Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Theological Deviations

The Catholic News service reports that Pope Benedict XVI has appointed the Rev. Jose Funes to be the new director of the Vatican Observatory, replacing Rev. George V. Coyne, who served as director since 1978.

Rev. Coyne is an outspoken opponent of intelligent design.

The ouster of Rev. Coyne comes in the context of an announcement published in the Dallas Morning News that Pope Benedict XVI plans to lead a seminar next month, "Creation and Evolution," that will reportedly examine Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and its impact on Catholic teaching.

Intelligent design proponent Bruce Chapman, Director of the Discovery Institute, has penned a fascinating commentary on Coyne's ouster on Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog.

His voice dripping with sarcasm, Chapman says, "Dr. Coyne in recent years made himself the public scourge of Darwin critics and scientific proponents of intelligent design. Increasingly his theology resembled that of "process theologians" who believe that God is still learning and could not have known what his world was becoming."

While it's no surprise that Discovery would welcome the removal of Coyne because he's been a vocal opponent of Discovery's pet project, RSR finds it very revealing that Discovery's Director, in outling the reasons he welcomes Coyne's fall from grace, would be so incautious as to weigh in on a purely theological dispute among Catholics.

In the past, both Chapman and the Discovery Institute have gone on record as saying that while some ID proponents may believe that the designer is the God of the Bible, that shouldn't be confused with the Discovery Institute's conclusions which, they say, are based on solely on the scientific evidence.

At the time of the Dover intelligent design trial, Discovery issued Truth Sheet #09-05 titled "Does intelligent design postulate a 'supernatural creator?'" which states:

The ACLU, and many of its expert witnesses, have alleged that teaching the scientific theory of intelligent design (ID) is unconstitutional in all circumstances because it posits a supernatural creator.” Yet actual statements from intelligent design theorists have made it clear that the scientific theory of intelligent design does not address metaphysical and religious questions such as the nature or identity of the designer.
That statement was echoed by Discovery fellow Michael Behe in a statement to a British newspaper:

"Although I find it congenial to think that it's God, others might prefer to think it's an alien — or who knows? An angel, or some satanic force, some new age power."
If Discovery, as the main think tank championing intelligent design, doesn't address metaphysical and religious questions then we have to ask: On what basis are they weighing in on theological questions such as Rev. Coyne's alleged support for "Process Theology?"

If intelligent design, as its proponents claim, can tell us nothing about the nature of God, then why is Bruce Chapman – in his official capacity as Director and using Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog to deliver the message – even addressing the question of whether or not "God is still learning and could not have known what his world was becoming."

And finally, if intelligent design is truly a scientific theory as claimed, what is the scientific proof that provides the evidentiary basis for making a determination about the truth or falsity of what God knows and what he doesn't.

More ominously, Chapman writes that, "[w]hat even Fr. Coyne himself apparently could not know is that the Catholic Church, while endlessly tolerant of theological deviations these days, can't really have someone whose views contradict those of the Church representing himself around the world as 'the Vatican.'"

And there, in a nutshell, is the real problem with intelligent design. It isn't science. There is no evidence. Ultimately, it's based – no matter how much its adherents deny it – on the authority of scriptural interpretation. For that reason, it's intolerant of theological deviations.

And if intelligent design activists and their creationist brethren are successful, they will enforce their views on the rest of us – in the classroom and in the political sphere -- just as the Pope has enforced his views on Father Coyne.


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