Sunday, November 13, 2005

Pope weighs in on creation controversy, etc

Excerpts from webbed news items with my comments in square brackets. Due to continuing Blogger problems please check CED's November 2005 archive for posts which have not yet appeared on CED's front page

Pope weighs in on creation controversy: Intelligent-design advocates hail Benedict's criticism of `scientific' atheism, MSNBC/AP, Nov. 11, 2005 ... VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has waded into the evolution debate in the United States, saying the universe was made by an "intelligent project" and criticizing those who in the name of science say its creation was without direction or order. .... Benedict focused his reflections for the audience on scriptural readings that said God's love was seen in the "marvels of creation." He quoted St. Basil the Great, a 4th-century saint, as saying some people, "fooled by the atheism that they carry inside of them, imagine a universe free of direction and order, as if at the mercy of chance." "How many of these people are there today? These people, `fooled by atheism,' believe and try to demonstrate that it's scientific to think that everything is free of direction and order," Benedict said. "With the sacred Scripture, the Lord awakens the reason that sleeps and tells us: In the beginning, there was the creative word. In the beginning, the creative word - this word that created everything and created this intelligent project that is the cosmos - is also love." His comments were immediately hailed by advocates of intelligent design, who hold that the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher power. Proponents of the concept are seeking to get public schools in the United States to teach it as part of the science curriculum. Critics say intelligent design is merely creationism - a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation - camouflaged in scientific language and does not belong in science curriculum. Questions about the Vatican's position on evolution were raised in July by Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn. In a New York Times op-ed piece, Schoenborn seemed to back intelligent design and dismissed a 1996 statement by Pope John Paul II that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis." Schoenborn said the late pope's statement was "rather vague and unimportant." But in a lecture published last month, Schoenborn paid tribute to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and said the controversy over his remarks arose from a "misunderstanding." Schoenborn attended Wednesday's audience. He was seated on the dais behind Benedict in St. Peter's Square, along with other Austrian bishops making a regularly scheduled visit to the Vatican. ... [Also at CBS, Livescience & New York Times (the latter very brief!). Apparently "intelligent project" is a mistranslation and the Pope actually said " intelligent plan"! This is very important support for ID, especially given that one of the leading opponents of ID, biologist Kenneth Miller, is a Roman Catholic, not to mention all those Roman Catholic private schools where ID can be taught. Pope Benedict XVI is in fact an expert in this topic, having, as Cardinal Ratzinger, written a book on it: "In the Beginning...: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall" (which I have ordered). As for Cardinal Schoenborn's alleged "misunderstanding", any misunderstanding is on the part of the journalist, as the following excerpt from the transcript shows, Cardinal Schoenborn actually defended his "short article in the New York Times" and said that "Darwin faltered and failed" in his understanding of "What does it mean to say that God creates?". Moreover, Schoenborn said that Darwin's "success should not be attributed entirely to scientific causes" since "Darwin himself ... imbued his theory with the air of a distinct worldview" and he gave "three examples of an interpretation ["Darwinism"] that is indisputably imbued with ideology ... an interpretation that is indisputably imbued with ideology ... a "confession of faith" - that faith being materialism":

Creation and Evolution: To the Debate as It Stands, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn's First Catechetical Lecture for 2005/2006: Sunday, October 2nd, 2005, St. Stephan's Cathedral, Vienna. ... When in 1859 Darwin's famous book The Origin of Species appeared, the basic message was indeed that he had found a mechanism that portrays a self- acting (selbsttätig) development, without the need of a creator. As he said himself, his concern was to find a theory which, for the development of the species from lower to higher, did not require increasingly perfective creative acts but rather relied exclusively on coincidental variations and the survival of the fittest. Here was thus the notion that we have found a means for dispensing individual acts of creation. "With this, his major work, Darwin undoubtedly scored a brilliant coup, and it remains a great oeuvre in the history of ideas. ... His success should not be attributed entirely to scientific causes. Darwin himself (but above all his zealous promoters, those who promulgated what is called "Darwinism") imbued his theory with the air of a distinct worldview. ...: The conflict of worldviews about Darwin's theory, about Darwinism, has kept the world intensively busy over the years, now nearly a century and a half. Here I shall offer only three examples of an interpretation that is indisputably imbued with ideology. 1) In 1959, Sir Julian Huxley gave a speech at the centennial celebration of the publication of the famous work: "In the Evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer either need or room for the supernatural. The earth was not created, it evolved. So did all animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul as well as brain and body. So did religion. Evolutionary man can no longer take refuge from his loneliness in the arms of a divinized father figure-" I am convinced that this is not a claim within the realm of the natural sciences but rather the expression of a worldview. It is essentially a "confession of faith" - that faith being materialism. 2) Thirty years later, in 1988, the American writer Will Provine wrote in an essay about evolution and ethics: "Modern science directly implies that the world is organized strictly in accordance with deterministic principles or chance. There are no purposive principles whatsoever in nature. There are no gods and no designing forces that are rationally detectable." This too is not a conclusion derived from natural science; it is a philosophical claim. 3) Four years later, the Oxford chemistry professor Peter Atkins wrote: "Humanity should accept that science has eliminated the justification for believing in cosmic purpose, and that any survival of purpose is inspired solely by sentiment." Again, this is a "confession of faith"; it is not a strictly scientific claim. These and similar statements could be heard this summer and are one reason that I said in my short article in the New York Times concerning this sort of "border-crossings," that they constitute ideology rather than science, a worldview.]

Scientists find `Goliath' inscribed on pottery: Reference from 950 B.C. lends credence to Bible tale, archaeologists say, MSNBC, Nov. 10, 2005 JERUSALEM - Archaeologists digging at the purported biblical home of Goliath have unearthed a shard of pottery bearing an inscription of the Philistine's name, a find they claimed lends historical credence the Bible's tale of David's battle with Goliath. While the discovery is not definitive evidence of Goliath's existence, it does support the Bible's depiction of life at the time the battle was supposed to have occurred, said Aren Maeir, a professor at Bar-Ilan University and director of the excavation. "What this means is that at the time there were people there named Goliath," he said. "It shows us that David and Goliath's story reflects the cultural reality of the time." Some scholars assert the story of David slaying the giant Goliath is a myth written down hundreds of years later. Dr Maeir said finding the scraps lent historical credence to the biblical story. The shard dates to around 950BC, within 70 years of when biblical chronology asserts David squared off against Goliath, making it the oldest Philistine inscription ever found, the archaeologists said. Scientists made the discovery at Tel es-Safi, a dig site in southern Israel thought to be the location of the Philistine city of Gath. Dr Maeir doubts an archaeological find can ever prove Goliath's existence, but said the shard was exciting nonetheless because of its depiction of life during the time period. ... [Also at: The Australian. As the article indicated, while this does not (because it cannot) prove that "the Bible's tale of David's battle with Goliath" is true, "it does support the Bible's depiction of life at the time..." (my emphasis). See also next item.]

Israelite Alphabet May Have Been Found: Archaeologist Claims Find of Alphabet Used by Ancient Israelites, ABC News/AP, PITTSBURGH Nov 9, 2005 - Two lines of an alphabet have been found inscribed in a stone in Israel, offering what some scholars say is the most solid evidence yet that the ancient Israelites were literate as early as the 10th century B.C. "This is very rare. This stone will be written about for many years to come," archaeologist Ron E. Tappy, a professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary who made the discovery, said Wednesday. "This makes it very historically probable there were people in the 10th century (B.C.) who could write." Christopher Rollston, a professor of Semitic studies at Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, Tenn., who was not involved in the find, said the writing is probably Phoenician or a transitional language between Phoenician and Hebrew. "We have little epigraphic material from the 10th century in Israel, and so this substantially augments the material we have," he said. The stone was found in July, on the final day of a five-week dig at Tel Zayit, about 30 miles south of Tel Aviv. ... [Also at Los Angeles Times, MSNBC & Livescience. Again, this is support for the Biblical depiction of writing at least "in the 10th century (B.C.)". It is only required that alphabetic writing goes back to Egypt immediately prior to the time of Moses in the 15th century BC (~1400 BC) to be consistent with the Bible because in writing Genesis (the only Biblical book that preceded him), Moses may have used original sources which were non-alphabetic (e.g. pictograms).]

Self-Images Often Erroneously Inflated: People Often Hold High Opinions of Themselves -- Sometimes Too High, ABC News Study: ... Researchers say that their work shows most people hold incorrectly elevated views of themselves, and go through life blissfully ignorant of their own incompetence ... Nov. 9, 2005 - A reporter I once knew sashayed across the newsroom one day with his colossal ego draped across his chest, just as an old veteran mumbled, "I'd like to buy him for what he's worth and sell him for what he thinks he's worth." The reporter didn't have a clue as to his own limited abilities. And according to some exhaustive research, he wasn't alone in his self-deception. When it comes to knowing who we are, most of us aren't very good at it. In fact, we don't even know ourselves well enough to know that we don't know ourselves. That's the picture that emerges from the work of researchers David Dunning of Cornell, Chip Heath of Stanford and Jerry M. Suls of the University of Iowa. For some time now they have been studying a large body of research into self-evaluation, and much of it reveals that most of us aren't nearly as hot as we think we are. That can have very serious consequences, because if we don't know who we are, we could be endangering others as well as ourselves. ... [This is consistent with the Bible's realism, that we grossly underestimate our own sinfulness: Jer.17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" and Ps. 19:12 "Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults." This is the non-Christian's problem. How does he know that his belief that Christianity is false, is not mere wishful thinking? If "The painful truth is that we are naturally inclined to believe what we want to believe" how does the non-Christian tell his "reason" that Christianity is false from his "rationalization" that he wants Christianity to be false?:

"I have begun with Philip Wentworth's story because it is paradigmatic of so many modernist intellectuals who thought they were dedicating themselves to a life of reason when, in reality, they were mostly learning to rationalize, to justify what they felt like doing. We all like to believe we are more rational than we really are. The painful truth is that we are naturally inclined to believe what we want to believe, and we may adopt some fashionable intellectual scheme because it allows us to feel superior to other people, especially those unenlightened masses who need the crutch or the discipline of religion. Of course people may also adopt a religious creed in order to justify themselves, especially in times or places where religion is fashionable. Everybody is subject to the temptation to rationalize. The temptation is probably greatest for those with the most intelligence because the more intelligent we are, the easier we will find it to invent convenient rationalizations for what we want to believe and to decorate them with high-sounding claptrap. Unless we take the greatest precautions, we will use our reasoning powers to convince ourselves to believe reassuring lies rather than the uncomfortable truths that reality may be trying to tell us. ... How do we tell reason from rationalization-not just when we talk about others but when we form our own beliefs? How can we tell the truth that makes us free from the philosophical system that keeps us self-satisfied? ... `Reason is wholly instrumental. It cannot tell us where to go; at best it can tell us how to get there. It is a gun for hire that can be employed in the service of any goals we have, good or bad' [Simon H.A., "Reason in Human Affairs," Stanford University Press: Stanford CA, 1983]. ... reasoning ... can tell us how to get whatever we want but not why we should ultimately want one thing rather than another." (Johnson P.E., "The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism," Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2000, pp.36-37. Emphasis in original) ]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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