When speaking of science and reason, there are two sorts of despairers. The first acknowledges that there is in fact God, but when a scientific discovery comes along that seems to shed new light on the physical world, they feel fearful that this might prove that there exists no Being we call God; so instead of compromising their faith (trust and fidelity to the Highest), they denounce the science. In the second case, there are the ones who when a scientific discovery comes along that seems to shed new light on the physical world feel justified in believing that there is no Being called God; so to fortify their lack of faith (trust and fidelity to the Highest), they denounce religion and distrust that God can still exist in light of these scientific discoveries. Why is there despair when it comes to science? Do all people fall into these sorts of despair, the kind that throws up its hands and believes science just enough to either think that it is something to fear or that it is something to believe in more than God? Well, no.
There are several people who have faith in God but who do not fall into either of these extremes. They trust that God exists, try to be faithful to Him, and love to explore the gifts of His creation. So are God, Science, and Reason Compatible? Yes!
There are far more intelligent people out there who can help answer that particular question, but I thought I would pass on what I know and some links that might help in the pursuit of this knowledge.
1. First, we have John Paul II’s thought-provoking letter on fides et ratio (faith and reason). Are they compatible? Check and see.
2. Here is a thoughtful essay from Dr. Barr about quantum physics and the question of God. This is from a new site called Big Questions Online. And here again is the link to the article that covers a priest’s thoughts on the Higgs boson.
3. Here is a List of Catholic Scientists found on Wikipedia. Often Galileo is seen as the rule to the Church’s view of scientists, but he was an exception. The rule was actually to be the greatest patron of the arts, sciences, and education that the Western World had ever seen.
4. Then we have a list of Christian men who were clerics in the Catholic Church who also happened to be advancing science beautifully while not losing their deepest belief. For example, Gregor Mendel was an Austrian monk and wonderful gardener and Msgr. Georges Lemaitre in his love for astronomy developed the theory we call the Big Bang.
6. Our fellow blogger, wellspentjourney, took on the task to survey readers about this phenomenon of despair that leads some to not believe and some to not want to learn. Thought-provoking questions sometimes led to some angry answers.
7. Science is a beautiful discipline. Discovering new aspects of the physical world is a wonderful use of the gifts of creation. Reason is also a wonderful gift. Knowledge of the universe around us just needs a proper perspective, a perspective that does not lead to despairing either in knowledge or in God. We only start to get into trouble when we start to use knowledge for the wrong reasons, otherwise known as rationalizing or the selfish use of goods.
For instance, here is an article that talks about how parents who are using genetic testing to choose their offspring end up having more abortions even though the testers admit that what they see in the genetic results may or may not happen. An overzealous love for Science as the solver of all human ills can also be the cause of the worst atrocities that human’s have ever seen, like World War II in which several leaders experimented on human beings, killed people with famine in an attempt to get them to believe in their nihilistic political systems, and attempted to control religions, sterilize women and culture, and get them to believe in Science above all else. I think the death toll for the 20th century is somewhere around 230 million.
So then we come to the trickiest part about researching the history of faith and reason. Were they always seen as compatible? Yes. That is why Christians, Muslims, and Jewish peoples historically initiated the creation of universities. But with the vast amounts of information pouring out into the world via internet, some people have found some false information (old propaganda) about religion’s acceptance of science. Communism during the Cold War in the 20th century was largely fought with words in print, either by destroying things that undermined nihilistic ideas or by printing things that were false about those who do have faith in God.
For instance, one such spin that keeps resurfacing is the thought that Hitler was a faithful Catholic. If he were, which he wasn’t, I find it rather outside the realms of reason since he killed 3 million Catholics as well the Jewish, the infirm, etc. He also burned the documents that the Vatican sent, one in particular called Mit Brennender Sorge written by the Pope to tell Hitler to chill out! I will not even go into the atrocities done at the hands of Stalin who tried to annihilate religion by annihilating the believers. I also suggest listening to the testimony of Anne Marie Schmidt from historical Czechoslovakia, “To Hell and Back: Divine Love and the Cross” or reading the personal account All But My Life (1957) by Gerda Weissman Klein. When science is used for this kind of destruction, I can understand why a believer in God might despair that science has any usefulness. When science is used for this kind of destruction, I cannot understand why a non-believer would still believe that science is better than God.
Progress in the sciences can go two ways: one, it can be used to help others become more human, or two, it can be used for the destruction of what it means to be human. Science does not have to get out of control; if we remember that Science is a gift for us, then we won’t be its servant. But if we insist on believing that we are gifts for Science, then we will serve that which was not meant to be served.
So God, Science, Reason…Are They Compatible?
“First I know a tree, then I know that I knew a tree, then I know that I am a knower. We know nature before we know ourselves.” –Peter Kreeft, Summa of the Summa (335)
With all this new knowledge, all we need to do now is to know that we are knowers, and say, wow! how did that happen? Not only how, but why? And then, what are we supposed to do now? because ”Just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that we must do a thing.” –President of the United Federation of Planets, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Even science mythology knows that.