An Evolving Position on Evolution
Neo-Darwinists have long thought that they had an ally in the Roman Catholic Church when it came to accepting the theory of evolution. However, last week in an op-ed piece in The New York Times (free registration required), Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna and a close confidant to Pope Benedict XVI, attempted to clarify the position of the church: . . .
The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.
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.
The op-ed piece became news in itself, as The Times followed up with a front-page article (free registration required) about it two days later, pointing out, "Opponents of Darwinian evolution said they were gratified by Cardinal Schönborn's essay. But scientists and science teachers reacted with confusion, dismay and even anger. Some said they feared the cardinal's sentiments would cause religious scientists to question their faiths."
In a Breakpoint Commentary yesterday, Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley said that the headline for The Times article should have read: "Catholics Mean It When They Recite the Nicene Creed on Sunday." He added:
After all, the Cardinal simply said that a Christian cannot consistently believe in God, the Creator of "all that is, seen and unseen," while also believing that life is the result of "an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection."
Note that I said "Christian" and not just "Catholic." The incompatibility Schönborn described is just as true for Protestants as Catholics. What's more, the piece was the product of unprecedented cooperation between Cardinal Schönborn and the largely evangelical Discovery Institute. Discovery's vice-president, Mark Ryland, "urged" Cardinal Schönborn to write the piece, and it was placed with the help of Discovery's public relations firm.
Commenting in a post on his blog the other day, Albert Mohler wrote, "This controversy is yet another reminder that irreconcilable worldviews cannot be bridged by accommodationist theories. The dominant evolutionary model denies the possibility of divine design within the process of evolution. This model cannot be reconciled with the Bible and the Christian truth claim."