Is Religion Opposed to Science? Find Out... | ReasonFaithScience.com

Is Religion Opposed to Science?

 

 

 

 

It's time to set the record straight.

THE MYTH

We all know the story. At the dawn of the modern age there was a great conflict between two groups: bullying churchmen who preferred the darkness of faith and religion, and brave scientists who dared to usher in the light of reason and science. The second group prevailed, and the rest is history.

Modern science was born out of, and in opposition to, pre-scientific religion, and its smashing success proves that religion—and indeed, any knowledge other than scientific knowledge—is not true knowledge, but nonsense.

We've heard this story so often—in popular books, on late night talk shows, across the internet—that it appears self-evident. Thus it's no surprise that, in the latest Pew Research Center survey, science was listed as one of the biggest reasons why people, especially young people, leave Christianity. 

But this story is a myth. And it's time for another story: the true story.


THE TRUTH

It's time to set the record straight: Religion is not opposed to science!

Of course, some religions are in conflict with some scientific findings. But not Catholic Christianity. In Catholicism, there is a longstanding tradition of science and religion operating in unison, lifting humanity toward the truth like the two wings of a bird.

Did you know that:

  • Science arose when and where it did (in the Christian West) because the presuppositions of Christian theology enabled it to flourish?
  • The Catholic Church has endorsed, and continues to endorse, mainstream science?
  • Many scientific founders were not just ardently religious, but even priests and clerics?

Through video, audio, and written commentary from Bishop Robert Barron, and the stories of the many heroes of faith who helped found modern science, we aim to dispel the myth, and bring one of the best-kept secrets of history to light: that religion and science are compatible and complementary paths to truth.


Media & Articles

Stephen Hawking and Atheism

Stephen Hawking and Atheism

Science seeks after events, objects, and phenomena within the empirically observable universe, while philosophy and religion seek after ultimate and final causes. Science, as such, simply cannot adjudicate questions that lie outside of its proper purview, which is precisely why scientists like Stephen Hawking end up saying silly things when they talk about philosophy and religion.

2

The Myth of the War between Science and Religion

In reaction to my attempts to demonstrate that God must exist as the necessary ground to the radically contingent universe, respondent after respondent says some version of this: energy, or matter, or the Big Bang, is the ultimate cause of all things.  

Read more
3

Bill Nye and Science vs. Philosophy

In a viral video, the pop-science leader Bill Nye the Science Guy wonders whether philosophy can provide any real answers to the questions of life.

Click here for a video version of this commentary.

Click here for a written version of this commentary.

The Buffered Self

The Buffered Self

A new book by Jesuit philosopher and physicist Fr. Robert Spitzer offers the best challenge to what the philosopher Charles Taylor calls the “buffered self,” that is to say, a self isolated from any sense of the transcendent. 

Click here for a written version of this commentary.

Scientism and God's Existence

Scientism and God's Existence

Sean Carroll asserted that “science” is on the verge of providing a complete understanding of the universe—an explication, it goes without saying, that precludes the notion of God altogether. The first and most fundamental problem is that, like Hawking, Dawkins, and Dennett, Carroll doesn’t seem to know what Biblical people mean by “God.”

Click here for a written version of this commentary.

“The Theory of Everything”

“The Theory of Everything”

The biopic “The Theory of Everything” engages in a fair amount of Hawking-hagiography, but it is also, curiously, a God-haunted movie.

Click here for a written version of this commentary.

Misreading Genesis

Misreading Genesis

I’m continually amazed how often the “problem” of Genesis comes up in my work of evangelization and apologetics. What I mean is the way people struggle with the seemingly bad science that is on display in the opening chapters of the first book of the Bible. 

Click here for a written version of this commentary.

Click here for an audio version of this commentary.

Does Religion Really Have a “Smart-People” Problem?

Does Religion Really Have a “Smart-People” Problem?

In an article published in the online journal “Salon,” philosophy professor John Messerly claims that religion has a "smart-people problem." Is this the case?

Click here for a written version of this commentary.

Thomas Aquinas and the Argument from Motion

Thomas Aquinas and the Argument from Motion

Atheists, agnostics, and believers alike appeal to philosophy to support their claims on the existence or non-existence of God. However, Thomas Aquinas' "Argument from Motion" offers a proof that cannot be easily refuted, as it appeals to the the concept of an "actus purus," or the unmoved mover that we call God.

Click here for a written version of this commentary.


Fr. George Coyne and the Fertile Cosmos

Fr. George Coyne and the Fertile Cosmos

Whether its evolution, the Big Bang theory, or intelligent design, it seems to many people that science poses an insurmountable obstacle to classical religion. But Fr. George Coyne, a Jesuit priest and the former director of the Vatican Observatory, shows us a creative way forward.

“Cosmos” and One More Telling of the Tired Myth

“Cosmos” and One More Telling of the Tired Myth

Seth MacFarlane's remake of “Cosmos” paid little mind to the historical connection between true science and its theological presuppositions.

Click here for a written version of this commentary.

Faith and Reason

Faith and Reason

It's often argued that faith is irrational, pre-scientific nonsense. But authentic faith is never infrarational, or lower than reason; rather, it's suprarational, a surrender on the far side of reason.

What Faith Is and What Faith Isn't

What Faith Is and What Faith Isn't

You'll often hear people define faith as credulity, superstition, or the acceptance of claims for which there is no evidence, and draw a sharp distinction between faith (so construed) and science. But for Catholics, authentic faith never involves a sacrifice of the intellect. 

Click here for a written version of this commentary.

The Intelligibility of Creation

The Intelligibility of Creation

The creation story of Genesis tells us that God speaks the whole world into existence through a non-violent act of love. And this is why the conflicts between science and religion are always tragic. All science rests on the conviction that the world is intelligible—a conviction which rests on the mystical intuition that the world has been spoken into being. 

Has Science Refuted Aristotelian Causality?

Has Science Refuted Aristotelian Causality?

Classical philosophy and science sought to understand things in terms of Aristotle’s four causes: material (what something is made of), formal (a thing’s essential structure), efficient (how it got the way it is), and final (its purpose or destiny). Has modern science eliminated Aristotle's understanding of causality?

Bill Maher's “Religulous”

Bill Maher's “Religulous”

In his movie Religulous, Bill Maher argues that science is sophisticated, testable, and legitimate knowledge, while religion is just old-fashioned superstition. But when it comes to science and religion, the Catholic response has always been “both-and,” not either-or.

“Agora” and the Truth of Hypatia

“Agora” and the Truth of Hypatia

Carl Sagan, Edward Gibbon, and director Alejandro Amenabar (Agora) present Hypatia as a scientist and philosopher who ran afoul the wicked bishop of Alexandria, who then stirred up a mob of superstitious followers that put Hypatia to death. Well, Hypatia was indeed a philosopher and she was indeed killed by a mob in 415, but practically everything else about that story is false.

Click here for a written version of this commentary.

Stephen Greenblatt's “The Swerve”

Stephen Greenblatt's “The Swerve”

“The Swerve” argues that the modern world emerged out of a long and desperate struggle with Roman Catholicism. But in point of fact, the emergence of the cultural world of modernity owed a great deal, intellectually and artistically, to the scientifically curious medieval period.

Click here for a written version of this commentary.

Who God Is and Who God Isn't

Who God Is and Who God Isn't

It is absolutely right to say that the advance of the modern physical sciences has eliminated the gods. But the physical sciences, no matter how advanced they might become, can never eliminate God, for God is not a being within the natural order.

Click here for a written version of this commentary.

20

Why Faith Is Indeed a Light

Moderns, in love with the illuminating power of technological reason, have tended to view faith not as light but as obscurity. But faith is the proper, indeed reasonable, response to the experience of the living God, who is not an object in the world, but rather the Creator of the world. 

Read more
21

America Needs You, Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas knew that apparent conflicts between science and religion are born of either bad science or bad religion, and should compel the puzzled thinker to dig deeper and think harder.

Read more
22

“Doctor Strange” and Scientism

In the film Doctor Strange, the coolly arrogant but hopelessly narrow title character is an apt representation of the clueless advocates of scientism on the contemporary scene, those who have simply closed themselves off to what a thousand generations of human beings have taken for granted.

Read more
23

Religion, Science, and the Epiphany

One of the truths that is manifested on Epiphany (that's what the word epiphania means) is the compatibility of faith and reason, of religion and science. The Magi were scientists, astronomers interested in tracking and measuring the heavenly bodies. But they also saw in the orderliness of the universe evidence of God. 

Click here for a second audio commentary on this subject. 

24

The Reasoning of the Religious Mind

God cannot be analyzed scientifically the way one would study the things of the world, but God can be approached through religious reasoning, or faith.

25

Stephen Colbert, Ricky Gervais, and the Debate About God

Does God exist? Why is there something rather than nothing? Or does science tell us everything we need to know about the universe? These are the questions Catholic comedian and television host, Stephen Colbert, debated with his Late Show guest, the popular actor and outspoken atheist, Ricky Gervais.

26

Aquinas and the Arguments for God

A viral YouTube video titled “Aquinas and the Cosmological Arguments” (750,000+ views) claims that Thomas Aquinas’ arguments for God have been decisively refuted. But have they? And how do these arguments relate to modern science?

Click here to listen to Part 2 of this audio commentary. 

Founders of Science // Heroes of the Faith

Fr. Roger Bacon

Fr. Roger Bacon

Forerunner of the Scientific Method,
Franciscan Friar

Roger Bacon was a thirteenth-century English philosopher, Franciscan friar, and empiricist who emphasized the study of natural phenomena through observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and independent verification. Bacon studied mathematics, astronomy, optics, and languages; he was the first European to describe in detail the process of making gunpowder; and he even hypothesized the use of flying machines and motorized ships. He is often named as a major forerunner of modern science, 300 years before it came into existence.

Learn more

Blessed Nicholas Steno

Blessed Nicholas Steno

Founder of Stratigraphy,
Catholic Bishop

Nicholas Steno was a Danish scientist and a pioneer in both anatomy and geology. In 1660 Steno discovered a previously undescribed anatomical structure, known today as "Stensen's duct." He contributed to the birth of paleontology (making the connection between triangular "tongue stones" and dissected shark teeth) and laid the theoretical foundation for stratigraphy (a branch of geology concerned with the study of rock layers). A convert to Catholicism from Lutheranism, Steno later became a priest and a bishop, and he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988. 

Learn more

Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus

Father of Heliocentrism,
Catholic Canon

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Catholic canon who studied medicine and canon law before going into astronomy. He formulated a model of the universe that placed the sun rather than the earth at the center of the universe, a theory known as heliocentrism. The publication of Copernicus' model in his book On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres just before his death was a major event in the history of science; it was also used by Pope Gregory XIII to reform the calendar in 1582. Copernicus spent most of his life as the canon of Frauenberg Cathedral in Poland.

Learn more

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal

Groundbreaking Inventor and Mathematician,
Catholic Philosopher and Theologian

Blaise Pascal was a seventeenth-century French inventor, mathematician, philosopher, and theologian. He invented the mechanical calculator, laid the foundation for probability theory, and performed pivotal experiments to better understand fluids, pressure, and vacuums. He is also widely known for the Pensées, a series of philosophical and theological notes for a planned defense of Christianity (which includes his infamous "wager"). Both the "Pascal" (Pa) pressure unit and the computer programming language "Pascal" were named after this groundbreaking Catholic scientist.

Learn more

Fr. Francesco Maria Grimaldi

Fr. Francesco Maria Grimaldi

Visionary Physicist,
Jesuit Priest

Adorning the entrance to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC is the selenograph (or lunar map) of Italian physicist and Jesuit priest Francesco Maria Grimaldi. Created with fellow physicist-priest Giovanni Battista Riccioli, the map is perhaps the best-known of all selenographs and has been used by most scholars for lunar nomenclature for three centuries. Grimaldi is also known for key discoveries about the free-fall of objects, the gravitational constant, and the diffraction of light—a term which Grimaldi himself coined.

Learn more

Fr. Gregor Mendel

Fr. Gregor Mendel

Founder of Modern Genetics,
Augustinian Friar

Fr. Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian friar and abbot and the founder of the modern science of genetics. Mendel conducted pea plant experiments between 1856 and 1863 which established many of the rules of heredity. He coined the terms “recessive” and “dominant” in reference to certain traits, and also demonstrated the actions of invisible “factors”—now called genes—in predictably determining the traits of an organism. The combination of Mendelian genetics with Darwin's theory of natural selection resulted in the modern synthesis of evolutionary biology.

Learn more

Sr. Mary Kenneth Keller

Sr. Mary Kenneth Keller

Pioneer of Computer Science,
Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Sr. Mary Kenneth Keller was a Catholic religious sister, educator, and pioneer in computer science. She was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in computer science in the United States and was an advocate for the involvement of women in computing. In 1958 Keller began working at the National Science Foundation workshop at Dartmouth College—a male-only institution at the time—where she participated in the development of the BASIC programming language with John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz. Keller later founded the computer science department at Clarke College (now Clarke University).

Learn more

Fr. Georges Lemâitre

Fr. Georges Lemâitre

Formulator of the "Big Bang" Theory,
Belgian Priest

Fr. Georges Lemâitre was a Belgian Catholic Priest, astronomer, and physicist. Lemaître formulated the "Big Bang" theory of the origin of the universe, which he called his "hypothesis of the primeval atom" or the "Cosmic Egg." Albert Einstein initially rejected Lemâitre's theory, calling it "abominable." But after Edwin Hubble showed that all the distant galaxies in the universe were racing away from one another, Einstein realized Lemâitre was correct, and in 1931 endorsed the expanding universe model. The Big Bang theory remains the prevailing cosmological model for the universe today.

Learn more


Posters

Share now on your social media accounts: