Thursday, April 05, 2007

God and Science: Part 1

What follows is a conversation I am currently having with an individual who is struggling with faith in God in light of the scientific claims about mankind. Of course, I'm no expert on evolution, psychology, or biology...but maybe what I was able to explain will be of some use to you all.

[Materialistic] science just tends to be a stumbling block for me. I struggle to understand our belief in God as Creator and how it fits in with what we know about modern science. It troubles me to read that a number of scientists claim that religion came around as a feature of the human brain's evolution.
This need not be an obstacle. It could just as easily be said that God revealed Himself to man as soon as man was ready, physically, to receive Him. There's nothing wrong with that. It could very well have been that man evolved from some other creature. As Catholics we are allowed to hold that, but we don't have to. However, what we do have to believe is that, the moment man emerged God gave him a spirit and made him unlike any other creature.

I understand that our response as Catholics is usually that science and religion are completely different arenas.
Not necessarily. As Cardinal Newman once said, "Faith furnishes facts to the other sciences which these sciences, left to themselves, would never reach, and it invalidates apparent facts, which left to themselves, they would imagine." Or, to quote Pope John Paul II, " Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes." They work together, informing each other. This makes perfect sense. After all, all objects of science have their source in He who created all things. The Artist is always found in his handiwork.

Thus, I know that many Catholics say that evolution was simply God's process of creation, but I wonder if we have good reason to believe this or whether we are merely adapting our faith to scientific developments.
From what I have read, we have good reason to believe this. There is nothing wrong with affirming both what is good and helpful from scientific research and what we know about God from religion. I have collected some articles that explain this more in depth. To read them, go here.

While I certainly want to believe we are more than mere matter, I struggle when mere chemical imbalances cause personality disorders, mental illness and hallucinations, and chemicals can also treat these symptoms. In my mind it doesn't seem to leave much room for personality made in God's image or free will.
Why not? Just because we are made in God's image, that doesn't mean that we will all be perfect. Some of us will be disabled, or have chemical imbalances, or in a variety of different ways be abnormal. To be made "in the image and likeness of God" means to have special dignity as a human being, created by God, and meant for eternal glory and beatitude with Him, in heaven, as his sons and daughters. This is rightly said of every human being, regardless of his physical or mental disabilities.

I'm sure it is clear to you now that I am not too intelligent in regards to Catholic apologetics, science or philosophy. That's why I'm seeking the help of somebody smarter than I am. But please know that I am not expecting you to be an expert on these issues either. I am not asking to you be the answer to all of my questions. I know that in the end, faith is a personal decision. I just thought I would give it a try to see if you have any insights on these types of issues. I hope you will forgive my ignorance, and thanks again for responding to my email.
You show a wonderful amount of humility, my friend. This is cause for hope. Your humility will be your salvation from all of this confusion and doubt. Regarding intelligence, no worries, I'm no genius either. I'm just trying, like you, to every day be learning about God to the best of my ability. There is nothing to excuse or apologize for. I hope my words have been helpful. Feel free to respond with more questions.

Pax Christi,

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