A Cautious Man
August 14, 2005
By Some Kind Of Magic
This post will start with the "blinking statue" from Hoboken, NJ, but eventually get around to "Intelligent Design". Bear with me ...
HOBOKEN, N.J. - For more than 25 years, Julio "Sly" Dones tended his cobbled-together collection of religious relics at Third and Jackson Streets, unknown to all but those who had reason to happen past.

But this week, people who had no business in Hoboken, let alone a gritty section of this North Jersey city, were steering down Jackson in search of a miracle. Hundreds of them - a constant flow - at all hours of the day and night.

What they came to see was a crumbling plaster statue of Jesus - with wires poking skyward where fingers once were - that Dones, 52, said he fished a year ago from a Jersey City trash can. They came because the plaster Jesus' right eye, once not visible, can now be seen.
The pastor of my Catholic church had an interesting observation about phenomena such as this, along these lines - For some reason, many people who consider themselves to be religious, react more to these stories, than to the everyday existence of their Church, their community of believers, or their sacraments. Even Mr. Dones of Hoboken, who apparently spent decades trying to bring a little bit of hope to a seedy area of his town, does so without being noticed until his "miracle".

And, that makes me think of these "Intelligent Design" people. Instead of considering that the God they believe in could have created a universe where natural processes come together to result in intelligent life (an amazing thing if you think about it), they insist that there's some "trick" that had to have taken place. They insist that somewhere we can see the "seams", where creation came together, where something not "natural" can be seen and therefore "prove" the existence of God. And, they argue that opposition to them is somehow opposition to people of faith. They even managed to get a Catholic Cardinal to write a piece which implied that their view was correct.

I have some folks who would disagree. For example, Kenneth R. Miller, Professor of Biology at Brown University, and a Catholic -
Words matter, and they matter most of all in the context in which they are to be read and understood. On July 7, 2005, the New York Times published an opinion piece, "Finding Design in Nature," purporting to offer “The official Catholic stance on evolution.” The author of that piece, my fellow Catholic Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, got the theology exactly right, but erred dramatically in his take on the science and the politics of the “design” movement as it exists in the United States. Knowing how the good Cardinal's words will be misused by the enemies of science in our country, it is important to set the record straight.

Science is, just as John Paul II said, silent on the issue of ultimate purpose, an issue that lies outside the realm of scientific inquiry. This means that biological evolution, correctly understood, does not make the claim of purposelessness. It does not address what Simpson called the “deeper problem,” leaving that problem, quite properly, to the realm of faith.

Cardinal Schönborn also errs in his implicit support of the “intelligent design” movement in the United States. The neo-creationists of intelligent design, unlike Popes Benedict and John Paul, argue against evolution on every level, claiming that a “designer” has repeatedly intervened to directly produce the complex forms of living things. This view stands in sharp contradiction to the words of a 2004 International Theological Commission document cited by the Cardinal. In reality, this document carries a ringing endorsement of the “widely accepted scientific account” of life's emergence and evolution, describes the descent of all forms of life from a common ancestor as “virtually certain,” and echoes John Paul II's observation of the “mounting support” for evolution from many fields of study.
And (and I love this one) George Coyne, S.J., the Director of the Vatican Observatory -
There appears to exist a nagging fear in the Church that a universe, which science has established as evolving for 13.7 x 1 billion years since the Big Bang and in which life, beginning in its most primitive forms at about 12 x 1 billion years from the Big Bang, evolved through a process of random genetic mutations and natural selection, escapes God’s dominion. That fear is groundless. Science is completely neutral with respect to philosophical or theological implications that may be drawn from its conclusions. Those conclusions are always subject to improvement. That is why science is such an interesting adventure and scientists curiously interesting creatures. But for someone to deny the best of today’s science on religious grounds is to live in that groundless fear just mentioned.

This stress on our scientific knowledge is not to place a limitation upon God. Far from it. It reveals a God who made a universe that has within it a certain dynamism and thus participates in the very creativity of God. Such a view of creation can be found in early Christian writings, especially in those of St Augustine in his comments on Genesis. 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. Perhaps God should be seen more as a parent or as one who speaks encouraging and sustaining words. Scripture is very rich in these thoughts. It presents, indeed anthropomorphically, a God who gets angry, who disciplines, a God who nurtures the universe, who empties himself in Christ the incarnate Word. Thus God’s revelation of himself in the Book of Scripture would be reflected in our knowledge of the universe, so that, as Galileo was fond of stating, the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature speak of the same God.
The point of this post is not to convince anyone that God exists (or, that God does not exist). The point of this post is just to note that, in my opinion, it is the "Intelligent Design" people who need to think about how much faith they actually have. Do they need a "blinking statue" to prove that God exists? Maybe they could consider that, for a religious person, the evolution of the universe, from random atoms into intelligent life, is a pretty neat miracle after all.



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