September 28th, 2007

Brother Sun Sister Moon

Theological Notebook: Avery Dulles' Article on "God and Evolution"

Avery Dulles published this useful article, "God and Evolution" in the October 2007 issue of First Things. I'm calling it "useful" because it seems, from my first reading of it, to very ably summarize the last two years' discussion on the intersection of the disciplines of evolutionary biology, philosophy, and theology. First Things was distinctive in carefully arguing the philosophical issues involved from the question of "Intelligent Design," as it was raised in this period, in particular from the time of Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna's New York Times Op-Ed. Since a number of Protestant Fundamentalists took that term and simply recast their Creationism in that new language (as I understand the sequence of events: and those we might term Secular Fundamentalists were all too happy to affirm that misuse, and thus further polarize any discussion), the ideas involved have been obscured by the shrill voices thus raised. Dulles here tries to settle the dust and to clarify what has been achieved so far in the discussion, and to prepare the readers for further examination of the problem.

I think there are very important points about the border between science and philosophy that the "Intelligent Design" thinkers have raised, and that have been largely lost in the haste to shout down any Creationism passing itself off as science. I want to run this past my friend Tom Near who is an evolutionary biologist at Yale and get his reaction as to whether this article clarifies matters. As I said, First Things has really stood out over these last few years in carefully addressing the philosophical issues involved, and in not being swept away by the banal ideologies of either extreme: whether the Creationists passing off their poor theology as science, or of the dogmatic atheists/materialists disguising their amateur philosophy in the cloak of science.

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