Thursday, January 19, 2006

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.

23 Comments:

At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former fundamentalist Christian, I can confirm that fundamentalist Christians already have contempt for Catholicism (believing it to be the "Whore of Babylon" mentioned in the Book of Revelations). When I read stories like this, my hope is that such contempt will rise to the fore to reveal the hostility fundamentalism has for those of other faiths.

 
At 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Methinks the blogger doth protest too much." While it's true that there's been a lot of inconsistency and equivocation from the Catholic Church, on the whole it has been supportive of evolution. All they want is to claim some turf for questions that are outside the scope of science. Evolution needs all the support it can get, so if representatives from a mainstrain religious group offer that support, is it really necessary to be so critical?

 
At 6:02 PM, Blogger John Farrell said...

Well, related to what Jason illustrated in his earlier post re: Cardinal Schonborn, the Vatican newspaper might not even have felt the need to publish the article, had the Cardinal not put his foot in it last summer, apparently at the invitation of Mark Ryland at the Discovery Institute. Methinks the higher ups in Rome are not amused....

 
At 10:54 PM, Blogger Schonborn Site said...

If you are interested in more information on Cardinal Schonborn, as well as his views and ongoing contributions to this debate, you might be interested in visited the site/blog I direct:

http://blog.cardinalschonborn.com

and

http://www.cardinalschonborn.com

thanks!

 
At 11:08 PM, Blogger Jasen M aka The Staple said...

The catholics liberal stance continues, not much new here, whatever pleases the majority and brings asses to the masses. Just like with the gays and abortion. Good old Pope!

 
At 11:23 PM, Anonymous Fred said...

Way to go Jasen M. I'm sure Jesus would hate gays, right?

Are religious folks today incapable of even trying to live up to the example Jesus set? Do they not realize how evil and hypocritical they are?

 
At 1:34 AM, Anonymous Jerry Schwarz said...

To me the most interesting thing about the article may have nothing to do with the Vatican's position but that of the NY Times.

In a paragraph standing alone as a simple statement of fact the Times says

"There is no credible scientific challenge to the idea that evolution explains the diversity of life on earth, but advocates for intelligent design posit that biological life is so complex that it must have been designed by an intelligent source."

This isn't presented as someone's opinion but as a simple statement of fact. This means that the Times has finally seen through the propoganda of the "Intelligent Design" advocates.

 
At 3:53 AM, Anonymous outlier said...

I know you reported on your impression of the Catholic viewpoint, which is necessarily subjective. My own viewpoint (also admittedly subjective and from being raised as in the religion) is that most Catholics aren't bothered at all by evolution, and accept it as fact. (An elderly Catholic once told me that evolution wasn't a problem but Sigmund Freud was was.)

On reflection, this is largely a default position adopted in the absence of any official stance or concern about the issue. But it is consistent with Catholic respect for study and reason as ways of understanding the world. Christianity is far from a homogenous set of beliefs and the opposition to evolution comes from more fundamentalist types. Actually, I suspect this has little to do with religion (why do they never protest about astrophysics?) and more to do with the political ambitions of fundamentalist churches.

 
At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Don said...

Let's take a look at Jasen M's blogger profile, shall we?

"About Me
About me? Well, I'm a BIG Cub fan, and I'm in BMW sales. I live just outside of Chicago and I have 2 little girls. I enjoy a few drinks at a bar, cars, movies, music, so, you know, average guy stuff, I am a bit of a ladies man, I can tell because most women I meet tell me that I can be with them in my dreams, or something. Jokes on them though, I always take them home for "fun", they just usually are not there. Now that I have had some fun at my own expense, let me say that I hate "political correctness". My best skill is writing, I was a composition major at college of Dupage, and of course, like all good literary students, I went right into sales after school! It's never dull to roll with me, I promise that! I am recently into fitness, my weight of 235 is down from 275, but I still have a ways to go before I take up swimsuit modeling!!!! Ok, Ok, I love to ARGUE!"

Chasing women in bars with children at home? Sounds like fine Christian behavior to me. No hypocrisy here to see, just keep moving. Writing is his best skill? That is too bad because I'm recommending that DuPage Community College take back that Associates degree.
I don't usually go for personal attacks but this guy is a roach.

 
At 8:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are religious folks today incapable of even trying to live up to the example Jesus set? Do they not realize how evil and hypocritical they are?

Just the Taliban Christians (e.g. Falwell, Robertson, Phelps), which are unfortunately the most vocal and political faction of Christianity.

OTOH, those taking the teachings of Jesus seriously are too busy helping "the least of these" to get involved in politics, science, etc.

 
At 3:10 PM, Anonymous J-Dog said...

I am waiting for the Jesuits, the "Soldiers Of Christ", to fly to Seatle and trash the DI. I will download the "Casey Luskin begging for mercy and sobbing " images from the internet. Cardinal Schoenborn bitch-slapping John West would also inspire me to new religious heights.

They MIGHT get me back in time for a Sunday mass or two.

 
At 4:42 PM, Blogger John Farrell said...

Cardinal Schoenborn bitch-slapping John West would also inspire me to new religious heights.

Hot damn, j-dog! LOL. I would buy a ticket to see that!

:D

 
At 9:37 PM, Blogger Jasen M aka The Staple said...

Fredrick;.

"Are religious folks today incapable of even trying to live up to the example Jesus set? Do they not realize how evil and hypocritical they are?"

The standards Jesus set? Fred? Are you being serious? NO Really, Fred....

See Genesis 19, Lev 18:22, Lev 20:13, 1st Corinth. 6:9.

Also, here is a good stance on homosexuality, as taken by Richard Land, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, whom are usually a bit on the hard line right side of things.

"Condemnation of homosexuals is not a scriptural response", Land said. “Christians loving homosexuals without accepting their lifestyle is the way we can be most helpful in helping homosexuals to be liberated from that lifestyle,” he said.

During the task force presentation, Land stated that many in the culture are confused about “God’s gift of sexuality” and, for some, the “confusion is beginning at a very early age.”

“Too many people in authority and in positions of influence in the media are sending the wrong messages about sexuality,” he said, noting that children are the “most vulnerable and impacted” by these messages.

“In their desperate search for connection and self-worth, there are young men and women surrendering to the sexual confusion they feel and are perceiving around them in the culture and are turning to homosexuality and lesbianism,” he said.

“Homosexuality is not just something people do,” Land said. “Homosexuals are convinced that their homosexuality is part of who they are.

“We must come to a place where we understand that homosexuality is a symptom of deeper influences that result in sexual attractions for people of the same sex,” he continued.

It is vitally important that Christians share “the truth of God’s love” with these individuals; God has a plan for their lives, and it is up to Christians to help those in the homosexual lifestyle to understand that fact, Land said. “We must provide them with places of safe haven where God can work His miracle of grace and healing in the lives.”

 
At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Fred said...

Wow Jasen, that's quite a sad view. Sure, let's try to "cure" them.

It's good to see that you're as clueless about homosexuality as you are about evolution.

 
At 5:54 AM, Anonymous Richard Wein said...

I'd like to refer Jasen to the next blog entry up, regarding an article by Daniel Dennett. Why should rational people have any respect for moral values which are claimed to be based on the authority of a musty old book instead of on rational reflection? Why not use your (allegedly) god-given brain to think for yourself?

In reality I have my doubts about the extent to which theists really do get their moral values from their scriptures. I suspect it is more a case of using scripture as a pretext for values they would have held anyway. It seems that bigotry (including homophobia) is a natural human condition. But some of us try to use our rational minds and the benefits of enlightened civilization to overcome such base instincts.

 
At 10:13 AM, Anonymous jc said...

Richard-

Very well stated!

 
At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Jon Labonte said...

fred, homosexuality is a choice. a person makes the choice to be with another of the same sex. It is not natural, no more natural than a car running off of orange juice. If it were natural, then reproduction would have to be possible from it. You can put the key to your house in your ignition all you want, but your car will never start.

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Jasen M aka The Staple said...

richard,

you said: "Why not use your (allegedly) god-given brain to think for yourself?"

I believe I am doing what you propose, and that is thinking for myself.

If I was not thinking for myself, I'd just default to the things I am being taught in school now and since I was in elemenatry school.

Of course, my liberal minded teachers and liberals in general only want you to think for youself when it fits their pre determined agendas, anything else is viewed as right wing extremeism or fundamentalism or plain old craziness.

You, sir, are just following the blind man. I hope for your sake you stop following him before he wanders off a bridge.

 
At 2:42 PM, Blogger Jasen M aka The Staple said...

Dr. Jason

you said: "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."

Then why bother blogging this post in the first place?

 
At 5:41 PM, Anonymous BIG RON AND THE PRO LIFE MOB said...

UNRELATED, THIS HAPPENED ON TODAYS DATE IN 1973 AND IS BACK IN THEATRES NOW;

1973 Supreme Court legalizes abortion


In a historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Roe v. Wade that women, as part of their constitutional right to privacy, can terminate a pregnancy during its first two trimesters. Only during the last trimester, when the fetus can survive outside the womb, would states be permitted to regulate abortion of a healthy pregnancy.

The controversial ruling, essentially reversing a century of anti-abortion legislation in the United States, was the result of a call by many American women for control over their own reproductive processes. Although defended by the Supreme Court on several occasions, the legalization of abortion became a divisive and intensely emotional public issue. The debate intensified during the 1980s, and both pro-choice and pro-life organizations strengthened their membership and political influence.

Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush used their executive authority to legislate abortion clinic guidelines that restricted free practice of the procedure. However, in 1986, and again in 1989 and 1992, the Supreme Court narrowly reaffirmed the decision, and in 1993 President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, overturned his predecessors' anti-abortion legislation within days of taking office. In the 1990s, opponents of abortion rights increasingly turned to violent methods in their campaign to make abortion illegal again.

 
At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Richard Wein said...

Jasen M wrote: I believe I am doing what you propose, and that is thinking for myself.

You cited the Bible as the source of your moral values. That's not thinking for yourself.

 
At 4:31 PM, Blogger Bill Jacobs said...

The Catholic Church says that evolution and Catholic faith are compatible. From Pope Benedict XVI in 2007: "a somewhat fierce debate [is] raging between so-called 'creationism' and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favor of evolution, which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance. ...Reason should be more open, that it should indeed perceive these facts but also realize that they are not enough to explain all of reality. They are insufficient. Our reason is broader and can also see that our reason is not basically something irrational, a product of irrationality, but that reason, creative reason, precedes everything and we are truly the reflection of creative reason." To read more please visit the evolution page at the Catholic Conservation Center http://conservation.catholic.org/magisterium_is_concerned_with_qu.htm .

 
At 5:20 AM, Anonymous No Catholic Evolution said...

Actually the Catholic Church has always believed in a historical interpretation of Genesis. Neo-Darwinian evolution is impossible for a Catholic to hold because there is only one Immaculate Conception: http://www.kolbecenter.org/

 

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