More on the Pope and Evolution

The topic of the Pope and evolution seems to have gotten a lot of people’s attention! There are ongoing discussions around the web in the press and on blogs. A few I’ve come across so far include the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog, the Free Republic, and I’ve tried to get a discussion going on Topix. A comment on my last blog entry also raised the question of whether the Pope’s statement leaves room for or perhaps even mirrors Intelligent Design. Perhaps in my enthusiasm to get a clear statement supporting evolution and mainstream science I was uncritical of some weaknesses of the Pope’s position, at least as stated? Thus far I’ve only read sound bytes in translation, so perhaps I spoke too soon…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    It’s a fine piece of eisegesis by Eric Rowe to suggest that Michael Behe and the pope are on exactly the same page.Catholics who subscribe to the theory of evolution think about the relationship of what they take to be true based on the physical and biological sciences and what they take to be true on the basis of the science of God, in a variety of ways. Stanley Jaki, Keith Miller, and Michael Behe have differing ways of describing the relationship. The pope’s position is undoubtedly closest to that of Jaki’s. Here is a link which describes and sources Jaki’s views:http://catholicanalysis.blogspot.com/2006/02/fr-stanley-jaki-on-evolution.htmlThe rest of the conversation the Pope had with the priests of Belluno/Feltre (a beautiful area of Italy, by the way) deal with other topics.John Hobbinsancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00559055709208918638 Eric Rowe

    John, I’m not familiar with the other authors you mentioned. But would you be more specific about which part of the Pope’s statement contradicts Behe’s published views?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00559055709208918638 Eric Rowe

    Regarding the idea of the Catholic Church only recently becoming open to scientific inquiry about origins and evolution in particular, I don’t see any difference between Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks and those of John Paul II over 10 years ago, which you can read here:http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP961022.HTMIn that statement John Paul II also claims that the view he espouses there is in line with what the Church had held 50 years prior.Incidentally, when John Paul II came out with that statement, Behe wrote an editorial in the New York Times agreeing with it. And his latest book

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I won’t claim to know where the Pope really stands, but it seems to me that making a statement that is not incompatible with Intelligent Design is not necessarily the same thing as endorsing intelligent design. After all, I’m not sure that Behe would disagree with Darwin’s famous statement “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved”. But that is not the same thing as saying that Darwin would have approved of ID or was a proponent thereof.So the big question is, can we figure out where the Pope ‘really stands’? (A friend of mine quipped, when I asked this on Facebook, that he stands on creation the same as the rest of us, but she is not certain whether it is gravity that keeps him there. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00559055709208918638 Eric Rowe

    You’re right that a statement that is not incompatible with ID is not the same as an endorsement. But it would be incorrect to say that the difference between the varying theological approaches to origins is that one groups accepts science and the others don’t. Every group accepts science. But they differ in the ways the delimit what questions science can and can’t tackle.Some theists may disbelieve in miracles and agree with Benedict’s statement on the grounds that God is outside of nature and scientific inquiry, while every physical phenomenon that has ever occurred in this universe has acted within natural laws. But others believe that, somewhere along the way in the history of the universe, natural laws have been suspended via miraculous divine interventions.As I understand it, ID is not defined by much except that it falls into this second category. I am pretty confident that Benedict would fall in this camp too, because there’s no way that he would deny the fact of genuine miracles. In this case, one of those philosophical-and-not-scientific questions that he was talking about was the question about whether miracles can ever be permitted to explain physical phenomena.And, indeed, the most important objection that continues to be leveled against ID is precisely on this philosophical ground. It is not that science could ever prove that miracles have never happened, it’s just that on philosophical grounds science does not allow recourse to such explanations (or so the objection goes).


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