Thursday, April 04, 2013
Science vs. Religion: Turning Swords into Plowshares
I taught a lesson very recently where I was discussing the Big Bang theory with my senior students. About halfway into my spiel a student of mine sitting at the back of the classroom put his hand up and blurted out sounding frustrated, “You’re a Christian, and a man of religion … I thought that you didn’t believe in science.” What an unfortunate and disappointing presumption. Nonetheless, it got me thinking: “Why is there an apparent dichotomy between religion and science? Why can’t one be religious and be a proponent for science and vice versa?”
Rather than replying to that student with, “Just because …” or “It’s my choice, yadda, yadda, yadda …” I decided to ask this student this question, “Do you happen to know who first conceived the idea of the big bang theory?”
“I dunno … some scientist?”
“Yes, he was a scientist. His name was Fr. Georges Lemaître.”
Yes, the “father” of the big bang theory was a Catholic priest. Not only that, Fr. Lemaître applied Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity to cosmology, which helped Einstein perfect his calculations on the gradual expanse of the universe.
What’s the lesson here? Religion is not allergic to science and science is not allergic to religion. The work between Lemaître and Einstein is just one example of how investigation through the human senses can work harmoniously with faith for the betterment of ourselves.
"Faith and science: 'Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.' 'Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.'" - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 159
“Basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man’s dominion over creation. Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves however they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress. Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits.” – ibid., par. 2293
Besides, don’t all scientific pursuits begin with a leap of faith?