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Vatican Astronomer Replaced

Pope Benedict XVI has replaced an evangelizing Darwinist, Dr. George Coyne, as director the Vatican Observatory, according to Zenit News. A Jesuit with a doctorate in astronomy, Dr. Coyne in recent years made himself the public scourge of Darwin critics and scientific proponents of intelligent design. Increasingly his theology resembled that of “process theologians” who believe that God is still learning and could not have known what his world was becoming.

While media tended to avoid the pro-design statements of the pope over the past year (see “Is the Pope Catholic?“), they frequently sited the hostile remarks of Dr. Coyne, sitting at his office at the University of Arizona, as supposedly representing those of “the Vatican.” That could not have been well-received at the Vatican in Rome. Rumors that Coyne might be replaced have circulated for months.

In the past year since he criticized the pro-design essay of Austrian Cardinal Schoenborn in the NY Times, Dr. Coyne has been feted at a number of unlikely gatherings where his job was to express Church support for Darwinism. At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Coyne pronounced in favor of a “fertile universe” where “chance and destiny embrace.” The notes handed out for a talk given by Coyne by that title state:

If we take the results of modern science seriously, it is difficult to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient in the sense of the scholastic philosophers. Science tells us of a god who must be very different from God as seen by the medieval philosophers and theologians. Let us ask the hard question. Could, for instance, God after a billion years in a fourteen billion year old universe have predicted that human life would come to be? Let us suppose that God possessed the theory of everything, knew all the laws of physics, all the fundamental forces. Even then could God know with certainty that human life would come to be? If we truly accept the scientific view that, in addition to necessary processes and the immense opportunities offered by the universe, there are also chance processes, then it would appear that not even God could know the outcome with certainty. God cannot know what is not knowable.
(The Dance of the Fertile Universe by George V. Coyne, S.J.)

However, what even Fr. Coyne himself apparently could not know is that the Catholic Church, while endlessly tolerant of theological deviations these days, can’t really have someone whose views contradict those of the Church representing himself around the world as “the Vatican.”

The new director of the Vatican Observatory is Dr. Jose Gabriel Funes, also an astronomer and a Jesuit–an Argentine rather than an Arizonan like Fr. Coyne.

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.