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Did Pope Benedict Really Dismiss Evolution as ‘Science Fiction’?

Pope Benedict XVI

In a recent letter to Piergiorgio Odifreddi, Italian atheist and mathematician, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI used the term "science fiction." Odifreddi is the author of the 2011 book Dear Pope, I'm Writing to You, a critique of Benedict's theological writings. Benedict's letter is a response to that book, extracts of which were recently published in the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.

In Odifreddi's book he referred repeatedly to theology as "science fiction." Benedict pointed out that "science fiction" instead exists in science (English translation here):
 

"Science fiction exists, on the other hand, in the ambit of many sciences. That which you explain about theories concerning the beginning and the end of the world in Heisenberg, Schrödinger, etc., I would designate as science fiction in the good sense of that phrase: they are visions and anticipations, in order to reach a true knowledge, but they are also, precisely, only imaginations with which we seek to come close to reality. There indeed exists, science fiction in a grand style, for instance, within the theory of evolution. The “selfish gene” of Richard Dawkins is a classic example of science fiction."

 
The Pope Emeritus is using a very precise and technical definition of the term "science fiction," and using it in a positive way. The word "fiction" refers to something imaginatively invented, and such imagination is sometimes useful in science.

That sounds rather shocking, but it is easily explained. There is an oft-missed distinction between what is imaginable and what is conceivable, and it has to do with the difference in the senses and the intellect.

Imagination is based on sensory experience. We can only imagine what we might see, smell, taste, touch, or hear. We can make mental pictures of material things, which is why we can imagine a purple dragon spitting glitter even if we've never been assaulted by one.

Conceptual reasoning beyond the material realm is done with our intellect. Mathematicians rely on the intellect; Christians use it to understand certain dogmas, such as that of the Holy Trinity. This is the very basis of the human act of understanding (to stand under) anything.

The reality of any abstract or spiritual statement must be examined by the intellect, not the imagination. If an abstract statement is rejected, it is rejected on the basis of a contradiction in terms. This is why we say that infinitely parallel lines or three Persons in One God are conceivable, and square circles and omnipotent gods limited by time and space are inconceivable. This is also why it is incorrect to say that theology is "science fiction" since theology is the work of the intellect and not the imagination.

Science, however, deals with material reality. The picture-making power of the mind can distract the intellect (just ask a college student cramming for finals), but it can also be helpful, such as Pope Benedict indicated in the phrase "science fiction."

Exact science is limited to the quantitative measurement of material objects in motion, but as we all know, science has led beyond realms visible to the human senses. Atoms in a beaker cannot be counted with the eye any more than the distance between stars can be measured with a ruler. Time-resolved femtosecond luminescence data are not collected by direct observation. Evolution over millions of years is not witnessed by anyone. Those things are beyond the human senses, but are still questions of material reality.

Sometimes an imaginatively invented—i.e. fictitious—model is helpful to grasp deeper understanding of material things unseen. The British physicist A. Brian Pippard recognized this model-building necessity in a lecture given to a general audience at Cambridge.
 

"I think history shows that the imagination needs these props. Few can build without scaffolding; in Maxwell’s equations and Einstein’s relativity what we see is the final result of a long process, after the scaffolding has been removed. Even Einstein in his quantum theory developments was unashamedly guided by private models of an as—yet—unobserved atomism." ("The Invincible Ignorance of Science," Contemporary Physics, 1988)

 
The physical sciences are full of "science fiction" models that aid in the explanation of data. Atoms do not really look like mini-solar systems and molecules are not made of tiny sticks and balls. Space was once imagined to be a sea of aether whirlpools linked by idle wheels, a rejected model that served a purpose in its time, a "vision and anticipation, in order to reach a true knowledge."

So did Pope Benedict really dismiss evolution as science fiction? No, he called it science fiction in the sense that it is a mental model, which is not a dismissal, but an acknowledgement. Pope Benedict and the Church have been consistently positive toward evolutionary theory as an explanatory model. That offspring differ slightly from the parents and therefore respond to the environment in slightly different ways, is obvious. Natural selection, genetic mutation, and population changes are quantifiable scientific observances. Evolutionary theory is a valid explanatory model insofar as it seeks to explain what is within the boundaries of science, something the Church absolutely insists upon.

Science cannot measure spiritual or immaterial substances; therefore, science can say nothing of the existence of the soul, angels, or God. Those are strictly matters for the intellect. Any scientific theory that violates those boundaries is bad science, "science fiction" in the truly negative and absurd sense of the term.

Pope Benedict is well aware of these distinctions and limitations. Arguably the greatest theologian of our times, Pope Benedict has also never shied from praising what is praiseworthy in the opinions of others, even if, with characteristic graciousness, he shreds the erroneous philosophical view overall.

This is why Pope Benedict was not dismissing the work of Richard Dawkins either. In fact, in calling the theory of evolution an example of "science fiction in a grand style" he may have been offering some praise. In citing Dawkins' work on the "selfish gene" as a "classic example of science fiction" he seems to be complimenting an aspect of Dawkins' life work. That model may explain something about evolutionary stability within populations.

It may also explain something of cultural evolution among humans, as "memes" do. The Church teaches that humans have the spiritual powers of intellect and free will, so it follows that human cultures would evolve throughout history. While that is not an exact science nor is it an idea that could ever disprove the existence of the soul or of God, as those with poorly controlled imaginations may claim, it is nonetheless a valid topic for reasoned discourse.

Taking all of this together with an ecumenical frame of mind, it is certainly worth a smile to realize what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has actually done by calling evolution and Dawkins' work science fiction. Maybe even a chuckle.

Stacy Trasancos

Written by

Stacy Trasancos, Ph.D. is a mother of seven, chemist turned homemaker, joyful convert to Catholicism, and author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. She has a Ph.D. in Chemistry and a M.A. in Dogmatic Theology, and is Editor-in-Chief of Catholic Stand and Ignitum Today. Follow Stacy's blog at StacyTrasancos.com.

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  • Kevin Aldrich

    To piggyback on what Stacy says, we could say that non-fiction is the exposition, explanation, and justification of ideas. Fiction is the incarnation of ideas withing a narrative.

    I think the Gospels show Jesus Christ to be one of the greatest teachers of all time in the way that he communicated through parables, stories which embody ideas.

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    Thank you, Stacey, for an excellent article. I feel I should find something to disagree with in order to drive discussion forward. But I cannot.

    Ludwig Boltzmann, a philosopher-physicist and staunch atomist, in one of his philosophy lectures, talked about atomic theory, and said that atoms, even if they don't exist in reality, provide a very useful component in the scientific world-picture. I think that in a passage from that lecture, he refers to the atomic theory as a sort of "science fable" or "science fiction", and argued only that it was more useful than the energist's own "science fable" of waves. I wonder if the term Boltzmann used is the term Ratzinger would have used, had the letter been in German.

    • David Nickol

      I feel I should find something to disagree with in order to drive discussion forward. But I cannot.

      Keep trying! :-)

    • Peter Piper

      Indeed. The only claim I would quibble over is the claim that the work of scientists is limited to the imagination, and `We can only imagine what we might see, smell, taste, touch, or hear'. Most modern science is pretty abstract and also relies on the intellect.

      • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

        Fair point! I'll clarify. You're right, science can't be limited to imagination, there is a need for abstract reasoning too, but it should be grounded in material reality.

        • Peter Piper

          Thanks for this clarification, and for the great article.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "Thank you, Stacey [sic], for an excellent article. I feel I should find something to disagree with in order to drive discussion forward. But I cannot."

      Thanks, for your honesty, Paul! :)

      However, disagreement isn't required to move a discussion forward. We can further refine things that neither of us understand, or move deeper into the things we do.

      We don't always have to hunt for conflict.

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

        I'm very tempted to argue with you on this point (for the same reasons), but I cannot, because I agree with you.

        My desire to fight about things comes largely from my academic training, which especially in the U.S. really pushes finding points of disagreement in order to move discussions forward. Every coffee discussion about new journal papers was about how the papers were wrong, and many involved very heated arguments. Honestly, I enjoy that environment. But I need to remember that it's not the only way to have a conversation!

        • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

          That is an insight I've come to share. Thank you Paul.

          • WhiteRock

            This was a thoroughly delightful exchange.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          "I'm very tempted to argue with you on this point (for the same reasons), but I cannot, because I agree with you."

          :)

          "My desire to fight about things comes largely from my academic training, which especially in the U.S. really pushes finding points of disagreement in order to move discussions forward. Every coffee discussion about new journal papers was about how the papers were wrong, and many involved very heated arguments. Honestly, I enjoy that environment. But I need to remember that it's not the only way to have a conversation!"

          I totally understand. I think that dynamic plagues not only the academic world, but also the Internet--especially the Internet. Thus when discussing important, high-level issues online we can become doubly tempted toward criticism as our exclusive mode of dialogue.

          Remind me again, what was/is your academic field?

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Astrophysics.

          • El_Tigre_Loco

            The trick in these types of discussions is to avoid ad hominem attacks.

  • David Nickol

    I think I see the point, and while I don't exactly take offense, it does not seem to me that a "mental model" is a fiction. The word has too many associations with fabrication or untruth.

    The planetary model of the atom is not a fiction, but a very rough approximation or an analogy. Chemistry and atomic physics do not use the planetary model of the atom. For the most part, they use mathematics. Good fiction exists forever and is not cast aside when better, more "realistic" fiction comes along. Old models in science are discarded and forgotten, or remembered only in historical accounts, when they outlive their usefulness. For example, J. J. Thompson (discoverer of the electron) proposed the "raisin pudding" model of the atom, with electrons distributed throughout the atom like raisins distributed throughout a pudding. The planetary model still has some usefulness, and is still used in very low-level explanations of the atom, but the "raisin pudding" model is only of historical interest, since it no longer has sufficient explanatory power to be of use.

    Some believe that true reality can never be described, and the best science can do is come up with ever more useful models. Even if that is so, it does not seem to me the models should be equated with fiction. They must conform to something in a way fiction is never required to.

    The claim of theology being a matter of intellect rather than imagination will obviously seem bizarre to atheists! Stephen J. Gould, making some remarks on exobiology (according to Merriam-Webster's unabridged dictionary, "a branch of biology concerned with the search for life outside the earth and its atmosphere and with the effects of extraterrestrial environments on living organisms"), referred to it as "that other great subject without a subject matter." But even if God exists, and even if the Triune God exists, it is difficult for me to think there is no place for imagination in theology. It seems to me the theology of the Trinity is no less a work of imagination than the planetary model of the atom. "God the Father" and "God the Son" are metaphors that hint at the relationship of those two persons of the Trinity but do not describe their actual relationship. I suppose one could try to argue that God created the world and in it created the father-son relationship to in some way reflect the relationship between the first and second persons of the Trinity. But it seems much more likely to me that we think of God as Father and Son (and Holy Spirit) because as human beings the relationship of father and son has great significance (and especially so in biblical times), and not that God the Father and the Son were "prototypes" on which human fathers and sons were based. (Where, by the way, does that leave women?) It is at least possible that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe that does not have father-son relationships, and if so, if there truly is a Triune God, intelligent life without father-son relationships would need other metaphors to understand the Trinity. Even if humans are the only life form in the universe, there are (allegedly) angels, who were individually created and for whom the concept of father and son or husband and wife would presumably have no personal meaning.

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      "Some believe that true reality can never be described, and the best science can do is come up with ever more useful models. Even if that is so, it does not seem to me the models should be equated with fiction. They must conform to something in a way fiction is never required to."

      That's an excellent point, David. The models should always seek to conform to reality. The word "fiction" could be misleading there, but as Kevin pointed out, fiction is taken also to be about reality even if it is a narrative (i.e. fables).

      "But even if God exists, and even if the Triune God exists, it is difficult for me to think there is no place for imagination in theology."

      I get your point. In Frank Sheed's book Theology and Sanity he discussed this. The imagination has to be controlled in order for the intellect to do its work. He was not fond of the use of the shamrock, for instance, to about the Holy Trinity. He said (paraphrasing) that it taught people to use the imagination when they really needed to learn how to use the intellect. There may be a place for imagination, surely, but for working out concepts of beings who are not material, the intellect has to do it. Mortimer Adler also dealt with this in his book on angels. He said since their existence is conceivable, a philosopher should inquire about them.

      Here's something I wrote about the Holy Trinity and the development of the dogma, maybe that will explain. http://stacytrasancos.com/where-do-intellect-and-will-come-from/

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I was surprised when I first read that some theologians argue that God designed the family based in the inner relationship of the persons of the Blessed Trinity, rather than the Trinity being a way human beings imagine God based on the family.

      In the same way, it is argued that God designed marriage based on the relationship he foresaw between Christ and the Church.

  • Dan Carollo

    When I think of "science fictions", I'm reminded of the notion of memes as a theory to explain proliferation of religious belief (ie. they transmit like viruses) -- which not only serves no useful scientific model, it is often used as a double-standard to explain belief. For example, whereas "religious" beliefs spread between minds like a virus, atheism (in contrast) is the product of true, rational thinking. It has been promoted by Richard Dawkins and until recently, by Susan Blackmore (who later retracted the "virus" idea about 3 years ago). I love how science works! See: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/sep/16/why-no-longer-believe-religion-virus-mind

    • Mary B Moritz

      Susan Blackmore's article is thought provoking: her idea to compare religion no so much to a virus (which is always detrimental) but rather to a bacterium (which can be both, good or bad) or to a "symbiont of the mind" (always good). Still, I do not think that this the true reason why humans at all time were religious, in all form or the other. It is this innermost longing that we have in ourselves and than none other than God has put in our hearts and in our intellect.

  • oddonturn777 .

    When Stephen Hawking tried to explain the principle of uncertainty within the atomic and subatomic scale, I can imagine and probably accept it, but I think it is too far for him to say that the existence of free will can be explained also in the terms of the movement of atom and its particles which, he said, seem to be uncountable in the human brain and have uncountable circumstances around it so as free will is the product of uncertainty of what the resultant of all the atom and the circumstances will be.

  • Coro

    It seems to me that most people are missing the point here. The pope singles out a specific subset of evolution as science fiction, the "Selfish gene" . All other justifications of what exactly he means by science fiction aside, He's not even talking about the theory as science fiction, just a tiny part of it. Seems to me that he still acknowledges is as what it is, a scientific theory.

  • Octavo

    I might go a little farther than this and state that a lot of what adaptationists come up with is science fiction in a pejorative sense. Adaptationists and evolutionary psychologists frequently tell a lot of just-so stories in speculating about why certain traits were selected for. This is not really a good practice since it assumes that the trait exists due to natural selection rather than some other evolutionary mechanism, such as genetic drift.

    ~Jesse Webster

  • Loreen Lee

    Thank you Stacy for such a 'clear and distinct- to be Cartesian) account of the relationship between the imagination and the intellect. My understanding is that the imagination is more closely related to the sensual (the sentience) whereas the intellect can be associated with our description as sapient 'creations' (and I think of Kant's The power of Judgment here).
    This has come at a time when I have been musing over a possible distinction between miracles and revelation, and I find myself relating this distinction you have made to that context. I read in scripture something to the effect of Jesus saying that he 'regrets' that 'we' are so dependent on miracles to aid in our belief and faith. Yet we are reminded that we do not 'necessarily' have to 'believe' in miracles. However, with respect to revelation which I now more clearly associate with the intellect, whereas I am thinking that miracles may be more closely associated with the imagination, I would like to offer the following comments.
    In cases of apparitions, or visions, I find little difficulty in relating these to the powers of the imagination. In the case for instance of the 'idea' of Christ's mercy, I can perhaps now distinguish between the imaginative basis within the vision of the individual, and a revelatory discernment that reminds us of the merciful aspect of Christ in his 'judgment'. I can now distinguish between them.
    As for instance, with the loaves and fishes, perhaps I can also discern a difference here. I have never felt that the account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes is the most important element. Could this account be more significant revelatory of a 'communion' that takes places at this time, perhaps like the Marriage where water is turned into wine, a 'foreshadowing' of the final revelation at the last supper. Does this indeed involve a clarification between miracle and revelation, imagination and revelation.
    We are told that we are the highest of the animals, and the lowest of the angels.
    And indeed, what imaginations we all have!!!! This is not to discount the fact or at least the possibility that there is a close relationship between the two, (just as there is a relationship between the three 'Persons' of the Trinity. Perhaps, in a way, our powers of the intellect are even dependent in some way on an adjudicated, and possibly even necessary control over radical elements within our imagination. But this distinction encourages me to think of the possibilities in developing higher 'intelligence' even to the point where we are on comparable terms with those divine intelligibles, the angels.

    However, the imagination must be important too, because it is prophesied? that we are indeed in a way, higher than the angels, and as the 'revelation' of the raising of the body in the Resurrection makes clear, our bodies, and our imagination may be 'raised', in a similar way that revelation makes clear the Logos or the Intelligible

    As an afterthought, I have also been thinking of the ''immanence' as presented in the philosophy of Spinoza. It has been troubling that his concentration on 'necessity' eliminates the possibility, if not the reality, of Free Will. Also immanence, with respect to Christ, may refer to the sapient (rational) characteristic of the Logos or the intellect, rather than the sentience which is associated with 'animal', in general, and thus would be limited in its application to 'beings' within the universe, and indeed is something towards which we must not only strive, but await within the powers of Revelation.

    I feel better about my inability to 'appreciation' the miracle, even of the loaves and fishes. I must confess that these 'appearances' have never truly been impressive for me for some reason. I do feel however, that I appreciate the 'idea', "revelation' of communion, not only at the time of Canae, but at the sermon on the mount, and am reminded that Christ said, whenever two of you or more are 'present?' in my name, I am there with you too. But how difficult it is to interact even within the secular interpretation of finding communality within a developed 'logos'/'reason'. Thank you.

  • Jeff_McLeod

    The word fiction has its etymology in the Latin fictus, which is the past participle of fingere, to form or fashion something, to construct it.

    Many scientists (lots of Kantians for sure) refer to scientific theories as "useful fictions" which is in no way a derogatory phrase.

    Also, as a student of Fr. Stanley Jaki, you will appreciate that he very much admired philosopher Pierre Duhem. Well, Duhem was also fascinated in the "scaffolding" of theories, as you are. He noted that Maxwell didn't simply use a metaphorical scaffold. He actually rigged up a system of ropes and pullies to help him think through his theoretical model.

    Congratulations, Stacy, on a fantastic piece. Your clarity is a thing of beauty and a real gift!

    • Loreen Lee

      Besides considering the philosophical distinction between empiricism and rationalism, I believe, as a 'lover of Kant' that he also made a very good distinction between the productive and the reproductive imagination. The productive would be associated with empiricism, images produced by the senses, whereas, I shall not elaborate on what is reproductive, even though often the greatest of truths can be found within this aptitude, because I'm sure you can 'imagine' what Kant is talking about.

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    Looks to me like Odifreddi really opened the door to this kind of retort by the Pope. It think its is unhelpful, unnecessary, and confusing to call science or religion "science fiction".

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    In law we sometimes, rarely, use the term "legal fiction". The first case I found when searching its application is the accepted legal fiction that a fetus has rights if it is born alive. But that's another story!

  • Jonathan Kieran

    Excellent delineation, Stacy, and kudos to Benedict, who has never been one of my favorite papal personalities but who possesses an indisputably potent intellect. The most striking aspect of the dialogue with Odifreddi, et al. seems to be the understanding (herein underscored by Benedict) that theology and science are essentially the "languages" of their proponents and must be understood to share the commonality of language in all of the abstract and sometimes imaginative elements inherent to the nature (and indeed the limitations) of language. One hopes that, with increased discourse between the Church and the "neo-secularists" there will be a much greater emphasis upon the science of philosophy, which has been woefully neglected by the likes of Odifreddi, Dawkins, etc. Houses built upon sand are never reassuring when the winds tend to howl.

  • Akichita Washtay Winyan Schnei

    evolution is science fiction

  • David Ulmer

    It is wonderful to see how our Pontifs take the time to explain again and again with such patience the truth. I have much to learn from them both. I lose patience with my children and those in the church that I think should know better, but I shouldn't lose patience with anyone. Benedict is a living theological genius and a humble saint.

  • Wulfrano Ruiz Sainz

    Only morons believe in Evolution.

  • http://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/ Bob Drury

    Thanks for an
    excellent essay. The role of the imagination in the development of abstract scientific
    concepts is witness to the brilliance of Aristotelian philosophy. In that
    perennial philosophy, the immaterial power of the intellect of the immaterial
    human soul is extrinsically dependent for its very activity on a sensual
    phantasm. This integration of body and soul is intellectually rich in contrast
    to the poverty of the philosophy of materialism, which is limited to the
    material, to the imagination.

  • El_Tigre_Loco

    Much of 'science' is posited on fiction, that is what a theory is. There is also the difference between possibility and probability. If I were to take the unassembled pieces of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle on a board and shake it, it is possible that the jigsaw would eventually assemble. It is just not very probable.

  • eva

    Did Pope Benedict dismiss evolution as "science fiction?"
    If he read the likes of:
    The Death of Evolution (text online) by Wallace Johnson;
    Creation Rediscovered by Gerard Keane;
    DNA: The Tiny Code That's Toppling Evolution by Mario Seiglie;
    Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton........
    Yes, I believe he did!!!!

    • Mary B Moritz

      I would certainly think: NO, as long as evolution is taken within the borders of science (not scientism)

      He has convened the meeting: Creation and Evolution (http://www.amazon.com/Creation-Evolution-Conference-Benedict-Gandolfo/dp/1586172344)

      And this: "Pope Benedict XVI said the debate raging in some countries — particularly the United States and his native Germany — between creationism and evolution was an “absurdity,” saying that evolution can coexist with faith.

      The pontiff, speaking as he was concluding his holiday in northern Italy, also said that while there is much scientific proof to support evolution, the theory could not exclude a role by God.

      “They are presented as alternatives that exclude each other,” the pope said. “This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.”

      He said evolution did not answer all the questions: “Above all it does not answer the great philosophical question, ‘Where does everything come from?’” (It is from 2007, he said this in Italy, see http://www.nbcnews.com/id/19956961/ns/world_news-europe/t/pope-creation-vs-evolution-clash-absurdity/#.Ukft0oY70-I

  • eva

    Dear Mary:

    Faith and Reason/Science can never contradict one another. (Both come from God.)

    That being said, I still think Creation has more credibility than Evolution, especially reading the likes of the aforementioned articles/books. Thank you for your letter; I, however, see that Pope Benedict Emeritus is still open to discussion and research on this issue.

    I leave you with two quotes:

    Evolution must not be taught as fact, but instead the pros and cons of evolution must be taught.
    (Pius XII, Humani Generis)

    Investigation into human “evolution” was allowed in 1950, but Pope
    Pius XII feared that an acceptance of evolutionism might adversely
    affect doctrinal beliefs.

    Prophetic?

    • Mary B Moritz

      Dear Eva,

      correct, I am with you, Faith has the Truth and Science is looking for the same Truth.

      Evolution is to evolutionism as science to scientism.

      Evolution is (1) a pretty well documented historical fact. Living organism change over billions of years, slowly evolve new families and species (correct English words are missing to me, my native language is German) and (2) and pretty sound theory to explain this changes over time. The current theory is based on Darwin's theory, but is now taking many factors that Darwin had no idea like isolation and genetic fitness, epigenetic factors, findings of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo).

      One topic that evolution cannot explain is self-consciousness (that's also the point that Nagel, an atheist, is making), intellectual reasoning and free will.

      What is wrong is to make of evolution an all-explaining ideology -> this is evolutionism. And the same happens in every scientific field -> take Steven Pinker, Lawrence Krauss and others. This is not Science, but scientism.

  • Katherine Boyes

    I think what the Pope is saying is that scientists base their theories on cause and effect. They see the effect (reality) and imagine the cause (theory). Science is based on that principle. Man has to put labels and theories onto everything he sees and experiences in order to understand it. Whereas, God has already created the reality.

    • Katherine Boyes

      Somebody on facebook a couple of years ago, asked: Did God create the darkness (in Genesis)?

      I read the chapter closely and realised that Genesis actually describes the formation of the earth - from a globe of ice, spinning out of orbit in the universe and in complete darkness and cold, to the warm, life-covered planet, with regulated time sequences through sun and moon transitions, that we have today.

      I see ‘science’ as an attempt by feeble man to label the great creations and events of God in an effort to understand them. Through scientific observations of other planets and spheres in our universe, I can see how God created this Earth in 7 days.

      Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning ... the earth was a formless wasteland and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. (The earth had not entered its current orbit in our solar system but was an ice covered sphere spinning in darkness.)

      Gen 1:3-5 - Then God said, 'Let there be light" ... God then separated the light from the darkness. (The icy sphere moves into the current orbit of our solar system and is illuminated by the Sun. It begins to spin on its magnetic north/south axis and we experience 'nights' and 'days'.)

      Gen 1:6-8 - Then God said, 'Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other (the sky).'
      (With the warmth of the Sun, the ice covering the sphere begins to melt and the blue sky is separated from the blue waters of the oceans.)

      Gen 1:9-10 - Then God said, 'Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, so that the dry land may appear.’ (As the molten core
      of the planet became increasingly affected by the effects of gravity as it spun on its axis and was held in orbit, the magma began to shift and cataclysmic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occurred that created the masses of dry land that rose out of the waters, and valleys that sank into giant splits in the earth’s crust. Some Bible versions say ‘voids’ to describe the valleys formed during those earthquakes.)

      Gen 1:11-13 – Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth vegetation…’ (With the newfound warmth of the Sun, seeds lying dormant in the soil underneath the icy cap that had thawed and shifted in earthquakes, began to sprout in the volcanic ash which is extremely fertile.)

      Gen 1:14-19 – Then God said: “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth.” (As the great mass of volcanic ash dispersed, the stars in the solar system and beyond as the planet rotates in its new orbit now become visible from the surface of the earth. The Sun and Moon are visible as the earth spins on its axis in orbit. The stars are used to mark periods and transitions of time, seasons, months, years.)

      Gen 1:20-23 – Then God said: “Let the water teem with and abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.” (God created all the species of marine life and birds. This was done in the same way as the conception of Jesus Christ, through a miracle of the Holy Spirit, which is God. Note: God created the species in one day, not the multitude of their offspring!)

      Gen 1:24-31 – Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living
      creatures…’ (This was also done through the divine Holy Spirit of God. The same spirit that ‘hovered over the waters in the darkness’ before the earth was formed.)

  • finishstrongdoc

    The problem is science fiction is used to write laws. Aristotle said, "Law is mind without reason." When unreasonable laws are written to enable satisfaction of the demands of the flesh, you end up with anti-creation, or chaos.

  • Geena Safire

    From Richard Dawkins' newest book (released September 24, 2013), a memoir entitled "An Appetite for Wonder," in a chapter in which he reflects on writing "The Selfish Gene," published in 1976 (about which emeritus pope Benedict commented):

    "[This paragraph is from 'The Selfish Gene' at] the end of the chapter on the origin of of life and the spontaneous arising in the primeval soup of 'replicators', which later moved into the world of 'vehicles' -- living organisms."

    Was there to be any end to the gradual improvement in the techniques and artifices used by the replicators to ensure their own continuation in the world? There would be plenty of time for improvement. What weird engines of self-preservation would the millennia bring forth? Four thousand million years on, what was to be the fate of the ancient replicators? They did not die out, for they are past masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating loose in the sea; they gave up that cavalier freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicaating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival macines.'

    "That paragraph [from "The Selfish Gene" quoted above] encapsulates the central metaphor of the book, and also its science-fictiony feel. Indeed, I began my preface with the words:"

    'This book should be read almost as though it were science fiction. It is designed to appeal to the imagination. But it is not science fiction. It is science. Cliche' or not, 'stranger than fiction' expresses exactly how I feel about the truth. We are survival machines -- robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment. Though I have known about it for years, I never seem to get fully used to it. One of my hopes is that I may have some success in astonishing others.'

    "And the opening lines of chapter 1 continued the science fiction mood:"

    'Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: 'Have they discovered evolution yet?' Living organisms had existed on earth, without ever knowing why, for over three thousand million years before the truth finally dawned on one of them. His name was Charles Darwin.'

    (p. 277-278)

     

    Dawkins also includes part of a review of the book by evolutionary biologist W.D. Hamilton:

    'This book should be read, can be read, by almost everybody. It describes with great skill a new face of the theory of evolution. With much of the light, unencumbered style that has lately sold new and sometimes erroneous biology to the public, it is, in my opinion, a more serious achievement. It succeeds in the seemingly impossible task of using simple, untechnical English to present some rather recondite nd quasi-mathematical themes of recent evolutionary thought. Seen through this book in their broad perspective at last, these will surprise and refresh even many research biologist who might have supposed themselves already in the know. At least, so they surprised this reviewer. Yet, to repeat, the book remains easily readable by anyone with the least grounding in science.'

    It seems to me that Benedict may have 'received' the message that Dawkins 'sent' regarding science fiction in his book, although the former likely views it as more metaphorical and less scientifically rigorous than it was written to be by the latter.

    But I think the media missed the boat in their anticipation and glee at anything that might be a sign of a fight between the emeritus pope and arguably the world's most famous living scientist -- and atheist. Dawkins is well known for his sharp criticism of the Catholic church and of Benedict specifically. But, given the above, it doesn't seem that Benedict is hitting back or, if he is, much more subtly.

  • eva

    The following is a quote from an online article "Apes "R" Not Us:
    Catholics & the Debate Over Evolution, by George Sim Johnston:

    "In
    the autumn of 1996, Pope John Paul II complicated the picture by making some remarks
    about evolution in a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Or rather,
    the media complicated the picture by inaccurately reporting what he said."

    Interesting article worth reading.

  • Edwin Taraba

    My opinion, shared by many in various scientific field and
    theologians is Evolution is not an established fact. There are huge gaps in the
    theory and huge conflicts with scripture and traditional Catholic doctrine on
    creation. Even Darwin
    admitted the fossil record does not support his theory. Check the chapter
    "Difficulties with the theory" in Origin of Species. It is well known
    that paleontologists, Stephen Jay Gould for example, affirm there are no
    transitional forms in the fossil record. DNA and the thousands of tiny machines
    in the cell debunk random mutation and natural selection as a process. It
    simply is unable to produce new species. Catholic thinking on this topic took a
    bad turn in 1950 with badly misinterpreted twists of a single paragraph in the
    encyclical Humani Generis. Paragrapha 36 of this encyclical is the only one
    often quoted and it is badly misinterpreted. Traditional Catholic doctrine on
    creation does not mix with evolution. This encyclical does call evolution
    fiction. The title says "ENCYCLICAL HUMANI GENERIS OF THE HOLY FATHER PIUS
    XII CONCERNING SOME FALSE OPINIONS THREATENING TO UNDERMINE THE FOUNDATIONS OF
    CATHOLIC DOCTRINE”. Then read paragraph 5 "If anyone examines the state of
    affairs outside the Christian fold, he will easily discover the principle
    trends that not a few learned men are following. Some imprudently and indiscreetly
    hold that evolution,
    which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and
    audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in
    continual evolution. Communists gladly subscribe to this opinion so that, when the
    souls of men have been deprived of every idea of a personal God, they may the
    more efficaciously defend and propagate their dialectical materialism” then read
    paragraph 6 "Such fictitious tenets of evolution which repudiate all that is
    absolute, firm and immutable, have paved the way for the new erroneous
    philosophy which, rivaling idealism, immanentism and pragmatism, has assumed the name of
    existentialism, since it concerns itself only with existence of individual
    things and neglects all consideration of their immutable essences.” Then
    read paragraph 9: "Now
    Catholic theologians and philosophers, whose grave duty it is to defend natural
    and supernatural truth and instill it in the hearts of men, cannot afford to
    ignore or neglect these more or less erroneous opinions. Rather they must come
    to understand these same theories well, both because diseases are not properly
    treated unless they are rightly diagnosed, and because sometimes even in these
    false theories a certain amount of truth is contained, and, finally, because
    these theories provoke more subtle discussion and evaluation of philosophical
    and theological truths" Then read paragraph 10 "If philosophers
    and theologians strive only to derive such profit from the careful examination
    of these doctrines, there would be no reason for any intervention by the
    Teaching Authority of the Church. However, although We know that Catholic
    teachers generally avoid these errors, it is apparent, however, that some
    today, as in apostolic times, desirous of novelty, and fearing to be considered
    ignorant of recent scientific findings, try to withdraw themselves from the
    sacred Teaching Authority and are accordingly in danger of gradually departing
    from revealed truth and of drawing others along with them into error.”