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Pope Benedict XVI has replaced an evangelizing Darwinist, Dr. George Coyne

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Vatican Astronomer Replaced by Bruce Chapman

Chapman writes:

Pope Benedict XVI has replaced an evangelizing Darwinist, Dr. George Coyne, as director the Vatican Observatory, according to Zenit News. A Jesuit with a doctorate in astronomy, Dr. Coyne in recent years made himself the public scourge of Darwin critics and scientific proponents of intelligent design. Increasingly his theology resembled that of “process theologians” who believe that God is still learning and could not have known what his world was becoming.

While media tended to avoid the pro-design statements of the pope over the past year (see “Is the Pope Catholic?“), they frequently sited the hostile remarks of Dr. Coyne, sitting at his office at the University of Arizona, as supposedly representing those of “the Vatican.” That could not have been well-received at the Vatican in Rome.

In the past year since he criticized the pro-design essay of Austrian Cardinal Schoenborn in the NY Times, Dr. Coyne has been feted at a number of unlikely gatherings where his job was to express Church support for Darwinism. At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Coyne pronounced in favor of a “fertile universe” where “chance and destiny embrace.”

Coyne at that meeting said, “[God] did not design me.” The notes handed out for a talk given by Coyne at that meeting state:

[quoting Coyne:]

If we take the results of modern science seriously, it is difficult to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient in the sense of the scholastic philosophers. Science tells us of a god who must be very different from God as seen by the medieval philosophers and theologians. Let us ask the hard question. Could, for instance, God after a billion years in a fourteen billion year old universe have predicted that human life would come to be? Let us suppose that God possessed the theory of everything, knew all the laws of physics, all the fundamental forces. Even then could God know with certainty that human life would come to be? If we truly accept the scientific view that, in addition to necessary processes and the immense opportunities offered by the universe, there are also chance processes, then it would appear that not even God could know the outcome with certainty. God cannot know what is not knowable.

(The Dance of the Fertile Universe by George V. Coyne, S.J.)

Contrast Coyne’s conception of God from a the description of God by Barrow and Tipler and Belinfante which was derived from physical law alone, and one will see Coyne’s claims from physics are suspect. See Peer-Reviewed Stealth ID Classic : The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1987):

every stage of universal history, in particular every mutation that has ever occurred, or ever will occur in any living being, is determined by the action of God.

Frank Tipler

28 Replies to “Pope Benedict XVI has replaced an evangelizing Darwinist, Dr. George Coyne

  1. 1
    bFast says:

    I’ve heard this guy speak on the TV. He is an incredible flake. I am rather baffled that an astronomer would be so confused. Does he not understand the significance of the strong anthropic principle? Whoever made the universe was fully aware of what he was doing.

  2. 2
    Mats says:

    Vatican Astronomer Replaced by Bruce Chapman

    I didn’t know Bruce was a Catholic?…Anyway..

    and one will see Coyne’s claims from physics are suspect

    Physics, Biology, Theology, Cosmology, etc, etc.
    I am sure that the National Center for Supressing the Evidence (NSCE) will welcome Dr Coyne joyfully.

  3. 3
    Jack Golightly says:

    Not surprised to see the Pope do something like this. Perhaps what we have seen in the media and cyberspace may not represent Mr. Coynes real views. Whatever they may be however, his public comments certainly seem to be diametrically opposed to the central tenets of orthodoxy, Catholic and protestant alike.

  4. 4
    Jack Golightly says:

    Hey Mats, that’s right! Didn’t they have a job opening up his alley over there?

  5. 5
    O'Leary says:

    Thanks for blogging on this, Sal. I am busy with revizzes to a book, and haven’t had time to pull much together.

    Here\’s my take on the basic outline of the problem, apart from Fr. Coyne’s theology* – which is definitely an issue:

    The Catholic Church is many things, but one of them is – a large organization. Coyne was doing something that you just can’t do in a large organization – creating a public uproar around top management’s decisions.

    Whether it’s GM or the RC church, you can’t run around implying to the press that the CEO is a yo-yo or the Pope is a dope. (I don’t, of course, mean that Coyne used those words, but … I think that if his opposition had been confined to lobbying scientists trusted by the Vatican, he would still have his accustomed telescope. The RC Church is not North Korea but it has some standards for acceptable avenues of dissent. Too bad, really. I am told Coyne is a nice guy.)

    *”[God] did not design me?” Coyne really said that?

    Excuse me! There is a Dominical saying (a saying of Jesus) that claims that the hairs on Coyne’s head are numbered (granted, he may have fewer now than in his youth).

    So who is the Pope gonna believe, George or Jesus? I bet it didn’t take B-16 long to decide that one, given that Coyne had made a public issue out of it.

  6. 6
    PhilVaz says:

    Interesting, but I’m not sure Coyne was replaced because he was an “evangelizing Darwinist.” Let’s remember what Benedict XVI accepts on evolution:

    (1) the universe is approx 15 billion years old
    (2) the earth is 4.5 billion years old
    (3) universal common descent is “virtually certain”
    (4) we evolved from a “first organism” some 4 billion years ago
    (5) “physical anthropology and molecular biology combine to make a convincing case for the origin of the human species in Africa about 150,000 years ago in a humanoid population of common genetic lineage”
    (6) “even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation”
    (7) The Genesis “story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are”

    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p80.htm
    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p81.htm

    That’s the “intelligent design” (lower case) the Pope accepts. I’m with him. It would be nice if Bruce Chapman could emphasize points (1) through (7) a bit more. The Pope does not reject modern science, nor macroevolution nor natural selection (Darwinism) but a philosophical position that Schonborn has called “Evolutionism.”

    There is a meeting Sept 2-3 at Castel Gandolfo on the creation-evolution issue and I’m they’ll sort this out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.....lic_Church

    Phil P

  7. 7
    scordova says:

    Denyse asked:

    *”[God] did not design me?” Coyne really said that?

    Absolutley. That has to be the ultimate numbskull comment from a priest who conducts mass with Nicene Creed:

    Nicene Creed:

    We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty
    Maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.

    And in the Holy Spirit. the Lord, the Giver of Life,

    The quote by Coyne reported here:


    Teachers enlisted in battle against creationist (February 20, 2006)

    Catholic experts have also joined the movement. “The intelligent design movement belittles God. It makes God a designer, an engineer,” said the Vatican Observatory’s director, George Coyne, an astrophysicist who is also ordained.

    “The God of religious faith is a God of love. He did not design me.

  8. 8
    PhilVaz says:

    “[God] did not design me?” — Fr. Coyne

    Salvadore: “Absolutley. That has to be the ultimate numbskull comment from a priest who conducts mass with Nicene Creed”

    Not a problem if Fr. Coyne means design in a “special creation” or mechanical, engineering sense, which is what he states in context. Don’t mispresent him. Both Fr. Coyne and Benedict XVI accept that humans physically evolved in an African population of common genetic lineage some 150,000 years ago (see paragraphs 62-70 of the International Theological Commission statement, July 2004, endorsed by him). Science cannot address the origin of the spiritual soul that makes us fully human.

    Phil P

  9. 9
    johnnyb says:

    Phillip —

    He does reject Darwinism. In fact, looking at your list, he seems to hold to the same ideas that Behe does.

  10. 10
    scordova says:

    What’s irritating is Coyne uses his flawed theology to argue against ID. Why use theology at all in arguing against ID, especially if its self-defeating based on the sacred texts he supposedly reveres:

    Psalm 139

    1 For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David. Yahweh, you have searched me, and you know me.

    2 You know my sitting down and my rising up. You perceive my thoughts from afar.

    3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

    4 For there is not a word on my tongue, but, behold, Yahweh, you know it altogether.

    5 You hem me in behind and before. You laid your hand on me.

    6 This knowledge is beyond me. It’s lofty. I can’t attain it.

    7 Where could I go from your Spirit? Or where could I flee from your presence?

    8 If I ascend up into heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there!

    9 If I take the wings of the dawn, and settle in the uttermost parts of the sea;

    10 Even there your hand will lead me, and your right hand will hold me.

    11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me; the light around me will be night;”

    12 even the darkness doesn’t hide from you, but the night shines as the day. The darkness is like light to you.

    13 For you formed my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    14 I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. My soul knows that very well.

    15 My frame wasn’t hidden from you, when I was made in secret, woven together in the depths of the earth.

    16 Your eyes saw my body. In your book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there were none of them.

    Psalm 139

    And as I pointed out, the physics he used to justify his theology is suspect. But contrast Psalm 139 with Coyne’s process theology:

    If we take the results of modern science seriously, it is difficult to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient in the sense of the scholastic philosophers. Science tells us of a god who must be very different from God as seen by the medieval philosophers and theologians. Let us ask the hard question. Could, for instance, God after a billion years in a fourteen billion year old universe have predicted that human life would come to be? Let us suppose that God possessed the theory of everything, knew all the laws of physics, all the fundamental forces. Even then could God know with certainty that human life would come to be? If we truly accept the scientific view that, in addition to necessary processes and the immense opportunities offered by the universe, there are also chance processes, then it would appear that not even God could know the outcome with certainty. God cannot know what is not knowable.

    PS
    I was raised a Catholic (I’m now a Presbyterian) and I have many family members who are Catholic. Two sundays ago while I was at my parents house, I was watching D. James Kennedy (Presbyterian) on one TV and mom was watching a Catholic mass on another. It was amusing to hear two services of different faiths in the same household. All this to say, that what ever I write regarding the Catholic church, I do not write from a position of antagonism.

  11. 11
    jerry says:

    Here is Pope Benedict’s writing on evolution while he was Cardinal Ratzinger.

    “According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the “Big Bang” and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5-4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution. While the story of human origins is complex and subject to revision, physical anthropology and molecular biology combine to make a convincing case for the origin of the human species in Africa about 150,000 years ago in a humanoid population of common genetic lineage. However it is to be explained, the decisive factor in human origins was a continually increasing brain size, culminating in that of homo sapiens. With the development of the human brain, the nature and rate of evolution were permanently altered: with the introduction of the uniquely human factors of consciousness, intentionality, freedom and creativity, biological evolution was recast as social and cultural evolution.”

    There are a lot of caveats in here and it certainly does not endorse Darwin with the phrase “while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.”

  12. 12
    John A. Davison says:

    The Pope has obviously embraced monophyleticism which I think is far from established nor need it be. A common cellular machinery certainly does not preclude entirely separate origins and evolutions. Indeed, adherence to a single origin of life suggests it must have been a most unlikely event which is basically a Darwinian notion. Since there is no evidence that chance ever had anything to do with either ontogeny or phylogeny there is no good reason to give it any consideration at all. A dozen miracles are no more miraculous than one and the origin and subsequent evolution of life is very definitely miraculous. Prokaryotes are very different from eukaryotes and no prokaryotes, the presumed but unsubstantiated ancestors of eukaryotes have been observed to transcend the species barrier either. The varieties are known only as “strains” just as the intraspecific varieties of dogs are known as “breeds” and those of plants produced through selection by man are known as “cultivars.” None of these are species and subspecies are not incipient species either, only diversified blind alleys, evolutionary cul de sacs.

    Is it any wonder I keep signing off with:

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

    There now, I feel somewhat better.

  13. 13
    scordova says:

    John,

    So good to hear from you. You wrote: “monophyleticism which I think is far from established nor need it be”.

    Indeed even in the modern day, monophyleticism (single common ancestor) is being questioned.

    Salvador
    PS
    John,

    (Let me know what topic you’d like me to start for you. Would you like to talk about Leo Berg’s Nomogenesis, your manifesto, whatever let me know. I feel you deserve at least a few threads to air your theory. Let me know and I’ll start the thread. If you post comments on that thread, I’ll take those comments and incorporate them into the opening post.

    I think your material on the fact sexual reporduction converged was very interesting. I apologize for my inattention, but I hope you can appreciate that I’ve had my own battles to fight and my own critics which I must defend myself against.

    )

  14. 14
    bFast says:

    Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.

    This is certainly an ID friendly statement. I recall a thread on this forum recently discussing whether we IDers should refer to ID as IE – intelligent evolution, or as IDE, Intelligent design evolution. ID is, and must be, a theory of evolution. I’m in agreement with John Davison that random mutation has never produced anything novel. There’s strategy in that there life.

  15. 15
    Srdjan says:

    Salvador, since when Catholic church accepted Bible as The Authority. So quoting Ps 139 or any portion of the Scripture is pointless.

  16. 16
    scordova says:

    Srdjan,

    Easy there, there are many Catholics here. Whatever the case may be, let us try to keep the peace here and save that particular fight for another place. Since this news item touches on theological issues, its appropriate to discuss some theology, but lets be cognizant of the feelings of the pro-ID readers and authors at UD who may be Catholic.

    Salvador

  17. 17
    sabre says:

    Actually, the wording of the Vatican Statement stops short of actually embracing point 1 through 5; in fact, it only notes that (a) 1-5 represent the prevailing scientific consensus and that (b) there is a lively scientific debate on not only the pace and mechanisms of evolution, but also on the evidence of design in nature. Here at least, the Catholic church seems willing to consider the possibility of scientific evidence for design in nature. That is something that Dr. Coyne not only refused to consider, but openly mocked. I’ve listened to Coyne defend evolution, and read some of his writings. His message consistently contradicts the following passage from the July 2004 Vatican Statement on Creation and Evolution:

    “In the Catholic perspective, neo-Darwinians who adduce random genetic variation and natural selection as evidence that the process of evolution is absolutely unguided are straying beyond what can be demonstrated by science. Divine causality can be active in a process that is both contingent and guided. Any evolutionary mechanism that is contingent can only be contingent because God made it so. An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist because “the causality of God, Who is the first agent, extends to all being, not only as to constituent principles of species, but also as to the individualizing principles….It necessarily follows that all things, inasmuch as they participate in existence, must likewise be subject to divine providence” (Summa theologiae I, 22, 2).”

    Dr. Coyne’s god is one that has no role in creation (even in man’s creation), but merely admires it from afar, which is inconsistent with Church doctrine. That, in my opinion, is why he was removed. The Church remains steadfast in the belief that man was created in God’s image. He didn’t simply wait around until unguided processes happened to produce something in His image to then plant a soul into. In other words, God made it happen. Regarding ID, Coyne seems unwilling or unable to consider the possibility that the complexity of life may have required God to step in and help it along, and in so doing left behind evidence of that intervention. His faith appears to weak to believe God could do so. His whole concept of god appears to contradict the doctrine of the RC church.

  18. 18
    bFast says:

    Thanks Sabre, you clearly have an inside track when it comes to Catholic doctrine. It would appear that the Catholic position is quite compatible with a “law” or an “agency” view of ID. I suspect that Catholic theologians read Denton’s “Nature’s Destiny” with comfort.

    I appreciate your statement that, “Actually, the wording of the Vatican Statement stops short of actually embracing point 1 through 5…” I believe that this is the correct role of religion, to leave a significant portion of discovery squarely in the hands of science, effectively suggesting that if science must come to a new understanding in these areas, “so be it”, there is no theological investment made here.

    As a born and raised evangelical protestant, I must say that the older I get the more respect I have for Catholic theology.

  19. 19
    PhilVaz says:

    sabre: “Dr. Coyne’s god is one that has no role in creation (even in man’s creation), but merely admires it from afar, which is inconsistent with Church doctrine.”

    Fr. Coyne has not read the Catechism lately, or theologians such as Ludwig Ott. These are all “De Fide” (infallible dogmas “of Catholic faith”)

    — God was moved by His Goodness to create the world. (De Fide)
    — The world was created for the Glorification of God. (De Fide)
    — The Three Divine Persons are one single, common Principle of the Creation. (De Fide)
    — God created the world free from exterior compulsion and inner necessity. (De Fide)
    — God has created a good world. (De Fide)
    — The world had a beginning in time. (De Fide)
    — God alone created the world. (De Fide)
    — God keeps all created things in existence. (De Fide)
    — God, through His Providence, protects and guides all that He has created. (De Fide)

    These are Catholic dogmas, but science can say little about them. And according to the ID movement, the “intelligent designer” is not necessarily the Trinitarian God of the Latin Vulgate and Athanasian Creed. 🙂

    Phil P

  20. 20
    John A. Davison says:

    Thank you very much Salvador.

    I have but one wish for this forum, which is to restore my 22 years of research to the side board. That is the primary reason I was willing to return. Every paper in that series speaks loud and clear in favor of Intelligent Design which after all is the central issue in this debate which continues to rage between the atheist Darwinians and those of us who can hear what Einstein called the “music of the spheres.” It is a debate which should never have begun but apparently is not about to end. Absolute truth is not subject to debate, only to discovery and, once discovered, disclosure. That is what publication is all about and that is all I have ever been interested in.

    Thanks again.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemnonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  21. 21
    John A. Davison says:

    Incidentally every one of my papers is available at our sister forum “brainstorms” where I am also posting on occasion.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  22. 22
    P. Phillips says:

    I like this essay on what Fr. Coyne meant:

    http://www.spectator.org/dsp_a.....rt_id=9045

    Jesuit George Coyne, head of the Vatican observatory, is straining so hard to work God into his evolutionary schema that he has written that God is like a parent standing on the sidelines speaking “encouraging words” to earth.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/230

    Based on the above link, does anyone really think the Pope made the wrong decision?

    Anyway, so long as he believes in The BIG BANG, what else matters?

  23. 23
    SuricouRaven says:

    http://kino.as.arizona.edu/~jfunes/jfunes_CV.htm

    Interesting… what I see here is a *geek* – someone who can speak for hours on the kinematics and dynamics of disk galaxies, but doesn’t seem to have any interest in the sciences outside of his field. I dont think he will be saying anything at all on the subject of evolution, creationism, darwinism or inteligent design.

  24. 24
    Doug says:

    Srdjan said: “Salvador, since when Catholic church accepted Bible as The Authority. So quoting Ps 139 or any portion of the Scripture is pointless.”

    This is off the topic, rude, and ignorant. Regardless of what Loraine Boettner, Bart Brewer, or Jack Chick may say the Catholic church certainly does accept the Bible as Authority.

  25. 25
    John A. Davison says:

    I remind whoever is in charge here of my request in comment 20 that my several evolutionary papers be returned to the side bar. Since they all plead for Intelligent Design, I remain at a loss as to why they ever should have been removed. A primary reason for my return to Uncommon Descent was to achieve that end. If that is deemed impossible I would like to know soon as it will definitely influence any further interest I may have in the purposes of this forum.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. davison

  26. 26
    scordova says:

    [Off Topic]
    John,

    I checked the software last night to see if I could get your request working. I don’t have sufficient privileges to effect the changes you requested.

    However, in the process of checking, I noticed most links don’t work anyway! So no one has really been giving it much attention.

    If it makes you feel better, neither my name nor my weblogs nor websites are on the UD sidebars either!

    I will be happy to start a few threads as I offered earlier however. That is within the scope of my jurisdiction. The side-bar thing, I have no jurisdiction over. If Bill Dembski or Denyse O’Leary decide they want to grant you the side bar, that is up to them. I’m sorry, John, I’ve done all I can.

    Salvador

  27. 27
    John A. Davison says:

    Thank you Salvador. I agree that it is entirely up to Dembski and O’Leary whether my papers should be replaced on the side bar or not. I sincerely hope that it can be done.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.
    John A. Davison

  28. 28
    mjb2001 says:

    Dr. Coyne’s god is one that has no role in creation (even in man’s creation), but merely admires it from afar, which is inconsistent with Church doctrine.

    This is patently untrue. Did you read the pdf link of Fr. Coyne’s writings? He says:

    “But God is also immanent in the universeM. But this reasoning about God’s knowledge from within the universe does not place a limitation upon God. Far from it. It reveals a God who made a universe that has within it a certain dynamism and thus participates in the very creativity of God. If they respect the results of modem science, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly. Perhaps God should be seen more as a parent. Scripture is very rich in this thought. It presents, indeed anthropomorphically, a God who gets angry, who disciplines, a God who nurtures the universe. Theologians already possess the concept of God’s continuous creation. I think to explore modem science with this notion of continuous creation would be a very enriching experience for theologians and religious believers. God is working with the universe. The universe has a certain vitality of its own like a child does. You discipline a child but you try to preserve and enrich the individual character of the child and its own passion for life. A parent must allow the child to grow into adulthood, to come to make its own choices, to go on its own way in life. In such wise does God deal with the universe.”

    This is just some of what he has to say on the idea of continuous creation. Coyne may be considered unconvential but it is completely incorrect to characterize him as a deist.

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