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Seton Hall University

Core II Students Explore Science and Faith  

Observatory Father LibraryIn Core II this week begins for many classes a unit on science, where many faculty start with Galileo. Galileo is a wonderful example of how faith and science can both connect (and at times, sadly, disconnect). A person of faith himself, Galileo confirmed the theory of Copernicus that the earth revolved around the sun, not vice/versa as was believed by Aristotle, Ptolemy, and the church of that time. There is some irony in the fact that some members of the church of his time were angered by Galileo because he was disproving theories that had been advocated by non-believers. Copernicus, who advocated the theory Galileo was proving, was, in fact, a Catholic priest. Going over even just the few facts I just listed can surprise some students who think there is a natural antipathy between faith and science. As a matter of fact, such antipathy is an aberration. I wrote about these issues about this time last year. 

To develop the idea further, however, we can see that science has grown out of the premise that there is a logic as well as actual laws in nature (such as, for example, the law of gravity). Galileo's letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (in the Core II textbook) expresses his belief that "the holy Bible and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine Word, the former as the dictate of the Holy Ghost and the latter as the observant executrix of God's commands" (257). In understanding science and how it links with religion, we rely on both faith and reason, "fides et ratio." In his encyclical of the same title (Fides et Ratio), John Paul II says, "There is thus no reason for competition of any kind between reason and faith: each contains the other, and each has its own scope for action."

John Paul goes on to explain that there is a difference between the very legitimate study of science and what he calls "scientism," which "consigns all that has to do with the question of the meaning of life to the realm of the irrational or imaginary." Authentic science undertakes its important tasks in light of meaning and values. In Pope Francis' Laudato Si, for example, the work of climate scientists is used to shed moral light on the environmental obligations of people of good will. (The Holy Father carefully makes the point that his address is not just for believers.) The work of science, particularly in these times, must always be linked to ethical and moral considerations. In the area of the environment, this connection is extremely pertinent. 

As students continue to read in this area about science and faith, they will be encouraged to understand that one of the benefits of working and studying in a university consists in the fact that we can learn from each other, with scientists, philosophers, theologians, and English scholars (the list can go on and on) exploring ways that their various disciplines connect and inter-connect.

Categories: Education

For more information, please contact:

  • Nancy Enright
  • (551) 358-7667
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