Saturday, July 9, 2005

Watch Out, Galileo

From the New York Times:

An influential cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, which has long been regarded as an ally of the theory of evolution, is now suggesting that belief in evolution as accepted by science today may be incompatible with Catholic faith.

The cardinal, Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, a theologian who is close to Pope Benedict XVI, staked out his position in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Thursday, writing, “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.”

In a telephone interview from a monastery in Austria, where he was on retreat, the cardinal said that his essay had not been approved by the Vatican, but that two or three weeks before Pope Benedict XVI’s election in April, he spoke with the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, about the church’s position on evolution. “I said I would like to have a more explicit statement about that, and he encouraged me to go on,” said Cardinal Schönborn.

He said that he had been “angry” for years about writers and theologians, many Catholics, who he said had “misrepresented” the church’s position as endorsing the idea of evolution as a random process.

As far as I can tell, the Catholic Church’s record on the advancement of scientific discovery has been spotty to say the least. Just ask Galileo. It took nearly 400 years for the church to acknowledge that he was right — the earth does move around the sun — and to apologize for any inconvenience their condemnation of his teachings may have caused. A little late, eh?

What really pisses me off is that the people behind various fictions of supernatural intervention such as “creationism” and “intelligent design” are so narrow-minded that they don’t allow for the possibility that if there is a God and he has infinite wisdom, that perhaps the Darwinian theory of random selection is exactly what God planned all along: set things in motion and then stand back and watch.

Ideas like “creationism” and “intelligent design” are an insult to science not only because they lack any of the basics of scientific credibility, including the capacity to prove or disprove them, but they deny the basic human instinct to learn more about their world and how we got to where we are. It’s supremely ironic that neither Galileo or Darwin set out to disprove the existence of God. If anything, their goal was to enlighten us as to the further mysteries of life, and that, you would think, would be a glorification of God. But it appears that to the insecure theologians and fundamentalists, enlightenment is a threat to not only their closed-minded beliefs but to their ability to control their followers. God forbid that people should be able to think for themselves.