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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Science in the Vatican

I'm pleased and, admittedly, a little surprised given the ideology of the new Pope, to read that the Vatican has given a clear, albeit indirect, nod of support to Darwin and science in general, and against the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools:

ROME, Jan. 18 - The official Vatican newspaper published an article this week labeling as "correct" the recent decision by a judge in Pennsylvania that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution.

"If the model proposed by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another," Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, wrote in the Jan. 16-17 edition of the paper, L'Osservatore Romano.

"But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science," he wrote, calling intelligent design unscientific. "It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious."

The New York Times explains the extent to which Professor Facchini's article represents the position of the Vatican itself:

The article was not presented as an official church position. But in the subtle and purposely ambiguous world of the Vatican, the comments seemed notable, given their strength on a delicate question much debated under the new pope, Benedict XVI. *** L'Osservatore is the official newspaper of the Vatican and basically represents the Vatican's views. Not all its articles represent official church policy. At the same time, it would not be expected to present an article that dissented deeply from that policy.

This does not mean that the Vatican disbelieves altogether in a divine role behind the mechanisms of evolution; Pope Benedict XVI himself appears to believe in something resembling Intelligent Design. But the article does suggest an impressive openmindedness, a fairly clear instruction not to confuse the science classroom with confirmation class, and, perhaps most importantly, a good example of how people with deep faith generally don't fear science (or anything else).

Why is this relevant to Neoprogressivism? Because while we don't insist on any position regarding the origins of life, we should insist that science not be confused with faith; that we treat each other not only with courtesy, but with real respect, the kind of respect that allows each his own, proper turf; and that we should stop fearing and fighting each other and start finding ways to work together, respecting each other's strengths and bailywicks.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Catholic Church seem to have learned a thing or two in the Galileo brouhaha, and no longer spend much time trying to enforce ignorance of science. It is a goodness, one ofthe few available from institutionalized religion.

Try this one on for size; there is no conflict between Christianity and science... unless you happen to want conflict for other reasons like controlling people or introducing conflict for the purpose of exploitation. Any fundie idiot that rails against evolution shold be forced to exsplain why they think solittle of their omnipotent creator that they wouldn't think s/he could use evolution to fulfill his wishes.

But I rail.

CK Dexter Haven

1/19/2006 1:53 PM  

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