Just 22 years after Pope John Paul II backtracked the church’s condemnation of Galileo, the one and only Pope Francis has dropped yet another bombshell: Maybe, just maybe, the Big Bang Theory and evolution should not be dismissed as incompatible with church teachings, because God is not “a magician with a magic wand.”
“The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it,” the pontiff said. “The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of Creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”
(Galileo, if you’ll recall, was condemned and put under house arrest for daring to suggest that the Earth orbits the sun, and not the other way around. It wasn’t until 1992 that the church officially changed its tune.)
Francis made his latest shockingly progressive remarks (for a Pope) at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, a meeting meant to reconcile science with Catholic beliefs. He used the creation story in Genesis to illustrate his remarks, saying that God gave mankind freedom in the story, but then stood back and let man name everything:
This makes [man] responsible for creation, so that he might dominate it in order to develop it until the end of time. 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 responsible, helping to prepare it and preserve it, to eliminate risks to the environment of both a natural and human nature.
To paraphrase what I once heard a rabbi say about evolution: “Do I believe in intelligent design? Sure. I believe that God intelligently guided evolution.” That’s certainly a more comforting notion than believing we’re all here because an infinitely long series of chance happenings occurred in the correct order.