Science, Faith and the Pursuit of Truth
With Evolution Weekend at hand, the relationship of faith and science is present in my mind. As I’ve noted here before (as well as in sermons), there is this belief that faith and science are at odds with each other, that we have to choose. One solution has been to live in two different boxes, a religious box and a secular/scientific box, with neither interacting with the other. On Sunday I enter the religious box, and Monday I go into the science box. There are many whose lives are devoted to science – researchers, medical doctors, and teachers. They wear their two hats and compartmentalize their lives, but is this healthy?
As I’m thinking on these things, I come to a section in Richard Rohr’s new book Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (review to come later) that addresses this question. He begins by noting the Vincentian Canon; the definition of what it means to be catholic offered by an early Christian theologian of the fifth century. I’ve encountered this canon many times before, because one of the figures that I’ve researched, Thomas Brett, made appeal to this canon in defense of his expansion of the Anglican Eucharistic liturgy.
What is the Vincentian Canon – it is this, that which is true and catholic (universal) is that which has been believed always, “everywhere, and by everyone.” That is, what we hold to be catholic is that upon which there is some common agreement, thereby challenging us to step out of our parochial niches and seek that common truth. So, what does this have to do with faith and science? Consider this word from Rohr’s book:
Science is no longer our enemy; instead quantum physics, biology, and other academic disciplines are revealing science as probably our new and best partner, much better than philosophy ever was. If something is spiritually true, it will as be true in the physical world too, and all religions will somehow be looking at that “one truth” from different angles, goals, assumptions, and vocabulary, as will all disciplines of any great university. If we are really convinced that we have the Great Big Truth, then we should also be able to trust that others will see it from their different angles – or it is not a great big truth. No one wants to be our enemy unless they assume that we ourselves have chosen to live in our own small tent and cannot talk to them or do not want to talk to them on their terms. We are the ones who have too often assumed ill will and have been far too eager to create enemies instead of realizing that others often enjoyed very similar “good news” but inside different packaging. (Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond, pp. 135-136).
The war that we seem to believe is occurring may be the result of our unwillingness to see things from other points of view, to recognize that there are other angles from which to view the Great Truth. If we’re willing to listen and learn, then perhaps we will have a better appreciation for this Truth and allow the war to end. Rohr, who is Roman Catholic (a Franciscan), offers this word from Thomas Aquinas: “If it is true, it is always from the one Holy Spirit” (p. 136). I agree!