Monday, October 17, 2005


Cardinal Schoenborn Clarification Acknowledgement Watch Contest Day 14 -- We Have a Winner!

This weekend, both the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog, and Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary at Post-Darwinist blog published posts about Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn's "clarification" of the views he expressed in a New York Times Op-Ed last July.

Their acknowledgement of the Cardinal's clarification comes some two weeks after he delivered his lecture, and 12 days after it was reported in the media.

The news reports of Cardinal Schoenborn's clarification quote him as saying:

“Without a doubt, Darwin pulled off quite a feat with his main work and it remains one of the very great works of intellectual history.” The Cardinal went on to say “I see no problem combining belief in the Creator with the theory of evolution, under one condition — that the limits of a scientific theory are respected.”
Cardinal Schoenborn," reported Reuters at the time, "said he could believe both in divine creation and in evolution because one was a question of religion and the other of science, two realms that complemented rather than contradicted each other."

The Cardinal's lecture, published by his office on Oct. 4, also contained the admission that, perhaps he did not express himself clearly enough in his NYT Op-Ed, or that his thoughts were not clear enough. "Such misunderstandings," added the Cardinal, "can be cleared up."

At the time Cardinal Schoenborn's NYT Op-Ed was published, Evolution News and Views and Post-Darwinist were all over it. Joshua-like, they blew their own horns as if the walls of the citadel of science were about to come a tumbling down.

Following the Cardinal's clarification two weeks ago they took the opposite tack, studiously avoiding the subject. Red State Rabble had a bit of fun with them, pointing out the inconsistency between their coverage of favorable and unfavorable news events, and launching a contest among our readers to predict when these two blogs would publicly acknowledge the Cardinal's clarification. For the record, RSR reported both, you can read our July post here.

While both Evolution News and Views and Post-Darwinist have now, finally, acknowledged the Cardinal's latest statement, both dispute the characterization of it in the news media. In this, they are pinning their hopes on an "initial draft of an English translation" posted on the St. Stephan's Cathedral website, (where Cardinal Schoenborn delivered his lecture) which reports that the "official and final" German and English versions will follow. At the head of the text an "annotation" has been appended that reads in part:

It has come to our attention that the content of Cardinal Schönborn's first catechesis has been mis-reported in the English-speaking press as somehow drawing back from his essay in The New York Times. This is inaccurate, as will be apparent from the full text.

Red State Rabble has read the text of the lecture posted on the St. Stephan's site -- it's tough sledding -- but in the end, we think, it gives no real comfort to the Discovery Institute or Denyse O'Leary. This statement -- from the English translation they pin so many of their hopes on -- is a clear statement of theistic evolutionism by the Cardinal:

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. In the citations given above, it is unequivocally the case that such have been violated. When science adheres to its own method, it cannot come into conflict with faith. But perhaps one finds it difficult to stay within one's territory, for we are, after all, not simply scientists but also human beings, with feelings, who struggle with faith, human beings, who seek the meaning of life. And thus as natural scientists we are constantly and inevitably bringing in questions reflecting worldviews.

The Cardinal explicitly accepts the evidence for evolution, he simply disagrees with those who infer from that evidence -- as for example, RSR would -- that there is no God. The Cardinal singles out, in this regard, the views of Julian Huxley, Will Provine, and Peter Atkins that modern science rules out a belief in God. What else, would we expect a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church to do?

For John West of the Discovery Institute, who, just a couple of months ago was saying:
“Darwinism is incompatible with Roman Catholic doctrine as well as the findings of human reason.”
And, Denyse O'Leary, who wrote:
I am glad to see the Church weighing in against Darwinism… I would suggest… that [scientists and science teachers] make up their mind whether they think they are Christians or not… As a Catholic Christian myself, I cannot imagine anything worse for the faith than invoking secular powers, typically masterminded by idiot mortals… if you are or think you ought to be a Christian, you simply cannot be a Darwinist.
Both Discovery and O'Leary make the claim that Catholicism and evolution are incompatible, but Cardinal Schoenborn does not find it so. We suspect, given the hierarchical nature of the church that his judgement will take precedence over theirs. Moreover, there is the problem for O'Leary that she must now advise the Cardinal that he must decide whether he is a Christian or not.

They claim the new statement supports their position, but, in truth, no matter how they spin it, the Cardinal's embrace of theistic evolution must come as cold, cold comfort indeed.

Since we are writing here about consistency, here's what RSR said back in July when Discovery and O'Leary blowing triumphant notes on their horns:
The position outlined by Schönborn in his Op-Ed is not exactly friendly to evolution in it's tone, but when you get right down to it, it's not that different from the position taken by all theistic evolutionists. God was there at the beginning, he set everything in motion and evolution is the way he did it.
Bye-the-way, for our contest entrants, the RSR panel of judges has ruled that, no matter how grudging (or false) the acknowledgement, the contest is now over. Most entrants predicted something along the lines of when pigs fly or when hell freezes over. Orac predicted that they would try to spin the announcement on Oct. 10. Although his date came and went, he did come closest. Our panel of judges rules him winner No. 1. Ctenotrish predicted Oct. 9 and we rule this entry winner No. 2. Please e-mail RSR with a mailing address and we will send your poster to you. In the event these much coveted posters are not claimed we will send them to honorable mentions: CSA and Hyperion who both predicted Oct. 7.

Many of the contestants correctly predicted that both Discovery and O'Leary would try to spin the announcement. You were right, but there's no prize in that category. (Plus we only have two posters left.)


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