Bringing evolution and religion together
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, November 28, 2006
John Kennedy explained in a Nov. 28 letter to the editor “Keep religion and science separate”, that religion and science are two understandings that need to be kept separate, but a Catholic university seems to be an odd place to promote the separations of science and religion. Rather than encouraging the separation of science and religion, I suggest bringing the two closer together, and the resulting interaction between science and religion will relieve some of the tension rather than worsen it.
Science is a process very different than religion. Science is a study of evidence drawn from the world in an effort to gain understanding. The issue with science, however, is it neglects some of the important aspects of humanity. A common way to understand the difference between science and religion is science explains the “how” of the universe (for example, how did the universe form, how did humans come about), but all those questions neglect the reasoning, the “why”. That is what religion explains.
Science and religion are innately different ways of understanding, not to say they should be kept separate, but combining the two provides a deeper understanding of the same issue. For example, evolution is the scientific theory that explains how humans have come about through a random process, but it neglects aspects of humanity, morality and purpose among others, that can be answered through religion. If you look toward science with those questions, you will never find an answer, but if religion is a part of the analysis those questions can be answered.
In regards to the issue of religion inhibiting or opposing science, the cause rather than the solution is the separation between religion and science. People deny evolution not because Christianity dictates such a belief (in fact, the Pope John Paul II wrote a letter supporting evolution); rather, they have been brought up in an environment in which their religion and science were kept separate and if that separation continues those individuals will never gain understanding of evolutionary science that they claim to deny. Also, those individuals are replacing science with religious texts, thus seeking scientific answers where they will never be found while simultaneously disregarding the more important message of their religion.
The conflict that results from contact between religion and science is a problem and when people look to the Bible for scientific information. They will be disappointed just as will those people who look to science for morals. The purpose of the Bible was not to show scientific truths, such as the formation of the Earth (even St. Augustine claimed that the exact meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 could not be known), but some do take the Bible as an explanation of such things and this results in a clash. If, however, religion is understood to function as a guide to those truths that science cannot address, then there should be no conflict. Bringing such a religion into contact with science does not inspire discrepancies. Rather, the combination leads to understanding not only of the world in which we exist, but also of ourselves.