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Vatican astronomer rips Intelligent Design theory November 18, 2005

The director of the Vatican Observatory has lashed out at proponents of the theory of Intelligent Design, the Italian news service ANSA reports.

"Intelligent design isn't science, even if it pretends to be," said Father George Coyne. He said that if the theory is introduced in schools, it should be taught in religion classes, not science classes. ANSA reported that the Jesuit priest made his remarks at a conference in Florence.

Father Coyne had criticized Intelligent Design previously, in an article that appeared in October in the British Catholic newspaper, The Tablet. In that article, he took issue with Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who had published an essay in the New York Times pointing to the weaknesses of Darwinian evolutionary theory. Whereas Cardinal Schönborn argued that a strictly material approach to evolution cannot answer ultimate questions about the origin of man, Father Coyne countered that critics of evolution are underestimating God's willingness to give "freedom" to the processes of nature.

Statements by Vatican officials about Intelligent Design-- or even indirect references to that theory-- have commanded headlines in recent weeks. On November 3, when Cardinal Paul Poupard said that believers should be respectful of scientific evidence regarding evolution, many reporters and commentators cited the French prelate's statement as a rejection of Intelligent Design.

One week later the tables were turned when Pope Benedict XVI, during a regular weekly audience, gently rebuked those who "imagine the universe without guidance or order, as though at the mercy of chaos." Although the Pope was citing the word of St. Basil the Great, many media reporters claimed that he was not endorsing the Intelligent Design theory.

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