Science, religion and our shared future

Science and religion both have the ability to teach us how interconnected we are – and it’s a lesson we cannot ignore

There is a school of thought that the new atheists have so polarised the debate about the relationship between science and religion that it’s not a conversation worth having. The “Ditchkins” – as Terry Eagleton describes them in his recent book – have developed such a crude argument about religion based on their boasted ignorance of the thinking which underpins belief that it’s hard to know how a dialogue is possible.

So what happens when there is an attempt at a very different kind of conversation which is not around the extremes of belief and non belief but largely amongst thoughtful believers, many of whom might be scientists? That was the proposition behind Lambeth Palace’s gathering of scientists, philosophers and theologians yesterday morning.

The discussion can be framed around two very basic, crucial questions put forward by the audience. Firstly, what’s all the fuss about? It reflected a strand of anxiety in the multifaith audience that, frankly, there were bigger questions to worry about. Surely believers should be discussing individualism, consumerism and other social problems rather than indulge in this kind of philosophical reasoning.

guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/jul/01/science-religion-atheism

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

What has emerged is an old power struggle but using new words. To my brothers and sisters in Christ – do not be fooled.

The anti-God claim to be against not “religious people” or your “beliefs” but ignorance. But that is a deception. By ignorance, what they really mean is that they are against those who do not accept purely materialistic evolution. If you don’t accept that then you have an unreasoning fear or hatred of science. What they are actually saying is “believe as we do.”

They do not have all the answers but they come to this forum and tell you that Adam and Eve literally did not exist. They deny the work of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Who did Jesus die for? Why was He born? Original sin that was committed by our first parents. Never forget that.

On an atheist forum, I read one atheist replying to another that “we can still lose this.” Lose what? The power struggle that buries religious belief and elevates the mind of man to god status.

Guard against those who call you unreasonable or irrational or ignorant. This is an emotional appeal. They try to tell you that we are too smart to cling to faith or beliefs or superstition. Science will guide, it will heal, it will create the future. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

They want your soul. They want your heart and mind.

Peace,
Ed

My dear friends in Christ,

God is not anti-science. God is anti-materialism/physicalism. It appears to me that this was a good conference, with the appropriate dialogue being undertaken. Without science, we lack an ability to use our natural existence for more charitable works. Without moral/ethical/religious limitations to scientific research, science can be very dangerous and a threat to human sacredness and dignity. With great power comes great responsibility.

There needs to be more dialogue like the one referenced in the article. Do not shun it, embrace it.

An embryologist studies human embryos. It is relatively easy to prove that human embryos are human beings, but the public is told by the media that the only ones who object to embryonic stem cell research are ‘religious types.’ How false is this? This is outrageous, but that’s how this issue is portrayed even though the facts are there for all to see.

Peace,
Ed

Ed,

I don’t see what your point is with this post. Since when has the media been right with anything, especially anything that deals with the Church and its teachings? The public needs to see the dialogue as was portrayed in the article–that science needs ethical guidance, which can be given it by religious faith. That there is much overlap between the realms of science and religion, and that the two should not be disparate entities. That there can be rational dialogue between science and religion. Most scientists know this, as most are not of the Dawkins/Dennett/Stenger militant atheist type. And the general public needs to know this.

You are right about the media. It is the background noise for most people and fills their heads with words and images 24/7. I work in the media. I monitor it almost daily. And what concerns me is that it is increasingly pagan and hedonistic. Most people view the “mainstream” media as a legitimate source of knowledge. Atheist marketing is on the rise. Leading scientists still reject God:

stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html

That is my point. Too many are putting their trust in experts who want nothing to do with God or beliefs or what they call superstition. I am grateful that there is a dialogue going on between the Church and the scientific community. I hope it bears good fruit. I sincerely do. In the meantime, the average person and the average non-Catholic reading this needs to know that until bad science is exposed, it will continue to convince people that they are accidents, and there is no divine plan. It will continue to convince people that human embryos must die for some ‘greater’ good. That is my point.

I long for the day that the truth is revealed again, not hidden beneath the ego and whims of scientists and technocrats who reject what they call purely religious arguments. We are currently living under a tyrrany of relativism that recognizes no absolute truths. Until we return to creating clear lines that must not be crossed, groups of men with money and power will convince scientists to do almost anything.

Peace,
Ed

Excellent post, Ed. I agree wholeheartedly. That so-called “leading scientists” as a whole largely reject God is not surprising, considering the egotism and politics involved in obtaining and sustaining such positions. There are exceptions to that rule, however (see Francis S. Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and author of the excellent book The Language of God. I must reassert that though those survey results may accurately reflect 400 of the “leading scientists” in the US, the other millions of us out here are not well represented by those findings.

Bad science is produced by bad philosophy (amongst other things). Isn’t it ironic that those who promote the tyranny of relativism and the belief in no absolute truths have an immaterial “greater good” philosophy when it comes to their belief in the absolute truth of science?

I totally agree, Ed. There are times when I just have to bite my tongue and walk away when people mock religion. There is just nothing you can say that will satisfy their skepticism. They believe in “reason” and “progress,” yet look where it has brought them? The world is a moral train wreck. I’m surprised by the number of intelligent people who say that there cannot be a God because of “________ Theory.” Don’t they know that God is above that? He created these scientific laws. So obviously, we can’t look to science to physically prove that which is not physical. There is evidence, but some people just can’t (or won’t) grasp it. I don’t know if this analogy makes much sense, but I like to think that noticing God’s signature in the world is like trying to spot a constellation in the sky. Someone can tell you it’s there and try to point it out to you, but only you can see it by searching. You may discover it piece by piece, but eventually you will find it.

Well, brother, I wish there were a lot more scientists like you. But unfortunately, all the scientific studies (:)) show that you are in a small minority. But I am perfectly content to let their peers, like you, and our Church leaders try to talk some sense into them. My warning - St. Paul’s warning - is for the flock. God bless.

Catholics MUST not become anti-science like fundamentalists are. This has consistently been the Vatican’s stance in my whole lifetime, at least.

Science and Religion can coexist perfectly well as long as each stays within its own jurisdiction and doesn’t get power lust for the jurisdiction of the other.

Before you heat up the tar and ready the feathers, let me explain that further.

Nothing in revelation requires us to believe that creation came about in 7, 24 hour periods. It just doesn’t. Turns out God is smarter than to give us a head start on scientific principles that we tend to learn faster than we learn the responsibility to handle them properly. No wonder Genesis is literary, figurative description regarding WHO and WHY, but not so much about the details of WHAT.

Science has its jurisdiction in the questions of WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW. In 2,000 years, the Church has learned that we’ve simply not been given revelation on issues like whether the sun revolves around the earth or vice versa. That’s for science to decide. We know from revelation that we humans all descend from Adam and Eve, but we don’t know much about how God created them. Therefore, it is legitimate to science to investigate all options. Society as a whole generally has an appreciation for the fact that religion should not dictate scientific principles.

What moderns fail to recognize is that Science poses a dire danger when IT trespasses on the jurisdiction of the Church. When science delves into questions of WHO and WHY, catastrophe always ensues. Communism and Eugenics are just recent examples. Society is in such haste to prevent domination by religion that it is going to be dominated by the religion of scientism (the religion that results from science poaching on WHO and WHY questions).

As for the example give above about embryonic research, a HEALTHY relationship between religion and science would have prevented such abuse in the first place. If science respected the religious determination on WHO is a human person, they’d not be experimenting on unborn persons. The knowledge gained is not immoral. The means of getting it surely is.

“anti-science”? What does that mean? While I was growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s, Americans had a healthy respect for science but it had nothing to do with Evolution. Let us Never use the words science and evolution as if they mean the same thing. They Don’t.

The space race made everyone aware of rocket science, traveling through space and what was on the moon. The technology of the space capsule, the lunar lander and moon rover were all on our minds. It was not until recently that Evolution became such a Fake important issue. When I took classes in electronics – Evolution had Zero to do with it – Nothing.

The bottom line – right now, embryonic stem cell researchers want religious people to butt out of their work. Billionaires are getting older and they don’t want to die, so they’ll fund anything. Besides, as the media reminds us, embryos don’t have fingers and toes, so what’s the big deal?

Peace,
Ed

Evolution ISN’T a big deal except to those who fail to recognize the proper jurisdictional limits of science and revelation.

There are three camps on the evolution issue:

  1. The Creationists. These are the guys who have failed to recognize that revelation doesn’t cover the WHAT, WHEN and HOW questions related to biology. They cannot accept that anything but a positive, miracle not explainable by natural processes could be involved in the work of Creation. They seem unable to realize that natural processes THEMSELVES are miracles and fixate on literal readings of Genesis.

  2. The Scientismists (not to be confused with scientists). These guys fail to recognize that WHY and WHO are not questions that science can answer. They try to force it to and end up with similar results to what happened when the Creationists try to use Genesis as a biology textbook. They go beyond the dictates of science (which forbids using miracles as the accepted scientific explanations) and declare that there ARE no supernatural explanations for anything. The difference is subtle, which is why many of them don’t get it. The proper attitude doesn’t claim that science can explain all, it merely refuses to outright admit that something is miraculous.

  3. The rest of us. We see science and the scientific method as a most tremendously useful servant, but refuse to allow it to be the master. It makes for a tyrannical master. We allow it to fully explore those WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW questions, but keep it off the WHO and WHY questions. To this third group, questions about dinosaurs and apes and descent aren’t threatening. It doesn’t negate God’s miraculous power to create a process that formed all life forms, nor does it negate that a point in time came when He first infused a soul into evolved apes called Adam and Eve. Or the current best scientific theories and evidence could be all wrong and might later find that humans ARE utterly separated from the rest of the evolutionary process. Neither position is a threat to what has been revealed to us.

First, I would like to see a Church document that recognizes Adam and Eve as evolved apes. This does not appear to be consistent with previous Church teaching.

Second. I understand science is useful but here, it is regarded as so desperately important. It has new threads on a regular basis. What is the big deal? If there were threads that suggested a lack of understanding of quantum mechanics is bringing this country down, that would be one thing. But here, all I’m seeing is a constant repetition of the importance of this theory and very vague comments of the problems that will supposedly be caused if any Christian disbelieves it.

I am against fundamentalism but I am also against atheist sponsored organizations picketing the Creation Museum with a name like Rally for Reason. The atheists have taken that word as their own. Any evidence that man and dinosaurs were contempories is simply buried under ridicule.

Peace,
Ed

As far as I know, there is no Church document affirming that Adam and Eve are evolved apes. This SUPPORTS my assertion because the Church simply doesn’t make pronouncements like this. That would be making a determination in an area she hasn’t been given jurisdiction in.

“Rally for Reason” is simply group #2 and some group #3 folks ganging up on group #1 above. There is nothing there incompatible with the group #3 worldview.

It’s important for us NOT to get dawn into false dillemmas. Evolutionists vs. the religious is a false dillemma.

I suggest you read Humani Generis, available online. Then I recommend Communion and Stewardship, also available online. The Church has jurisdiction in areas that touch on man’s true origin, and his relationship to other creatures on earth.

Peace,
Ed

Shared jurisdiction, you must mean. The National Academy of Sciences doesn’t genuflect before the pope and kiss his papal ring.

That is a very good point. This is happening quite a lot, unfortunately. Atheistic-materialism uses science to attack religious belief.

I am against science worship.

Peace,
Ed

It is buried under ridicule because any and all such evidence is ridiculously weak or fraudulent. It is ridiculous, in the face of all other evidence from the fossil record, to suggest that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time.

Mike

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