Vatican denounces Christian fundamentalists who deny evolution

And it’s about time.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

A lot of Americans (particularly in red states) are dumb enough as it is. We don’t need to make them dumber by spoon-feeding them drivel about “Intelligent Design” and some un-named, un-namable “creator.” Everything about ID is a canard, a slick re-packaging of Creationism and an attempt to wipe out our brain cells and critical thought processes.

To those of you who defend Commander Codpiece, please tell us, are you happy that he believes ID should be taught in science classes alongside evolution? Do you believe that elevates America in the eyes of the scientific community and of the world? As to that bullshit argument, “Well, we’re just sayin’, we should teach it along with evolutuion because, you know, it could be possible…” To that, all I can say is that there might be some truth in astrology as well but we don’t teach it at universities. The Fundies’ attacks on evolution are a blessing for their opponents, as there is simply no defending them without looking like a jackass. (Bush looked like a jackass before endorsing ID so he had nothing to lose.)

The Discussion: 27 Comments

Never thought I’d be in a position but…
OK, you’re still living in the Dark Ages. You can’t believe in Zeus if you try to shape science to fit him in. You have to believe in all kinds of crazy fairytale stories instead. Is that what the Vatican is suggesting? I mean, do you take the Bible literally with vegetation being created before the sun or talking asses and snakes and so forth? If not, what is the point?

November 8, 2005 @ 2:21 am | Comment

ID has to be tought in school, no doubt. Along with the great wisdom of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. All hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

November 8, 2005 @ 2:38 am | Comment

But Keir, at least the Vatican is saying there has to be a separation between theological explanation and scientific explanation – a good thing, no?

November 8, 2005 @ 2:46 am | Comment

Nothing particularly new here. I went to a Catholic school decades ago and in our religion class the priest told us to use our brains and remember that the bible isn’t a biology textbook. And he made it clear that this was official doctrine, even then.

November 8, 2005 @ 3:02 am | Comment

The only thing new was the pointed attack on ID from a Vatican higher-up. I’ve always (or at least usually) had respect for the Vatican’s approach to science, and this makes me respect it even more.

November 8, 2005 @ 3:04 am | Comment

Hmm, that’s good news, there had been rumors of the new Pope changing the official stance on evolution, good thing it was just rumors.

Gettingt the Church to accept homosexuality is gonna be a tougher nut to crack, though.

November 8, 2005 @ 3:17 am | Comment

I’ve always liked the story of when Stephen Hawking met the (previous) Pope:

“He [the pope] told us that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God. I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference – the possibility that space-time was finite but had no boundary, which means that it had no beginning, no moment of Creation. I had no desire to share the fate of Galileo, with whom I feel a strong sense of identity, partly because of the coincidence of having been born exactly 300 years after his death!”

November 8, 2005 @ 3:23 am | Comment

Actually, since evolution has never been scientifically proven, it shouldn’t be taught as a fact either.

Teaching only evolution is as bad as not teaching it at all. We have two opposing ideas, neither of which has been witnessed or recorded scientifically (Darwin witnessed natural selection, which is NOT the same thing as Evolution because it only happens within a species and is limited to the ratio of know genetic traits in an existing population), it is only right that we teach both, if only to use it as an oppertuity to teach children to use the available information to make up their own minds or to show that different ideas exist.

Many countries don’t have this problem because thy don’t seperate church and state like the US does. This means that they have Biology lessons for evolution and religious education lessons (education about religion, not instrution in religion) that can teach about ID and creationism.

November 8, 2005 @ 6:55 am | Comment

You’re really shocking me, tonight, ACB. We should only teach both if both stand up to the tests of science. Nearly all of our medical breakthroughs and research are based on evolution, and even the Catholic church acknowledges it as fact. Nothing is based on ID, it’s pure bullshit. And you should know that. Why should we just teach both? How about the Spaghetti Monster? How about Astrology? How about Greek mythology, which has a different story to explaiun creation? Use your mind.

November 8, 2005 @ 7:18 am | Comment

I vote for FSM(Flying Spaghetti Monster)-ism! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yes, evolution is theory, not fact. But to suggest that schools therefore should teach ID alongside evolution is ridiculous. Evolution and ID are separate, but not equal. Evolution is science. ID is dogma. The best ID theorists has done is to question weak spots in evolutionary theory, as if somehow invalidating evolutionary theory means validating ID, which it totally doesn’t.


November 8, 2005 @ 8:05 am | Comment

ACB check out this site for you enlightenment.
As nausicaa allready said, Evolution is a scientific theorie. In sience that means it is proven. Otherwise it would be called a Hypotheis.
ID on the contary is a Hypothesis and there exists no proof for it. Maybe there will be some day but as long as there is none there is no place for it in science class.

Anyway, hail the Flying Spagetti Monster. May there be always meatsauce with you.

November 8, 2005 @ 8:37 am | Comment

I’m Catholic and I agree 100% with the theory of evolution. God did not create everything in 6 days, that was an invention to fill in the gaps when the Bible was written.

November 8, 2005 @ 9:29 am | Comment

Idiot fundamentalists stop real questions from being asked.

Because of these people, intelligent adults are unaware that there are real questions about evolution that can be asked without going into Christian Witch Doctor Science.

Off the top of my head (and drunk):

We don’t know what conditions are required for the creation of living cells (and I don’t mean viruses, and I don’t mean slavish imitation of known patterns)

But you can’t ask questions because the Jerry Falwells of the world will jump in with the Theory of the Guy in the Grey Beard.

BTW, Raj, I’m not sure how you can say you’re Catholic and say it was an “invention to fill in the gaps.” The thematic material in Genesis deals with the true nature of humankind in relation to God. Not gaps.

November 8, 2005 @ 11:23 am | Comment

Hey, all ACB said is that we could have a “religion education class”. He’s got a good point.

I took philosophy in high school (secular school). Hard to study, philosophy, without getting into theology. If the US had philosophy classes, then maybe ID wouldn’t have to squeeze its square ass into the round hole of science.

November 8, 2005 @ 12:48 pm | Comment

Richard, I agree with you saying that “We should only teach both if both stand up to the tests of science”. That’s why I can understand that, not able to discuss in class fairytales like Noah’s Ark, fundamentalists try to give it a scientific gloss. How else are they expeted to convert the ignorant who now at least how certain ideas about the way the world is.

November 8, 2005 @ 2:50 pm | Comment

I really think there should be philosophy classes, because then you’d have a forum in school for the students themselves to debate ID, atheism, what constitutes science and if we’re really plugged into the Matrix. And they’d learn how to do it like civil people who know what the words “valid” and “fallacy” mean, as their parents never did.

November 8, 2005 @ 3:22 pm | Comment

Sad update:

Risking the kind of nationwide ridicule it faced six years ago, the Kansas Board of Education approved new public-school science standards Tuesday that cast doubt on the theory of evolution.

The 6-4 vote was a victory for “intelligent design” advocates who helped draft the standards. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.

Critics of the new language charged that it was an attempt to inject God and creationism into public schools in violation of the separation of church and state.

All six of those who voted for the new standards were Republicans. Two Republicans and two Democrats voted no.

“This is a sad day. We’re becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that,” said board member Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat.

November 8, 2005 @ 4:41 pm | Comment

ACB: Please read up on how the word “theory” is used in a scientific context. It’s a little different than how it is used in casual discourse.

Shulan: Similarly, a “theory” in science is not necessarily proved. However a generally accepted theory (such as evolution) is usually supported by a broad range of experimental or observational evidence and has withstood testing.

Anyone who does not believe in evolution should not be worried in the least about bird flu, by the way. Unless they think it’s being “intelligently designed” as we speak for some reason. In which case, you should be really worred, as one must assume that a divine plan cannot be overcome, no matter how much Tamiflu you hoard. (Mental note to self – check in on whackoes at “Repent America” to see if they are onto this yet.)

I think it’s perfectly fine to teach philosophy in schools, and to teach comparitive religion and similar classes. Religion is hugely important in history and culture, and there is no reason to pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s even OK to teach religion in an explicitly religious school.

However in a public school it’s one thing to teach philosophy or academic inquiry into religion — both of which require critical thought and analysis– and quite another to take hare-brained religious theories and teach them in the guise of science.

Look up the definition of science. Here’s a succinct one:

The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.

Note the experimental investigation part. That’s important. Whether by experimentation or analysis, a key aspect of scientific theories is that they are somehow testable (that’s different than proveable, mind you). Evolution fits. ID doesn’t. ID is *not* experimentally testable. It cannot, thus, be refuted. It, therefore, must be taken on faith. That makes it religion.

Note that whether something can be refuted is different than whether every individual chooses to attempt to do so; some people simply take science “on faith” as well, but the underpinings of the system are different, and that’s critical.

Teach ID if you must, but not in science classes. Teach it as faith.

It pains me –although it does not surprise me– that the US is as completely capable of idiotic religious fundamentalism as the fanatics we are so fond of railing against. I have many friends who have reconciled faith with science and modern enlightenment, so I know it can be done.

But it’s the lack of reconciliation that I see in these school-board stories that’s really worrying. Can’t people of faith find a way to involve god in evolution as its commonly understood to have worked? Evolution doesn’t deny god. Only a literal reading of the bible. Even the Vatican seems to be managing this reconciliation.

But is America’s faith so weak and vulnerable that we feel the need to institutionalize the undermining every idea that runs counter to a *literal* interpretation of the bible? That’s regressive, stone age thinking and does a discredit to our nation and culture.

I am not religious, but if my children choose to be, they will do so with my blessing (no pun intended). I will, however, never, ever send my childen to a school district that does such a thing. I don’t want them growing up with a shabby, provincial education that ill-equips them think critically or succeed in a world of people who’s faculties are not wired to intellectual millstones.

Civilization and enlightenment are not a relentless, one-way march forward. We would do well to remember that.

November 8, 2005 @ 7:11 pm | Comment

Anyone who does not believe in evolution should not be worried in the least about bird flu, by the way. Unless they think it’s being “intelligently designed” as we speak for some reason. In which case, you should be really worred, as one must assume that a divine plan cannot be overcome, no matter how much Tamiflu you hoard.

How can I thank you for that, Will? Absolutely brilliant. Your comment is certainly the high point of this thread.

November 8, 2005 @ 7:18 pm | Comment

It’s a theory that is being tested, and so far the testing doesn’t seem to refute it.

November 8, 2005 @ 8:12 pm | Comment

Richard, you show a distinct lack of understanding of evolutionary theory. Never mind.

As for saying “it’s about time”, the Vatican has been saying this for, oh, well over a century at least. Good to have it restated for the benefit of people messing with education, though.

November 8, 2005 @ 11:10 pm | Comment

JD, why the insult? You show a distinct lack of understanding of my post. The “It’s about time” is a clear reference to the preceding words: “Vatican denounces Christian fundamentalists who deny evolution.” It’s not about time they recognize evolution; it’s about time they speak out at the highest levels against intelligent design. Do you get that?

Please think before you comment, especially if you’re going to throw in insults. (And sorry if I’m in a cranky mood, but I am experiencing a low threshold for insults today, especially ones that are as careless and dumb as this.)

November 8, 2005 @ 11:16 pm | Comment

“Shulan: Similarly, a “theory” in science is not necessarily proved. However a generally accepted theory (such as evolution) is usually supported by a broad range of experimental or observational evidence and has withstood testing.”

Right. My bad.

November 9, 2005 @ 3:10 am | Comment

It gets even better: the Kansas School Board has a new release in which they change the definition of science!

November 9, 2005 @ 4:35 am | Comment


What I meant was that it was impossible for the “authors” to know that it happened in 6 days. I have no idea why they did it, but it was not because of knowledge.

All my family are Catholics and they would almost all snigger if you suggested that Darwin was wrong or the universe was created in 6 days. I am not saying that God did not create everything, obviously, but it is compatible with Darwinism as Poupard rightly said.

November 9, 2005 @ 8:00 am | Comment

I hate to offend any body here, but a Pope declaring that some religious folks are harboring some silly beliefs is like Uri Geller warning about the proliferation of phoney psychics.

November 9, 2005 @ 9:15 am | Comment

Sorry, Richard. Long day, but that was no excuse. I was in a snippy mood, and I apologise.

November 11, 2005 @ 1:59 am | Comment

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