Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cardinal Schönborn Proposes Evolution Debate

Cardinal Schönborn Proposes Evolution Debate: Calls for More Science, Less Ideology, ZENIT News, 2006-08-25 ...

[Graphic: Cardinal Christoph Schönborn]

RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 25, 2006 ... Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is proposing an ideology-free debate on the theory of evolution, and wants to clarify the Church's position on the topic. The archbishop of Vienna presented his proposal Thursday to a packed auditorium at the Meeting of Friendship Among Peoples, organized by the Communion and Liberation Movement in Rimini, Italy. At a press conference Wednesday, the cardinal, explained that the Church does not hold the position of "creationist" theories on the origin of life and man, which draw scientific consequences from biblical texts. [I agree with what I presume Cardinal Schönborn is trying to say, that the Christian church has never insisted on a strictly literal interpretation of Scripture that would bring it into conflict with well established scientific evidence.

Nevertheless at some point, the Christian church does "draw scientific consequences from biblical texts." For example, Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" and John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word" (i.e. the pre-incarnate Christ - John 1:14). Now if science claims (as it does) that "in the beginning were the particles":

"I've written a little parody of the prologue of the gospel of John to indicate the dominant cultural belief of our time. It goes like this: `In the beginning were the particles. And the particles somehow became complex living stuff. And the stuff imagined God, but then discovered evolution.' Here again you have in a few words a lot of profound learning. `In the beginning were the particles.' John Searle will tell you this. He says that if you want to be taken seriously in the academic world today, then there are two things you just have to admit, that you have to agree to, to get a ticket of admission. You're outside the conversation if you don't. One of them is that the world consists entirely of particles, the things that physicists study. This is a philosophy that's sometimes called materialism; the correct philosophical term is physicalism, because particles make up both matter and energy. That's physicalism. Naturalism, another term, means nature is all there is; nature is made of particles, and everything else just comes from the particles. `In the beginning were the particles.' No mind, just particles and impersonal laws of physics and chemistry. And by some combination of chance and these physical laws, the particles somehow became complex living stuff. This is skipping rapidly over a lot of cosmic history, of course, to get to the main point, that the particles become complex living stuff by a purely natural mechanism. `And the stuff imagined God ...' Now we get to a key point. See, it's not `In the beginning was the Word,' not `in the beginning God created,' not `God created man,' but rather, `man created God.' The complex stuff imagined God, because, having evolved from the primeval ooze of chemicals and lacking scientific knowledge, primitive human beings imagined a father figure in the sky, the only good story they knew, and credited that with their creation." (Johnson, P.E., "In the Beginning Were the Particles," Lecture at Grace Valley Christian Center, March 5, 2000)

then the Christian church must maintain science is wrong on that point.

Indeed, Cardinal Schönborn himself, in his later-mentioned New York Times article, must be ultimately "draw[ing] scientific consequences from biblical texts," when he claimed that, "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true" (and indeed I accept that "common ancestry" is true) "but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not" :

"The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things. Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science." (Schönborn, C., "Finding Design in Nature," The New York Times July 7, 2005)]

In fact, he added, there is "no conflict between science and religion," but, rather, a debate "between a materialist interpretation of the results of science and a metaphysical philosophical interpretation." [This is the point, which coincidentally I had been thinking about recently. It is not at the level of empirical evidence that Christianity and modern science conflict, but at the level of metaphysics, and necessary deductions therefrom.

For example, Christianity could cheerfully surrender the Big Bang as the actual "beginning" of all matter/energy, if that were shown by empirical evidence to be the case. But Christianity could never surrender that there was, at some point, a "beginning" of all matter/energy, in the sense that it was brought into existence by God, it having previously not existed in any form, whatsoever.

Likewise, Christianity could and did surrender that the days of Genesis 1 were literally 24-hours in length, when the empirical evidence was discovered that the Earth was millions of years old. Although "surrendered" is not strictly correct because Christian theologians as far back as Augustine in the 4th century AD, if not Moses in the 14th century BC (Psalm 90:4), interpreted the days of Genesis 1 non-literally.

And Christianity could surrender a literal interpretation of Genesis 2:7, "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being," when the empirical evidence showed that man shares a common ancestry with apes and indeed with all of life. But Christianity can never surrender the metaphysics and necessary deductions therefrom, that God formed ... man," not "the particles somehow became complex living stuff. And the stuff imagined God," i.e. "man created God."]

Cardinal Schönborn, who sparked a worldwide debate in 2005 with an article in the New York Times on the subject, called for clarification of the difference between the "theory of evolution" and "evolutionism," the latter understood as an ideology, based on scientific theory. [I called this, in one of my earliest blog posts, the "Roman Catholic Church's `wedge'" That is, driving a wedge between "evolution" as an empirical scientific theory and "evolutionism" as applied materialistic-naturalistic ideology.]

By way of example, the cardinal mentioned Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who saw in the publication of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species," "the scientific foundation for their Marxist materialist theory. This is evolutionism, not theory of evolution." [I agree with this in principle, but the fact is that "evolution" from the very beginning was coined by the atheist Spencer, and taken up by the effectively atheist Darwin, to mean not-creation, in any supernatural sense. That is, "evolution" is applied "evolutionism." For example, Darwin rejected "miraculous additions at any one stage of descent":

"If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish, but I have firm faith in it, as I cannot believe, that if false, it would explain so many whole classes of facts, which, if I am in my senses, it seems to explain. ... I would give absolutely nothing for the theory of Natural Selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent." (Darwin, C.R., Letter to C. Lyell, October 11, 1859, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," [1898], Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. II., 1959, reprint, pp.6-7)]

The archbishop of Vienna warned against the application of this evolutionist ideology in fields such as economic neo-liberalism, or bioethical issues, where there is the risk of creating new eugenic theories.

More than a theory Journalists asked the cardinal what Pope John Paul II meant in his address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in Oct. 1996, when he spoke of evolution as "something more than a theory." Cardinal Schönborn explained that the phrase meant that "the theory, as scientific theory, has been expanded with new scientific data, but of course that phrase cannot be interpreted as an 'Amen' of the Catholic Church to ideological evolutionism." The archbishop of Vienna noted a document published by the International Theological Commission in 2004, with the approval of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, entitled "Communion and Service: The Human Person Created in the Image of God." He said the paper clarifies the distinction between ideology and science, and "gives an answer to those who wished to interpret John Paul II's phrase in an ideological sense." [Nothwithstanding my position that, given "evolution's" historical origin as the atheist/agnostic antithesis of supernatural creation is any sense, any attempt to invest "evolution" with theistic content is bound to fail; nevertheless I agree that it is a step in the right direction to drive a `wedge' between "evolution" (as an empirical scientific theory) and "evolutionism" (as materialistic-naturalistic ideology).

That should flush out the materialist-naturalists on their central fallacy of equivocation on the word "evolution," in their claim that the Roman Catholic Church accepts "evolution," so it is only "Biblical fundamentalists" who don't. When what they really mean by "evolution" is a "process" that God had no part in'" (my emphasis):

"Facing such a reality, perhaps we should not be surprised at the results of a 2001 Gallup poll confirming that 45 percent of Americans believe `God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so'; 37 percent prefer a blended belief that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process'; and a paltry 12 percent accept the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.'" (Shermer, M.B., "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," Scientific American, February 2002. My emphasis)

which no true Christian church could accept.]

"What I desire intensely is that, also in school programs, questions be explained, at the scientific level, opened by the theory of evolution, such as the famous question of the missing rings," Cardinal Schönborn said. [I presume this is a mistranslation of "missing links"? This is effectively the ID movement's "teach more about evolution," i.e. "teach the controversy" position.]

The cardinal said that 150 years after Darwin's theory, "there is no evidence in the geological strata of intermediate species that should exist, according to Darwin's theory." He continued: "He himself said in his book that this is a hole in his theory and asked that they be found. "This should be discussed in a serene manner. If a theory is scientific and not ideological, then it can be discussed freely." [Of course the Darwinists would never agree, or at least not without being dragged kicking and screaming to it, that "in school programs" the problems of evolution be debated. Their official position is that "evolution ... is so well established that ... a detailed presentation of the evidence is no longer needed":

"Also, there is no longer any need to present an exhaustive list of the proofs for evolution. That evolution has taken place is so well established that such a detailed presentation of the evidence is no longer needed. In any case, it would not convince those who do not want to be persuaded." (Mayr, E.W., "What Evolution Is," Basic Books: New York, 2001, p.xv)

But on the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church has a vast educational system, so if this becomes its official policy that: 1) the distinction between "evolution" as an empirical scientific theory and "evolutionism" as materialistic-naturalistic ideology; and 2) the problems of evolution, e.g. "there is no evidence in the geological strata of intermediate species that should exist, according to Darwin's theory"; should be taught in Roman Catholic schools, this will have a profound (if not devastating) effect on Darwinism's fragile house of cards!]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
`Evolution Quotes Book'