This has always fascinated me, as it was always disengaged from each other growing up. Even talking about Gregor Mendell didn’t connect the two. So, let’s explore.
My barriers were blown down in two phases, both involving seventh-grade science. In Shoreless Lake school, the one with Fr Francis, remember?
The first phase was a science class with Fr Octavio, a brilliant teacher and holy priest. He taught, and we read in our textbooks, that the Earth was 4.6billion years old. Uhm, what? And that it was originally a massive global volcano for millions of years. Uh, WHAT? And that humans have only been around for like barely any of it. Ok, you’re wrong.
What about Genesis? What about the forming of the world in seven days? How are we not always around? Keep in mind, this is seventh grade! I had no idea, and biblical foundations began crumbling, in a seminary!
To be honest, I was skeptical of both. I didn’t understand how or what to believe. We had not done a good job merging the two subjects, and it is no wonder people think science and faith don’t go together.
What pushed me over into understanding though, is far more interesting. Again, seventh-grade science. Fr Octavio. Mitosis and meiosis. Yup, cell division and also reproductive cell division. Did you know that your cells divide to reproduce or grow? Did you know in the chromosomes of one cell, your entire body could be reproduced? Did you know that the general adaptation of a living being to its environment happens through mutations during the mitosis and meiosis processes? I didn’t until then, and it started to click.
The fact that a man and woman both generate incomplete but complimentary reproductive cells during meiosis made faith about marriage and man and woman make perfect sense. Boom. Science confirms what faith taught! Now it began to make sense.
So I rushed back to the big bang and the Earth being 4.6billion years old, and then I realized that science builds on itself. Matter cannot come from nothing. Ok, and at the big bang, some super dense atom exploded. Ok, where did it come from? Ah ha, now we are getting somewhere! And from that big bang, the material that makes up the universe shot out, eventually forming the earth. Let there be light, and forming the heavens and the Earth. And he created them complementary so they could reproduce, and who knows how long it took! To me, an all-powerful being creating the world in a logically consistent manner made sense, especially with things like fossil records and dinosaurs. (I didn’t learn this till later, but the old Testament is qualitative, not quantitative. Meaning seven days didn’t mean seven days, but the fullness and completeness of God’s time. Because seven= fullness, completeness, perfection.)
This has led me to always pursue the science behind something. I live life with faith as the constant, and the science will confirm it. The two are complementary, and the only time there are scientific contradictions is when miracles happen, what I call direct Divine intervention. God shows He is above nature, by going outside of it to intervene. Pretty cool, yeah? The science behind the theories will confirm if it is true or not. If the church has dogmatic teaching on something, science will eventually show the underpinning principles. Take sex, for example, which the church has always taught is unitive and procreative. Well, we know about babies, but when Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae he didn’t know the biochemical reactions that take place! They discovered these in like the nineties, actual chemicals the body releases to increase the bonding and commitment of the couple in the act. Tadaaa!
Don’t even try to bring up Galileo, as if he’s some martyr for science. The dude started trying to use his theory to refute literal interpretations of Scripture, then when Bellarmine gave him permission to do a comparative review, he attacked his friends. Here’s a take. One wonders why Copernicus, a Catholic who also pushed heliocentrism, wasn’t ever treated that way.
I had a spiel about this on Facebook, when someone was trying to tell me the big bang was all there is, and that there are potentially millions of intelligent life forms out there. On this part he may be right, as CS Lewis admirably wrote out in his space trilogy. But it still doesn’t explain reason. Or life in general for that matter. Because spontaneous explosions of life on our planet can’t be recreated. Amazing, ain’t it?
There’s a book by a closet Catholic, a short history of nearly everything, that explores these topics and the author finds it hard to believe it is just chance, while also not outright believing in God. Give it a go, too!
Lastly, in my adult life, I was blessed to stumble across The Catholic Laboratory podcast, by Ian Maxfield from Scotland. Now discontinued, he explored many topics in the relationship between faith and science, and is also the source of some of my research. Combine him with a Chemist turned Theologian Stacy Trasancos down in Texas, Tyler diocese, natch, and I am willing to show you how closely they line up. Yeah, I am just a historian, but these guys are pros.
It’s not an argument to convert. It’s an invitation to explore the true nature of things, which, because they are created by God, have a discoverable order. And they won’t contradict.
“A little knowledge of science makes man an atheist, but an in-depth study of science makes him a believer in God.” – Francis Bacon. (I’ve been told this isn’t the actual, quote, but Bacon.)
And his name is Bacon, so that’s like EXTRA win!