Science and Christian Faith: How are they reconciled?

Dr. Liza C. Manalo, MSc.

“How can you be both a believer and a biologist?”
“After all, don't you realize that evolution is incompatible with faith? If you believe in evolution, how can you be a believer?”

What has the relationship between faith and science been during the history of the church?

• Attitudes have not sufficiently perceived and recognized the legitimate autonomy of science • Maintains that science and Faith are in opposition with one another • There has been an indifference between them, going ahead on parallel tracks, in complete ignorance of one another

What has the relationship between faith and science been during the history of the church? • It should be affirmed that the Church, faithful to its mission, can enter in dialogue with every type of science and efficiently use the scientific results to better fulfill its mission. • Sent to all peoples of any place and time, the Church is not linked in an exclusive and indissoluble manner to any type of science, and neither to any scientific conquest.

How Do We Relate Science and Religion?
"Science and theology have things to say to each other since both are concerned with the search for truth attained through motivated belief.” – John Polkinghorne "The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” – Galileo
The Bible is not meant to convey precise historical information or scientific findings to us. – CCC 106-107, 109, YouCat 15

How Do We Relate Science and Religion?
St. Augustine, in 400 A.D., wrote about Genesis’ account of creation:
"In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it." What is currently happening is the insistence that the only acceptable interpretation for a serious Christian is the literal acceptance of the six days of creation, which, St. Augustine would have argued is not required by the language.

Is there a contradiction between faith and science?

There is no insoluble contradiction between faith and science, because there cannot be two kinds of truth. There is only one truth to which both faith and scientific reason refer. - CCC 159, YouCat 23

What kind of dialogue could there be between faith and science?

•A dialogue in distinction, i.e., a dialogue that recognizes the specific characteristics of both of them. In fact, each of them: • has its own methods, fields and objects of research, goals and limits • should respect the other and recognize in the other its legitimate possibility of autonomous exercise according to its own principles

What kind of dialogue could there be between faith and science?
• “There exists 2 orders of knowledge” which are distinct, i.e., the order of Faith (Fides) and that of reason (ratio), and the Church recognizes that “the arts and human disciplines (...) serve one another, in their proper sphere with its proper principles and its proper method; therefore, “by recognizing this proper freedom”, the Church affirms the legitimate autonomy of the sciences” (Gaudium et Spes, 36).

• At the same time, both faith & reason are called to serve man and humanity, by favoring the development and integral growth of each and everyone.

What does autonomy of science mean?
• “If by autonomy of the earthly affairs we mean that created things and societies themselves enjoy their own laws and values which should be gradually deciphered, put to use and regulated by men, then it is entirely right to demand that autonomy. • Such is not merely required by modern man, but is also in conformity with the will of the Creator. • In fact, it is by their very condition as creatures that all things receive their own consistency, truth, goodness, their own laws and their order; and man is compelled to respect all that, by recognizing the proper needs of method for every single science and technology (...).

What does autonomy of science mean?

• If, instead, by the expression “autonomy of
earthly affairs” we mean that created things do not depend on God, and that man can use them without any reference to the Creator, then anyone who believes in God will see how false such a meaning is. “For without the Creator, the creature would disappear”
(Gaudium et Spes, 36)

What does autonomy of science mean?

“It is an illusion to claim moral neutrality in scientific research and its applications. • On the other hand, guiding principles can neither be deduced from simple technological efficiency nor from the usefulness accruing to some at the cost of others, nor, even worse, from prevailing ideologies.

• Science and technology by their very nature require unconditional respect for fundamental moral criteria. • Science and technology should be at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, of his true and integral good, in conformity with the plan and the will of God” (CCC, n. 2294).

What does autonomy of science mean? • The autonomy of science therefore ends where the upright conscience of the scientist recognizes the evilness of the method, of its results or effects.

Can there be a real contrast between the discoveries of science and the truths of the faith? • Both science and Faith, though distinct, are united in truth: they converge in admitting the truths and the Truth; they find in the truth their foundation, their reason for existence and the goal of their operations.

In fact, omnis veritas a Deo: every truth comes from God

Can there be a real contrast between the discoveries of science and the truths of the faith?

• Both Science and Faith are a gift from God.
• “Even though Faith is above reason, there can never be true divergence between Faith and reason: since the same God who reveals the mysteries and communicates the Faith, has even placed the light of reason in the human spirit, this God would not be able to negate himself, nor could truth contradict truth” (Vatican Council I, Dei Filius, n. 4).

Can there be a real contrast between the discoveries of science and the truths of the faith?
“Thus if methodical investigation of every branch of learning is carried out in a genuinely scientific manner and according to moral norms, it will never really be in contrast with Faith, for earthly matters and the concerns of Faith have their origin in the same God. • Indeed, whoever labors to penetrate the secrets of reality with humility and perseverance, even though he is unaware of the fact, is nevertheless being led by the hand of God, who holds all things in existence, and gives them their identity” (Gaudium et Spes, n. 36).

Can there be a real contrast between the discoveries of science and the truths of the faith? Both science and Faith are at the service of man, of all of man and of all that is genuinely human.
• Science and Faith are ordered in view of man, from whom their origin and development stems, and by whom they promote their integral development to the benefit of all.

Science and faith find in the person the indication of their goal and the consciousness of their respective limits.

What does the anthropological and humanistic value of science consist of? • It consists of the fact that science:
– is performed by man; – is for the good of the individual person and humanity; – is for the good of the scientist as a person.

• Every scientist, through personal study and research:
– perfects himself and his own humanity; he models himself and builds his own personality; – goes through the path for a personal encounter with the truth, freedom and in responsibility; – can encounter God himself, Creator of heaven and earth.

• Science realizes a precious service to others, to society and to the Church.

What positive contribution does science offer to society and to the church?
• the rigorous fidelity to what is true in scientific investigation; • collaboration with others in specialized technical groups; • the sense of international solidarity; • the ever present awareness of the responsibility of experts in helping and protecting men; • the will to make the living conditions happier for all, especially for those who suffer due to various reason; • assistance to Faith in purifying itself of wrong elements; • the great contribution that science offers in raising the human family to higher concepts of the truth, of goodness, of beauty, and to a vision of things of universal value; • the expression and realization of the lordship of man over creation. Science realizes God’s plan, manifested at the beginning of times, of subjecting the earth and perfecting creation; • the realization of Christ’s great commandment to do all one can for the service of one’s brothers: “Every time you did these things to one of the least of my brethren, you did them to me ” (Mt 25: 40).

What positive contribution does science offer to society and to the church?

• All these positive aspects which science present are:
– a wonderful product of human creativity and of the insatiable appetite for research and in-depth study present in man; – a sign of the greatness of God; – a fruit of God’s ineffable plan, which He entrusted to man concerning creation; – a preparation to receive the announcement of the Gospel.

What contribution can faith make to science?

Christian Faith:
• Exists so that we might know things that are not apparent to reason yet are real, above and beyond reason. • Demands and promotes the (natural) sciences. Just as God intended faith, He also intended reason with which we can recognize the rational structures of the world. • Reminds science that it is supposed to serve creation and not set itself up in place of God.
– YouCat 23

What contribution can faith make to science? Christian Faith:
• offers to science excellent stimuli and help to perform with greater commitment its task, and especially to discover the full significance of its activities, within and at the service of the integral vocation of man; • helps science to be more fully aware of its limits:
– it is not the highest value, to which all other values are subordinated; – it cannot explain everything, and especially the fact that it cannot explain everything about man; – Science can give a partial and a non-exhaustive answer to the problem of the truth about man, considered in all its dimensions, and about the ultimate meaning of our history and of that of the universe; – it cannot provide answers to theological and philosophical problems, by limiting itself to experimental knowledge.

What contribution can faith make to science?

Christian Faith:
• places us on guard against serious risks which science can run into.
– For instance: “today’s progress of science and technology, which on the strength of their method, cannot penetrate through the intimate reasons of things, can favor a certain phenomenism and agnosticism, when the investigation method which these sciences make use of are wrongly raised to a supreme norm of research of the total truth. On the contrary, there is the risk that man, by excessively putting his trust in today’s discoveries, thinks that that is enough and fails to search for superior values” (Gaudium et Spes, 36).

What contribution can faith make to science? Christian Faith:
• values the genuine conquests of science to the highest extent.
– In fact, Faith affirms that, although one should accurately distinguish between earthly progress and development of the Kingdom of Christ, nevertheless, scientific progress, in the measure that it can contribute towards a better organization of human society, contributes towards the realization of God’s Kingdom, towards the construction of “new heavens” and a “new earth” (2 Pet 3: 13)

• offers the priorities and moral principles which science should respect.

What priorities should science follow?

Science, in order to fulfill its task: • should allow itself to be guided by the primacy: – of the person over things; – of ethics over technology; – of the spirit over matter; – of being over having and doing ; – of research of the truth; – of the needs of justice and peace;

What priorities should science follow?

Science, in order to fulfill its task: • should therefore avoid following priorities which are mainly fixed:
– by economic motives (indiscriminate research of economic profit at the individual and group level); – by interests of political groups; – by the search for personal prestige.

What are the moral principles that science should respect?

• Not everything which is scientifically and technologically feasible is also morally acceptable; • It is not proper to obtain good through evil; • The end does not justify the means.

Human fetus 10 weeks therapeutic abortion

What are the moral principles that science should respect? The following should be respected: • the integral good of man and humanity ; • the transcendental dimension of the person and of creation; • the life and the dignity of man, the quality of his life, the rights of the present and future human generations; • the creation and its environment.

Do moral principles serve as a brake to science?
• Moral principles are neither a brake nor an obstacle to progress, but a “stream bed, in which the impetuous current of human thought and action flow. • Ethics places limits on science in order to increase its strength, its utility and its effectiveness, to avoid that it goes out of its margins, floods and destroys. Ethics is an element which has contributed towards the best and the most beautiful things that man has been able to produce”
- Pio XII

What is the role of science?

• To discover the marvels of nature, with that attitude which is precisely of one who does not extend his hands over the world saying: it is mine, but of one in awe, who sees it held by an another, and recognizes that it is a gift from Another for himself and for all. • To respect the ontological and value-based difference that exists between man and other living beings. • To respect the nature of every being and of its mutual connection with other beings in a balanced and ordered system (the eco system). • To promote the environment as a home and as a resource in favor of man and of all men.

What is the role of science?

• To search for the true good of humanity according to the plan and the will of God, and to allow man, considered as an individual and as a member of society, to cultivate and realize his integral vocation. • To carry out a service:
– – – – for the truth; for the dignity of the person and the quality of one’s life; for humanity and its values; for the satisfaction of especially the primary needs of man, by always trying to overcome particularly hunger and disease.

What is the role of science?

• To maintain in man the faculties of contemplation and admiration that lead to wisdom; • To realize scientific progress which is true human progress. • To avoid:
– believing in being able to provide a solution to everything; – absolutizing its method and its results; – making arbitrary use of the earth, by subjecting it without reserve to one’s will and exploiting the resources of creation in an inconsiderate manner; – carrying out experiments on the human being without the explicit consent of the subject or of his rights, and when he runs into disproportionate or evitable risks for life or the physical and psychic integrity of the subjects.

What is the role of science?
• To look at the Christian Faith with interest, which reveals the ultimate meaning of the dignity of man and makes one encounter Christ, the perfect man, following which, man becomes more human and finds in Him fullness and fulfillment.

Does science make the Creator superfluous?
• No. The sentence “God created the world” is not a scientific model explaining the beginning of the world. We are dealing here with a theological statement that is concerned with the relation of the world to God. • The creation account is a statement about the divine meaning and origin of things. God willed the world; He sustains it and will perfect it. Being created is a lasting quality in things and a fundamental truth about them. - CCC 282-289, YouCat 41

Can someone accept the theory of evolution and still believe in the Creator?

• Yes. Although it is a different kind of knowledge, faith is open to the findings and hypotheses of the sciences. - CCC 282-289, YouCat 42
Charles Darwin Origin of the Species

• A Christian can accept the theory of evolution as a helpful exploratory model, provided he does not fall into the heresy of evolutionism, which views man as the random product of biological processes. - YouCat 42

Can someone accept the theory of evolution and still believe in the Creator?

• EVOLUTION presupposes the existence of something that can develop. The theory of evolution says nothing about where this “something” came from. Furthermore, questions about the being, essence, dignity, mission, meaning, and wherefore of the world and man cannot be answered in biological terms. • Just as the heresy of evolutionism oversteps a boundary on the one side, so does the heresy of creationism on the other.
– Creationists naively take biblical data literally (e.g., to calculate the earth’s age, they cite the six days of work in Genesis 1). - YouCat 42

What is the task of the scientist?

He, in so far as being man, has the task of:
• avoiding the risk of degradation while dealing with other human beings. • remembering that he is not the absolute owner of himself and of his life. • respecting the psycho-physical integrity of himself and that of others.

• taking into account the role, the goals and limits of science. • respecting the above mentioned moral principles, by realizing his ethical responsibility, remembering that he is a man before being a scientist.

What is the task of the scientist?

He, in so far as being man, has the task of questioning:
• the general sense and meaning of one’s research work; • the method followed (the end does not justify the means); • the final result and consequences achieved by knowledge at the application level; • the moral validity of one’s task; • creation as a trace of God, the place where the greatness, the goodness and the providence of God are revealed.

What is the task of the scientist?
He, in so far as being man, has the task of avoiding the ‘specialized breaking up’, but researching the synthesis:
– by connecting the plurality of acquisitions; – integrating them with the general meaning of life; – harmonizing them with the ethical and moral vision.

What is the task of the scientist?

“The segmentation of knowledge with its splintered approach to truth and consequent fragmentation of meaning, keeps people today from coming to an interior unity” (Fides et Ratio, n. 85)

What is the task of public authorities as regards science?
Public authorities, like guardians of the common good, commit themselves to:
– Assuring that research be directed towards the good of the persons and of society and to the protection of the environment; – moderating and reconciling the pressures of divergent interests – enacting just laws that safeguard the good of the person and of society in respect of moral principles; – controlling the effects of technological and scientific discoveries.

What is the task of public authorities as regards science?
Public authorities, like guardians of the common good, commit themselves to:
– publishing guidelines, so as to even respect the integrity and the rhythms of nature, since natural resources are limited and some cannot even be regenerated; – actively sustaining those fields of research, which are not financed by private interests, by making use of public funds in conformity with the principles of subsidiarity. – impeding research that damages life and human dignity or that ignores the needs of poor people of the world, who are generally less equipped for scientific research.

What is the role of the church with regard to science?
• To announce the contribution which Faith offers to science. • To form qualified consultants, either in the field of physical sciences or of life, either in technology or philosophy of sciences, capable of intervening as much in Internet as in the radio or in television, and capable of dealing with points of friction, which could arise between science and Faith.

What is the role of the church with regard to science?
• To create communication networks among Catholic students, appreciated for their professional capacities and their fidelity to the Magisterium, as well as among scientific academies, associations of experts in technology and Episcopal Conferences. • To promote Catholic publications with a great diffusion which benefit from the contribution of persons truly qualified in these fields. • To carry out pastoral work that gives rise to and nourishes a deep spiritual life in the scientists.
Pope John Paul II Honors UC San Diego Scientist & appoints him to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences

The Christian worldview played a significant role in nurturing the development of modern science:

• The Christians’ belief in God gave them confidence that the physical world, in all its complexity and vast extent, could be understood…As a matter of historical fact, modern science has developed from an understanding of the world as God’s ordered Creation, with its own inherent rationality.
– Roger Trigg, “Does Science Need Religion?” Faraday Papers, no. 2 (April 2007)

Take Home Message
Observation is not explanation

• Science is the “how” and “what” realm whereas faith, metaphysics, philosophy, and religion are the “why” realm. • Science is an observation of everything around us, but it cannot “explain” in the fullest philosophical and religious sense; it cannot provide meaning and purpose. • Conversely, just because religion/faith can provide “why,” does not mean that those are the same tools that we use to describe the “how,” or “what” of our natural world.

Take Home Message
Science and Faith…
• Can be thought of as two sides of the same coin, and to only acknowledge one is to limit the dimensions of the universe in which we exist.
“No one can arrive at the knowledge of divine and human things unless he has previously and thoroughly learned mathematics.” - St Augustine (354-431)

“Mathematics is the alphabet with which God wrote the world.” - Galileo Galilei (1564-1642, mathematician, philosopher, & physicist)

• Raffaello Martinelli. Science and Christian Faith: How are they reconciled?

• Karl Giberson & Francis Collins. (2011). The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions. InterVarsity Press,

• Francis S. Collins.(2009) Can Science and Religion Co-Exist in Harmony? The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life.
• • • • • • Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church (YOUCAT). 2011, Ignatius Press, San Francisco Vatican Council I, Dei Filius (DF) Vatican Council II, Gaudium et spes (GS); John Paul II, Fides et ratio, 1998; Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 159; 2293-2294; Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Summary of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 2004, nn. 331-363; 456-473.

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