When Science contradicts Religion

I struggled with how to phrase this question, how to explain it and how to write it without sounding like one of those rabid New Athiests.

I hear Catholics very often insisting there can be no conflict between science and faith, be it because they are complimentary or because they have their own spheres of knowledge to which the other cannot or should not delve into. On the surface this sounds reasonable, and it came as a rather pleasant surprise when one looks towards the fundamentalist literalist sola scriptura churches.

However,there are instances of teaching, Dogma in fact in some cases relating to the creation story where science either has disproven it ot there is overwhelming evidence pointing towards it being incorrect.

I’m not talking so much about a literal reading of portions of the bible the Catholic Church reads as an allegory here; for instance Catholics are bound to believe to my knowledge that Adam and Eve were a literal couple and that death entered the world as a consequence of Adam’s sin.

There’s two problems with this, apoptosis (pre programmed cell death) is necessary to sustain organic multi-cellular life, so death had to have existed prior to the fall (We can also assume Adam was not nor was he created to be a vegan due to the formation of our canine teeth and reliance upon meat for a great deal of nutrition so some creatures would have had to die to provide that for him).

There is also increasing amounts evidence from geneticists claiming that while it is possible to trace back human DNA to a source the two individuals traced so far, “Adam” and “Mitochondrial Eve” lived a few hundred (possibly even thousand) years apart and themselves appear to have developed from a wider group.

Homosexuality seems to be another big one these days, aside from the occasional “quack” if I can be blunt modern medical academia and psychology are almost entirely unanimous in stating that Homosexual impulses are entirely natural and are in no way disordered. Leaving the morality of it aside, rather science has defined it as a “feature” of every species and perfectly normal while the Church continues to insist it is unnatural and an unintended consequence of human actions (Sin).

It’s probably not the best example but it’s the more recent one I’ve come across. How as Catholics do you reconcile things like this? Is “there is no conflict between science and faith” more an ideal than a reality? Because when we look back into history there are several episodes like this, Galileo’s proof that the Ptolemaic Geocentric understanding of the universe being incorrect easily being the most famous but not the only one.

When I read Leo XIII’s statements about there being no conflict between the two, it seems to be…Well…Incorrect. The Church has consistently through history and even today denies obvious realities. Any thoughts?

Can you provide examples of the Church denying obvious realities over the last 50 years?


I don’t think one need believe that “death entered the world” means anything more than the destruction of the soul. One could acknowledge that the original author may have intended something literal by “death”, but also accept that the theological meaning of the text is true. When moral error entered the world, it’s plausible enough that things like depression and resentment and the like also entered the world.

As for the real Adam and Eve, I’m not aware of any requirement to believe that they existed historically, except to say that the first human beings did sin, and that this sin is common to all mankind.

Homosexuality seems to be another big one these days, aside from the occasional “quack” if I can be blunt modern medical academia and psychology are almost entirely unanimous in stating that Homosexual impulses are entirely natural and are in no way disordered. Leaving the morality of it aside, rather science has defined it as a “feature” of every species and perfectly normal while the Church continues to insist it is unnatural and an unintended consequence of human actions (Sin).

The Church says homosexual activity is unnatural in roughly the same sense that, say, cutting one’s wrist is unnatural. That is, the Church doesn’t say that it’s unusual, and doesn’t say that homosexual individuals are worse people than other people. To be clear, though, the Church does not say that homosexuality is a psychological disorder. It’s a moral disorder. Similarly, gossip is a moral disorder. Gossips certainly aren’t insane!

I myself am attracted to other men. The Church doesn’t tell me I have to try to be “cured”. It just says to refrain from sin, in precisely the same way it tells straight guys to refrain from sin. :shrug:

I don’t want to post too many, less this thread get derailed and transformed into just another gay marriage/creationist thread so I’ll stick with the three I mentioned in my first post.

  1. Catholics are bound to belive Adam and Eve were a literal first couple, Modern Genetics can and has traced Human DNA back to it’s origin and has stated with a great deal of certainty Humanity arose from a wider group over a longer period of time. This article’s first paragraphs explains with a highly oversimplified but concise summary as to why, even if the tone is rather condecending to belivers whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/adam-and-eve-the-ultimate-standoff-between-science-and-faith-and-a-contest/

  2. Catholics are bound to believe Death is a consequence of Adams sin and did not exist prior to the fall, the development of mans capacity to ingest meat along with a heavy reliance upon it for nutrition suggests otherwise. Complicated milti cellular life forms also cannot exist without the process of pre programmed cell death (apoptosis) which again suggests death was not a consequence of the fall.

  3. Regardless to an individuals views on the morality of homosexual acts, the Catholic Church teaches the desire to commit them are gravely disordered, a disorder again arising from sin which had humanity not fallen into would not exist. With exception to a few hedge psychologists who are ridiculed by the rest of the profession, modern mental health authorities are certain without any doubt that Homosexual impulses are in no way disordered, merely one of many potential traits such as not liking the taste of strawberries.

Catholics are bound to believe in the magesteriums literal interpretation of the existence of Adam and Even when science has proven this an impossibility and Catholics who do not consider homosexual impulses to be disordered are condemned as being in a state of mortal sin. There are just ones cropping up in the past ten years, never mind fifty.

That’s a whole other kettle of fish, I don’t profess to be a biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination but as my Catholic husband attempted to explain to me death, disease and all of the ills that plague mankind are the consequences of sins committed or original from Adam.

Unless Adam was a robot or not sentient, pain, depression and everything else on the negative scale would not have been unknown to him.

I have a copy of ArchBishop Sheehans Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine here that states the Church has declared Adam and Eve to be a literal couple. People can believe whatever they wish about how long it took the world to develop or in evolution or not, so long as they believe that Adam was the first literal man and Eve the first woman, and that their sin is what cut humanity off from Gods grace.

We could also go down the tangent of mitochondrial DNA suggesting that if humanity truley did spring from one couple, the first human would have been female but that’s a whole other twisted road…

Thankfully it doesn’t (although I confess I’m rather uneasy about the other “ministry” it offers to homosexuals and bisexual men via Courage, their method and that used by Alcoholics anonymous are near identical).

Regardless as to the morality of the act or if one decides to act upon it, the Church still teaches that it is a disorder, one of the many consequences of sin . Modern Psychology, Medicine and Zoology has proven this false. It’s merely one of many traits an individual can develop and has cropped up in every known mammal since time immemorial. The Church would have us believe it was a later development from mans rebelliousness or Satans mischief.

Certainly one could choose to flag it as a moral disorder, but that seems like a rather artificial divide when one observes the biological and psychological “action” of it. A penchant for adultery is a moral disorder, but that hasn’t led Catholics to label all sex as disordered.

Death surely did exist prior to the Fall. Immortality was a preternatural grace, i.e., a trait beyond the grasp of unaided human nature, given him directly by God. And of course it was given only to man: animals died before the fall as well, consistent with their natures as unenlightened by grace.

Y-chromosomal Adam and mitochondrial Eve are not even necessarily fixed persons; they are the most recent common ancestor of all current living humans. It is possible that, 10,000 years hence, all of the descendants of the current ones will have died, and the new y-chromosome Adam and mitochondrial Eve will be people who are alive among us today. They are not even rough scientific approximations of actual Adam and Eve; one has nothing to do with the other.

But we Catholics surely appreciate the concession that we are right that modern man evolved out of a small group of people living in Africa, as we have (historically) always contended.

Of course they are “natural” in the sense of “occurring in nature.” But this is not what the Church means when she says sodomy is against the natural law; she means that it is contrary to human nature.

And it is after all: it doesn’t take a genius to tell what the reproductive system is for, and to tell that sodomitical acts are by nature necessarily not reproductive.

As for it being “disordered,” that is something scientists are hardly qualified to comment on.

Heliocentrism was not, itself, punishable prior to Galileo. Copernicus was a heliocentrist after all and encouraged by the Church in his research, and there were others who seem to have escaped punishment as well. Galileo’s run-in with the Church was not about heliocentrism, it was about authority, specifically who was qualified to interpret Scripture – the Church or scientists (like, conveniently, him). It was a power grab, and he was punished for his insubordination – insubordination which was especially idiotic given that the Pope was then a temporal prince allied with the ruler of Galileo’s city. He was compelled to recant his heliocentrism not because it was wrong but because it was the ideology that had tempted him to disobedience. This recantation was an act of charity on the Church’s part.

Worse still, Galileo was wrong. His claim that the evidence available at the time certainly favored heliocentrism was a joke and his own proofs and arguments idiotic (a pattern for Galileo). No one even accepts it today: in the relativity framework, there is nothing which can be said to be in the “center” of the universe.

Specifically, Adam and Eve were the first couple with a rational soul. Science has never had access to the coming of a new specie. We don’t know how it happens, that some group, genetically different, that can reproduce their kind, suddenly spontaneously appears, Male and Female… The most we have seen is micro-evolution. Like dogs, all the different breeds. Still able to interbreed but with a diversity of expression.

How did species move from one to another. A lot of speculation. No answers.

Mt 28: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Death that is referred to, may be death of the spirit, for before there was sin, nothing was condemned to Hell (spiritual death). But with sin, came death. Physical death, that is no big deal. It is God’s way of moving us to live with Him forever.

I don’t see a problem here. Since the fall, man is subject to concupicence, disordered desire. One of them is homosexual desire. Similar to heterosexual desire outside marriage. We, being intellegent, can resist, but often fall into sin. In addition to Lust, we are also attracted to Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Wrath, and Envy. It’s natural, just as you wrote, we are fallen man.

Wait, science has proved something without evidence, without facts, without someone being there, see hearing or collecting information. Speculation is not proof. This ‘miticondrial eve’ may not be the Eve of the bible, but the eve of science. With whom did this science-adam mate? Humans? Apes? Biblical Eve? Who knows. We don’t have the birth records.


You COMPLETELY lost me here. Your interpretation of relativity strikes me as silly. Of course the Earth revolves around the Sun, in just the same sense as a train is moving and the ground is standing still. We call people who say the ground is moving “nuts”, despite the fact that there position is “just as true” according to relativity.

Galileo’s system involves WAY fewer epicycles, and it was much less ad hoc than geocentrism. The evidence decisively favored it, even then.

As I see it Science does not contradict religion.

Science studies the ‘world’ through observation and experiment. It does not pass a ‘judgement’ on it’s findings but merely reports it to allow further development and further knowledge to be gleaned.

Religion(s) may take a view on a particular aspect of scientific study, but does not alter the science in question. A Religion may place a particular emphasis on some aspects of science, but scientific observation of a subject does not require adherence to a particular religion

Once I heard of a local protestant church asking members to vote on whether or not they thought the Blessed Mother was really a virgin. Majority rules there and if the majority vote said no they were prepared to stop teaching that. If the Virgin birth is truth, all men denying it won’t make it false. Same thing with sexuality IMHO.

Science says that the earth does not revolve around anything, it follows an ellipse-like path with one of the foci near the center of the sun. But the sun is not fixed, it is busy orbiting the galactic center. So, it accellerates based on all the other suns in the galaxy.

That’s like saying that apples don’t fall toward the ground, but toward a point near the center of the earth. As if both couldn’t be true.

What denomination of protestant was it? I was Methodist for years, and I never heard of anything like that! Very strange!

To repeat

There is no ‘Of course’ in science. There is no assurance that the train is moving and the ground still.

There is no fixed frame of reference. The math is more complicated if the Earth is still and the Sun moves for orbital mechanics, but if your trying to prove your not speeding in court, I would assume the Earth is still.

In physics, the idea is to use the simplest equations to deal with motion.

There is no right coordinate system.

  1. The Church tells us there is no proof this happened. Adam and Eve are our first parents, not a group, and certainly not a pair of “almost humans” that God randomly dropped souls into. Science cannot study the soul so this linkage has no scientific basis.

  2. Adam and Eve had certain gifts given to them by God, which they lost when they disobeyed the one command God gave them. That is why every human being is born with Original Sin. What happened after the Fall was literal and spiritual. Otherwise, Jesus would not have had to have been born.

  3. The actual history of homosexual tendencies has been ignored. I suggest the following:



That is incorrect. If it were true, we would see zero threads like this here.


I read with great interest the article in the link that you provided. In particular I am looking for a scientific proof that humanity indeed came from a wide group of individuals, and not from a single pair. I was greatly disappointed. The article you cited merely reported that humanity came from a bottleneck of 10,000 to 15,000 individuals, but it offered **no proof **for such a claim.

Actually, I happen to know where those figures came from. They came from a 2006 book written by Dr. Francis Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, page 126. But you know what? This book did not offer any proof either about the starting pool of 10,000 individuals. It merely said that the number came from population geneticists who have studied the human genome, but no sources!

Also, your contention that the Y-chromosomal Adam and the Mitochondrial Eve are vastly separated in time is outmoded. Recent studies indicate that they actually might have walked on earth together. See arstechnica.com/science/2013/08/genetic-adam-and-eve-may-have-walked-on-earth-at-the-same-time/

You cited the results of modern genetics as one of the “obvious realities” that the Church has denied over the last 50 years. I wonder how you can say these are obvious realities when scientists themselves are at odds about what the truth really is. For example, if you read the work of Dr. Georgia Purdom, you will see opinions that are vastly different from those advocated by Dr. Francis Collins.

Catholic dogma states: The whole human race stems from one single human pair. (Sent. certs.)

and there is also: Catechism of the Catholic Church:

375 The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice”

390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

As OP points out - there is massive reasoned scientifice evidence that there was no single first couple in human genetic lineage. We know that the mythology of Adam and Eve is made up… pretend.

The case OP is pointing out is, to me extremely strong.

I think these two writers do a good job at explaining why modern genetics doesn’t actually pose a problem for Catholic dogma:

Ed Feser:


Mike Flynn


But what document are you referencing when you say Catholic dogma states the entire human race stems from one single pair. I’m unfamiliar with it. As far as I know, the only thing dogmatic is that the first human really sinned and we inherit our fallen state from him. (See the links I provided for more on that)

I’m glad you quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church though, because I find it interesting that it says that original sin is an actual sin committed by “our first parents” — but never does it say there were only TWO parents.

(In fact, you might want to check over the whole description of creation and the fall in CCC 355-409; looking over it quickly, it appears to me to carefully avoid claiming there were two. When it does mention “Adam and Eve”, eg. 375 and 399, a qualifier is included: “the symbolism of biblical language”, “Scripture portrays”. This is more clear in 399,)

Some might disagree with me here as to the importance of this. To me though, if polygenism was absolutely contrary to the faith, this would have been the perfect spot to condemn it. One of the objections to the dogma of original sin is in fact that Adam and Eve weren’t real people, so they couldn’t have sinned. Yet the Church never mentions the number, all it says is, “No. The sin really happened by real historical people, and we inherit it from them.”

To me that signals that that is the central teaching we must believe, not the number. Again I could be wrong, but unless and until the Church issues an anathema on it, I think that’s all we got. Considering that no Pope in the last fifty years has even commented on it, let alone condemned it, it doesn’t appear to be that threatening to Catholic dogma.

It’s true, and I know this is what you’re probably referring to, that Pius XII said that the children of the Church were not at liberty to accept polygenism, but, there’s a few things interesting about his statement. He doesn’t issue an anathema or any of the usual terms of condemnation we get when a teaching is clearly contrary to the faith. In fact, he seems to, for lack of a better word, give an escape clause almost.

Several orthodox scholars consider his phrase “it is in no way apparent” to be the key clause here.

If it were to be conclusively established that the scientific theory of polygenism and the Catholic dogma of original sin cannot both be true, then the Church could (and indeed, must) teach that polygenism is false.

But Pius XII is very far from asserting conclusively that they are incompatible. Rather, he carefully chooses his words to make clear the degree of certainty involved: “it is in no way apparent” how they “can be reconciled” with each other. That’s pretty close to saying that they appear to be incompatible PRIMA FACIE, and that he has not yet heard a persuasive argument to the contrary.

So what he has done is established the conditions for future doctrinal development. (1) If someone can provide a convincing explanation of how original sin and polygenism can be reconciled, then the Church will have no further objection to it. (2) If, on the contrary, a conclusive argument is made that they cannot be reconciled, then the Church will have to oppose this theory. (3) As neither of these has occurred yet in 1950, the pope issues this public warning against the theory of polygenism.

The writers I have seen all agree that the condemnation of this teaching certainly is not binding if the escape clause is fulfilled. Even those writers who strongly agree in condemning polygenism (Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, published in the 1950s, TAN edition p. 96) make it clear that they are condemning it because they think the escape clause has not been met. But if it is met and theologians can reconcile the two, then the Church would be fine with it.

So even if polygenism i*s *true (which science hasn’t proven or disproven yet) and there were an original group of humans, it still doesn’t pose that big a threat to Catholic dogma, as the writers I linked to demonstrate. What we believe is that the first man and woman *with a soul *sinned and destroyed our relationship with God. I don’t see how science can prove or disprove that.

I think what the problem is is that the Church and you are talking about two different things, What the Church means by disordered is different than what we usually think of when we hear the word. When we hear disordered we think broken, or unnatural or a disease. That’s sort of what the Church means, but not exactly.

What it really just means when it says an act is disordered is that is not ordered towards the proper end which God designed in human beings. In this case homosexual acts are considered disordered because they are not ordered towards the end which God designed for human sexuality. (unitive and prrocreative) That’s it. It’s not saying anything about the psycho-genesis of it or whether it’s common in animals. All that is irrelevant. Especially considering that there are a lot of behaviors common in the animal kingdom that were humans to do them, we would consider them immoral.

Whether animals do something or not doesn’t tell us if it’s good for human beings to do.

Certainly one could choose to flag it as a moral disorder, but that seems like a rather artificial divide when one observes the biological and psychological “action” of it.

Yes, but that’s precisely what the Church considers it! Again, we have to know what the Church means when it says something is disordered. It’s talking about morality and the proper end of human actions. I don’t see any contradiction to science in that. Science is unable to tell us anything about morality.

A penchant for adultery is a moral disorder, but that hasn’t led Catholics to label all sex as disordered.

Actually I’m glad you brought this up. No, the Church doesn’t say sex is disordered, but it does say adulterous sex is. And contraceptive sex. And masturbation. And polygamy. And rape.

The Church says all these things are gravely contrary to the natural law and are perversions of what sex is supposed to be for. Again, science can’t contradict that because science can’t tell us what is right and wrong.

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