7.22.2005

Follow up on Schoernborn

I briefly discussed Cardinal Schoernborn's remarks in the NY Times last week, and focused upon his dismissal of John Paul's 1996 letter to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Today's Word from Rome by John Allen of the NCR suggests that that letter might have had even more significance, in an interview with Fr. George Coyne, S.J. (they're always S.J.'s, aren't they? Maybe Maria Doria Russell was on to something), who is the director of the Vatican observatory. There's also an interview with Niccola Cobbibo, the president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. They might help suggest to my worried scientist friends (including my chemist and copyeditor brother) that the Catholic position on evolution isn't quite as clear, or as foolish, as Schoernborn might have suggested. The concern is to guard against what Cobbibo infelicitously refers to as "evolutionism" (too close for comfort to the original, for most anglophones at least), that is, an understanding of the theory of evolution which moves beyond a description of the workings of the phenomenon to an assertion of those workings as a justification for atheism.

2 comments:

weazoe said...

I agree that the distinction between evolution as atheistic ideology (Richard Dawkins) and evolution as genuine science is an important one, both for theological and pastoral reasons. Theologically the Catholic church is in a good position to claim evolution as both scientific fact and human reality - i.e. that God's creation is an open one and that the natural order functions with such elegance and wisdom because God wills it to be so. Pastorally by laying claim to the theory of evolution the church can lead the opposition against fundamentalism (as it always should) and assuage Christians who feel threatened by atheists like Dawkins that the truth is always for us.

Nate said...

It seems reasonable that if we can't use science to provide a buttress for the existence of God (as many of my friends in the evangelical world see it), we can't do the obverse. God's lack of existence can't be derived from science.

This is one reason that it's too bad that evangelicals and fundamentalists are some of the loudest voices in American religion today. As Alan Wolfe and others have documented, evangelicals have only begun to develop an intellectual apparatus whereby they can engage with others on terms that don't require buying into the evangelical worldview from the beginning. Catholics have 1800 years and Aquinas on them, and other Protestants have at least 300 years of a head start.