In response to “What Catholics didn’t like about Darwin – and still don’t:
Most people end the quote from John Paul II in support of evolution too soon. In his famous address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences , he says that evolution is more than a hypothesis, and that the convergence of data are an argument in favor of the theory. But then, because he is a philosopher, he goes on to define his terms, and to clarify how far this should be taken.
“What is the significance of such a theory? To address this question is to enter the field of epistemology. A theory is a metascientific elaboration, distinct from the results of observation but consistent with them. By means of it a series of independent data and facts can be related and interpreted in a unified explanation. A theory’s validity depends on whether or not it can be verified; it is constantly tested against the facts; wherever it can no longer explain the latter, it shows its limitations and unsuitability. It must then be rethought.”
Contrary to the interpretation given by many, this does not constitute a statement that evolution is an established fact. Rather, it is a theory subject to verification. When the facts no longer fit, evolution needs to be rethought.
(Note: The typical folk who wrote for the Catholic press certainly did not understand this distinction. They were vastly relieved that their much better paid secular counterparts could not now use evolution as a reason to scorn them. They could say, “The Pope supports evolution!” In the popular context, that meant, of course, “supports the 99% chimpanzee thesis regarding human beings.” And everything that follows, including abortion, all in good time.)
And that’s what this blog is about, and what ID scientists are about. It’s what Shapiro and Weber and many other non-Darwinist biologists are about. They are testing the theory of evolution against the facts of biology, and identifying the theory’s limitations and unsuitability. They are rethinking the theory.
Yes, these are exciting times. Imagine being young now, with the whole adventure before you … starting to really understand the history of life. …
I recommend people read JPII’s statement in full. It is a nuanced careful statement that identifies key places where Darwinism cannot be compatible with the Church’s understanding of who we are as human beings. It is not a declaration that evolution is proven fact.
Note: The early twentieth century Catholic writers who “ trashed Darwinism lived and died long before John Paul II, but they inhabited the same non-materialist thought world.
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