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Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith Hardcover – October 25, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Cardinal Schoenborn writes with masterful simplicity on profound theological issues. I, as a scientist and Christian outside the Catholic tradition, welcome his wisdom. He argues effectively that there are multiple approaches to reality, and he states clearly that while intelligent design is worthy of human reflection, from a scientific perspective the evolutionary model is the true story." -- Owen Gingerich, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and History of Science, Harvard University. Author of "God's Universe"

"Intellectual curiosity is here joined with precision of reason and vibrancy of faith. The result is a wondrously instructive guide to one of the most controverted questions of our time by one of the most influential leaders of the Church." -- Richard John Neuhaus, Editor, FIRST THINGS

"Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn's 2005 essay in the New York Times, which seemingly condemned Darwin's scientific theory of evolution, ignited a firestorm of controversy. Yet the hasty responses did not look deeply enough into the Cardinal's words. Rather than the science of Darwin, it is the philosophical claims made in its name that the prelate upbraided. Science cannot speak of ultimate purpose, and scientists who do so are outside of their authority. In Chance or Purpose? the Cardinal shows that the data of biology, when properly examined by reason and philosophy, strongly point to a purposeful world." -- Michael Behe, Author, Darwin's Black Box

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press; No Additional Printings Listed edition (October 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586172123
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586172121
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Christoph Cardinal Schonborn's book titled CHANCE OR PURPOSE: CREATION, EVOLUTION AND A RATIONAL FAITH is a thoughtful attempt to make connections between religious belief and modern science. Readers should note tht Cardinal Schonborn is not a fundamentalist, whatever that term means, and he is not a militant atheist. This book is not an attempt at a "middle ground," but an attempt to let "both sides" know that there are possible areas where agreement can be reached for further debate and discussion.

Cardinal Schonborn is clear that a literal interpretation of the Bible is not science and that the Bible was not written as a science book. Cardinal Schonborn mentioned that even the early Church Fathers were clear that the Bible was not meant to scientifically explain the Cosmos. In fact, St. Augustine (354-430)stated that the Bible was not an astronomy book, and students could study science in the schools. St. Augustine stated that the Bible and the Church teachings were designed to help men achieve salvation and not to teach science. In fact St. Augustine as well as other early Church Fathers stated that the much of the Bible was allegorical.

Another topic that Cardinal Schonborn examined is the fact that the Catholic Church enshrined reason next to Revealed Truths as part of learning. The Medieval Scholatics and especially St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)stated that science and the Bible were not at odds. His conclusion was that apparent conflicts were due to an inadequet understanding of the Bible. In other words, Cardinal Schonborn argued that there were Medieval scholars who recognized that there were apparent differences between the Bible, Catholic teaching, and science.
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I have been a fan of intelligent design (ID) since Darwin's Black Box. However the Protestant underpinnings that seem to be pervasive in ID are indeed hostile to the fruit of Darwinism, which is evolution. Many of the ID supporters that I know are secret semi-fundamentalists that don't want to admit that much of what they hold true in the area of origins comes from literal reading of the Bible and creation. While they won't admit to an Earth that is over 6000 years old (like some Fundamentalists do) they nevertheless abhor any fact or truth that emanates from scientific inquiry that might threaten their definition of God and of their reading of the Book of Genesis. Others in the ID camp are deists who see an original Creator - but one that now is afar and aloof and who is not involved in continuing and guiding creation. Having been raised by Catholic educators and scientists, I have always had great respect for Darwin's contributions to scientific methodology and science in general. However I have not been able to completely reconcile the "big divide" between believers in God (the Creator) and their warped view of science AND many prominent scientists, who claim the origin of the cosmos sprung from chaos, are atheists and who violently mock theists. I am a believer in a Creator, yet I also greatly respect true scientific methodology and the search for the truth. Why can't a believer in a Creator also be a respectful believer in the scientific search for the truth? Why can't the mysteries that have been unlocked for millennia and recently made evident by science be reconciled with religious beliefs? Could a Creator use evolution as a means to sustain and guide the original creation of everything (out of nothing and perhaps through the Big Bang) toward an ultimate purpose?Read more ›
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In part, a well written account of intellectual Catholic belief on matters loosely related to the scientific theory of evolution, and a fairly convincing argument that traditional Catholic doctrine is not contradictory to the strictly biological theory. In somewhat larger part, the author takes issue with "evolutionism", the idea that "the interplay of chance and necessity" that drives evolution is all there is to say about the subject of human origins, and takes issue with the idea that "man is just another evolved animal", ideas that are manifestly opposite to Christian belief.

As a statement of traditional Catholic belief the book is just fine. But it simply doesn't address what I would consider the central issue in the evolution vs creationist debate: granted the physical laws of the universe and the state of the Earth some four billion years ago, is it logically possible and reasonable that the complexity of life could have arisen by the operation of physical laws alone? This is what most scientists implicitly believe, what those like Richard Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design explicitly seek to demonstrate, and what a small minority like the author of Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution explicitly disagree with. But on this issue author abandons his otherwise sophisticated nuanced theology in favor of occasional statements like the following, without attempting to develop an argument.
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