Sunday, June 15, 2008

Creation and Evolution 1

The book Creation and Evolution (Ignatius Press, 2008), a record of a meeting of Pope Benedict XVI with former graduate and post-graduate students in 2006, was released May 28. The group has been meeting annually for years to discuss various subjects, but this is the first to be presented in book form. The book was compiled by Stephen Horn, SDS and Siegfried Wiedenhofer. I will give a review in my next few entries (to see all of them, click CR-EV REVIEW label at bottom of post). The numbers in parentheses are page numbers for your reference.

An introduction was given by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn (7). He is among the former students of the Pope and is well known as editor of the most recent Catholic Catechism. The Cardinal started an international discussion, as is reported on the book jacket, by his July 2005 article in the New York Times about creation and evolution. He seems very interested in the current design arguments, as do other participants in the symposium. The introduction (forward) extensively quotes previous statements by Pope Benedict about the nature of human "being" that is special because we are made to know God. The spirit is of first importance with the material as its support. The human is special as soon as s/he has an idea of God, whether we are "made" from direct molding or evolutionary descent (15). The details of the material are left to natural science (8).

Pope Benedict points out the dangers of evolutionary philosophy, in which naturalistic, materialistic evolution is claimed by some to answer all of life's questions (9-10). He believes it is of utmost importance for Christians to frame a proper discourse to address this matter. That is one of the main goals of their conference with its presentations and discussions presented in this book.

The first speaker was Professor Peter Schuster of the Institute of Theoretical Chemistry of the University of Vienna (27). He uses charts and pictures to give some scientific background to his talk, but does not complete his presentation with actual proof of molecular evolution. His conclusion that evolution can now be explained by material, naturalistic means (58) is therefore not convincing. Perhaps he feels it is too complicated to present to laypersons.

However, there are scientific articles that have come out later than this proclamation of success which paint a different story. They have much more detail and demonstrate that there are still many hurdles yet to be overcome to explain how life could have evolved by chance. I added these two links to the right under "authors/ link to articles." One is by Robert Shapiro, a prize-winning chemist who has worked with the effects of the environment on DNA. Another is by Leslie Orgel, a leading origin-of-life proponent (this one has small print--you can print it out to read).

For life to begin, either the DNA or the proteins or both would have had to form well enough to get started and keep things going. The Shapiro and Orgel articles show the weaknesses in each approach. The articles are technical, so you may not want to read them unless you have some understanding of chemistry. For the layperson, Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute has critiqued the articles by Orgel and Shapiro (use his links for earlier posts). The articles give clear indications that proclamations about the success of evolution are not proven.

I will continue this review in the next entry.

No comments: