The Vatican and Darwin: two steps back

Looks as if the new Pope is an ID’er.

Reports that Cardinal Schonborn retreated from his obscurantist view about evolution seem to have been greatly exaggerated. The full text of his sermon suggests that he is fully bought in to Intelligent Design, even down to the metaphor of the timepiece that did not come together by chance. He says some nice words about Darwin, but in the end concludes that prejudice ought to trump research (or, as the Cardinal puts it, “my common sense cannot be shut out by the scientific method”). The key point is that Creation is a continuous process, so the Divine will is needed as an explanatory factor at every moment. What room the Cardinal thinks this leaves for science isn’t clear.

Intellectually speaking, the sermon is a remarkably shabby performance; Schonbron dances past the Galileo affair disgracefully, with a nasty crack about “the black legend” and mutterings about inaccuracy, but no attempt to explain why the conventional view needs to be revised.

On the other hand, Cardinal Poupard of the Pontifical Council for Culture seems to have a different view, endorsing Darwin, denouncing fundamentalism, and putting Creation safely in the past.

But the Pope has now weighed in, apparently on the obscurantist side of the debate. If someone has a link to an English translation of the full text (apparently published in L’Osservatore Romano), please let me know.

Of course, in a sane world the opinions of Cardinals and Popes about evolution would be of no more interest than the views of biologists on the Real Presence, and theologians who did feel compelled to speak on these subjects would talk to biologists first. But that’s not the world we actually live in.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: