Pope Francis Puts His Faith in Science
Creationism is (unfortunately/embarrassingly/scarily) taking off in the United States. A Gallup poll from June 2014 found that more than four in ten Americans continue to believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago. And an April 2014 AP-GfK poll saw a majority of Americans (51 percent) questioning the Big Bang. We have our education system to thank for these dismal statistics, as well as the growing popularity of Ken Ham and his creationist clan.
But the church doesn’t support creationism as a science — or at least, Pope Francis isn’t supporting it.
Pope Francis told a Vatican gathering this week that the Big Bang and evolution are not only consistent with biblical teachings, they are essential to an understanding of God. “When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magical wand able to do everything — but that is not so,” the Pope told a plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
While the Vatican has said that it is open to the theory that the world began from a cosmic explosion billions of years ago, it has largely sat out of the evolution debate. But even the conservative Pope Pius XII wrote in 1950 that the theory that one species might evolve from another does not contradict anything in the Catholic doctrine. And Pope Francis agrees.
“God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” the Pope said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
The Pope expanded his message to stress our responsibility to care for the Earth and its inhabitants — a message that is often lost among the anti-science, creationist crowd. He warned that it was a “grave sin against God the creator” to destroy the environment, and scientists held a special responsibility to protect God’s creation.
“Therefore the scientist, and above all the Christian scientist, must adopt the approach of posing questions regarding the future of humanity and of the Earth, and, of being free and responsibility, helping to prepare it and preserve it, to eliminate risks to the environment of both a natural and human nature,” Pope Francis said. “But, at the same time, the scientist must be motivated by the confidence that nature hides, in her evolutionary mechanisms, potentialities for intelligence and freedom to discover and realize, to achieve the development that is the plan of the creator.”
The Pope’s pro-science message may appeal to people who have become frustrated with what they see as organized religion’s stubborn adherence to old principles. But are conservative American Christians ready to embrace the Pope’s message on science? Probably not. They have already blocked Pope Francis’s new policies toward remarriage and divorce because any move to recognize non-marital relationships is impossible. Perhaps a recognition of science will be impossible for conservatives as well.
At some point we have to ask ourselves: is it really organized religion that’s stopping progress? Or are a few bad apples just using religion to cling to the past?
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