Since Cardinal Schonborn's opinion piece on evolution and design appeared in the NY Times, there's been much discussion in the Catholic blogsphere about creationism, intelligent design, and evolution. One reader here asked if I would post the book review of Creation Rediscovered that I wrote for New Oxford Review some years back. It turns out, it's on their newly revised website.
Here is my review of Creation Rediscovered.
In the interests of fairness, here's the reaction it generated in the letters column (including one letter from the author -- scroll down a bit to find the letters).
I also wrote a review for them of Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology by William A. Dembski (half-way down the page), but it was neutered of most of my more severe criticisms of ID.
Growing up in a very science oriented family (my father is a planetarium director) which was also devoutly Catholic, the fear of evolution has always struck me as odd and misguided.
If you're interested on reading more about evolution and the "conflict" between science and religion I'd recommend Rocks of Ages by Stephen Jay Gould (an agnostic, but trying to be fair in establishing boundaries between science and religion) and Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth Miller (a Catholic, explaining how he reconciles his religion with his work as an evolutionary biologist).
For the record, I think what Cardinal Schonborn was doing (and could perhaps have done a little more clearly) was emphasizing that regardless of evolution's success in describing the common ancestry of life on earth, evolution cannot speak to the metaphysical questions of what life is and why life is. The fact that the biological process is "unguided" does not mean that life is itself "unguided". All creation relies on the active will of God for its very existence. To assert that because we now know more about the way in which life physically developed on Earth in now way allows us to say that God is in some sense "un-needed". I think that what Schonborn was primarily reacting to in "neo-Darwinism and the multiverse theory of cosmology" is the assertion that while there may be a God lurking somewhere out in the wings, there is no need for him because life must have developed this way regardless of any movement of providence. To that extent, I think Schonborn is completely correct. However, it's unfortunate that all sides of the evolution debate (secularists, creationists, intelligent design proponents) seem to be using this as an opportunity to say "See, the Church rejects evolution". Secularists would like this in order to discredit the Church. Creationists and ID proponents would like it in order to discredit evolution. But I think what we're seeing is in fact a great deal of smoke and very little fire.
Fortnightly Book, February 7
1 hour ago