Robert Adragna, Youth Speak News

In defense of faith and reason

By  Robert Adragna, Youth Speak News
  • January 29, 2016

The spring of 1633 was a time of controversy in the Catholic Church. The Inquisition had decided to bring a Florentine scientist named Galileo Galilei to trial for authoring a book that declared the heliocentric model of the universe as unequivocally correct, which contradicted the Church’s teachings at the time.

Many individuals, including some of my friends, like to recount the Galileo affair as evidence that the Catholic Church is fundamentally opposed to science and reason.

This is a subject I am extremely passionate about. I always find myself trying to explain that my love for science has never got in the way of my love for God.

People’s perception of the Galileo affair is completely untrue. From what I’ve read, it was much more nuanced. Besides, this controversy is no longer present today.

In 1992, Pope St. John Paul II, on behalf of the Catholic Church, issued a formal apology at the conclusion of a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to Galileo for the mistreatment of his trial and publicly renewed its commitment to supporting scientific inquiry. In his address, St. John Paul II said science is humanity’s attempt to explain the world through observation. We take measurements of the physical universe, compare them with each other using established procedure and look for trends in this data. It is logical, reasonable and has guided us to innumerable new understandings of our universe.

But in order to perform this science, we first need to make a variety of implicit assumptions about the fundamental nature of reality. How do we know that these assumptions are true? We don’t. It is impossible to prove such broad principles from our observations.

Therefore, we accept them as axioms — fundamental principles that need no proving because they appear to us as self-evidently true. The validity of science’s empirical observation rests on the faith we have in the axioms of our universe. It takes no more “blind faith” to believe in God than it does to believe in the existence of unexplainable axioms that underlie all of scientific process.

In the secular scientific community, our understanding of these axioms stops with our faith in them — they’re there because they’re there, just believe it and accept it.

Catholics take this leap of faith one step further. We postulate that these axioms are true because God has chosen to make them true. God is the provider and maintainer of all the axioms upon which physical observation relies. By accepting the truths revealed to us through science, we are also expressing our belief in a God who creates a reality where science is possible. His presence is fundamentally needed to give meaning and validity to our analysis of physical existence.

So let there be no more “conflict” between reason and religion. Instead, let us use science as a tool to understand the majestic nature of our reality and with it, the wondrous existence of our Lord.

(Adragna, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Bishop Allen Academy in Toronto, Ont.)

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