Home » Intelligent Design » What I would tell the Catholic Church: re intelligent design and evolution

What I would tell the Catholic Church: re intelligent design and evolution

Apparently, there is a big confab right now at the Vatican to decide what to say about intelligent design vs. evolution. A friend insisted, for some reason, that I offer an opinion. Heck, everyone is doing that, it seems.

Ever since Pope Benedict XVI said, in his inaugural mass, that we are not “some casual and meaningless product of evolution,” the Catholic Church has found itself in the spotlight, asserting, against the adminbots and pundits of a materialist society, the we are purposeful and meaningful.

The fact that I am a Catholic myself makes me less willing, not more willing, to butt in, but  how about this: Recover your heritage!

Recover the traditional Catholic idea of evolution, which is not a Darwinian struggle for survival.

There is a whole Catholic way of understanding evolution that was buried by vulgar Darwinism, which was well suited to the expansion of a military and commercial empire – the materialism of expressways and shopping malls. Darwinism told people what they already knew (that the big guns win) through the entire history of life. That was false but in an age of imperial expansion and falling trees, it sounded true.

There were non-Darwinian Catholic contributors to evolution theory – St. George Mivart and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. What about Giuseppe Sermonti or Jerome Lejeune?

Mivart summarized the problems with Darwinism as follows, a hundred and thirty-five years ago:

What is to be brought forward (against Darwinism) may be summed up as follows:

That “Natural Selection” is incompetent to account for the incipient stages of useful structures. That it does not harmonize with the co-existence of closely similar structures of diverse origin. That there are grounds for thinking that specific differences may be developed suddenly instead of gradually. That the opinion that species have definite though very different limits to their variability is still tenable. That certain fossil transitional forms are absent, which might have been expected to be present. That there are many remarkable phenomena in organic forms upon which “Natural Selection” throws no light whatever. (From By Design or by Chance?, p. 70-71.)

These are still problems. Nothing has changed except that the Darwinists are louder, ruder, and more bullying than ever.

Maybe it’s time to just tell the Darwinists to siddown, shuddup, and let others talk for a while.

Gosh, if the Catholic conclave did that, it would be making a real contribution. The Catholics who have weighed in on the subject may be right or wrong, but it’s time the Church recovered its own history and gave them a listen.

Even if a person is largely wrong, the points on which he is right might show a way forward.

It’s almost not worth deciding what to do about Darwinism, because it is on the way out anyway. But we must find some comprehensive way of addressing the history of life. Listening to the muffled or silenced voices – especially from one’s own tradition – would be a good beginning.

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24 Responses to What I would tell the Catholic Church: re intelligent design and evolution

  1. Denyse,

    I hope the Holy Roman Church does embrace ID. It would go a long way to keep ID out of biology classes in American public schools.

    Mind you, I have no problem with ID as a philosophy seeking to become science. But ultimately the scientific community at large will decide whether methodological naturalism ceases to be a defining characteristic of science. Not His Holiness. Not the Prime Minister. And not even the Burning Bush.

    “There is a whole Catholic way of understanding evolution that was buried by vulgar Darwinism, which was well suited to the expansion of a military and commercial empire – the materialism of expressways and shopping malls.”

    Your equivocation on “materialism” is interesting. From dictionary.com:

    1. preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.
    2. the philosophical theory that regards matter and its motions as constituting the universe, and all phenomena, including those of mind, as due to material agencies.

    I will gladly concede that there is a close relationship between the two meanings. You have made it clear on this blog that you think materialism(2) causes materialism(1). I suppose it does sometimes. But most Americans disavow materialism(2) and live out materialism(1) in their daily lives, irrespective of the pious things they have to say. Have you ever tried to persuade a Christian to read literally “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven”? I have. Most do their best to deny how very wealthy they are. What I’m driving at is that the primary cause of materialism(1) is a failure of religion to have a substantive impact on the daily practice of believers.

    Believers love technology and the wealth it brings them. Science is the mother of technology, so they must exalt science. By overvaluing science, they ensure that there will be a hideous mess when scientific explanations disagree with their religious beliefs. I believe that materialism(1) leads the general public to make more of science than it should, not materialism(2).

    “Darwinism told people what they already knew (that the big guns win) through the entire history of life. That was false but in an age of imperial expansion and falling trees, it sounded true.”

    Denyse, you are such a Canadian! You think the age of empire ended? Hah! And double-hah! God Bless America. (I’ll bet you Canadians ask God’s forgiveness before asking Her blessing. We Americans know God forgives us no matter what evil we do.) Don’t you understand that most of the participants here love pairing testosterone-OD’d boys with high-tech toys to kick Islamist butt? To be serious, this, again, is a failure in religion. It is a very old one — the notion of Christian war, so terribly incongruous with Jesus’ teachings, so Old Testament — that first manifested in the HRC.

  2. “Don’t you understand that most of the participants here love pairing testosterone-OD’d boys with high-tech toys to kick Islamist butt? To be serious, this, again, is a failure in religion. It is a very old one — the notion of Christian war, so terribly incongruous with Jesus’ teachings, so Old Testament — that first manifested in the HRC.”

    So you want us to become a theocracy? Don’t know that I’m all that comfortable with our leaders going to the Bible to make foreign policy decisions. Besides, didn’t the apostle Paul say that the state doesn’t bear the sword in vain? Now that sounds like a real separation of church and state to me.

  3. “Denyse, you are such a Canadian! You think the age of empire ended? Hah! And double-hah! God Bless America. (I’ll bet you Canadians ask God’s forgiveness before asking Her blessing. We Americans know God forgives us no matter what evil we do.) Don’t you understand that most of the participants here love pairing testosterone-OD’d boys with high-tech toys to kick Islamist butt? To be serious, this, again, is a failure in religion. It is a very old one — the notion of Christian war, so terribly incongruous with Jesus’ teachings, so Old Testament — that first manifested in the HRC.”

    Honestly, not to be rude, but have even studied this topic seriously? I mean for more than like 15 min. I’ll let you take on the task, but let me just tell you Jesus talked more about Hell and Sin then He did about Heaven and Peace. There is a reason why…

    “Most do their best to deny how very wealthy they are. What I’m driving at is that the primary cause of materialism(1) is a failure of religion to have a substantive impact on the daily practice of believers.”

    Bill Maher said that 80% of America is Christian (not the most reliable source I know), but that doesn’t make all them Christian and don’t forget there are different maturity levels in the Chirstian faith. Also, Paul in 1 Timothy mentions that the rich do have their place in God’s hand. If you are going to judge the ppl who “love their wealth” why don’t you include the ones who don’t? Plus, there are a lot of them fighting naturalism/practicing their religion out there *see this blog :)

  4. [off topic]

    “So you want us to become a theocracy?” No, a republic with a majority of conscientious objectors.
    “[go] to the Bible to make foreign policy decisions” No, ask “What would Jesus do?”
    “the apostle Paul” ain’t Jesus.

  5. [off topic]

    jpark320: “I’ll let you take on the task, but let me just tell you Jesus talked more about Hell and Sin then He did about Heaven and Peace. There is a reason why…”

    Yeah, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Spare me the standard exegesis — I’ve heard it before.) Jesus gave no circumstances under which we are justified in harming others. For a good discussion, see Chapter 1 of Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You,

    http://www.kingdomnow.org/w-inyou01.html .

  6. 6

    How long is “not right away?”

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

  7. I believe that the Church Fathers typically interpreted the Genesis creation story in a way that could generally be described as a front-loaded evolution. I’m thinking of Augustine’s “seminales rationes”.

  8. 8

    Apparently Denyse has elected not to present my perfectly innocuous and informative message. If that is the case she may expect no more comments from me on any thread she authors, a decision I have already reached with respect to threads authored by DaveScot and for the same reason. I will try my luck with Salvador, if I get a chance that is.

    Who is next to delete or deny coments by this published investigator of the great mystery of organic evoloution?

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

  9. There is a whole Catholic way of understanding evolution that was buried by vulgar Darwinism, which was well suited to the expansion of a military and commercial empire – the materialism of expressways and shopping malls. Darwinism told people what they already knew (that the big guns win) through the entire history of life. That was false but in an age of imperial expansion and falling trees, it sounded true.

    Denyse, you confuse me. If ID is supposed to be scientific, it should deal with scientific evolution, not what you call “Darwinism”, which has nothing to do with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    Methinks it looks like a strawman.

  10. Tom English: I think you did a beautiful job of explaining the connections between the two definitions of materialism, and I couldn’t agree more that the love of things has led to the worship of science. This doesn’t, however, necessarily mean that materialism (2) is an innocuous by-product. In the history of the human spirit, it has taken on a life of its own, becoming the primary idolatry, and in this sense vastly destructive.

  11. [off topic reply!]
    “Yeah, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Spare me the standard exegesis — I’ve heard it before.) Jesus gave no circumstances under which we are justified in harming others. For a good discussion, see Chapter 1 of Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You,”

    [Sorry, but I gotta respond!]

    Tom, the verse you chose to represent my view is WAY off the mark and has absolutely nothing to do with what I said. That verse (for a standard exegesis :) ) is about the authority of the Scripture. It’s more like Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” He didn’t want people to make the mistake that He just came to make people smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

    Now for a quick theology, there are 3 types of justice, God’s, governments, and personal. And you are right, Jesus never once told us to exact or even step towards to harming others. However put this together from Romans 13:

    “1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”
    +
    “2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”
    +
    “3For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.”
    = 4…if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

    This is the 2nd type of Justice that God commissioned by God to punish evil (yes even capital punishment aka sword) on Earth – the Government, not individually.

    Now, that’s the standard exegesis ;P

  12. jpark

    Romans 13:1 seems to say that all governments on the earth are established by God or else they wouldn’t exist. Romans 13:2 goes on to say that resisting the government is the same as resisting God. So does that mean Germans who resisted the Nazi gov’t were in fact resisting God? I don’t get it. That hardly seems right.

  13. DaveScot: nice. I think most of the New Testament stuff that sounds totally opposite to the Jesus of the Gospels will be found in the writings of Paul. Many of the most courageous resisters in Nazi Germany were religious Catholics who must have forgotten to read the parts in Romans to which jpark320 alludes…

  14. If anyone cares (I probably wouldn’t if I were you) this post has prompted me to write my own opinion on this matter. You can find it here:

    http://helives.blogspot.com/20.....ce-id.html

  15. Tina: “In the history of the human spirit, [philosophical materialism] has taken on a life of its own, becoming the primary idolatry, and in this sense vastly destructive.”

    I certainly will not dismiss this idea out of hand. I have focused on the fact that most Americans explicitly state beliefs diametrical to philosophical materialism — e.g., about half of American adults say that God created humans in more or less their present form, and close to a third say that God guided evolution. This is prima facie evidence against the notion of rampant philosophical materialism. But perhaps I have not thought enough about cognitive dissonance and the possibility that the masses might hold philosophical materialism as a latent philosophy. Hmm.

    Perhaps it will help get the thread back on track if I ask you, or whomever else cares to respond, why the Holy Roman Church should embrace ID to combat materialism? A design inference is justified only when “materialistic explanations” seem too improbable to countenance. Not to antagonize, but ID truly is an intelligence-in-the-gaps enterprise. A problem for ID is that a scientist can close a gap, forcing retraction of a design inference, by coming up with a sufficiently-probable materialistic explanation. Now, scientifically, belief revision is not such a big deal. But the HRC is likely to regard “unembodied” intelligence in the gaps as divine agency. Why would the Church deal in apparent scientific support for doctrine when the support is tenuous?

  16. Tom English: you say “a design inference is justified only when ‘materialistic explanations’ seem too improbable to countenance”. This is not a correct summary of ID. The capacity to use objective means to infer design is a very limited capacity, and so therefore it can only be USED in instances in which materialistic explanations are too improbable to countenance…this is very different. Even the simplest aspects of nature are possibly/likely the result of intelligent agency, its just that our capacity to infer design in simpler conditions is limited.

    Also, “the majority of Americans” doesn’t really constitute “the masses”. We are only one country, and a relatively thinly populated one at that. Philosophical materialism reigns in all of the most powerful institutions of modern society, whether Americans go to church on Sundays or not. I don’t really think it is an issue of cognitive dissonance. I think dissonance arises when awareness has reached a sufficient height to sense the disharmony. Most people hold philosophically inimical views out of habit and in great comfort, dissonance being a state of maturity far in advance of such convenient mental compartmentalizations.

  17. @ Davescot and Tinabrewer

    “jpark

    Romans 13:1 seems to say that all governments on the earth are established by God or else they wouldn’t exist. Romans 13:2 goes on to say that resisting the government is the same as resisting God. So does that mean Germans who resisted the Nazi gov’t were in fact resisting God? I don’t get it. That hardly seems right.

    Comment by DaveScot — August ”

    “Many of the most courageous resisters in Nazi Germany were religious Catholics who must have forgotten to read the parts in Romans to which jpark320 alludes…”

    Sorry, I wasn’t very clear. I was mostly responding to the right of the government to enact punishment upon people, so I didn’t get to cover all my bases.

    I infact completely agree with you two! Romans 13 is talking about human government as a God ordained instituion, just like marriage is God ordained institution. The big point is that these are not man made systems – they are put there by God for us.

    The Bible is clear on what the nature of marriage is and obviously it is being corrupted by this world. Same thing with government, the world has witnessed many rulers who have maligned God’s intention ie the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

    So in the ideal government, good people would not need to resist and go against what God has established, just like Romans said, only the evil have to fear the government. However, the Bible is clear, when there are evil rulers and His plans go all out-of-whack, to obey God before they obey the rulers. Just like the Apostles who defied Rome and the Sanhedrin and were commended by God for suffering for doing good, the ones who stood up to Nazi germany were also commended.

    Please don’t think, I would condemn those who stood/stand up to the evil rulers in this world. That is neither mine, nor the Biblical stance. Hope this clears things up for you guys :)

  18. jpark320: thanks. However, the verse says “every person is to be in subjection to the authorities” and further that “he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God”; neither of these passages qualify the term “authority” by saying “only the good kind that you humans at any given time happen to like”. It is then necessary, in order to defend this viewpoint, to look elsewhere in the Bible where this absolutist stance is contradicted or made more subtle. In this manner, it is possible to cobble together nearly any philosophical viewpoint one might be personally attracted to. However, there is only one truth.

  19. Tina,

    Tom: “a design inference is justified only when ‘materialistic explanations’ seem too improbable to countenance”.
    Tina: This is not a correct summary of ID.

    Sorry for writing like a mathematician. “Only when” does not express equivalence. Determining that chance hypotheses (materialistic explanations) are highly improbable is the first step. Then one must consider specificity.

    Tina: “The capacity to use objective means to infer design is a very limited capacity, and so therefore it can only be USED in instances in which materialistic explanations are too improbable to countenance…this is very different.”

    Objective means are all that might be admitted into science. Determining the probabilities of chance hypotheses is PART of Dembski’s design inference approach. The chance hypotheses must be rejected for design inference to be a possibility. In other words, the approach is not used only when it might succeed in drawing an inference.

    “Even the simplest aspects of nature are possibly/likely the result of intelligent agency, its just that our capacity to infer design in simpler conditions is limited.”

    Well, you could stop limiting design inference to elimination, and start allowing design inference by comparison. Bill Dembski wouldn’t be happy with you, though.

    “I think dissonance arises when awareness has reached a sufficient height to sense the disharmony.”

    You are right.

  20. tinabrewer:
    Its important to remember the Apostle Paul was writing this epistle during a time of intense persecution of the Church by the government, right? I’m sure you know he wrote all the “prison epistles” well in prison of all places :).

    And you don’t need to go anywhere else in the Bible to defend the view. What would you tell you children to do in regards to government in general. The samethings I bet! You’d say “Follow the rules, nobody is better than the law. And God put them in charge, so if you disobey than you are disobeying God.” Remember Paul, only devoted 5 verses or so to this, so you can’t expect Him to put down every exception into 5 verses,right? If his aim was to put forth all the exceptions, he would devoted more than that much space to that.

    Yes, I’d have to go else where to support this view, but you would have to too! You can’t reasonable from these 5 verses, say that what Paul meant was “under no circumstances must you contend against the authorities or else you’d be fighting God!” You would also have to go to other verses to reconcile your viewpoint to show that what Paul meant was obeying every Nazi command. Yes, there is only one truth, and I think we’re actually on the same side on this topic, but just debating different issues heh go figure.

  21. From what I have read in this post and previous posts by Denyse and Bill on what the Catholic Church has said recently, they have already openly embraced design, maybe not as it is spelled out on this thread as a scientific discipline but they certainly have said the world and life is designed.

    Secondly, they also seem to be taking a position that might undermine neo Darwinism or other materialistic processes as causes for all life events. By saying that science has failed to show any reasonable cause for a lot of life’s events they could gracefully retreat in the future when one of these life events is shown to probably have a naturalistic cause.

    So they could say life is designed without mentioning any support for a specific scientific approach and also say that a lot of specific life events currently fail naturalistic mechanisms without committing to what actually is the cause of these events.

    A sample proclamation might be “Life is designed and science has failed to show so far that there are any naturalistic causes for several of life’s events.” They would certainly word it much better than I.

    A possible scenario then would be to make sure this gets into Catholic education either in their schools or into their religious education. What do they lose from such a decision? Whether it gets into the public school curriculum or not might not make any difference as long as it becomes part of their teaching.

    Other religions might also address the same issue and decide if they would want to take a position. Right now I believe there is a reaction to creationists among many with religious beliefs in this country who don’t hold these creationist beliefs. And if a religion that does not espouse a literal Genesis approach takes a stand on evolution it might ease the way for others to also do so too. I could be wrong and we will also have to wait to see what the Catholic Church decides to do. They are obviously concerned.

  22. I was taught in Catholic school that an all powerful God could use any means to create Man, including evolution.
    When I studied the science in college, i was underwhelmed by the evidence. No observable process in Nature organizes upwards. Species diverge, and submerge. They don’t emerge. I hope the Pope’s conclave states it plainly.

  23. I think Wallace Thornhill’s remarks about scientists are relevant, although he was writing about “dark matter”:

    Is there Intelligent Life Down Here on Earth?

    If there were a modest degree of intelligent life on Earth you might think that a theory that rests upon empirical observation, without resorting to invisible dark matter and other abstract inventions and beliefs, would be the focus of attention. Alas, Eric Idle’s forlorn assessment seems to be accurate.

    Evidently a PhD and a large number of published papers do not signify an individual’s intelligence. The techniques we use to judge intelligence are skewed toward cleverness, conformity and a good memory. But there is one important facet that is never considered—emotional intelligence. Yet it requires a high degree of emotional intelligence to respond rationally to information that threatens our sense of personal power or of how things are. Judging from the rejection of Halton Arp’s discoveries, it is a crucial lesson we are missing. Irritation or dismissal in response to a well-argued case is a signal that emotion has overruled reason.

    Historians of science are fond of using today’s theories to expose the theoretical blind spots of earlier thinkers. However, in a review in Science of Exceeding Our Grasp: Science, History, and the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives, Tim Lewins writes, “P. Kyle Stanford …tries to show that past scientists have typically failed to consider (let alone evaluate) important alternatives to the theories they have ended up espousing. …Stanford’s aim is not to congratulate modern scientists on how much more perceptive they are than their predecessors. He argues that there is no reason to think that we are any better …at avoiding cognitive oversight. According to Stanford, history suggests that modern scientists, too, are currently overlooking alternative theoretical options of a wholly alien sort, which will only be apparent to scientists of the future. This persistent failure of the scientific imagination means that we should expect the truth to lie in the vast space of theories to which we are presently blind, rather than in the small areas that we are able to survey.”

    To get a glimpse of the science of the future, I have found it useful to seek out the courageous individuals who face academic rejection and disrespect for their heresies. Ostracism is a familiar human response to uncertainty. But then it is necessary to use your own judgment and to deal with your own uncertainties when evaluating the work of outcasts. It is demanding to behave intelligently— but the rewards in new and better understanding of our world and ourselves are worth the trouble.

    http://www.holoscience.com/new.....e=stb9s0ye

  24. “Yes, I’d have to go else where to support this view, but you would have to too! You can’t reasonable from these 5 verses, say that what Paul meant was “under no circumstances must you contend against the authorities or else you’d be fighting God!”

    I find it surpassingly odd that Paul, who was quite wordy, would make such an astounding proclamation and leave it to five miserable verses on a matter of such import, and considering that just a couple of decades previously, the Roman government had, together with a few of Jesus’ Jewish enemies, put the incarnation of God to death by torture, in accordance with their laws…

    I smell a rat.

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