I am not in favor of championing the cause of science by invoking the divine - even for the sake of truth and rationality. But the Vatican is a religious institution, as is the Discovery Institute. So it is okay with me if they fight it out between themselves as to what "God" may or may not have intended in the evolution scheme. Just leave science out of it - which is what the Vatican appears to be saying.
Jan. 23, 2006, 7:16PM
Vatican supports science
What if God spoke, and said: "What's this intelligent design stuff? That ain't science!"
Would ID proponents keep on talking? "Well, not if you redefine science" ... "There's too many holes in the theory of evolution" ... "Life is too complex for it to be the product of random mutation" ... "This is academic censorship!"
Rather than hurling down serpents, frogs and thunderbolts, the Divinity might clear the throat and politely restate: "Sorry, one more time: Intelligent design is not science."
This week, it wasn't God talking, exactly — but by some lights it came pretty close. On Tuesday, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano published an article, by University of Bologna evolutionary biologist Fiorenzo Facchini, which said a Pennsylvania judge was right to nix the Dover school board's attempt to order teachers to read an ID-related statement to students.
In agreement with Judge John E. Jones III, Facchini wrote that "intelligent design does not belong to science and there is no justification for the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside the Darwinian explanation."
While the paper is not an official Catholic Church voicebox, anything that gets printed must pass close scrutiny to jibe with Vatican thought.
Hilariously, the Discovery Institute, a flimsy cover for neocreationist advocates and one of the failed powerhouses behind the ID push, said that to see Facchini's piece as Vatican thought was "to put words in the Vatican's mouth."
Which gets it exactly backward.
For more than half a century, the Roman Catholic Church has embraced the science of evolution and has rejected the kind of politically "polluted" (Facchini's word) fundamentalism that stinks up the evolution/ID wars.
True, some are confused about where Pope Benedict XVI stands. Hasn't he spoken of "this intelligent project that is the cosmos"? Yes — but that's a religious statement, not a claim that ID is science.
That's why Facchini's piece probably is what the Vatican wants the world to hear. Facchini suggests that God might well have employed random mutation in designing the cosmos.
"God's project of creation can be carried out through secondary causes in the natural course of events," he writes. No need to fight evolution. It might be the Big Plan.
But the fighters probably will fight on. And on.
Give them credit. It takes courage to put words in God's mouth.