In a speech given at a Pontifical Academy of Sciences ceremony unveiling a bust of his predecessor, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis declared his full-fledged support of evolution as the scientifically correct explanation of the origin of man — and the universe.
“Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation,” Pope Francis argued at the Academicians’ plenary meeting titled “Evolving Concepts of Nature,” which took place October 24-28. “The scientist must [nevertheless] be moved by a trust in the idea that nature hides, within her evolutionary mechanisms, potentialities that it is the task of intellect and freedom to discover and actuate, in order to achieve the [kind of] development that is in the design of the Creator.”
Pope Francis made his staunch support of Darwinian evolution over the Genesis account of creation very clear, backing the Roman Catholic Church’s long-established endorsement of the controversial theory.
Supporting the “Big Bang” theory, the pope still insisted that the formation of the world was not “a work of chaos,” saying that it came into existence from a “principle of love” based in evolution, which he said could sometimes co-exist with the beliefs of those who support creation.
Creation a fanciful magic act?
In fact, the pope referred to Christians ascribing to the Genesis account of creation as those who believe in a kind of magic act conducted by a master magician — God — who he claims is limited in what He can do.
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything … but that is not so,” Francis contended, according to Vatican Radio. “He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that He gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.”
Francis attempted to explain his rendition of what he believes God is and isn’t.
“God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” Francis articulated further. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
The pope went on to encourage evolutionary scientists to pursue their “happy” theoretical and practical initiatives that he called “scientific advancements,” asserting that their devised concepts can be used to benefit mankind.
Vatican calling creation blasphemous?
Taking Pope Francis’ endorsement of evolution to another level, Brother Guy Consolmagno called the literal young-earth creation account given in Genesis as something bordering on blasphemy.
“It’s almost blasphemous theology,” Consolmagno remarked in an October statement. “It is certainly not the tradition of Catholicism and never has been and it misunderstands what the Bible is and it misunderstands what science is.”
As the Vatican Observatory’s astronomer and planetary scientist, Consolmagno says that those who take a literal interpretation of the Bible and ascribe to a young-earth theory are ignoring or running against “scientific evidence” — dismissing their origins account as “bad theology.”
Same stance, different pope?
Pope Francis’ take on evolution is nothing out of the ordinary coming out of the Vatican. In fact, popes and the Catholic Church have contended against the evangelical Protestant creation account in favor of evolution for decades.
More than 60 years ago in 1950, Pope Pius XII declared that Catholic doctrine was in full alignment with evolution — a theory that it said did not run contrary to Catholic beliefs about origins. Nearly half a century later, Pope John Paul II fully endorsed the statement made by Pius.
However, many believe that Pope Francis’ hardline backing of evolution is a departure from former Pope Benedict XVI’s stance. They refer to the time when Benedict and a number of acolytes seemingly endorsed the intelligent design theory, which asserts that a supernatural Creator must have designed the earth and the universe, arguing that Charles Darwin’s theory of macroevolution — including natural selection — simply cannot explain the complexity of the molecular structure and intricate design of man and matter.
Furthermore, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who was a close associate of Benedict’s out of Vienna, Austria, penned an op-ed for the New York Times back in 2005 that straddled the fence on evolution.
“Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense — an unguided, unplanned process … is not,” Schoenborn wrote.
The debate rages on
Yet the Vatican’s response to evolution today is celebrated by higher education in Italy. National Institute for Astrophysics president Giovanni Bignami, who also serves as a professor there, was elated by Francis’ proclamation of support for Darwinian evolution, claiming that his statements put to rest the “pseudo theories” of creationists.
“The pope’s statement is significant,” Bignami told the Italian news agency, Adnkronos. “We are the direct descendants from the Big Bang that created the universe. Evolution came from creation.”
Another Italian professor, who teaches the philosophy of science, believes that Pope Francis declared his allegiance to evolution as a gesture to diffuse the hot debate centered around the issue.
“[Pope Francis was] trying to reduce the emotion of dispute or presumed disputes [with regards to science],” asserted Milan University’s Professor Giulio Giorello.
But even though the Catholic Church officially ascribes to the theory of evolution as explaining man’s origins over the Genesis account, a good portion of Americans don’t believe in Darwin’s problematic theory, which currently asserts that the universe burst into existence via the Big Bang 14.3 billion years ago and that the earth spun off the sun about 4.6 billion years ago.
Corroborating America’s skepticism when it comes to the predominantly taught theory of evolution, a June Gallup poll reported that 42 percent of Americans believe man was created by God around 10,000 years ago in his present form — compared to 31 percent who claim they believe in a God-guided evolutionary process. Only 19 percent of respondents to the Gallup poll indicated that they believe in the type of evolution teaching that God had no hand in the process.
According to Gallup, response to the evolution vs. creation debate has remained generally the same over the past 30 years — despite public instruction in primary, secondary and higher education consistently teaching evolution as fact and creation as fiction.