Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Religion, science and public policy – To The Point – PRI Public Radio International

04 November, 2009

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Almost half of Americans believe the evolutionary science is incompatible with religious teachings -- how this impacts issues like global warming.

The following is a partial transcript; for full story, listen to audio.

When he announced that the Earth goes around the Sun, Galileo was persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church. But that was 400 years ago. The modern Vatican, conservative though it is, has argued that Christian faith and science are not at odds after all, but compatible and complementary, especially regarding Darwin's theory of Evolution. 

Traditional Protestants are fine with that, but almost half of Americans believe that the book of Genesis is incompatible with "The Origin of Species." What are the consequences for dealing with global warming, pandemic disease and stem cell research?

John Haught, Senior Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center has a simple answer: Don't look to the Bible for answers to scientific questions; look to the Bible for answers to other kinds of questions.

"The Catholic Church itself has emphasized and learned its lesson from Galileo, but Pope Leo XIII ... instructed Catholics not to look to the Bible for scientific information, and that simple instruction really serves to prevent a lot of needless anxiety about trying to map onto the Bible the picture of cosmic development that modern cosmology and evolutionary theory, geology has given us.

"So just don't look to the Bible for scientific information; look for other kinds of truths. For example, in Genesis you look for answers to questions such as, 'why is there anything at all, rather than nothing; why should we trust in life; is there a basis for hope and confidence in the future?' Those are the kinds of questions that Biblical text needs to respond to, not scientific questions."

Gerald McKenny, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Notre Dame University, is one of the organizers of a three-day conference on the subject of science and religion. He is trying to present a position on science and its relationship to faith.

"We think that in the past understandings of evolution, due to certain evolutionary theory and the ways in which they were usually presented, made it difficult for many people in the fields like theology, philosophy and even the social sciences, to look to evolutionary biology as a source of truth," said McKenny. "It seemed to be telling us things about human nature, for example, that made it difficult to understand humans in all their fullness. But we think there are a number of changes that have occurred in biological sciences, evolutionary theory in particular, in recent years that open up new dialogs for science and theology, science and humanities and so forth."Read complete article or listen to Download audio (mp3) - To The Point – PRI Public Radio International

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