Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the August AD 1998
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

    Question:  Why doesn't the Catholic Church accept the advances of modern science? Don't scientists all reject religion?

    Answer: Since truth is universal, no branch of knowledge can contradict another unless it is in error. Insofar as science seeks the truth, it pursues the same goal as the Church, but from a different perspective. The various intellectual disciplines do seek truth in diverse ways. For example chemistry, nuclear physics, and electronics all study the behavior of material things at the submicroscopic level without contradicting one another or being redundant. The natural sciences generally try to explain how things work, while philosophy and religion seek to explain why things are.

    Theologians do not work in a vacuum. They strive to be aware of the advances of science -- particularly where such advances raise new ethical issues. It is important to recognize that knowing how to do something does not make it moral to do that thing. Abortion, for example, remains murder, even if medical science is capable of reducing the risk to the mother from very high to very low. Organ transplantation may be legitimate in itself, but raises an enormous number of side issues which must be addressed. Likewise things like atomic fission and fusion, or even something so seemingly innocuous as the digital computer.

    Theological error can result from scientific error. Medieval science viewed procreation as the planting of the man's "seed" within the "field" of the woman. By analogy to germination of plants, it was assumed that the "seed" took some time to "sprout" and develop from the vegetative stage, through the sensitive stage, to the spiritual stage -- that it took forty or eighty days before God provided the child with a soul.1 Were this true, it would tend to minimize the evil of early-term abortions. Modern biology suggests that a rudimentary human organism exists from the moment of conception.2 That knowledge puts the moral theologian on firm footing in calling all abortions murder.

    Lithium and B-vitamins today treat a number of behavioral disorders once thought to be the work of the Devil. In suspected cases of demonic possession, the Church demands investigation by competent medical and psychological practitioners. Only after illness has been ruled out will the bishop give permission for exorcism.

    Yet, the Church must resist the efforts of politicized science. In our day, liberalism often seeks to work its deeds by enlisting scientists willing to espouse the party line. Psychology, for example, is often misused to relieve people of personal responsibility and legitimize a variety of sins. There is no shortage of physicians willing to testify that abortion is "medically necessary"; no shortage of psychologists willing to excuse even murder on the basis of a "difficult childhood"; no shortage of sociologists urging sex education and condom distribution in the schools; etc. Not surprisingly such a misuse of science blows with the "politically correct wind." In reality it is pseudo-science and not the genuine article.

    A recent article in Newsweek3 mentions a variety of scientific advances that seem to point to the hand of the Creator in the universe:

    If the constants of nature -- unchanging numbers like the strength of gravity, the charge of the electron and the mass of the proton -- were the tiniest bit different, then atoms would not hold together, stars would not burn and life would never have made an appearance.

    Greek mathematicians divided the circumference of a circle by its diameter ... and got the number pi, 3.14159.... Pi turns up in equations that describe sub-atomic particles, light and other quantities that have no obvious connections to circles.

The "big bang" theory sounds very much like creation out of nothing, and quantum mechanics includes a description of the process on the sub-atomic level. 

The Newsweek article presents a number of well qualified scientific people whose belief in God is strengthened by their knowledge of science.


1. See Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Tan, 1974), p. 100.

2. Using the "delayed ensoulment" theory as justification for abortion was condemned by Innocent XI in 1679 (Denzinger 1185, or 2135 in recent editions).

3. Sharon Begley, Newsweek, 20 July 1998, pp 46-51.


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