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“Vatican: Pope Slams Evolution”

Perhaps the significance of this announcement should be read in light Ken Miller’s pronouncement that the Pope should embrace Darwinian evolution and urge Catholics to reject intelligent design: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/kenneth_miller/2006/09/miller.html.

Vatican: Pope slams evolution

Source: http://ansa.it/main/notizie/awnplus/english/news/2006-09-12_1128196.html

‘Accounts about Man don’t add up without God’ says pontiff (ANSA) – Regensburg, September 12 – Pope Benedict XVI on Monday issued his strongest criticism yet of evolutionary theory, calling it “unreasonable” .

Speaking to a 300,000-strong crowd in this German city, the former theological watchdog said that, according to such theories derived from Charles Darwin’s work, the universe is “the random result of evolution and therefore, at bottom, something unreasonable”.

The homily appeared to throw the Catholic Church’s full weight behind the theory of intelligent design (ID) – a subject of massive controversy in the United States.

The Catholic Church has for over 50 years accepted Darwin’s theory of random selection as the most probable cause of development, but has alway stressed God’s role.

Recently, however, top theologians have clashed with Catholic scientists over so-called ‘evolutionism’ – that is, attempts to make evolution explain everything.

Vatican theologian Christoph Schoenborn made headlines with a New York Times article a year ago which endorsed the ID theory that has roiled US academic debate and appeared to back full-fledged Creationism, the core Bible story. Just before a brainstorming session with the pope on the eve of his Germany trip, Schoenborn admitted his NYT article had been a little too “cut-and-dried,” laying it open to misinterpretation.

Supporters of ID pounced on the NYT article in their fight to win credibility for a theory many scientists see as Creationism in respectable clothing.

In response, the director of the Vatican’s Space Observatory, Father George Coyne, said critics of evolutionary theory underestimated God’s willingness to give “freedom” to Nature.

The Baltimore-born Jesuit, 73, who has just stepped down after 28 years at the helm of the Vatican’s flagship science programme, rapped Schoenborn for “underestimating” the US context in which he was speaking and branded Creationism as “a religious movement devoid of all scientific basis”.

Schoenborn responded by clarifying his position, saying that evolution as a body of scientific fact was compatible with Catholicism, but that evolution as an ideological dogma that denied design and purpose in Nature was not.

But he stressed that more attention should be given to the holes in Darwin’s theory, “which (Darwin) himself recognised and regretted”.

“The open questions of the theory of evolution should be exposed” rather than pushing Darwinism as the explanation for how life developed, the cardinal said, questioning the propriety of clerics defending evolution.

Some reports have claimed Coyne was, in fact, sacked because of his defence of evolution but Vatican sources insist he asked to quit because of ill health.

Benedict – who taught Schoenborn at Regensburg before becoming the Vatican’s dogma pointman, his previous job – was last heard on the subject on World Youth Day in April.

He told his young audience in St Peter’s that “science supports a reliable, intelligent structure of matter, the design of Creation”.

On Tuesday he echoed this view, saying that “Creational Reason, the Spirit that operates everything…fosters development”.

“Accounts about Man don’t add up without God, just as accounts about the world, the vast universe, do not add up without Him” .

Evolutionary theories, he said, posit that “the Irrational, without reason, strangely produces a cosmos controlled by mathematical rules, and even man and his (powers of) reason”.

In December, in a controversial ruling, a US local court rejected the teaching of ID alongside the theory of evolution.

Several US states teach the theory, claiming it is as credible as Darwinism.

Critics say ID is merely camouflaged Creationism and does not belong in science curricula. Supporters of ID hold that some features of the universe and living things are so complex they must have been designed by a higher intelligence .

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26 Responses to “Vatican: Pope Slams Evolution”

  1. If I were an ID advocate, I would be hoping that the Church does not come out in favor of ID. If it does, iD supporters will find it much more difficult to argue that ID is theologically neutral. But the claim of theological neutrality is necessary in order for ID to have place in public school science curricula (unless Edwards vs. Aguillard is overturned).

    Is this not right?

  2. In that case, why didn’t Darwin’s supporters reject Pope John Paul II’s complimentary statements about evolution back in 1996? They didn’t seem worried about theological neutrality back then, and we don’t need to be either.

  3. Good point, philosophically speaking. Still, it doesn’t look like good PR. If the Church endorses ID on theological grounds, it’ll be much harder to win the next court case.

  4. Five of the nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic. Will all have to excuse themselves.

  5. This is not a pro ID but an anti Darwin pronouncement. So is being anti Darwin religious?

  6. This is not a pro ID but an anti Darwin pronouncement. So is being anti Darwin religious?

    Presumably not. One could very easily be both an atheist and anti-Darwinian.

  7. So is being pro ID anti atheist? Could one be both an atheist and pro ID?

  8. So is being pro ID anti atheist? Could one be both an atheist and pro ID?

    I don’t see why not. Though this is also a position that’s rarely staked out. There are lots of internally consistent ideological positions that are rarely taken up, due to a variety of psychological and sociological factors.

    For that matter, there’s nothing that really stands in the way of someone’s being a pro-choice Catholic gay Republican — admittedly this is a far-fetched example — but it’s far-fetched for sociological and political considerations. It’s no less internally coherent than most of the other political and social views out there on the market.

    Likewise with someone who is pro-ID and an atheist (AID), or with someone who is anti-Darwinian and an atheist. The former could think that Progenitors created terran life, or think that the universe itself has all the properties mistakenly ascribed to God. (The line between pantheism and atheism can be very thin sometimes, especially if theism requires — as it usually does — a conception of God as transcendent.)

    The latter could deny that anything happens by chance. If everything that happens, happens necessarily, then there’s no room for contingency. But contingency is a big part of how neo-Darwinians think about evolution.

  9. Since ID is not necessarily religious thus anyone who argues that ID should not be taught because it is religious based is disingenuous.

  10. Since ID is not necessarily religious thus anyone who argues that ID should not be taught because it is religious based is disingenuous.

    Yes, I saw this one coming, Jerry. That’s why I tried to build in some defenses. Whether they are good enough, is another question.

    The burden of proof, legally, is not on necessity but on reasonable doubt, right? And assessing reasonable doubt requires many background assumptions about psychological, sociological, and historical factors. Strictly conceptual relations are not the only consideration.

    The question is this:

    If intelligent design is presented as a scientific theory in a public school, and that theory has received the endorsement of the Catholic Church as an alternative to neo-Darwinian theories, an endorsement that is backed up with theological and metaphysical arguments, is it reasonable for students and parents to believe that this amounts to a violation of the separation of church and state?

    It needn’t be — one could very well say, “maybe it was the Progenitors!” — but is it reasonable for a student or parent to conclude that intelligent design theory, in light of who supports it, is theologically neutral?

  11. 11

    The Catholic Church has aways been the friend of science and the Pontifical Academy of Science has Nobel Prize winners among its members. What is needed today is a Protestant Academy of Sciences where creationism and evolutionism would find common ground with the Catholic position.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  12. My guess is that the Catholic Church will not endorse ID in the sense of a science or discipline. It doesn’t seem to be something they care about. There has already been several quotes from the pope about the obvious design in the world and that it is attributed to God. This has been a 2000 year old doctrine. They seem to be more interested in the effect that Darwinism has had on people and my guess they will issue something that uses findings from science that undermine the robustness of NDE. That shouldn’t be hard to do.

    Also as we just established above, undermining Darwinism is not the same thing as promoting ID.

  13. the effect that Darwinism has had on people

    More precisely, what they believe the effect to have been. For they surely have beliefs about what Darwinism does and doesn’t imply for human behaviors, but I see no reason to think that those beliefs are true.

    The standard arguments — from the sophisticated “scientific materialism implies cultural materialism” to the crude (and unintentionally funny) “don’t you think that if our kids are told that they evolved from animals, then they’ll behave like animals?” — don’t hold any water.

    I don’t mean to disparage or deny the sorts of cultural and political problems that the Church is concerned about. The rise in casual callousness and cruelty, decline in civility, acquisence to corruption, displacement of public spaces (churches, parks, town halls, etc.) in favor of private ones (malls and their parking lots) — these are all serious indications of a society at the brink of moral and spiritual collapse.

    But I haven’t seen any indication that Darwinism is more than a scapegoat for a problem whose causes lie elsewhere. Social problems have social causes, and scientific theories enter into it only peripherally.

  14. Carlos,

    You seem to be blind or maybe there is some other attitude that is driving your comments. Belief in religion in the West is at an all time low and declining. Most think this is due to a lack of belief in God of which the main driver is Darwinism’s implication for the lack of a need for God. You and people like Ken Miller are certainly entitled to your belief that it has nothing to do with it but in Europe, religion and church attendance is a foreign concept and at the same time belief in a bogus science such as neo Darwinism is almost universal.

    What are the results. Europe is a society that isn’t reproducing and is focused on its material comforts and except for the UK hasn’t the ability to defend itself if invaded. It has no interest in the future. Do you think there is no relationship? The pope sees that, a lot of us see it. Maybe you cannot but the handwriting is on the wall and getting rid of Darwinism is one step of many that are required so that we don’t follow the Europeans.

  15. Carlos

    When the church came out in favor of the modern synthesis did that damage the modern synthesis? The National Center for Selling Evolution Science Education undertook (or at least embraced, the details escape me now) a petitition drive that succeeded in getting 10,000 Protestant clergymen to sign a statement saying Darwinian dogma was compatible with Christian dogma. I think maybe they might’ve called Darwinian theory and Christian belief. Why would they do that if connecting religion and scientific theory hurts the theory? Talk about double standards. The stench rising off that affair must reach all the way to the pearly gates and St. Peter hisself.

  16. Bill wrote: In that case, why didn’t Darwin’s supporters reject Pope John Paul II’s complimentary statements about evolution back in 1996? They didn’t seem worried about theological neutrality back then, and we don’t need to be either.

    I guess I should read ahead to save myself repeating what’s already been pointed out. :)

  17. You mean that if Darwinism isn’t resisted, we’ll become like Western Europe: with full reproductive freedom, higher literarcy rates, less incarceration, lower infant mortality, fewer hours worked per week, longer vacations per year, and national health care?

    Sign me up!

    *sigh* . . . if only it were that easy.

    Yeah, I know, I should restrain my Europhilia. The EU has massive problems of its own, both internal and external. It’s a grass-is-always-greener thing.

    religion and church attendance is a foreign concept and at the same time belief in a bogus science such as neo Darwinism is almost universal.

    As we like to say in philosophy of science, “correlation doesn’t imply causation . . . but they are highly correlated.”

    In other words, how do you know that the one is causing the other? Maybe the decline of traditional religion has some other cause, and the acceptance of neo-Darwinism is only a side-effect? How do you know that, in opposing Darwinism, you’re fighting the disease and not merely a symptom?

    Now, you might ask, “what else could it be?” To which I respond, have you even thought about conducting a serious sociological investigation, or looked into whether or not anyone has? There’s got to be a lot of sociology of religion out there which is relevant to the various factors which influence religious belief and church affiliation and attendance — have you looked into any of it? What you found, if you have? If you haven’t looked into it, why not?

  18. Carlos,

    Wonderful, when it doubt commission a study and we will find the magic cause of Europe’s march to extinction. Did you ever think it might be universal health care, short work weeks and lots of vacation, lack of reproduction and depending upon others to do the hard work.

    Hey maybe Darwinian principles could shed some light on it. You should tell Richard Dawkins that the rise of Darwinism belief has nothing to do with the rise in atheism. Think he would believe you. Why are they fighting so hard to preserve a bogus theory?

    As I said “you seem to be blind or maybe there is some other attitude that is driving your comments.”

  19. Firstly, a lower reproductive rate is not a “march to extinction.”

    Secondly, if the lower reproductive rate is due to greater reproductive freedom, I’m all for it. Why should people have children they don’t want to have?

    You should tell Richard Dawkins that the rise of Darwinism belief has nothing to do with the rise in atheism. Think he would believe you?

    I don’t know what Dawkins would believe; for that matter I’m not really sure what Dawkins believes. I’ve read The Blind Watchmaker, but nothing more recently. His hostility towards religion irritates me, so I tend to avoid his work, but I might get The Ancestor’s Tale in paperback.

    I know from The Blind Watchmaker that apparently Darwin “made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” (quoting from memory). Well, OK, maybe. But it certainly didn’t cause atheism; it just meant that there were a lot of intellectually unfulfilled atheists, and for a long time, too; atheism goes back to ancient Greece, at least.

    Even if Dawkins is right and Darwinism makes it easier to be an intellectually fulfilled atheism, that doesn’t mean that Darwinian theory causes atheism.

    Why are they fighting so hard to preserve a bogus theory?

    I’m not clear on this; who is fighting, and what’s the bogus theory?

  20. As I said “you seem to be blind or maybe there is some other attitude that is driving your comments.”

    Now you’ve got me curious. What “other attitude” do you see at work in my comments?

  21. I’ve said it already, the Church embraced “intelligent design” (lower case) at Vatican Council I (1869-70) in the sense of Romans 1:19-20. The Pope is not repudiating his previous pro-evolution writings:

    “We cannot say: creation or evolution, inasmuch as these two things respond to two different realities. The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God [Genesis 2:7], which we just heard, does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are. It explains their inmost origin and casts light on the project that they are. And, vice versa, the theory of evolution seeks to understand and describe biological developments. But in so doing it cannot explain where the ‘project’ of human persons comes from, nor their inner origin, nor their particular nature. To that extent we are faced here with two complementary — rather than mutually exclusive — realities.” (In the Beginning by Cardinal Ratzinger, 1986, 1995)

    The section titled “A Creating Reason and Intelligence” can be seen to support intelligent design (lower case) as well.

    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p81.htm

    From Vatican Council I, Chapter 2, On revelation

    “1. The same Holy mother Church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all things, can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason : ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” (cf. Romans 1:19-20; also Wisdom chapter 13)

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/V1.HTM

    This is dogma so we’re not going away from this. The RCC is explicit (unlike “design theorists”), the intelligent designer is the Christian God of the Nicene Creed. :-)

    Phil P

  22. Ken Miller must be a little put off that the Pope thought for himself on this issue rather than listenning to the professional salesman of CatholoDarwinism.

  23. PhilVaz wrote

    “This is dogma so we’re not going away from this. The RCC is explicit (unlike “design theorists”), the intelligent designer is the Christian God of the Nicene Creed.”

    The people writing doctrine are theologians, not scientists. Do you expect theologians in the RCC to have a doubt who the Intelligent Designer is?

    The point of ID is that we are able to detect design WITHOUT KNOWING THE IDENTITY OF THE DESIGNER.

    The Intelligent Designer seems from the evidence to qualify for the title of either a super human like being, or a god. What is the Name of the Intelligent Designer? That is for the theologians to figure out, not the scientists. Each scientists will have their own idea. It will make for interesting lunch time conversation.

    We have been told up to now, by those berating ID, that the Designer is the only the God of Protestant Fundamentalists. Perhaps now He is also the God of the RCC. Should we include the God of the Jews? How about the God of Moslems?

    If the Intelligent Designer is claimed by so many people, how can the teaching of ID be said to establish a particular religious position? The 10,000 Protestant pastors who signed the pro Darwin petition certainly do not claim that ID establishes Protestantism.

  24. You mean that if Darwinism isn’t resisted, we’ll become like Western Europe: with full reproductive freedom, higher literarcy rates, less incarceration, lower infant mortality, fewer hours worked per week, longer vacations per year, and national health care?

    And all this came about due to the belief that biological systems are the result of an unguided, random, purposeless trial and error process?

  25. The Pope’s declaration will make life harder for Darwinian Catholics.

    Anyway, this is from the ANSA article:

    Supporters of ID pounced on the NYT article in their fight to win credibility for a theory many scientists see as Creationism in respectable clothing.

    “Respectable clothing”?! ! What ever happened to the cheap clothing?!! Where is the cheap tuxedo, darn it?!

    Of course, the article could not end without a bogus definition of ID:

    Supporters of ID hold that some features of the universe and living things are so complex they must have been designed by a higher intelligence .

  26. 26

    There is as yet no “evolutionary theory.” All we have are a couple of discredited hypotheses and still viable ones like the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis which continues to be in concert with everything we really know from the fossil record and the experimental laboratory.

    By the way, does anyone have access to the current issue of Rivista di Biologia? I submitted a paper for publication there with the title “Do we have an evolutionary theory.” I would like to know if it ever appeared. They used to send me a copy of the issues containing my papers but they don’t do that anymore. The title may not appear on the cover. I may be persona non grata with Rivista these days. Nothing would surprise me anymore. You may have to look for it in the Correspondence section. It is available on the side board if anyone is interested which I regard as rather unlikely judging from my experience here as elsewhere.

    “I get no respect.”
    Rodney Dangerfield

    I love it so!

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

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