Friday, July 27, 2007

The Pope on Theistic Evolution

Many times on this blog, I have argued that there is no necessary conflict between Darwinian evolution and biblical religion, because Darwinian science leaves open the question of First Cause, which allows for theistic evolution. Traditionally, the Catholic Church has taken this position. Pope John Paul II affirmed this in 1996.

In recent years, there has been some speculation that the new Pope might take a different position--perhaps even endorsing "intelligent design theory" as an alternative to Darwinian evolution. But now there is a story in the NEW YORK POST reporting that Pope Benedict XVI has reaffirmed theistic evolution, so that the Church can accept Darwinian science as compatible with Biblical revelation.


Anonymous said...

Theistic evolution is not Darwinism and the Christian God is not Aristotle's First Cause or Prime Mover.

Larry Arnhart said...

At the beginning of THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, Darwin quotes from Bacon, affirming the compatibility of the Bible as the Book of God's words and Nature as the Book of God's works. At the end of THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, Darwin speaks of "the laws impressed on matter by the Creator" and the "powers" of life "originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one." Isn't that theistic evolution? And isn't that consistent with the Christian conception of God as Creator ex nihilo? Isn't the Pope right to believe there is no necessary conflict between Darwinian evolution and biblical religion?

Tony Bartl said...

There is no conflict between the notion of common descent or speciation. There is an irreconcilable conflict in the notion that it all might have happened differently, that the end was not foreseen from the beginning, and that the human soul is an emergent product of chance and natural necessity driving the evolution of primate brains. Pope John Paul was quite explicit on this last point.
Bacon's dichotomy is false, unless:
creation ex nihilo is not one of god works; and Christ's miracles, including his resurrection, were just words.
Throughout scripture, God's works are said to be the product of His words.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Arnhart,

I've read a few of your posts here, but not your books yet, so I don't have a complete picture of your viewpoint; I am seeking to understand your view better. I'm growing more and more curious about the role of God in your view: To what degree does your theory of morality rely on supernatural guidance of the evolutionary process? Would you say that divine superintending is necessary to your view being workable? Or would you argue that atheists/naturalists can also adopt your suggestions without anything lost in the process?

Thanks very much,


Larry Arnhart said...

Religious belief is not necessary, although it can reinforce the dictates of human nature. Atheists can recognize natural morality just because of its rootedness in evolved human nature.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Dr. Arnhart -

Thanks, I appreciate your prompt reply. I should have been more specific, perhaps. You have answered at the epistemic level, but what of the ontology of human nature? Do you see your view of morality as dependent on supernatural guidance of evolution from that angle?



Memetic Warrior said...

Dear Mr Arnhart.
I´ve read (and buy ;) most of your books and I regulary read your blog. I read many Evolutionary Psichology books before knowing your work, so I naturally accepted your fusionnistic view of conservatism and libertarianism, I also appreciated the deep phylosophical foundations of conservative trhough. I algo wondered why cristian conservatives argued that natural moral instincts are not true or not enough. But once I read some David Sloan Wilson argumets, I though that maybe they have a point in his favor, and the reason is as follows: maybe religious belief is the proximante effect of true a moral instinct whose ulimate causation is group cohesion. (In evolutionary terms, Good belief would be an exaptation of, among others, the cause-effect reasoning, applied to ultimate causation, coopted by moral instincts).

If religious belief and religious activities are just expression of a true human instinct, and this instinct is repressed by reason arguing that religious belief is not needed, then the final effect is the destruction of true useful social behaviours.

I know help you argue that religion is a help for human morality, but, if this hypotesis is true, then maybe it is more a must than a mere help.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing such nice posts. Your blog is always fascinating to read.