The Intelligent Design Storm


Nov 25, USA (SUN) — The Vatican's chief astronomer asserted last week that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms. This statement made him the latest high-ranking Roman Catholic official to enter the heated evolution debate.

The Rev. George Coyne, Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, thinks that making intelligent design theory parallel to evolution in school programs is wrong and is like mixing apples with oranges. Coyne said "Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be. If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."

Meanwhile at the University of Kansas, faculty in the Religious Studies department are preparing to offer a course titled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies." Paul Mirecki, the department Chairman, said "The KU faculty has had enough. Creationism is mythology. Intelligent design is mythology. It's not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not."

While critics like Mirecki feel that intelligent design is simply a front for Biblical creationism, other supporters of intelligent design think those like Mirecki will go down in history as laughingstocks for equating intelligent design with "mythology".

The debate between scientists and religionists is heating up across the nation, with much of the dialogue unfolding in the schools, the courts, and the pulpits. As the debate now moves into the halls of academic religion and philosophy, intelligent design may gain even greater traction worldwide.

Religious scholars will certainly be interested to explore how in line with Catholic doctrine Jesuit Coyne's recent statements were when he said: "If they respect the results of modern science, and indeed the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly."

Coyne argued that God should be seen more as an "encouraging parent." He said, "God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity," he wrote. "He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves."

The Vatican Observatory, which Coyne heads, is one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world. While it's location in Rome places it physically close to the Vatican, its philosophy, as expressed by Coyne, may not necessarily put it close to the new Pope's conclusions on intelligent design, what to speak of nature's free will and God's "infinite freedom".


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