Christoph Schonborn on evolution


#1

I thought this deserved its own thread. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, the main author of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, has an article on evolution / intelligent design in the NY Times. Here is the text. The International Theological Commission statement I like to quote is clarified a bit. The NY Times requires sign in so here is the article.

July 7, 2005 Finding Design in Nature
By CHRISTOPH SCHÖNBORN Vienna

EVER since 1996, when Pope John Paul II said that evolution (a term he did not define) was “more than just a hypothesis,” defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma have often invoked the supposed acceptance - or at least acquiescence - of the Roman Catholic Church when they defend their theory as somehow compatible with Christian faith.

But this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

Consider the real teaching of our beloved John Paul. While his rather vague and unimportant 1996 letter about evolution is always and everywhere cited, we see no one discussing these comments from a 1985 general audience that represents his robust teaching on nature:

“All the observations concerning the development of life lead to a similar conclusion. The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator.”

He went on: “To all these indications of the existence of God the Creator, some oppose the power of chance or of the proper mechanisms of matter. To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us. In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without a cause. It would be to abdicate human intelligence, which would thus refuse to think and to seek a solution for its problems.”

Note that in this quotation the word “finality” is a philosophical term synonymous with final cause, purpose or design. In comments at another general audience a year later, John Paul concludes, “It is clear that the truth of faith about creation is radically opposed to the theories of materialistic philosophy. These view the cosmos as the result of an evolution of matter reducible to pure chance and necessity.”

Naturally, the authoritative Catechism of the Catholic Church agrees: “Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins. The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason.” It adds: “We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance.”

In an unfortunate new twist on this old controversy, neo-Darwinists recently have sought to portray our new pope, Benedict XVI, as a satisfied evolutionist. They have quoted a sentence about common ancestry from a 2004 document of the International Theological Commission, pointed out that Benedict was at the time head of the commission, and concluded that the Catholic Church has no problem with the notion of “evolution” as used by mainstream biologists - that is, synonymous with neo-Darwinism.

The commission’s document, however, reaffirms the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature. Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul’s 1996 letter on evolution, the commission cautions that “the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe.”

Furthermore, according to the commission, “An unguided evolutionary process - one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence - simply cannot exist.”

CONTINUED in next…


#2

CONTINUED from previous…

Indeed, in the homily at his installation just a few weeks ago, Benedict proclaimed: “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

Throughout history the church has defended the truths of faith given by Jesus Christ. But in the modern era, the Catholic Church is in the odd position of standing in firm defense of reason as well. In the 19th century, the First Vatican Council taught a world newly enthralled by the “death of God” that by the use of reason alone mankind could come to know the reality of the Uncaused Cause, the First Mover, the God of the philosophers.

Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of “chance and necessity” are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.

Christoph Schönborn, the Roman Catholic cardinal archbishop of Vienna, was the lead editor of the official 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church.

END


#3

That was an execellent post. Many thanks for this information


#4

dcdurel << That was an excellent post. Many thanks for this information >>

No problem dude. I know we’ve had our disagreements in the past. The boys at PandasThumb have an opinion on this, while Dembski and Behe have another. Some say Schonborn is just re-stating a theistic evolution position but I think its more than that. Of course Intelligent Design still needs to make its case to the scientific community.

Phil P


#5

I defy anyone to have gone on my recent vacation and still believe in
"an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection." I was in northern California, from Carmel to Santa Cruz to the Muir Woods just to the North of San Francisco. I saw magnificent cypress trees, redwoods, lush plants, harbor seals, elephant seals, sea lions, otters, deer, and birds, and, of course, the Pacific. There is nothing unguided, unplanned or random about it. God is lavish and meticulous in His Creation, and it is shot through with His Love. And if this is Earth, can you imagine what Heaven, His very Presence, will be like?


#6

Shorter Schonborn - science does not disprove the existence of God, and in fact reinforces it.

Pretty much what everyone on these forums alread believes, no? I think it’s fascinating to look at what we can learn about God and his creation by studying natural phenonomon, including evolution (which is why I post on these topics at all), but trying to conflate evolution with atheism and pit “science” against “religion” seems like making a tempest out of a teapot.


#7

[quote=Philip P]Shorter Schonborn - science does not disprove the existence of God, and in fact reinforces it.

Pretty much what everyone on these forums alread believes, no? I think it’s fascinating to look at what we can learn about God and his creation by studying natural phenonomon, including evolution (which is why I post on these topics at all), but trying to conflate evolution with atheism and pit “science” against “religion” seems like making a tempest out of a teapot.
[/quote]

God created it, but the mechanism He used remains a mystery. Sound fair?


#8

That’s always been my understanding. What confuses me, though, is why Schonborn felt it necessary to write an article, or indeed attempt to “clarify” the Chruch’s position at all. No one believes that the Church’s position is that she promotes atheism, so why the distancing from atheistic evolution? Schonburn is also not arguing for Creationism, which is what intelligent design really is (simply saying that God works through evolution is not intelligent design). So I am somewhat perplexed as to what the point of writing this article was. Why did an Austrian cleric feel it necessary to write an op/ed piece in a major American newspaper?


#9

Further, if any of you young-earthers or “six-day creationists” are getting your hopes up… :smiley:

Cardinal Schönborn, in a German publication from February 20, 2000 explicitly states:

“Glauben Sie bitte jetzt nicht, daß ich hier jene Haltung verteidigen werde, die es etwa in den USA in manchen Gruppen gibt, die meinen, die Bibel in dem Sinn wörtlich nehmen zu müssen, daß im Jahr 4004 v. Ch. die Welt erschaffen wurde und zwar genau in sechs Tagen.”

Translation: “Please do not believe that I will in here defend the view, supported e.g. by some US groups, that the Bible is to be taken literally, that the world was created in the year 4004 B.C. in exactly 6 days.”

I took this from the Infidels creation-evolution discussion, so if anyone knows German they can feel free to translate and verify.

Phil P


#10

It seems to me the real issue that the Catholic Church has with the various evolution theories involves God’s enemy Death. Most evolutionists teach that death was in the world before man came into existence, and that death was vital in bringing about the creation of man. At best, that makes God the author of death, a position that clearly contradicts Catholic teaching.

Phil, I am still waiting for your reply as to how the Catholic Church can reconcile Catholic doctrine with an evolutionary theory that requires death to have dominion over creation before the Fall of Adam.


#11

Matt1618 << Phil, I am still waiting for your reply as to how the Catholic Church can reconcile Catholic doctrine with an evolutionary theory that requires death to have dominion over creation before the Fall of Adam. >>

So you are saying millions of dinosaurs and other of God’s creatures did not DIE before the rise of mankind. I think its pretty safe to say this is a scientific fact. There was plenty of death before the rise of humanity.

I admit it is a “theological” problem (that has nothing to do with science) if you interpret Scripture or Church dogma as literally teaching that No creature whatsoever, NO ant, NO cockroach, NO leaf on a tree, no CELL, NOTHING on planet earth can DIE before the first sin of the first human being (or first homo sapiens, however you interpret that).

The question is whether that is indeed Catholic teaching, that no death whatsoever is allowed before the Fall. One way to resolve this is to say there was no human death before the Fall of the first truly human being (Romans 5:12), and much of Genesis 1-3 should be interpreted figuratively. Beyond that, I can type in some information I have from Glenn Morton, Hugh Ross, and Keith Miller’s book, that do deal with some of this. Its a theological problem for evangelical scientists as well.

So let’s lay them all out once again :smiley: some of the theological objections (which have nothing to do with the science, mind you) are these:

(1) placing a literal/historical Adam/Eve within human evolution
(2) death before sin, or death before the Fall
(3) polygenism vs. monogenism

But of course the International Theological Commission (along with all the Popes since at least Pius XII) has already agreed with the science that there was indeed billions of years of death before the rise of mankind. Anyone who accepts an old earth agrees with that. The earth is 4.5 billion years old, modern homo sapiens arose about 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. Do the math.

Now if I remember your position from way back, you postulate a “Garden of Eden” in a “parallel universe” where sin did not reign, and that’s perfectly acceptable theologically it seems to me. And that can solve the theological difficulty. But of course it has nothing to do with the scientific fact that dinosaurs lived, died, and went extinct on this planet earth 65 million years ago (not to mention zillions of insects, etc) before the rise of mankind. I don’t throw these scientific facts out, neither does the Church.

On the history of how geology discovered the earth was old well before Darwin, see this article I compiled based on Davis Young’s book on “Flood Geology”

BTW, this thread is about Cardinal Schonborn and “intelligent design” you got me off track and flustered now. :eek: :smiley:

Phil P


#12

Perhaps it is not physical death the Church speaks of, but spiritual death. Perhaps it was God’s intent that we should live out a physical existence, die, then continue our existence with Him in Heaven. If one believed that the Creation story as written in Genesis is an allegory (as even Saint Augustine believed), then surely that accounts for the inclusion of the bit about God setting a guard about the Tree of Life, “lest man eat of the fruit thereof and live forever.” Physical death may well have already been built into God’s plan for humanity. I’m engaging in speculation, of course.


#13

I am not saying that millions of dinosaurs did not die in the fallen world while Adam and Eve were being cast out of the terrestrial Paradise.

I admit it is a “theological” problem (that has nothing to do with science) if you interpret Scripture or Church dogma as literally teaching that No creature whatsoever, NO ant, NO cockroach, NO leaf on a tree, no CELL, NOTHING on planet earth can DIE before the first sin of the first human being (or first homo sapiens, however you interpret that).

I don’t see that I am “interpreting” church doctrine. I am saying it is clearly church doctrine that there was NO death in the physical universe before the Fall, and that is the primary issue that Catholic evolutionary apologists must deal with.

The question is whether that is indeed Catholic teaching, that no death whatsoever is allowed before the Fall. One way to resolve this is to say there was no human death before the Fall of the first truly human being (Romans 5:12), and much of Genesis 1-3 should be interpreted figuratively.

I don’t see how such a “solution” could ever be accepted by a Catholic. What you are saying still makes God the author of death, and such a position is irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine.

So let’s lay them all out once again some of the theological objections (which have nothing to do with the science, mind you) are these:

(1) placing a literal/historical Adam/Eve within human evolution
(2) death before sin, or death before the Fall
(3) polygenism vs. monogenism

The theological objections cannot be separated from science. Aquinas settled that specious argument when he refuted Sigar of Brabant’s heretical concept of dual truth.

A evolutionary apologist that is a faithful Catholic must accept that Adam and Eve are the historical first parents of all of mankind (which means that polygenism is out for the faithful Catholic). A faithful Catholic must also accept that death did not have dominion over creation before Adam and Eve fell.

Now if I remember your position from way back, you postulate a “Garden of Eden” in a “parallel universe” where sin did not reign, and that’s perfectly acceptable theologically it seems to me. And that can solve the theological difficulty.

That is my solution, what is yours? That is what I am curious to know. :wink:

But of course it has nothing to do with the scientific fact that dinosaurs lived, died, and went extinct on this planet earth 65 million years ago (not to mention zillions of insects, etc) before the rise of mankind. I don’t throw these scientific facts out, neither does the Church.

Nor do I ignore these facts, and that is why I think reconciling what is known through divine revelation with what is known by scientific discovery is an interesting problem. :slight_smile:

The Church agrees with Aquinas, a truth of science cannot contradict a divinely revealed truth. Of course, what science posits to be true in a given age is often later proven to not be true. :smiley:


#14

Matt1618 << That is my solution, what is yours? That is what I am curious to know. >>

OK, we’ll go with your solution. Problem solved. :wave:

I’m not sure how you answer these questions though:

Did the dinosaurs go extinct on our planet earth 65 million years ago? Yes or No?

Did modern humanity arise on our planet earth 150,000 to 200,000 years ago? Yes or No?

The exact times are not important, but as long as it was dinosaurs (and millions of other creatures, large and small) before homo sapiens.

When someone asks “before the Fall” and if they put Adam/Eve within an historical context of the rise of humanity, I don’t see how you can escape the fact that plant, animal, and cell death existed “before the Fall” (before the first sin of Adam/Eve).

But if you suggest the Fall (the first sin) occured BEFORE any of this creation (before the dinosaurs, before millions of other creatures that died, etc), in some “parallel universe” then OK, that’s fine theologically. Problem solved. But it seems to me this places the “Garden of Eden” and the rest of the Genesis story into some mythical non-historical realm totally disconnected from this planet earth, and this is really the same as those who treat Genesis 1-3 (and the creation of Adam/Eve) as total myth, as some Catholic theologians and Catholic scientists would.

Phil P


#15

Matt1618 << A evolutionary apologist that is a faithful Catholic must accept that Adam and Eve are the historical first parents of all of mankind >>

OK, I think I can nail your theological objection down.

WHERE do you place Adam/Eve as the historical first parents of all of mankind, do you place them BEFORE or AFTER the dinosaurs 65 million years ago? :smiley:

If you place the historical Adam/Eve AFTER the dinosaurs then clearly you accept “death before the Fall” and need another solution to this theological objection of “no death before the first sin.” Yes, No, Maybe? :confused:

Phil P


#16

Matt1618 << I am saying it is clearly church doctrine that there was NO death in the physical universe before the Fall >>

OK, then my next obvious question.

Were the dinosaurs IMMORTAL before homo sapiens came on the scene? :smiley: This is assuming you answered the previous question that Adam/Eve as our historical first parents lived AFTER the dinosaurs. If they lived and Fell BEFORE the dinosaurs then OK you can ignore this question.

But if the historical Adam/Eve lived AFTER the dinosaurs, WAS T-REX IMMORTAL?


#17

You haven’t answered my questions to you, so before I answer your “obvious” question, it is only fair that you answer me these questions first: Were there blood sucking insects in Paradise that spread death and disease before the Fall?

Were lions killing lambs before the Fall?


#18

Ah ha, I see we’re trying to nail each other down. :smiley:

Matt1618 << Were there blood sucking insects in Paradise that spread death and disease before the Fall? >>

Well I can only answer that there were definitely blood sucking insects who died, and who spread death and disease BEFORE the rise of homo sapiens. From a scientific standpoint, that is fact. If I must put Adam/Eve and the Fall in an historical context on this planet earth, then Yes I have to say this existed BEFORE the Fall. Then I’ll have to look more into Catholic theology to see how that is reconciled with these scientific facts. I have a hunch that many Catholic theologians who dealt with this simply said there was no human death before the Fall of the first truly human beings (before Adam/Eve). I can quote for you what Dennis Bonnette writes later, he is a Catholic philosopher who wrote “Origin of the Human Species” and I think he deals with all these objections in his book. We’ll see if you think he is a heretic or whatnot. He claims to be orthodox and he does accept a historical Adam/Eve, and does accept evolutionary theory and an ancient earth.

If I put Adam/Eve in a “mythical” or other-worldly context in some “parallel universe” paradise or Garden of Eden as you do, then I guess we can say there were no such creatures in this other-worldly paradise before the Fall.

But as I said, I’m not sure if your solution is any “better” of a solution then those who treat Genesis 1-3 as total myth, that Adam/Eve didn’t really exist, since you are placing Adam/Eve in some realm OUTSIDE this universe, right? But again, I’ll go with your solution if it makes you happy. What I’m trying to do is work with a historical Adam/Eve and these theological objections ** within** our planet earth and universe, not outside it.

Matt1618 << Were lions killing lambs before the Fall? >>

The lions as we know them on this earth have always killed lambs. I would have to look up the evolutionary path of lions to see when they lived with respect to lambs. But I don’t know of any other lions other than those we know presently.

If you postulate there were non-carnivore (non-meat eating) lions who did not eat lambs in your paradise outside this universe, then I suppose we can grant there were these kinds of lions who didn’t tear lambs to shreds in this pre-Fall paradise outside this universe.

There. Now you can answer my questions: dinosaurs BEFORE humans or humans BEFORE dinosaurs? T-Rex IMMORTAL? :eek: I am talking on this planet earth, not outside it of course.

Phil P


#19

I thought this was an interesting read onthe topic:catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0401bt.asp

Esp. the last two paragraphs, which I quote:

"Until such time as the magisterium would either reverse its twentieth-century finding that human evolution is not precluded by the deposit of faith or would make a new finding that it is required by the deposit, human evolution as a matter that is free with respect to the sources. It is a matter that must stand or fall on its own scientific merits; it is not a matter of Catholic teaching.

The sooner both sides in the evolution debate within the Catholic Church recognize this, the better for all concerned."


#20

[quote=Philip P]That’s always been my understanding. What confuses me, though, is why Schonborn felt it necessary to write an article, or indeed attempt to “clarify” the Chruch’s position at all. No one believes that the Church’s position is that she promotes atheism, so why the distancing from atheistic evolution? Schonburn is also not arguing for Creationism, which is what intelligent design really is (simply saying that God works through evolution is not intelligent design). So I am somewhat perplexed as to what the point of writing this article was. Why did an Austrian cleric feel it necessary to write an op/ed piece in a major American newspaper?
[/quote]

Schonburn said, " The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things."

It is clear that he is saying the Catholic Church teaches **intelligent design. **

Then he says, " Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science."

Thus it is clear that Schonburn says the Catholic Church teaches intelligent design and that even apart from the Church, evidence for design in biology is overwhelming. I totally agree. Especially when it comes to the origin of life, there is no other reasonable alternative.


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