Thursday, March 5, 2009

Catholic Church, Creationism, Evolution, Facts and Faith

The headline is impressive: "Rome meeting snubs intelligent design, creationism" (AP)

So is the lead paragraph:
"ROME (AP) — A Vatican-backed conference on evolution is under attack from people who weren't invited to participate: those espousing creationism and intelligent design...."

Creationism, Intelligent Design, Darwin: You Can't Please Everyone

There's more to this than one group - the Discovery Institute - getting its nose out of joint for not being invited. DI says it's being excluded "because the meeting was funded in part by the John Templeton Foundation, a major U.S. nonprofit that has criticized the intelligent design movement...." (AP)

Intelligent Design? Sounds Stupid!

Not to me, but then I don't have problems with assuming that humanity isn't king of the hill.

The Associated Press gives a short explanation of what the idea is behind "intelligent design."
"...Intelligent design holds that certain features of life forms are so complex that they can best be explained by an origin from an intelligent higher power, not an undirected process like natural selection...." (AP)
The way I put it is more roundabout: If you see a pocket watch lying on the beach, wound up and set to local time, it might be the result of billions of years of lightning, waves, and tides acting on the sand and nearby rocks. Or, there might be a watchmaker somewhere.

Intelligent design isn't all that popular in some circles, since it assumes, well, a designer. And quite a few people don't want that to be so.

And, I've read that a biology professor, writing in L’Osservatore Romano (The Roman Observer), expressed the opinion that the intelligent design theory isn't scientific. ( 2006) The Observer is a daily newspaper published in the Vatican, so I take opinions expressed there a bit more seriously than those appearing in other papers.

The Vatican: Anti-God?

The Tony Alamos of the world are going to have a field day with this conference.

I think there'll be a flurry of blog posts and articles in the style of "'The Black Pope and His Jesuit Ruling Priests of Baal,'" I probably won't follow those contributions to the marketplace of ideas, though.

The question of how the universe works; and how gazelles, deer ticks, and sequoias came to be; fascinates me.

Honest Inquiry and Ideologies

The fascination wears a bit thin, though, when scientific questions get addressed by shrill campus secularists or Bible-thumping disciples of Ussher.

Bishop Ussher is the chap who worked out a chronology of the world, using the best available (Protestant) Bible resources of the 17th century. He also had "had absolutely nothing good to say about 'papists' and their 'superstitious' faith and 'erroneous' doctrine..." which can't have hurt his enduring popularity in some circles. (Linder)

Not all Protestants take Ussher's date of creation, 4004 BC, very seriously. Even evangelicals and fundamentalists have diverse opinions.

I've heard some who cheerfully accept the possibility that God thinks on a bigger scale than we do, and might have ignored Ussher's specifications. Others are convinced that the world began at the exact time that Ussher said it did: and either ignore everything that's more than about 6,000 light years away, or get very imaginative about the speed of light, time, and distance.

Saying Darwin proved that God doesn't exist may score points in the Union coffee shop, but it's no more scientific than what the Ussherites believe.
"Father Marc Leclerc, professor of Natural Philosophy at the Gregorian Pontifical University of Rome, explained in a recent article for L'Osservatore Romano that there is no problem with the theory of evolution. The problem, he said, lies in the ideology that is created as part of the theory...."
It's important to distinguish between Darwin's science, and ideology - and between Darwin's science and the Victorian era's 'social Darwinism' ideas.
"...Father Leclerc underscored that 'as then Cardinal Ratzinger rightly wrote, the controversy has not come from the theory of evolution as such, but from the turning some of its elements into a universal philosophy, in order to explain all of reality.'..."

"...'Evolution and creation pose no opposition to each other, but rather they show themselves to be complementary,' the priest added...."(CNA)
Over-simplifying a great deal, Leclerc seems to be saying that human beings are animals: but we're not just animals.

So, getting back to the heading for this section: no, I don't see that looking at facts and logic means that the Vatican is against God: whether they're facts concerning evolutionary theory, or anything else.

Muslim Creationists Left Out, Too

As The Associated Press put it,
"...Oktar Babuna, a representative of a prominent Turkish creationist, Harun Yahya, was denied the right to speak at the opening session Tuesday. Participants took the microphone away from Babuna when, during a question-and-answer session, he challenged them to give proof of transitional forms of animals in Darwinian evolution.

"Organizers said he hadn't formulated a question and was just stating his point of view...."
Mesohippus, anyone?

I've run into people who don't seem to distinguish between interrogative and declarative statements. Maybe you have, too. In Q and A, they can be a bear to deal with.

By the way: I'd no more expect to convince a dedicated member of a Flat Earth Society that we're not living on a plate, than change the mind of a dedicated creationist.

The Associated Press Got it Right

I've learned to take what traditional news media say about Catholic beliefs with a grain of salt. Make that a barrel-full. Sometimes reporters and editors get it right, though.

Kudos to Nicole Winfield , writing for The Associated Press, for accurate reporting:
"...Vatican teaching holds that Roman Catholicism and evolutionary theory are not necessarily at odds. The church under Benedict has been trying to stress that, along with its overall belief that there is no incompatibility between faith and reason.

"Pope John Paul II articulated the church's position most clearly in a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, saying the theory of evolution is 'more than a hypothesis.' "
(article now on FOXNews)
Faith and reason aren't mutually incompatible?! I'm not surprised at that statement - but then, I've researched the matter, too.

Don't Like a Big, Old, Creation? Take it Up With God

I ran into something I'd written earlier that fits the ideas in this post, too:
  • God is all-powerful, but his power is not arbitrary (271)
  • Creation is being completed - it is "in a state of journeying" toward perfection, but isn't there yet (302)
  • "...The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events: 'Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.'..." (303)
Being the sort of person I am, the way I tend to put these sublime ideas is -

God is large and in charge: and I have to assume He knows what He's doing.

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.