Teaching Evolution

A blog devoted to teaching evolution, both in our schools and in our communities.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Catholic Church Moving away from Evolution

Well, this was just a matter of time, I guess. As the Catholic church continues its march to the right, it is now laying the groundwork to turn its back on evolution. Catholic schools have long been supporters of teaching evolution, in many communities putting the public schools to shame with significantly more rigorous science standards and with clear language supporting Darwinism. The New York Times reports on the fallout from an op-ed it ran:

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 not."

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 faiths.

Thankfully, Times reporters Cornelia Dean and Laurie Goodstein don't fall into the common trap of thinking they need to present the anti-Darwinists as if they have a legitimate scientific case. They give their readers the facts:

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.

Dean is the Times' science editor, and I think she's probably the country's best science journalist. Goodstein is a religion reporter who has recently covered the Air Force Academy scandal and Billy Graham's final crusade. I hope the Times keeps putting them on this important story.


At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Franklin Jennings said...

Luckily, the good Cardinal didn't deny or dismiss any part of Evolutionary theory itself, merely the notion that Evolution is the result of randomness. This randomness is not itself a defensible scientific position, but rather a subjective philosophical one.

But what an excellent job you have done distorting his comments. Bravo!

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Franklin Jennings said...

"But scientists and science teachers reacted with confusion, dismay and even anger."

Boy, these aren't exactly emotionally detached intellects seeking out objective truth, eh? I mean, if "the evolution of life from a common origin did not occur by an unguided, unplanned process" sends them into hissy fits and bouts of the vapours, they must have some sort of fanatical devotion to the concept of random universe, no? A position, I have previously noted,beyond the scope of science.

That really was his only point: Evolution wasn't, isn't, random. Now, you may certainly conclude that it was, but be at least as honest as the good Cardinal and admit such an opinion carries no real scientific weight and is rooted in your own philosophy.

And from all this you claim the Catholic Church is laying the ground work to turn its back on evolution, properly so-called?

Either your intellect (not intelligent enough to process his written words) or your character (dishonest enough to misrepresent them) is stunted. Feel free to pick one.

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Darwin said...

Calm yourself, Franklin. A few deep breaths if you would...

That said, I believe that MDS is off base here, both in thinking that this consitutes "rolling back" evolution and also in describing the Church as marching towards the right. From reading down his posts a bit, perhaps his political feelings have left him with an unnuanced view of how the Church thinks on these issues.

The Church has never officially taken a position for or against evolution, since the Church holds that as a strictly physical process the function of speciation if irrelevant to it's primary job. (Pretty much the same as Stephen Jay Gould discussed with his NOMA principle.) Nor does Catholic biblical interpretation require the literal interpretations of scripture that some Protestant sects do.

I think that what Schonborn was primarily trying to do was insist that regardless of whether or not evolution took place, the Church insist that the universe as a whole was created and is kept in being by God's will, and that to assert a totall self sufficient "stand-alone" universe which God merely visits is incompatible with Christianity. However, I think that the essay could definately have been more clearly written, and it's unfortunate that it's immediately being used as a cudgel in the evolution vs. ID vs. creationism debate, given that it really isn't a dog in that fight in the first place.

At 8:38 PM, Blogger Savanthar said...


Evolution rules, science proves, religion fools.

-Savanthar's maxim

Your friendly neighborhood liberal atheist.

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Savanthar said...

Out of ignorance came fear. Out of fear came gods.

With evolution being true, Adam and Eve were fiction.

Therefore no original sin.

Therefore no salvation from original sin.

Therefore science (reality) trumps religion (myth).


Post a Comment

<< Home