Saturday, September 02, 2006


The Pope and Intelligent Design

An article by Ian Fisher in this morning's New York Times asks, "as the meeting unfolds at a papal palace just outside Rome. Is this merely another yearly seminar? Or is the leader of the world’s billion Roman Catholics signaling that he may join in earnest the emotional debate over evolution, intelligent design and all that might mean for politics and faith, especially in the United States?"

There's no way of knowing in advance what the Pope will do, but an article in the National Catholic Reporter by John Allen (thanks to RSR reader, Pete, for calling it to our attention) gives a full and very balanced account of the Pope's previous statements and writings that may offer some clues.

Allen notes that "there's no sign that Benedict intends to make a formal statement on evolution anytime soon."

Then Allen goes straight to what he calls the bottom line: "Benedict XVI is not a 'creationist.' He does not believe in a strictly literal reading of the Book of Genesis, nor has he ever made any reference to teaching 'creation science' in schools."
Nor, is Benedict XVI really an advocate of "intelligent design" in the American sense, since intelligent design theorists typically assert that data from biology and other empirical sciences, by itself, requires the hypothesis of a designer. Benedict may have some sympathy for this view; he has questioned the evidence for "macro-evolution," meaning the transition from one species to another on the basis of random mutation and natural selection. Ultimately, however, he sees this as a debate for scientists to resolve. His concern cuts deeper, to the modern tendency to convert evolution into "a universal theory concerning all reality" that excludes God, and therefore rationality, as the basis of existence. In contrast, Benedict insists upon the fundamental conviction of Christian faith: "In principio erat Verbum - at the beginning of all things stands the creative power of reason."

It is worth reading Allen's entire assessment, especially the analysis of Benedict's thoughts on macro-evolution, but taken as a whole, Benedict's ideas about evolution, creationism, and intelligent design are about what you'd expect from the leader of a large mainstream religious organization.

He rejects the assertions made by some, such as Richard Dawkins, that the scientific evidence for evolution somehow proves that God -- whatever that means to millions of believers -- does not exist.

When all the dust settles, if Benedict's past speeches and writings can be taken for a guide to his future actions, he will take a stand for theistic evolution. This will provide little comfort for intelligent design activists who are on record as saying that religious believers who accept the evidence for evolution are deluded.


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