Since 1859 – Pope backs Darwin’s insights
VATICAN CITY, April 12 — Pope Benedict XVI, in a book published in Germany, praised the “new insights” of science, while saying that Darwin’s theory of evolution is not provable.
In the book “Schoepfung und Evolution” or “Creation and Evolution,” Benedict, speaking on evolution for the first time since he became pope, did not endorse intelligent design or creationism. The book is based on a seminar Benedict had in September with former students, The Scotsman reports.
“Science has opened up large dimensions of reason … and thus brought us new insights,” Benedict said at the seminar. “But in the joy at the extent of its discoveries, it tends to take away from us dimensions of reason that we still need. Its results lead to questions that go beyond its methodical canon and cannot be answered within it.”
In 2005, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, one of Benedict’s former students, gave what appeared to be an endorsement of intelligent design in a published article.
Charles Robert Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) is famed as the eminent English naturalist who convinced the scientific community by his writings and a mass of evidence that species develop over time in a process of evolution. His theories of natural and sexual selection subsequently became central to the modern evolutionary synthesis as the unifying theory of the life sciences, essential in biology and important in other disciplines such as anthropology, psychology and philosophy.
Darwin developed his interest in natural history at university while studying first medicine, then theology. His five-year voyage on the Beagle established him as a geologist whose observations and theorising supported Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author. Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, he investigated the transmutation of species and conceived his theory of natural selection in 1838. Having seen others attacked for such heretical ideas, he confided only in his closest friends and continued his extensive research to meet anticipated objections. In 1858, Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay describing a similar theory, forcing early joint publication of both of their theories.
His 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, established evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. Human origins as well as features without obvious utility such as beautiful bird plumage were examined in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.
In recognition of Darwin’s pre-eminence, he was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to John Herschel and Isaac Newton.