Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row

After various other Vatican officials had already expressed their discomfort with the Intelligent Design Creationism movement, Cardinal Schonborn, who initially had confused some with his comments about intelligent design, has finally outlined the details.

Schonborn, whose initial comments on Intelligent Design may have been coached by organizations supporting ID, seems to have come to the realization that Intelligent Design is scientifically vacuous.

When Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn waded into a heated debate over evolution in the United States, his goal was not to persuade American schools to teach that God created the world in six days.

Nor was it to condemn Charles Darwin and his “The Origin of Species,” a book that Schoenborn, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Vienna, considers a great work in the history of ideas.

That’s a good beginning. After all, it’s hard to deny the important role of Darwin in evolutionary theory

His concern, Schoenborn told Reuters at his episcopal palace in central Vienna, was to stand up for common sense in a debate that had become ideological. He wanted to make clear where the Church thinks scientists overstep their bounds.

Indeed, scientists on both side of the debate often confuse and abuse science to support their respective positions. The simple fact is that science cannot address issues of supernatural and faith, one way or another.

“The Church’s task now is to defend reason,” he explained, citing as his inspiration his former theology professor Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.

“The theory of evolution is a scientific theory,” he said. “What I call evolutionism is an ideological view that says evolution can explain everything in the whole development of the cosmos, from the Big Bang to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”

A conflation often observed among Intelligent Design Creationists as well. It seems that Schonborn may have been provided some poor advice on these topics.

Often tipped as a potential future pope, Schoenborn, 60, came under stinging attack by U.S. scientists after he published an op-ed article in the New York Times last July backing the “Intelligent Design” view of the world’s origins.

The harsher critics charged he was a simpleton trying to replace science with creationism – the view that God made the world exactly as laid out in Genesis, the first book of the Bible – and throw American education back by a century.

Dismissing this censure with a smile, the cardinal spelled out a position that respects Darwin’s achievements but rejects neo-Darwinist views he said go beyond what science can prove.

So far so good. Nothing wrong with establishing the proper limitations of scientific inquiry.

“The biblical teaching about creation is not a scientific theory,” he said, restating a Catholic view that contrasts with the literal reading of some conservative U.S. Protestants opposed to Darwin. “Christian teaching about creation is not an alternative to evolution.”

Finally, Schonborn seems to have clarified his statements and as many have predicted, they indicate that he was not really talking about Intelligent Design but rather about ‘intelligent design’.


Schoenborn agrees with the Intelligent Design theory that the complexity of life clearly points to a superior intelligence that must have devised this system. He based this on reason, not science, as Intelligent Design theorists claim to do.

Good to hear Schonborn distantiate himself from a scientifically vacuous position.

“The next step is to ask – which intelligence? As a believer, of course I think it is the intelligence of the Creator,” he said.”

Hence ‘intelligent design’.



“If this is a scientific theory, it must be open to scientific criticism,” he said. “What I’m criticizing is a kind of strategy to immunize it, as if it were an offence to Darwin’s dignity to say there are some issues this theory can’t explain.

Evolution is open to scientific criticism, of course much of the ‘criticisms’ raised by ID is often based on ignorance or an incomplete portrayal or understanding of present day scientific theory and hypotheses. A good example is the Cambrian, which is seen by many creationists as a discontinuity in life when researchers are unearthing more and more evidence to the contrary.

“There’s a kind of ban on discussing this and critics of the evolution theory are discredited or discriminated against from the start,” he said.

Seems that Schonborn still has to shake the latest remnants of ID rethoric.


Similarly he has to realize that the following statement is again a conflation of various concepts

“Common sense tells us that matter cannot organize itself,” he said. “It needs information to do that, and information is a manifestation of intelligence.”

Information as defined by ID creationists is NOT a manifestation of intelligence. On the contrary, information defined by IDers is a manifestation of ignorance.

Although his reading on evolution has covered several scientific disciplines, Schoenborn stressed his objections to neo-Darwinism were essentially philosophical.

Like his mentor Pope Benedict, he is deeply concerned that materialism – the science-based view that matter is the only reality – is crowding out religious and spiritual thinking in modern man’s perception of the world.

“It’s all about materialism, that’s the key issue,” he said.

That’s good to know and as a scientist and Christian I can respect this. However, some have used the philosophical position to argue for a ‘scientific position’ which is for all practical reasons totally vacuous and in fact theologically risky.