WELL, that started out well …
We learn today that the Vatican is sponsoring a conference to mark the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of Species – and it kicked off with Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, describing as “absurd” the atheist notion that evolution proves there is no God.
Levada said the Vatican believed there was a “wide spectrum of room” for belief in both the scientific basis for evolution and faith in God the creator.
We believe that however creation has come about and evolved, ultimately God is the creator of all things.
He said that while the Vatican did not exclude any area of science, it did reject as “absurd” the atheist notion of biologist and author Richard Dawkins and others that evolution proves there is no God.
Where Levada gets his info from is anyone’s guess. I, for one, have never heard an atheist evolutionist ever claim that evolution “proves” the non-existence of God, but just to make sure I visited Richard Dawkins’ website where he clarifies his position – at the end of an essay entitled Why There Almost Certainly is No God – thus:
We explain our existence by a combination of the anthropic principle and Darwin’s principle of natural selection. That combination provides a complete and deeply satisfying explanation for everything that we see and know. Not only is the god hypothesis unnecessary. It is spectacularly unparsimonious â€¦ God stands out in the universe as the most glaring of all superfluous sore thumbs. We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can’t disprove, we can say that God is very, very improbable.
According to this report, the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI has been trying to stress its belief that there is no incompatibility between faith and reason, and the five-day conference at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University is a key demonstration of its efforts to engage with the scientific community.
Church teaching holds that Catholicism and evolutionary theory are not necessarily at odds. But the Vatican’s position became somewhat confused in recent years, in part because of a 2005 New York Times op-ed piece written by a close Benedict collaborator, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn.
In the piece, Schoenborn seemed to reject traditional church teaching and back intelligent design, the view that life is too complex to have developed through evolution alone, and that a higher power has had a hand in changes among species over time.
Vatican officials later made clear they did not believe intelligent design was science and that teaching it alongside evolutionary theory in school classrooms only created confusion.
The evolution conference will explore intelligent design later this week, although not as science or theology but as a cultural phenomenon.
In his remarks, Levada referred to both Dawkins and the debate over teaching creationism in schools in the United States. He declined to pinpoint the Vatican’s views, saying merely:
The Vatican listens and learns.
Yeah … but not very well, it seems.