Reformation – Reformation – Read All About

The article I chose to write my post on was on an article, by USA Today, on the recent statements by Pope Francis concerning the compatibility of evolutionary theory with the Catholic Church and its teachings. The article covers the address of the Pope to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, on the topic of changing concepts within nature, where the Pope stated that “[e]volution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

The article pointed out the history of the Church’s compatibility with evolution in recent times, in contrast to the concept’s common-held opposition found in Evangelical America. Referencing Pope Pius XII and St. Pope John Paul II’s statements on the lack of opposition between evolution and Catholicism, in 1950 and 1996 respectively. The Pope’s statements come as a continuation of St. Pope John Paul II’s ministry, after the 7 year tenure of Pope Benedict XVI, a supporter of Intelligent Design.

While the statements are seen as a part of recent reforms spearheaded by Pope Francis and his ministry, such as the recent reconciliatory statements on homosexuals in the Church, some have stated, in articles like the one below from The Blaze, that the news is being hyped for no reason, as Pope Francis is merely affirming positions taken by the Church for more than 60 years, officially starting with the publication of Pope Pius XII’s Humani Generis, a papal encyclical “concerning some false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of Catholic Doctrine”.

Whether the statements should be receiving as much attention as they are is regardless, rather the impact of getting a general image of the union of the scientific theory with the world’s largest denomination of faith in the public eye is of huge importance, with the seeming battle between science and religion in the United States. How do the Pope’s statements change the playing field in the ongoing creationist/ID-evolution “battle” in the United States? Could this acceptance of scientific theory into a major Christian faith lead to a shift in thought among American Christians? How might reform of an ‘old’ faith to ‘new’ ideas affect the future relationship between religion and science? Do you think it is possible for a religion to be completely compatible with scientific thought and is this union the future for American devotees of faith?

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37 Responses to Reformation – Reformation – Read All About

  1. gatorade15 says:

    Nice post lumastan! To me, this seems like a giant step towards more peaceful coexistence of the Church and evolutionary scientists. The Pope actually makes a great point when he says “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.” This idea of an omnipotent being kickstarting life as we know it (The Big Bang), and then letting things progress naturally, resonates with me, and I personally believe in this myself. I wholeheartedly believe in natural selection-based evolutionary theory, however; I do think that some form of “spark” would’ve been necessary to ignite the Big Bang and the life of the Universe.

    This article also touches on another theme that was discussed in a previous post, the Church’s steady acceptance of scientific theories. The Pope made the gap between the Church’s ideals and evolutionary scientists ideas a bit smaller with his statements. I don’t think that these two groups will ever completely agree on one theory of our origins, but I do believe that they will continue to agree on more and more. The big issue will be how each party decides to define a “creator”, if one even exists.

    What do you guys think? Do you think that the Church will ever completely agree with evolutionary scientists? Will the gap between the two groups become smaller or larger as the years move on?

    • sm4321 says:

      Interesting ideas, gatorade15. In response to your questions – no, I do not think that the church will ever completely agree with evolutionary scientists; I’m not even sure that all evolutionary scientists agree on every aspect of evolution. Moreover, I think that the gap between the two groups will grow smaller over time, forming a sort of asymptotical relationship that gets closer to a common ground while still having unique ideas and opinions on certain aspects of evolution.

      • sm4321, If science and religion gradually grow closer and closer together then wont they eventually have to come to a point where they begin to agree? How can they never completely agree but be continuously getting to more and more common ground? Personally, I believe that maybe the church always holds on to the idea of a God but uses science to better understand how God was involved in our creation and even our life.

        • Vikingsfootball33- The reason as to why they will never fully agree is due to the fact that science wants God out of the picture, something that is the fundamental of religion. For Catholics to deny that in the beginning there was God, and God alone, would be to contradict the Bible, the essence of Catholic faith. Even though they will never fully agree, I do believe that the church will find a way to agree with scientists, but gain, God must be in that picture, somewhere and in some form.

          • lumastan says:

            You make a bold statement, californiarepublic79 – does science inherently want god out of the picture? While science does strive for the provable and quantifiable, a sweeping grey area exists over the forces at play around the Big Bang and how that may relate to religious interpretation.

            • graduallychanging says:

              Lumastan, although the propagation of scientific theory would be greatly facilitated by a decreased or nonexistent belief in a God, the ideas by themselves are not necessarily detrimental to science as a whole. As serrobert’s article, “Reconciliation Not Met with Open Arms” outlines, some churches have tried to be more progressive towards scientific advances. As this happens, religious people are likely to accept ideas that were previously regarded as conflicting with religious doctrine.

  2. greyelephant1 says:

    This was interesting, especially considering it was so recent. As gatorade15 said, this is an improvement in bridging the gap between the church and scientific theory. As the other posts on the Church’s views on science, it appears that the Church is slowly accepting scientific theories by weaving the science in with their biblical views. Addressing the questions that lumastan and gatorade15 posted, I think it will be hard for the Church to ever completely agree with science. While the Church is starting to be more accepting of the science, some of the biblical views such as creationism is contradicting certain scientific theories.

    • sm4321 says:

      greyelephant1- do you think it is possible that people of faith could gradually move to accept a combination of these ideas? Such as – God did place Adam and Eve on the world (maybe one that already had been evolving for years and other humans did exist) and that they evolved through much of the processes outlined by scientific evidence. I am not saying that I personally agree with, or believe this- but rather I am attempting to offer a different viewpoint than the “all-or-nothing” that many people insinuate.

      • greyelephant1 says:

        sm4321, I do believe that it is possible for religious people could believe that God created a human that evolved. However, science offers the idea that humans evolved from our ancestors of other species, which is where the religious and scientific views may clash. Maybe someone of faith believes that God created an ancestor to us, even it was not homo sapiens specifically. It is hard because each person’s beliefs may vary and I don’t think there will ever be a standpoint that is universally accepted.

    • lumastan says:

      Greyephant1, why is it that you think that the church will never completely agree with science? Why do you not think that historical precedents will be overturned for a new chapter in the Church?

  3. Lumastan thanks for the interesting post.

    Personally, I think that this gradual acception of the evolutionary theory by the catholic church is an interesting window into the future development of religion that is bound to occur. For me the development of the scientific theory is becoming stronger and stronger and more and more accepted by people. If the church wants to continue to be a verifiable option for people they need to adapt their theories and beliefs to work with some of the scientific theories. Hopefully in the future their will not exist the debate between science and religion. I can see a world where religion is adapted as we unveil more and more scientific proofs. I am not saying that religion will ever fail to exist because I think people are always going to need to believe in a greater being that played some role in their existence. But the understanding of this being and maybe exactly how it was involved can be adjusted by science. As the Pope shows, religion and science dont necessarily need to constantly be at odds. There is more than one way in which they can coexist and even help support each other and this article shows that very well.

    • lumastan says:

      You make a great point vikingsfootball123, on how religion must adapt, and will continue to exist, because general consensus will accept scientific theory more and more and similarly humanity has generally trended towards a need or desire to believe in a higher power, though nowadays that notion is being challenged. This article describes the argument made by a new study at the University of Rochester, which asserts that with intelligence, religion becomes unnecessary, and the opposite to this argument by author David Bentley Hart. It is an interesting notion trying to link religion to modern day intelligence and society.

  4. sm4321 says:

    Interesting post, Lumanstan. As this is a continuation of a conversation we had earlier on our blog, I am going to attempt to draw a parallel involving the changing ideals of the Catholic church in the past couple of hundred years. In my Comparative Politics course, we recently studied Religion and the effect it has on democracy. Much of the text was about how, historically, Protestantism was more likely to lead to democracy, while Catholicism was more likely to lead to other types of regimes in government. However, over time, Catholicism has shifted their views and is now a religion that is often associated with democratic forms of government. So could this shift from more conservative and antique ideas to a more middle-of-the-road and progressive ideology in the Catholic church be effecting more than just their stand point on democracy and religion? Why has the Catholic church changed its position on such issues as time has gone on? Is it possible that they realize that some of these ideas are outdated and will not lead to success? Albeit I do not think this indicated a complete, radical, irreversible change in the church, I do think it marks a change in the ideals of the church. It is clear that they cannot go back on these statements made, so how do you think the church will continue to change in the future? Do you think the Pope saying he believes Catholicism and evolution can co-exist will drastically change everyone’s opinions? or do you think that there are still some Catholics that will always hold views of creationism regardless of the standpoint of the Pope and the church?

  5. thinkbrush says:

    I don’t know if it’s as important that the Catholic Church and more specifically the Pope accept scientific evidence that potentially contradicts scripture as it is important that individual followers of Christianity accept scientific evidence that potentially contradicts scripture. As a non-religious person, I do not consider myself an expert on the dynamic between the Vatican and the rest of the Christian world but because so few Christians I know proactively follow the Pope’s policies and instead focus on the faith within themselves, I don’t know how important this shift is. All of the religious folks that I know cultivate a more personal connection with their faith than a community connection and I think this distances the Pope and followers of Christianity. Of course, I don’t think that this shift will negatively impact this issue in any way but I don’t know how much it will positively impact it. Again, it is only from personal experience that I am inferring this so perhaps other folks have a different perspective on the power of the Vatican in a modern world.

    • sm4321 says:

      very good point – thinkbrush. I agree that the thoughts of the Pope may be much less influential than some think it will be. Much of people’s beliefs may be much more centered around their community, family, or place of worship. Although the Pope is an icon for the religion, his beliefs are not necessarily the beliefs of all Catholics.

    • lumastan says:

      Very interesting point thinkbrush! The personal importance of the Pope’s statements may not hold the personal sway it once did, but as head of the Catholic Church, his statements will be reflected in the teachings of his ministry, meaning that these statements will resonate throughout Catholic churches throughout the world, thus influencing the millions of church-goers around the world. Similarly, these statements hold overall symbolic note in helping the public relations of the church, with a growing sentiment of the antiquity of the Catholic institution. Perhaps do the statements offer a greater value than merely just the sway they may hold on the church?

  6. In my opinion it is much healthier for religion and science to be able to work together rather than be at odds. This is simply a ploy to regain ground in a society that is pushing back agains religion but there is no reason not to appreciate it from the scientists point of view. It means less pushback. The closest the two can come to coexisting is probably those who feel that they are “spiritual” but leave behind the religious dogma. And it seems like that is the path the Pope is directed towards even if that is not his goal.

    • sm4321 says:

      anonymousgwustudent – I think that we would all agree that it would be much healthier for religion and science to be able to work together than to be at odds. And although the motives of why the Pope decided to announce his opinion on the validity of evolution have somewhat questionable motives, this does give the possibility of more people accepting the theory of evolution. I think that it is okay that some will adopt the “spiritual” connection with the idea of creationism but are able to leave some of the religious ideas to accept evolution, at least to some degree. I personally don’t see a problem with this, but I’m curious from the way you address your comments as to if you agree or if you think that this is still a threat to science. How do you think that this half and half position would affect science and the theory of evolution?

      • That was what I was trying to say. It is better if there is no tension but ultimately I believe only the idea of spirituality will survive while other religious traditions and beliefs will vanish. And I think that is a good thing. I have no problem with spirituality and I think that it can be a healthy part of people’s lives. But I also think that religion as it currently stands in most cases does more harm than good. In other words I think religion and spirituality are two different things.

    • greyelephant1 says:

      anonymousgwustudent, I do agree that it is overall better when religion and science work together so there is no tension. I can understand how this is a way the church is trying to gain believers by making their views seem less controversial. I agree that the Pope is directed towards that, even if it is even unintentional.

    • Anonymousgwustident- Even though everyone would like to see both science and religion peacefully co-exist, it is simply a very difficult process. I would like to bring another idea into this conversation, that is: the influence of the Pope. According to Forbes, ( Pope Francis is the fourth most influential leader in the world. He speaks on behalf of over 1.2 Billion Catholics around the world. ( Anything the Pope states, Catholics will follow. Now, how can that influence and power be used to gap the bridge between science and religion? Having in mind that in the beginning, God created the world and men, as stated in the Bible, as opposed to the Big Bang and Homo Sapien evolution.

  7. collegeblogger19 says:

    Interesting post! I think the Catholic Church’s acceptance of evolution shows the modernization of society and its beliefs. Scientific evidence for evolution is growing tremendously, so it makes sense that religions might want to come to terms with this scientific theory. The growing trend of belief in evolution shows that the gap between religion and science will most likely decrease. I think the most likely outcome of finding more scientific evidence is that religions will adapt to conform to scientific opinion–not completely but at least enough to capture society’s general opinion of religion vs science. And we can see this change beginning with the Catholic Church.

    • macnplease says:

      I admire your optimism in this particular case. In the long term, I agree with you; acceptance for evolutionary theory can really only increase among the religious population. In the short run, however, I’m afraid we will see little to no effect, especially in the fundamental Evangelist demographic.

  8. This is an extremely interesting read, lumastan. According to me, Pope Francis has been an exemplary leader to the Catholic Church with his contemporary ideologies and eagerness to keep up with the times. Given the Church’s reputation for internal politics, Francis’ ability to make bold yet rational statements such as the one on evolution (and homosexuality, for that matter) are a sign of courage and more sensible step towards progress in the future for the religious constitution.
    Considering his predecessor, Pope Benedict’s, views on evolution and his ardent advocacy for creationism, it did come as a slight surprise that Francis would contradict beliefs that the Church would have presumably wanted to continue advocating.
    I do not mean to make provocative statements but I cannot even imagine how difficult it must be for Pope Francis to maintain a rational stance in an institution as ideologically ossified as the Catholic Church. However, as expected, the cracks are already beginning to show and it won’t be long before the Church’s dirty laundry is hung out in front of the public.
    The above article speaks about the partitioning of the Catholic Church under Pope Francis’ reign and mentions the backstabbing ways of several members. The article below however, speaks about how the future of the Church is already in debate and how Pope Francis’ leadership is being questioned.

    Of course, all of this is just a conflict of Francis’ newer ideologies as opposed to the ones used by the Church for centuries. One again, I cannot help but remark on how difficult it must be to be a maverick in a house of cards.

  9. moneytrees3001 says:

    This whole news story has been making me increasingly frustrated. This very article acknowledges the Catholic Church’s acceptance of evolution 64 YEARS ago! Why are we making a big deal out of an announcement that changes nothing about the Church’s stance on evolution. Like the “apology” to Darwin, this appears to be merely a ploy to appear more modern and appeal to the world’s youth. And it’s working! At least five of my Facebook friends reposted this story when it came out, praising the new “modern” pope for his bold stance. Perhaps the fault lies more on the media, rather than the clergy, who may have just wanted to reaffirm the church’s stance on the issue. In any case, the report has been sensationalized and celebrated in a manner far from what it deserves, taking away from more important debates about the Church’s unchanging stance on abortion and gay marriage.

    • lumastan says:

      Great point moneytrees3001! This policy was indeed preached by the church several decades ago, and the current story is exactly a stunt to inform the public of the church’s stances, but it is very important to notice that Pope Benedict XVI’s ministry did stir away from this policy on the compatibility between evolution and the Church, favouring arguments closer to Intelligent design. Because of this, these statements do serve the purpose of reeducating the public on the current status of the stance of the Church.

    • pianokid123 says:

      moneytrees, I completley agree that it is a bit ridiculous to praise the Catholic Church on its “bold new stance” on evolution and its softening of rhetoric on issues such as gay marriage. Congratulations! You finally accepted concrete scientific theory after 150 years of useless debate (while managing to censor and sterilize science education worldwide along the way!) While the pope’s views are not particularly impressive or groundbreaking, I think it is admirable that he is trying to push back against the rest of the Catholic Church’s ultra-conservative hierarchy, many of whom are ignorant and vehemently homophobic.

  10. sunny2018 says:

    While the Catholic Church is modernizing, I don’t think the Pope’s acceptance of evolution will the change the views of adamant deniers. Most opposition from Christians comes not from Catholics, but other denominations. Having grown up in the South, I can definitely say that the views of the Pope won’t sway a Southern Baptist. I think it is better that religion and science try to coexist, but Catholics have already accepted evolution for many years. I don’t think this will spark any big change.

    • lumastan says:

      While your point on the sway the Pope and Catholic Church has on other denominations is incredibly valid, sunny2018, how might the openness of the Catholic church, the largest sect of Christianity, with its attitude towards evolution affect the general PR of Christianity as a whole?

      • sunny2018 says:

        I agree that as a whole it’s improving the PR of Christianity–which is definitely a good thing. I just don’t think it will necessarily change people’s views on evolution since, in America at least, it’s such a loaded topic.

  11. macnplease says:

    Few things make me happier than an ignorant individual or party becoming disillusioned to the truth. In this case, I agree with lumastan that while this is obviously a good step, it seems to have been blown out of proportion. The Catholic church has maintained the same approximate stance on evolution since the 1960’s, with admitted bumps along the way. Perhaps the media hype comes from the reiteration of such policy and the sheer publicity the church allowed the Pope’s statement to amass. Either way, I’m afraid the influence of this policy on Evangelical ignorance in the states will be little to none. As people of organized religion often do, those opposed to evolutionary theory are content to pick and choose the aspects of their religion with which they agree, and ignore the rest. Since Francis took the papal office and made waves in his change of papal policy, many in the US have done their best to ignore the papacy all together.

    I would love to be wrong, though.

  12. serrobert says:

    Personally I feel sympathy for the church. They are always making concessions and changing what they believe. Their very faith is changing what it holds to be true or not. I feel that many people do not acknowledge that the advancing of science on the masses and the acceptance of many controversial scientific theories are destroying the basic tenants of many faiths. I think we need to take a step back and look at the affect this is having on catholic ideology and self esteem.

    • punky1218 says:

      The Catholic church has long accepted the theory of evolution and the Big Bang. I disagree that they have changed what they believe. I think you’re thinking of evangelicals who have taken a stand against evolution and continue to do so to this day.

  13. punky1218 says:

    I do not think that the Pope’s comments on evolution and the Big Band change anything. Past Popes have shown their support of the theory of evolution and the Big Bang. The reason that this is a story at all is because Americans seem to think that there must be a strict divide between these scientific theories and religion, especially among very religious people. The far more shocking comments from Pope Francis was when he discussed homosexuality, his support of the poor and his stance against corruption in the Catholic Church. All of these issues are things past Popes have shied away from. The real story is Pope Francis’s strong stance against these issues that haven’t been decided on already by his predecessors.

  14. glowcloud says:

    Is it possible that the future doctrine of the Catholic Church comes to resemble the teachings of the Baha’i faith? This religion teaches that religion and science should be unified and emphasizes the role of evolution while acknowledging that god as the initial creator. You can read more about that here . Would it be a positive step for the Church to adopt these positions as well? Is it possible for that to happen?

  15. I think that the Pope’s recent statements were more of a media event than a substantive move for the relationship between evolution science and religion. The Catholic church has released statements analogous to this one before, in what one could speculate is an attempt to keep the peace between religion and evolution. Though the Catholic church insists that they recognize evolution as being a fact that cannot be altered by religion, many practicing Catholics are still very much unaware of their religion’s official stance on evolution, thus carrying their misconceptions on the matter into their own practice of catholicism and of life.

  16. Pingback: No More Accommodating! | Darwin's Legacy

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