Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Best of 'The Public Square' Book Three,” by Richard John Neuhaus

229 pages, USD 15.00.

Neuhaus: “Berlinski is especially effective in showing how Darwinians kick any idea of purpose, design, or teleology out the front door, only to smuggle such ideas in by the back door. Nature 'selects' this or that, Nature 'chooses,' Nature 'targets,' and so forth. This Nature, whether upper or lower case, is a kind of deity in the details, ever invoked and ever denied.”

The genius of the late Father John Richard Neuhaus was his ability to engage in the intellectual life of America – both secular and religious -- with great insight and orthodox theology. A convert to Catholicism after years as a Lutheran pastor, Neuhaus engaged in the intellectual issues of the day with wit, sarcasm, and the depth that comes from reflecting the time-honored tradition of the Catholic Church.

In discussing a book on the limits of Darwinism, this cerebral bent gives intellectual legitimacy to religious believers; Neuhaus' following words reflect the fact that the faithful, contrary to the media and academia's portrayal of Christians as stupid yokels, can think as well as the rest of the world:

“One is sometimes asked whether one 'believes in' evolution. More strident Darwinists adamantly insist that it is not a matter of faith; it is not a theory to be accepted or rejected; it is a fact to be acknowledged. But of course that is silly. It is precisely, and Darwin intended it precisely as, a theory to explain how the complexity of living systems came about. And there may be something to it in terms of micro-evolution, in possibly explaining how changes happen within particular species. As for macro-evolution – a general and all-encompassing explanation of how we and all other living things came to be – Darwinism is, in my considered judgment, preposterous.”

These words are among the best Christian explanation of uneasiness with Darwinian theory. Neuhaus might be a bit witty or cagey at times, but he avoids the sort of personal slander that many other culture-warriors engage in.

Interestingly, Neuhaus' pre-Catholic ministry focused on poor black people in New York. He marched with Martin Luther King and supported civil rights in the 1960s. Many liberals would call Neuhaus a right-wing nut or a neo-con, but he most deeply represents Catholicism's ability to exist above the left-wing, right-wing political divide.

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