Pope Francis has declared evolution and the Big Bang theory to be real, while adding that God isn't "a magician with a magic wand." The comments, while not completely unprecedented for the Catholic Church, goes against the "pseudo theory" of intelligent design encouraged by the previous pope, Benedict XVI.
The Pope made the comments while addressing the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which gathered at the Vatican to discuss "Evolving Concepts of Nature."
He explained that both scientific theories were not incompatible with the existence of a creator, arguing instead that they "require it."
"When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God as a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so," Francis said. "He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that He gave to each one so they would reach their ffulfillment
The beginning of the world, he said, was not a "work of chaos," but created from a principle of love, adding that competing beliefs in creation and evolution could co-exist.
"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."
This shouldn't come as a surprise to Catholics. Back in 1950, Pope Pius XII said there was no opposition between Catholic doctrine and evolution. In 1996, Pope John Paul II re-affirmed Pius's statement.
But things shifted under the previous pope, Benedict XVI. Writing, Religion News, Josephine McKenna explains:
Some wondered if Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wanted to change that when he and some acolytes seemed to endorse the theory of intelligent design, the idea that the world is too complex to have evolved according to Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna, a close associate of Benedict, penned a widely noticed 2005 op-ed in The New York Times that said "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense — an unguided, unplanned process … is not."
Giovanni Bignami, a professor and president of Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics, welcomed Francis' comments, saying he had buried the "pseudo theories" of creationists.
"The pope's statement is significant," Bignami told Italian news agency Adnkronos. "We are the direct descendents from the Big Bang that created the universe. Evolution came from creation."
As many of you are probably thinking, Pope Francis is still advocating for a kind for creationism. And you're right. It's a view that's intertwined with a kind of soft deism, the belief in the existence of a supreme being, or creator, who does not intervene — or intervenes very little — in the unfolding of the universe. After kickstarting the universe and establishing its fundamental laws, this supreme being just sits back and invokes a hand's off policy.
Deism appealed to the theists of the 17th and 18th century who were desperately trying to reconcile the teachings of the Church with the findings of modern science. They accepted the existence of a creator on the basis of reason, while rejecting belief in a supernatural entity who interacted with humanity.
Unfortunately, creationism, or deism, or whatever you want to call it, doesn't jibe well with scientific naturalism, the powerful idea that the universe and all that's within it can be explained without having to invoke an architect or overseer. All the evidence currently points to this conclusion, and until science reveals any hint of supernatural meddling — which it has not and likely will not – we will continue to have to accept naturalism as the ongoing scientific paradigm.
[ The Independent ]
(NCR photo/Robyn J. Haas)