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Science and Faith Can Go Together

Today, November 15th, we celebrate the Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church.  He lived in the 13th century.  He joined the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and became a teacher.  His most famous student was St. Thomas Aquinas.  As a Dominican priest, he was an expert in philosophy and theology.  That should not be any surprise.  With his knowledge and ability here, he served as the Provincial of the German Dominicans from 1254-1257 and became a bishop.  He was also a prolific writer and is a Doctor of the Church.

Everything I have already said is important but there is one additional field that St. Albert was an expert in, the natural sciences.  Some people today claim that if one believes in science, then one should realize there is no God.  For people like this science has all the answers.  To them religion was just something used to explain what people didn’t understand.

What these people don’t realize that science and philosophy were once a combined discipline.  This is true for St. Albert and we can see it in people like Aristotle (4th B.C. philosopher and scientist) and Pascal (known as a 17th Century mathematician but also wrote on philosophy).

Today, philosophy centers on the question of why, searches for meaning in life, and ethics.  Science is considered the place we turn to when we seek the answer to “how” things happen.  There can be no doubt that science does answer more and more questions of “how” things happen but it still doesn’t answer them all.  More importantly, science does not bring meaning to things.  Yes, science provides us with the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution.  So what?  What and/or who caused Big Bang to happen?  If evolution is purely a scientifically explainable process, why did things develop?  If apes developed into humans, why are there both apes and humans today but not the various steps in between?

I write all this as a person who studied and used to work as an engineer because I liked Math, Chemistry, and Physics.  Studying and working as an engineer never led me away from faith.  Yes, I didn’t go to church for a number of years but I still had some faith.  For those who think if you are a person of science you can’t believe in God, remember I used to work as an engineer for the New York State Department of Transportation.  For the last two years I was there, almost everyone I worked with was an engineer.  At least a third of them were Catholic and most of that third regular church goers.  At least another 5-10% were regular church-goers.

There is a man named John Polkinghorne.  For 25 years he worked as a Quantum Physicist.  That means studying subatomic particles that probably were barely thought of a hundred years ago.  For those who think that people of science don’t believe in God, there should be no doubt that he won’t believe in God.  They would be wrong.  After 25 years as a Quantum Physicist he became an Anglican Priest.   He says it was the beauty that he saw in the subatomic world that helped convince him that there is a God.  There is so much order and beauty in the world that only God could have made it so.

We can see God in the beauty of nature, in the trees and the leaves, in the animals, and in the land formations, and the seas. This is seen on a macroscopic level.  John Polkinghorne saw the same thing on a microscopic level.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

P.S. Rev. John Polkinghorne has written several books about science and faith.  The one I first read, and suggest for anyone interested to start with is Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity.  Crossword: New York.  1994.

If you would like to know more about what the Catholic Church says about evolution, you can read my article “Catholic Teaching and the Question of Evolution” on my website.

 

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