Sunday, September 03, 2006

Pope Ponders Primordial Processes

Everybody's been sort of watching the Pope to see what he's thinking about evolution. One of his top advisors recently left, and it was rumored this was because the advisor accepted the theory of evolution. The Vatican denied that, but, well, the rumors were not entirely fabricated, everybody understood. This is some complicated and challenging stuff. Then we heard that the Pope was meeting with some of his top science advisors -- is he going to come out in favor of Intelligent Design? Some papers reported that he was. Maybe he's not.

This from Reuters today:
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 on Sunday.

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 S.J.

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," Fessio, who is provost of Ave Maria University in Florida, told Reuters by telephone from Rome. The Pope's session with 39 former students was "a meeting of friends with some scholars to discuss an interesting theme".

"We did not really speak much about intelligent design," said Fessio, whose Ignatius Press publishes the Pope's books in English. "In fact, that particular controversy did not arise." Pope and former students ponder evolution, not "ID"

Well, that's interesting.

The Church has been backed into corners before by science, most famously I suppose the little incident with Galileo. Little ol' me thinks it would be smart of them to recognize the power of science to determine facts about the temporal world, and to come up with ways to adapt faith to fact. And it looks like that might be what they're working on.
Creationism -- the view that God created the world in six days as described in the Bible -- was "almost off the radar screen of the people in this group," he added. The Catholic Church does not read the Genesis account of creation literally.

Fessio said Benedict took part in the discussions but said nothing different from previous public statements, in which he has recognized evolution as a scientific fact but argued that God ultimately created the world and all life in it.

And that is a hard one. It is a good idea to get some smart heads together and figure out how this works. There are a number of ways of reconciling theology with evolution -- which approach will the Pope settle on?

I mean, I know some people don't like to hear this, but I can't imagine that one little scientific theory means that God can't exist. It means we have to expand our appreciation for His ways, perhaps. It might even mean we have to admit that some mysteries are impenetrable. Personally, I'm cool with that.
As the Pope put it at his inaugural Mass after being elected in April 2005, "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God."
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution has long been rejected in the United States by conservative Christians who want to have a Bible-based view of creation taught in public schools, where the church-state separation bars the teaching of religion.
Catholic teaching accepts evolution as a scientific theory but disagrees with what it calls "evolutionism," the view that the story of life has no role for God as its prime author.

Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, a close associate of the Pope, was one of four speakers who addressed the meeting. He raised eyebrows last year with a New York Times article that suggested the Catholic Church supported the "ID movement".

Schoenborn and Benedict have said several times over the past year that intelligence in the form of God's will played a part in creation and that neo-Darwinists who deny God any role are drawing an ideological conclusion not proven by the theory.

They say they use philosophical reasoning to conclude that God created the world, not arguments which intelligent design supporters claim can be proven scientifically.

Okay, dudes, be careful not to get yourself into an angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin argument. It must be possible to have faith in God, even in a world where biological destiny is guided by adaptation, where humans are part of nature and related as kin to other living things. Maybe the faith of past saints provides the proof you're looking for; maybe our sense of wonder and beauty is the proof that overwhelms some scientific theory without contradicting it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Fly's Evolution Tied to Warming

A fruit fly species that came to North and South America from Europe 25 years ago appears to have evolved genetically since then in response to global warming, according to a study in the journal Science on Thursday.

The paper examined the species Drosophilia subobscura, which originally ranged from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia. It reached Chile's Pacific Coast in the late 1970s and the U.S. West Coast in the early 1980s.

More than 40 years ago, European biologists discovered that different populations of the flies had sections of their chromosomes reversed, depending on the climate they lived in. In the new study, researchers from the University of Barcelona, the University of Washington and the College of William and Mary compared the genetic makeup of flies in Europe, South America and North America today and determined that their chromosomal inversions mirrored those of flies in the earlier samples that lived 70 miles, or 1 degree latitude, closer to the equator.

"It's as if populations had moved 70 miles further south toward the equator," said Washington biologist Raymond B. Huey, a co-author, in an interview. "As the climates have warmed over time, the frequency of inversions that are typically found in warm climates are becoming more common everywhere. We're seeing marked genetic changes over a relatively short time period."

Huey said fruit flies are more likely to produce such rapid evolutionary change because they produce several generations in a year.

"They may be able to keep pace with climate change, but other organisms that have slower generation times, like sequoia trees and lizards, they may not be able to keep pace," he added.

-- Juliet Eilperin"

September 04, 2006 1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading this whole post, I don't see anything where a religious figure was trying to influence public policy. A big part of the purpose of this website, unfortunately, is to attack the idea of religious belief.

Truth is, whenever religion and morality are subordinated to science and materiality in history, the result has been evil and suffering.

Orthodox Christian doctrine includes the concept of "general revelation", meaning that God reveals himself through the universe he created. If the evidence proved that evolution were true, Christians would be compelled to explore how this could be reconciled to scripture.

There is no evidence, however, that evolutionary adaption accounts for the creation of the varied species we see on Earth. Most of what is called evidence for evolution could just as easily be the mark of a common designer.

September 04, 2006 11:50 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home