Catholics and Evolution: Interview with Cardinal Christoph Schönborn

Are Christian values compatible with Darwinism? A Catholic leader sets out his views on evolution and intelligent design.

Vienna--Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna touched off a storm in July 2005 with an op-ed page article in the New York Times questioning Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and appearing to endorse the concept of intelligent design--the theory that life forms are too complex to have been the product of random mutation. Scientists accused the 60-year-old cardinal, who has often been named as a possible future pope, of trying to steer Catholic teaching away from its cautiously positive view of evolution and toward what they said was the pseudo-science of intelligent design.

In a recent interview with Beliefnet in the Austrian capital, Schönborn set out his sometimes misunderstood views, clearly distinguishing between evolution and what he calls "evolutionism." He explained that while he believes that God is the intelligent designer of the universe, his position on evolution springs from a philosophical rather than a scientific standpoint. His main concern, he said, was not to denigrate evolution as a natural process but to criticize atheistic



[the idea that only matter, not spirit, exists] as the dominant philosophy of today's secular societies.

Framing the question this way, this close associate of Pope Benedict XVI echoed views that the new pontiff has expressed about the dangers of relativism.

Saying he was not qualified to comment on American legal issues, Schönborn declined to comment on the recent Pennsylvania case in which U.S. District Judge John Jones ruled that intelligent design is not science and cannot be taught in public-school biology classrooms. The following is an English translation of Schönborn's remarks in German:

What are your objections to the theory of evolution?

Evolution is a scientific theory. What I call evolutionism is an ideological view that says evolution can explain everything in the whole development of the cosmos, from the Big Bang to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. I consider that an ideology. It's not good for science if it becomes ideological, because it leaves it own field and enters the area of philosophy, of world views, maybe of religion.

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