I have to say, Pope Francis seems like a pretty cool guy. I think it’s awesome that the Pope is from Argentina—he’s the first one not from Europe in over 1,200 years. He’s also tolerant and progressive—for a Pope. Earlier this week, he addressed the notion of the Big Bang from a vantage point that might surprise most people: he accepted it as the likely origin of the universe, and argued that such a belief was consistent with a belief in God.
Of course, the Pope would never say that Earth or the universe came to be without the help of a divine creator, but he doesn’t seem to be a conventional creationist, either, as he maintains that one can both believe in evolution and believe in God as creator. Even those of us who don’t share both of those beliefs can appreciate his refusal to turn the debate into an either/or scenario.
Plenty of believers acknowledge the Big Bang as the beginning of the universe, and to do so isn’t necessarily blasphemous. “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 during an address at the Pontificial Academy of Sciences. “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,” he added. The Pope refers here to one of the greatest mysteries of our time—what existed before the Big Bang, and how did it come to be? No one knows the answer to that question. Certainly, some people believe God is the answer.
Similarly, plenty of believers acknowledge evolution as the process that got us where are now. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve,” he said. This statement isn’t inconsistent with the idea that humans evolved from microbes over millions of years, even though folks such as Ken Ham insist that the Earth has only been around for 6,000 years. All it means is that someone had to create the first living entities, whether they’re microbes or humans.
Francis isn’t the first pope to express these beliefs. Pope Pius XII got it all started by embracing the Big Bang back in 1950, and Jon Paul II subsequently endorsed it in 1996. Still, it’s a rational approach in light of the scientific evidence of our origins, and some believe Pope Francis was trying to turn down the heat on the age-old religion v. science feud. The media has been all over this story, and some have spun it as such: “The Pope Can Figure Out Science, So Why Can’t the GOP?”
There’s no way to fly under the radar when you’re a Pope talking about evolution, but perhaps all the press will encourage rationality—crazier things have happened. Let’s just hope Bill Nye doesn’t challenge the Pope to a debate anytime soon, but I would love to see the Pope do the robot.