UPDATE: Reader Christopher Lake has kindly referenced statements supportive of Theory of Evolution by Popes Pius XII and St John Paul II. I have added Christopher’s comments below as an addendum to this blog entry.
ORIGINAL BLOG: I was reminded the other day, while challenged by a group of Catholic Young Earth Creationists, that some of Pope Francis’s most controversial statements are those reconciling faith and modern science. In particular, Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution.
As documented by Catholic apologists David Palm and Karl Keating, some Catholics even go as far as to deny that the sun is at the centre of our solar system. In the name of biblical literalism, these neo-geocentrists (of both flat earth and ball earth variety) insist that Catholics are doctrinally bound to uphold geocentrism as infallible Catholic teaching.
Pope Francis disagrees.
As reported in the Independent when the Holy Father first addressed Big Bang Theory and Theory of Evolution before the Pontifical Academy for Sciences:
“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 said.
“The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.
“Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
As the husband of a biologist, and the father to teenaged daughters who share their mother’s curiosity of the natural sciences, I felt immense relief. The Church must be capable of engaging today’s generation that often considers natural sciences more authoritative than religion. Catechists and theologians do us no favours when, in the name of biblical literalism, they deny the two most foundational scientific theories in our day for which there is overwhelming evidence. Instead they do us the disfavour of creating a generation of young earthly atheists.
Thus in his comments before the Pontifical Academy, the Holy Father is addressing not only
scientists, but today’s generation of young believers. Moreover, Pope Francis is addressing young skeptics with the potential of becoming young believers.
Here I would quote Dr Kenneth Miller, the Ivy League evolutionary cell biologist and devout Catholic, who has written extensively defending both Theory of Evolution and his Catholic belief as as a respected scientist.
In Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, Miller addresses those who in the name of biblical literalism dismiss evolution as merely a theory.
“Evolution is both a fact and a theory. It is a fact that evolutionary change took place. And evolution is also a theory that seeks to explain the detailed mechanism behind the change,” Miller states.
Dr Miller then addresses those who deny faith in the name science, as well as those who deny science in the name of faith. In doing so, he appeals to St Augustine, who instructed early Christians not to engage in cosmological controversy in the name of scriptural literalism.
As St Augustine warns:
Often, a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances, … and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, which people see as ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.(Video) Pope Francis says Evolution is real | THE RISE OF THE ONE WORLD RELIGION
The shame is not so much that an ignorant person is laughed at, but rather that people outside the faith believe that we hold such opinions, and thus our teachings are rejected as ignorant and unlearned. If they find a Christian mistaken in a subject that they know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions as based on our teachings, how are they going to believe these teachings in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think these teachings are filled with fallacies about facts which they have learnt from experience and reason.
Reckless and presumptuous expounders of Scripture bring about much harm when they are caught in their mischievous false opinions by those not bound by our sacred texts. And even more so when they then try to defend their rash and obviously untrue statements by quoting a shower of words from Scripture and even recite from memory passages which they think will support their case ‘without understanding either what they are saying or what they assert with such assurance.’ (1 Timothy 1:7)
This brings us back to Miller’s book and what I believe Pope Francis was saying in affirming the scientific theories of Big Bang and Evolution, as well as their consistency with biblical Christianity. At least when the Christian scriptures are understood within proper context.
“As a scientist, I know very well that the earth is billions of years old and that the appearance of living organisms was not sudden, but gradual,” Miller states. “As a Christian, I believe that Genesis is a true account of the way in which God’s relationship with the world was formed,” he then adds.
“And as a human being, I find value in both descriptions. In order to reveal Himself to a desert tribe six thousand years ago, a Creator could hardly have lectured them about DNA and RNA, about gene duplication and allopatric speciation. Instead, knowing exactly what they would understand, He spoke to them in the direct and lyrical language of Genesis,” Miller concludes.
Pope Francis understands. More than any other pope since Charles Darwin first proposed the Theory of Evolution (the father of Big Bang Theory is Belgian priest and astronomer Monsignor Georges Lemaître), our present Holy Father is scientifically educated. Prior to entering the Jesuits he obtained a college diploma as a chemical engineering technician.
Pope Francis also worked as a janitor and as a bar bouncer. Thus he has kept his pulse on the intellectual leanings of the average person. It should come as no surprise that Pope Francis addressed the topics Evolution and Big Bang Theory in the way he did. He is keeping the Christianity relevant for the next generation of Catholic.
ADDENDUM: Reader Christopher Lake states in the comments below:
Catholics who struggle with Pope Francis for his statements on evolution must also come to terms with similar statements of earlier Popes on the same issue. Francis is simply following in the faithful footsteps of his Papal predecessors in affirming both Biblical truths of faith and the fruits of scientific research.
In his 1950 encyclical, Humani Generis, Pope Pius XII affirmed that it is *at least permissible* for Catholics to believe that human beings have evolved from antecedent beings, as long as said belief is not one which excludes God as the Source and Ground of all being itself, and as long as it is affirmed that human beings were/are given individual, specific souls by God at time of their conception.
In 1996, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed that Catholics may believe in evolution (although, as Pius XII had stated 50 years earlier, *not* in an atheistic form of evolution, which would obviously, logically, be out of bounds for Christians!), and he also went on to say that evolution can now be recognized as “more than a hypothesis”.
Well before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger affirmed the compatibility of Catholic teaching on creation with a God-grounded understanding of evolution. This article gives some details on his early work on this matter, as well as his continued thinking on it as Pope.(Video) Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution - Richard Dawkins
He repeated the idea of God not being a “magician,” an entity that conjured all into being. “God is not... a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” Francis said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”Is evolution accepted by the Catholic Church? ›
1 The Roman Catholic Church has long accepted – or at least not objected to – evolutionary theory. Pope Francis is not the first pontiff to publicly affirm that evolution is compatible with church teachings.Did the Pope say evolution is real? ›
Pope Pius XII wrote an encyclical “Humani Generis” in 1950 affirming that there was no conflict between evolution and Catholic faith. Pope John Paul II reaffirmed that, stressing that evolution was more than a hypothesis, in 1996.What does the Vatican say about evolution? ›
Perhaps, some creationists argued, the pope really said, “the theory evolution is more than one hypothesis,” not “the theory of evolution is more than a hypothesis.” If that were so, the Pope might have been suggesting that there are multiple theories of evolution, and all of them might be wrong.Why does the Catholic Church believe in evolution? ›
Catholicism holds that God initiated and continued the process of his evolutionary creation, that Adam and Eve were real people, and affirms that all humans, whether specially created or evolved, have and have always had specially created souls for each individual.What did Pope Francis actually say? ›
“Every man and every woman must have a window in their life where they can turn their hope and where they can see the dignity of God. And being homosexual isn't a crime, it's a human condition.”What churches believe in evolution? ›
Catholicism. The Catholic Church generally accepts evolutionary theory as the scientific explanation for the development of all life.Is evolution a fact or a theory? ›
Evolution is both a fact and a theory. Evolution is widely observable in laboratory and natural populations as they change over time. The fact that we need annual flu vaccines is one example of observable evolution.What does the pope believe about creation? ›
“God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives being to all entities,” he said. Catholics have long accepted that the creation story as written in the book of Genesis in the Bible can stand along the scientific theory of evolution and that the two are not mutually exclusive.When did the Catholic Church start believing in evolution? ›
The church first brought evolution into the fold in 1950 with the work of Pope Pius XII, writes io9. “At the same time, Catholics take no issue with the Big Bang theory, along with cosmological, geological, and biological axioms touted by science.”
The Church of England did not take an official stance against Darwin's theories, but many senior Anglicans reacted with hostility to his ideas, arguing against them at public debates.Did the Romans believe in evolution? ›
Evolutionary thought, the recognition that species change over time and the perceived understanding of how such processes work, has roots in antiquity—in the ideas of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Church Fathers as well as in medieval Islamic science.Do Mormons believe in evolution? ›
The LDS Church has no official position on the theory of evolution or the details of "what happened on earth before Adam and Eve, including how their bodies were created." Even so, some church general authorities have made statements suggesting that, in their opinion, evolution is opposed to scriptural teaching.What do fundamentalist Christians believe about creation? ›
Fundamentalist Christians read the stories of Genesis literally. They believe that the creation of the world and everything in it took place in six calendar days, exactly as the book of Genesis says. This stems from the view that the Bible is the direct word of God, which is never mistaken.Do Muslims believe in evolution? ›
Muslims in Thailand (55%) and Bangladesh (54%) tend to accept that humans have evolved over time. But Muslims in Malaysia and Pakistan are divided: roughly four-in-ten Malaysian Muslims (37%) believe in evolution, while 45% say humans have always existed in their present form.What do Christians believe about dinosaurs? ›
According to the Bible, dinosaurs must have been created by God on the sixth day of creation. Genesis 1:24 says, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”Do Adam and Eve go to heaven? ›
God is the One who decides who does or does not enter heaven. There's no place in the Bible that says they were saved. But there is no place in the Bible that indicates the couple was lost, either.Does the Catholic Church believe in cremation? ›
As a Catholic, may I be cremated? Yes. In May 1963, the Vatican's Holy Office (now the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith) lifted the prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation.What is the famous line of Pope Francis? ›
"We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace."What did Pope Francis apologize for? ›
Francis on Monday apologized for the “evil” of church personnel who worked in the schools and the “catastrophic” effect of the school system on Indigenous families. In a speech before government authorities Wednesday, Francis apologized anew and blasted the school system as “deplorable.”
Furthermore, the Catholic Church has been criticized for opposing the ordination of women to the priesthood, alleged financial corruption and embezzlement, along with its handling of incidents of sexual abuse.Did we evolve from monkeys? ›
Humans and monkeys are both primates. But humans are not descended from monkeys or any other primate living today. We do share a common ape ancestor with chimpanzees. It lived between 8 and 6 million years ago.How old is the earth according to the Bible? ›
Concerning the age of the Earth, the Bible's genealogical records combined with the Genesis 1 account of creation are used to estimate an age for the Earth and universe of about 6000 years, with a bit of uncertainty on the completeness of the genealogical records, allowing for a few thousand years more.How were humans created in the Bible? ›
The Book of Genesis tells the story of creation, of the sea, the sky, the birds and animals and, finally, Adam. Chapter 2, Verse 7 reads: The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Eve was formed out of Adam's rib.Has Darwin's theory of evolution been proven? ›
Scientists have proved one of Charles Darwin's theories of evolution for the first time -- nearly 140 years after his death. Researchers discovered mammal subspecies play a more important role in evolution than previously thought.How do we know evolution is true? ›
The Fossil Record
This evidence attests to the fact that there has been a tremendous variety of living things. Some extinct species had traits that were transitional between major groups of organisms. Their existence confirms that species are not fixed but can evolve into other species over time.
Broadly speaking, evolution simply means the gradual change in the genetics of a population over time. From that standpoint, human beings are constantly evolving and will continue to do so long as we continue to successfully reproduce.How do Catholics believe the world was created? ›
The Catholic Church teaches that God created the world ex nihilo. This teaching comes from St Augustine in his Confessions – he argues that God created heaven and earth from nothing. Catholics believe the world had a beginning. The book of Genesis teaches Catholics that God created humans in his image and likeness.What are three Catholic beliefs about creation? ›
God existed before he created the world. The world was well planned and is sustained by God. God blessed creation; all creation is holy. God created everything in Heaven and on Earth in six days.What is creation according to Catholic? ›
First, creation is an eventing of the relationship between God and what God has created. This means that God is not apart from creation, but “fills all things in every way” (Eph 1:23). Second, creation is a relationship between all its elements.
Answer and Explanation: Although many of the leaders of the Scientific Revolution were Christians, the Catholic Church reacted against the movement with hostility. The Church perceived many scientific discoveries as heresy.Do Christians believe in science? ›
So, yes, you can be a Christian and teach or believe in science. When you do, you'll find yourself in very distinguished company. In fact, many Christian scientists believe that scientific pieces of evidence discovered in nature cannot be correctly interpreted outside the framework of the Word of God.How many years ago was Adam and Eve? ›
Putting all this together, between 9,800 and 9,700 years ago is an accurate date of creation for Adam and Eve. During this time, the Upper Paleolithic/Lower Mesolithic, humans created before Adam and Eve were yet hunter-gatherers.How did the Catholic Church respond to Darwin? ›
Christian churches were long hostile to Darwin because his theory conflicted with the literal biblical account of creation.How did Darwin's theory go against religion? ›
By providing an account of the origin and diversity of organisms, Darwin was seen by some as mounting a serious challenge to traditional religious understandings of the creation of the world and humankind. Some adherents of religion have argued that Darwinian Evolution is utterly incompatible with religious belief.What is the connection between Charles Darwin and the church? ›
Darwin's parents attended a Unitarian chapel throughout his childhood, and yet both young Charles and his older brother Erasmus were christened in the Church of England as young boys, and had every intention of continuing to belong to that institution (Autobiography 75).What is the most accepted theory of evolution? ›
The most accepted theory of evolution is the synthetic theory of evolution or Neo-Darwinism, also called the modern concept. According to this theory, the origin of new species is based on the interaction of genetic variations and natural selection.What did people believe before evolution? ›
Before Darwin was born, most people in England accepted certain ideas about the natural world as given. Species were not linked in a single "family tree." They were unconnected, unrelated, and unchanged since the moment of their creation.Who came up with the theory of evolution? ›
Charles Darwin is commonly cited as the person who “discovered” evolution. But, the historical record shows that roughly seventy different individuals published work on the topic of evolution between 1748 and 1859, the year that Darwin published On the Origin of Species.What does the Catholic Church say about creation? ›
The account of creation demonstrates that God is: Omnipotent - God is all powerful and is responsible for creating the entire universe and everything in it. Omnibenevolent - Creating an entire universe demonstrates God's loving nature. Humans are seen as the most important part of this creation.
The Pope's reign, now entering its 10th year, carries a mixed legacy—celebrated for his efforts to protect refugees and broaden the Church's reach, marred by finance scandals and sexual assault cover-up controversies (his 2022 apology for the physical and sexual abuse of Indigenous children in Canada's Catholic-run ...Do Catholics believe the creation story is real? ›
origin of the universe
Catholic Christians believe God is an omnipotent and transcendent creator. Their beliefs are based on the teachings of St Augustine (ex nihilo) and the book of Genesis. They believe that the creation story is not meant to be taken literally.
He responded with awe and wondering, with respect and caring for creation. And so he wrote: "Praise be You, my Lord, with all your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, who is the day and through whom You give us light.Is evolution a proven fact? ›
Evolution is both a fact and a theory. Evolution is widely observable in laboratory and natural populations as they change over time. The fact that we need annual flu vaccines is one example of observable evolution.What did the church do to Darwin? ›
The Church of England did not take an official stance against Darwin's theories, but many senior Anglicans reacted with hostility to his ideas, arguing against them at public debates.Which came first Adam and Eve or caveman? ›
If he says, “Well, darling, you know the Bible says Adam and Eve were the first people God made, so that means they came first,” then the child is conflicted with the science she's studying, which tells her the caveman evolved from lower forms of life.What religion is Adam and Eve? ›
Adam and Eve, according to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, were the first man and woman. They are central to the belief that humanity is in essence a single family, with everyone descended from a single pair of original ancestors.Why is Pope Francis so special? ›
Throughout his public life, Francis has been noted for his humility, emphasis on God's mercy, international visibility as pope, concern for the poor, and commitment to interreligious dialogue.Why is Pope Francis so powerful? ›
The pope is considered one of the world's most powerful people due to the extensive diplomatic, cultural, and spiritual influence of his position on both 1.3 billion Catholics and those outside the Catholic faith, and because he heads the world's largest non-government provider of education and health care, with a vast ...What are 5 interesting facts about Pope Francis? ›
- He has a background in chemistry. ...
- He once taught literature and psychology. ...
- He nearly became pope in 2005. ...
- He can be pretty stealthy. ...
- He turned down the fancy apartment. ...
- He kinda loves taking selfies. ...
- His first international visit as Pope was to Brazil.