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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What I would tell the Catholic Church: re intelligent design and evolution

Apparently, there is a big confab right now at the Vatican to decide what to say about intelligent design vs. evolution. A friend insisted, for some reason, that I offer an opinion. Heck, everyone is doing that, it seems.

Ever since Pope Benedict XVI said, in his inaugural mass, that we are not "some casual and meaningless product of evolution," the Catholic Church has found itself in the spotlight, asserting, against the adminbots and pundits of a materialist society, the we are purposeful and meaningful.

I can't think what to suggest, but try this: Recover your heritage.

Recover the traditional Catholic idea of evolution, which is not a Darwinian struggle for survival.

There is a whole Catholic way of understanding evolution that was buried by vulgar Darwinism, which was well suited to the expansion of a military and commercial empire - the materialism of expressways and shopping malls. Darwinism told people what they already knew (that the big guns win) through the entire history of life. That was false but in an age of imperial expansion and falling trees, it sounded true.

There were non-Darwinian Catholic contributors to evolution theory - St. George Mivart and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. What about Giuseppe Sermonti or Jerome Lejeune?

Mivart summarized the problems with Darwinism as follows, a hundred and thirty-five years ago:

What is to be brought forward (against Darwinism) may be summed up as follows:
That “Natural Selection” is incompetent to account for the incipient stages of useful structures. That it does not harmonize with the co-existence of closely similar structures of diverse origin. That there are grounds for thinking that specific differences may be developed suddenly instead of gradually. That the opinion that species have definite though very different limits to their variability is still tenable. That certain fossil transitional forms are absent, which might have been expected to be present. That there are many remarkable phenomena in organic forms upon which “Natural Selection” throws no light whatever. (From By Design or by Chance?, p. 70-71.)

These are still problems. Nothing has changed except that the Darwinists are louder, ruder, and more bullying than ever.

Maybe it's time to just tell the Darwinists to siddown, shuddup, and let others talk for a while.

Gosh, if the Catholic conclave did that, it would be making a real contribution. The Catholics who have weighed in on the subject may be right or wrong, but it's time the Church recovered its own history and gave them a listen. Even if a person is largely wrong, the points on which he is right might show a way forward.

It's almost not worth deciding what to do about Darwinism, because it is on the way out anyway. But we must find some comprehensive way of addressing the history of life. Listening to the muffled or silenced voices - especially from one's own tradition - would be a good beginning.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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