Discovery Institute Quote-Mines the Pope

The magnitude of what we’re writing about here is impressive. This involves the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

We’ve previously discussed several instances of the Discoveroids’ engaging in the familiar creationist practice of quote-mining, and they’re all mentioned here: Way Beyond Quote-Mining. But we’ve never yet seen them attempt to quote-mine a Pope — not until today, that is.

The Discoveroids aren’t fans of the Vatican, and vice versa, a fact we’ve documented a few times before. See: Discovery Institute vs. The Vatican and Fox News. But now they’re taking their hostility to a new level.

The story begins with some news that’s been everywhere the past few days. For example, see God was behind Big Bang, universe no accident: Pope. We haven’t written about it because all the news stories are either from Reuters or Associated Press, and they don’t like it when anyone excerpts their material. But today that’s not a problem, because we can report on the Discoveroids’ response to the news.

The Discoveroid blog article is by Jay Richards, one of their “Senior Fellows” (i.e., full-blown creationist), who is a co-author of the creationist classic, The Privileged Planet. Today’s article is titled Surprise! The Pope is Catholic. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Reuter’s Philip Pullella [he wrote the news article to which we linked above] is reporting that Pope Benedict says “God was behind the Big Bang.” Well, what exactly would you expect the Pope to say on the subject — that God was not behind the Big Bang?

So far, no problem. Then he quotes the Reuters story that the Pope says the universe is no accident, after which the Discoveroid presumes to tell us what was on the Pope’s mind:

The Pope seems to be responding to scientists like Stephen Hawking, who recently claimed the universe boot-strapped itself into existence from nothing.

But what the Pontiff says in his Epiphany sermon is the most basic Catholic doctrine …

Where is this going? Bear with us, the creationism is coming:

So the question is: Why did the Pope’s comments in this sermon make news? The answer begins to become clear in the rest of Pullella’s story, which would be more aptly described as an editorial.

Then we’ve given another quote from Reuters, telling us that the Catholic Church doesn’t oppose evolution. That’s old news, going back to one of Benedict’s predecessors, and we’ve written about it before. See Pope Benedict’s 2007 Statement on Evolution. Nevertheless, it’s a subject that never fails to outrage the Discoveroids. That’s really what they’re writing about here, not the Big Bang. The Discoveroid blog says:

While he [Pope Benedict] doesn’t reject some vague thing called “evolution” (which includes things that no one disputes), he has spoken consistently against Darwinian materialism. In his inaugural Mass as Pope, he said: “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.”

See? They’re quite-mining the Pope. If one considers only that little snippet presented by the Discoveroids, the Pope almost sounds like David Klinghoffer. But that’s very far from an accurate description of his stand on evolution. We quoted him in our earlier post with a link to the source, but it’s worth repeating here because it so flatly contradicts the impression the Discoveroids are trying to give. This is what Pope Benedict has said about evolution, and we’ll add a bit of bold for emphasis:

Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called “creationism” and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God.

This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such.

But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance.

Have the Discoveroids given a false impression of the Pope’s position? It looks to us as if they have, and that they’re engaged in some weird kind of quote-mining — or quote-shifting, or something. You can check it all out and decide for yourself.

So what do we learn from this? First, as we already knew, the Pope has no problem with evolution. His position is theistic evolution, which is fine with us — but it’s not acceptable to the Discoveroids. Second, we see that he also accepts the reality of the Big Bang. That’s also fine. Third — to no one’s surprise — the Pope says that God is the author of all things. To his theistic evolution we can now add — is this the term for it? — theistic cosmology. There’s no way to debate things that are beyond the scope of science, so we express no opinion on such matters. There’s no need to do so, because the Pope accepts both evolution and the Big Bang.

What’s the bottom line? It’s not very clear to us what the Discoveroids are trying to say today, except that they’re still upset that the Church accepts evolution. But they’re also trying to pretend that the Church’s position on evolution is other than what it plainly seems to be. This looks to us like another instance of creationist reality-denial.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Discovery Institute Quote-Mines the Pope

  1. Gabriel Hanna

    Well, the theistic evolutionists are their main competition. It all reminds me of when Stalin used to treat Churchill and Rooseveldt to fantastic and expensive banquets, but he gave Trotsky an ax in the back of the head. It’s the same dynamic.

  2. “Darwinian materialism” is the key term here. Their attacks upon science typically involve the superfluous “materialism” (phenomenological science is not different than “materialistic science”) that is their excuse for denying the need for evidence for their claims (aside from their design-meaningless “specified complexity”).

    Well it’s true that the Pope isn’t willing to settle for an entirely secular view of life, which doesn’t mean that he denies the meaning of the evidence (the church itself was instrumental in developing the standards of evidence used in science) that indicates a non-magical relatedness of life on earth. So because he–reputedly being Catholic–holds onto ideas of heaven, the soul, and God as the ultimate answer, they conflate their egregious denial of the evidence which they call denying “Darwinian materialism” with the Pope’s acceptance of exactly that evidence in addition to his adherance to Catholic promises of heaven and eternal life.

    Utterly disingenuous. Benedict accepts normal means of gathering knowledge, while the DI flatly rejects the same when it discomfits their religious sensibilities. Scientifically, they are nearly polar opposites.

  3. Pretty much typical IDCist rhetoric that seeks to conflate methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism.

  4. Quote mining is an old fundamentalist habit. Growing up, I saw this all the time with regard to proof texts from the Bible. Someone would say, “I believe this, and ah, here the Bible agrees with me.” I’d show how the context changes the interpretations and how other texts flatly disagreed, but I was just being sinful.

  5. Greg Camp says: “Growing up … I was just being sinful.”

    Sorry, we’re talking about quote-mining and I couldn’t resist.

  6. Curmyudgeon: “But they’re also trying to pretend that the Church’s position on evolution is other than what it plainly seems to be. This looks to us like another instance of creationist reality-denial.”

    Some things never change. When I came across Pope John Paul II’s 1996 statement on evolution (1-2 years after he made it), I also found plenty of “damage control” reaction from creationists. Cal Thomas alone said that the Pope was both “bullied” and “misquoted”. I forget which came first, but I’ll give Thomas the benefit of the doubt that he changed his mind from one wrong position to another, as oppose to trying to peddle both. I would not put it past the DI, however, to try to have it both ways, as they do with everything else.