Sunday, January 29, 2006

Vatican Newspaper Denounces Intelligent Design

My comments bold and in square brackets on an article that is getting a bit stale, that of the Vatican's supposed disavowal of ID. I am falling behind with my blogging because I have made a New Year's resolution to finish the first draft of my book, "Problems of Evolution" by the end 2006 (if not sooner) and I cannot do both, so it is the blogging that is having a lower priority.

Vatican Newspaper Denounces Intelligent Design, Livescience/ AP, Nicole Winfield, 19 January 2006 ... VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican newspaper has published an article saying "intelligent design" is not science and that teaching it alongside evolutionary theory in school classrooms only creates confusion. The article in Tuesday's editions of L'Osservatore Romano was the latest in a series of interventions by Vatican officials -- including the pope -- on the issue that has dominated headlines in the United States. The author, Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, laid out the scientific rationale for Darwin's theory of evolution, saying that in the scientific world, biological evolution "represents the interpretative key of the history of life on Earth." He lamented that certain American "creationists" had brought the debate back to the "dogmatic" 1800s, and said their arguments weren't science but ideology. [See also MSNBC, New York Times & Washington Post. That an article is in the Vatican's newspaper, hardly makes it official Vatican policy. Presumably as in Protestantism, there are many `liberal' academics in the Roman Catholic church who have internalized Darwinism and so have become, as atheist Darwinist historian William Provine put it, "effective atheists":

"Liberal religious leaders and theologians, who also proclaim the compatibility of religion and evolution, achieve this unlikely position by two routes. First, they retreat from traditional interpretations of God's presence in the world, some to the extent of becoming effective atheists. Second, they simply refuse to understand modern evolutionary biology and continue to believe that evolution is a purposive process. We are now presented with the specter of atheistic evolutionists and liberal theologians, whose understanding of the evolutionary process is demonstrable nonsense, joining together with the ACLU and the highest courts in the land to lambast creationists, who are caught in an increasing bind. Evolutionary biology, as taught in public schools, shows no evidence of a purposive force of any kind. This is deeply disturbing to creationists. Yet in court, scientists proclaim that nothing in evolutionary biology is incompatible with any reasonable religion, a view also supported by liberal theologians and religious leaders of many persuasions. Not only are creationists unable to have their "creation science" taught in the schools, they cannot even convince the court system that evolution is in any significant way antithetical to religion; thus the courts are effectively branding their religious views as terribly misguided. No wonder creationists (somewhere near half of the population!) are frustrated with the system and want equal time for their own views, or at least to be spared bludgeoning with evolution." (Provine W.B., "Trial and Error: The American Controversy over Creation and Evolution." Review of "Trial and Error: The American Controversy over Creation and Evolution," by Edward J. Larson, New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Academe, Vol. 73, January-February 1987, pp.50-52, p.52)

As for "not science but ideology," Darwinist philosopher Michael Ruse candidly admitted that "Darwinism ... reflects a strong ideology ... one to be proud of":

"A final, obvious question. What about the Darwinism I am defending in this essay? Do I pretend that it reflects no ideology? Do I claim that all of its hypotheses are so firmly based, that no sense of values and of wishes can be found behind the claims within its boundaries? Do I think that the extension to human social behavior reveals no commitment to any value system? No indeed! I believe that Darwinism, especially as it extends into human sociobiology, reflects a strong ideology. Moreover, this is one to be proud of." (Ruse M., "Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversies," [1982], Addison-Wesley: Reading MA, 1983, Third Printing, p.280)

So if Facchini claims to be a Christian, he should first deal with the beam in his own Darwinist eye (Matthew 7:5) before he hypocritically accuses ID of being "[not] science but ideology"]

This isn't how science is done," he wrote. "If the model proposed by Darwin is deemed insufficient, one should look for another, but it's not correct from a methodological point of view to take oneself away from the scientific field pretending to do science." [That's exactly what ID is doing, "the model proposed by Darwin is deemed insufficient" and so ID is looking at "another"!]

Intelligent design "doesn't belong to science and the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside Darwin's explanation is unjustified," he wrote. [I have added to my ID FAQs a new section "Objections to ID ... `ID is not science'" which, like the rest of the FAQ is a work-in-progress.]

"It only creates confusion between the scientific and philosophical and religious planes." [Leaving aside the Gnostic radical dualism "between the scientific and ... religious planes":

"Gnosticism is an ancient belief system that draws a strong distinction between spirit and matter. Spirit is good and matter is evil. Whereas the Bible says that God made the world, Gnosticism holds that God is separate from the world, thus Gnosticism is a theodicy. Yes, there is evil, but it is far from God. God is separate and distinct from the world and not responsible for its evils. In Darwin's time the world was increasingly seen as controlled by natural laws. God may have instituted these laws in the beginning, but he had not since interfered; the laws were now his secondary causes. As in Gnosticism, God was seen as separate from the world. ... This view seemed to have a divine sanction; after all, to control the world exclusively through natural laws-God's secondary causes-required an even greater God. In other words, a clean separation of God and creation made for an even purer God, just as the Gnostics had found that spirit could be good when it was opposed to matter. ... Whereas the Bible presents a history of God's activity in the world, including dates and historical figures, the Gnostics believed that God's revelation was not open but secret-revealed from within rather than in public documents such as Scripture. Furthermore, whereas the Bible says that the heavens declare the glory of God, the Gnostics believed that one should not look for signs of God in nature. In Darwin's day, a parallel view developed that urged the separation of religion and science; this view remains strong today." (Hunter C.G., "Darwin's God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil," Brazos Press: Grand Rapids MI, 2001, p.129)

ID is not "religious" but "a secular scientific theory that intelligent causation is necessary to explain certain features of the natural world; and the evidence of that intelligent causation is empirically detectable."]

Supporters of "intelligent design" hold that some features of the universe and living things are so complex they must have been designed by a higher intelligence. [And why is that "not science?" "If it is scientific to claim there is no design in nature (as Darwinism does) then it is scientific to claim that there is design in nature"] Critics say intelligent design is merely creationism -- a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation -- camouflaged in scientific language and say it does not belong in science curriculum. [This is demonstrably false. ID says nothing about "the Bible's story of creation" and nor is it based on it. ID is based solely on the evidence of nature. I have added a heading for this claim to my ID FAQ, to be completed later.]

Facchini said he recognized some Darwin proponents erroneously assume that evolution explains everything. "Better to recognize that the problem from the scientific point of view remains open," he said. [Why is it "better" to always keep looking for an unintelligent causal explanation? If in fact intelligent causation is the true explanation of some features of the natural world, then it is dooming science to perpetual failure and frustration to keep looking for an explanation that never was there. The true "scientific point of view" is to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and if it leads to intelligent causation, so be it.]

But he concluded: "In a vision that goes beyond the empirical horizon, we can say that we aren't men by chance or by necessity, and that the human experience has a sense and a direction signaled by a superior design." [This is just Gnosticism, claiming that there is "superior design" but it exists "beyond the empirical horizon." While the scientific theory of ID is not necessarily Christian or even religious, that does not mean that the reverse is the case, that it is Christian to deny that there is empirically detectable evidence of design in nature. The Bible teaches in Romans 1:18-20 that the evidence of design in nature pointing to a Creator, is so intuitively obvious to all humans that those who seek to suppress that truth will be left "without excuse"(my emphasis) :

"[18]The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, [19]since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. [20]For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."]

The article echoed similar arguments by the Vatican's chief astronomer, the Rev. George Coyne, who said "intelligent design" wasn't science and had no place in school classrooms. [Coyne seems to be another Gnostic who is more opposed to ID (that there is empirical evidence of design in nature) than atheism! It will be interesting to see what action (if any) Pope Benedict XVI (who formerly as Cardinal Ratzinger said he "prefers a leaner, smaller, purer church" will take against these `theistic naturalist' Gnostics.]

Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed in off-the-cuff comments in November that the universe was made by an "intelligent project" and criticized those who in the name of science say its creation was without direction or order. ... [Its funny that when the Pope says something in favour of ID:

"Designer God? Vatican experts debate fine points of evolution," Catholic News Service, John Thavis, Nov-11-2005 ... At the end of his general audience Nov. 9, the pope set aside his prepared text and spoke emphatically about the wisdom of recognizing `signs of God's love' in the marvels of creation. He made no scientific claims, but said it would be unscientific to think that `everything is without direction and order.' Behind the natural world is "the creative reason, the reason that has created everything, that has created this intelligent project," he said. ... Earlier this year, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn caused a stir when he wrote an article that, while it did not use the term `intelligent design,' seemed to defend its principles. Cardinal Schonborn said human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things. "Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science," he said. When the pope made his recent remarks about creation as an `intelligent project,' Cardinal Schonborn was sitting near the front of the audience with a pilgrim group. Greeting the pope afterward, the cardinal had a big smile on his face."

(apparently in the original Italian he meant "intelligent design"), it is dismissed as just "off-the-cuff comments," but when mere scientists like Facchini and Coyne (who in the Vatican policy- making hierarchy would be near the bottom, if even in it at all) say something against ID in a newspaper, it is hailed as indicative of Vatican policy! If I were a Roman Catholic I know whose views I would take as indicative of Vatican policy on ID and it would not be those of Facchini and Coyne, as opposed to those of Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Schonborn! ]

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

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