Tag Archive | "Robert Russell"

Evolution discussed in the CBCP website

Whenever I visit the CBCP website I often find inspiration that would stimulate me to write an article for Filipino Freethinkers. Their infallible wisdom on matters of which they supposedly have no experience (e.g., sex, marriage, contraceptives, pregnancy and childbirth) never ceases to amaze me. This time, however, I wasn’t only inspired but also rather intrigued when I saw an old news article discussing the views of theology professor Robert John Russell on evolution in relation to atheism, and I couldn’t believe they actually posted it on their site.

Here are some excerpts:

He said if people want to “attack evolution they should do it in an intelligent way, not in an embarrassing way” by putting forth arguments that the scientific community addressed years ago.

Intelligent design, which accepts that life has evolved over eons but asserts that it is so complex that its development must have been guided by a supreme being or intelligent agent, or any other kind of interventionist theology “is really unethical” from a pastoral point of view, he said.

Proponents of intelligent design and creationism offer “a kind of fool’s gold” claiming they are the only ones who can keep God’s role in explaining the origins of life since “those nasty atheists have co-opted it” with the theory of evolution, he said.

While the Catholic Church claims that evolution doesn’t contradict the Bible, a quick look at the details of such claim exposes that what they are referring to may actually be intelligent design:

Citing various addresses from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before and after his election as Pope, the Austrian cardinal explained that “there are many proofs in favor of evolution.”

Nevertheless, he stressed, “though this theory enriches our knowledge of life, it doesn’t respond to the great philosophical question: Where does everything come from and how did this everything take a path until coming to be man?”

Therefore, Cardinal Schönborn contended, the key is discovering “that a preceding idea exists, that man is not the fruit of chaos, but that he ‘has been thought of,’ ‘wanted’ and ‘loved'” by the Creator.

Going back to the CBCP news article on Russell, we see how he effectively criticizes intelligent design:

Unfortunately, he said, intelligent design and creationist proponents are not addressing the real problem evolution poses, which is how to explain the existence of suffering, disease, death and extinction before the historical event of the creation and fall of man.

The fall represents the first act of disobedience of Adam and Eve whereby humankind lost its primal innocence and happiness and entered into its present condition of sin and suffering.

But evolution demonstrates that suffering and death are not the consequence of the fall, but were part of life “far before humanity came onto the scene and is in fact a part of how we got here,” he said.

How to account for the problem of why God would allow all his creatures to suffer is “the really hard challenge of evolution,” he said.

That seems to be a very solid argument against the existence of a loving creator put forth in a very clear and concise manner, and the fact that it can be found in the CBCP website makes it all the more interesting. Russell continues:

One response is that pain and suffering are a consequence of freedom, he said.

But while the father of a child lets her be free to run, fall and scrape her knee, if she were to pick up a gun and start playing with it, “I’d take that gun away,” he said.

How then does the heavenly Father allow the extent and horrendousness of suffering seen throughout the world and in history? he asked.

At this point one would expect Russell to say that the concept of a heavenly Father is simply irreconcilable with evolution, but then he surprises us:

The brutality Darwin witnesses in his studies of nature along with the tragic death of his 11-year-old daughter were two major circumstances that drove the Anglican scientist to abandon his faith in God, Russell said.

“But this doesn’t mean that his theories are atheistic,” he emphasized.

Almost everyone sees the same cruel world Darwin saw, but he “was tempted and his faith was challenged like mine is and yours is” in the face of seemingly inexplicable evil, he said.

“But we all have the same choice: to see (life) as meaningful or meaningless,” said Russell.

How could Russell, who was able to eloquently frame the problem of evil and suffering by posing implicative questions, propose that it still all boils down to our ‘choice’? Well it may be because he is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and the founder and director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences that he cannot state outright his position, much less his apparent skepticism, on the Christian teaching of an all-powerful and loving god. More importantly, Russell only said that we have the choice “to see life as meaningful or meaningless”; he didn’t really indicate that such meaning was dependent on the existence of God.

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