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Pope: Creation, evolution beliefs can co-exist

Posted October 29, 2014

Pope Francis said this week that the Big Bang theory and the evolution of man do not contradict the role that Catholics believe God played in the creation of humankind.

Speaking to the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope said, "The Big Bang, which nowadays is positioned as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it. The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve."

Theologians say Pope Francis is trying to help bridge the gap between science and the church.

It's a gap that dates to the persecution of early scientists whose work was thought to belie the myths and power of the church.

In 1616, the Catholic Church condemned astronomer Galileo and ordered him to retract his claims that the Earth rotated around the sun.

In recent years, many of Pope Francis' predecessors, including Pope John Paul the Second, described evolution as a valid concept.

"I think that everything Pope Francis has had to say about those subjects is consistent with what popes have said about them in the past," said Rick Martin, a theology teacher at Raleigh's Cardinal Gibbons High School.

"Any scientific theory, including evolution, presumes that the world is intelligible," Martin said, "and in order for that to be the case, one explanation is that there's an intelligence behind it."

The difference comes, Martin said, in the teachings of some evangelical Christian churches that advocate a view of creation through a literal interpretation of the Bible -- that the Earth was formed in a matter of days.

That's a new understanding, Martin said.

"Prior to the last few centuries, the assumption that the Bible had to be taken as a literally, historical, accurate description of something to be true really didn’t exist," he said.

"Science is designed to tell you how the universe works. Religion is designed to tell you why, why is there a universe," Georgetown University professor Chester Gillis said.

Martin agrees.

"What makes us unique as humans is something we come to know about ourselves and about God that's not strictly through science, but through philosophy, theology and what's revealed about our nature through sacred scripture," he said. "Religion and science can very much be seen as compatible."


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  • glarg Oct 29, 2014

    It may also interest you to know that one of the foremst experts on the subject of Galileo, Fr. George Coyne was posted in Raleigh for a number of years. Fr. Coyne is himself an astronomer and former head of the Vatican Observatory and was on the commission appointed by JP II to reexamine the case of Galileo Galilei and he had access to papers and experts that no one else has had.

    The Galieo case is far more nuanced that you think. It was mostly political.

  • Doug Pawlak Oct 29, 2014
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    You don't know what you're talking about Glarg which is why you can't back it up. Galileo was convicted of heresy against the church for believing that the earth revolved around the Sun. To claim otherwise is absurd. But you don't strike me as a person that lets facts get in the way of what you want to believe.

  • toyota19922 Oct 29, 2014

    It could coexist. Maybe think of it this way... Back in Biblical times.. (when the books were written).. science was non-existent. The stories are more like analogies.. like the stories children are told to explain things in ways they can understand. Humankind did not even know space existed beyond the sky, or the Earth being round etc.. The Bible is like any other fable, an analogy of events or themes. It is meant to teach principals or life morals. (Keep in mind this is just a thought).. maybe since science did not exist then, the only thing humankind had to go on were these stories and they were taken word for word. There was nothing else back then, these stories explained lifes' questions. When man can not understand scientific or exact explanations of events or things, the simplest description wins out.
    This is NOT to say the BIBLE is fiction, only that, when it was written, without science man relied on stories to get the point across

  • Ty Shrake Oct 29, 2014
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    Glarg nails it! Well said!

  • Amy Hahn Oct 29, 2014
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    As a former Catholic, from birth till about age 25... Duh. I never felt that the Catholic church was at odds with Science. i was never told anything that led me to believe this up to that. This doesn't seem new news to me... I am now agnostic. But a denial of science was not my reason for my separation from the church... It was a more profound split from religion in general.

  • glarg Oct 29, 2014

    It's a gap that dates to the persecution of early scientists whose work was thought to belie the myths and power of the church.A preposterous summary.

    It is the Pope who sponsored much of Galileo Galilei work and built him the observatory he used. And Galileo was working with other Christian astronomers such as Scheiner and Kepler.

    So there was nothing about "persecution of early scientists " and the principle objection was that heliocentrism contradicted Aristotle.

    Galileo's principle problem is that he engaged in a number of petty political feuds with other figures. And he made the mistake of lampooning his principle patron the Pope in a screed.

    Those are political issues, not scientific.

  • Snakebite Survivor Oct 29, 2014

    This is nothing new, it has been Church doctrine for decades. In general, Catholics have no problem with reconciling Catholicism with evolution or other scientific knowledge. The Vatican forgave Galileo long ago!

  • dh1964 Oct 29, 2014

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    Of course you can't. But the Pope didn't say that evolution was compatible with a 3rd-grade, literal interpretation of Genesis.

  • SaveEnergyMan Oct 29, 2014

    Why should people have to choose to believe one over the other? Is not the belief in both together to be respected as much as belief in one side or the other? That's called freedom of religion folks and if you want people to respect your beliefs (or lack) then you should respect theirs,

  • Lester Oliver Oct 29, 2014
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    Since evolution is real, there was no original "Adam & Eve", therefore, no original sin, and no reason for a "jesus" to save you from original sin. I like this pope a lot.