Ayala and Miller Question Pope
Francisco Ayala and Kenneth Miller (along with Lawrence Krauss) have sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI in regards to the recent statements from Cardinal Schonborn. For those unfamiliar with Schonborn's position, he essentially questions the unguided nature of the modern scientific view of biological evolution.
Both Ayala and Miller are well respected biologists (and Krauss is a famous physicist) who have published numerous books and peer reviewed articles. Ayala, who studied under the famed evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky, is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Both biologists are known for publicly reconciling their Catholic beliefs with their scientific pursuits. I consider Ayala and Miller much more informed and better equipped to discuss the interface of biology and religion than a Cardinal who was unknown in the biology community until his article was published by the NYTimes.
"Three scientists, two of them Roman Catholic biologists, have asked Pope Benedict XVI to clarify the church's position on evolution in light of recent statements by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, an influential theologian, that the modern theory of evolution may be incompatible with Catholic faith.
"The scientists asked the pope to reaffirm earlier statements on the subject by Pope John Paul II and others "that scientific rationality and the church's commitment to divine purpose and meaning in the universe were not incompatible.' It is crucial, their letter says, 'that in these difficult and contentious times the Catholic Church not build a new divide, long ago eradicated, between the scientific method and religious belief.'"
This is a big litmus test for the Pope -- will he side with the John Paul or Cardinal Schonborn? Of course, for those of us who couldn't give a rat's ass what the Vatican thinks about biology, this is merely a nice little story.
I do wonder, however, how the church's position on evolution affects the careers of Ayala and Miller. Does it really matter to them whether or not the Pope understands or supports the modern view of evolutionary biology? It seems to me that both are rational men capable of coming up with their own conclusions based on evidence and independently of church doctrine. Maybe they're just looking out for the large majority of Catholics who are not knowledgeable of the wealth of data supporting biological evolution; they probably don't want the average Catholic to be misled by poorly crafted religious ideology.