Pope Francis: The Holy Spirit and the Care for Creation

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Pope Francis said today, during the General Audience:

The Holy Spirit nurtures hope not only in the heart of men, but also in all creation. The apostle Paul says that even creation “waits with eager longing” for liberation and groans and suffers as in the pain of childbirth (cf Rm 8:20-22). “The energy capable of moving the world is not an anonymous and blind force but the action of the ‘Spirit of God… moving over the face of the waters’ (Gn 1: 2) at the beginning of the Creation” (Benedict XVI, Homily, 31 May 2009)

litter in Nature

And he continued:

This too leads us to respect creation: one cannot besmirch a painting without offending the artist who created it.

Let the upcoming feast of Pentecost find us harmonious in prayer, with Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother. And may the gift of the Holy Spirit make us abound in hope.

read the whole text: General Audience, 31 May 2017

Picture in the Header: Detail from the St. Marc’s Cathedral in Venice

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Lima beans, parasitic wasps and Charles Darwin

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When Lima beans are attacked by a caterpillar, they know how to defend themselves:

Plants have evolved a wide range of direct and indirect defensive strategies against being eaten by herbivores, like the indirect defense using semio-chemicals, i.e. chemicals that carry a message. The caterpillar of Spodoptera littoralis [1], the African cotton leafworm or Egyptian cotton leafworm, is a noctuid moth found widely in Africa and Mediterranean Europe. The cotton leafworm caterpillar is attacked by two parasitic wasps, one belonging to the Ichneumonidae, the other one to the Braconidae.[2]

We are amazed by the “smart” defense mechanism that plants have evolved during their evolutionary past.

But these parasitic wasps? If we remember correctly, Ichneumonidae are bad guys, at least this is their reputation.  Charles Darwin (who died on this day in 1882) wrote in a letter to his friend Asa Gray on 22 May 1860:

I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.

Would Charles Darwin have judged differently had he known that plants have called the Ichmeumonidae to help them defend themselves? I don’t know. But I doubt it.

Charles Darwin’s concept of God was one of “God as Designer”, as portrayed by William Paley. This concept is outdated in a world where we think in ecosystems, and in interconnectedness.

In the 21th century, we need another perspective on God’s action in creation.  I propose the following text in Pope Francis encyclical “Laudato Si”:

Creating a world in need of development, God in some way sought to limit himself in such a way that many of the things we think of as evils, dangers or sources of suffering, are in reality part of the pains of childbirth which he uses to draw us into the act of cooperation with the Creator.(49) God is intimately present to each being, without impinging on the autonomy of his creature, and this gives rise to the rightful autonomy of earthly affairs (50). His divine presence, which ensures the subsistence and growth of each being, “continues the work of creation”.(51) The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge: “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, namely God’s art, impressed upon things, whereby those things are moved to a determinate end. It is as if a shipbuilder were able to give timbers the wherewithal to move themselves to take the form of a ship”(52). [3]

__________

[1] Mithöfer A, Wanner G, Boland W. Effects of Feeding Spodoptera littoralis on Lima Bean Leaves. II. Continuous Mechanical Wounding Resembling Insect Feeding Is Sufficient to Elicit Herbivory-Related Volatile Emission. Plant Physiology. 2005;137(3):1160-1168. doi:10.1104/pp.104.054460.

[2] Morales, J, Medina, P, Vinuela, E. The influence of two endoparasitic wasps, Hyposoter didymator and Chelonus inanitus, on the growth and food consumption of their host larva Spodoptera littoralis. BioControl 2006; 52, 145-160. doi: 10.1007/s10526-006-9026-4

[3] Pope Francis, Laudato Si, 80; (49) : cf CCC 310; (50) Gaudium et Spes 36; (51) Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, art. 1 ad 4; (52) Ibid., In octo libros Physicorum Aristotelis expositio, Lib. II, lectio 14

 

Schöpfung und Evolution, reloaded

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[Am 3. März 2016 ist in kath.net mein Gastkommentar “Schöpfung und Evolution, reloaded” erschienen, als Antwort auf die Kolumne  „Intelligent Design, reloaded“ von Dr. Marcus Franz, kath.net, 18. Februar 2016. Dieser Beitrag soll  zeigen, dass es Zeit ist, das „Intelligent Design“- Modell  ad acta zu legen und uns Thomas von Aquin erneut zuzuwenden.]

2016-01-18 creationFinding Design in Nature – das war der Titel des Gastkommentars von Kardinal Christoph Schönborn im Juli 2005 in der New York Times. In der deutschen Übersetzung: „Den Plan in der Natur entdecken“. Das im Jahr 2007 erschienene Buch von Kardinal Schönborn heißt „Ziel oder Zufall?“ In allen Fällen geht es um um den griechischen Begriff des „telos“. Die Diskussion begann im englischen Sprachraum, und hier sind ideengeschichtliche Hintergründe zu berücksichtigen. Im Englischen verbindet man mit „telos“ zunächst „design“, „purpose“ (Zweck) und erst später denkt man an „finality“ (Zielgerichtetheit). Während wir in unserem Sprachraum den teleologischen Gottesbeweis mit dem 5. Weg des hl. Thomas von Aquin gleichsetzen, wird im Englischen das „teleological argument“ gleichgesetzt mit „argument from design“, und zumeist meint man damit das bekannte Bild vom göttlichen Uhrmacher, das der anglikanische Theologe William Paley, zwar von anderen übernommen, aber meisterhaft, ganz in der Tradition der englischen Natürlichen Theologie stehend, ausgebaut hatte: Lebewesen sind kompliziert gebaute Mechanismen, gut abgestimmt auf ihre Umwelt und ihre Funktion, und können einfach nur durch das Eingreifen Gottes erklärt werden. Charles Darwin war in seiner Jugend fasziniert von William Paley, doch kehrte er sich später immer deutlicher davon ab. Warum? Neben dem Schönen und Sinnhaften gibt es auch Baufehler, Krankheiten, Parasiten, es gibt eben auch “Natur, Zähne und Klauen blutigrot”. Und die passen gar nicht zum fehlerlosen Design dazu. Continue reading

„The Death of God“ – in Atheism and Christianity

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[written in August 2014]

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him”, said the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900). This was not primarily an affirmation that there is no God, but that mankind should have control and power, that it should be the active force. The death of God will lead, Nietzsche says, not only to the rejection of a belief of cosmic or physical order but also to the rejection of absolute values themselves — to the rejection of belief in an objective and universal moral law, binding upon all individuals. In this manner, the loss of an absolute basis for morality leads to nihilism. Within this nihilism, Nietzsche worked to find a solution by re-evaluating the foundations of human values that should replace Christian values. He would find a basis in the “will to power” that he described as “the essence of reality”. – In our times, the “new atheists” continue the forceful and loud outcry of men against their Creator. Continue reading