The Vatican on Evolution (Again)
Have a look at this interesting article from today's New York Times:
The official Vatican newspaper published an article this week labeling as “correct” the recent decision by a judge in Pennsylvania that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution.
“If the model proposed by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another,” Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, wrote in the Jan. 16-17 edition of the paper, L'Osservatore Romano.
“But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science,” he wrote, calling intelligent design unscientific. “It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious.”
The article was not presented as an official church position. But in the subtle and purposely ambiguous world of the Vatican, the comments seemed notable, given their strength on a delicate question much debated under the new pope, Benedict XVI.
This is certainly welcome news, but it still leaves something to be desired. I will cut Facchini some slack for saying, “The model proposed by Darwin...” I'm sure he's perfectly aware that modern evolutionary theory is substantially different from anything Darwin proposed. But I'd still like to know if the Church believes there is, indeed, some fundamental deficiency in modern theory.
The article goes on to say
At least twice, Pope Benedict has signaled concern about the issue, prompting questions about his views. In April, when he was formally installed as pope, he said human beings "are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution." In November, he called the creation of the universe an "intelligent project," wording welcomed by supporters of intelligent design.
Many Roman Catholic scientists have criticized intelligent design, among them the Rev. George Coyne, a Jesuit who is director of the Vatican Observatory. “Intelligent design isn't science, even though it pretends to be,” he said in November, as quoted by the Italian news service ANSA. “Intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science.”
In October, Cardinal Schönborn sought to clarify his own remarks, saying he meant to question not the science of evolution but what he called evolutionism, an attempt to use the theory to refute the hand of God in creation.
“I see no difficulty in joining belief in the Creator with the theory of evolution, but under the prerequisite that the borders of scientific theory are maintained,” he said in a speech.
The impression that I have from all the recent conflicting statements from prominent Catholics is this: They begrudgingly concede that the evidence for evolution is very strong and that all proposed scientific alternatives to it are bogus. But, like a lot of relgiously inclined people, they just don't like it very much. That's why they're constantly making rather limp statements about how science can't comment on spiritual issues or can't disporve the existence of God.
Perhaps it can't. But that hardly implies the Catholic church has anything worthwhile to say on those subjects.