The Catholic Herald carries a very interesting Paolo Gambi interview with Cardinal Christoph Schönborn regarding his concerns about the implications of the Council of Europe statement condemning creationism. The entire thing is definitely worth reading. I excerpt one question and answer here about evolution, Darwin, the reasonableness of a belief in the Creator, and the presuppositions of democracy.
PG: The document mentions the risk of a theocracy if creationism is not challenged. At the same time, it states that “the theory of evolution has nothing to do with divine revelation but is built on facts” and calls on people “to resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion”. On one side, science, facts, reason, Darwin; on the other, faith, religion and creationism. Is this correct?
CS: This is a very problematic confusion. On one side, the Darwinian theory is a scientific theory and it should be handled as a scientific theory. It has developed a lot since Darwin published it. It still develops a lot. But it has to be discussed as every other scientific theory, and should not be a matter of politics. It is not up to politicians, nor is it up to religious leaders, to state whether this scientific theory is valid. Leave it to science. As I said in a paper I gave in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo, we must liberate Darwin from Darwinism. We must keep science free from ideology and politics. And this is in the strict interest of science: we have so many bad examples of the damage that political interference in science has brought in the 20th century.
On the other hand, to say that believing in a Creator, not in creationism, has nothing to do with reason is a very presumptuous affirmation. Look at the history of philosophy, from Plato to Hegel and Kant. Everybody spoke about this question in philosophical terms, in terms of reason. And the Bible affirms that, by the means of reason, we can recognise that what exists cannot come out of itself. It is reasonable to believe that there is an intelligence behind the reality we are able to understand and research.
Regarding theocracy, I understand the worries of those who have drafted this resolution. We have had examples, and still have them, of attempts at theocracy in the actual world. I can only recall that the Catholic Church – though we might have had temptations in that direction in previous centuries – has clearly taken its distance from any attempt at theocracy. But, on the other hand, I recall that, with the free means of democratic society, believing in God and in His commandments and trying to follow God’s commandments has nothing to do with irrationality. Promoting obedience to God’s law, appealing to freedom, has nothing to do with theocracy. But it’s certainly valid and necessary to promote the values on which our democratic society is based, because we well know that democracy can only live on values that cannot be decided democratically, but that are presupposed by democracy: human dignity, freedom, intelligence, basic human values. They are not a product of democracy, but are a presupposition of democracy. And I recall that these elements that are necessary for the good life of a society have nothing to do with theocracy. The Church is not imposing them, but proposing and arguing that they are for the good of society.
The Cardinal, like the Pope, can speak of weighty and complex subjects in such plain and understandable language. Wonderful.