Well, I feel a lot better now. Pope Benedict XVI has been brimming with information and assurances lately. According to the AP he has come out firmly deploring “. . . hunger, disease, war and violence.” He’s also against poverty and in favor of freedom. I’m glad the press is keeping us up on the latest here.
But then there was this. The Bishop of Rome, in a rather unusual address, assured his world-wide flock that, “Humanity isn’t a random product of evolution.” When I saw this headline I experienced a brief
frisson of interest, thinking that there was going to be some new aspect of philosophical discussion on this long-standing and seminal argument, but alas, it was empty of reasoning. He said,
“If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature,” he said. “But no, reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason.”
Having apparently learned something (eventually) from the unfortunate Galileo episode, the Church does dabble in science these days, but alas, this assurance is not based on some new information from the Vatican’s astronomy enterprise, nor from any new thinking by church intellectuals, but simply on who said it. The pope said it, so it must be so. The AP account does not mention if the statement was issued “ex cathedra”, so one really can’t tell whether it has the full force of divine revelation. But there was this statement about the Church’s formal position on evolution as expressed previously:
Church teaching holds that Roman Catholicism and evolutionary theory are not necessarily at odds: A Christian can, for example, accept the theory of evolution to help explain developments, but is taught to believe that God, not random chance, is the origin of the world. The Vatican, however, warns against creationism, or the overly literal interpretation of the Biblical account of creation.
I find it interesting that the Church has managed to have it both ways. Allow me to restate the Pope’s position in my own words, if you will:
“Evolution might, just might, be real (if you want to believe that), but if it is real, then it was simply God’s tool for the process that resulted in . . . us. You can take it from me, because I’m never wrong when I’m sure I’m right.”
Now, pesky adversarial skeptic that I am, I just can’t help wondering at this. If God used evolution to make us, that means that there were human beings running around down
here on this blue marble, chasing mammoths, running from wild animals, surviving ice ages and weather extremes, for some 200,000 years, all before any revelation of divine guidance or intent. As a process for making a species of loved creatures, doesn’t that seem kind of messy and, well, negligent?
I would apologize to those of the faithful who may have read this far, but I won’t because I assume they haven’t. After all, that’s what faith means – belief without reason. So why bother?