Monday, September 04, 2006

Pope, former students ponder evolution

Pope, former students ponder evolution, The Australian, Tom Heneghan in Paris, September 04, 2006.

[Graphic: Father Joseph Fessio SJ, PBS]

POPE Benedict and his former doctoral students spent a weekend pondering evolution without discussing controversies over intelligent design and creationism raging in the United States, a participant said. [I would have been surprised if they did, "discuss... controversies over intelligent design and creationism raging in the United States." Why would they? But three days of Pope Benedict and his 39 (see below) former doctoral students "pondering evolution" is itself highly significant.]

The three-day closed-door meeting at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo outside Rome ended as planned without drawing any conclusions but the group plans to publish its discussion papers, said Father Joseph Fessio. These will be very interesting. But I would not be surprised if Pope Benedict, or more likely Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, make interim public statements which sum up the consensus of the discussions.

This American Father Joseph Fessio, the founder of Ignatius Press (which has published at least one ID work, "Science and Evidence For Design in the Universe," by ID theorists Michael Behe, William Dembski and Stephen Meyer), is probably someone to watch for the future on this issue.]

Media speculation had said the debate might shift Vatican policy to embrace "intelligent design," which claims to prove scientifically that life could not have simply evolved, or even the "creationist" view that God created the world in six days. "It wasn't that at all," Fr Fessio, who is provost of Ave Maria University in Florida, said. As I indicated in my previous post on this, I personally don't expect the Pope to come out in support of ID directly. Rather I expect he will move Roman Catholic policy further away from materialistic theories of evolution like Darwinism and nearer towards theories of evolution that are compatible with design, such as Michael Behe's, "evolution occurred, but was guided by God":

"[Eugenie] Scott refers to me as an intelligent design `creationist,' even though I clearly write in my book `Darwin's Black Box' (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent. In fact, my own views fit quite comfortably with the 40% of scientists that Scott acknowledges think `evolution occurred, but was guided by God.' Where I and others run afoul of Scott and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is simply in arguing that intelligent design in biology is not invisible, it is empirically detectable. The biological literature is replete with statements like David DeRosier's in the journal `Cell': `More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human' [DeRosier, D.J., "The Turn of the Screw: The
Bacterial Flagellar Motor
," Cell, Vol. 93, 1998, p.17]. Exactly why is it a thought-crime to make the case that such observations may be on to something objectively correct?" (Behe, M.J., "Intelligent Design Is Not Creationism," Science, dEbate, 7 July 2000)

which will be indirectly supportive of ID. ]

The Pope's session with 39 former students was "a meeting of friends with some scholars to discuss an interesting theme". [This is an interesting downplaying of the event. I am sure that a meeting between the Pope and "39 former students" of his on the topic of evolution was not just idle chit-chat! I expect that they went a long way to setting the policy direction of the Benedict XVI papacy in respect of evolution, and it will be along the lines of the distinction between "evolution" as science and "evolutionism" as ideology, as foreshadowed by Cardinal Schönborn (see also another of my previous posts):

Cardinal Schönborn Proposes Evolution Debate: Calls for More Science, Less Ideology, ZENIT, 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. ... At a press conference ... the cardinal, explained that ... 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." Cardinal Schönborn ... called for clarification of the difference between the "theory of evolution" and "evolutionism," the latter understood as an ideology, based on scientific theory. ... This is evolutionism, not theory of evolution." ... "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," [links] Cardinal Schönborn said. 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." ...

This citing of scientific problems with Darwin's theory, such as "the famous question of the missing ...[links]"; "there is no evidence in the geological strata of intermediate species that should exist, according to Darwin's theory" and even paraphrasing Darwin that "He himself said in his book that this is a hole in his theory and asked that they be found" is (I would have thought as admittedly a non-Catholic) highly significant coming from a Cardinal and one so highly placed at that!

If I were a Darwinist I would be worried that the Roman Catholic Church, having for decades been in defensive mode over evolution, such that Darwinists have cited that as its acceptance of the theory, is now showing signs of going on the offensive in calling for a "scientific" (as opposed to "ideological") discussion about "Darwin's theory"!]

"We did not really speak much about intelligent design," said Fr Fessio, whose Ignatius Press publishes the Pope's books in English. "In fact, that particular controversy did not arise." ... [This particular wording is interesting: 1) "We did not really speak much about intelligent design" (which means that they did speak "about intelligent design"); and 2) "In fact, that particular controversy did not arise" (presumably the "controversy" over teaching ID in schools, which is an issue that one would expect could not be discussed meaningfully until Pope Benedict had first clarified the Roman Catholic Church's position in respect of evolution.]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)
Genesis 1:6. And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water."