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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Notre Dame academics trash/laud Cardinal Schonborn’s stand against Darwinism

In the continuing spin of Cardinal Schonborn’s denunciation of Darwinism, Gary Belovsky, an evolutionary biologist “who is Catholic” says

There will always be a place for God in peoples’ lives, because there are ultimate questions that science cannot answer, e.g., how did the “big-bang” creation of the universe get its start? However, to search for all answers to our existence using faith alone is an abdication of human intelligence. Prior to Cardinal Schönborn’s statement, the only religious caveat placed on Catholics in regard to evolution was that at some point God nfused our ancestors with an immortal soul, a metaphysical entity that science cannot measure and therefore, must be accepted on faith.

Does he mean that a Catholic can be a complete and thorough-going naturalist as long as he maintains, by faith alone, that one, single completely unobserved and unobservable notion about the human is true (an immortal soul)? Hmmmm. I can certainly see why Cardinal Schonborn is concerned ....

Meanwhile, Protestant scholar Alvin Plantinga argues that Schonborn is right.

Some think of evolution as the theory of common ancestry: Any two living things share ancestors, so that we and the poison ivy in our back yard, as well as other living creatures, are cousins. This is surprising, but compatible with Christian belief.

Problems arise, according to Plantinga, when "scientists and others take evolution to be a process that is wholly unguided and driven by chance, so that it is simply a matter of chance that rational creatures like us exist. This is not compatible with Christian belief, according to which God has intentionally created us human beings in His own image. He may have done so by using a process of evolution, but it isn’t by chance that we exist."

Plantinga ironically reverses the legacy media’s obsession with the dangers of questioning naturalism in the public schools, by observing that the idea that
human beings and other living creatures have come about by chance, rather than by God’s design, is also not a proper part of empirical science. How could science show that God has not intentionally designed and created human beings and other creatures? How could it show that they have arisen merely by chance. That’s not empirical science. That’s metaphysics, or maybe theology. It’s a theological add-on, not part of science itself. And, since it is a theological add-on, it shouldn’t, of course, be taught in public schools.

No, but it is. If Darwinism is taught without any critical thinking permitted, then that metaphysic is necessarily taught. Darwinism is the creation story of the public school system. That’s what the controversy is about.

(Note: If this is not the story you were looking for, see the Blog service note below or the stories listed in the sidebar. )

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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Charles Krauthammer: "No More Monkey Trials!"

Time columnist Charles Krauthammer huffs,
Have we learned nothing? In Kansas, conservative school-board members are attempting to rewrite statewide standards for teaching evolution to make sure that creationism's modern stepchild, intelligent design, infiltrates the curriculum. Similar anti-Darwinian mandates are already in place in Ohio and are being fought over in 20 states. And then, as if to second the evangelical push for this tarted-up version of creationism, out of the blue appears a declaration from Christoph Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna, a man very close to the Pope, asserting that the supposed acceptance of evolution by John Paul II is mistaken. In fact, he says, the Roman Catholic Church rejects "neo-Darwinism" with the declaration that an "unguided evolutionary process--one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence--simply cannot exist."

The school board stuff is not accurate, of course. Kansas’s new standards merely insist that science is about evidence, not about Darwinism or naturalism. Ohio asks for critical thinking, a current fad in education (and one I support). Also, John Paul II never remotely accepted what Krauthammer understands by “evolution,” a fact that can be easily determined by reading what he actually said said about it, and by noting genuine Darwinist Richard Dawkins’s sneering response.
(Note: If this is not the story you were looking for, see the Blog service note below or the stories listed in the sidebar. )

David DeWolf, law prof at Gonzaga Law School in Cincinnati, responded privately, saying that,
There is also an important conflict between the factual assertion of neo-Darwinism and the factual claims of Christianity. This is not a theological argument (that is, it does not argue from theological propositions), but rather a recognition of conflicting claims about the historical facts. It makes perfect sense for Cardinal Schönborn to say that if neo-Darwinism is true, then Christianity is false - not for reasons of metaphysical logic, but because neo-Darwinism says that there was a gradual transition from animal to man.

Christianity asserts that mankind originated from two human beings, whom we name Adam and Eve. Even if they had animal parents (thus permitting the scientific claim of common descent), Adam and Eve could not have arisen from neo-Darwinian mechanisms, since you would need to have the same genetic mutation arise from the reproduction by two sets of animal parents (Adam and Eve's parents), who then produced two humans into which God breathed a human soul. That account is utterly inconsistent with neo-Darwinism. (Note that the Pope identified this as a potential scientific account that would be consistent with Christian theology. But it is science, not theology, that would refute that possibility.) Any any neo-Darwinistic account -- random mutation giving rise to greater reproductive fitness -- would never predict two mutations, of exactly the same fitness level -- arising at the same time. But any truly neo-Darwinistic account would contradict a fundamental teaching of Christianity. Christianity may eventually be proven scientifically to be false (in the same way that an archaeologist's discovery of bones that were scientifically proven to be those of Jesus of Nazareth), but let's not pretend that Christianity is indifferent with respect to the scientific claims of neo-Darwinism.

Thus, Cardinal Schönborn's op-ed could be read to say, in effect, "I don't know what evidence there is in support of neo-Darwinism, but I do think there is reason to doubt its accuracy; not only is it reasonable to think that nature displays evidence of intelligent design, but if neo-Darwinism turns out to be true, then Christianity would turn out to be false. Anyone who demands acceptance of neo-Darwinism as having been proven by modern science is doing real harm to Christianity." Now, the Cardinal doesn't make this argument specifically, but I think it is a reasonable inference from what he did say.

(Note: DeWolf’s post is quoted with permission but not linked anywhere.)
In my own view, that is the main issue in a nutshell.

The Darwinist explains the history of the human race in a way that is completely at odds with the way that the Catholic Church explains it. They can’t both be right.

Either the human is an evolved ape and the values that we imagine to be God-given are illusions that help us survive or else Something out there is really the author of those values and we do not exist merely because someone accidentally passed on the required genes.

In that latter case, Darwinian survival is not the human story and the Catholic catechism may well be right in its many assertions about the true nature and history of the human being. This would be so whether or not some sort of guided evolution occurred.

Those tenured Catholic profs who are now running full tilt to reassure the public that it is okay to believe in both Darwinism and the Catholic Church have misunderstood both parties, I think.

Recall that the Catholic Church believes in miracles (a requirement for proclaiming saints), in the supernatural, in the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the consecrated wafers at the mass ....

Hello, hello, world!, ... the Catholic Church is not a naturalistic institution. I think the Church is just now waking up to the discovery that she has been falsely represented as an institution comfortable with naturalism. And she well knows that if she ever becomes one, she will be dead.

Without naturalism, Darwinism is an explanation in search of something to explain. That is, if you do not think that the human is merely a sort of evolved chimpanzee, (a) you won't really care much what chimpanzees do, and (b) you won't think that what chimpanzees do predicts anything in particular about what humans will or should do.

So in that case, who, exactly, needs Darwinism? To explain what? From the Catholic Church's perspective, human history is the history of man's relationship with God.

Monkeys squealing in trees and apes grumbling underneath them are not even particularly relevant to an understanding of the nature of the human. But for the Darwinist, that is the history.

Perhaps all really serious quarrels are about interpretations of history.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Blog service note: Did you come here looking for any of the following stories?

- the California Academy of Sciences agreeing to correct potentially libellous statements about attorney Larry Caldwell, who thinks that students should know about weaknesses as well as strengths of Darwinian evolution theory, click on the posted link and check the current daily post for any updates. UPDATED!: The retraction and Caldwell’s response have now been published in California Wild.

- The op-ed by Catholic Cardinal Schonborn in the New York Times? Note also the Times's story on the subject, some interesting quotes from major Darwinists to compare with the Catholic Church's view, as expressed by the Cardinal, and an example of the kind of problem with Darwinian philosophy that the Cardinal is talking about.

- the Privileged Planet film shown at the Smithsonian, go here for an extended review. Please do not raise cain about an "anti-evolution" film without seeing it. If your doctor forbids you to see the film, in case you get too excited, at least read my detailed log of the actual subjects of the film. If you were one of the people who raised cain, ask yourself why you should continue to believe the people who so misled you about the film's actual content ...

- the showing of Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian, go here and here to start, and then this one and this one will bring you up to date.
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