So I'm sitting here at starbucks, reading the paper and using the wi-fi connection, when I felt compelled to come out of my blogging vacation and make a post. You must be blessing your lucky stars, dear reader.
And you might be wondering what impelled me to make such a decision. Well, it is the reason I started to blog in the first place: because I can't read the newspaper without being seriously annoyed, and I need an outlet to express it.
At issue was this op-ed in the Times on evolution by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn. In retrospect, I should have known the dude was going to spout nonsense before reading, but, woe to me, I read it anyway.
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."
Actually, Pat Buchanan said something similar at TNR's evolution questionnaire:
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Do I believe in absolute evolution? No. I don't believe that evolution can explain the creation of matter. ... Do I believe in Darwinian evolution? The answer is no."
What a pair of morons. Of course, the theory of evolution does not try to explain the creation of matter, nor does it view the cosmos as a result of evolution of matter. It might be nice to actually understand what you are criticizing. I can only respond that I don't believe in the theory of gravity because it doesn't explain the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Elsewhere Schonborn writes:
Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science....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.
i. Neo-Darwininiasm? These guys sure like to make up words.
ii. These guys annoy me so much because I don't understand how their immense confidence about what science is and isn't, what scientific evidence implies and doesn't imply, is coupled with their complete lack of accomplishments in science.
In other words. Why don't these people - who argue that they understand biology better than the scientists - use their deep understanding to produce something useful? Scientists have sequenced the genome; developed countless drugs; sucessfuly cloned animals; genetically engineered plants and animals for humanity's purposes; and so on.
Evolution opponents have so far racked up...0 scientific accomplishments. If their understanding of the natural world is so much better than that of the scientists, why don't they use their superior knowledge to create something? Think of all the wrong things scientists are doing, being led by ideology rather than science!
Indeed, for one thing evolution has led most scientists to conclude that a lot of organs serve no majorly useful purpose ( in humans, the list includes the appendix, tail bone, goose bumps, male nipples, etc). Most creationists would think scientists are on the wrong track. Imagine the huge bonanza for medicine here!
iii. If Schonborn had thought a bit more about the topic before writing his op-ed, he might have realized that the whole bit about design in the context of science makes little sense.
If I tell you that gravity exists - that any two objects are attracted to each other with a force proportional to the product of their masses and the inverse of the square of the distance between them - there are a bunch of straightforward ways for you to test this. You can measure the attractive forces between objects and see if they are what the theory predicts.
On the other hand, if I tell you that there is design in nature, what possible way do you have of testing this? There really is none. At most we can idly go back and forth with speculations. But with no criterion for what constitutes a refutation, the effort will go nowhere.
You can see this in the "debate" on vestgial organs - I put the word in quotes because the very idea of meaningful debate with creationists is laughable. AnswersInGenesis maintains that male nipples - and the presence of wings on birds who do not fly, like ostriches - is evidence of "design economy" in nature. God, apparently, is an economical God. He likes to reuse designs rather than come up with better ones.
The bottom line is whether there exists design in nature or not is not a scientific question. There is no "overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science," as Schonborn claims, because the entire idea of scientific evidence on this question is meaningless.
Meanwhile, I hope Schonborn is using his nipples in a productive manner.