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Notebook: Divine Intervention

The July 7 New York Times has an op-ed hashing out what the Catholic Church thinks of all things Darwinian. The author, Christoph Schonborn, is a preeminent Vatican scholar and, incidentally, one of the cardinals who was favored for the papacy after John Paul II died. He's also, as I've previously pointed out, considered something of a liberal.

Which is why it's strange to see Schonborn get so prickly about claims of the Church's "supposed acceptance" of evolution. Schonborn tries to clarify the Church's position this way:

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.

It may very well be true that some proponents of natural selection believe the process obviates the existence of a creator. But it is very slippery logic to assume that a science that proclaims "random variation" necessarily eliminates God from the equation. This tenet is not at all obvious, especially since many religious people--including many Catholics--believe that divine planning is located at a macro level. The Church, which has long engaged in agonized investigations into the role of human free will in the world, should hardly be so quick to dismiss the possibility that there could be both a God and natural selection.

Keelin McDonell is a writer for The New Republic.