Catholic universities plan scientific examination of evolutionary theory


Two universities from different sides of the Atlantic announced plans today to hold an international conference to discuss Charles Darwin’s work “The Origin of the Species.” The conference will approach Darwin’s theory of evolution from a scientific standpoint, rather than an ideological one, an organizer explained. 

"Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories. A Critical Appraisal 150 years after 'The Origin of Species'" is scheduled for March 3-7, 2009 in Rome and is being sponsored by the University of Notre Dame (USA) and the Pontifical Gregorian University.

The congress, while being sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture, is “an academic congress, organized by two Catholic universities, the Gregorian University in Rome and Notre Dame in the United States, and as such is not an ecclesial event. Yet the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture serves to underline the Church's interest in such questions," Fr. Marc Leclerc S.J. explained.

Professor Gennaro Aluetta, a philosophy professor at Gregorian University, also added that the invitees include “Nobel laureate Werner Arber, the Templeton Prize winner Michael Heller, Prof.John Barrow di Cambridge, il grande neurologo Marc Jeannerod e moltissimi altri. John Barrow of Cambridge, the great neurologist Marc Jeannerod and many others.”

Fr. Leclerc explained the reason that the congress is being held, saying, "Debates on the theory of evolution are becoming ever more heated, both among Christians and in specifically evolutionist circles. In particular, with the approach of the ... 150th anniversary of the publication of 'The Origin of Species,’ Charles Darwin's work is still too often discussed more in ideological terms than in the scientific ones which were his true intention.”

"In such circumstances - as Christian scientists, philosophers and theologians directly involved in the debate alongside colleagues from other confessions or of no confession at all - we felt it incumbent upon us to bring some clarification. The aim is to generate wide-ranging rational discussion in order to favor fruitful dialogue among scholars from various fields and areas of expertise. The Church has profound interest in such dialogue, while fully respecting the competencies of each and all,” Fr. Leclerc said.

The congress is also part of the larger initiative led by the Pontifical Council for Culture called the Science, Technology, and the Ontological Quest or STOQ. The initiative seeks to pursue the connections between science, philosophy and theology.

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