Pope Francis has added to the faith and science debate with an official papal opinion. As a result, faith and science discussions have picked up speed on John Brown University’s campus.
On Monday, Oct. 27, Pope Francis delivered an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and espoused his stance on evolution for the first time. The pope said, “The Big Bang, that today is considered to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the creative intervention of God. On the contrary, it requires it.”
Pope Francis went on to explain the beginning of the world as a type of chaos that, while it does require a “supreme” being that “creates out of love,” was still a type of chaos. The pope then elaborated by saying that evolution in nature exists, but does require the initial creation of evolving beings.
JBU sophomore Jared Cannon agreed with Pope Francis to an extent but had hesitations. “You need an unmoved being that starts the very first motion,” Cannon remarked. Cannon explained that he believes the biblical account of creation in Genesis was originally told as an oral tradition and wasn’t necessarily intended to be used as a “scientific account.”
Alex Fahr, junior biology major, interpreted her views as complex and expressed sensitivity to both spectrums of the debate, both evolution and creationism. “I believe God created everything and He uses evolution over time, like with changes in species and classes and families,” Fahr said, as she recalled what she had been taught in her science classes at JBU.
Fahr explained that although there is a considerable amount of controversy on the interpretation of Genesis, she stands by its tenet that God was the creator in the beginning. Fahr said, “Evolution has been, to a degree, proven, but it’s not how everything started.”
Robert Raborn, junior biblical and theological studies student, identified God as sovereign over creation and possible evolutionary processes. “We know God’s not a wizard with a wand, but he is in Heaven reigning and controlling every square inch of the universe. he does exactly what he wants when he wants,” Raborn stated.
Raborn explained that although he is uneducated to a degree on the evidence for and against evolution, he does believe that things do adapt over time. Raborn stated that ultimately, whether or not evolution plays a large part in life on Earth currently, God was in control in the beginning and will remain in control for the rest of time.
Amy Smith, professor of biology at JBU, agreed with Pope Francis’ remarks. Smith said, “I think the Big Bang theory is our best explanation, based on scientific observations, for how God may have created the universe.” Smith noted that she considers evolution to be a mechanism God uses for change on Earth.
Smith recognized that science is and always will be limited to what is testable and observable, and God’s presence and his ways do not fall into that category. “That finite limitation means that intelligent design is outside of science. It is not accurate to present intelligent design as science,” Smith explained.