Thursday, November 03, 2005

John Derbyshire on why some American Catholics need to wise up:
There is, to judge from my mailbag, a widespread opinion that adherence to Darwininian biology is ungodly, if not actually atheistic. To the attention of NRO readers holding that opinion, I commend Francisco Ayala.

Ayala is a working biologist who is also an ordained Dominican priest. He does not only think "Intelligent Design" is flat wrong, he thinks it's blasphemous! There are some notes on his opinions here.

Ayala was raised and educated in General Franco's Spain, the most intensely Christian nation of modern times. In his Catholic schools, he was taught straight Darwinism, without warnings or qualifications. Now he teaches it himself, at UC Irvine. Note how he deals with the doubts of Catholic students (point 11).

Ayala's remarks illustrate an aspect of the I.D. business not much commented on: it is an entirely American phenomenon -- really, an outgrowth of American folk religiosity. You can find a scattered few I.D. followers in other countries, but I.D. is not a public or pedagogic issue anywhere but in the U.S.A. People in other countries are just baffled by it; scientists in other countries just shake their heads sadly. This is not the case with any scientific theory that I am aware of. Real science is international. The presence of a strongly national coloring is, in fact, a pretty good marker of pseudoscience. Compare, for example, the "Soviet science" (Lysenkoism, Marrism, etc.) of Stalin.

There is nothing wrong with folk religiosity, of course. I personally regard it as a strengthening and cohesive force in the national life, and in the conservative movement. I am happy about American folk religiosity, and regard it with cheerful approval. But-- It. Is. Not. Science.

Update: Derb's getting some support from the Vatican.

Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, or Science, Theology and Ontological Quest, reaffirmed John Paul's 1996 statement that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis."

"A hypothesis asks whether something is true or false," he said. "(Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof."

He was asked about comments made in July by Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who dismissed in a New York Times article the 1996 statement by John Paul as "rather vague and unimportant" and seemed to back intelligent design.

Basti concurred that John Paul's 1996 letter "is not a very clear expression from a definition point of view," but he said evolution was assuming ever more authority as scientific proof develops.


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