Thursday, February 12, 2009

Conference on Biological Evolution

This is a couple of days old, but from VIS:
In the Holy See Press Office this morning, the presentation took place of an international conference entitled: "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories. A critical appraisal 150 years after 'The Origin of Species'". The event is due to take place in Rome from 3 to 7 March.
A more detailed description of the event:
Archbishop Ravasi pointed out that the forthcoming congress responds to the need "to re-establish dialogue between science and faith, because neither of them can fully resolve the mystery of human beings and the universe".

For his part Fr. Leclerc explained that the congress will be divided into nine sessions, focusing on "the essential facts upon which the theory of evolution rests, facts associated with palaeontology and molecular biology; ... the scientific study of the mechanisms of evolution, ... and what science has to say about the origin of human beings". Attention will also be given to "the great anthropological questions concerning evolution, ... and the rational implications of the theory for the epistemological and metaphysical fields and for the philosophy of nature". Finally, he said, "there will be two theological sessions to study evolution from the point of view of Christian faith, on the basis of a correct exegesis of the biblical texts that mention the creation, and of the reception of the theory of evolution by the Church".

Saverio Forastiero observed that "the relative fluidity of contemporary evolutionary theory is largely due to a series of discoveries made in the last quarter of a century, discoveries which require the synthetic theory to be reconfigured and could lead to a theory of evolution of the third generation".

"It is my view", he went on, "that this congress represents an opportunity, neither propagandistic nor apologetic, for scientists, philosophers and theologians to meet and discuss the fundamental questions raised by biological evolution - which is assumed and discussed as a fact beyond all reasonable doubt - in order to examine its manifestations and causal mechanisms, and to analyse the impact and quality of the explanatory theories thus far proposed".
How awesome!! The contemporary debate illustrates quite well the tension as well as the synergy of faith and reason in the public sphere. Atheism, which would deny faith, would have us misapply important, scientific theories in a way that would attempt to exclude God (an unscientific claim). Meanwhile, a dangerous fundamentalism, which would deny the applicability of reason, would seek to jerk it in the other direction in a way that would attempt to reject the plausibility of simple, scientific observations and theories about what they indicate. Both positions are extremely dangerous. The Catholic christian would instead look at the evidence and what it tells us (and, what it doesn't tell us) and still ask: What is this based on? How can what we know and don't know about biological evolution be subject to what we understand about God, the Creator of the universe? For the Christian, the foundation is still the same.

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