09/16/2008, 00.00
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Archbishop Ravasi, overcoming the mistrust between evolutionism and theology

An international conference has been presented at the Vatican, proposing a scientific examination of the work of Darwin, eliminating the ideological context of "evolutionist" and "creationist" that marks the mistrust between Darwinism and theology.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - There is no "a priori incompatibility" between the theory of evolution, biblical teaching, and theology, but there is a need to "clarify", 150 years after its publication, the work of Charles Darwin, which today "is too often discussed more in an ideological than in a scientific context", generating confusion to the point of frontal opposition between "evolutionism" and "creationism", present above all in the United States.

This is the objective of the international conference "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories. A Critical Appraisal 150 years after ‘The Origin of Species'", which will be held in Rome from March 3-7, 2009. It is jointly sponsored by the Pontifical Gregorian University and by Notre Dame University (Indiana, USA), under the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture. The conference is part of the council's project STOQ (Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest), which was presented today at the Vatican.

The Catholic Church is highly interested in this question. It has never condemned Darwin's work, and many popes, beginning with Pius XII, have affirmed that evolutionism is not in contrast with the faith. On the contrary, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture (in the photo), highlighted today the address that John Paul II made in 1996 to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in which he affirmed that "new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis", and that "this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines".

From this, added the head of the pontifical council, arises the importance of the encounter between evolution and theology, which must overcome their mutual mistrust. This encounter, he added, has become something like an "emblem" of the relationship between science and faith. "The conference", he concluded, "seeks to weave together harmoniously the scientific side with the philosophical and theological side, in mutual openness".

The participants at the meeting will include scientists from every faith, and nonbelievers as well, philosophers and theologians, Catholics and Protestants. But there will be no representatives of "intelligent design". This, as Fr Marc Leclerc, professor of natural philosophy at the Gregorian, explains, especially in the United States, has "contributed" to the current "confusion", because, "while admitting the overwhelming fact of the evolution of the species, it tries to exploit the shortcomings of neo-Darwinian theory in order to present itself as an alternative explanation, on the same level: as if only the 'intelligent design' of God could explain the processes of evolution". In this way, one arrives at confusing the "two distinct levels" of "finality" and "modality".

On the other hand, as emphasized by Gennaro Auletta, the scientific director of the STOQ project and a professor of the philosophy of science at the Gregorian, "an encounter on the crucial question of evolution among scientists, philosophers, and theologians, is not something entirely irrelevant, and even those who use the theory of evolution in an anti-religious and anti-humanistic sense, precisely in doing this, must recognize it".

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