Speaking Out: Science and faith are compatible

By  Bernadette Timson, Youth Speak News
  • September 4, 2019

You are sitting at your desk and are presented with a simple, ordinary box. You are curious as to its contents, and decide to open it. 

Now, which came first, the box or the belief that something could — not is, but could — be in the box? Boxes serve many purposes; something could be hidden, protected or even concealed, but humans are curious and have a desire to know the truth. 

This was the first point made in a document recently issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, entitled “Science and Catholic Faith.” It was written for young people, but is intended for all readers in another attempt to clarify the long and widely held misconception that science and the Church are opposed to each other. 

Reading this document reminded me of a time when I once heard a friend explain the concept of God in relation to human knowledge. On a large paper, he drew a circle. He then told me and others listening that inside the circle is all of God’s creation: humans, the universe, everything. 

He then asked “where is God in relation to the circle?” We all guessed at the three seemingly possible options, that He was either inside the circle, outside the circle or perhaps that He was the circle. My friend blew our minds by revealing that God was the paper. God remains so involved in His creation that He is both inside and outside of it. 

The truth is the common goal with which faith and science concern themselves. If you were to translate the words “science” and “doctrine” from their Latin counterparts, you would find that they mean knowledge and learning, respectively. Science and the Catholic faith remain very distinct disciplines, pursuing the truth in their own field and taking different routes to arrive at it. However, the document asserts that they are mutually beneficial and complementary to one another, and together reveal to us how to be more fully human. 

The defining moment of this document came when the bishops clarified that it’s not science which is at odds with the Church, rather it is scientism. The distinction between the two is that science is a discipline which is focused on finding the truth through experimentation and data within the natural world and the universe. 

Scientism on the other hand, is a philosophy which denies other forms of knowledge separate from science. It is an extreme which rejects not just theology, but the social sciences as well. Unfortunately, some of the faithful find themselves on the flip side of this extreme, where all facts outside of the Church or the Bible are denied. 

The document also asserts that there is actually no disconnect between science and the Church, and that they both come from God. It cites the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as one of the leading Catholic scientific institutions in the world, of which the late atheist Stephen Hawking was a member. 

Additionally, several contributions came from Catholics, such as the Big Bang Theory, or even the discovery of genetics. My takeaway from this is that if the disconnect is not between the two disciplines themselves, then it is happening between some scientists and the faith, or between some of the faithful and science. 

The document ultimately talks of something beautiful — the marriage between the material, physical world and the immaterial, spiritual world. Nature is a good example of this. It can be studied in a scientific manner, looking at the anatomy of a bug or the mass of a giant redwood, and yet we also believe that it was all created by God. 

We may not always like the truth and may regret knowing certain facts, but that desire sticks. This is because our souls have an innate longing for the good, the true and the beautiful. There was also a point made that faith moves us out of our comfort zone. It is what tells us that something could be in the box. 

(Timson, 21, is finishing Event Management studies at Humber College in Etobicoke, Ont.)

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