It will be interesting to see where this debate is in the Roman Catholic Church by the time we get to Darwin’s bicentennial in 2009.
Pope puts his faith in the Book of Genesis, not Darwin
Richard Owen in Rome
From The Times, April 13, 2007
His predecessor appeared, on balance, to favour the scientists. But the present Pope may have tipped the scales the other way in the argument over which is the truer account of the Creation: On the Origin of Species or the Book of Genesis.
Pope Benedict XVI has stepped into the debate over Darwinism with remarks that will be seen as an endorsement of Ã¢â‚¬Å“intelligent designÃ¢â‚¬Â.
The Pope did not explicitly back intelligent design or creationism. He praised scientific progress but said that the Darwinian theory of evolution was Ã¢â‚¬Å“not finally provableÃ¢â‚¬Â because: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We cannot haul 10,000 generations into the laboratory.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Intelligent design (ID) argues that life forms are too complex to have evolved randomly, and must have been created by a higher power. Scientists denounce this as a thinly disguised form of creationism, the view that God created the world literally as described in the Book of Genesis. US courts have ruled that neither should be taught in school science because that would violate the separation of Church and State.
Many of those who back intelligent design will draw encouragement from the Pope’s remarks.
The PopeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s remarks are made in a book published in Germany, Creation and Evolution, a summary of the discussion on Darwinism that the pontiff held last summer at Castelgandolfo, the papal retreat. He makes clear his belief that there is room for an explanation beyond scientific limits when discussing the origins of life and the Universe.
Last summer Father George Coyne, the VaticanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chief astronomer, was removed after he lambasted intelligent design, saying that it was not science. Father Coyne, an American Jesuit and director of the Vatican Observatory for nearly 30 years, had said that placing intelligent design alongside evolution was Ã¢â‚¬Å“like mixing apples with orangesÃ¢â‚¬Â. He urged the Pope to withhold judgment, saying that he Ã¢â‚¬Å“doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the slightest idea of what intelligent design means in the USÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Last November the Pope suggested that the Ã¢â‚¬Å“cosmosÃ¢â‚¬Â was an Ã¢â‚¬Å“intelligent projectÃ¢â‚¬Â and criticised those who said that creation was without direction or order.
In his latest intervention, the Pope appears to dissociate himself from remarks made in 1996 by John Paul II, who said that although creation was the work of God evolution was Ã¢â‚¬Å“more than a hypothesisÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My predecessor had his reasons for saying this,Ã¢â‚¬Â the Pope said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But it is also true that the theory of evolution is not a complete, scientifically proven theory.Ã¢â‚¬Â
On the day of his installation as Pope, he remarked: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are not some casual and meaning-less product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God.Ã¢â‚¬Â Two years ago the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph SchÃƒÂ¶nborn, also appeared to back intelligent design. He dismissed John Paul IIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s views on Darwinism as Ã¢â‚¬Å“vague and unimportantÃ¢â‚¬Â.
The Pope said that evolution raised questions that science alone could not answer. He advanced the view that God created life through evolution, with the creation in Genesis explained as an allegory. But he rejected the Ã¢â‚¬Å“God of the gapsÃ¢â‚¬Â theory, which argues that whatever science cannot explain must be due to divine intervention.
Life, the Universe and everything
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points. In order to mark out the limits of their own proper fields, theologians and those working on the exegesis of the Scripture need to be well-informed regarding the results of the latest scientific research.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬â€ John Paul II, 1996
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The question is not to either make a decision for a creationism that excludes science, or for an evolutionary theory that covers over its own gaps and does not want to see the questions that reach beyond the methodological possibilities of natural science. The theory of evolution implies questions that must be assigned to philosophy and which themselves lead beyond the realms of science.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬â€ Benedict XVI, 2007