Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse discusses a new piece by Michael Ruse at PuffHo: “Evolution and Catholic theology.” Surprisingly, Ruse, who’s always been an accommodationist, admits (as I’ve argued many times) that official Catholic doctrine is incompatible with science, for that doctrine not only invokes a literal Adam and Eve, but posits some divine tinkering with or guiding of evolution that guaranteed it would cough up humans. Ruse sees this teleology as Intelligent Design Lite, and I agree completely:
To put direction into evolution is to be a supporter of the non-scientific theory of Intelligent Design. I should add incidentally that this does seem to be the position of Benedict’s friend Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna, who a year or two back in an op-ed piece in the New York Times came right out and endorsed Intelligent Design. The point I am making is that, as things stand at the moment, there is a flat-out contradiction between the claims of modern biological science and the theology of the Roman Catholic Church. And the fact is that the Pope, for all of his vaulted theological expertise, is either ignoring this fact or is glossing over it, probably because he has made the decision that, when push comes to shove, theology trumps science.
This is why I see theistic evolutionists like Kenneth Miller, Francis Collins, and the officers of BioLogos as “creationists.” And I’ve never considered the Catholic Church particularly evolution-friendly. But, as Jason notes, if Ruse really feels this way, why has he spent his career arguing for a compatibility of faith and science, and excoriating those of us who see an implacable incompatibility? The man has some ‘splainin’ to do!
There’s one more issue, though: Ruse claims that Richard Dawkins and others have attempted (perhaps unwittingly) to reconcile theology with science by positing that the evolution of complex—ergo God-worshipping—humans was inevitable, so that no creation was necessary. Ruse argues:
Note what I am saying and what I am not saying. I am saying that “as things stand at the moment” there is a clash and that the Pope is not helping. I am not saying that the clash could not be resolved. Although as it happens — and I have said this on many occasions — I don’t think the clash can be resolved by trying to get more out of science. Richard Dawkins (following Darwin) seems to think that humans are more than chance because evolution works through “arms races” — the prey gets faster and so the predator gets faster — and that ultimately this will produce human-type brains. Simon Conway Morris thinks that there exist always niches waiting to be occupied, one of these niches is for humans, and so at some point it was bound to be filled. Even Gould thought that complexity increases and so at some point, if not here on earth then somewhere in the universe, humans would appear.
This is true for Conway Morris, who happens to be a Catholic, but certainly not for Dawkins or Gould. Gould was very clear that he saw the evolution of humans as a contingent event, not at all inevitable. He wrote this (in Wonderful Life, I believe):
Wind back the tape of life to the early days of the Burgess Shale; let it play again from an identical starting point, and the chance becomes vanishingly small that anything like human intelligence would grace the replay.
And of course I have Richard Dawkins right here behind this sign, attesting that Ruse knows nothing of his work. Here’s Richard’s response (quoted with permission) to Ruse’s piece:
I’m astonished that he could attribute such a view to Gould, who strongly advocated the opposite. He is a tiny bit nearer the mark with me because, like Conway Morris but unlike Gould, I do believe in something that could be called progressive evolution, mainly because of arms races. Unlike Conway Morris, however, I haven’t gone so far as to suggest that humans were inevitable.
The main place where I have written about progress is the last chapter of The Ancestor’s Tale, called ‘the Host’s Return.’
Ruse, of course, doesn’t give up there. He helpfully suggests that theology should be tweaked instead.
My own thinking is that if you are going to get anywhere then you need to work on the theology. I have suggested that, since we have appeared, we could appear. Hence, God (being outside time and space) could simply go on creating universes until humans did appear. A bit of a waste admittedly but we have that already in our universe.
As the parent of this idea, I am expectedly rather fond of it. But I am not promoting it now because it is right, but simply to say that some solution needs to be found. At least, some solution needs to be found by Christians. Otherwise, the New Atheists are right, and science and religion cannot be reconciled. Hence, you must take your choice, and since science is right the appropriate conclusion follows at once.
Well, there may indeed have been multiple universes, one or more of which could contain humanlike creatures, but they needn’t have been created by God. But few religious people are going to accept Ruse’s “solution,” for most Americans, at least, believe in an interactive, theistic God, one who shaped the universe to makes humans its centerpiece. And for that vast majority of people, even Ruse must admit that science and religion are irreconcilable.