Thursday, September 01, 2005

Benedict XVI on Evolution

His 'relativist' concerns come through here, as well. Not surprising, insofar as "evolution" has become far more than a strictly biological debate; it is more like ontological (as Ratzinger/B-16 states here.)

The question is whether reason, or rationality, stands at the beginning of all things and is grounded in the basis of all things or not. The question is whether reality originated on the basis of chance and necessity (or, as Popper says, in agreement with Butler, on the basis of luck and cunning) and, thus, from what is irrational; that is, whether reason, being a chance by-product of irrationality and floating in an ocean of irrationality, is ultimately just as meaningless; or whether the principle that represents the fundamental conviction of Christian faith and of its philosophy remains true: "In principio erat Verbum" -- at the beginning of all things stands the creative power of reason. Now as then, Christian faith represents the choice in favor of the priority of reason and of rationality.

This ultimate question, as we have already said, can no longer be decided by arguments from natural science, and even philosophical thought reaches its limits here. In that sense, there is no ultimate demonstration that the basic choice involved in Christianity is correct. Yet, can reason really renounce its claim to the priority of what is rational over the irrational, the claim that the Logos is at the ultimate origin of things, without abolishing itself?

The explanatory model presented by Popper, which reappears in different variations in the various accounts of the "basic philosophy," shows that reason cannot do other than to think of irrationality according to its own standards, that is, those of reason (solving problems, learning methods!), so that it implicitly reintroduces nonetheless the primacy of reason, which has just been denied. Even today, by reason of its choosing to assert the primacy of reason, Christianity remains "enlightened," and I think that any enlightenment that cancels this choice must, contrary to all appearances, mean, not an evolution, but an involution, a shrinking, of enlightenment.

We saw before that in the way early Christianity saw things, the concepts of nature, man, God, ethics and religion were indissolubly linked together and that this very interlinking contributed to make Christianity appear the obvious choice in the crisis concerning the gods and in the crisis concerning the enlightenment of the ancient world. The orientation of religion toward a rational view of reality as a whole, ethics as a part of this vision, and its concrete application under the primacy of love became closely associated. The primacy of the Logos and the primacy of love proved to be identical. The Logos was seen to be, not merely a mathematical reason at the basis of all things, but a creative love taken to the point of becoming sympathy, suffering with the creature. The cosmic aspect of religion, which reverences the Creator in the power of being, and its existential aspect, the question of redemption, merged together and became one.

Every explanation of reality that cannot at the same time provide a meaningful and comprehensible basis for ethics necessarily remains inadequate. Now the theory of evolution, in the cases where people have tried to extend it to a "philosophia universalis," has in fact been used for an attempt at a new ethos based on evolution. Yet this evolutionary ethic that inevitably takes as its key concept the model of selectivity, that is, the struggle for survival, the victory of the fittest, successful adaptation, has little comfort to offer. Even when people try to make it more attractive in various ways, it ultimately remains a bloodthirsty ethic. Here, the attempt to distill rationality out of what is in itself irrational quite visibly fails. All this is of very little use for an ethic of universal peace, of practical love of one's neighbor, and of the necessary overcoming of oneself, which is what we need. (ZENIT, ZE050901)

See below post on 'nominalism' for the philosophical link; the rejection of atheist evolution-theory must be accompanied by a rejection of nominalism, as well--they are inextricably intertwined.

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