Benedict, Evolution, Design


At the beginning of September, Pope Benedict XVI will hold a meeting of his former grad students, as he has done every year for about three decades now. Each year, the meetings focus on a single topic, which is analyzed and debated at a high-octane theological and intellectual level. This year's topic will be "Creation and Evolution."

John Allen provides analysis focusing on the speakers lined up for the meeting and what they will likely say. He also has a quickie interview with Fr. Stephan Horn, a Salvatorian priest whom Allen describes as the "informal chair" of the group.

Sandro Magister is also on the case. Last week he gave a recap of last year's meeting, and this week he provides a pre-game analysis by running an excellent article from the Vatican newspaper: “L’Osservatore Romano” on design and evolution:

From this comes the importance of the current debate on God’s plan for creation. It is known that supporters of intelligent design (ID) do not deny evolution, but they do claim that certain complex structures could not have appeared as a result of random events. For them, such complexity requires God’s special intervention during evolution and therefore it falls within the purview of intelligent design. Apart from the fact that mutations to biological structures cannot by themselves explain everything since environmental changes must also occur, by introducing external or corrective factors with respect to natural phenomena, a greater cause is included to explain what we do not know yet but might know. In doing so though, what we are engaged in can no longer be called science but is something that goes beyond it. Despite shortcomings in Darwin’s model, it is a methodological fallacy to look for another model outside the realm of science while pretending to do science.

All things considered, the decision by the Pennsylvania judge therefore appears to be the right one. Intelligent design does not belong in science class and it is wrong to teach it alongside Darwin as if it were a scientific theory. All that it does is blur the boundary between what is scientific and what is philosophic and religious, thus sowing confusion in people’s minds. What is more, a religious point of view is not even necessary to admit that the universe is based on an overall design. It is far better to acknowledge that from a scientific point of view the issue is still open. Putting aside the divine economy which operates through secondary causes (and almost shies away from its role as creator), it is not clear why some of nature’s catastrophic events or some of its meaningless evolutionary structures or lineages, or dangerous genetic mutations, were not avoided in the intelligent design.

Unfortunately, one must in the end also acknowledge that Darwinist scientists have a tendency to view evolution dogmatically, going from theory to ideology, upholding a way of thinking that explains all living phenomena, including human behavior, in terms of natural selection at the expense of other perspectives. It is almost as if evolution ought to make creation redundant so that everything was self-made and reducible to random probabilities.

In terms of creation, the Bible stresses design and life’s radical reliance on God, but it does not say how all this came about. Empirical observation sees the universe’s harmony, which is based on the laws of nature and the properties of matter, but necessarily must refer to a greater cause, not through scientific proof but on the basis of rational arguments. Denying this amounts to taking an ideological, not a scientific stance. Whatever the causes, be they random or inherent in nature, science with its methods can neither prove nor disprove that a greater design was involved. “Even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation,” says ‘Communion and Stewardship’. What to us may seem random must have been present in God’s will and mind. God’s plan for creation can unfold through secondary causes as natural phenomena take their course, with necessary reference to miraculous interventions pointing in one or other direction. Or as Teilhard de Chardin put it: “God does not make things, but he makes sure they are made.” Similarly, “God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes,” this according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (n. 308).

There's more, and it's all quite good.

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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on August 12, 2006 3:51 PM.

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