Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Faith AND Science vs Faith OR Science


A while back I sat with a group of highly educated Catholic friends. The company was great and the conversation always gives me something to think about. We started to talk about modern culture, as we inevitably do most times we are together. We had just witnessed a new app on a phone that we all thought was very inventive and helpful.

One of my friends observed that, "modern people don't have wonder and awe in God anymore, because our technology and science provide it for them." There is some truth in what he said. But, only up to a point. With the rapid pace of scientific achievement, many believe any problem can be solved with enough time and effort put into solving it. Human ingenuity and creativity are the means to achievement and those achievements leave humanity in awe over the things we can achieve. One Google exec is taking 250 supplements a day in order to stay as healthy as possible, until technology finds a way to cheat death.

But, is it true and can we really be the creators of all things. Can we become our own gods? No. We cannot create from nothing, know all things, solve all problems, fix the universe (or even properly measure it), etc.

It seems to me that what has happened is a kind of scientism. For some, truth is determined only in a lab, where it can be measured and repeated. Unless something is able to be found "true" through science, it isn't real. This kind of worldview is advanced by popular atheistic scientists such as Stephen Hawking, PZ Myers, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, etc. They teach that the Catholic Church is a backward and anti-science group due to our stances on abortion, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, etc.

The problem is that science does not answer the questions which faith answers and vice versa. While they both seeking the same thing - truth - they do so with different methods. Science explores the physical aspects of this world, while faith explores the spiritual things, which by definition cannot be measured by science. Yet, science and faith still need each other to operate properly. Why? John Paul II said:
"Science develops best when its concepts and conclusions are integrated into the broader human culture and its concerns for ultimate meaning and value. Scientists cannot, therefore, hold themselves entirely aloof from the sorts of issues dealt with by philosophers and theologians. By devoting to these issues something of the energy and care they give to their research in science, they can help others realize more fully the human potentialities of their discoveries. They can also come to appreciate for themselves that these discoveries cannot be a genuine substitute for knowledge of the truly ultimate. Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish."
-John Paul II
Of course, the modern scientific method itself was fashioned by men of faith and that the history of science is dependent upon the advances which faithful men and women have made. Just look at this shortened list of Catholic scientists and the advancements in our knowledge they found.

Benedict XVI put it this way - “Far from being in conflict, faith and science go hand in hand in the service of man’s moral advancement and his wise stewardship of creation.”

Faith AND Science not Faith OR Science.

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