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Biological evolution. Facts and Theories
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Biological evolution. Facts and Theories

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G. Auletta - M- Leclerc - R.A. Martinez (eds.), "Analecta Gregoriana" 312, 2011 pp. 752

 

 

As a well-established scientific fact, biological evolution still provokes heated debates all over the world about its compatibility with religious beliefs. Moreover, the Darwinian theory, although remaining the general framework of life sciences, is in itself undergoing a sort of “evolution” by virtue of recent advancements in different biological disciplines, which lead to better assess the ideas that Darwin introduced more than 150 years ago. Finally, both the scientific fact of evolution and the Darwinian theory are concerns of philosophy and theology in relation to difficult issues such as the teleology ascribable to the realm of life, the meaning and relevance of ontological emergence, the mechanist and reductionist view of living beings, the level of complexity peculiar to biological systems, the relationships between evolution and Creation, the presence of contingency in nature, the ontological discontinuity between animals and the human being, and so on.
The Conference held at the Pontifical Gregorian University represented a multidisciplinary attempt at dealing with such a cluster of intellectual problems, and this volume of proceedings testifies not only the event in its uniqueness but also the efforts made in order to establish a true dialogue beyond any kind of cheap agreement or ideological closure. The volume gathers the contributions provided by 37 prominent scholars – scientists, philosophers and theologians – coming from major academic institutions like the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Stanford University, the Collège de France, the University of California, the University of Arizona, the Institute Catholique de Toulouse, the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences, and the University of Notre Dame that also participated to the organization of the Conference. Even if a lot of work is still to be done, this volume shows that important steps have been made towards a critical view of biological evolution, in which an appropriate philosophical mediation allows scientific knowledge and theological reflection to profitably interact. This seems crucial for establishing a culture that is both updated and an appropriate context for the human development of future generations.

“The theory of evolution conveys chance and necessity jointly intricated in the stuff of life; randomness and determinism interlocked in a natural process that has spurted the most complex, diverse, and beautiful entities in the universe: the organisms that populate the earth, including humans who think and love, endowed with free will and creative powers, and able to analyze the process of evolution itself that brought them into existence. This is Darwin’s fundamental discovery, that there is a process that is creative though not conscious, a process that creates design without necessitating a Designer.”
(Francisco J. Ayala)

 

Gennaro Auletta, PhD, is Aggregate Professor and Scientific Director of the Specialization “Science and Philosophy” at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome). He is author of more than 10 books, including Cognitive Biology: Dealing with Information from Bacteria to Minds (Oxford University Press, 2011) and Quantum Mechanics (with G. Parisi and M. Fortunato, Cambridge University Press, 2009), and of more than 50 papers.

Marc Leclerc sj is Full Professor of Philosophy of Nature at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome). He holds a PhD in molecular biophysics (Université Libre de Bruxelles, 1977) and in philosophy (Université Catholique de Louvain, 1990). Since 1987, he is a priest of the Society of Jesus.

Rafael A. Martínez is Professor of Philosophy of Science at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome). A trained physicist and philosopher, he is interested in the historical and epistemological aspects of scientific concepts. Co-author, with Mariano Artigas and Thomas F. Glick, of Negotiating Darwin. The Vatican confronts Evolution 1877-1902 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).







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