Social and Political Stances of Pope John Paul II - Scientific Theories and The Interpretation of Genesis

Scientific Theories and The Interpretation of Genesis

See also: Evolution and the Roman Catholic Church.

In an address on 22 October 1996, to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed the Church's openness to the theory of evolution:

"In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points....Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies -- which was neither planned nor sought -- constitutes in itself a significant argument in favour of the theory." (John Paul II, Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution)

In the same address, the Pope rejected any theory of evolution that provides a materialistic explanation for the human soul:

"Theories of evolution which, because of the philosophies which inspire them, regard the spirit either as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a simple epiphenomenon of that matter, are incompatible with the truth about man."

John Paul II also wrote to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the subject of cosmology and how to interpret Genesis:

"Cosmogony and cosmology have always aroused great interest among peoples and religions. The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer. The Sacred Book likewise wishes to tell men that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught by other cosmogonies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven." (Pope John Paul II, 3 October 1981 to the Pontifical Academy of Science, "Cosmology and Fundamental Physics")

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