Way back in 1834 when the German philosopher Karl Marx, an evolutionist and contemporary of Charles Darwin, made his notorious statement “Religion is the opium of the people”, he was condemned by his opponents as a Godless rebel. Unfortunately, despite centuries of scientific progress, modern renaissance and liberal education, not all followers of various religions have shed their mythical belief and conservative viewpoints.
It’s only been four days since the Union minister Satyapal Singh, a former IPS officer turned politician and currently the Junior Education Minister, allegedly declared the Evolutionary Theory of Darwin as ‘scientifically wrong” and hence should be pulled out of the school curriculum! His words stirred a hornet’s nest among the top scientists of the three top Science Academies of India, triggering their joint statement that unanimously condemned the Minister’s anti-Darwin remark.
God is not “a magician with a magic wand”. The theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real. Both scientific theories were not incompatible with the existence of a Creator; instead they “require it. When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God as a magician, with a magic wand able to do. The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.
Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve”. That was Pope Francis speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2014 putting an end to the “pseudo theories” of creationism and intelligent design. Within the Christian world that for centuries held on to the uncompromising position on creationism, the Catholic Church recognizing evolutionary theory as not incompatible to its teachings comes like a breath of fresh air. These comments of Pope Francis of course were in keeping with the progressive encyclical ‘Humani genris’ of Pope Pius XII, (1950) who opened the door to the idea of evolution and actively welcomed the Big Bang theory stating that that evolution and Catholic faith are not necessarily at odds. In 1996, Pope St. John Paul II went further and suggested evolution was “more than a hypothesis” and “effectively proven fact”.
The dispute on the origins of the Earth, of humanity, and of other life among the evolutionists, creation-scientists and mythologists has a long history. Times were when religion and science or faith and reason were thought to be sworn enemies letting no room for reconciliation. However, today religion and science largely viewed as mutually complementary in the service of humanity.
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution offers an explanation for why biological organisms seem so well designed to live on our planet. Despite its success, there are ‘men of science’ who opposes this theory because they don't believe living things can evolve in increment. Sample these arguments of our Minister in question, "our ancestors haven't mentioned anywhere that they ever saw an ape turning into a man. Nobody has said or written that they ever saw an ape turning into a human being. No book we have read or the tales told to us by our grandparents had any such mention."
The marvels of creation and secrets of the Universe remain inexhaustible. However, haven’t science made manifold discoveries of which our ancestors had no clue at all? Were our ancestors in the know of molecules and acids like DNA ("Deoxyribonucleic Acid", or RNA (Ribonucleic Acid), PNA (polyamide nucleic Acid), TNA(Thereose nucleic Acid) which can fold up into complex shapes even binding to a protein, or of algorithms that we today use in computer science for modeling neural networks in the brain to understand how learning works?
In an age that blurs boundaries between science and religion, faith and reason, sacred and the secular, it’s expedient that we learn how to keep scientifically our religious faith freed from the fetters of myths and superstitions. Living in 21st century where science and religion are ending their mutual prejudices and walk hand in hand serving humanity, it’s a tragedy of our times that sections of religious communities still cling on to myths and senselessly refute scientific facts.
Ignorance is no bliss. A stubborn refusal to abandon ignorance and learn things is not a virtue either. We as Homo sapiens ought to use our cognitive powers to learn, reflect, discern, perceive and perform constructively for the greater common good and that of generations yet to come. Science has been advancing rapidly discovering endless wonders of creation of which our ‘ancestors’ knew nothing about, hence have left no written record or spoken words to be handed down as oral tradition. To dismiss the theory of evolution as ‘just a theory’ and no ‘facts’ confirms the ignorance of anyone who claims to be a person of science.(Published on 29th January 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 05)