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Austrian Cardinal Says Darwinism Should Be Studied As Science

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SCHONBORN-EVOLUTION Aug-24-2006 (490 words) xxxi


Austrian cardinal says Darwinism should be studied as science

By Catholic News Service


RIMINI, Italy (CNS) -- Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna said he thought Darwin's theories on evolution deserve to be studied in schools, along with the scientific question marks that remain.


It is right to teach "the science of Darwin, not ideological Darwinism," Cardinal Schonborn said Aug. 23. He spoke at a meeting in Rimini sponsored by the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation, and his remarks were reported by Italian newspapers.


In 2005, Cardinal Schonborn helped fuel the debate over evolution and intelligent design when he wrote in The New York Times that science offers "overwhelming evidence for design in biology." He later said some scientists had turned Darwin's teachings into an ideological "dogma" that admitted no possibility of a divine design in the created world.


In Rimini, the cardinal said he did not regret writing The New York Times article, but said that in retrospect he might have been more nuanced.


"Perhaps it was too much crafted with a hatchet," he said.


Cardinal Schonborn said there should be no doubt that the church does not support creationism, the idea that the biblical account of the creation of the world in six days should be taken literally.


"The church teaches that the first page of the Book of Genesis is not a page of science," he said.


But when teaching evolutionary theory, he said, schools should underline the points still awaiting clarification, the "missing links" in the theory which were recognized by Darwin himself, he said.


Cardinal Schonborn said Darwinian theory and the faith can coexist, and he proposed a metaphorical image: Darwin's scientific ladder of rising evolutionary development on one hand, and on the other the biblical Jacob's ladder, from which angels descended from heaven to earth.


The cardinal said the images offer "two directions, two movements, which only when observed together allow for anything close to a complete perspective." At the center of these two movements is the figure of Jesus Christ, he said.


Cardinal Schonborn said it was important to realize that Darwin's theories continue to have an impact in economic as well as biological fields. For example, he cited a link between ideological Darwinism and some capitalist theories that consider high unemployment simply a byproduct of a necessary economic natural selection.


In bioethics, he said, the church's differences with ideological Darwinism become important.


"Despite sometimes heavy criticism, the church continues to firmly believe that there is in nature a language of the Creator, and therefore a binding ethical order in creation, which remains a fundamental reference point in bioethical matters," he said.


The cardinal was one of several scholars invited to join Pope Benedict XVI at his summer villa in early September for a private two-day symposium on "Creation and Evolution." The encounter is an annual one in which the pope meets with his former doctoral students from his teaching years in Germany.

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