Theos Survey: A Case of Unintelligent Design?

Andrew Sibley has drawn attention to the recent Theos survey of the UK public’s beliefs in evolution, creationism and intelligent design. Wearing my sociologist’s hat, one overriding conclusion comes through in this survey: It was very poorly designed. Theos should get its money back from the social researchers they hired.

Theos wants to give the impression that the public holds confused views about the various positions relating to the origins of life. In fact, Theos is the one confused. Have a look at how the various positions were described and what people thought of them. I’ve collapsed the statistics because I want to focus on the exact wording:

  1. Young Earth Creationism is the idea that God created the world sometime in the last 10,000 years. Is It True or False? T = 32% F = 60%
  2. Theistic Evolution is the idea that evolution is the means that God used for the creation of all living things on earth. Is It True or False? T = 44% F = 46%
  3. Atheistic Evolution is the idea that evolution makes belief in God unnecessary and absurd. Is It True or False? T = 34% F = 57%
  4. Intelligent Design is the idea that evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things, so the intervention of a designer is needed at key stages. Is It True or False? T = 51% F = 40%

Some things are striking about the wording:

(a) No position explicitly denies evolution, and no position explicitly mentions Darwin. If Theos was trying to figure out how many people do and do not believe that life evolved, or how many people do and do not believe that Darwin is right, they failed to ask the right questions.

(b) This point is relevant because even position (1) as stated is compatible with God working through evolution over a short timeframe. Moreover, the spread of support suggests that people hold hybrid versions of more than one view. The only position that is incompatible with the rest is (3), which explicitly denies God.

(c) In sum, this survey does not test people’s views about evolution’s role in life’s origins but it does test God’s role. And God wins by a 2:1 margin – with or without evolutionary accompaniment.

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22 Responses to Theos Survey: A Case of Unintelligent Design?

  1. My last 5 or so posts appear to have been deleted? What kind of place is this?

  2. I would suggest one small amendment as follows:

    (c) In sum, this survey does not test people’s views about evolution’s role in life’s origins but it does test [people's views about] God’s role. And God wins by a 2:1 margin – with or without evolutionary accompaniment.

    Just to emphasize that polls test for what people believe not for whether those beliefs are true or not.

  3. The report is very misleading because “theistic evolution” is not defined in the same way that its advocates conceive it. To characterize it as “the idea that evolution is the means that God used for the creation of all living things on earth” is to miss its primary thrust. That description sounds downright teological and purposeful, not unlike what St. Augustine had in mind.

    In fact Theistic evolution, as advocated today, is the idea that a purposeful God used a purposeless, mindless process that “did not have man in mind,” which of course is a far more problematic formulation. If people understood what the old theistic evolution of Augustine is a far different animal than the schizoprhenic version being peddled today, they would not weigh in at numbers anywhere near 44%. Today’s theistic evolutionsts use the language of teleology, but they argue passionately for non-teleology.

    Clearly, they want their God and their Darwin too; but they want a quiet God and a loud Darwin. To believers they say, “Hey, I am a Christian.” leaving the convenient impression they believe in a purposeful, mindful creator. To the academy they say, “Don’t worry, I am first and foremost a Darwinist, so I really believe in a solely naturalistic process that relegates God to footnote status. I you don’t believe me, just watch how I slander and smear the ID people.”

    Not only does their duplicity betray the public trust, it retards scientific progress. More to the point, these disingenuous hacks harm the ID movement 100 times more than Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens could ever hope to. There is just enough sugar in their confection to make young Christians swallow the poison whole and join the ranks of the anti-ID militants. Although I am a Catholic Christian myself, I do, nevertheless, find the radical atheists easier to bear. Spare me from the soul selling, split-the-difference, have-it-both-ways Christians.

  4. Amen StephenB, amen.

  5. StephenB,

    I always enjoy your posts. You are extraordinarily eloquent and insightful, and cut through the smoke and mirrors with remarkable lucidity and precision.

    As you undoubtedly know by now, I am a former Dawkins-style militant atheist, but now one of those dreadful born-again evangelicals who threaten to destroy science and establish a theocracy. It should be noted that the initial impetus behind my conversion was the realization that the Darwinian thesis of purposelessly-driven life was an obvious, Himalayan-sized pile of pseudoscientific crap. This realization required only a minimal education in mathematics, chemistry, physics, and computation.

    Since you are a Catholic Christian (please know that I have tremendous respect for Catholic Christians – and I would put Denyse at the head of that list), I have a question. Within Catholicism, as far as you can discern, how widespread is the soul-selling, split-the-difference, have-it-both-ways phenomenon? I see this within the evangelical church in some instances as well, and it depresses me, because legitimate science is overwhelmingly on the side of design.

  6. Gil:

    As someone who returned to the Catholic faith after rejecting Christianity (and organized religion in general) for many years, I’d like to respond to your question. Most elderly Catholics, like my mother, tend to be suspicious of evolution. Although they recognize that God could have used this process to create the world had He wished to do so, they are turned off evolution by two things: (a) the empirical fact that belief in evolution tends to lead many people to atheism; (b) an unwillingness to believe that they could be related to such an ugly-looking creature as a chimpanzee. (As my mother once remarked, “I’d rather be related to a lizard! At least some lizards look elegant!”)

    Most Catholics aged 30-60 were brought up to believe that evolution was simply God’s way of making the world. They were raised at a time when the old-style theistic evolution, laced with a strong Teilhardian flavor, was still intellectually respectable.

    Modern-day proponents of evolution adamantly insist that the process is utterly random, but most Catholics in this age bracket haven’t woken up to this latest development. Many of them are still stuck in the seventies, intellectually speaking. That might sound unkind, but it takes time for ideas to percolate, and most people have made up their minds about “the big issues” by the time they’re 30. (I’m an exception to this rule, as I returned to the faith in middle age.)

    Another thing that makes Catholics reluctant to espouse ID is the specter of Galileo. Catholics believe that their Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, so that it never errs in its infallible teachings on faith and morals. For that reason, many Catholics tend to take pride in their Church for getting things right – a misplaced pride, perhaps, as the credit truly belongs to God. Mistaken pronouncements by Popes can damage the Church’s credibility for centuries and cause huge embarrassment to Catholics, even if the pronouncements in question were non-infallible ones. When it comes to evolution, it’s a case of “Once bitten, twice shy.”

    I’m sure that the Vatican is secretly sympathetic to ID, but it dares not weigh in on the side of ID until it is generally recognized by academics that the science as solidly in its favor. That won’t happen for a couple of hundred years, because it’ll take time to reverse the tide of atheism that has taken over the academic citadels. One day, a new breeed of scientists will look at the evidence with a dispassionate eye. The Vatican’s stance might sound cowardly to ID proponents, but the cost of giving aid and comfort to religious skeptics would be incalculable, should a non-teleological explanation for specified complexity ever be found.

    I can’t speak for younger Catholics, but I gather that most of them accept evolution reflexively, without giving it much thought. If pressed, they would probably answer that “God did it that way, because He works with nature, not against it.”

    Finally, the few Catholics who espouse evolution and are aware of the ateleological nature of evolutionary processes tend to justify their position with the assertion that a truly intelligent God might well have designed a blind process to generate the diversity of organisms we see in nature, including Homo sapiens. Some even tell themselves that they prefer such a hands-off Deity. Actually, however, the Deity in whom they profess to believe is much more “hands-on” than a creationist Deity, as He has to continually tinker with particles at the quantum level to “guide” natural processes (in an undetectable fashion, which appears statistically random to all eyes but His) to obtain the result He wants: human beings.

  7. Greetings Gil, I always appreciate hearing from you.

    The Church’s official teaching is that materialistic evolution is anti-scriptural, but guided evolution, micro or macro, can be reconciled with Scripture.

    In terms of Catholic culture, the 1950’s were quite different than the present. In those days, many believed, in an Augustinian sense, that evolution may have been God’s way of doing things. Many more, I suspect, held with Aquinas, that God created humans in their completed form. As long as they stayed away from unguided evolution or Darwinian evolution, it didn’t seem to matter. I submit that few in either camp would have dared to suggest that design is an “illusion,” because they understood the clear Scriptural teaching about evidence of God’s handiwork: (Romans l:20, Psalms 19 etc.)

    Today, I suspect things attitudes about evolution harmonize with attitudes about orthodoxy. On the one hand, liberal or “cafeteria”(pick and choose) Catholics, that is, those who compromise on doctrinal matters such as the inerrancy of Scripture on the basis of personal whim, can also be found flirting with and embracing some form of theistic evolution. I say “some forms,” because there is also a strange breed of Catholic TE that disdains both Darwin and intelligent design, proposing some kind of anti-mechanistic “vitalism.” (Fr. Edward Oakes) Some in this camp are orthodox Catholics (submit to official Church teachings) but I suspect that many are not.

    Most Catholic theistic evolutionists are, I think, Christian Darwinists, though I have not yet met one that understands the difference between Christian Darwinism, and guided macro-evolution. So, in a sense, members in this group don’t know what they are but they are unaware that they don’t know. The one thing they seem to have in common is that they are willing to subordinate their Christianity to their Darwinism, even to the point of discounting settled- on Church teachings such as the existence of a literal Adam and Eve and original sin.

    On the other hand, most conservative Catholics, that is, those who accept Scripture as the inerrant word of God and who submit to the Church’s teaching authority, typically embrace intelligent design. As a general rule, the more serious they are about the spiritual life, the more serious they are about intelligent design. Fr. Thomas Dubay, for example, who writes about the mysticism of St. John of the Cross also wrote, “The Evidential Power of Beauty,” which is powerful argument in favor of intelligent design.

    With nothing going for me except intuition, I would submit the following sociological analysis for the current Catholic culture, using college educated adults as the criterion. Moving from the most liberal to the most conservative on the politically correct continuum, we might have something like this:

    [A] Contemporary theistic evolution (Christian Darwinism) [unguided but misunderstood as guided]— 40%

    [B] Vitalism — 5%

    Total theistic evolution— 45% (for Professors in most large Catholic colleges probably over 80%) [If I was a Catholic parent, I would not allow my child to attend these places.]

    [C] Mainstream Intelligent design —- 35%

    [D] YEC—-17%

    [E] GeoCentrism 3%. (Yes, there are Catholics that are that conservative.)

    Total intelligent design, 55%. (For Professors in a few small Catholic universities, probably over 80%) [If I was a Catholic parent, I would kill to get my child in there]

    You can interpret these numbers as suggestive of a serious cultural split within the Catholic Church, though the Church’s teaching has always been the same (God’s handiwork has been made manifest through his design—-ID)

  8. For vjtorley and StephenB,

    For the record, I happen to be a catholic ‘theistic evolutionist’, but I also thoroughly reject the idea that evolution is ‘utterly unguided’. Not only do I think humanity was intended, I also think the past evolutionary history on our planet – extinctions and all – were part of a greater plan as well.

    I think there’s some strong truth to the Galileo concern. But I also think there’s some misunderstanding – vjtorley talks about the ‘ateleological nature of evolutionary processes’. My response is that processes and events are not clearly ateleological or not, especially with respect to God. They aren’t even ‘apparently’ ateleological or not as far as the science goes – so I view mutations, natural selection, neutral drift, etc as part of design by God, and that the data as it is certainly supports or at the least lines up with intelligent agency over ‘utterly unguided’. I have deep reservations about whether such design can be proven scientifically in a falsifiable way – one reason being that while I admit that, say, IC is possible, I don’t think if something is proven to be not-IC, it was therefore undesigned.

    Also, I don’t think that the ‘third way’ is vitalism. Edward Feser and Francis Beckwith both reject the mechanistic picture of nature, but do so on the basis of a belief in Thomist-style/Aristotilean final causes. Feser argues that ID proponents have some very good points, and there are specific if comparatively minor points where he parts ways with the Darwinian understanding, but thinks ID necessarily embraces a mechanistic picture of the world which is itself a mistake. Final causes and such is not vitalism, though there may be some vitalist-like perspectives on very specific questions.

    I’d disagree with StephenB’s estimation in one minor way – I think Catholic ‘theistic evolutionists’ are typically very distinct in mentality from Ken Miller. They would see evolutionary mechanisms and processes as guided rather than blind, but they wouldn’t consider that guidance a question science could necessarily determine. And many of those who accept evolutionary development of humans would likely see that introduction as a point where there was some specific intervention – certainly they’d believe in Original Sin (there’s hardly an easier thing to belief in than that) though they’d likely view the specific events of Adam and Eve as more primeval event than utter history. I myself believe there was an event which brought sin into the world, that there was a rebellion, but I’m not convinced the entire human race derives from two people (unless there was some kind of interbreeding, etc.) On the other hand, I’m extremely orthodox with regards to Church teaching – but I’m just one person, regardless. I think most Catholics tend not to think about these questions too deeply.

    So oddly, I’d agree with StephenB that there’s a large number of Catholics who believe in ‘theistic evolution’, but believe that evolution was guided rather than blind. I don’t think they’re confused – I think they constitute their own group: People who believe that evolutionary processes have been used by God towards certain ends. They accept that evolution occurred (and may claim to ‘accept Darwinism’, thinking the two are equivalent) and evolutionary processes, but don’t believe these were unintended by God. They’d likely be in what I consider to be the philosophical ID camp: Design is real, it can be argued strongly and perhaps proven by reason, but these are not scientific questions.

    One last thing: I think the Catholic brand of ‘theistic evolution’ tends to be distinct from evangelical brands. My anecdotal experience is that the latter who embrace TE tend to be rather liberal, since they’ve often sacrificed some outright YEC-ish views and reason that if they can give up those, they can give up many others as well. Whereas Catholics have typically been ‘at peace’ with evolution for a very long time – if you consult the online Catholic Encyclopedia, you’ll see that as far back as 1909 the Church was officially laying down acceptance for ‘theistic evolution’ across the board, with some particular concerns about human evolution and stressing that the soul does not evolve. The result is that accepting theistic evolution is generally not a signal that a Catholic is going to be very liberal in general – even the more conservative ones are able to square evolution with very traditional outlooks.

  9. nullasalus:

    I don’t think all theistic evolutionists are of the same intellectual substance or equally anti-ID in their orientation. Indeed, you are perhaps closer to ID than most, holding certain reservations about the science, while maintaining the reasonableness of design in nature, acknowledging it at least at the level of intuitive perception, and holding it to be more than a mere mental construct. To me, that separates you from many TEs both conceptually, insofar as you don’t reduce design to an “illusion,” and attitudinally, insofar as you don’t militate against ID and seek to shut it down.

    My perception of the TE culture is not necessarily shaped by Ken Miller, who I consider to be the most offensive of the bunch. If my thinking did not go any deeper than that, I would indeed be premature in my analysis. Rather, I take the movement as a whole, informed largely, but not exclusively, by the activities and inferences coming from the ASA community, especially in terms of their approach to the relationship between theology and design. Granted, categories can sometimes be misleading, but everything has a context, and the context of my comment to Gil was grounded in a sociological placement of categories, rather than a rigorous analysis of each category or the relationships between them.

    Still, my main point holds. I continue to acknowledge, and I say this in the spirit of friendliness and mutual respect, that I have never met a Catholic TE who didn’t compromise at least one Church teaching that ought to be non-negotiable. Even in your case, and I emphasize once again that your position is, from my vantage point at least, the most reasonable of the TE species, you do, nevertheless, reject an important Catholic teaching. In fact, you disavow the Genesis account of our first parents, a Magisterial teaching, I might add, that is not really up for grabs. Please don’t misunderstand. I respect you immensely for your forthrightness and your honesty. I can’t tell you how many others in your position try to obfuscate, deflect, and dance around the issue. Even so, there are certain realities that must be faced:

    Pope Pius XII stated: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).

    And, in the Universal Catechism, we read, “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents” (CCC 390).

    So, as a TE, you have given up something important as a Catholic.

  10. I just want to interject one remark in this interesting discussion because it pops up from time to time among ID supporters in Uncommon Descent.

    vjtorley said that it will take 200 years to overturn whatever atheist/naturalist/Darwinist orthodoxy exists today.

    This is much too pessimistic. Maybe 500 years ago it was appropriate to measure large-scale intellectual change in terms of centuries. This is no longer the case. I point to several factors:
    (1) There are more sources of information and it flows relatively freely.
    (2) There are more interested and knowledgeable people dealing with this information.
    (3) Traditional bastions of intellectual orthodoxy – especially churches and universities – are in much institutional turmoil in terms of their future direction. The Roman Catholic Church, which certainly has its share of problems, is probably the strongest.
    (4) Natural science itself is increasingly forced to justify itself in cost-benefit terms, both practically and theoretically. It is thus becoming more respectable for people to demand a science that is relevant to their lives and at least does not alienate them.

    All of this should be music to the ears of ID supporters’ terms. So there is no excuse for saying that the ‘revolution’ in thought people here want is ‘the next generation’s’ responsibility. Already in the 16th century, when the Protestant Reformation began, such a prognosis would have been too pessimistic!

  11. StephenB,

    I’m not offended at all, so no worries about that. So, some responses.

    First, I completely affirm CCC 390 – I thought I said as much (I’m familiar with the CCC, hence my use of ‘primeval event’). As for Humani Generis, I’ll only point out that from my understanding the teaching that humanity is entirely descendant from one original couple is sent. certa, not de fide. It’s a teaching that the faithful are required to adhere to (which I do – though I also admit I speculate what it could mean), but has not been formally defined. Encyclicals are important and have authority, but the church since Pius XII has continued to talk about evolution and creation both. Some parts of the matter are settled, some art not.

    But whatever the case, embracing ID fully wouldn’t necessarily impact that. Behe is a Catholic, but I’ve never seen him affirm this teaching – and, while he was a TE in the past, what made him switch from TE to ID had nothing to do with the question of our first parents. I don’t think ID alone guarantees anything close to doctrinal orthodoxy. In fact, I’d reject the TE v ID distinction in many cases. Many people who are anti-ID are so apparently due to misunderstandings (To this day, many people insist that ID is all a big trick to get YEC taught in schools.) and retain views about evolution that most certainly do not regard design as illusory. On the flipside, I believe Dembski (If I recall right) argued that Ken Miller’s thoughts on evolution amounted to an ID position, and frankly Jerry Coyne really seems to agree with as much. Really, you can consider me an IDist if you want – I maintain the distinction I do with regards to science and (non-)design, but I still argue that design is evident in natural history and natural processes both.

    As for the ASA, they seem to me to not be doing all that much one way or the other. There are some fine thinkers or members of the ASA that I’ve interacted with, but as an organization they seem to not do all that much. In my view, that’s largely because the ASA is anything but united on these issues – their membership seems to disagree about what ID is, how justified it is, and even what TE is and what it entails. Still, the ASA also seems to me as not a very good indicator of Catholic thought – their members seem overwhelmingly protestant, but I could be wrong.

  12. Just to agree with Prof Fuller on one point…

    I also think that ID is ascendant, intellectually rather than institutionally. The internet and modern communication has made it much harder for ideas that dissent from the norm to be crushed.

    In my view, one of the biggest problems with this debate is the repeated-unto-monotony claim that evolutionary processes, mechanisms, and history show no indication of design, or that these things are entirely blind and unintended. This viewpoint becomes less credible every time a video is released illustrating what proteins or cells do, when biomimicry is highlighted, when news is released about sponges having so many of the genetic tools for building a nervous system despite not having one of their own, when lamarckian-style developments are seen in nature, etc. It becomes hard – in my view, extremely hard – to maintain with a straight face that all of these things and more are the result of unguided, purposeless, blind chance processes.

    As the arguments continue and the perspectives are shared, the idea that these things are all blind results will continue to be questioned. Especially as technology advances as well, and we continue to make use of evolutionary concepts in programming and engineering. Science not only fails to support the philosophical contention that evolution and natural processes are blind and purposeless, it positively undercuts those views at every turn. The only thing ID critics really have going for them is the general favor of mass media and universities, along with a mantra. They can repeat ‘This design is all illusory’ as much as they want, but it gets harder to justify with every passing day – even before IC and specified complexity viewpoints enter into the mix.

  13. 1- Most surveys of this question are poorly designed because

    2- The people designing these types of surveys do NOT understand what is being debated.

    3- The anti-IDists, in reality, do NOT want the public to understand the debate for the reason Steve Fuller posted:

    “No position explicitly denies evolution…”
    Ya se if all alternatives are branded as being anti-evolution then things like peppered moths and the beak of the finch can be used to “refute” that strawman, I mean position.

    What surveys of this type require is a lead-in, such as:

    Biological Evolution: What is being debated:

    Evolution has several meanings. The meanings of evolution, from Darwinism, Design and Public Education:

    1. Change over time; history of nature; any sequence of events in nature
    2. Changes in the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population
    3. Limited common descent: the idea that particular groups of organisms have descended from a common ancestor.
    4. The mechanisms responsible for the change required to produce limited descent with modification, chiefly natural selection acting on random variations or mutations.
    5. Universal common descent: the idea that all organisms have descended from a single common ancestor.
    6. “Blind watchmaker” thesis: the idea that all organisms have descended from common ancestors solely through an unguided, unintelligent, purposeless, material processes such as natural selection acting on random variations or mutations; that the mechanisms of natural selection, random variation and mutation, and perhaps other similarly naturalistic mechanisms, are completely sufficient to account for the appearance of design in living organisms.

    The debate isn’t as black & white as saying it is evo #6 against IDists, Creationists and theistic evolutionists. However it is obvious that evo #6 is what is being debated.

    (Theistic evolutionists are a different breed. They don’t seem to acknowledge that evo #6 is what is being taught in our public school system. And therefore don’t appear to understand the issue. The TE’s I have debated with tell me that humans were an intended outcome of the evolutionary process, which is OK for evo #5 but defies evo #6. IOW TE’s are closet IDists.)

    Creationists go with 1-4 (above), with the change in 4 being built-in responses to environmental cues or organism direction as the primary mechanism, for allele frequency change, culled by various selection processes (as well as random effects/ events/ choice of not to mate/ unable to find a mate). The secondary mechanism would be random variations or mutations culled by similar processes. IOW life’s diversity evolved from the originally Created Kind, humans included. Science should therefore be the tool/ process with which we determine what those kinds were. Just as Carolus Linneaus attempted to do some 200 years ago.

    see also The Current Status of Baraminology

    With Creation vs. “Evolution #6″ the 4 main debating points are clear:

    1) The starting point of the evolutionary process. (What was (were) the founding population(s)?)
    2) The phenotypic & morphological plasticity allowed/ extent the evolutionary process can take a population (do limits exist?).
    3) The apparent direction the evolutionary process took to form the history of life. (ie from “simpler” bacteria-like organisms to complex metazoans)
    4) The mechanism for the evolutionary process.

    With ID vs. Evo #6 it is mainly about the mechanism- IDists go with evolution 1-5, with the Creation change to 4 plus the following caveat in 5: Life’s diversity was brought about via the intent of a design. The initial conditions, parameters, resources and goal was pre-programmed as part of an evolutionary algorithm designed to bring forth complex metazoans, as well as leave behind the more “simple” viruses, prokaryotes and single-celled eukaryotes.

    IDists understand that if life didn’t arise from non-living matter via some blind watchmaker-type process, there is no reason to infer its subsequent diversity arose soley due to those type of processes (point 1 up top).

    What does the data say? Well there isn’t any data that demonstrates bacteria can “evolve” into anything but bacteria. Therefore anyone who accepts evolution 5 or 6 has some explaining to do. Preferably explainations with scientific merit.

  14. nullasalus: I’ll try to wind down and frame things so that you can have the last word. As usual, you have been a very good sport about this, and I continue to admire your capacity to engage without being offended. You raised several topics to which I would like to respond, but alas, if I did, it would take about twenty five paragraphs. So, as a tribute to your patience, I will bypass all of them and focus on the one I believe to be the most important, and even this expression will be very, very brief considering the context.

    —-You wrote: “As for Humani Generis, I’ll only point out that from my understanding the teaching that humanity is entirely descendant from one original couple is sent. certa, not de fide.”

    —-And again, (On the reiteration of the teaching in the Universal Catechism) “It’s a teaching that the faithful are required to adhere to (which I do – though I also admit I speculate what it could mean), but has not been formally defined. Encyclicals are important and have authority, but the church since Pius XII has continued to talk about evolution and creation both. Some parts of the matter are settled, some art not.”

    So, the difficulty reasserts itself. When the language in the original teaching is made so explicit as to allow no escape, you demote to non-binding status. When the language in the reaffirmation of the first teaching admits of one ambiguous term, you discount the overall context, elevate the ambiguity, and acknowledge that this installment is, indeed, binding, except that it is too unclear to really bind at all.

    It is evident, however, that the second teaching is, indeed, a reaffirmation of the first, namely, that polygenism is an unacceptable position for Catholics. The term “primeval event” is not meant as a loophole through which multiple first parents can find expression but rather an allusion to the fact that no one know exactly the nature of the offense in question. This is made clear in the last statement which reads, “Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents”

    The purpose of the teaching was to guard against the very trap that you have fallen into, namely, polygenism. I will not go into all the theological ramifications, except to point out the obvious passage in the Book of Romans, “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” Polygenism collectivizes the first sin and reforms it into a community offense, which completely invalidates the entire theological edifice. Christ, after all, is the new Adam, and Mary is the new Eve. We may be able to change the names of the first players, but we cannot collectivize their roles.

  15. I believe that Professor Fuller was taught by Jesuits or at least by some. From some of my friends who were taught by Jesuits they wonder if they are Catholic any more. An interesting comment about the strongest force in the Counter Reformation.

  16. StephenB,

    Always a pleasure. Some responses below.

    “So, the difficulty reasserts itself. When the language in the original teaching is made so explicit as to allow no escape, you demote to non-binding status. When the language in the reaffirmation of the first teaching admits of one ambiguous term, you discount the overall context, elevate the ambiguity, and acknowledge that this installment is, indeed, binding, except that it is too unclear to really bind at all.”

    That there are different levels of dogma in the church isn’t some novel claim on my part – the church herself asserts this much. De fide and sent. certa. aren’t loose terms I’m coming up with purely to be difficult. Nor is the idea that some understanding of polygenism can be justified with respect to original sin my invention, but of theologians and clergy in good standing. And I’m not talking about some Hans Kung style wingnuts here – these are people whose views on this have been published in L’Osservatore Romano, and do a degree cardinal Ratzinger himself. (And yes, I know that what he says as cardinal does not carry papal authority, but it’s worth considering.)

    “The purpose of the teaching was to guard against the very trap that you have fallen into, namely, polygenism. I will not go into all the theological ramifications, except to point out the obvious passage in the Book of Romans, “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” Polygenism collectivizes the first sin and reforms it into a community offense, which completely invalidates the entire theological edifice. Christ, after all, is the new Adam, and Mary is the new Eve. We may be able to change the names of the first players, but we cannot collectivize their roles.”

    It’s not for me to argue what we can or can’t do with regards to this teaching – I’m not even suggesting collectivizing their roles. For all I know there was only one first couple of humanity, but their children interbred with humans who were not ensouled. Maybe Adam and Eve were the leading couple of a bottleneck population and their individual act sealed a collective fate. Maybe various other interpretations are available, and maybe we’ll simply never know.

    But that man is a fallen creature is obvious, as is all of humanity having common ancestry. That there was some primeval event that led to this fall seems likely just on the basis of reason alone, and certain insofar as the church is concerned. There do seem to be a number of reasonable possibilities about just what happened, all of which in my view would retain the doctrine of original sin without issue – I don’t think there’s only a single way to view this lest we ‘invalidate the entire theological edifice’. The primeval event retains some uncertainty, as you yourself seem to agree.

    Whatever the case, I was simply pointing out that TE-ish views are not at all a recent development for the Catholic Church. While the question of Adam is important, the idea that man had biological precursors was an acceptable prospect as far back as 1909 (and possibly earlier), with the distinction between theistic and atheistic evolution being stressed. Newadvent.com has the relevant entry on this (Evolution, Catholics and), which is surprisingly enlightening for a now century-old article.

  17. —–nullasalus: “Whatever the case, I was simply pointing out that TE-ish views are not at all a recent development for the Catholic Church.”

    As a matter of fact, the anti-design varieties, which are now the norm, are indeed new. The attempted marriage between Christ and Darwin obviously had no precedent before Darwin.

    —-”That there are different levels of dogma in the church isn’t some novel claim on my part – the church herself asserts this much. De fide and sent. certa. aren’t loose terms I’m coming up with purely to be difficult.”

    It doesn’t matter. You do not have the liberty to pick and choose. This is especially true when the encyclical forbids that which you are proposing. Further, this matter has been covered even at the sub-fide level.

    Lumen Gentium 25:……….

    ……..” This religious submission of will and mind must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra. That is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme teaching authority is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will”

  18. StephenB,

    “As a matter of fact, the anti-design varieties, which are now the norm, are indeed new. The attempted marriage between Christ and Darwin obviously had no precedent before Darwin. ”

    I don’t believe they’re the norm, and I’d reject those just as quickly as you would. Even Ken Miller’s views, which I think are too anemic in their recognition of design, still discern some design in nature.

    Clearly someone who affirms TE yet believes there is no design in nature is either very confused or engaged in a con game. I just happen to think far more are the former rather than the latter. (Though someone like, say, Francisco Ayala honestly strikes me as being part of the latter.)

    “It doesn’t matter. You do not have the liberty to pick and choose. This is especially true when the encyclical forbids that which you are proposing. Further, this matter has been covered even at the sub-fide level.”

    I’m not proposing anything – I’m pointing out what others, including then-cardinal Ratzinger, have said on the matter. And in the Vatican’s own newspaper or from the international theological commission to boot. I don’t have the liberty to pick and choose even then, but I think I have the liberty to recognize what’s been discussed in L’Osservatore Romano and by the ITC. Not pretend it’s new or definitive teaching, but to point out the Vatican and the popes since P12 has seen fit to let these things be said.

    Nevertheless, I happily bind myself to that authority, and am glad to see the church was seeing design evident in evolution (and seeing ‘Darwinism’ as distinct from evolution itself) very, very early.

  19. nullasalus: My friend, I am not at all clear on what you are saying here. The official teaching of the Church is that polygenism is out and two first parents are in. If you have any evidence to the contrary, I would appreciate it. It is, of course, your privilege to reject these teachings even though they are as official and clearly expounded as they can be.
    I have also provided evidence that they need not be DeFide teachings to command submission of the intellect and will. Meanwhile, articles in Catholic newspapers, however close to the Vatican they may be, do not suffice to overturn official Catholic teaching.

  20. StephenB,

    “I have also provided evidence that they need not be DeFide teachings to command submission of the intellect and will. Meanwhile, articles in Catholic newspapers, however close to the Vatican they may be, do not suffice to overturn official Catholic teaching.”

    Nowhere did I say they did. And I’ve utterly agreed with you about teachings not needing to be de fide in order for Catholics to be bound to submit to them, so that’s fine. All I’ve done is point out the different natures of some teachings, the discussions that have been had on the subject since then, etc. Obviously such dialogue does not mean a teaching has changed. It means what it means – that the topic is still discussed.

    Maybe there will be more discussion at the upcoming talk on evolution (and, apparently, now Intelligent Design in some capacity.) It’s something to look forward to.

  21. (I just want to say that, as an “evangelical catholic,” I appreciate the respectful way you two have discussed these issues, StephenB and nullasalus. I’m listening…along with many others!)

  22. I wonder if anyone in the Vatican ever reads this site.

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