Friday, April 13, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI endorses "theistic evolution"

Folks, according to Reuters:
Pope Benedict, elaborating his views on evolution for the first time as Pontiff, says science has narrowed the way life's origins are understood and Christians should take a broader approach to the question.

Benedict, whose remarks were published on Wednesday 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.

In the book, Benedict defended what is known as "theistic evolution," the view held by Roman Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant churches that God created life through evolution and religion and science need not clash over this.

"I would not depend on faith alone to explain the whole picture," he remarked during the discussion held at the papal summer palace in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome.

He also denied using a "God-of-the-gaps" argument that sees divine intervention whenever science cannot explain something.

"It's not as if I wanted to stuff the dear God into these gaps - he is too great to fit into such gaps," he said in the book that publisher Sankt Ulrich Verlag in Augsburg said would later be translated into other languages.

"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.

"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.
Read the entire article here.

Comments. I've been listening to arguments like these since the late '70s, when I was first able to perceive the supposed conflict of "evolution" vs. "creation." As I look back, it was right about the same time that I was learning to distinguish between Fundamentalistic interpretations of Scripture and those other interpretations, born from the Fathers of the Church, that carefully aimed to determine the living context from which the Scriptures surged.

I had an "aha" moment long ago which enabled me to admit both evolutionary theory and the existence of a personal God who intervenes in his creation and loves it beyond measure. The picture of the cosmos I've been fortunately enough to glean through academic study, rational reflection, and prayerful contemplation is one that is complex, but admirably coherent. I can see its principal strokes and major interrelationships, although I don't have a handle on all the details, nor do I expect to get a handle on them while I remain on this side of the Parousia. But enough about my views.

This collection of essays is very timely. It strikes at the heart of atheism by defending a truly rational view of the Universe. How can the Pope and his students conceive of this? It has to do with the fact that for the Pope, God is Logos, the Supreme Reason that exists outside the Universe, creating it and shaping it, by endowing it with forces and laws and as much autonomy as possible to shape itself freely, so that in its manifold beings and interrelationships, nature may come to reflect God's perfections. Freedom is built in in the Universe; without that preexisting freedom, evolution, either stellar or biological, would be impossible.

Mull that, skeptic.