Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Evolution's "Open" Debate

The National Catholic Register has run a story about the conference on Biological Evolution the first week in March in Rome. The conference was co-hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University, University of Notre Dame, the Pontifical Council for Culture and STORP (Science, Technology, and Ontological Research Project).

The conference was supposedly an appraisal of Darwin's theory 150 years after his Origin of Species was published. I say supposedly, because an appraisal usually implies that criticism is heard and evaluated. But any critics of evolution were kept outside the doors. (And by evolution, I mean by total materialistic, naturalistic means, as is the present working theory.)

Edward Pentin interviewed one of the main organizers, Gennaro Auletta, Pontifical Gregorian University professor of philosophy, after the conference. Pentin asked why persons who back Intelligent Design (among others) were excluded. You can read the article at the link above, but one of Aultetta's answers was that "We should never have recourse to a supernatural cause when we are dealing with rational matters."

Well, exactly how, then, is our world created by God at all? Does Auletta count the Big Bang as a rational matter? After all, scientists came up with the idea and are still studying it. Auletta apparently does not see that as a vehicle for God's creation. Yet many Catholics believe this is the initial point of Creation. The Big Bang was proven by science about 80 years ago even when an eternal universe was predicted by Aristotle and Einstein.

When asked what the conference achieved in terms of finding compatibility between Catholic theology and evolution, Aultetta replied, "I would like to think that we've shown the world that it's possible to discuss these very relevant and critical issues in a way that is fruitful and at the same time open."

How can something be open when certain groups are actively excluded? It is not. The question is, "Why?"

Most people know about the history of the Church in relation to the scientific discoveries of Capernicus and Galileo. These early scientists realized, against the general scientific mindset of the day (which was an Earth-centered system), that the Earth rotates around the Sun. The leaders of the Church denounced Galileo and it took until the late 20th century for a pope, John Paul II, to truly acknowledge the faults of the leadership in this question. Yes, the Church made a long, ongoing mistake here, and part of the problem is the complexity of scientific knowledge. Church leaders such as popes are not scientists nor should they be expected to be. Eventually scientific knowledge comes to light, and we should pray for knowledge as much as for wisdom. Knowledge is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

As humans we are curious how God created and want to know as much as we can to improve our lives. But the decisions on how to make the world were God's business. It is our business to believe that He created, not to second-guess or claim inside information on His accomplishment.

We all make mistakes and we learn by them. It is no answer when we refuse new ideas because we might make a mistake. A mistake in the other extreme is to accept everything that is told us, even by scientists, without question or critical thinking. Scientists have been wrong, as in the example of Einstein and Aristotle above.

Many people, scientists and others who have studied biology and nature, believe that biological life is too complex to have come about by natural processes, chemistry and physics, alone. The more they know about the amazing cell, the more convinced they become that only a Designer could have made something like this. There is an excellent paper (2009) by David Abel, "The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity," in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences that cuts to the true state of research into life's origins. There is much speculation and wishful thinking on the part of many materialistic, naturalistic scientists, but NO HARD PROOF that nature has formed life by chance.

This is the concept that seems so hard to get through to people. They don't even want to hear that God may have created the cell after the Big Bang. Even the suggestion of the possibility, the "MAY" in "He may have directly, supernaturally created the cell," elicits shuddering, incredulity or anger.

I ask that we learn from our mistakes but do not overreact to the other extreme. Though Christ came and lived on Earth in a pre-scientific age, his miracles had to do with life and nature. Wine is a product of biology, healing is to restore biology, raising persons from the dead most certainly has to do with biology. If we can't have recourse to supernatural explanations to science, then we will have trouble believing that God had anything to do with creation and miracles. Next time, I will elaborate on where His interactions with biology lead us.

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