On the subject of evolution, we Catholics tend to look down our noses at our Evangelical brethren, whom we tend to see as needlessly exercised about secular boogie-men like Darwin. We tell ourselves that they're so untutored in Christian history as to reject use of our God-given faculty of reason, so their excitement about Darwin must come from a similarly unfounded suspicion of science. And the neo-Darwinians have been all too eager to flatter our vanity.
Today we receive the prelude to a correction from Holy Mother Church, transmitted through (of all places) today's New York Times. The Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, writes an op-ed on "Finding Design in Nature." An eminent Thomistic philosopher and member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Schönborn is best known as editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the first universal catechism since that of Trent. In the Times, he writes
Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.
The truth is that Darwinism is an abdication of reason. To propose chance as a cause of anything (including genetic information) is to abandon the bedrock of science, the principle of causality: "Everything has a cause either in itself or in another." Darwinism boils down to a fundamentalist-style belief. (See also this post on Carl Sagan's brand of ol'-time religion, and very good comments to this one.)
Darwinism is likewise an abdication of moral responsibility. Chance and determinism rule the universe1, so man is only a "trousered ape," in C.S. Lewis's words. Charles Darwin himself sees the moral implication of his theory is the removal of all limits to human behavior and he even describes genocide as the inevitable outcome of his system. (And I haven't mentioned Darwin's desciples, like Francis Galton, the "father" of modern eugenics.)
We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.2
2. "Necessary" meaning 'part of God's eternal plan,' not 'being one's own cause of existence.'
Christoph Schönborn, "Finding Design in Nature," New York Times (July 7, 2005). [Online edition sponsored ironically by "Kinsey: Now on DVD"—Kinsey the trousered-ape impersonator.]
Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Mass, Imposition of the Pallium and Conferral of the Fisherman's Ring for the Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome (April 24, 2005).