Saturday, March 22, 2014

Science, Evolution, and Unnecessary Faith Claims

A few weeks ago I watched a YouTube video of a presentation given by Francis Collins, a very successful biologist who converted from atheism to Christianity. Collins was the leader of the Human Genome Project, which made huge breakthroughs in our understanding of DNA and, for the first time, fully translated the human genetic code. Collins, along with thousands of other scientists, believe that the theory of evolution is fully compatible with Christian faith. I am proud that the Catholic Church has always taken this stance towards evolution. I think that believers in the Intelligent Design theory, which states that God had to actively guide, or intervene in evolution, are fighting a losing battle. Also, as Collins pointed out in his talk, the idea that God would have to intervene in the evolutionary process would seem to imply that He didn't get things right from the beginning of Creation, which would of course be inconsistent with His omniscience and omnipotence. And in fact, the language of the Creation story in Genesis might even be conveying some sort of natural evolutionary process:  "Let the waters bring forth..." and, "Let the Earth bring forth..." and most of all, "...then the Lord God formed man of the dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Gen. 1:20, 24, & 2:7). This description of the creation of man seems very consistent with evolution theory, that is:  God created man through a process of evolution, then, once man's cognitive capacities had evolved far enough to make proper use of the function of free will, God infused in him the rational soul. This certainly was not necessarily the case, but when I learn about various scientific theories, I always see the intelligence of God in them and marvel. The fact that some individuals abuse the process of science, by using it to answer questions that are completely beyond its reach does not mean that we as believers should fear the discoveries of it. There are not "truths of science" and "truths of faith" – there is only truth. Something is true to the extent that it accurately reflects reality.  Science has completely strengthened my faith, not weakened it. I don't know what the motive is for those insisting that there is a conflict between belief in God and the discoveries of science, but it is not an honest search for the truth. Science by its very nature must always be inductive and therefore open to the possibility of new discovery. This fact completely undermines the narcissistic and sarcastic tone of certainty that is unfortunately all too common among atheists on the scene today. In his book, God and the Astronomers, Robert Jastrow proposed a future merging of science and faith beautifully when he wrote:
At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.
Saint Augustine wrote brilliantly (and prophetically) on the relationship between claims of faith and claims of science over 14 centuries before Darwin would write On the Origin of Species. In 400 A.D. he warned against unnecessary claims based on one interpretation of scripture, writing:
In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received.  In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it (Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis).
        This is great advice and especially timely today, when we have misguided people claiming, on behalf of Sacred Scripture, ideas that are ridiculous and outdated, such as the idea that the Earth is 6000 years old. Unfortunately such people, sometimes called "Young Earth Creationists," are often mistaken as being representative of authentic or even mainstream Christianity, which could not be further from the truth. This is one way in which Fundamentalist Protestantism leads to agnosticism and atheism, by way of the principal of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). When your own narrow personal interpretation of Scripture is the foundation of your faith, you are like the man who built his house on sand.  That is why Saint Paul writes in his letter to Timothy that, "...the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).  Praise Christ for establishing the Church as our foundation, that we may not be children in our thinking, "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14), but rather have the assurance of the authority of Christ, which exists only in the Church he founded. Let us give thanks to God for His awesome Creation, which he willed to be intelligible to the human mind through the gifts of both our capacity of reason and the process of science.

Under the Mercy,
Chris Trummer


Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic           Edition. New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994. Print.