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Catholics, Evangelicals Defend Intelligent Design

Dr. George Coyne, the University of Arizona astronomer and Jesuit priest who is also head of the Vatican Observatory has been speaking to whatever Darwinist group will have him on the topic of why intelligent design “belittles God” and should be opposed by Catholics, who, indeed, should welcome Darwin’s theory in all its glory. Coyne has infinite Christian charity and patience for Darwinists who diss God, but none at all for his co-religionists who doubt Darwin.

A news article last week in the National Catholic Register that merely reported Coyne’s provocative views sparked a spate of letters this week (April 30-May 6 issue–not yet available online) rebuking Dr. Coyne for misrepresenting ID (among other things he called it “a fundamentalist movement”) and for attacking Cardinal Schoenborn of Austria. The cardinal, of course, has emphasized the Church’s longstanding commitment to the reality of design in nature and has pointed out the folly of full-blown Darwinism. At the end of the extensive letters column the editors make clear that they were not endorsing Coyne’s views. In fact, they state, “Our editorial position…is very close to that of the Discovery Institute.”

The same issue carries a droll and insightful column by editor Mark Shea–“Lack of Intelligence about Design”–that also takes the critics of ID to task. Shea suggests that Catholics read Romans 1:20 where St. Paul points to God’s eternal power that “has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” Shea asks why, then, signs of intelligent design that can be examined scientifically should pose any obstacle to Catholics. Like the Register’s letter writers, he observes that Darwinists can only succeed in discrediting ID if they can get away with misrepresenting it. “The longer I listen to the debate,” he writes, “the more I do detect a real note of fearful defensiveness–from the partisans on the ramparts of the citadel of evolutionary orthodoxy.”

Evangelicals also are weighing in on the theme of what makes a fair debate on evolution; to wit, John Wilson’s fine essay, “Science in Wonderland,” in the April issue of Christianity Today. Wilson, the editor of Books & Culture, broadly describes “250 millions years” of evolution controversy. Among other things, he examines the latest academic hypocrisy that would disallow ID but professes excitement about string theory as a response to the charges against materialist explanations of cosmology and life’s origins. String theory, multi-verses, parallel universes; it’s all very stimulating conjecture, but it doesn’t generate any evidence.

“The contempt that many scientists have expressed for Intelligent Design knows no bounds, but it can be summarized in a single dismissive sentence: ‘It’s not science.’ Now string theory–that’s another matter,” Wilson quips. “String theory generates articles and grants and symposia.”

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.