Student Thoughts: Pope Francis merges religion and science

Bryan Palacio / Staff Writer

Religion and science haven’t always seen eye to eye. If you take the Bible literally instead of metaphorically – as I believe is best – you will see contrasting ideas on a number of things including the origin of man and the universe. As a result, a battle has raged between science and religion for thousands of years.

But I think there is room to be both scientific and religious, and so does Pope Francis. He recently released the 184-page “Laudato si’”, which translates to “Praise be to you.” In this encyclical he goes on to explain the role humans have played in “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequence for all of us.”

“This is why the Earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail,’ ” wrote the pope. “Our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.”

To have the most well-known and powerful religious figure in the world not just accept the science on climate change, but also find it necessary to let all of his followers know about it is unprecedented. If the most religious person in the world can understand that science and religion do not have to be polar opposites from each other, then how can we not? I think it is also great to see someone willing to cross all the lines on science, religion and morality.

Albert Einstein notably said, “The more I study science, the more I believe in God,” but it may not mean what you think. There are so many things we can’t explain and it is this ignorance that keeps us yearning to learn more. Although some may choose to replace the unknown with religion, that is what science is for. A long time ago, we didn’t understand processes like celestial movements and weather, so we left it to religion, but as time went by, we deciphered these  riddles using science. You can’t help but feel that it is too specific, too unique, to just be left to chance. Nature in and of itself is divine in its perfection. If we all felt that way about science and religion, we’d be much more tolerant of each other.

“We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters,” wrote the pope.

He describes how we are all made of the same elements as everything else in our universe. The iron in our blood is no different than the iron floating in giant gas clouds in space. The things which make up our planet and every other celestial body in the universe are all the same. This is significant.

I believe the Bible is best taken as an allegory. Remember, the Bible – or any other religious book for that matter – was not written by God. It was written by humans and humans are fallible. They can be biased, exaggerate and even lie.

As time has gone on, we’ve replaced the stories from the Bible with facts and know that it is best to not take the Bible literally. The literal version of the Bible has accounted for countless transgressions throughout our history. There are many stories in the Bible meant to teach us lessons and morals but we have to remember that they are just that – stories.

We only have one Earth. Everyone and everything that has ever existed in human history has lived here, on a tiny speck in an unfathomably immense universe. Regardless of whether you believe in a God or not, the truth is that it doesn’t matter. All of our scientific data and almost all of our major scientists agree that the earth has been ravaged and we are now seeing the consequences. We have plundered it for its resources and in return deposited toxins, chemicals and waste. We have conquered the land, air, water, animals and even space. There is nothing we are not capable of, for better and for worse.

That is why this encyclical is so important, because now more than ever we have to come together to help find solutions. The pope mentions how the effects of what is going on can be seen worldwide from sea level rise in Florida, India and Holland to extra warm global temperatures in Canada, Greenland and Antarctica. The proof is all around us, all you have to do is look for it. The pope points to a fact all too familiar, which is that most of the damage is done in developing nations, far from the eyes of the mainstream world.

“Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest,” the pope said.

So figuring this out is about all of us, as Earthlings, regardless if you’re religious, atheist, agnostic, spiritual or anything else in between. Not just for our family and friends, but for all of humanity and every species on Earth. It is going to take new priorities and ways of thinking. Our goal can no longer just be capital gains, it must also be helping out our planet and making it a better place for future generations.

The pope writes, “All is not lost, human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.”

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About the Author

Sam Smith
The Beacon - Editor-in-Chief

1 Comment on "Student Thoughts: Pope Francis merges religion and science"

  1. Very nice and balanced account, Bryan. You are absolutely right to point out that the Bible and other religious texts were written by fallible men. But not only that, if you read the Bible cover to cover you have a feel of a changing God. In the late seventies our history teacher at high school passionately expressed her devastating view on religion based on her read of the Bible where she saw a vengeful war god. If you read certain parts of the Old Testament, you see what she meant. But how does that compare to Jesus’ life portrayed in the New Testament? Has God changed over millennia? No, it is our understanding of God that changed–evolved if you will–and that is reflected in the books of the bible written in different epochs of human history. Another reason why we shouldn’t take religious texts literally. But don’t stop there, we shouldn’t take science literally either. Just because the math is right, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it encompasses scientific truth.

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