Vatican Takes a Stand on Intelligent Design

11 02 2009

At last. In fact, the Vatican’s latest stance on ID is surprisingly enlightened:

“The committee agreed to consider ID as a phenomenon of an ideological and cultural nature, thus worthy of a historic examination, but certainly not to be discussed on scientific, philosophical or theological grounds,” said Saverio Forestiero, a conference organizer and professor of zoology at the University of Rome.

This is precisely the only way ID should be taught in school. Not as an alternative to evolution. Not as science. But as a “cultural phenomenon”.

What also interests me is the PR angle of all this. Here’s the Vatican, holding a conference on evolution on the anniversary of On The Origin Of Species, and its unambiguously renouncing ID (compared to previous somewhat ambiguous efforts). The Catholic church has actually long endorsed not only evolution, but the notion that religion and reason can coexist without contradiction (although that only extends so far).

It smacks of the Vatican acknowledging that it’s losing its grip on the faithful in the developed world and trying to modernise. Although not all of Pope Benedict’s new ventures have been winners.

Ultimately, it’s a valiant effort, but sadly all in vain. Religion and science will only ever be compatible when religion dismisses the supernatural. Then, and only then, will they be compatible. For science is more than just a body of content – it’s a method. And as a method, it cannot allow arbitrary barriers to investigation, such as those erected by the supernatural.

Certainly, a completed science might still leave room for religion in the regions where empirical investigation can’t penetrate, although I doubt it. But science can certainly leave room for acknowledging the human yearning for spiritual fulfillment, and it can do so without resorting to the metaphysical.

On an entirely unrelated note, I’ll be away for a spell, so there’ll be a lull in posts. I have a crazy couple of weeks ahead with two conferences and a trip to India squeezed in between. But when I’m back, I’m sure I’ll have a lot to comment on.

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