Vatican says Evolution does not prove the non-existence of God
Evolution and the Biblical account of Genesis are "perfectly compatible" claims the Catholic Church
The Vatican has rejected the claim by Richard Dawkins, the biologist and campaigning atheist, that evolutionary theory proves that God does not exist, proclaiming that on the contrary Darwinian evolution and the account of Creation in Genesis are "perfectly compatible".
At a five day conference held to mark the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species this week, Vatican theologians said while Christians believed that God "created all things", the Vatican "does not stand in the way of scientific realities".
Vatican officials joined biologists, paleontologists, molecular geneticists and philosophers for the conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University, which ends tomorrow. Rafael Martinez, professor of the Philosophy of Science at the Santa Croce Pontifical University in Rome, said although the reaction of Catholic theologians, intellectuals and priests to Darwinian theory had been "generally negative" in the 19th century, "recent declarations by Popes have asserted the full accordance of Catholic doctrine and evolutionary biology".
He said, however, that this was not widely known, and the false impression had arisen "that the Holy See is opposed to evolution". Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, which co-organised the conference with Notre Dame University in Indiana and support from the John Templeton Foundation, said there was "no a priori incompatibility between evolution and the message of the Bible".
He noted that Darwin had never been condemned by the Catholic Church, and that On the Origin of the Species had never been placed on the Index of forbidden books. Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the assertion by Richard Dawkins and others that evolution proves there is no God was "absurd".
Cardinal Levada also attacked "those who have a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible which they want to see taught to their children in the schools alongside evolution or instead of it."
Ronald Numbers, professor of the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, said Creationism, the literal interpretation of the Genesis account, and Intelligent Design, its modern descendant, had spread beyond the United States and had become "globalised", with variants springing up within Islam and Judaism as well as Christianity.
However Francisco Ayala, a former priest and now professor of biological sciences and philosophy at the University of California at Irvine, said ID and Creationism were "blasphemous" to both Christians and scientists.
Marco Politi, Vatican watcher of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, said the conference marked "the end of the guerrilla warfare conducted against evolutionism by some sectors of the ecclesiastical hierarchy who had felt they were protected by Pope Benedict".
He noted that the Pope had remarked on the "lacunae" in Darwinian theory at a seminar on evolution at Castelgandolfo, the papal summer residence, in September 2006, and that the year before Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, who is close to the Pope and seen by some as a possible successor, had appeared to embrace the idea of Intelligent design in an article in The New York Times.
"The music has now changed radically however" Mr Politi said. Gennaro Auletta, who teaches science and philosophy at the Gregorian University, said ID was "not a scientific theory, even if it passes itself off as such".
L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said the idea that Darwinism and the Church were at odds had always been "false", noting that in 1996 Pope John Paul II had said in an address to the Pontifical Academy for Sciences that the theory of evolution was “more than a hypothesis.”
Monday, 23 March 2009
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