By Hilary White

ROME, March 5, 2009 ( – A high-level Vatican prelate has denounced the idea that science and religious belief are opposed. While the Church does not necessarily oppose Darwin’s theory, he said, the assertions of popular atheists like Richard Dawkins that science proves the non-existence of God are “absurd.”

William Cardinal Levada, the head of the Catholic Church’s highest doctrinal body, said, “Of course we think that’s absurd and not at all proven. But other than that, the Vatican has recognized that it doesn’t stand in the way of scientific realities.”

Speaking Tuesday at a Vatican-sponsored conference on Darwin at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Levada told the Associated Press, “We believe that however creation has come about and evolved, ultimately God is the creator of all things.”

With the bicentenary in February of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book “Origin of Species,” increasing attention is being given to the conflict between “creationism” and evolutionary theory.

The conference, “Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories. A critical appraisal 150 years after ‘The Origin of Species’” was convened to help refute the notion, popular with the mainstream media, that religion and science, or faith and reason, are opposed.

Gennaro Auletta, a professor of philosophy at the Gregorian, told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that the Church “has never adopted an attitude of condemnation” towards Darwinism.

“This is one of the many reasons that in my opinion make all the efforts to recover or rehabilitate Darwin superfluous, because neither the Catholic Church nor her most important exponents have ever condemned Darwinism or the theory of evolution,” he said.

“It [Darwinism] has always been given much attention,” Auletta said.  “We only need to recall that Cardinal John Henry Newman in England was a clear supporter, since its beginnings, of Darwinism.”

Auletta was careful to make the distinction between the scientific theory of evolution – that of the slow change of species by a process of mutation and natural selection to adapt to different environments – and the atheistic ideology of materialist Darwinism that denies the existence of God and His work as creator. “These two perspectives are today often confused,” he said.

Jesuit Fr. John McDade, of the University of London’s Heythrop College told the conference, “What[ever] someone like Darwin or any other scientist comes up with that shows the complexity and the processes that work in the world, that is perfectly compatible with the Christian belief that the world is sustained by God.”

Read related coverage:

Upcoming Vatican Conference on Darwin Set to Coincide with 150th Anniversary of “Origin of Species”


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