The Vatican has admitted that Charles Darwin was on the right track when he claimed that Man descended from apes.
A leading official declared yesterday that Darwin’s theory of evolution was compatible with Christian faith, and could even be traced to St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. “In fact, what we mean by evolution is the world as created by God,” said Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture. The Vatican also dealt the final blow to speculation that Pope Benedict XVI might be prepared to endorse the theory of Intelligent Design, whose advocates credit a “higher power” for the complexities of life.
Organisers of a papal-backed conference next month marking the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species said that at first it had even been proposed to ban Intelligent Design from the event, as “poor theology and poor science”. Intelligent Design would be discussed at the fringes of the conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University, but merely as a “cultural phenomenon”, rather than a scientific or theological issue, organisers said.
The Vatican would “take the measure of an event, which has left its mark for ever on the history of science and has influenced the way we understand our humanity”. The “time has come for a rigorous and objective valuation” of Darwin by the Church, he said.
Professor Leclerc said that too many opponents of Darwin – above all Creationists – had mistakenly claimed that his theories were “totally incompatible with a religious vision of reality”, as did proponents of Intelligent Design.
Darwin’s theories had never been formally condemned by the Roman Catholic Church, Monsignor Ravasi insisted. His rehabilitation had begun as long ago as 1950, when Pius XII described evolution as a valid scientific approach to the development of humans. In 1996 John Paul II said that it was “more than a hypothesis”.
“I maintain that the idea of evolution has a place in Christian theology,” Professor Tanzella-Nitti added.
Creationism remains powerful in the US, however, notably among Protestants, and its followers object to evolution being taught in state schools.
Fascinating development, but what's really going on here? The Vatican's stance is now in direct opposition to the fanatical creationists in the USA. But let us also not forget that the Catholic Church does nothing that it does not perceive to be in its own self interest. Unlike those American zealots, the Church has a history of condemning science only to later look very stupid. This is more than just loss of credibility but also, more importantly, loss of power and influence over human affairs.
The men in the Vatican may be deluded autocrats but they are not idiots when it comes to propaganda and faith. The battle over the heliocentric solar system and the Big Bang have left permanent scars, if not still open wounds for some. The botched announcement that a statue of Galileo was to be erected within the Vatican, only to then be retracted, shows that the Church is here attempting a kind of ceasefire rather than a cessation of hostilities. They can see what is on the horizon, as the neurosciences hone in on the biological system that creates absurd metaphysical beliefs. The Vatican just does not have the resources to completely stop or distort scientific research. So, with their backs against the wall the centuries-old tactic is to turn around and offer the slippery hand of friendship.
Lest anyone forget a crucial episode in recent Vatican history, this same tactic was used as Mussolini's neo-pagan fascists marched on Rome. What the Concordat of 1929 does not record, but countless other sources do, is that the real deal was that in exchange for saving the Vatican's life and creating its own state the Church would support the fascists in their rule over Italy. The Catholic Church ordered its priests not to stand against fascist politicians in elections, thereby ultimately laying the seeds of widespread support for the nascent communist ideology. At the time the Vatican did not have the resources to defend itself militarily but it still had a hugely influential network of human capital that was put at the disposal of the fascist arrivistes.
That same tactic will now be used in its more philosophical confrontation with science. Repetition is sometimes necessary, and so I say once again that the primary function of the Roman Catholic Church is to expand and control all of humanity. That is how it became what it is today and that is what keeps driving it. Sometimes assimilation is necessary rather than invasion - as we can see with their slightly bizarre attempts to bring the orthodox churches back under Vatican dominion - and this is what we are witnessing with respect to its relationship with science.
Also worth remembering that Joseph Ratzinger was head of the Inquisition for over 20 years before being elected Pope. During his reign the Catholic Church has undergone what, for it, has been a shaking of its foundations. The internal battle between modernists and traditionalists has, for the moment, been largely won by the modernists who have implemented many of the changes announced at the Vatican II Council. In the pursuit of research my enemy's enemy is often my friend. Traditional Catholics are incensed at many of these changes and this includes the attitude to science as part of a broader change of politic towards the outside world. All that scholastic navel gazing with its logical and lexical torture ended up forgetting what the Vatican's primary directive was: to convert and conquer.
"This step [Vatican modernisation] seems to me not only justified, but also necessary, because theology should serve faith and evangelization, and, for this reason, must face reality as it is today .... Therefore, it was a just and necessary step, although also a risky one .... But risk is part of a necessary adventure." said Ratzinger in 1994. Theology should serve faith and evangelization. If that means making friends with science then so be it; let this new adventure begin.
However, the new landscape becomes more treacherous and insidious to the scientist. The theological trick is always the same, has always been the same and will continue to be so in the future. The age-old trick is to state that there is a supernatural metaphysical reality beyond this natural one and that the Church has unique knowledge of this. The consequence of this - and as I said above, there must be a real consequence - is the primacy of the Vatican on matters of morals. Its moral superiority is gained through its supreme knowledge of metaphysical reality. This is the control mechanism. This is the way the Vatican will insinuate itself into every science that has a moral dimension. This is the way it will use the power of deluded faith to promote a Catholic science. Here is one very recent example of Christian propaganda masquerading as scientific truth.
This is precisely the scenario of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. This is why the Catholic press hated those books so much; they are the future. Pullman's books have a lot of history of science in them and his vision was of a world that took a different turning in the Middle Ages. Rather than science and religion coming to blows, the science was used by religion to give it the correct metaphysical interpretation. This is the battleground the Vatican loves to fight on. Arguing on metaphysical grounds is like arguing with ghosts, whilst at the same time the propaganda machine is churning out believers who will bend science by sheer numbers. If you don't believe this just look at what is happening in America. A recent poll shows 63% of Americans do not believe in evolution. 63%!! This level of mass stupidity is what we will get worldwide unless the arrow of reason penetrates deep into the heart of fideism and kills it dead.
Scientists should not be smug or complacent about this modern Catholic Church. It is the same old Church with just a new style of propaganda. As always, look at what they do, not what they say. Via