Intelligent design not science, says Vatican newspaper articleBy John Thavis
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Intelligent design is not science and should not be taught as a scientific theory in schools alongside Darwinian evolution, an article in the Vatican newspaper said.
The article said that in pushing intelligent design some groups were improperly seeking miraculous explanations in a way that creates confusion between religious and scientific fields.
At the same time, scientists should recognize that evolutionary theory does not exclude an overall purpose in creation -- a "superior design" that may be realized through secondary causes like natural selection, it said.
The article, published in the Jan. 17 edition of L'Osservatore Romano, was written by Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna in Italy.
The article noted that the debate over intelligent design -- the idea that certain features of life and the universe are best explained by an intelligent designer rather than adaptive evolution -- has spread from the United States to Europe.
The problem with intelligent design is that it turns to a "superior cause" -- understood though not necessarily named as God -- to explain supposed shortcomings of evolutionary science. But that's not how science should work, the article said.
"If the model proposed by Darwin is held to be inadequate, one should look for another model. But it is not correct methodology to stray from the field of science pretending to do science," it said.
The article said a Pennsylvania judge had acted properly when he ruled in December that intelligent design could not be taught as science in schools.
"Intelligent design does not belong to science and there is no justification for the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside the Darwinian explanation," it said.
From the church's point of view, Catholic teaching says God created all things from nothing, but doesn't say how, the article said. That leaves open the possibilities of evolutionary mechanisms like random mutation and natural selection.
"God's project of creation can be carried out through secondary causes in the natural course of events, without having to think of miraculous interventions that point in this or that direction," it said.
What the church does insist upon is that the emergence of the human supposes a willful act of God, and that man cannot be seen as only the product of evolutionary processes, it said. The spiritual element of man is not something that could have developed from natural selection but required an "ontological leap," it said.
The article said that, unfortunately, what has helped fuel the intelligent design debate is a tendency among some Darwinian scientists to view evolution in absolute and ideological terms, as if everything -- including first causes -- can be attributed to chance.
"Science as such, with its methods, can neither demonstrate nor exclude that a superior design has been carried out," it said.
From a religious viewpoint, it said, there is no doubt that the human story "has a sense and a direction that is marked by a superior design."