioned Inteligent Design.

    So, it seems this is just a a clarification of the current position, thats all: Literal creationism is rejected, purely naturalistic evolution is rejected, theistic evolution is considered perfectly acceptable, but no desire to turn to ID in search of proof of divine intervention.

  3. God’s iPod: “…WHO CARES what the Pope has to say?”

    Actually, it is difficult to think of anyone else on earth who is more listened to than the pope, and whether or not you or I or most Roman Catholics agree or not, the opinion of the spiritual leader of about a billion people is hardly a trivial concern. How about some intelligent discussion?

  4. I am not Catholic and have no more than an outsider’s educated knowledge of Catholic beliefs on statements made by the Pope.

    My question is; do Catholics believe that the Pope receives revelation from God on topics such as evolution (or any other issue?) In other words, are his statements equivalent to the early apostles, since he is said to “sit on the throne of Peter?”
    If so, his opinions would carry very heavy weight among Catholics.
    If he is offering his personal opinion only, while of note, it would not be of any more authority than anyone else’s, even less than someone more educated in the biological sciences.
    Can any Catholics help with this understanding? How do you see the Pope’s statements on evolution (or other topics)? Are they messages from God, like a prophet’s or apostle’s? Do they define Catholic doctrine and required beliefs for Catholics?

  5. No, no, RCs aren’t really RCs unless they ascribe to what the Pope says. The Orthodox are more free to voice opinions. Protestants are as varied in opinion as the number of Protestants.

    What the Pope or Patriarchs or Protestant leaders and others say is important because they do speak for many people. So what they say is part of the “data” that an individual must assess before he or she makes judgment, and declares acceptance.

    Regimes with centralized authority and/or power must be careful with what they say, otherwise they could easily lose respect — especially in an age when herd mentality is the glue for success. Which of course, was, is, and will be any age.

    ID needs work and patience just like any other science.

    It took God 6 “days” to put things together. It’s taking millennia to figure out how he did it. Christianity took hundreds of years to iron out basics. Science itself is regularly surprised, and needs to redefine things, rewrite things, deny things, hide things, or even falsify things.

    So, taken in context, the words of Popes and Patriarchs and Protestant leaders and others are not necessarily the truth beyond which nothing need be added — or subtracted.

    If ID is true, sooner or later it will be acknowledged. Darwinism is false; sooner or later it will be acknowledged, because truth always wins eventually — notwithstanding Popes and Patriarchs and Protestant leaders and others.

    We should care about what the Pope says because he speaks for many people, and people tend to run in herds, and herds have humongous inertia.

  6. I think Dembski has persuasively shown that theistic evolution is rhetorical nonsense.

  7. Is “Theistic Evolution” one and the same with “Guided Evolution” or “Telic Evolution?” Or is TE a form of standard, a-telic, chance-driven Darwinism that just adds God to the picture by allowing that maybe he started the ball rolling? I really have never understood the distinctions. My question here is truly a request for not information, and not just rhetorical.

    In what way is Dr. Behe, for example, an “Evolutionist” in a different sense than say Francis Collins or Alister McGrath? How does a rejection of Theistic Evolution square with acceptance of “Common Descent?” (Which seems to be Dr. Dembski’s position). Again, this is not mere polemic rhetoric; I truly am a little confused.

  8. Oops, I meant to say “My question here is truly a request for information”

    NOT
    “truly a request for not information…”

  9. You see ever since I began visiting this site, I have been under the impression that there was a growing amount of evidence in favor of intelligent design.

    Personally, I don’t think the God of Christianity or Judaism is compatible with the God of Evolutionists. That God set off the big bang and let it go from there. If the Roman Catholic Church begins to embrace whole heartedly the ideas of Charles Darwin, then that just shows that one of the great Churches of Christianity has given itself over to the forces of materialism and secularism. Needless to say, I am not pleased.

    It is upsetting to me, that the work of Mike Behe, Percival Davis, Bill Dembski, Dean Kenyon, Steve Meyer, Paul Nelson and others has been with such hostility from the secular world. Apparently, the Darwinists have already made their minds up about things and refuse to listen to objective commentary from the other side.

    I fear that we may be on the loosing side of the battle. Not because we are not right or in the right, but because Western Society is too far gone.

  10. This story is by one reporter and is in various newpapers now. Interesting how the headlines change.

    From the Daily Mail “Pope Benedict ‘believes in evolution”

    From the Sydney Morning Herald

    “Evolution not completely provable: Pope”

    From Newsmax

    “Pope: Science ‘Too Narrow’ to Explain Creation”

    From Brisbane Times

    “Evolution not completely provable: Pope”

    From Daily News of India

    “Pope feels science can’t explain creation”

  11. I find this initial article far more leaning towards ID than away from it although it uses the rhetorical ploy “theistic evolution”.

    What really struck me was a very subtle note I have been seeing over and over.

    “US court(s) have ruled both creationism and ID are religious views that cannot be taught in public school science classes there.”

    In conflating the two they make it appear as there have been numerous court cases revolving around ID. There has only been one and it is centralized to Pennsylvania and does not have any legal weight although it does posses the weight of threat for other school boards.

  12. Here is a different headline from Spain by another reporter

    “Pope says Darwin’s theory not completely provable”

    Here is the text

    “Benedict XVI, in his first extended reflections on evolution published as pope, says that Darwin’s theory can’t be finally proven and that science has unnecessarily narrowed humanity’s view of creation.

    Pope Benedict XVI
    Benedict XVI, in his first extended reflections on evolution published as pope, says that Darwin’s theory can’t be finally proven and that science has unnecessarily narrowed humanity’s view of creation – but stopped short of endorsing intelligent design.

    In a new book, “Creation and Evolution,” published Wednesday in German, the pope praised progress gained by science, but cautioned that evolution raises philosophical questions science alone cannot answer.

    “The question is not to either make a decision for a creationism that fundamentally excludes science, or for an evolutionary theory that covers over its own gaps and does not want to see the questions that reach beyond the methodological possibilities of natural science,” the pope said.

    Rather, scientific and philosophical reason must work together, he said, in a way that does not exclude faith.

    “I find it important to underline that the theory of evolution implies questions that must be assigned to philosophy and which themselves lead beyond the realms of science,” the pope was quoted as saying in the book.”

  13. I have a question. How do you think the NY Times will report it?

  14. “I have a question. How do you think the NY Times will report it?”

    “Pope: Darwin a saint, blind watchmaker evolution proven fact.”

  15. How does Tipler fit into ID?
    I know Scordova mentioned that he
    is an atheist that believes in the
    probability of God’s existence.

    His biography says the following.

    I became Professor of Mathematical Physics in 1981 at Tulane University, where I have been ever since, working to draw the full implications of my earlier work: that quantum mechanics and general relativity require that the Cosmological Singularity� the Uncaused First Cause� consists of Three Persons but one Cause. I have now written up these results for a popular audience, and the book is The Physics of Christianity.

    He has a new book out.

    http://www.math.tulane.edu/~tipler/

  16. May God Bless the Pope and Cardinal Christoph, but no wonder the Church gives at least the appearance of getting confused on these matters.
    I am not sure exactly what “theistic evolution” purports, but certainly Jesus himself (looking at the context of the language of the time) referred to Adam as a real human, not some marvelous allegory for proto-hominids who lived on the savannah 6 million years ago and fought lions and bare subsistence living and heat. In theistic evolution there can be no such thing as redemption of human souls since by all accounts Adam is fiction and therefore sin had not entered humanity’s heart, but rather is merely a socio-biological emblem of the distant past carried to the present. If someone knows how to square this with traditional church teaching–do tell.

    The attempt to compromise to avoid being mocked bears no fruit but puzzles and contradictions to Scripture’s clear teaching that early man was, and IS, in God’s image–and not some distant primate who “theistically” evolved to meet God’s later standards.

    This would demonstrate a rather impotent God. Thus theistic evolution adds things not allowed in a true reading of Genesis–lack of horror and gore and blood in early human beginnings. Did I miss something here?

    Yet paleontology laughs at the notion of TRex being a veggie eater and lions lying down with the kids after dinner.

    Speaking of speculative sciences and notions and compromises of such, (as in, theistic evolution OR Darwinian descent that is utterly blind to purpose), Mark Twain, by my account, was quite correct when he observed in Life on the Mississippi: “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such a wholesale return of conjecture for such a trifling investment of facts” 1883, p. 156). These Darwinian experts, theistic or otherwise, are merely “experts” at living with holes in the theory and not thinking things all the way through.

  17. The AP wire story just hit a bunch of newspapers across the country and is by a different reporter and the headline is

    “Pope says evolution can’t be proven”

    So it will be interesting to see what the book actually says. One thing for certain is that there is will be no endorsement of Intelligent Design.

  18. How does Tipler fit into ID?

    Like trying to put a left shoe on one’s right foot.

  19. As for the authority of what the pope says, it depends on whether he is explicitly giving inspired church teaching or just speaking as an individual. In the former case, it will always be issued by the vatican in no uncertain terms that Catholics are not to disagree with it. In the latter, which appears to be the case here, he will usually begin by saying/writing that it’s personal and everyone is free to disagree with him.

    Many Catholics don’t understand the distiction, I am sure, or if they do, many will defer to his judgement of the issue quite readily.

    In any case, yes, there is generally reason to care about what the pope says.

  20. landru, is that a star trek reference?? return of the archons?

  21. 21
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    Here is a “catholic” report on his book:

    Pope writes on evolution, limits of scientific reason

  22. Is the current pope up on the latest ID arguments or is he stuck in the 60s/70s?

  23. If, in fact, it turns out that the Roman Pope sees the fittest to survive, and goes with all the other stuff of materialistic progression, then why would he have an interest in what has no need of God?

    Theistic evolution would imply that the One God has competition, and as the Universe as we know it, knows, God does not like competition.

    Proponents of theistic evolution draw square circles to reach their conclusions.

  24. The gap between humans and all other forms of life on the planet — in so many categories that one would have to write many books on the subject — is so profound that it represents the ultimate discontinuity in nature, which is characterized not by seamlessness, but by discontinuities. This is the antithesis of Darwinian philosophy.

    As a former atheist, I would suggest that the great divide is not between Catholics and Protestants, but between materialists and those who recognize the uniqueness of humankind (this includes our great capacity for good, and our great capacity for evil). It is only by recognizing our divine origin — which seems increasingly difficult to deny, in my view — that we have any hope of cultivating the good and suppressing the evil. But this requires brutal self-honesty, which is antithetical to the fallen part of our nature referenced above.

    These are ultimate issues, and are ultimately the only ones that really matter, because they affect and reflect upon all areas of our lives, which is why the debate is so heated.

  25. GilDodgen, you wrote, in part:

    The gap between humans and all other forms of life on the planet — in so many categories that one would have to write many books on the subject — is so profound that it represents the ultimate discontinuity in nature, which is characterized not by seamlessness, but by discontinuities. This is the antithesis of Darwinian philosophy.

    Well put, Gil. The best precis’ on yet another of Darwin’s misses I’ve seen in quite a long time, to be honest.

    And I agree so much is embedded in those notions and actions and reflections that make man–Mankind.
    Koko the Gorilla may very well “speak” in sign ASL, and know the purely PHYSICAL terms for PHYSICAL “heart” and PHYSICAL “home” by rote association, but never asked questions or retorted to Penny, her keeper, as in “Ah, but Penny, surely you must know that for us hominids, ‘HOME’ is where the ‘HEART’ is?”

    And so it goes, in the never ending materialist quest to make people into animals–or conversly–some “kin” animals into clownish furry “people”, who wistfully ponder the day’s challenges or meanings over morning coffee.

    “To be or not to be,” may very well be the question, but is NOT the question answered by merely having opposable thumbs.

    –SWT

  26. I find the Spanish quote very interesting, and possibly implicit supporting ID.

    “The question is not to either make a decision for a creationism that fundamentally excludes science, or for an evolutionary theory that covers over its own gaps and does not want to see the questions that reach beyond the methodological possibilities of natural science,” the pope said.

  27. Wakefield Tolbert

    I think Dr. Dembski has a very interesting and appealing view on Adam. That he was an actual person who existed in history and that God had taken a Ape like creature and re-engineered him into a man.

    If I am wrong about this please correct me.

  28. To be honest, im curious to see how is he going to quote heretics (Bible believing Christians) in the book.

    (Same thing for his other book on evidences for Jesus).

  29. Commenting on Post 27:

    I think this is Kenneth Miller’s stuff.

  30. I mean no offense to our Protestant and “fundamentalist” Christian friends, supporters of ID and the “enemies” of Darwinism and evolution, but what the pope says about evolution is very important.
    In the whole scheme of things it carries the most weight of any living human authority. (For example, as compared to a leader of any Protestant church, if such a leader can even be found.) Many interesting questions about this “ultimate” Christian authority could be raised and discussed, but I am not sure if this is a proper place to discuss them. (Check out many Catholic ecumenical or apologetics websites and forums, which deal with all these questions in detail.)

    For example, the “literal creationism” is an understandable and very intelligent Christian position, much more intelligent than atheistic Darwinism of Dawkins, but it revolves around the word “literal” and its meaning with respect to the interpretation of the Scriptures. The Catholic position is outlined here:

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/.....s1c2a3.htm

    Under The Senses of Scripture, par. 115-117

    The crux of the matter is in:

    116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.”83

    Note footnote 83, which references Thomas Aquinas, and in order to really understand what this is all about, one would have start reading and understanding what Aquinas meant, and since Aquinas derived his philosophy from Aristotle, one ought understand also what Aristotle had to say about this. Read at least Aristotle’s On Interpretation.

  31. Many people, when they can’t provide evidence for their theory, adopt the strategy of falsehood. Such is the case with many of those who have fallen victim to the propaganda of renowned evolutionists.

    If evolutionists want to end the arguments all they have to do is, get their brilliant heads together and assemble a ‘simple’ living cell. This should be possible, since they certainly have a very great amount of knowledge about what is inside the ‘simple’ cell.

    After all, shouldn’t all the combined Intelligence of all the worlds scientist be able the do what chance encounters with random chemicals, without a set of instructions, accomplished about 4 billion years ago,according to the evolutionists, having no intelligence at all available to help them along in their quest to become a living entity. Surely then the evolutionists scientists today should be able to make us a ‘simple’ cell.

    If it weren’t so pitiful it would be humorous, that intelligent people have swallowed the evolution mythology.

    Beyond doubt, the main reason people believe in evolution is that sources they admire, say it is so. It would pay for these people to do a thorough examination of all the evidence CONTRARY to evolution that is readily available: Try answersingenesis.org. The evolutionists should honestly examine the SUPPOSED evidence ‘FOR’ evolution for THEMSELVES.

    Build us a cell, from scratch, with the required raw material, that is with NO cell material, just the ‘raw’ stuff, and the argument is over. But if the scientists are unsuccessful, perhaps they should try Mother Earth’s recipe, you know, the one they claim worked the first time about 4 billion years ago, so they say. All they need to do is to gather all the chemicals that we know are essential for life, pour them into a large clay pot and stir vigorously for a few billion years, and Walla, LIFE!

    Oh, you don’t believe the ‘original’ Mother Earth recipe will work? You are NOT alone, Neither do I, and MILLIONS of others!

  32. What does Dembski believe about the origin of Homo sapiens?

  33. Gil

    view on Adam. That he was an actual person who existed in history and that God had taken a Ape like creature and re-engineered him into a man.

    I take it this is some allegorical approache as interpreted as “from the Dust of the Earth?

    In principle and in any other context I’d say no problem with this, except that it still begs the question of why God would use such an oddball and lenthy lead in process to reach the ape stage and in one fell swoop give such a creature a soul and a Search, whereas rather than blood and horror and the implied of such against predators which is the requisite issue of evolution on the African savannah? We are told there was no death–animal or human–before Adam at least no among what the Hebrew calls the Nashash beings, translated as soul creatures (mammals and higher order vertibrates. Maybe beatles got steeped on or bugs eaten and fish etaen by bigger fish and maybe frogs ate juicey flies, but humans certainly ate no meant and lions ate no gazelles, if I have my Genesis translation intact.

    –SWT

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