Evolution conference off to roaring start

ROME — Normally when the Vatican or a pontifical university sponsors a conference within its walls, you’d be pretty lucky to see any footage of it on the nightly news.

Mostly it’s just us Catholic journalists who haunt those halls, sitting hunched over our notepads scribbling down highlights from the talks and tracking down participants to interview. And if you’re the proud reader of Catholic News Service and her client newspapers and magazines, then you’d get to read about the event sometime later.

But this time was different. This time an audience member came armed with his own video camera so he could bring a slice of academia immediately to the wider world.

Dr. Oktar Babuna, a Turkish neurosurgeon, and a colleague of his attended Tuesday’s opening day of a five-day international conference dedicated to the critical appraisal of Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution.

According to Babuna, he tried to pose a question asking where the scientific evidence was for evolution — specifically, where are the fossil records of transitional forms that link the evolution of one species to another? But he told news agencies he was censored because he was challenging the veracity of evolution.

Babuna’s colleague captured the five-minute episode on camera and contacted news media about it soon after. Babuna said they uploaded the footage onto YouTube and the Web site of Harun Yahya, a Turkish author who opposes Darwinian theories as being unscientific. God created the world, but not according to evolutionary processes, Babuna said.

When I asked him by phone today about what happened on Tuesday, he said he had not been allowed to complete his question and had been rudely pushed back to his seat. He said he felt “the atmosphere was very undemocratic.”

He said he believes Darwinism denies the existence of God and that it’s an ideology meant to keep atheism alive in modern society,

He said he was sorry a pontifical university would sponsor such an event because “Rome is the center of Christianity and to get involved with that kind of people — they are all atheists.”

Unfortunately, I got to the conference an hour after the filmed event on Tuesday and can’t give my impressions. But after talking with some organizers and participants about it today, they said the episode hadn’t seem like “that big of a deal,” in the words of one.

They said Babuna had been cut off because there was a limited amount of time dedicated to the question-and-answer segment after each talk, and he was not using his time at the microphone to ask a question but instead “to make a big statement.”

According to people I spoke with, the moderator repeated his request several times for Babuna to ask a question and when it didn’t seem like a question was being posed, the microphone was eventually taken away. When Babuna did not leave the floor, he was asked to return to his seat.

Here’s the YouTube footage. The sound quality is extremely poor, but toward the end you can see Douglas Futuyma, a professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, at the front of the room behind a microphone explaining to Babuna the scientific evidence for evolution and transitional forms.

Two Vatican officials I spoke with told me they spoke with Babuna afterward, listened to his views and accepted from him a copy of Yahya’s Atlas of Creation.

Proponents of intelligent design and creationism had not been invited to give presentations at the conference because these positions are considered to be ideologies and do not reflect good science, theology or philosophy, according to Jesuit Father Marc Leclerc, a philosophy professor at the Gregorian University and member of the organizing committee.

He told reporters today that a purely ideological position “makes dialogue very difficult, maybe impossible.” Instead they wanted to invite people who had made clear contributions to the fields of science, theology or philosophy to discuss the implications of and open questions left in Darwin’s theories.

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6 Responses to Evolution conference off to roaring start

  1. Rebecca Messall says:

    Sir Julian Huxley, a co-founder of today’s modern evolutionary biology, espoused evolution as religion in a chapter called “The New Divinity,” in his 1964 book “Essays of a Humanist”: “I believe that [a] drastic reorganization of our pattern of religious thought is now becoming necessary, from a god-centered to an evolution-centered pattern…Today the god hypothesis has ceased to be scientifically tenable, has lost its explanatory value and is becoming an intellectual and moral burden to our thought . . .In place of eternity we shall have to think in terms of enduring progress; in place of salvation in terms of attaining the satisfying states of inner being which combine energy and peace. There will be no room for petitionary prayer, but much value in prayer involving aspiraion and self-exploration.”

  2. Volubrjotr says:

    Huxley was known as Darwin’s Bulldog who has given rise to those who cling to evolution as the ‘explanation’ for their actions. Such people can be found in Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolph Hitler, Dickie Dawkins, & Charles Darwin for his father’s practice of eugenics on unsuspecting people.

    That said, the religion (world view) of evolutionism has never been duplicated, predicted, observed, quantified in order to acclimate the axioms of science for a validated theory.

    The fact that modern science as practiced today was created by the Catholics namely Nicole Oresme leaves little credible room for Huxley opine with any credibility about science or metaphysics.

    If Huxley had any salt in science he would try to make his evolutionism consistent with the Second Law of Thermodynamics and entropy. As it is (evolution) it has never been able to takle the Laws of Physics let alone a mere observation of macromolecule to cell transition.

  3. Steve Palmberg says:

    Are you people serious? Regardless of his motivation (I think he just got tired of Protestant Bible scholars snickering at Catholic Bible scholars), Pius XII gave everybody the freedom to use their brain when reading the Bible back in 1943. This “creationism” nonsense is just silliness.

  4. Volubrjotr says:

    Steve, The Pope never gave nor denied anyone at anytime the freedom. Only God granted Freedom and the Holy Catholic Church vouchsafes that Freedom.

    Evolutionism is nonsense as it is an ideology when it purports to be validated by the axioms of science. Creationism too is silly when it purports its self proven by the axioms of science. Both are fundamentalistic and w/o the valid proof of science.

    The most serious threat to the evolutionism movement is Intelligent Design which was the modus for the development of Modern Science in the first place by Nicole Oresme.

  5. Nancy says:

    “they wanted to invite people who made clear contributions to the fields of Science, Theology or Philosophy to discuss the implications of and open questions of Darwin’s theory”

    Regarding “apeman”, anyone with basic common sense would have to ask, “where exactly are those many, many, missing links?”

    One thing I know for certain is True, God is certainly Intelligent enough to figure out His own Design.

  6. There’s a rather thorough discussion on creation vs. evolution in my free e-book Walkabout: The History of a Brief Century at http://personal.inet.fi/private/walkabout. Feel free to peruse the book and see if it’s any help in clarifying the matter.

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