Darwinist Op-Ed in NYT Peddles Theology and Misrepresents the Pope

Jonathan Witt

To the Editor:
Jim Holt’s piece “Unintelligent Design” is filled with the usual Darwinist canards about how various designs found in living things are suboptimal according to the writer’s undefined and untested opinions on optimality. That’s all standard fare–chock full of unexamined theological presuppositions (of the “God wouldn’t have done it that way” variety) and not worth a response.
Holt also trots out the usual nonsense about Pope John Paul II somehow accepting Darwinian evolution. The Pope’s 1996 message on evolution simply states that evolution (in the sense of common descent, not the materialist Darwinian mechanism) is “more than an hypothesis,” which is certainly a true statement about modern biology. Yet in the same message the Pope explicitly questioned the Darwinian/materialist explanation of human evolution, calling it “incompatible with the truth about man.”
But Holt does add one brand new and exciting element to the debate: a fabricated quotation from the Pope! No where in the writings of John Paul II has he ever said that evolution (that wonderfully ambiguous word) has been “proven true.” Indeed, the Pope has explicitly rejected the purposeless Darwinian mechanism that Mr. Holt seeks to defend:

The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality [i.e., final cause or design] which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator.
To all these “indications” of the existence of God the Creator some oppose the power of chance or of proper mechanisms of matter [i.e., Darwinism]. To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements, and such marvelous finality [design or purpose] in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us. In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without cause. It would be an abdication of human intelligence which would thus refuse to think, to seek a solution for its problems. (General Audience, July 10, 1985.)

Perhaps Mr. Holt’s arguments will be more fit to survive if he refrains from making up quotations. In any case, he owes his readers and the Pope an apology.
Mark Ryland
Discovery Institute

Jonathan Witt

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Jonathan Witt, PhD, is a senior fellow and senior project manager with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. His latest book is Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey from Darwin to Design (DI Press, 2018) written with Finnish bioengineer Matti Leisola. Witt has also authored co-authored Intelligent Design Uncensored, A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature, and The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot. Witt is the lead writer and associate producer for Poverty, Inc., winner of the $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award and recipient of over 50 international film festival honors.