Sunday, February 05, 2006

What's not always said in the debate about evolution vs intelligent design

Excerpts from a Washington Post article by Shankar Vedantam that cuts to the heart of what really going on in the intelligent design vs evolution:

While the controversy over intelligent design is superficially about scientific facts, the real debate is more emotional. Evolution cuts to the heart of the belief that humans have a special place in creation. If all things in the living world exist solely because of evolutionary competition and natural selection, what room is left for the idea that humans are made in God's image or for any morality beyond the naked requirements of survival? Beneath all the complex arguments of intelligent design advocates, Georgetown theologian John Haught agreed, "there lies a deeply human and passionately religious concern about whether the universe resides in the bosom of a loving,
caring God or is instead perched over an abyss of ultimate meaninglessness."

Which is rather puzzling to me, especially since we had reported on this blog earlier, the Catholic Church has rejected the teaching of intelligent design.

Of note: Shankar Vedantam will be fielding questions and comments about this article Monday at 1 p.m. at


Rebecca Taylor said...

You maybe puzzled because of the common misconception that evolution and the idea that God created the universe are mutually exclusive. They are not. It is possible that God created a universe that evolves.

The Catholic Church does not reject the idea that the universe was intelligently designed, but that ID theory is science that should be taught in science class. Instead, ID theory is more appropriately discussed in religion or philosophy class.

Linda MacDonald Glenn said...

I guess I didn't really make myself clear in this post -- I was always under the impression (having been raised Catholic) that the idea that God created the universe and evolution were NOT inconsistent -- so my puzzlement was why so many proponents of ID think that evolution necessarily takes God out of the picture. In fact, Darwin was convinced (at first, anyway) that evolution was evidence of God's handiwork. And yes, I agree with the Catholic church that ID is more appropriately discussed in philosophy or religion class.

Stuart Rennie, Editor said...

In my view, evolution is not incompatible with the concept of God as creator in the abstract -- but should be of little consolation to Christians, I would think, because it still seems incompatible with the traditional Christian conception of the origin of the world and humankind. You could try to merge evolution and Christianity, but that would still be a break from centuries of church teaching.

For what its worth, I take issue with the view that either you have the view of humankind at the center of creation or a picture of the universe as meaningless. Bertrand Russell had a third option: contemplation of the universe, as revealed by physics and the other sciences, as leading to a feeling of cosmic wonder and humility. If accepting evolution does not necessarily rule out God, accepting a secular conception of the universe does not rule out a spiritual sensibility.