Monday, April 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Easter, Intelligent Design and the Pope

The Discovery Institute responds to last week's column. They say the Pope doesn't endorse Darwinian evolution.

Easter, Intelligent Design and the Pope

I’ve been busy this weekend and just barely skimmed this missive from the ID think tank known as the Discovery Institute. Apparently they don’t like Penn paleontologist Peter Dodson or Philadelphia’s Institute for Religion and Science. That the folks at DI don’t like me goes without saying. They take me to task for saying the Pope is okay with evolution, more or less.

"Now Ms. Flam is back with an admiring profile of University of Pennsylvania paleontologist Peter Dodson and his Institute for Religion and Science, or IRS. Nothing wholesome has those initials. We would have called it the Institute for Science and Religion instead.

Professor Dodson takes a couple of shots at intelligent design. Reports Ms. Flam, "On intelligent design theory, he says that an honest appraisal of nature shows both elegance and awkward contrivance." That's a shot? Setting biology to one side, elegance and contrivance are hallmarks of design by human beings. Where's the contradiction in finding the same in natural designs?

Meanwhile, It turns out that Dodson is a Catholic which prompts an observation from Flam comparing him to Pope Benedict who "himself has stated that he accepts Darwinian evolution as the explanation for the physical bodies of plants, animals and humans." When it comes to evolution, the current Pope and his predecessor must be the most often distorted and misrepresented figures in recent history. Let's help out Ms. Flam, as we've patiently done in the past.

Benedict has never affirmed "Darwinian evolution" anywhere. In fact, he has explicitly repudiated it. He has made affirmative statements about "evolution," which he always defines teleologically (and so, for the unsophisticated, perhaps confusingly).

It’ a little more complicated than that. The Pope accepts evolution of non-humans and the human body but has some issues with the mind/soul. I think the Discovery people are raising a semantic issue since the Pope used the term evolution without specifying whether it was "Darwinian" or not.

I wrote a more thorough story about the current Pope’s take on evolution after last year’s Easter homily. Since my blog was brand new then, not many people read it. There are a number of Catholic and non-Catholic biologists interviewed. You can read it here.

The picture has nothing to do with any of this except that it’s Easter-related. It’s an entry in a peep diorama contest and depicts Atlas, one of two massive detectors built to find the Higgs Boson with the LHC. Happy Easter!

About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at fflam@phillynews.com. Reach Planet of the at fflam@phillynews.com.

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