Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ask the Pope about dinosaurs!

A senior Vatican prelate has said that "evolutionary theory is not incompatible with Catholic teaching" Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council of Culture made the declaration at a recent press con announcing next year's Church sponsored interdisciplinary conference on the 150th anniversary of Darwin's Origin of Species. The fact that the Roman Church has considered this anniversary an important event shows that it values reason and scientific inquiry and demonstrates evolutionary theory and science as important in world culture.

The conference will be attended not only by evolutionary biologists, but theologians, philosophers, humanists and artists.

Best of all, I believe this another broadside in Pope Benedict XVI's culture war against fundamentalism of all sorts. Benedict recently warned against literal interpretation of the Bible in a speech to academics and intellectuals in Paris. In stronger and more direct words than what his predecessor John Paul II used, Benedict said that the Bible "excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism. In effect, the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text."

This is yet the clearest message to say that Catholicism is against fundamentalism. Benedict also praised scientific advances but cautioned that there are some questions that science won't be able to answer. Benedict stopped short of endorsing "intelligent design".

This is also a direct rebuff against his star pupil, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna. Schoenborn advocates intelligent design.

The pieces fit as far as Benedict is concerned. The Pope has issued broadsides against moral and cognitive relativism. The opposite of these is of course fundamentalism. Benedict is consistent. You can't shoot one side of the coin without puncturing the other!

So it is clear now where and how Papa Ratzinger stands. This razor sharp professor has little tolerance for sloppy thinking. Unlike many academics, he doesn't fudge his words.


Jego said...

But how can he *not* advocate 'intelligent design'? Not the theory-in-embryo as Paul Nelson, and ID advocate calls it ("It's not yet a theory," he says. "It's a set of intuitions in search of a theory."), but the idea, the belief, the hypothesis, that nature had an intelligent cause, an inherent design. As leader of the Catholics, he shouldnt fudge on this, albeit maiking it clear that he is leaving the question to scientists.

blackshama said...

Theologically, it is unpalatable for Papa Ratzi to reduce the Deity to mere intelligence. Pope Ratzinger is able to accept that intelligence is an essence of the Deity but not the Deity itself.

Papa Ratzi is good enough not to say anything.

Thus it is more parsimonious to accept Darwinian theory even it could give space for ID.

As for ID not being a theory,this is dishonest. A theory is a statement that explains. ID proponents want ID to explain an intelligent cause. However some ID proponents won't give God the credit he deserves.

ID reduces the argument into absurdity, if God is not given the credit.

So ID is really sloppy thinking that leads to sloppy theology and even sloppier science.

Jego said...

Yes Ive heard that argument before, that reducing God to the intelligence behind ID diminishes God, but that is a theological argument, not a scientific one. Science has nothing to say on that score. But as far as Il Papa is concerned, God is THE intelligence, not merely intelligence. ID proponents on the other hand run the gamut: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Agnostics, atheists even in the case of Fred Hoyle who coined the term intelligent design. Even Dick Dawkins accepts the possibility that life on earth couldve been designed by space aliens (a statement from which he is trying to spin out of).

In the Paul Nelson interview, he clarifies that ID is not a theory in the same way as Darwinian evolution is a theory. Whereas Darwin has tons of studies under its belt, ID only has a few years' worth. ID people dont even agree on their stand on common descent, with some for and others against. As a theory, Darwin's is an old man, while ID isnt even born yet.

blackshama said...

Those who stick with the Christian tradition see God as a person (or three persons in one!) This person became flesh and blood and lived amongst us.

I for instance would be glad to be considered as a person but I won't like it if someone considers me just an intelligent chap!

Papa Ratzi just said that an encounter with God is an encounter with a person.

Jego said...

So how can Il Papa not advocate that the universe was created by a person? Is it because he doesnt need to? Because that is his default position?

The Trinity doctrine I suppose (Im not Catholic, btw) was formulated because of the inherent paradox of a God who is aloof, unchanging, all knowing, timeless, while at the same time caring, mutable, and who doesnt know the future as a certainty. The God of the Old Testament for example invites people to reason with him and at least on one occasion was persuaded by a human (Moses) to change his mind.

I accept this paradox as a Christian although as a heretic, I am agnostic about the Trinity.