Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Evolution Not Mysterious Enough For Catholic Church

The Catholic Church is now reasserting itself in the "debate" over evolution. Cardinal Schönborn, "God's sheepdog," I suppose, wrote a Op-Ed in the New York Times last Thursday about misunderstandings of the official Catholic position on evolution. He says:

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.

What? So if I don't say, "Praise the Lord," after I leap off a stoop I am somehow espousing an un-Catholic view of gravity? Now, God's plan to keep me from floating off into space was clearly one of his more elegant ideas, but what of it? Does one's studying the curvature of time and space and its effects on bodies seek to "explain away" the hand of God? What does that ridiculous phrase "explain away" even mean? Is he accusing science of attempting a coup on God by the gradual accumulation of evidence against him? As if such "evidence" can even exist! I'm very disappointed in Schönborn. What he's saying strikes me as a fairly juvenile desire for "miracles" as "proof" of God's existence. Evolution gets too scientific for him, I guess. Schönborn must be one of those guys whose faith depends on unexplained gaps in our human knowledge where God jumps in and waves his magic wand. Can't we just agree that God created the whole darn thing? The stuff, the system, and the science? Unfortunately, it's not that easy for some. They can say to themselves that science is just an inquiry into what exactly God did, but if such research does not turn up a satisfactory repository of "miracles" and "scientists still cannot explain..." then they get discouraged and retreat into willful ignorance.

Schönborn quoted a 2004 document of the International Theological Commission, of which the now Pope Benedict XVI was the head.
...including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe.
I don't understand this sentiment at all. Does the commission envision a day where scientists will stop exploring our world? Would he rather that scientists throw their hands in the air and say "God did it! Guess we can hang up our bunsen burners." What on earth does he mean by "truly" causal? Is Benedict waiting for the science that "proves" that God did it? Science concerns itself with observable phenomena (or phenomena whose effects can be observed). I thought the existence of God had to be taken on faith, that part of our very faithfulness is the inherent impossibility of ever epirically confirming our belief. So why do they expect such proof from biology? But being unable to ever have proof, means that it can't ever be diproved either. So you can rest easy, fellas!! And if it's not proof they're after, we're back to my original question: should biologists just end all of their research papers with "brought to you by Jesus Christ?"

Schönborn then turns to the Catechism to back him up.
Naturally, the authoritative Catechism of the Catholic Church agrees: "Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins. The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason." It adds: "We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance."
All this quibbling over whether God guided, nudged, coaxed the evolutionary process or wound the watch and turned a cold shoulder to its clickings and whirrings is a redux of the old, self-parodic "how many angels on the head of a pin" question. So we must reject randomness completely and chalk the whole process of evolution to love taps from our Creator? What does a "nudge" from God even look like? How could one even claim to know it when one saw it? Is probability theory the baby that goes out with the bathwater then? What if God wanted it that way? After all, he invented probability, too, didn't he? It's all too silly. Complaining that the theory of evolution does not give enough "credit" to God completely misunderstands both science and religion, as well as shortchanges and second-guesses the wisdom one of God's most elegant creations. In sum: so after scientists figure out how it works (at least as it is observable to humans), you're going to tell God he could have done it better?

Within a universe the totality of which was created by God, saying that "God guided the process" is both redundant and simple-minded. What we see when we open our eyes is God's world, no more and no less. The more we see of its complexity and simplicity, the more God's glory is revealed. The response to what we learn from looking at God's world is to open our eyes even wider, not to close them.

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