Pope Francis has views on science … that are not as revolutionary as you might believe.

Huff Post: Popeular Science

Pope Francis
Pope Francis has views on science … that are not as revolutionary as you might believe.

Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, Pope Francis was speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and dropped something of a bombshell: He said that the Big Bang and evolution are not contrary to Catholic beliefs.

What’s funny to me is that for people paying attention, these statements aren’t bombshells at all. To me it’s not newsworthy that he said these things, it’s newsworthy that people think they’re newsworthy.

Part of it is understandable. After all, it was the Catholic Church that condemned Galileo four centuries ago, when he claimed that the Earth moved around the Sun. However, that’s not exactly what happened; yes, what Galileo was saying was heresy, but he was also a colossal jerk and mocked the Church, in essence daring them to persecute him. Even then, they only put him under house arrest. Don’t get me wrong: The Church was the dominant force of ignorance during the Dark Ages, but the public notion of Galileo as hero against a monolithic and unsympathetic Church is a bit too black-and-white.

Still, that’s the public perception. And the last Pope, Benedict, (among other things) was not necessarily a big supporter of evolution, saying humans are “not the products of chance and error” (which in itself is a fundamental, if I may use that word, misunderstanding of how evolution works).

On the other hand, he made some conciliatory statements about science as well, saying, “there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.”

But let’s not forget Pope John Paul II, who said,

… new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.

That’s beautifully stated.

Remember, while the Catholic Church may not be the favorite of progressives for any number of reasons—and I can think of quite a few (including, of course, the biggie)—being stridently anti-evolution is not one of them. That is more the province of Biblical literalists, who, historically and currently, have not generally been Catholics. Even many Protestants support evolution, though that would be more of a theistic evolution, with God setting things in motion and the laws of Nature taking over from there (which is also what the Popes seem to support as well).

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