Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pope Francis on imagining God creating the world with a magic wand - it is not so

The recent statements by Pope Francis at some Pontifical Academy of sciences function, on creation, big bang and evolution, has been highlighted by the media. A correspondent had forwarded a link titled, Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/pope-francis-declares-evolution-and-big-bang-theory-are-right-and-god-isnt-a-magician-with-a-magic-wand-9822514.html.

Here is a slightly edited extract of what I wrote back in response:

Here's a (the) relevant article from the Vatican, http://www.news.va/en/news/francis-in-the-pontifical-academy-of-sciences-emph.

The exact and full quote related to Creation in Genesis is:

"When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining God as a magus, with a magic wand able to make everything. But it is not so. He created beings and allowed them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave to each one, so that they were able to develop and to arrive and their fullness of being."

So clearly he is not supporting a literal interpretation of the account of creation in Genesis. But, at the same time, he does not mention anything that rules out miracles like those mentioned in the New Testament. The belief in miracles i.e. a God who intervenes at times in the material world by doing paranormal acts in response to the devout's earnest call/prayer for help as against a witness God who does not ever intervene, is crucial to the Christian faith (and many other faiths like Islam and traditional forms of Hinduism).

While I think he has done a very courageous and much needed act by clearly showing that he does not support Young Earth Creationism (literal interpretation of Genesis account of creation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creationism#Young_Earth_creationism) type of views, perhaps he could have avoided using the 'magic wand' words. His words can be interpreted in a twisted fashion by some people to say that Pope Francis thinks/believes that God's powers are limited!

I think a more toned down statement on the lines of not literally interpreting account of Creation in Genesis, and some support expressed for scientific view today of Big Bang and evolution, would have achieved the goal of upholding the scientific view in these matters, without upsetting too many Christian preachers. Sure, some preachers may still have been upset but perhaps lesser number of them than now.

On the pope's Big Bang view, "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", from a scientific perspective, I don't think all scientists will agree that Big Bang requires a creator. I think it is more a matter of belief (as the scientists cannot say that it is proved that Big Bang does not have a creator). Pope Francis' sentence prior to the earlier statement is, "The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos that owes its origin to another, but derives directly from a supreme Origin that creates out of love." That clearly is a matter of belief and not scientific fact.

On the evolution part of pope Franicis' quote, "The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of Creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve" as well as what I read in the rest of the vatican article link given above, I don't think it clarifies his stand on Intelligent Design, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design, - for or against.

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