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BY John Lilly
Questioning Father Coyne
The April 9-15 news article
“Vatican Observatory Head Calls Intelligent Design ‘Absurd’ Concept” contains
rash and questionable commentary by Vatican Observatory head Jesuit Father
Father Coyne finds that “science
is neutral regarding atheism or belief in God.” Father Coyne claims that
“people who look to science to first find signs of God’s existence reverse the
process by which believers can use the world around them to learn about God.”
He even states that the Old Testament Jews “first had a personal relationship
with a God who did things for them.” Father Coyne is very misleading about
Perhaps over-impressed with
modern scientific methods, Father Coyne overlooks a key epistemological fact —
namely that, in the pursuit of “our personal bodies of truth,” all humans,
broadly speaking, are forced to practice material science. Apprehension of the
material world comes before comprehension of the material world, meaning that
nothing can be found in the mind that is not first somehow in the
material-apprehending senses. This is true for you and me, for those Old
Testament Jews, and for fundamentalists.
Moreover, more important than the
heap of physical data the researchers accumulate are the researchers’
extra-material “metaphysical” manipulations of that data, meaning the
researchers’ hypotheses, analyses and conclusions — which are, strictly
speaking, spiritual intellectual exercises.
This is where the Dr. Hwangs of Korean embryonic stem-cell research fraud
This is where anyone who has an agenda, and who doesn’t, can appear to turn
public attention to their proclivities.
Natural theology teaches that we
can infer about God’s existence through the order in the universe. The tools of
modern science “sharpen our sense” to appreciate that order, or intelligent
design, and to understand more about the intelligence of God. There is nothing
wrong with that approach, and Father Coyne does a disservice by implying that
Besides, the Catechism of the
Catholic Church teaches that “The existence of God the Creator can be known
with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason, even if this
knowledge is often obscured and disfigured by error” (No. 286).
Frank Strelchun, Ph.D.
As a designer of automatic control
systems for 50 years, I know how difficult it is to control the various
operations in power plants, oil refineries and such. And I also recognize the
superiority of the control systems that operate all my bodily functions
—respiration, cardiovascular operations, digestion, vision, motion — and,
especially, my rational intellect and will.
How Father Coyne of the Vatican
Observatory could fail to see intelligent design at work in creation is beyond
Evolution, on the other hand, is not science. It
must be accepted on faith, because it has never been observed to take place on
the scale Darwin
and his followers propose. In fact, it runs counter to all our experience and
violates the laws of thermodynamics, which apply everywhere and for all time.
I can say in all confidence: I was
and by an intelligence far beyond the reckoning of
F. Greg Shinskey
I was surprised, saddened and
disappointed to read your puzzling article “Vatican Observatory Head Calls
Intelligent Design ‘Absurd’ Concept.” Father Coyne seems to be completely
unaware of the many developments in molecular biology, information theory and
embryology over the last 40 years. These have not only cast serious doubt on
the major tenets of Darwinism, but also have allowed the construction of a
powerful empirical case for intelligent design. This is why a growing number of
Ph.D. research scientists now dissent from Darwinism and support some form of
intelligent design theory.
Moreover, many of these scientists
are Catholics, including some of the most prominent intelligent-design
theorists. I have worked on the problem of biological origins for more than
four decades and can assure your readers that the scientific evidence favoring
intelligent design is very formidable indeed. Just check Discovery Institute’s
website (discovery.org) if you have any doubts.
Incredibly Father Coyne conflates
intelligent design theory with “a religious fundamentalist movement.” He
implies that intelligent-design theorists “are using the Bible as science, as a
source of scientific knowledge.” His caricature of intelligent design is very
far from the mark since intelligent-design theorists begin with empirical data
and use scientific reasoning to reach the conclusion that living organisms must
have had an intelligent cause. Actually Father Coyne’s charges are the “absurd
concepts” that we should really be concerned about.
The article does a disservice to
your readers. It is sure to confuse many sincere Catholics who (rightly) will
not be able to distinguish Father Coyne’s views from those of many atheist and
agnostic Darwinist scientists.
Emeritus Professor of Biology,
Francisco State University
Fellow, Center for Science and
Discovery Institute, Seattle
Editor’s note: The article in
question was a report on Father Coyne’s recent statements, which we deemed
newsworthy. Our editorial position, as evidenced by the many columns we have
printed about intelligent design, is very close to the Discovery Institute’s.
Says It Let Down Girl in Case” (April 2-8):
Lest we think Haleigh Poutre’s case some sort of legal anomaly, in 1994,
American Medical Association stated that it was “not unethical” to withdraw
artificially supplied nutrition and hydration “even if the patient is not
terminally ill or permanently unconscious.”
A short time ago, this would have been unthinkable.
Now, due to the rising cost of caring for the severely impaired, bioethicists justify the
removal of feeding tubes as
humane. Today, life-prolonging medical treatment includes not only respirators
and kidney dialysis machines but also tube-supplied food and water. Laws in all
50 states support this.
Last fall these laws almost ended the life of
11-year-old Haleigh. Last spring they succeeded in
killing Terri Schiavo.
Haleigh’s biological mother has come to her defense. But
objections to dehydrating Terri from parents, doctors, the governor and clergy
couldn’t save her.
Without laws to guarantee their right to life, that
is the reality these days for the severely impaired in hospitals throughout our
country. It is common practice to euthanize those who cannot speak in their own
defense, those deemed too costly to care for. Such is the shameful state of our
medical ethics and laws.
Annemarie S. Muth
I find it repugnant that any Catholic would claim
that he has to toss his moral and religious obligations, as this Robert Casey
Jr. seems want to do, so as to get votes and be a politician (“Casey Jr. Under Fire for
Speaking at Fund-Raiser,” March 5-11). He is
using the old argument “I am personally opposed to abortion, but …”
I am further disappointed and disgusted with Raymond
Flynn, former ambassador to the Vatican, who stated in this article that
average Catholic voters need to mobilize and demand that politicians focus on
key concerns like quality health instead of things that matter only to a small
minority, such as homosexual “marriage.” Then this pseudo-Catholic goes on to
say that “A faithful Catholic is an active Catholic.” What a phony!
First off, we in the United States have the highest-quality
health care of the world. The problem is that it’s not always affordable to all
But guess what? It is not the role of the federal
government to provide health care to anyone. (Although, as an aside, illegal
immigrants certainly know to go to hospital emergency rooms to get health care, and they
can’t be turned away by law — and thus are
bankrupting many hospitals.) It is up to people themselves to obtain health
care insurance, or seek Medicare or Medicaid if they qualify.
On the other hand, this same-sex “marriage” issue is
important to many of us faithful Catholics (and other Christians) as promoting
or legalizing same-sex “marriage” will only destroy the sacrament of matrimony,
and ever-more types of “marriage” will become legal — threesomes, foursomes and
who knows what other arrangements?
How can we justify discrimination against polygamy if
we can no longer discriminate against same-sex “marriage”? For that matter, how
can we discriminate against inter-species “marriage” if we cannot make
distinctions? (Don’t laugh: A woman in Israel recently married a dolphin.)
already has ruled that threesomes can get married.