If you are anything like me, then you have probably noticed a narrative in our culture today that goes something like this:
“Science and faith are mutually exclusive; faith is contrary to reason.”
As a Roman Catholic and a PhD student who considers myself a scientist, I shudder every time I hear simplistic statements like these. I, in union with the Catholic Church, love both Faith AND Science. Why?
Ok. Let’s start here: what is science?
Science is NOT a substitute for spirituality; the two meet very different needs and function very differently. Science is a method for examining matter. Plain and simple. Science allows us the ability to test and validate our explanations of the measurable, quantifiable, and observable universe.
Science is awesome! How amazing is it that scientific methods have pointed to the beginning of the universe at the “Big Bang”? And that using science we now understand that our species is the product of millions of years of evolution? We know more about the material universe now than at any point in human history thanks to this rational method.
But science is, by its very definition, limited. Science is fundamentally incapable of measuring anything that transcends what it can measure. In other words, science is what science does; it functions solely to assess matter. To create a spirituality based on science is impossible; philosophical worldviews that hold nothing exists beyond matter are woefully lacking. Their answer is no answer at all to the longings of every human heart for truth, beauty, and love, all notions that transcend the purely empirical (i.e. science may explain how my brain reacts when I am in love, but those reactions are not themselves love).
Faith, then, is not superstition. It is not a belief in fairies, centaurs, and magic.
Faith is an assent of the will to transcendent realities. It is a response to divinely-revealed spiritual truths. It is the answer we give to the question: what do you believe? But it is also perfectly rational; faith and reason walk hand-in-hand in the Catholic tradition in mutually-reassuring relationship. Based on scientific and philosophical reasoning alone, I believe that God necessarily exists. Science currently points to the absolute beginning of space-time at the “Big Bang,” as does philosophy, and thus implicitly to a state of absolute nothing beforehand. Something cannot come from nothing, as that is a contradiction. Therefore, Something must completely transcend the nothing in order to cause something to come from it. We call this transcendent Something God. Faith illuminates this philosophical belief through spiritual exercises and provides an opportunity to respond to this spiritual truth.
When confronted with the whole of the Catholic faith, my response, alongside about a billion others, is that Jesus Christ is Lord. If you want facts, I have few to give you other than that a great portion of the Biblical narrative is supported by scientific archaeology and modern historical investigation.
But I love faith, not for its rigid conformity to a set of observable facts, but because it teaches me the meaning of the universe. Faith allows me to understand that there is more to existence than what we can empirically measure and my belief in Christ provides me a purpose, a reason, a way to exist. I am here now to do His will and become a saint; I am here to love.
Science without faith can be cold, dark, and lack humanity. But when seen in the light of faith, science allows us to examine the wonders of a universe created by a God who loves us more than we can ever know and allows us to glorify Him in pursuit of such illumination.
THAT is why I love both faith AND science.
Geoffrey LudvikUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison PhD student in the Department of Anthropology (Archaeology) If you would like to join in on the discussion of Faith and Reason, Badger Catholic, a registered UW Student org, has a student group called Fides et Ratio, who meets every other Monday at 7pm in 2637 Humanities. Visit http://www.badgercatholic.org/fides-et-ratio/ for more information.