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First Things editor on Vatican evolution conference shutting out design theorists


In First Things (December 2008), editor Richard John Neuhaus comments on the decision not to invite intelligent design theorists like Michael Behe, author of Edge of Evolution to the Vatican conference next March:

So let’s see now: The conference is strictly scientific. In that case, there would seem to be no reason for the Church to be sponsoring it, since there are numerous other institutions that attend to the strictly scientific. But then we are told the conference will also include philosophers and theologians, but only those who are rational – meaning, presumably, those who do not raise critical questions about the strictly scientific. We are told it will exclude scientific ideologues who reject that philosophers and theologians have to say about creation, history, teleology, and human nature, and will also exclude scientists who, on the basis of scientific evidence, contend, as the Catholic Church contends, for design and purpose in nature. The organizers seem to think they are being even-handed, but it is all quite confusing. One would not like to think that the purpose of the March conference is to secure for the Catholic Church a clean bill of health from Jeffrey Sachs and others who condemn any deviation from scientistic ideology as anti-intellectualism.

Actually, not inviting biochemist Michael Behe is scandalous. Behe, who happens to be a Catholic, is in no sense a philosopher; he is a biochemist, and the Darwin cult’s howls of outrage against Edge are the best evidence that he is on to something and that his work should be seriously considered at such a conference.

However, I think the real purpose of the conference is precisely what Fr. Neuhaus hopes it isn’t: Faith and science bores reassure each other that they are the clever ones – when they are merely the irrelevant ones.

Lots of faith and science bores are smart enough to read and understand Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box or Edge of Evolution (or for that matter Bill Dembski’s Design Inference or No Free Lunch). But when talkng to me they they carefully avoid considering the arguments laid out therein, and utter instead some pious fatuity about God using evolution – like that was a new idea that had never occurred to anyone! And usually at considerable and entirely uncalled for length.

Come to think of it, Behe is a working biochemist, and the faith and science snooze fest might only be wasting his time.

Also: Materialist atheists: Beware astrophysics?

Science and culture: God as an “unnecessary” hypothesis?

Hi, I’m a frequent lurker who just wanted to make you aware of a conference called “A Scientific Critique of Evolution,” that was hosted by Sapienza University in Rome at the same time as the Vatican conference. To quote the press release, the conference was held “to respond to Cardinal Ratzinger’s (now Pope Benedict XVI) appeal in his book Truth and Tolerance that arguments for and against evolution should be heard with objectivity – “a willingness to listen by both sides.” The participants included a sedimentologist, a biologist, a geneticist, a nuclear physicist, and a geophysicist. According to a report I received, “among those in attendance were journalists and academics from various universities in Italy and abroad. A Cambridge University biochemist who attended the conference referred to Dr. Maciej Giertych’s presentation on genetics as “one of the best demolition jobs on evolution” he had ever seen—and well worth the time and expense of the journey from England to Rome. In addition, two Indian Bishops—one of whom chairs the committee on doctrine for the bishops of India—represented the entire Indian Bishops Conference at the meeting.” Conference website:http://sites.google.com/site/scientificcritiqueofevolution/ jleecrs
Patrick, you are a nicer mod than I would be. tribune7
Oh Dave Scott, where have you gone???
Dave is not the only one with the itchy trigger finger. I've just always been more quiet about it. I'm not going to ban Switch89 but I am going to prevent him from derailing conversations into laughable territory that wastes people's time. Or as Denyse put it: "This site still has moderators, as it happens, and none of them fancy troll holes." ID opponents can comment all they want as long as they keep it serious. Patrick
#8 gpuccio Switch89: "Do you mean that anyone who is being disagreed on some point by Abby Smith is on to nothing?" Apart from this consideration, let usa remember that M. Behe did answer to the criticism by A.S. (who seems the typical darwinist, arrogant and excessively self confident). "And again, if you disagree with Behe, please come here and discuss. With arguments. But not on an authority basis, please. And especially, not on the basis of Nick Matzke’s authority!" N.M. authority? ROTFL. But let us give some indulgency to Swith89; according to the age that his nickname suggests we could reply: "you're still young, that's your fault, there's so much yiu have to go through" kairos
#5,6 Paul, Stephen I agree with your views. In fact the real Catholic Church position is strongly sympathetic to ID, which is the genuine modern 5th way of Thomas Aquinas. However there is what I would instead call Galileo syndrome, the fear to be disproven in the future. However, as a catholic, I don't worry much about. Please let us remember that the fight between materialism and religion has been fought during the last two millennia; now we are at a in which materialism seem to be have constrained religion into a corner but things can change. In this battle ID is now what assault troops are in an army; the rest of the army will follow when the linefront has been broken. kairos
The interesting thing about Darwinism is that it is now represented so largely by cultists Very true. It is a cult. Facts must be hidden and dissent must not be tolerated. like hearing that some communist ideologue “completely destroyed” the Laffer curve (Laffer’s thesis on taxation). Well said but Ben Stein wouldn't let him :-) Something to consider would be adding a "report abuse" button. It would allow for certain posts to be flagged for the mods. It might make their jobs a little easier. tribune7
This site still has moderators, as it happens, and none of them fancy troll holes. Incidentally, hearing that Abbie Smith and/or Nick Matzke "completely destroyed" Mike Behe's thesis is like hearing that some communist ideologue "completely destroyed" the Laffer curve (Laffer's thesis on taxation). It tells me something about Communist ideology, nothing much about the Laffer curve. The interesting thing about Darwinism is that it is now represented so largely by cultists who are prepared to acribe miracles - even the massive intricacy of the cell - to it. O'Leary
“And Nick Matzke completely destroyed his main thesis Next thing you know he'll be citing Talk Origins. Oh Dave Scott, where have you gone??? tribune7
Switch89: "Michael Behe is on to something? Oh please. Abby Smith, a student studying HIV, called Behe on his claims that “nothing new” had evolved in HIV." That is simply bad and unfair. Do you mean that anyone who is being disagreed on some point by Abby Smith is on to nothing? Please check your logic, togetehr with your courtesy. "In all his talk about evolution being a destructive process, he never addresses compensatory mutations." Will you please address them here? Maybe we can discuss, if that's what you are looking for. "And Nick Matzke completely destroyed his main thesis that “two protein-protein binding sites cannot evolve at the same time therefore evolution is wrong”" Your statement of Behe's thought is completely inaccurate and manipulating. As you give it apparently as a citation, could you please detail where Behe wrote those words? And again, if you disagree with Behe, please come here and discuss. With arguments. But not on an authority basis, please. And especially, not on the basis of Nick Matzke's authority! gpuccio
Yes, Paul, I call this phenomenon, "Galileo anxiety." The irony is that the true facts of history put the Church in a much better light than does the politically correct version. Even so, it is the popularized account that the Church must live with. Besides, the bishops have lost more credibility lately from being too soft rather than from being too hard. They keep missing the irony here. To be so careful in public as to not allow the whole story to be told is, in fact, to be unduly reckless. StephenB
StephenB, I agree with your analysis of the way things should be. The problem is that the Church (and many other churches) are still gun-shy because of the consequences of having blown it in the case of Galileo. The Church is afraid that if it says anything whatsoever about science, it will eventually be disproved again. That's why the linguini spine. Paul Giem
-----Designed Jacob: "The Catholic position appears to be that there are two impermeably separate fields of human experience: faith on the one hand, and science on the other." It might seem that way, but the official Catholic position is that truth is unified. Biblical truths understood properly are always consistent with scientific truths understood properly. The operative word here is "understood prorperly." In this sense, these Catholics are violating their own principles by acting this way. StephenB
Denise, I have had exactly the same experience. However, I am not inclined to let these people off the hook, even if they become irritated in the process. They begin every discussion with the completely vacuous claim that “there is no contradiction between faith and science.” In almost every case, they immediately contradict themselves by resolving their perceived contradiction between Biblical theology and Darwinisti “science” by downplaying Scripture’s teaching about God’s revelation in nature. Why would they feel the need to de-emphasize Scripture’s clear teaching if they perceived no contradiction? Why, indeed, do they feel the need to use the word “science” as a cover for “modern evolutionary synthesis” Why don’t they just say that there is no contradiction between “faith”and the MET, which would be a lot harder proposition to for them to sell and a lot harder line for their listeners to believe. Their disingenuity is remarkable. The irony is that WE believe that there is “no contradiction between faith and science” while, THEY in fact, do not. It is they who are fearful of following the evidence wherever it may lead. It is they who feel the need to subordinate their Christian theology to Darwinist ideology. It is they who question what ought to be non-negotiable Biblical truths in order to wed Christianity to Darwinism. None in our camp feel the need to subordinate Biblical teachings to the findings of science. That is why our synthesis of faith and reason is more realistic than theirs. They are the ones who feel the need to do tinker with their faith to make the reconciliation happen; we are already reconciled. That is because the Bible teaches ID philosophy even if it doesn’t explicitly teach ID science. It is hard to believe that the Vatican conference cannot see their way clear to invite Behe, or for that matter, Dembski and Meyer. I can only conclude that the whacked out Jesuits at Notre Dame are at it again. What I don’t understand is how they managed to con so many in the Church’s hierarchy. More to the point, I don’t understand why Benedict XVI doesn’t nudge them a little bit, because I know that he is more open minded than that. StephenB
I think I see what is going on here. The Catholic position appears to be that there are two impermeably separate fields of human experience: faith on the one hand, and science on the other. They do not want faith linked to science in any way, because they seem to think that that adulterates faith. To steer clear of that, they are avoiding I.D. But that's just a guess informed by some anecdotal conversations with various preachers (i.e. non-Catholic). Designed Jacob
Have you seen the programme for the event, Denyse? It featured summaries of all the various talks given, most of them just dry science. I can get you a link if needed. If I had to guess - shot in the dark here - I think the event was more for the benefit of Catholic philosophers, theologians, and scientists. They get undiluted, 'raw' scientific perspectives for the most part, opening up avenues for philosophical, theological, and possibly scientific inquiry. nullasalus

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