Follow up news: Schönborn and evolution

| 11 Comments

The National Catholic Reporter discusses Follow up news: Schönborn and evolution

Vatican Correspondent John L. Allen concludes:

Allen Wrote:

In that light, observers say, Schönborn’s view does not seem to court a new Galileo affair, putting the church at odds with scientific discoveries. He’s making a philosophical point, not a scientific one. In the end, he’s warning that Christianity cannot accept a universe without God, and it’s fairly difficult to argue with that.

Hat tip to Frank Schmidt

11 Comments

I believe the link you want is this: http://www.nationalcatholicreporter[…]rd080505.htm

As Vatican correspondents go, I’m afraid Allen can’t hold a candle to Guido Sarducci.

Guido, for instance would never have said this, except tongue in cheek:

Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University, a Catholic and author of Darwin’s Black Box, one of the leading challenges to evolution on scientific grounds, told me: “It seems to me that the cardinal said pretty much everything that needed to be said.”

And note the subtle backpedaling on the part of the cardinal:

‘In the Catholic perspective, neo-Darwinians* who adduce random genetic variation and natural selection as evidence that the process of evolution is absolutely unguided* are straying beyond what can be demonstrated by science.’

From his controversial NY Times op-ed piece, it’s pretty clear the cardinal perceives commas where I put the asterisks.

The problem is that Allen’s claim is plainly inconsistent with what Schönborn actually wrote in the NYT which, oddly enough, people never quote when making these claims that he didn’t say what he did say:

EVER since 1996, when Pope John Paul II said that evolution (a term he did not define) was “more than just a hypothesis,” defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma have often invoked the supposed acceptance - or at least acquiescence - of the Roman Catholic Church when they defend their theory as somehow compatible with Christian faith.

But this is not true.

and

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

Seems clear to me Schonborn is confusing Darwinian theory with the concept of unguided or unplanned. Once that confusion is accepted, the position of the Catholic church seems quite reasonable. I wonder who confused Schonborn…

Seems clear to me Schonborn is confusing Darwinian theory with the concept of unguided or unplanned.

But he goes beyond that: “Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.”

Once that confusion is accepted, the position of the Catholic church seems quite reasonable. I wonder who confused Schonborn…

The position of the Catholic church is reasonable, or as reasonable as it was before the NYT editorial, but it seems clear to me that Schönborn believes in ID, and apparently he’s been told by the Church to shut up about that and backpedal.

ahhhh “UNGUIDED” there’s the sticky part. if God isnt there to guide all the natural events then how come i am what i am? How can i be “special” if im just the product of umpteen millenia of chance? If rabbits dont chew the cud then whats to stop me from pulling out my uzi from under the front seat and blasting the next guy who cuts me off back to the stone age? Certainly the Catholic Church in all its wisdom can solve this dillemma.

I recently read the author of this article John Allen’s book “All the Pope’s Men” and came away with the impression that Allen was a bit of an apologist for the more conservative elements inside the Vatican (despite NCR being ‘liberal’).

Allen knows the Vatican extremely well and accurately reports here, but what Allen and ‘observers’ ignore is the political realities of the debate. The Schonborn op-ed was a designated grenade - any hair-splitting over the differences between the ‘scientific’ and the ‘philosophical’ at this point in time rings hollow as a response to such an overtly political gesture.

I’m not even suggesting that the debate within the Vatican isn’t real or genuine - I’m sure it is. But the debate, as we all well know, is an extremely devisive one and if Schonborn wished to make subtle distinctions between the ‘scientific’ and the ‘philosophical’, he could’ve done so right there in the pages of the Times, without John Allen’s help.

TOTALLY UNRELATED: When I fill out the identifying information before I post, I used a unique email address that I only ever used here (I think - I may have also used on Pharyngula). Anyway, I’ve been getting pro-ID spam TO that address from a woman named Jocelyn Weiss ([Enable javascript to see this email address.]). I’ve received two pieces so far, both Beliefnet articles supporting ID. Anyway, I thought I’d pass this info here, to see if anyone else was getting the same crap, and to see if anyone was actually doing anything about it.

I suggest that the Cardinal, who doesn’t follow the evolution wars and who isn’t trained in science, and who isn’t familiar with the American political scene, and who is busy with other things like rooting out heresy, got schnookered, at least partially by our buddies at the DI.

Boston Herald:The New York Times reported that an official from the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which advocates teaching alternative theories to evolution, urged Schonborn to write the op-ed, and that it was submitted to the newspaper by a public relations firm that also represents the Discovery Institute.

(Original NY Times article costs money)

Oh no! The DI engaging in cheap PR tricks? Over-interpreting a mild statement to support their agenda? Putting words in people’s mouths? Say it isn’t so. Or better yet, ask Antony Flew - he and the good Cardinal will have this in common, at least.

When I first saw the editorial, it was painfully obvious that the timing was no coincidence.

It came just at a low point for ID, when the Dover case began turning against them in court, and the Kansas kangaroo court made them look like idiots (the fact that the creationist members of the Kansas school board still support ID is predictable, and irrelevant in this context, that’s in this context - it was always clear that either a new school board election (preferably) or a court case would be required to really change the Kansas standards back).

Given the pope’s tacit endorsement of bishops campaigning for Bush, I suspected the pope of being behind this, too. Whether because he was watching the debate and rooting for ID, or because he was contacted by the DI, I didn’t guess.

If he was, however, he gave himself deniability. And if he wasn’t (anybody can submit an editorial to the NY Times independently, in theory, even a cardinal who doesn’t check with the pope), he reacted more or less properly, by not interfering when Vatican spokesmen on science ripped the article to shreds.

However, in the end, it’s just another DI scheme that backfired. The DI contacted Schonborn. Schonborn wrote an ID editorial which is clearly an ID editorial, but the Vatican contradicted Shonborn, and the DI is no further ahead. Schonborn as an individual is or was an ID stooge, but the Vatican position does not endorse him. In fact, the end result is Vatican statements that are more strongly pro-science than the original 1996 statement of John Paul II.

My interpretation from a casual read of the Cardinal’s comments was that he probably personally takes the Kenneth Miller position, i.e. evolution is OK as long as it isn’t (ab)used to promote atheism. But he was duped by DI personnel into using some of their language.

Not surprisingly, Miller was very disturbed and Michael Behe applauded the Cardinal’s words. I am sure that Miller and Behe are both smart enough to know that the words may not necessarily accurately reflect the Cardinal’s true opinion, expecially since he is not a scientist and was coached by someone with an anti-science agenda.

But here is something that could answer, once and for all, whether the Cardinal is truly sympathetic to the ID strategy or not. That would be how he would react to Behe’s inserting of a period in Jerry Coyne’s sentence to change its meaning:

http://bostonreview.net/BR22.1/coyne.html

BTW, what’s with this KwickXML? I tried all sorts of combinations, and still can’t get the formatting as I did before.

But here is something that could answer, once and for all, whether the Cardinal is truly sympathetic to the ID strategy or not.

Why should anyone care what the Cardinal personally believes? What is relevant is his behavior and its impact on the issues that concern us.

BTW, what’s with this KwickXML? I tried all sorts of combinations, and still can’t get the formatting as I did before.

See http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~[…]am/bugs.html

ts wrote:

“Why should anyone care what the Cardinal personally believes? What is relevant is his behavior and its impact on the issues that concern us.”

Agreed. But if he believes thet it is OK to insert a period in someone’s quote, without their permission, to deliberately change the meaning, then he would condone such behavior. As I suggested, though, my guess is that he would not.

BTW, thanks for the link.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on August 13, 2005 2:42 PM.

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