Pope Francis recently claimed that the theory of evolution and the Big Bang are “not incompatible with the existence of a creator” and has argued instead that they “require it.” A sympathetic media has portrayed Francis as progressive and as embracing the scientific worldview. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Francis believes in the existence of angels and demons. A child usually abandons this sort of silly belie fat the age of five. Francis, on the other hand, recently conferred special status upon a group of 250 Christian priests that indulge in exorcism in 30 countries. He himself performed exorcism upon a handicapped boy in wheelchair. Since the boy is still wheelchair-bound, I think it is cruel of Francis to have given the child false hope. Francis has urged the Christian sheeple to believe in guardian angels. He claims to hear voices in his head and advises Christians to obey the voices they hear in their heads as well. Hearing voices is a common symptom in schizophrenia. Francis is either a schizophrenic or an obscurantist charlatan. One hopes that most Christians do not hear voices in their heads.
Let us now examine whether science and Christianity are compatible.
The Bible teaches that bats are birds whereas they are mammals. It claims that rabbits are ruminants that regurgitate their food and chew it again whereas they are not ruminants. It claims that insects are four-legged creatures whereas they are six-legged creatures. It informs that god created the world in six days 6,000 years ago whereas physics reveals that the universe is 14 billion years old. It claims that god created the earth first and the sun later which would be a cosmological impossibility because solar planets were formed from the gaseous dust long after the sun had come into existence. The biblical ignorance does not end there. One is told that god then created oceans and whales before he created the terrestrial creatures. Biology has proven this wrong and has shown that whales were originally terrestrial creatures that later relocated to oceans.
In other words, evolution and the Big Bang have thoroughly debunked the biblical Bronze Age ignorance. Any high school biology or physics student would have told Francis that neither evolution nor the Big Bang requires the existence of god. On the contrary, they make the existence of such a god redundant. In particular, by debunking the biblical claims, biology and physics have by implication repudiated the existence of the god of Christianity.
Why then does Francis attempt to convince the Christian faithful that science and Christianity are compatible? One must turn to cognitive sciences for answer. In the past, the Church waged war against science whenever science debunked biblical claims. However, at least in the West, censorship is becoming increasingly difficult. As children study evolution and cosmology, they realize that the Bible is false. This results in cognitive dissonance in the minds of children. Not surprisingly, many children in the liberal and educated pockets of the West abandon Christianity once they enter their teens.
The Church faces a dilemma as a result of this phenomenon.Waging war against science and resorting to censorship as it did in the past alienates the post-millennial generation from Christianity.It is counter-productive to the evangelical mission of the Church. Francis, therefore, has offered truce out of the necessity to keep the flock together. It is out of compulsion that he has become a salesman of holy snake oil, i.e., the claim that science and Christian beliefs are compatible. All one has to do is to abandon moral scruples to sell snake oil and Francis has shown alacrity in abandoning scruples.
Francis also realizes that admitting that any part of the Bible is false is suicidal. Such an admission would induce the faithful to subject other biblical claims to logical scrutiny as well. A Christian may then wonder that if the Bible is false about biology and physics it may be false about salvation too. Francis, evidently, doesn’t like that prospect and is willing to lie to safeguard faith. Since the Bible doesn’t have any injunction against lying, Francis can take solace in the fact that heisn’t violating any biblical commandment by lying.
However, a reasonable person must be worried. The Church runs educational institutions in many parts of the world. Every time the media portrays such an obscurantist charlatan (or schizophrenic) as Francis as scientifically progressive, it indirectly empowers Christian priests to sell Francis’ holy snake oil to unsuspecting children. A post-millennial child may be repulsed by the overtly anti-scientific stance of an Evangelical Christian but may not be able to discern that Francis is selling holy snake oil. It is a travesty that society tolerates this kind of abuse of a child’s trust to please the clergy.
(Kalavai Venkat is a Silicon Valley-based writer, an atheist, a practicing orthodox Hindu, and author of What Every Hindu Should Know About Christianity.)