Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Mon Nov 21 2005 - 02:16:49 EST

cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row
News / Reuters ^ | Sun Nov 20, 6:17 AM ET | Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor
Posted on 11/20/2005 8:32:28 PM EST by

When Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn waded into a heated
debate over evolution in the United States, his goal was not to
persuade American schools to teach that God created the world in six days.

Nor was it to condemn Charles Darwin and his "The Origin of Species,"
a book that Schoenborn, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Vienna,
considers a great work in the history of ideas.

His concern, Schoenborn told Reuters at his episcopal palace in
central Vienna, was to stand up for common sense in a debate that had
become ideological. He wanted to make clear where the Church thinks
scientists overstep their bounds.

"The Church's task now is to defend reason," he explained, citing as
his inspiration his former theology professor Joseph Ratzinger, now
Pope Benedict.

"The theory of evolution is a scientific theory," he said. "What I
call evolutionism is an ideological view that says evolution can
explain everything in the whole development of the cosmos, from the
Big Bang to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony."

Often tipped as a potential future pope, Schoenborn, 60, came under
stinging attack by U.S. scientists after he published an op-ed
article in the New York Times last July backing the "Intelligent
Design" view of the world's origins.

The harsher critics charged he was a simpleton trying to replace
science with creationism -- the view that God made the world exactly
as laid out in Genesis, the first book of the Bible -- and throw
American education back by a century.

Dismissing this censure with a smile, the cardinal spelled out a
position that respects Darwin's achievements but rejects
neo-Darwinist views he said go beyond what science can prove.

"The biblical teaching about creation is not a scientific theory," he
said, restating a Catholic view that contrasts with the literal
reading of some conservative U.S. Protestants opposed to Darwin.
"Christian teaching about creation is not an alternative to evolution."


Schoenborn agrees with the Intelligent Design theory that the
complexity of life clearly points to a superior intelligence that
must have devised this system. He based this on reason, not science,
as Intelligent Design theorists claim to do.

"The next step is to ask -- which intelligence? As a believer, of
course I think it is the intelligence of the Creator," he said."

Asked about the debate on teaching Intelligent Design in U.S.
schools, Schoenborn declined to comment directly. A Pennsylvania
school board was voted out this month for backing Intelligent Design
in science classes, but Kansas decided to teach it.

He thought private and state schools in Austria should include in
their science classes a mention of the "intelligent project that is
the cosmos," as Pope Benedict put it last week in apparent backing
for Intelligent Design.

Schoenborn, a good-humored Dominican who was the editor for the
Church's authoritative Catechism published in 1992, expressed
surprise at the barrage of criticism he got for saying Darwin could
not explain everything.


"If this is a scientific theory, it must be open to scientific
criticism," he said. "What I'm criticizing is a kind of strategy to
immunize it, as if it were an offence to Darwin's dignity to say
there are some issues this theory can't explain.

"There's a kind of ban on discussing this and critics of the
evolution theory are discredited or discriminated against from the
start," he said.

"What I would like is to see in schools is a critical and open
spirit, in a positive sense, so we don't make a dogma out of the
theory of evolution but we say it is a theory that has a lot going
for it but has no answers for some questions."

He questioned neo-Darwinism, the scientifically updated version of
Darwin's thesis first published in 1859, and its argument that
natural selection -- the so-called "survival of the fittest" --
created life out of matter randomly.

"Can we reasonably say the origin of man and life can only be
explained by material causes?" he asked. "Can matter create
intelligence? That is a question we can't answer scientifically,
because the scientific method cannot grasp it."

"Common sense tells us that matter cannot organize itself," he said.
"It needs information to do that, and information is a manifestation
of intelligence."

Although his reading on evolution has covered several scientific
disciplines, Schoenborn stressed his objections to neo-Darwinism were
essentially philosophical.

Like his mentor Pope Benedict, he is deeply concerned that
materialism -- the science-based view that matter is the only reality
-- is crowding out religious and spiritual thinking in modern man's
perception of the world.

"It's all about materialism, that's the key issue," he said.
Received on Mon Nov 21 02:20:39 2005

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