Ecologist Fr. John McCarthy, seen above hiking in the B.C. mountains, connects science and faith. Photo courtesy of Jesuits in English Canada

Marry science and faith

By  Caroline Wojdylo, Youth Speak News
  • May 1, 2014

TORONTO - Science and faith, contrary to popular belief, are not at odds with one another, says Fr. John McCarthy.

“People think that science and faith are necessarily in conflict — by their very nature are in conflict. However, the historical and actual situation does not support this assumption,” said McCarthy, who was to give a talk to young adults on the topic of whether one can be both devoutly religious and critically scientific at a Theology on Tap East event April 30. He spoke to YSN before the event.

McCarthy, a Jesuit priest and ecologist, explores the classroom experiences of post-secondary students in regards to conflicts between faith and science.

“Some professors have a tendency of opposing the two, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” he said.

McCarthy stresses the importance of finding ways to open up avenues of dialogue. He said he tries to do this throughout his service to the Church by researching, writing and speaking.

“Being a priest engaged in active scientific research is itself a witness to the openness of the Catholic faith to science,” he said.

“The Jesuits have a long tradition of being involved in science. The Vatican Observatory, for example, is run by the Society of Jesus. We have scientific research being carried out around the world.”

McCarthy also spoke about the difference between science and “scientism,” the latter becoming increasingly popular in the secular world.

“‘Scientism’ is a kind of philosophy, an ideology. It suggests that the only way to come to truth is through the use of the scientific method. But that is not the only way we live — we don’t choose our friends, for example, using the scientific method,” he said.

McCarthy is a scientist who juggles his time between research and being the assistant to the Provincial of the Jesuits. He wants young adults to “be attentive to the fullness of human experience, and know that there are different ways to engage in life.”

“There are many ways of knowing, whether it be through literature, art, love or reconciliation.”

McCarthy invites all young adults to participate in the discussion.

“I hope the young people will see that our faith is not afraid of any question,” he said. “Both science and faith need each other, and we must work to build stronger bridges between the two.”

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