The Times (July 9, 2005) has an article following an Op Ed last week by
Cardinal Schonborn on the issue of Intelligent Design (Both articles below). The
An influential cardinal in the Roman Catholic
Church, which has long been regarded as an ally of the theory of evolution, is
now suggesting that belief in evolution as accepted by science today may be
incompatible with Catholic faith.
One is tempted to think, "What took you so
long?" Not scientific caution or concern over truth, it would seem. Clearly the
previous position cited from Pope Paul was defensive public relations.
Challenging Darwin in public is dangerous for public orgs in their PR mode, and
the Dalai Lama and even most New Age gurus (with important exceptiosn) wouldn't
dare mention the issue, lest their market share plummet. Maybe now public
opinion has been sufficiently reworked from something a bit bolder, some old
scams on the design front rehashed.
Now that the ID movement has tested the
waters and taken the flak, the Catholic Church may be getting up the nerve to
cash in on the public muddle created by the Darwin debate on both sides. The
argument by design used to be Catholic dogma, perhaps they can get their old
authority back, this time dressed up in the ID proponent William Dembski's
statistical sophistries. So which is it? Statistics, or papal authority, and the
'plausibility' created by prior faith? At least Behe, Dembski and the Discovery
institute indulged in the pretense of arguing the case. This situation can be
dangerous, because the propaganda machine run by the Catholic Church is capable
of immense harm in the influence it wields on innocent believers, and its
ability to declare by fiat and the subtle intimidation of hierarchical
In fact, the danger here is also the complete stupidity of
Darwinists defending their own 'faith'. They will continue pronouncing the same
Darwin dogmas to have scientifically resolved this issue once and for all as
these reactionaries, unable to believe their good fortune, are handed a trump
card they have no business playing. It is almost pitiful. Darwinists have set
the secular public up for a fall, and have actually allowed religionists to
upstage them with the criticisms of evolutionary theory.
What is needed is
an intelligent secular Postdarwinism that can deal properly with the shibboleths
of purpose that religionists are all to eager to claim from an age of Big
Science frozen in positivistic methodology. In that context questions of faith
must be shown up as the problematical legacies they are. Darwin's theory may be
flawed, and questions of purpose my be relevant, but if this true we must not be
too timid as to exempt Christian theology from a thorough critique, and a
warning that authoritarian means of deciding these issues can wreak havoc on a
public still lamentably in thrall to exploiting priesthoods.
Time to consider these issues in light of the eonic effect (http://eonix.8m.com
), the evidence of non-random
'evolution' visible in history, evidence that comprehensively throws light on
the place of religion, especially monotheism, in world history. Time to consider
the facts of evolution here, what that means. One can only recommend the
methodology of the eonic history/evolution discourse, in which the question
of 'evolution' in its proper meaning overlaps with the historical enquiry into
the emergence of civilization. There the great religions show their signature as
evolutionary, not revelatory, constructs, and their remnants must confront the
exploitation of Axial Age myths in their metaphysical presumptions. The issues
of 'providence', and 'purpose' can be wrested from both the fallacies of
reductionism, and the ideological propaganda the Christian churches wish to make
of them. This creates a level playing field. If you wish to talk 'evolution',
then the status of the Old Testament gets tabled immediately. The secular
interpretation may be as wrong as the religious. So what is the meaning of the
Axial Age in light of evolution, taken historically?
Thus, the Christian
churches are certainly welcome to enter the fray, but can have no
real place in the Darwin debate unless they can accept the findings of
Biblical Criticism in the same way that they examine the flaws of Darwinism. And
the ascription of purpose to the universe must allow challenge to the false
teleologies built into Christian theology. This just for starters. In general,
the risk here is that the Catholic Church will do what can to destroy real
debate, if it can win back sufficient gullible assent to exert its authority
over the issue.
One is suspicious that this kind of outcome was precisely
what the Intelligent Design movement leaders wished for all along, in some form
or another. Control by fiat, and the indoctrination by religious means of
resurgent 'postmodern' anti-secularism. Their critiques of Darwinism ring a bit
hollow, having been soaked up from dissenting scientists who did not think their
critiques for rehashing the argument by design, or theistic metaphysical
exploitations. It is the power to control gullible minds that is up for grabs.
Let us be clear what 'purpose' amounts to in this demented ideologies. Mad
eschatologists wish to seize control of the future, by appeals to faith,
otherwise by terrorist acts of---yes it all sounds familiar.
Finding Design in Nature--NY Times OP ED
Published: July 7, 2005
EVER since 1996, when
Pope John Paul II said that evolution (a term he did not define) was "more than
just a hypothesis," defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma have often invoked the
supposed acceptance - or at least acquiescence - of the Roman Catholic Church
when they defend their theory as somehow compatible with Christian faith.
this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details
about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the
human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the
natural world, including the world of living things.
Evolution in the sense
of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an
unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not.
Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming
evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.
Consider the real
teaching of our beloved John Paul. While his rather vague and unimportant 1996
letter about evolution is always and everywhere cited, we see no one discussing
these comments from a 1985 general audience that represents his robust teaching
"All the observations concerning the development of life lead to a
similar conclusion. The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to
determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality
which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for
which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which
is its inventor, its creator."
He went on: "To all these indications of the
existence of God the Creator, some oppose the power of chance or of the proper
mechanisms of matter. To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a
complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life
would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as
it appears to us. In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without
a cause. It would be to abdicate human intelligence, which would thus refuse to
think and to seek a solution for its problems."
Note that in this quotation
the word "finality" is a philosophical term synonymous with final cause, purpose
or design. In comments at another general audience a year later, John Paul
concludes, "It is clear that the truth of faith about creation is radically
opposed to the theories of materialistic philosophy. These view the cosmos as
the result of an evolution of matter reducible to pure chance and
Naturally, the authoritative Catechism of the Catholic Church
agrees: "Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to
the question of origins. The existence of God the Creator can be known with
certainty through his works, by the light of human reason." It adds: "We believe
that God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any
necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance."
In an unfortunate new twist
on this old controversy, neo-Darwinists recently have sought to portray our new
pope, Benedict XVI, as a satisfied evolutionist. They have quoted a sentence
about common ancestry from a 2004 document of the International Theological
Commission, pointed out that Benedict was at the time head of the commission,
and concluded that the Catholic Church has no problem with the notion of
"evolution" as used by mainstream biologists - that is, synonymous with
The commission's document, however, reaffirms the perennial
teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature.
Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul's 1996 letter on evolution, the
commission cautions that "the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of
all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which
explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of
life in the universe."
Furthermore, according to the commission, "An unguided
evolutionary process - one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence -
simply cannot exist."
Indeed, in the homily at his installation just a few
weeks ago, Benedict proclaimed: "We are not some casual and meaningless product
of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is
willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."
Throughout history the
church has defended the truths of faith given by Jesus Christ. But in the modern
era, the Catholic Church is in the odd position of standing in firm defense of
reason as well. In the 19th century, the First Vatican Council taught a world
newly enthralled by the "death of God" that by the use of reason alone mankind
could come to know the reality of the Uncaused Cause, the First Mover, the God
of the philosophers.
Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with
scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology
invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in
modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by
proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific
theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of
"chance and necessity" are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an
abdication of human intelligence.
Christoph Schönborn, the Roman Catholic
cardinal archbishop of Vienna, was the lead editor of the official 1992
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Followup article on frontpage of Times,
July 9, 2005
An influential cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, which
has long been regarded as an ally of the theory of evolution, is now suggesting
that belief in evolution as accepted by science today may be incompatible with
The cardinal, Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, a
theologian who is close to Pope Benedict XVI, staked out his position in an
Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Thursday, writing, "Evolution in the
sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense
- an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is
In a telephone interview from a monastery in Austria, where he was on
retreat, the cardinal said that his essay had not been approved by the Vatican,
but that two or three weeks before Pope Benedict XVI's election in April, he
spoke with the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, about the church's position
on evolution. "I said I would like to have a more explicit statement about that,
and he encouraged me to go on," said Cardinal Schönborn.
He said that he had
been "angry" for years about writers and theologians, many Catholics, who he
said had "misrepresented" the church's position as endorsing the idea of
evolution as a random process.
Opponents of Darwinian evolution said they
were gratified by Cardinal Schönborn's essay. But scientists and science
teachers reacted with confusion, dismay and even anger. Some said they feared
the cardinal's sentiments would cause religious scientists to question their
Cardinal Schönborn, who is on the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic
Education, said the office had no plans to issue new guidance to teachers in
Catholic schools on evolution. But he said he believed students in Catholic
schools, and all schools, should be taught that evolution is just one of many
theories. Many Catholic schools teach Darwinian evolution, in which accidental
mutation and natural selection of the fittest organisms drive the history of
life, as part of their science curriculum.
Darwinian evolution is the
foundation of modern biology. While researchers may debate details of how the
mechanism of evolution plays out, there is no credible scientific challenge to
the underlying theory.
American Catholics and conservative evangelical
Christians have been a potent united front in opposing abortion, stem cell
research and euthanasia, but had parted company on the death penalty and the
teaching of evolution. Cardinal Schönborn's essay and comments are an indication
that the church may now enter the debate over evolution more forcefully on the
side of those who oppose the teaching of evolution alone.
One of the
strongest advocates of teaching alternatives to evolution is the Discovery
Institute in Seattle, which promotes the idea, termed intelligent design, that
the variety and complexity of life on earth cannot be explained except through
the intervention of a designer of some sort.
Mark Ryland, a vice president of
the institute, said in an interview that he had urged the cardinal to write the
essay. Both Mr. Ryland and Cardinal Schönborn said that an essay in May in The
Times about the compatibility of religion and evolutionary theory by Lawrence M.
Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, suggested
to them that it was time to clarify the church's position on evolution.
cardinal's essay was submitted to The Times by a Virginia public relations firm,
Creative Response Concepts, which also represents the Discovery
Mr. Ryland, who said he knew the cardinal through the
International Theological Institute in Gaming, Austria, where he is chancellor
and Mr. Ryland is on the board, said supporters of intelligent design were "very
excited" that a church leader had taken a position opposing Darwinian evolution.
"It clarified that in some sense the Catholics aren't fine with it," he
Bruce Chapman, the institute's president, said the cardinal's essay
"helps blunt the claims" that the church "has spoken on Darwinian evolution in a
way that's supportive."
But some biologists and others said they read the
essay as abandoning longstanding church support for evolutionary
"How did the Discovery Institute talking points wind up in Vienna?"
wondered Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science
Education, which advocates the teaching of evolution. "It really did look quite
a bit as if Cardinal Schönborn had been reading their Web pages."
said the cardinal was well versed on these issues and had written the essay on
Dr. Francis Collins, who headed the official American effort to
decipher the human genome, and who describes himself as a Christian, though not
a Catholic, said Cardinal Schönborn's essay looked like "a step in the wrong
direction" and said he feared that it "may represent some backpedaling from what
scientifically is a very compelling conclusion, especially now that we have the
ability to study DNA."
"There is a deep and growing chasm between the
scientific and the spiritual world views," he went on. "To the extent that the
cardinal's essay makes believing scientists less and less comfortable inhabiting
the middle ground, it is unfortunate. It makes me uneasy."
"unplanned," "random" and "natural" are all adjectives that biologists might
apply to the process of evolution, said Dr. Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of
biology at Brown and a Catholic. But even so, he said, evolution "can fall
within God's providential plan." He added: "Science cannot rule it out. Science
cannot speak on this."
Dr. Miller, whose book "Finding Darwin's God"
describes his reconciliation of evolutionary theory with Christian faith, said
the essay seemed to equate belief in evolution with disbelief in God. That is
alarming, he said. "It may have the effect of convincing Catholics that
evolution is something they should reject."
Dr. Collins and other scientists
said they could understand why a cleric might want to make the case that, as Dr.
Collins put it, "evolution is the mechanism by which human beings came into
existence, but God had something to do with that, too." Dr. Collins said that
view, theistic evolution, "is shared with a very large number of biologists who
also believe in God, including me."
But it does not encompass the idea that
the workings of evolution required the direct intervention of a supernatural
agent, as intelligent design would have it.
In his essay, Cardinal Schönborn
asserted that he was not trying to break new ground but to correct the idea,
"often invoked," that the church accepts or at least acquiesces to the theory of
He referred to widely cited remarks by Pope John Paul II, who, in
a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, noted that the scientific
case for evolution was growing stronger and that the theory was "more than a
In December, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, chairman of the
Committee on Science and Human Values of the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops, cited those remarks in writing to the nation's bishops that
"the Church does not need to fear the teaching of evolution as long as it is
understood as a scientific account of the physical origins and development of
the universe." But in his essay, Cardinal Schönborn dismissed John Paul's
statement as "rather vague and unimportant."
Francisco Ayala, a professor of
biology at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Dominican priest,
called this assessment "an insult" to the late pope and said the cardinal seemed
to be drawing a line between the theory of evolution and religious faith, and
"seeing a conflict that does not exist."
Dr. Miller said he was already
hearing from people worried about the cardinal's essay. "People are saying, does
the church really believe this?" He said he would not speculate. "John Paul II
made it very clear that he regarded scientific rationality as a gift from God,"
Dr. Miller said, adding, "There are more than 100 cardinals and they often have
And The Eonic Effect
Selections from new edition &