Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sweet Jesus!

Vatican says evolution, fish can coexist peacefully

From The Australian:

THE Vatican has issued a stout defence of Charles Darwin, voicing strong criticism of Christian fundamentalists who reject his theory of evolution and interpret the biblical account of creation literally.

Excuse the pun, but what the hell? I'm extremely (and pleasantly) surprised that the Catholic Church would take this stance, especially in these days of increased fundamentalism. Applause all around! Still, I have to wonder why they did it.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the Genesis description of how God created the universe and Darwin's theory of evolution were "perfectly compatible" if the Bible were read correctly.

Saying that last "if" is big is like calling the Grand Canyon a divot. Everyone knows that the Catholics and their more fundagelical cousins, the Protestants, have been at each other's throats ever since Martin Luther wrote U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday." This is not likely to help matters. Not that it bothers me personally, of course; I decided the first time I saw a Neanderthal skeleton (and realized how rapidly viruses mutate) that evolution is real and can sometimes happen while we watch.

His statement was a clear attack on creationist campaigners in the US, who see evolution and the Genesis account as mutually exclusive.

"The fundamentalists want to give a scientific meaning to words that had no scientific aim," he said at a Vatican press conference. He said the real message in Genesis was that "the universe didn't make itself and had a creator."

This idea was part of theology, Cardinal Poupard emphasised, while the precise details of how creation and the development of the species came about belonged to a different realm - science. Cardinal Poupard said that it was important for Catholic believers to know how science saw things so as to "understand things better."

This seems like a decent notion, and probably the one most Christians believe: that God set the universe in motion, and it took off from there. Not quite the Big Bang, but hardly a sound argument for so-called "Intelligent Design" to be taught as science in our schools.

His statements were interpreted in Italy as a rejection of the "intelligent design" view, which says the universe is so complex that some higher being must have designed every detail.

How these statements get interpreted in America is yet to be seen. Evolutionists will probably applaud the Catholic Church, while Creationists will simply dismiss it as insignificant or papist drivel (forgetting that Pope Benedict XVI is every conservative's wet dream of a pope). In other words, I don't expect too many American minds to change either way.

Throughout school, I learned all about various ancient mythologies--Greek, Roman, Mediterranean, Asian, African, etc., each one having a legend of the origin of the cosmos and of life. We treated these as, at best, amusing stories. I got dirty looks in 7th grade for suggesting that, in later centuries, our own creation beliefs might be thought of the same way. But honestly, how do the literal interpretations of the Bible--and the drive to give equal educational footing to said legend--differ any from what other cultures believed? As far as I can tell, they're all equally unproven with empirical evidence.

So should we teach creationism? Sure. Teach it along with every other creation theory, perhaps as a comparative history course. At worst, it will reinforce the fundies' assumptions of superiority; on the other hand, framing the stories in related contexts might just open a mind or two along the way. And while in science class, go with what at least seems promising in the scientific realm--the theory of evolution.

On that note, here's a comic strip I doodled on the subject. I had previously done a version of this during a boring college class a while back, proving that ideas do evolve. Enjoy.


Flamingo Jones said...

It boggles my mind that the church has to come out and say this now...

I was raised in a fairly conservative Lutheran denomination (although now I've learned that "conservative christian" means something entirely different here than it does in the Bible Belt), and this is what we were always taught. I grew up believing that science and faith can co-exist peacefully.

Wow, I miss those days. I honestly don't know when everybody went crazy. I really don't.

Nick said...

There's nothing wrong teaching intelligent design in a science class when done to show a contrast and compare it to Darwin's evolution theory. You liberals want to be all about choice. Well, then why do yall bitch if both sides are taught.

When you take a government class, even American civics or history, teachers present the American democracy, Communism, and Nazism, so why can't the same be allowed. Oh yeah, I forgot, because every teacher will try to indoctinate the young kids into believing only intelligent design, right?

Mikel said...

I may be the least intelligent person posting comments on this blog site but it seems to me that discussions on how we BEGAN, at this point in time, should take a back seat to discussions how we are going to END. Every human being, regardless of race, color,creed or georgraphical location, is in jeopardy right NOW! Maybe we should be teaching courses on Suvival After a nuclear BIG BANG. Maybe even INTELLIGENT DESIGN of Fall-out Shelters and How to Evacuate Heavily Populated Areas In An Emergency. Martha Stewart could generate courses on how to make living in a cave "A good thing". I don't give a crap about how it all began that was then this is now. We could stand to do more about what to do today to help improve the possibility of a better tomorrow. When we make the world today a safer place then the children of the world can discuss how it all began.

Flamingo Jones said...

Two problems, Nick. Actually probably more than two. But whatever.

The people advocating I.D. in biology classes are NOT interested in choice, and you know it. Their ultimate goal is to eliminate the study of evolution from public schools. Because they are right, and we heathens are wrong, and they must show us the error of our ways.

Also, if I.D. wants to be on the same scientific footing as evolution as a scientific theory, there should be some evidence for it, that comes from research that gets published in real, scientific, peer-reviewed, scholarly journals. Find me some of that, Nick. I dare you.

You can't, because it doesn't exist.

I.D. is not a scientific theory. It is a religious philosophy. In order to believe it, you must have faith in a higher power that defies scientific explanation. You cannot compare theory and belief.

I like this quote: "People ask 'do you believe in evolution?' What is the only possible scientific reply? Evolution is not a belief, it is a testable theory." - John Edser Independent Researcher

Also, I did learn about various forms of government in school, but it was NOT presented in a "Here, these are equally viable, wonderful choices. Pick one you like!" Plus, there IS proof that communist and nazi governments exist. So that's a bad analogy on a number of different levels.

Nick said...

But you can still present BOTH sides. You don't even have to give them equal time, but at least make students aware of it a give some brief info. And yes, some proponets of I.D. would love to eliminate evolution from being taught, just like some atheists would love to see religous activities held only inside of a church building or someone's home but those are extreme sides. And, if I.D. should not be taught, then why is it ok that in some school districts in CA, public school students are REQUIRED to take a course on Islam where they have to recite prayers and learn about the faith? Is it ok only b/c it's not Judaism or Chritianity?

Flamingo Jones said...

If you're accurately presenting that CA case, then no, I do not agree with that either, as you state it.

And no, both sides should NOT be presented in a BIOLOGY class. Maybe if a school had a Philosophy of Science class, that would be fine. (Very interesting, actually. I'd take that class.) But in Biology class, you expect that the theories presented have some actual legitimate scientific merit.

Murph said...

I agree with Flamingo that I've been getting wary of having my faith grouped in with the ID crowd. I also don't like that ID has come to be known as the fundamentalist view when, taken literally, it really only means that an intelligent being created the universe, which, to me, still leaves room for evolution.

And I think this is an entirely different debate from prayer in school. ID in school is can be there to represent the other side, as Nick says, but it should be in the religion classroom, the same way that my Catholic school didn't teach me religion in my science class. I seem to have turned out okay without my faith being destroyed by this.

My large-scale problem with teach ID along with Darwin in school is that this really is not about education. This is about a group wanting to impose their beliefs on their own and demanding that the education system do what they say, and, when they don't get their way, complain about being persecuted religiously. Where's their Lutheran spirit? Tack your complaints on a door and go form your own school that teaches things the way you want it and stop trying to make over the rest of us who like our God the way He is.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, this isn't a debate with only two sides; if being fair and balanced is our goal with regard to creation theories, then we're looking at teaching thousands of theories. I can argue that (as I used to think as a child) that Jesus cooked up the first people in a frying pan in his kitchen. Should that be taught in schools? I have as much proof for my theory as anyone else does about their own creation myths.

Evolution wouldn't fit in among these anyway, because (as Flamingo said) it isn't a belief in the same sense. Its tenets can be at least partially proven.

"Just like some atheists would love to see religous activities held only inside of a church building or someone's home but those are extreme sides."

Actually, what is so extreme about that? I mean, I would add to it the ability of religious practices in some arenas (street preachers are entertaining). Aside from that, is it extreme that institutions of learning be free from religious proselytizing? Religion is supposed to be personal. I, for one, would love to see preaching (different from teaching comparative religion), corporations and other avenues of captive-audience indoctrination out of schools.

Murph said...

Good argument about other creation myths, Ian, because most ancient cultures have a flood story, and much of Genesis is culled together from Sumerian and other Mesopotamian myths. When one is allowed to study the Bible as a literary document, one can start to learn the richness of religious cultures and how integrated they all are. This is a hell of a lot more fun than telling others they are going to hell.

jen said...

Three words, Ian:

Flying Spaghetti Monster