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Schoenborn on Dover in NYTimes

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Cardinal Schoenborn suggests that Darwinists are every bit as dogmatic as the Catholic Church has been accused of being.

February 8, 2007
Cardinal: Schools Quiet Evolution Debate
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 12:28 a.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) — An influential Roman Catholic cardinal whose comments on evolution are closely followed condemned a court decision Wednesday that barred a Pennsylvania school district from teaching ”intelligent design” in biology class.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna said in a lecture that restricting debate about Darwin’s theory of evolution amounts to censorship in schools and in the broader public.

”Commonly in the scientific community every inquiry into the scientific weaknesses of the theory is blocked off at the very outset,” Schoenborn said of Darwinism. ”To some extent there prevails a type of censoring here of the sort for which one eagerly reproached the church in former times.”

The cardinal said he found it ”amazing” that a U.S. federal court ruled in 2005 that the Dover, Pa., public school district could not teach the concept of ”intelligent design” as part of its science class. The judge had said that the theory, which says an intelligent supernatural force explains the emergence of complex life forms, was creationism in disguise.

The cardinal said the Dover ruling meant that schoolchildren would only be taught a materialistic, atheistic view of the origin of universe, without considering the idea that God played a role.

”A truly liberal society would at least allow students to hear of the debate,” he said.

SOURCE: NYTimes

23 Replies to “Schoenborn on Dover in NYTimes

  1. 1
    nullasalus says:

    I think one of the biggest problems in the ID v Darwinism debate is that ‘darwinism’ is so poorly defined. In the end, I have to find myself on the Cardinal’s side – but I also think it would help if people realized ‘darwinism’ != ‘evolution’.

    Then again, in a debate where Ken Miller can be called a creationist, it’s clear that muddying the real meaning of words is being employed as a tactic.

  2. 2
    littlejon says:

    Well if we segue from “Darwinism” to “the origin of the universe” then yes, our definitions are slipping a bit…

  3. 3
    jerry says:

    nullasalus,

    I think Darwinism is pretty well defined. I also think the definition of evolution is well defined.

    They are not anyway the same though most people conflate the two and we would all be better off here if we used the two most common defintions for each and post them on the sidebar as the definition of intelligent design is posted.

    We will then be better able to separate the issues more easily when discussions of these subjects come up and send anyone to the sidebars for clarification if they do not understand or are not using the accepted definitions. It would reduce a lot of wasted arguments between people talking about different things.

    I do not think we define evolution or origin of life differently than the pro Darwinists or materialists do. We just attribute a lot of what is called evolution and origin of life to different causes or mechanisms and use science as the basis for our attributions.

    It’s all about science but rhetoric and irrelevant issues get in the way of understanding, mainly by design.

  4. 4
    bFast says:

    nullasalus, I agree with you that the debate leaves a few definitions unclear. We need a clear definition of “Evolution”, “neo-Darwinism”, and “Creationism”.

    I would contend that “the theory of Evolution” should require, and be limited to requiring the general concept of common descent. Ie, if one accepts common descent, one is an evolutionist. Behe, by this standard, would clearly be an evolutionist.

    I would contend that “neo-Darwinism” should be clearly seen as as theory within the umbrella theory of evolution; that the roles of the two mechanisms, chance and necessity, be clearly understood as key to neo-Darwinism. Furthermore, I think it imperitive that darwinists recognize that a theory of “natural” abiogenesis (fitting within the reasonable framework of chance and necessity) is required to complete the neo-Darwinian theory.

    “Creationist” is a more complex term. I believe that there must be two separate definitions, which are not convoluted. The first, big-C Creationism, would seek the unification of science with a particular creation story. The second, small-c creationism would allow or invite a consideration of an external intelligence in science’s exploration.

    I would contend to the American courts, that the latter, small-c creationism, is not owned by any particular religious perspective, and as such does not conflict with “establishment clause” of the first ammendment.

    Go Cardinal Schoenborn!

  5. 5
    tribune7 says:

    Cardinal Schoenborn rocks!

  6. 6
    jerry says:

    bfast,

    The NDE definition of evolution is one we should be quite comfortable with and would allow us to use the same language when we discuss topics together with Darwinists.

    A population is said to have evolved if the allele frequencies have changed over time. This simple definition can be applied to everything.

    Where the arguments generally bog down is not over this simple and commonly accepted definition but just how new alleles arise. New alleles are not part of this definition of evolution and if we separate the two issues the discussion get clearer.

    Darwinism is two pronged, first by saying natural selection affects the frequency distribution and secondly that random mutations are responsible for new alleles. They are entirely different issues.

    For example, NDE says that genetic drift is more of a cause of changes in allele frequency distributions than is natural selection but that both operate. ID has no problem with this so why not accept the scientific definition.

    Thus, the discussion of natural selection is then relegated to population genetics where it belongs along with other things that cause allele frequency changes.

    One of the problems ID has is that anyone with any intelligence understands this and we are often fighting a straw man. ID accepts population genetics.

    Random mutations are then relegated to the creation of new alleles and can be discussed in this context. This takes this issue out of the population change discussions and to whether random mutation have the power over time to generate very complex allele changes. Here a person with any intelligence will understand there is a problem and that complicated things just don’t just happen. It is the argument we can win.

    The two areas obviously have some interaction as NDE says some of the new alleles, while only small changes have positive effects on survival, and eventually become fixed and over long periods of time form the path up Mt. Improbable. But random mutations and changes in population allele frequencies are different issues.

    I believe if we steer the discussions to some commonly accepted definitions then we will have better discussion and able to focus on the issues that will persuade others.

    Maybe others here have better definitions than these but if we keep it consistent and simple and separate the issues, I believe we will learn a lot more and be more convincing.

  7. 7
    tribune7 says:

    Well if we segue from “Darwinism” to “the origin of the universe” then yes, our definitions are slipping a bit…

    Littlejon, you gotta let Berkeley know.

  8. 8
    nullasalus says:

    For my part, I’ve come to view darwinism as meaning ‘Common descent/evolution + unguided chance and lack of true purpose’. For evolution itself, I’d go with bFast’s label. But I honestly think many people continue to conflate the two – Ken Miller wouldn’t be a darwinist by the definition given, but would he call himself one? Would someone else call him one as an honest attribute of his beliefs? I think it’s possible in both cases.

    Back to the Cardinal. He has some opposition in (and of course, out of) the Catholic church. I look forward to the day when both those sympathetic to ID and those sympathetic to theistic evolution find themselves largely in the same camp. If the definition of darwinism were nailed down, I could see opponents of the moment becoming intellectual allies while having disagreements on the specifics. But then again, that’s what the big tent is meant for, right?

  9. 9
    Jason Rennie says:

    “‘’A truly liberal society would at least allow students to hear of the debate,’’ he said.”

    Ahh I see his confusion. He thinks modern “liberals” are actually liberals at all.

    Modern liberals are rarely anything of the sort, and it is conservatives that normally stick up for traditional liberal values.

  10. 10
    jerry says:

    nullasanus,

    Neo Darwinism is essentially modern population genetics with the proviso that certain mechanisms such as genetic drift, natural selection and other factors will cause changes in the allele frequency distribution over time. The most powerful mechanism is genetic drift followed in (sometimes a distant) second by natural selection. This is what is taught as evolution in the biology books throughout most of the world and ID has no quarrel with this generally accepted definition. At least I have never heard a serious argument against it here.

    Neo Darwinism also assumes that the creation of new alleles over time is due to random mutations which are then subject to the forces of population genetics. ID does not dispute this.

    As I said no one in ID seriously questions these two things so there should be no controversy there. Where the controversy occurs is when the NDE adherents claim that random mutations add up to substantial changes over immense amounts of time and ID says there is no evidence of this ever happening and that the logic of the science actually argues against such a process ever happening. One of these logics is that natural selection is a conservative mechanism and will tend to eliminate any new allele as opposed to spreading new alleles population wide.

    ID agrees that random mutation happen but there is no evidence ever of any of them leading to any but trivial changes in species. NDE assumes, and this is the grand assumption, that these changes do add up to substantial changes but they have never been able to provide even one example. I love it when a Darwinist brings up a test tube example and doesn’t realize he is undermining his position because he is admitting that is all he can show.

    There have been anti ID people here who argue that Darwinism is dead (in the sense that small changes over time don’t ever add up to anything) but point to other mechanisms besides small random mutations for the creation of new alleles. Professor MacNeill from Cornell said as much on this site a few months ago. Others have also said Darwinism is passé but that does not mean they embrace ID one bit. They point to other possible natural mechanisms for the generation of new alleles.

    So we really don’t argue over definitions, only over the evidence to support each other’s claims as to what causes new alleles to appear and permeate throughout a population. That is what the whole debate is about. That is the half of NDE in question, not mechanisms for population allele frequency change over time.

    Arguing over natural selection is really a red herring in the whole debate and will never get anywhere. The crux of the debate is and always has been over new allele formation and natural selection has nothing to do with that.

    There is no definitional problem, only a misunderstanding of what the debate is about. Conflating the issues by using a multitude of definitions only serves to undermine the ID position which is why I recommend we have common definitions and focus on what really matters. Why not use their definitions since they work for ID. The Darwinist would like no better than for us to appear that we object to natural selection operating in populations. Because they will win that argument every time with the general public and ID supporters look like fools when they fall into the trap. Darwinists are great at defining us and we let them do it by being imprecise and arguing over irrelevant issues.

  11. 11
    nullasalus says:

    jerry,

    Just to clarify.

    I’m not saying that ID proponents need to get their definitions straight, and my comments weren’t a criticism of ID’s proponents. I was only lamenting how confusing many of the terms are to bystanders of the debate. Some of this is accidental (It’s an intricate topic), sometimes it’s on purpose (I’m sure everyone here knows what some people try to pass ID off as.)

    I look forward to a climate where the subject of ID comes up, and the average person realizes that it’s not an automatic rejection of evolution.

  12. 12
    chance says:

    I feel Cardinal Schoenborn has it totally wrong, a school is a place for passing on knowledge, it is not the primary place to conduct original research. Original research is the providence of scientific institutions or companies, there research filters down through the universities and then to schools.
    It is the wider scientific community that requires convincing the merits of ID.

    From the top down, not the bottom up.

  13. 13
    bFast says:

    Jerry

    The NDE definition of evolution is one we should be quite comfortable with and would allow us to use the same language when we discuss topics together with Darwinists.

    You miss my point entirely. Many IDers, such as myself, would consider ourselves to be evolutionists. In so doing, we already have a term that unifies our position with that of mainstream science. However, a contrasting term is required. If we have no term that says “this is where we disagree” then we are simply avoiding conflict. Conflict avoidance is not functional in a debate.

    A population is said to have evolved if the allele frequencies have changed over time. This simple definition can be applied to everything.

    As this definition discusses nothing about the cause of the change in allele frequency over time, it is merely a definition of evolution, not of darwinism, because darwinism is a mechanism, a cause.

    My understanding of the “neo” in neo-Darwinism, is that the neo refers to the wonderful provision of random mutation to enhance Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Without some source of new variety, natural selection obviously does not fully explain all of the variety of life on earth.

    However, here is the rub, it is not that random mutation is a phenomenon — it is, nor that natural selection is a phenomenon — it also is. The protest that ID has with mainstream science, with MET, is that the ID community does not accept that these two mechanisms alone can explain all of the variety of life on earth.

    (I hear the shout of evolutionists now, declaring that MET is much more than these two mechanisms — after all there are all of those other mechanisms. Let me declare my humble opinion that all other “mechanisms”, such as HGT, population genetics, sexual selection, convergence, genetic drift, etc. are merely extensions of these two. I will happily debate any MET evolutionist that disagrees. There are only three foundational mechanisms in MET — random mutation, natural selection and mechanisms generated by the preceeding two.)

    When I use the term neo-Darwinism, I refer to the belief, not that natural selection is a phenomenon, or that random mutation is a phenomenon, but that all of the variety of life that exists on earth is the product of these two mechanism. It is the universality of the neo-Darwinian position that I and the majority of the ID movement disagrees with.

    If you object to the term neo-Darwinian as one who holds that chance (random mutation) plus necessity (natural selection) can accounts for all of the variety of life on earth, then I humbly request that you provide us with a better term.

  14. 14
    jerry says:

    bfast,

    I suggest you research the origin of the term, neo Darwinism or the modern synthesis. It flowed from studies of population genetics in the 1920’s and 1930’s and by the early 1940’s they agreed on the process that spread traits throughout the population. It is essentially the same today but has been updated with all the findings in biology in the last 50 years.

    At the beginning of the 20th century Darwinism was moribund and it was resurrected by two findings. First was Medelian genetics which provided a mechanism for the spread of traits in a population. Second, the realization that the earth was much older than suspected. At the end of the 19th century the prevailing view was that of Lord Kelvin’s that the earth was 100-200 million years old and there was not enough time for Darwin’s ideas to work. When science indicated the earth was probably 3-4 billion years old, this changed everyone’s thinking that there was enough time for Darwin’s ideas to work.

    Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_synthesis

    “Tenets of the modern synthesis

    According to the modern synthesis as established in the 1930s and 1940s, genetic variation in populations arises by chance through mutation (this is now known to be sometimes caused by mistakes in DNA replication) and recombination (crossing over of homologous chromosomes during meiosis). Evolution consists primarily of changes in the frequencies of alleles between one generation and another as a result of genetic drift, gene flow, and natural selection. Speciation occurs gradually when populations are reproductively isolated, e.g. by geographic barriers.”

    Non of population genetics is unfriendly to ID and little of the ideas about mutation are unfriendly.

    The part of Neo Darwinism that we disagree on is the extent of the changes that can arise from mutations not how the changes can spread in a population or the fact that mutations do happen.

    Separate the idea of how mutations arise from the concepts of how they spread in a population such as natural selection. They are not related and are discussed together only because some people insist that they are.

    It will help focus discussions on the ideas that matter. ID does not dispute that natural selection happens so why make an issue of it. The real issue is how the new alleles arise not how they spread in the population.

    There have been several discussions here on how fast traits can spread through a population and that is well and good but it has nothing to do with how the traits arise in the first place. The crux of the argument has always been the arrival of the fittest not how the fittest survive.

    Neo Darwinist probably overestimate how fast a trait can spread and this should be scrutinized but ID does not deny the process nor should we get too hung up on it. Examine it in detail but do not let it confuse people as to what the real issue is.

    The NDE definitions work for ID so why not use them and join the rest of the scienfific community. To challenge them on this is foolish and I believe very counterproductive. Challenge them not on their definitions but the implications of the evidence. That is where they are very, very vulnurable.

    Natural selection is such a slam dunk idea that we lose every time we dispute it. Accept it and then relegate it to its minor consequences where it belongs. That is where we win.

  15. 15
    jerry says:

    nullasalus,

    ID people frequently talk pass each other and we definitely talk pass the Darwinists. We don’t have to if clear definitions are used and we understand the implications of them. Why not use the Darwinist’s definitions. They pose no threat to ID.

    You mentioned common descent. This should not be part of any definition but a conclusion from the evidence that can be accepted or rejected based on the what the evidence indicates.

    I am recommending the use of simple clear definitions that both sides can agree upon and then focus on what the evidence says. The goal is to be able to present the evidence in such a way that the average person on the street can understand it and I believe this is possible. But bystanders and the average person are confused because extraneous ideas are constantly attached to basic arguments.

    We have a definition of ID posted on the sidebar on this site. Let’s do the same with the term “evolution” and “neo Darwinism” and there is no reason not to use their terms. I believe that neo Darwinism sinks under their own definitions so let’s go play on their ball field and beat them.

  16. 16
    Joseph says:

    Jason Renine:
    Modern liberals are rarely anything of the sort, and it is conservatives that normally stick up for traditional liberal values.

    Are you trying to say that modern liberals are only liberal when it suits them? Say it ain’t so… (LoL!- I happen to agrre with that)

    ———————————–

    chance:
    It is the wider scientific community that requires convincing the merits of ID.

    Is that the same scientific community that cannot convince the public of the merits of the MET (modern evolutionary theory)?

    I should also note- If said scientific community could substantiate their position we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    (John Paul says Hi)

  17. 17
    tribune7 says:

    American liberals — who sneer at Christianity, support speech codes and oppose free markets — are anything but traditional liberals as per some definitions in the dictionary.

    liberalism

    Actually, it used to be much more glaring but it looks like m-w changed the definition to better reflect how the word is now used.

  18. 18
    bFast says:

    Jerry, you still haven’t suggested a term that ID can use to define the eroneous position that the scientific community takes.

    I could debate all that you said, but its beside the point — we need a word or word pair that encapsulates the positon that we oppose.

  19. 19
    jerry says:

    bfast,

    We could start a contest for such a term. For example, let’s describe the NDE postion as “Limited Evolutionary Theory”, “Partial Evolutionary Theory” or ””Imperfect Evolutionary Theory”‘ or as I said get inputs from others but not just satire or joke inputs.

    This would make the point that NDE is relevant but has only application in a small number of cases.

    I made the point several times here that ID subsumes NDE because ID does not disagree with the basic principles of NDE but that NDE only explains a small part of the evidence.

    Actually, I think an agressive campaign based on this will eliminate a lot of ID’s problems because it will reduce a lot of compaints that ID is tied to any religious view point.

  20. 20
    Joseph says:

    Intelligent Design is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence. — William A. Dembski

    Where IDists who accept Common Descent diverge from the other evolutionists, is with stochastic, ie blind watchmaker-type, processes having sole dominion over the processes involved.

  21. 21
    bFast says:

    Jerry, I’m glad you recognize that we need a term to describe the problem. I also support recognizing that most IDers are “evolutionists” by most definitions of the term. I therefore support suggesting that we are the IDE movement. This is much more accurate than being described as ID creationists. All I will say is that well defined terms are valuable tools.

  22. 22
    jerry says:

    bFast,

    How about this for the new speculative theory.

    We could say that IDE includes NDE as one facet of the evolutionary life development process. Let’s speculate like a typical Darwinist does.

    For example if you were designing life forms to fit into an ecology you would want some mechanism for the life forms to adapt as the climate and the environment changes and NDE fills the bill. But it must be limited or else some individual life form could take over an ecology and destroy it. In other words the neo Darwinism process is a designed mechanism incorporated by the designer which allows a species to adapt but only within certain limits. Each species must have limitations or imperfections which cannot be breeched. This is exactly what we observe.

    As with the blind men who were asked to describe an elephant, we could say that Darwin felt only one small part of the elephant and those who formulated NDE expanded it a little but still to just a small part of the elephant. But with IDE you have a paradigm that allows you to see much more, possibly the entire elephant. So by limiting the evolutionary life development process to a single paradigm such as NDE, scientists are confining research to only one part of the elephant.

    Hey folks, if anyone thinks I am serious, all I am doing is having a beer and speculating. But maybe some others might want to generate some hypotheses. Have a couple beers and give it a try.

  23. 23
    chance says:

    chance>: It is the wider scientific community that requires convincing the merits of ID.

    Joseph replies>:“Is that the same scientific community that cannot convince the public of the merits of the MET (modern evolutionary theory)?”

    Yes it is, but it’s not the merits of how effective evolutionary theory has been taught or is perceived by the public, but the ‘chain of command’ of how new ideas are presented, and how they are filtered down to the general population.

    Joseph>: I should also note- If said scientific community could substantiate their position we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    That could be taken two ways: If evolution was presented more eloquently or convincingly as opposed to the content, you would be more readily convinced? Or

    I’m sure the scientific community is already certain the position of evolution is substantiated, therefore you need some top-down evidence to change this position.

    Joseph>: (John Paul says Hi)

    Hi there, we meet again.

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