Science and religion, like peanut butter and chocolate…

… or Vodka and tonic.

Meet Fr. Georges Lemaître, father of the Big Bang Theory. No not that one; the other one, the cosmological model that explains the early development of the universe.

Once at a conference after Fr. Lemaitre detailed his theory of the Big Bang, Einstein stood up, applauded, and said, “This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.”

Another example that science and religion aren’t at odds with each other would be Fr. Stanley Jaki. I like to remind myself of these facts every time a science-y type tries to portray a religious-y type as a superstitious, backward thinking zealot.

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • http://thecatholicsciencegeek.blogspot.com/ The Catholic Science Geek

    Lemaitre and Mendel are the two sciencey Catholics I often cite whenever people try to get me to see “reason.” By reason they usually mean militant atheism. Yeah, I’ll pass on that one and stick to the crucifix, medals, rosary, and holy cards I’ve got on my lab desk.

  • Contra Mundo

    I’m definitely reposting this pic! Fr LeMaitre was also the first to propose the expansion of the universe. Another great Catholic scientist is the Father of Genetics, Brother Gregor Mendel who discovered genetics while working with peas in his monastery’s garden.

  • Sastra

    Finding scientists who are also religious doesn’t address the issue, however. Nobody doubts that people can and do compartmentalize: the question is whether or not they ought to do so. I think the claim that there is a conflict between science and religion rests on what happens when you apply scientific scrutiny to the claims of religion.   

    • James H, London

      Uh, I feel I should point out that we only have science because religious ideas were applied to classical Greek philosophy. To wit:
      Time had a beginning (it’s not cyclical, as Oriental religions believe);
      Creation is rational, logical and non-contradictory because that’s what the Creator is like (unlike the Islamic concept of God), therefore -
      The universe is governed by laws;
      Natural phenomena such as trees, rivers, mountains and animals are not inhabited by divine spirits (which is what classical Greek and Roman civilisations believed).

      Applying ‘scientific scrutiny to the claims of religion’ is um.. a bit difficult, since science is a tool to investigate time, space, matter and energy. God, as the creator of all those components, is logically outside of all of them. This goes back to Thomas Aquinas, 800 years ago. You need to do a bit of catching up.

      It’s also difficult because we are not rational beings, but rationalising beings: in which case, it doesn’t matter how many authentic miracles are presented for scrutiny, a convinced atheist will always find some reason, no matter how far-fetched, for a natural explanation. It’s a bizarre combination of absolute credulity mustered in defence of absolute scepticism. I’ve seen it in operation, and it’s pathetic.

      For those of you still awake, have a look at Mike Flynn’s blog. Here’s a good start:
      http://tofspot.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/aether-or.html#more
      but there’s an awful lot more.

      A Dio

      • Sastra

        James H wrote:

        “Uh, I feel I should point out that we only have science because religious ideas were applied to classical Greek philosophy.”

        Science is the process of investigating and testing hypotheses: it is not a body of knowledge. All the “assumptions” you mention would not be premises, but well-supported conclusions. 

        “Applying ‘scientific scrutiny to the claims of religion’ is um.. a bit difficult, since science is a tool to investigate time, space, matter and energy. God, as the creator of all those components, is logically outside of all of them.” 

        If God’s existence can be inferred from experiences in time, space, matter, and energy, then this human-level evidence is certainly open to empirical investigation and rational analysis. After all, I assume people who believe in God do so because they think there are good reasons to do so — reasons which would and should persuade those who don’t already believe. 

        “It’s also difficult because we are not rational beings, but rationalising beings…”

         

        Which is exactly why science evolved: it’s an open search for consensus which tries to eliminate as much subjective bias as possible. It’s cumulative, catching mistakes and slowly building from there. Physicist Richard Feynman said “The first principle of science is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

        “…in which case, it doesn’t matter how many authentic miracles are presented for scrutiny, a convinced atheist will always find some reason, no matter how far-fetched, for a natural explanation.”

        By definition, a “convinced” anything would never change their mind, but always hold as tightly to their beliefs as if they were standing by a commitment.

        Does this group include you? If God does not exist and never has, what would it take — what would you need to learn or find out — so that you would change your mind?

  • Magdalen Ross

    Not at odds with each other?  Perhaps you might want to actually read one of Father Jaki’s books, for example “Impassable Divide”:   “Given the popularity of books on the relation of science and religion, a close look on the subject may be in order. Much of that literature provides no clear idea either about science or about religion under discussion. It is argued in this book that the vagueness on the subject is due to leaving both science and religion inentionally undefined. The way out of this confusion is sought in a strict definition of science which is based on its exact form, physics, in which quantities form the touchstone of truth. Such a definition of science puts it on one side of an impassable divide on the other side of which lies a religion whose sole business is to assure an eternally valid purpose for human existence, a strictly qualitative proposition. Since conceptually there is no passage from quantities to qualities, the relation of science and religion cannot be that of an integration or of an opposition.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Perhaps you might not want to assume I haven’t.  “The relation of science and religion cannot be that of an integration ****or an opposition****” 

      read, or at odds. Using your own example. 

  • DavidMHart

    No one is claiming that religious people can´t be scientists, or appreciate science. The trouble is, they are not equally valid ways of sorting truth from untruth. Science, in broad terms, is simply the word we use for when people do their utmost to systematically eliminate their subjective biases in their attempt to answer a question by obtaining data from the real world. Religion, to put it bluntly, is better seen as the word for what happens when some people make some stuff up, and some more people formulate rituals about that made-up stuff, and spend time attempting to rationalise the fact that the evidence is nowhere near strong enough to justify believeing that made-up stuff. Which of these is more likely to allow us to sort true claims about reality from false claims?

    (and yes, claims about gods are still “about reality” – the only sort of god that science is in principle unable to investigate is a god who has absolutely no effect on the universe whatsoever – an utterly austere, non-interventionist Deist type of god. All others are at least in principle falsifiable – though in my experience it is remarkably difficult to get a religious believer to give a coherent definition of the properties that their god possesses if they get the sense that they are about to be asked to make a falsifiable hypothesis)

  • http://www.catholicfword.com/ Chrisitne Falk Dalessio

    The Vatican hosts regularly scheduled conferences for scientists, btw.  about every year or two. And the large part of the Vatican is actually run on photovoltaic cells (solar panels) which I love too, because it shows how well we embrace and adopt science that is being practiced for the  human good and the good of the environment :)


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