Thursday, April 12, 2007


Pope Benedict: God Created Life through Evolution, Religion and Science need not Clash

For nearly two years now, intelligent design theorists grouped around the Seattle-based Discovery Institute have been dangling the tantalizing prospect in front of their supporters that Pope Benedict would soon reverse the position of the Catholic Church that "there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith" and embrace ID.

Initial optimism among ID activists was sparked by a July 2005 New York Times OpEd, "Finding Design in Nature," by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Vienna.

"The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth," wrote Schönborn, "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."

The April 2005 election of Pope Benedict XVI, widely viewed as a defender of traditional Catholic doctrine and values, also seemed to give added weight to the notion that the church might soon reverse course and reject evolution.

It was widely known that Cardinal Schönborn and Pope Benedict were closely allied. Schönborn was once a student of the future pope, and the two co-authored an Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

According to Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman, Schönborn had complained that "neo-Darwinists recently have sought to portray our Pope, Benedict XVI, as a satisfied evolutionist." And Chapman further reported on Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog, that the Cardinal said he'd been encouraged by the Pope personally.

ID activists looked forward with high anticipation to an informal gathering at Pope Benedict's summer palace outside Rome this past summer, where it was said evolution and intelligent design would be discussed, in the hope the church might abandon "Neo-Darwinism" for intelligent design.

Despite all the favorable signs, from time to time a discordant note was sounded both in Vienna and Rome.

First Cardinal Schönborn clarified his NYT OpEd in a sermon saying, "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."

And following the Dover ruling against intelligent design, the New York Times reported that L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, had published an article calling Judge Jones decision -- that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution -- "correct."

And now, all those high hopes have been dashed.

Yesterday, Reuters reported that the Pope says "science has narrowed the way life's origins are understood and Christians should take a broader approach to the question." According to the report, the Pope "praised scientific progress and did not endorse creationist or 'intelligent design' views about life's origins."

"Benedict defended what is known as 'theistic evolution,' the view held by Roman Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant churches that God created life through evolution and religion and science need not clash over this," according to the Reuters report.

As always, Discovery can be expected to put the best face on this disappointing news, but however they spin it, the fact is, as their repeated attacks on biologist Ken Miller -- a practicing Catholic who is an articulate defender of evolution -- demonstrate, they are die-hard opponents of theistic evolution.

In an Evolution News and Views post on Ken Miller's lecture at the University of Kansas last September it was reported that Miller, "like most TE’s, [theistic evolutionists, RSR] holds to his religious beliefs on faith ~alone~. That’s the problems with TE’s - they can give you no reason whatsoever as to why they believe what they do in regard to their religious beliefs other than they take it all on faith."

That remarkably faithless statement is mirrored by Phillip Johnson, the founding father of the intelligent design movement:

"... Darwinism and theism are fundamentally incompatible ... To infer that mutation and selection did the creating because nothing else was available, and then to bring God back into the picture as the omnipotent being who chose to create by mutation and selection, is to indulge in self-contradiction."

With the Pope's latest statement, another door has closed on the intelligent design experiment. It's becoming clearer and clearer that the ID movement has shut itself in a windowless room. There's no way out.


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