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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Catholic Church: Pope Benedict on design of the universe vs. chance

A friend attracts my attention to one of the current Pope’s old sermons on design in the universe, a direct rebuttal to Jacques Monod's "chance only" philosophy:
...The more we know of the universe the more profoundly we are struck by a Reason whose ways we can only contemplate with astonishment. In pursuing them we can see anew that creating Intelligence to whom we owe our own reason. Albert Einstein once said that in the laws of nature "there is revealed such a superior Reason that everything significant which has arisen out of human thought and arrangement is, in comparison with it, the merest empty reflection." In what is most vast, in the world of heavenly bodies, we see revealed a powerful reason that holds the universe together. And we are penetrating ever deeper into what is smallest, into the cell and into the primordial units of life; here, too, we discover a reason that astounds us, such that we must say with Saint Bonaventure: "Whoever does not see here is blind. Whoever does not hear here is deaf. And whoever does not begin to adore here and to praise the creating Intelligence is dumb."

Jacques Monod, who rejects as unscientific every kind of faith in God and who thinks that the world originated out of an interplay of chance and necessity, tells in the very work in which he attempts summarily to portray and justify his view of the world that, after attending the lectures which afterward appeared in book form, François Mauriac is supposed to have said: "What this professor wants to afflict on us is far more unbelievable than what we poor Christians were ever expected to believe."

Monod does not dispute this. His thesis is that the entire ensemble of nature has arisen out of errors and dissonances. He cannot help but say himself that such a conception is in fact absurd. But, according to him, the scientific method demands that a question not be permitted to which the answer would have to be God. One can only say that a method of this sort is pathetic. God himself shines through the reasonableness of his creation. Physics and biology, and the natural sciences in general, have given us a new and unheard-of creation account with vast new images, which let us recognize the face of the Creator and which make us realize once again that at the very beginning and foundation of all being there is a creating Intelligence..."

My friend comments, "This was written by Joseph Ratzinger [now Benedict XVI], and given as one of a four part series of homilies in Munich in 1981 (!). Parts of other homilies also address Monod's philosophy. It was first published in 1986 by Erich Wewel Verlag, as a response to certain non-orthodox views circulating among Catholic theologians, then translated to English by Boniface Ramsey, O.P. and published in 1990 by Our Sunday Visitor. This quote was taken from a new edition with additional material that has been republished as 'In the Beginning...': A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall by Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995, pp. 23-25. My take is that Fr. Coyne's theology would also fall short in this critique, even with fertility added."

Yes, I doubt Fr. Coyne's theology on fertility (as opposed to actual intelligence or design) would meet this test. I don't think the Ratzinger sermon is online, alas. Here, by the way, is an easy-to-read introduction to actual Catholic teaching and activity on intelligent design, creation, et cetera, as opposed to a variety of claims made in the legacy media.
If you want to understand why the intelligent design controversy cannot go away, read By Design or by Chance?.

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