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Saturday, July 9, 2005

Backsliding on Evolution

Posted by on July 9 at 11:45 AM

Apparently a hotshot Viennese cardinal (who’s chummy with Pope Benedict XVI) has begun taking his cues from the Seattle-based “intelligent design” (aka “wily creationist”) think tank, the Discovery Institute. Diverging from the ex-Pope’s cautious but smart acknowledgment in 1996 that evolution is “more than a hypothesis” and leads to productive scientific inquiries, Cardinal Christoph Schønborn is now scoffing at the idea that evolution might be “somehow compatible with Christian faith.” The New York Times has the story.

This pisses me the fuck off, especially since I took two years of biology at a Catholic high school, and, as everybody ought to know, biology as a discipline does not make sense without a strong foundation in Darwinian evolution. It scares me to think that Catholic school students might not be given the tools to understand a major branch of science. And it should scare you too—2.6 million American children are currently being educated in Catholic schools.

I hope Catholics will get upset about Schønborn's cavalier attitude toward Pope John Paul II's letter to the Pontifical Academy (he calls the thoughtful piece, which explicitly revises a papal encyclical, "rather vague and unimportant," preferring to cite a speech from 11 years prior). I'm certainly not a fan of PJP's many wrongheaded ideas on contraception, the prevention of HIV, etc, but his evolution letter had a big impact at my high school, and for a brief moment, it made me proud to have been raised Catholic. If you read that letter, and then Schønborn's interpretation of it, it's obvious that the Discovery Institute's Mark Ryland (a lawyer and former Microsoft employee) was a much bigger influence on Schønborn than theological reasoning or papal precedent. I call bullshit.