[asa] Catholicism and TE (was: The term Darwinism)

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Fri Jun 26 2009 - 17:39:25 EDT

Thanks for this information, Ted.

Your answer is interesting, because one might expect, given the Roman
Church's openness to evolution, that the TE movement would be chock full of
Catholics, more Catholics than Protestants. And there must be thousands of
Catholic scientists in the USA. But very few prominent TEs are in fact
Catholic. There is Miller, and there is Ayala -- though I'm not sure
whether Ayala considers himself Catholic any longer. (Does anyone know?)

Why is this? Is it the very fact that the Roman Church is not opposed to
evolution, per se, which allows RC scientists the freedom to be TEs if they
want, without needing to seek out other TEs for mutual support, whereas in
the Protestant sectarian world, there is so much hostility to evolution,
that TEs feel the need to band together with kindred spirits, for protection
against their anti-evolutionary churchgoing brethren?

I have the impression that very few (perhaps none) of the people who post
here are Catholic. This is in contrast to other groups of people I converse
with who are sympathetic with ID. Aside from obvious prominent ID people
like Mike Behe and Denyse O'Leary, there are many Catholic ID supporters
known to me (including some with Ph.D.s in the life sciences). I would not
say that a majority of ID supporters are Catholic -- far from it; but there
is a significant minority.

I wonder if this goes back in part to the lack of hostility toward natural
theology within traditional Catholic thought. Protestant thought is more
divided on that question, with some Protestants, especially since the time
of Kant, and more recently after Barth, being very disclined to think that
nature could teach us anything at all about God. Many of the arguments made
here, when they don't sound Barthian to me, sound at least Kantian. I also
suspect that a very high proportion of modern scientists have a
fundamentally Kantian metaphysics and epistemology (whether they have read
Kant or not). Maybe the difference between ID and TE is not "conservative"
versus "liberal" Christian theology, but a non-Kantian versus a Kantian
understanding of "nature", "science", and "theology". The distinction
between "methodological" and "metaphysical" naturalism, a distinction which
I have continually found to be ambiguous, confusing and non-helpful, may not
come directly from Kant, but it seems to me that such a distinction would be
unthinkable outside of a Kantian type of philosophy. And without that
distinction, one of the main sources of conflict between ID and TE -- the
separation of Darwin's deliberately anti-teleological origins science from
its theological implications -- would be removed.

More generally, given that Catholic thought does not entirely embrace Kant
because of the influence of Thomism, and given that Catholic thought, while
accepting of evolution, is suspicious of the pure Darwinian version, and
open to design notions, I believe that if there were more Catholics in the
TE movement, rapprochement between ID and TE would certainly be easier.

Has anyone ever written anything about the religious sociology of TE, i.e.,
its position in relation to traditional denominational lines? If not, there
is a job for Gregory Arago!


----- Original Message -----
From: "Ted Davis" <TDavis@messiah.edu>
To: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>; "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Sent: Friday, June 26, 2009 10:24 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] The term Darwinism

>>>> "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca> 6/25/2009 6:39 PM >>> asks:
> By the way, speaking of Catholics, are there any statistics regarding the
> percentage of ASA members who are Catholic? And are any of the regular
> contributors to this list Catholic?
> ****
> Ted replies:
> Cameron,
> ASA keeps no statistics concerning specific religious affiliations of our
> members. We don't ask, they don't say, and we don't know.
> Informally, as someone involved with ASA for 30+ years, I can tell you
> that
> very few, if any, of our members are Roman Catholics -- or Eastern
> Orthodox
> believers, for that matter. We were founded by conservative Protestants
> in
> 1941 with a faith statement that reflected that. It's changed
> subsequently
> -- presently, for example, our faith statement is simply the Apostles' and
> Nicene Creeds, so a RC or EO person ought to be able to join without
> hesitation on those grounds. But, culturally, we're still overwhelmingly
> Protestant in membership and attitude. As current ASA president, I'd love
> for us to be more attractive to other Christians in scientific fields. We
> badly need a broader membership base, and we have much to offer people
> from
> all Christian bodies. Interestingly, we do publish articles by Catholic
> and
> Orthodox scholars on a fairly regular, if not frequent, basis. However,
> in
> at least some cases those articles ended up in PSCF b/c a consulting
> editor
> asked the author to send it to us for consideration.
> I'll set down a minimal list (i.e., I am sure about these cases, there are
> probably others) of RC or EO authors who have published in PSCF since
> 2000:
> March 2000 Edward Dodson
> Sept 2005 Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti
> Dec 2005 Kenneth Hendrickson
> Mar 2007 Luke Timothy Johnson
> As I say, there may be more, and I do not include authors of book reviews
> here.
> Ted

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Received on Fri Jun 26 17:40:38 2009

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