Pap about the Pope
There have been a couple of stories out in recent days about the pope's views on science and religion as revealed in a new book. Given their bias and preoccupation, it probably was inevitable that some in the media would try to discern more than is present in a 2006 paper of the Holy Father's that runs in a new German language book. Largely missing is the context. In case you forgot, last September, as he does each fall, Pope Benedict XVI met with his former theology students and discussed a topic of mutual interest. Two years ago the topic was Islam and the West; this year it was science and religion. The meeting, held at Castel Gondolfo, was well-covered in the media and the papers that were delivered were later turned into the present German language volume. (Almost all the meeting participants, understandably, were German speakers, having studied under the pope when he was Fr. Dr. Ratzinger.)
The media, of course, wanted to know what the pontiff and others had said about intelligent design, but ID was not the topic of the meeting. Philosophy, rather, was the focus. Hence, the breathless report by Reuters now that the paper by the pope fails to back ID is, well, silly.
Here is how our friend and former colleague (now at Acton Institute) Dr. Jay Richards aptly describes it:
In reading all the buzz about the pope's recent statements on the nature of science and religion (see "Pope says science too narrow to explain creation," Reuters, April 11 2007), I suspect there's a translation problem here. Reading between the lines, it looked like Benedict said some pretty strong things. Of course he's challenging scientism and calling for a broader concept of reason than is contained in experimental science. That's easy for classically informed philosophers to understand. But you can be sure that exactly 0% of reporters and 1% of readers will understand that. What every reporter will take away is that all this talk about God, purpose, and design are private, since in modern parlance, only 'science' constitutes public knowledge. Thus the story ends:'This ... inevitably leads to a question that goes beyond science ... where did this rationality come from?' he asked. Answering his own question, he said it came from the 'creative reason' of God.'Thus is the dispute domesticated into categories acceptable to the secularist. God gets to be discussed in conversations that go 'beyond science,' along with fairies and the Easter bunny.
This issue is just not that complicated, despite the sociological pressures to keep the fog machines going at all times. Either some or all of the history and complexity of life are the product of design or they're not. Either that design is discernible or it's not. Evolution is either purely random or it's not. Not even God can direct an undirected process. Complicated discussions about the definition of 'philosophy,' 'reason,' and 'science' are dull blades. The reader is thus left to vaguely believe something that I'm sure is not true: that the Pope endorses a two-truths view, according to which Darwinism works as 'science' (narrowly defined) but theological types get to talk about God as long as they call it philosophy and promise not to make trouble for the Darwinists.