— Pope Benedict XVI will this week host a private seminar to firm-up the Catholic Churchs stance on Darwinian evolution.
One of the key guests, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn from Vienna, Austria, is known to sympathise with Intelligent Design (ID), the idea that the development of life is masterminded by an unidentified designer, usually assumed to be God.
In August, at a Catholic rally held in Rimini, Italy, Schönborn announced that the summit would take place from 1 September to 3 September at Castel Gandalfo, the Popes summer palace.
It is rumoured that the seminar will be aimed at finding a way to stop the church giving out mixed messages, with some senior figures supporting Darwinism and others denouncing it.
Dominique Tassot, a Roman Catholic scientist and anti-evolutionist, told the US National Catholic Reporter that the aim of the meeting was to give a broader extension to the debate.
Tassot said that most catholic intellectuals today are convinced that evolution is obviously true because most scientists say so.
The previous pope, John Paul II, appeared to back Darwinian evolution when in 1996 he described evolution as more than a hypothesis.
Likewise, Father George Coyne, until recently director of the Vatican Observatory, mocked the idea of Intelligent Design, accusing its backers of underestimating Gods willingness to give freedom to nature.
Coyne is also on record as having described creationism as a religious movement devoid of all scientific basis.
In the science monthly periodical Newton, Coyne said: God isnt a designer and life is the fruit of billions of attempts.
Not an accident
This thinking puts Coyne at odds with other church academics such as Schönborn, who repeated in Rimini his belief that the universe cannot have formed in a random way, as proposed by Darwinian evolution.
It is not known what stance the Pope himself will take, although in his inaugural sermon on becoming Pope, he said: We are not the accidental product, without meaning, of evolution.
On 19 August, 73-year-old Coyne was replaced as director of the Vatican Observatory. Rumours abound he was removed because of his vocal views on evolution. Coyne himself is reported as saying that he wished to be replaced because he is being treated for cancer.
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