The Vatican and Evolution

There isn’t much news today about The Controversy between evolution and creationism, so we’ll discuss something we noticed a couple of weeks ago.

The last time we wrote about the Vatican’s attitude on evolution and such things was Science and the Vatican. That institution doesn’t usually make much science news, but on the Fox News website we find At the Vatican, Religion Agrees Neatly With Science. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Some of the world’s top scientists gathered at the Vatican last weekend to discuss the scientific advances of the 20th century and their compatibility with religion.

The scientists are members of the Roman Catholic Church’s papal advisory council known as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. They largely agreed that modern science does not have to be at odds with religious faith.

They’ve come a long way since the Galileo affair of almost 400 years ago. Let’s read on:

In speaking to academicians during the conference, Pope Benedict XVI praised the achievements of modern science. He said that the Catholic Church “both encourages and benefits from” scientific research and told his audience that people must neither fear science nor hold it up as a panacea capable of answering all of our deepest existential questions.

Who expects science to deal with “our deepest existential questions”? Don’t laugh; we’ve seen creationists point that out as a “weakness” of the theory of evolution. We continue:

But some scientists present said the Catholic Church must do more to convince people that it is not anti-science.

The article mentions the disgrace of Galileo’s heresy conviction, and then says:

Catholicism also took a dim view of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, initially banning books on the subject and then waiting more than a century to acknowledge the large amount of supporting evidence.

That probably refers to Pope John Paul II’s statement in 1979: Faith can never conflict with reason, from which this is an excerpt:

In fact, the Bible does not concern itself with the details of the physical world, the understanding of which is the competence of human experience and reasoning. There exist two realms of knowledge, one which has its source in Revelation and one which reason can discover by its own power.

And there’s also that same Pope’s 1996 Message to Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which says:

[F]resh knowledge has led to the recognition that evolution is more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favour of this theory.

But it hasn’t been clear sailing since then. Here’s more from the Fox article:

Benedict himself has talked of scientists’ “arrogance,” and a close colleague of the Pope, the Archbishop of Vienna Christoph Schönborn, created controversy in 2005 when he wrote an article in the New York Times that appeared to support the idea of “intelligent design” in nature.

There’s a lot more at the Fox website. Click over there and read it all for yourself. In summary, they’re making progress, but it’s taking a very long time.

See also: The Catholic Church and Evolution.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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2 responses to “The Vatican and Evolution

  1. Perhaps the first substantial acknowledgment of evolution by the Catholic Church was probably by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Humanis Generis on 12 August 1950. In general (and as I recall) Pius XII accepted biological evolution, but with the statement that humans were imbued with a soul somewhere along the evolutionary path.

  2. Correct, Victor. It’s here: HUMANI GENERIS.