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Friday, November 18, 2005

Church Versus Science: A False Choice?

A friend forwards this AP story:

Vatican Official Refutes Intelligent Design

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer

The Vatican's chief astronomer said Friday that
"intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong
in science classrooms, the latest high-ranking Roman
Catholic official to enter the evolution debate in the
United States.

The Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the
Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design
theory alongside that of evolution in school programs
was "wrong" and was akin to mixing apples with
oranges.

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it
pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Coyne as
saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence.
"If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent
design should be taught when religion or cultural
history is taught, not science."

His comments were in line with his previous statements
on "intelligent design" -- whose supporters hold that
the universe is so complex that it must have been
created by a higher power.

Proponents of intelligent design are seeking to get
public schools in the United States to teach it as
part of the science curriculum. Critics say
intelligent design is merely creationism -- a literal
reading of the Bible's story of creation -- camouflaged
in scientific language, and they say it does not
belong in science curriculum.

In a June article in the British Catholic magazine The
Tablet, Coyne reaffirmed God's role in creation, but
said science explains the history of the universe.

"If they respect the results of modern science, and
indeed the best of modern biblical research, religious
believers must move away from the notion of a dictator
God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the
universe as a watch that ticks along regularly."

Rather, he argued, God should be seen more as an
encouraging parent.

"God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a
world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the
evolutionary process to greater and greater
complexity," he wrote. "He is not continually
intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves."

The Vatican Observatory, which Coyne heads, is one of
the oldest astronomical research institutions in the
world. It is based in the papal summer residence at
Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI waded indirectly into the
evolution debate by saying the universe was made by an
"intelligent project" and criticizing those who in the
name of science say its creation was without direction
or order.

Questions about the Vatican's position on evolution
were raised in July by Austrian Cardinal Christoph
Schoenborn.

In a New York Times column, Schoenborn seemed to back
intelligent design and dismissed a 1996 statement by
Pope John Paul II that evolution was "more than just a
hypothesis." Schoenborn said the late pope's statement
was "rather vague and unimportant."

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