Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Faith and Reason

Recently, an article appeared in the newspaper of the university I am at, speaking of the problems of religion getting in the way of science.   The author maintained that human reason had made too much progress to be restrained by archaic codes and beliefs.   I'm sure the arguments made in this article are not unique to this university.  I am of the opinion that it captured a common belief held by not only many college students, but many in our society.  

I did reply with a brief letter, let me share that with you:

I am writing in response to the article, Higgs Boson and the Big Bang explain our origins.  A couple of things I should state up front in the interest of full disclosure.  I am a Roman Catholic priest, meaning my graduate work is in Roman Catholic theology.  Second, my bachelor's degree is in History, so admittedly my knowledge of the sciences is minimal, particularly when compared to the many professors and students here at UMass Dartmouth.  As a student of theology, I am not a believer in the type of creationism that is implied in the article.  The Roman Catholic teaching is that the what is important in our scientific understanding-in terms of faith-is not the theory we hold to (Big Bang , expanding universe, creationism, etc.) but the knowledge that God was involved in the process.  In fact, the Big Bang theory and the expanding universe can both be attributed to Fr. George LaMaitre, a Belgian physicist and Roman Catholic priest.  In this country, Fr. Robert Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University, is also a physicist and has a website through which he seeks to show the interaction of faith and physics (  The Vatican also has an Academy of Sciences and also operates an Observatory in Arizona.

The greatest challenge facing Roman Catholicism in 2012 (again, I can only speak from this tradition) is when reason is removed from the faith conversation.  That is why John Paul II wrote an encyclical called  Faith and Reason in the 1990s.  Roman Catholic theology is derived from Tradition and the Scriptures, and explained using science and philosophy.  In fact, I am currently reading a book on string theory and find that it is giving me a deeper appreciation of the Book of Genesis and the Church's teaching on the Trinity.

I agree with the author's line "If religion causes people to ignore science, then it holds us back as a society". I would add that if we ignore the questions that religion raises, we lose the motivation to persevere in scientific stud and human progress.

A question for all of you in campus ministry: what are some of the ways we can address this thought of separating reason from faith? Do you have programs or strategies that have been successful?  Please let us know!

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