Yep, the world is getting wackier and it is getting support: SMH 29/8/06 PHILOSOPHERS, scientists and other intellectuals close to the Pope will gather at his summer palace outside Rome this week for intensive discussions that could herald a fundamental shift in the Vatican's view of evolution. There have been growing signs that Pope Benedict is considering aligning the Catholic Church more closely to the theory of "intelligent design',' taught in some US states, which advocates that some features of the universe and nature are so complex that they must have been designed by a higher intelligence. Critics say it is merely a disguise for "creationism", a literal belief in the Bible's account. A prominent anti-evolutionist and Catholic scientist, Dominique Tassot, told the US weekly National Catholic Reporter that this week's meeting was "to give a broader extension to the debate". "Even if [the Pope] knows where he wants to go, and I believe he does, it will take time. Most Catholic intellectuals today are convinced that evolution is obviously true because most scientists say so." In 1996, in what was seen as an unconditional capitulation to scientific orthodoxy, John Paul II declared that Darwin's theories were "more than a hypothesis". Last week, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Austria revealed that evolution and creation had been chosen as the subjects for this year's meeting of the Pope's Schulerkreis - a group consisting mainly of his former doctoral students that has been gathering annually since the late 1970s. Other participants at the closed-door meeting will include the president of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Peter Schuster; the conservative ethical philosopher Robert Spaemann; and Paul Elbrich, professor of philosophy at Munich University. Last December, a US court sparked controversy when it ruled that intelligent design should not be taught alongside evolution theory. Cardinal Schonborn said "the debate of recent months has undoubtedly motivated the Holy Father's choice". But he added that, in the 1960s, the then Joseph Ratzinger had "underlined emphatically the need to return to the topic of creation". The Pope also raised the issue in the inaugural sermon of his pontificate, saying: "We are not the accidental product, without meaning, of evolution." A few months later, Cardinal Schonborn, who is regarded as being particularly close to Benedict, wrote an article for The New York Times that was seen as backing moves to teach intelligent design.