His main argument is that the current Pope understands the science of the environment and has spoken out in favor of protecting the environment. David Lodge thinks this represents an accomomodation between science and religion.
By framing protection of the environment as protecting human welfare, the Pope has linked the interests of groups that are often at odds. He offers some middle ground on which both sides of this polarized debate can meet and work towards a mutually desirable future.I'm glad the Pope uses legitimate scientific arguments to defend his views but surely that's not Earth-shattering news? Isn't it what we expect from any intelligent human being?
Such a compromise between the extremes of the religious and environmentalist positions could also help to defuse other sources of tension between faith and science.
To many people, the two cannot be reconciled — so much so that when I tell people I am a biologist, believe in evolution and work on environmental issues, I am often told that I cannot be a Christian. Sadly, this is the message in many conservative Protestant churches: choose between science and faith.There's a very large difference between the anti-science views of conservative Protestants in the USA and the anti-accommodationist views of some scientists. One of these views is logical and rational and the other isn't. Lodge does his readers a great disservice by associating them.
The same polarization is urged by many prominent popularizers of science and the ‘New Atheists’ — with Richard Dawkins as their figurehead. Is it so surprising, then, that in the United States especially, atheism is over-represented among scientists, and that science–faith polarization is increasingly reflected in political and cultural discourse?
Furthermore, there are many reasons why American scientists are more likely to be atheists than the general public in that country. One of them is not that they listen to the "New Atheists." Most of them can see for themselves that there's a conflict between behaving as a scientist and following a religion. In many cases, they were nonbelievers before they became scientists. Most of then have never heard of the "New Atheists."
For example, nothing in the official teaching of Catholicism opposes evolution. Creationism is a recent Protestant invention, based on extreme, literal interpretations of the first three chapters of the Bible’s book of Genesis. Catholicism relies more on an interpretation of the scriptures that is rooted in a tradition of reason informing faith. Yet when I ask my biology undergraduates whether they feel a conflict between their faith and evolution, about half of every class — 85% of whom are Catholic — say yes.Young Earth Creationism is hardly a recent invention and it's not the only form of creationism. David Lodge is a creationist and so is the current Pope. The Catholic church makes a lot of noise about accepting evolution but its view is basically a version of Theistic Evolution with a heavy emphasis on "Theistic."
Catholic Church and Evolution].
[God] created beings and allowed them to develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one, so that they were able to develop and to arrive and their fullness of being. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence, giving being to every reality. And so creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things... The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it. The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.Pope Francis is a really nice guy but the students in David Lodge's class know a conflict when they see one. They know that a true scientific view of evolution does not allow any room for gods—especially the Roman Catholic god. They also know creationism when they see it.
Some of those students might be Young Earth Creationists, in which case they disagree with the Pope, if they are Catholic. Some of the 85% who call themselves Catholic might actually be atheists. I suspect that more than 20% of the students at Notre Dame are actually atheists in all but name. Many of the remaining students know that science and religion conflict on many fronts so they answer the question honestly, as they should.
Most of the people who read Nature don't care what the Pope thinks about the environment or climate change and they certainly don't think that it has anything to do with the deeper conflict between science and religion. I'm guessing that this includes Catholics like Ken Miller and Michael Behe who are quite used to picking and choosing which Papal opinions they will follow and which ones they will ignore. That's exactly how most Catholic behave, especially in Europe and North America.
We've discussed the inherent conflict between science and religion many times on this blog. There are dozens of books and articles about the conflict. Maybe some of David Lodge's students have read those books? Maybe their teachers hasn't?
Let's review the main reason why evolution poses a problem for all religions. Almost all religions assume that the Earth is a special place among all the billions of planets in the universe. In addition, they assume that humans—or something like them—are special creatures that the gods prefer. Many believers think that their gods created humans directly, but even among "sophisticated" believers who accept evolution, their gods must play a role in the evolution of humans. In some cases the gods created the universe in such a way that humans would inevitably evolve and come to worship their creators. In other cases, the gods tweaked the process from time to time to make sure that intelligent god-worshiping beings would appear.
Is such a view compatible with evolution, properly understood? No it is not. Jerry Coyne has written extensively about this in his book Faith vs Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. You should read his book. Here's the summary of this argument. It corresponds to my own views on Evolution by Accident.
What this means is that if life began all over again, even on our own primitive Earth, the mutations that are evolution's raw material would be different. And if the raw material of evolution differed, so would its products: all the species alive today. All it would take is a few different mutations occurring early in the history of life, for instance, and everything that followed might have been very different from what actually evolved.This is why evolution and religion conflict. Science says that humans were not inevitable and they are not special. No major religion agrees with this conclusion.
The upshot is that if mutations are fundamentally indeterminate, a replay of evolution would likely give us an array of species very different from those we see today. And we couldn't be sure at all that humans would be among them. The only way around this conclusion is to abandon naturalistic evolution and invoke a god supervising the process, making the right midcourse corrections to ensure that humans appeared.
Putting this together, if we replay the tape of either cosmic or biological evolution, we simply can't make a rational and logical argument that the appearance of humanoids was inevitable—and we can make a good argument that is was not. Any other answer involves either wishful thinking or unscientific claims grounded in theology, like God-directed mutations.
In the end, theistic evolution is not a useful compromise between science and religion. Insofar as it makes testable predictions, it has been falsified, and insofar as it makes claims that can't be tested, it can be ignored,