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Pope Benedict XVI and "theistic" evolution

April 12, 2007

H/T: Insight Scoop

CathNews reports that Pope Benedict XVI endorses a view of biological evolution that is at once scientific and theological. Reportedly, Benedict is hesitant, however, to endorse “intelligent design”. This does not surprize me as most intelligent design theories either marginalize scientific data and theory or result in a weak concept of divinity. Intelligent design theory attempts only to answer the question as to whether or not there is a “designer” of the cosmos, but this designer need not be God or even divine at all (think of Descartes’ evil demon or Plato’s demiurge, for example). In other words, intelligent design does too little in aiding reason in a journey to the divine.

Here’s the whole report from CathNews.

In remarks published in a new book yesterday, Pope Benedict refused to endorse “intelligent design” theories, instead backing “theistic evolution” which considers that God created life through evolution with no clash between religion and science.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Pope Benedict says science has narrowed the way life’s origins are understood and Christians should take a broader approach to the question.

The Pope also says the Darwinist theory of evolution is not completely provable because mutations over hundreds of thousands of years cannot be reproduced in a laboratory.

But Benedict, whose remarks were published yesterday in Germany in the book Schoepfung und Evolution (Creation and Evolution), praised scientific progress and did not endorse creationist or “intelligent design” views about life’s origins, the Herald says.

“Science has opened up large dimensions of reason … and thus brought us new insights,” Benedict, a former theology professor, said at the closed-door seminar with his former doctoral students last September that the book documents.

“But in the joy at the extent of its discoveries, it tends to take away from us dimensions of reason that we still need. Its results lead to questions that go beyond its methodical canon and cannot be answered within it,” he said.

“The issue is reclaiming a dimension of reason we have lost,” he said, adding that the evolution debate was actually about “the great fundamental questions of philosophy – where man and the world came from and where they are going”.

“Both popular and scientific texts about evolution often say that nature or evolution has done this or that,” Benedict said in the book, which included lectures from theologian Schoenborn, two philosophers and a chemistry professor.

“Just who is this nature or evolution as (an active) subject? It doesn’t exist at all!” the Pope said.Benedict argued that evolution had a rationality that the theory of purely random selection could not explain.

“The process itself is rational despite the mistakes and confusion as it goes through a narrow corridor choosing a few positive mutations and using low probability,” he said.

“This … inevitably leads to a question that goes beyond science … where did this rationality come from?” he asked. Answering his own question, he said it came from the “creative reason” of God.

Speculation about Benedict’s views on evolution have been rife ever since a former student and close adviser, Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, published an article in 2005 that seemed to align the Church with the intelligent design view.

We have a number of previous posts on the question of evolution, which you can find here.

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