About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Vatican confused about Intelligent Design
However, the Vatican chief astronomer, George Coyne – perhaps mindful of the embarrassment that the Galileo affair has brought to the Church for centuries – stated publicly that intelligent design isn't science, and therefore does not have a place in public schools.
Most recently, Fiorenzo Facchini – a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna – has written a strong defense of evolution in the Vatican official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. Facchini condemns creationism and intelligent design in no uncertain terms, arguing that “if the model proposed by Darwin is deemed insufficient, one should look for another, but it's not correct from a methodological point of view to take oneself away from the scientific field pretending to do science.” In other words, once again, intelligent design is not science.
However, even Facchini has to allow an escape close for Catholics (after all, he is writing for the Vatican's paper!), which he does by concluding that “in a vision that goes beyond the empirical horizon, we can say that we aren't men by chance or by necessity, and that the human experience has a sense and a direction signaled by a superior design.” Oh? What does it mean for Facchini to go “beyond the empirical horizon”? And doesn't his conclusion invalidate his plea for separating science and religion? Such are the contradictions of people who use their brains in the lab but have to hang 'em outside the Church doors on Sunday mornings. And yet, it is precisely this sort of logical incoherence that makes fundamentalism and creationism so attractive to many people: when one rejects the empirical-scientific worldview altogether one doesn't have to reconcile the way things are with the way one wishes things were. Will we ever grow up emotionally as much as we have developed intellectually? But that's a topic for another day.