ROME — The debate over the origin and development of life and the universe will be coming to Rome early November, but it won’t be taking place in the same hall. Two parallel conferences will be going on in different parts of the city.
The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences is sponsoring an Oct. 31-Nov. 4 plenary session looking at the “Scientific Insights into the Evolution of the Universe and Life.” Meanwhile, the French organization, “Centre d’Etudes et de Prospective sur la Science” (Center for Studies and Prospective on Science) will be sponsoring its own international gathering of scientists who oppose evolution at Rome’s city hospital, Umberto Policlinico. The U.S.-based Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation is also promoting the latter event.
According to a “Scientific Critique of Evolution” press release, the French association decided to hold its own conference after the pontifical academy “ignored the scientists’ request” to be invited to the Vatican session in order to present arguments against evolution.
It said the scientists emphasize they are not “creationists,” who take a literal interpretation of the biblical account of creation. Rather, the French association’s president, Dominque Tassot, says the theory of evolution has no scientific basis and that some scientific studies are showing the Earth may be much younger than widely thought.
Evolutionary theory has been getting lots of play at the Vatican recently and Pope Benedict XVI has often spoken how evolution “exists,” but cannot explain everything nor can it exclude a divine cause.
Meanwhile, the Vatican is hosting another conference next year to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.” Since proponents of creationism or intelligent design have not been invited to speak at that event, fierce debate will be unlikely. Though it will be interesting to see if evolution-opponents create another parallel conference to coincide with it.