Thursday, April 20, 2006

Fr. Wild on Evolution, Intelligent Design

Via GOP3.COM, a discussion of the current number of Marquette Magazine. Among other pieces is an article by President Robert Wild on the current evolution/intelligent design debate.

We are not sure how this has any direct relevance to Marquette, since professors in the science departments do what scientists do: produce models that are entirely naturalistic and never make recourse to any possibility of an Intelligence that might intervene in the natural world.

If this latter possibility is ever addressed, it is in Philosophy and Theology classes.

At any rate, here is Wild’s view, for what it’s worth:
Marquette’s mission statement reads, “As a Catholic university, we are committed to the unfettered pursuit of truth under the mutually illuminating powers of human intelligence and Christian faith.” We believe that science and faith do not simply coexist under some sort of separate but equal détente, but that both are, if pursued with methodological integrity, independent and yet complimentary sources of truth.

True enough, not all Christians view human reason so positively. And, true as well, there are those who view science alone as a source of truth, dismissing revelation as something that can never be demonstrated in scientific terms. They therefore conclude that discussions about God and God’s activity in the world only impede the search for truth and so do not belong on a university campus. This means that a major aspect of human experience, religious faith in all its forms, is ruled out of bounds on many campuses. As I see it, however, institutions, such as Marquette, that encourage the study of religious faith and revelation are in that respect more open to understanding the human condition in all its varied dimensions.

So where exactly does this place Marquette along the Darwinism/Creationism spectrum? While a university community ought to be open to debate on this as well as anything else, here at Marquette most professors who would concern themselves professionally with this topic might say something like this.

First, while evolution may technically remain a scientific hypothesis, it has proven extraordinarily productive in terms of explaining a great many facts in our natural world and is very strongly supported by a vast array of fossil evidence. Consequently, it must be taken very seriously.

Secondly, the account of creation in the first two chapters of Genesis is not a literal history or scientific statement nor was it ever intended as such. . . . Because this biblical text is a theological narrative and not a scientific account, it does not contradict evolution or any other scientific theory. On the other hand, if science attempts to explain the ultimate origins of the universe by random causality alone, it really is overstepping its methodological bounds. For just as the Bible does not purport to be a scientific text, so natural science can only speak about the natural world and natural causality and therefore must, if remaining true to its own methodology, leave open the question of ultimate causality. That is, scientific methodology can neither affirm nor deny the existence of God since by definition it only deals with material causes, and in religious understanding God is always deemed to be immaterial.
Our view is that every sensible person should believe in Intelligent Design at some level. When we see a clock, we have to think of a clockmaker. When we look at the universe, we see a Creator.

On the other hand, there is no reason to invoke Divine Intervention to explain every change in the earth, or in the species that inhabit the earth. God can simply let his clock run according to its own rules when He wants to.

But we must reject the dogmatic hostility of the scientists to the notion that God might in fact intervene to guide the process of evolution. Scientists assume that can’t happen. They can’t prove it doesn’t, and they don’t know that it doesn’t. They are just professionally hostile to the idea.

Wild doesn’t deal at all with the issue of teaching intelligent design in secondary schools. We see nothing wrong with doing so. Indeed, we are appalled at the intolerance of those crusaders fighting to prevent any challenge to the evolutionary orthodoxy being presented to students.

Remember, the issue is never whether evolution will be taught. The issue is only whether intelligent design will be taught too.

Interestingly, those who crusade against intelligent design never seem to mind if some high school history teacher favorably presents disreputable conspiracy theories about (say) Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination. They never seem to mind if Marxism is among the viewpoints taught in social studies classes.

So it seems they are not against bad history or bad social science being taught. In some cases, they are merely motivated by hostility to religion. But in others, they have bought into the notion that science is some sort of sacred enterprise, the basic tenets of which are not allowed to be challenged.

Does Fr. Wild’s expressed opinion actually matter? No, not really. The professors at Marquette do and will continue to do what their disciplines dictate.

Still, it’s nice to see a sensible and balanced statement from Marquette’s President.

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