The Vatican and Intelligent Design

Under the banner  Pope prepares to embrace theory of intelligent design, the today’s edition of the Guardian reports that: 

Philosophers, scientists and other intellectuals close to Pope Benedict will gather at his summer palace outside Rome this week for intensive discussions that could herald a fundamental shift in the Vatican‘s view of evolution.

There have been growing signs the Pope is considering aligning his church more closely with the theory of “intelligent design” taught in some US states. Advocates of the theory argue that some features of the universe and nature are so complex that they must have been designed by a higher intelligence. Critics say it is a disguise for creationism.

Well, well, what next? Fully paid up membership of the flat earth society? 

A prominent anti-evolutionist and Roman Catholic scientist, Dominique Tassot, told the US National Catholic Reporter that this week’s meeting was “to give a broader extension to the debate. Even if [the Pope] knows where he wants to go, and I believe he does, it will take time. Most Catholic intellectuals today are convinced that evolution is obviously true because most scientists say so.”

Well, actually nobody, not even the much maligned intellectuals, believe in evolution just because scientists “say so”. Scientists have this annoying habit of offering very good reasons for saying what they say. They may even go so far to offer proofs.  Very occasionally, and usually very tentatively, a scientist may put forward a hypothesis about how evolution got started, but as as hypothesis, as I understand it, is merely a provisional idea which needs further evaluation, the scientist, if he cares for his reputation, will be very careful to state that this is all it is, a hypothesis. 

So when we say we believe in evolution, we are more than likely saying , on the one hand, that we are convinced by those parts which have been proved, and, on the other, that we subscribe to some hypothesis or set of hypotheses that we think will eventually prove true. The vast majority of us are not, irrespective of what Tassot would seem to be implying, bullied into belief by what scientists say. 

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