These brief selections from Chance or Purpose? address some of the main themes of Cardinal Schönborn's new book: faith, science,
creation and "creationism", "Darwinism," and evolution.
A blind faith that simply demanded of us a leap into what was completely uncertain and unknown would not be a human faith. If belief in
a Creator were completely devoid of all insight, with no way of knowing what believing in a Creator actually means, then such a belief would
be inhuman. The Church has always quite rightly rejected that kind of "fideism", of blind faith.
Believing without knowledge, without the possibilty of coming to know anything about the Creator, of our reason being able to comprehend
anything about him, would not be Christian belief. The biblical and Judeo-Christian faith has always been convinced, not only that we
can and should believe in a Creator, but also that we are able to understand a great deal about the Creator with our human reason.
It is one of the more tenacious "myths" of our epoch--indeed, I would say, one of the well-established prejudices--that relations between
faith and science exist, from ages past, in a kind of persistent conflict. The Church is regarded as the great brake on progress, and science
as the courageous liberator. Above all, the "case of Galileo", in the popular version, is depicted in that way, with the researcher as the
victim of the dark Inquisition. A great deal of that, however, is legenda negra, a "black legend", drawn in sharp contrasts during th e
Enlightenment, but not entirely doing justice to the historical truth.
God's act of creation occurs without any movement. He does not shape something that already exists. According to most creation myths, the
gods create the world by re-shaping what is already there. They are "demiurges", giving form to the chaos, to what is already there, to
primal material. Only God, as we meet Him in the Bible, is a Creator. ... God creates "out of nothing" That does not mean that "nothing",
"the non-existent", is something he makes things out of; it means rather that God's act of creation is a sovereign constituting of things.
God spoke, an it was! Everything that is, has been called into existence by him. That is what is wonderful and unique about the biblical
belief in creation.
How has this strange "sacralization" of a scientific theory come about? How is it that this theory is the only one, so far as I know,
that has become an "-ism"? There is no "Einsteinism" corresponding to Einstein's theory of relativity, nor is there any "Newtonism" or
"Heisenbergism". Why is there "Darwinism"? American philosopher and historian of science Stanley L. Jaki has said that freeing Darwin's
theory of evolution, and its further developments in neo-darwinism, "from what is not science there", so that it does not become
ideology, but remains science, is a most imporant task.
Anyone makes a "battle of beliefs" out of the question of evolution is certainly not serving science. The fact that questions concerning
evolution have been made into "weapons of war" to use against belief in creation has little to do with science, just as Marxism's
"dialectical materialism", with its "scientific" atheism, has very little indeed to do with genuine science.
Is everyone who believes "a God created them" just a blind fanatic? Or is our deep pleasure in Haydn's "The Creation" just a romantic surge
of the spirit? Can a rational person believe in a Creator at all? On this point, I just want to listen, without polemics, to what faith and
reason say about it. In reaction to my article in the New York Times, a scientist wrote to me that he would like to believe, but
he simply could not "believe in a Creator God, an old man with a long white beard". I replied to him that no one actually expected him to
believe such a thing. On the contrary, that kind of conception of the Creator--perhaps child-like, but certainly childish--is a long way
from what the Bible says about the Creator, and what the clause in the Creed "I believe in God, the Father, maker of heaven and earth",
means. In my letter to him, I responded that it would be a good thing if his scientific knowledge and his religious knowledge were a little
more nearly on the same level, and that his high level of knowledge as a scientist were not accompanied by a religious knowledge was still
that of a child.
At this point we should also mention another frequent misunderstanding. It concerns so-called "creationism". Often nowadays in polemics,
belief in creation is lumped together with "creationism". Yet believing in God the Creator is not identical with the way that, in some
Christian circles, people try to understand the six days of creation spoken of in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis as if this had
been literally reported, as six chronological days, and try by all possible arguments, even scientific ones, to prove that the earth is
about six thousand years old. Attempts like that to take the Bible literally, as if it were making scientific statements at this point,
are what is called "fundamentalism". To be more exact, in American Protestantism this view of the Christian faith has called itself
"fundamentalism" from the start. Starting from a belief that every word of the Bible was directly inspired by God--that is, starting from
an understanding of literal inspiration--the six days of the creation are also taken to mean what they say, word for word. It is
understandable that many people in the U.S.A. are energetically opposed to this view--even so far as going to court and taking legal
action against such things being taught in schools. There is, of course, also the legitimate concern with critical questions about
teaching "Darwinism"--but that is a different matter.
The Catholic position on "creationism" is clear. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that one should "not try to defend the Christian faith with
arguments that make it ridiculous, because they are in obvious contradiction with reason". It is nonsense to maintain that the world is only
six thousand years old. An attempt to prove such a notion scientifically means provoking what Saint Thomas calls the irrisio infidelium,
the mockery of unbelievers. Exposing the faith to mockery with false arguments of this kind is not right; indeed, it is explicitly to be
rejected. Let that be enough on the subject of "creationism" and "fundamentalism".
Strictly scientific research into evolution, which can report its progress step-by-step so that others can do the same, is a
most respectable area of research. However, the extended application of evolution to all spheres of reality under the motto, "everything
is evolution", no longer has any scientific basis. Here we enter into the realm of a worldview, if not of an ideology. The "Darwinian
version" of things influences not only the way we conceive the origin of life and its development. It has also influenced our life in
society and attitudes to the main moral questions in bioethics, in education, and in science--and continues to do so.