2008: Issue 1

Evolution and Intelligent Design

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Introduction to Evolution and Intelligent Design
Gerald McKenny
Few issues concerning science in the public arena are capable of arousing the passions that characterize recent debates about intelligent design and evolution in the United States. In Kansas, California, and Pennsylvania, in laboratories, churches, statehouses, classrooms, and courtrooms, the argument rages over whether intelligent design is a legitimate scientific alternative to evolution and whether intelligent design should be taught in the science classroom. At stake are important questions about the nature of science, its relationship to religion, the place of religion in American public life, and the control of public education. With so much at stake, it is hardly surprising that passion more often than not triumphs over reason. 

Catholic Faith and Evolution: Has Anything Changed?
Matthew Ashley
A new round of controversy over the Catholic Church’s position on the science of evolution was unleashed by an op-ed column published in the New York Times in July, 2005, authored by Cristoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna. The editors titled an article published two days later, “Leading Cardinal Redefines Church’s View on Evolution.” As misleading as this title is, it did capture the impression that many of the responses to the letter, both pro and con, took from it. Unfortunately, Cardinal Schönborn’s statement has further muddied already silty waters, particularly in the context of on-going debates over Intelligent Design Theory. Ought Catholic scientists to be concerned that certain scientific conclusions are going to be “trumped” by the Church’s teachings? Should teachers of science in Catholic schools feel obligated to give greater credence to the attacks on evolution than the scientific facts of the case warrant, because evolution has been found to contradict Catholic faith? The answer to both of these questions is still the same as it has been: no. 

Creation, Evolution, and the Catholic Tradition
William E. Carroll
It is certainly unusual for a cardinal archbishop of Vienna to publish an essay on the opinion pages of The New York Times. Yet in July 2005 this is exactly what Cardinal Christoph Schönborn did: his essay was "Finding Design in Nature," and the newspaper added as a kind of subtitle, "the official Catholic stance on evolution." The publication of the essay became a news story itself and reporters were quick to suggest that a leading cardinal had "redefined the Church's view on evolution." The Cardinal indicated that for years he had been troubled by the way in which many writers (including Catholic theologians) had "misrepresented" the Church's position as endorsing the idea of evolution as a random process, which if true, apparently excluded any role for God in nature. What was particularly troubling, he thought, was the misuse of Pope John Paul II's remark in 1996 that evolution "was more than a hypothesis," which has led many erroneously to think that there are no problems for Catholic teaching were one to accept the claims of evolutionary biology. 

Science Does Not Need God. Or Does It?
George V. Coyne
I would essentially like to share with you two convictions in this presentation: (1) that the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, while evoking a God of power and might, a designer God, actually belittles God, makes her/him too small and paltry; (2) that our scientific understanding of the universe, untainted by religious considerations, provides for those who believe in God a marvelous opportunity to reflect upon their beliefs. Please note carefully that I distinguish, and will continue to do so in this presentation, that science and religion are totally separate human pursuits. Science is completely neutral with respect to theistic or atheistic implications which may be drawn from scientific results. 

Intelligent Design and Evolution: Some Clarifications
Phillip R. Sloan
The issues surrounding the debate over “intelligent design” (ID) theory are complex and have many ramifications. In part these are debates about the validity of certain aspects of Darwin’s theory of evolution as it is currently manifest in “consensus” evolutionary theory—the theory found in most textbooks, college curricula, and the scientific journals dealing with evolutionary biology. This debate is complicated by the popular debates that surround evolutionary theory in the United States. These public debates are imbedded in the constitutional and religious history of the US, and they illustrate a larger crisis over values. Other scientific theories could be involved in these social and cultural controversies, but for historic reasons Darwinian evolution has become the central point of debate in the United States. In India, for example, there is little controversy over evolution, but there is a conflict at present over the teaching of western scientific astronomy in the schools that is opposed by traditional Hindus who want Indian astrology taught as an alternative. This has generated public controversies within the educational system that bear surprising similarities to those generated by the evolution-creation debates in the United States. 

Intelligent Design: Any Wrinkles in this Old Idea?
Christopher Hamlin
Intelligent design is presented as an induction from the current state of scientific knowledge. Certain phenomena, mainly biological, are said to require a combination of contingent events so unlikely that an intelligent contriver (AKA God) is a far likelier explanation for them than an assemblage of natural events. To its advocates, ID is seen as a new master theory that will displace the regnant Darwinism, seen as the flagship of a naturalistic and atheistic world view. 

Where's the Intelligence in 'Intelligent Design'?
Don Howard 
Intelligent design is an idea with a history going back at least to the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when Deists, especially, were moved by the seeming clockwork precision of the universe as described by Newton to infer the existence of a clockmaker God with an intelligence equal to the cosmic task of creation and design. Just as old are critical philosophical commentaries on design arguments, the most famous from the eighteenth century being David Hume’s mocking attack in his posthumously-published Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (London, 1779). 

American Jews and Intelligent Design
Noah Efron
No American Jewish organization advocates teaching intelligent design in public schools. No Jewish religious body endorses it. Official representatives of all the major streams of Judaism – Reform, Conservative, Orthodox & Reconstructionist – have denounced it; only the Ultra-Orthodox, who in any case vigilantly oppose sending Jewish children to public school, have expressed sympathy for teaching intelligent design in the schools they refuse to attend. Jewish organization like the American Jewish Committee supply attorneys to prosecute school boards introducing intelligent design into their curriculum, and split the tab for the ensuing trials. Among their non-denominational partners -- the ACLU, People for the American Way, and others -- Jews are represented in the rank and file in numbers that vastly exceed what one might expect of a small minority. In a famously fractious community -- an old joke has two Jews stranded alone on a desert island; the sea captain who finally rescues them is perplexed to find they’ve built three synagogues – almost all American Jews agree that intelligent design has no place in the public school science curriculum. And polls consistently show that Jews hold this view far more commonly than members of any other religious or ethnic group in America.