Friday, July 22, 2005

John Allen's The Word From Rome July 22, 2005

Get it here. He addresses Cardinal Schönborn's controversial column in the NY Times, The CDF's removal of a religious order's founder, a struggling English mission to the Vatican and the Harry Potter tempest.

He covers the Schönborn controversy with a commonsensical angle:
In speaking to a number of Catholic scientists and theologians, the consensus seems to be that Schönborn has a valid point if his argument is read on a theological level. Christianity cannot accept the idea of a universe without an active, personal God, and evolutionary theory has sometimes been used to justify not only atheism, but also immanentism (God as a vague life-force) and Deism (that God set the universe in motion and has nothing more to do with it).
This is how I understood the Cardinal's essay. While Mr. Allen believes the Cardinal suggests that "it is a matter of Catholic faith that design and purpose can be empirically discovered in nature", I think that overstates the case. The Cardinal questioned the philosophical conclusions that have muddled the scientific view of Evolution of late. When popularizers of evolution extoll the authenticity of atheism, and hold up evolution as the proof, All Christians should raise their voices in protest. Mr. Dawkins crosses the line from science to metaphysics. Science answers the questions of how reality operates. It's not the discipline to determine who's responsible and why. That is the focus of theology and philosophy.

Mr. Allen sums up the Church's thinking on the matter best with this:
To talk these issues through, I sat down this week with Professor Nicola Cabibbo, president for the past 12 years of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. A 78-member panel of distinguished scientists from around the world, the academy advises the pope on scientific matters. It's descended from the "Academy of the Lynxes," founded in 1603, making it the oldest scientific academy in the world.

Q: What did you think of Cardinal Schönborn's article in The New York Times?

Cabibbo: … The theory of evolution can be disturbing to Christians because it seems to clash with the idea of divine creation. However, this is not true. What clashes with divine creation is an extension of the theory of evolution into materialistic interpretations, the so-called "evolutionism." What evolutionism says, and here I'm thinking about people such as Dawkins, is that there's no need for God. But that is not science, it's not part of what has been discovered by science. … The great intuition of Darwin was that there is an evolution, that different species evolved over time, even if he could not understand the mechanism. … To this, there are two different reactions. One is the atheistic view, saying that we know how it works now, we don't need God. This goes beyond the scientific facts because it is a metaphysical conclusion. The other is the theistic response, believing that God is the cause of this process. … In reality the contrast between evolutionism and creationism has nothing to do with science. They are instead two very different religious and philosophical positions.
The rest of The Word From Rome offers equally compelling perspectives. Check it out!