Biologist Kenneth Miller weighs in on Cardinal Schonborn’s essay:
Cardinal Schönborn also errs in his implicit support of the “intelligent design” movement in the United States. The neo-creationists of intelligent design, unlike Popes Benedict and John Paul, argue against evolution on every level, claiming that a “designer” has repeatedly intervened to directly produce the complex forms of living things. This view stands in sharp contradiction to the words of a 2004 International Theological Commission document cited by the Cardinal. In reality, this document carries a ringing endorsement of the “widely accepted scientific account” of life’s emergence and evolution, describes the descent of all forms of life from a common ancestor as “virtually certain,” and echoes John Paul II’s observation of the “mounting support” for evolution from many fields of study.
More important, the same document makes a critical statement on how we should interpret scientific studies of the complexity of life: “whether the available data support inferences of design or chance . . cannot be settled by theology. But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence.” [Editor’s note: Miller defines “contingent” as “apparently random or unpredictable, like the roll of dice.”] Right there, in plain view, is the essence of compatibility between evolution and Catholic theology. “Contingency in the created order,” the very essence of evolution, is not at all incompatible with the will of God. The official Church document reemphasizes this point by stating that “even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation.” And evolution, as Stephen Jay Gould emphasized brilliantly in his writings, is truly a contingent natural process.