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ARE SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS PER

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					Evolution vs.
                                                                                              ence and faith. The court upheld the law




                                                                                                                                                            VISIPIX
                                                                                              and fined Scopes $100, but the convic-
                                                                                              tion was later annulled on a technicality.
                                                                                              In hindsight, both sides claimed victory


          Religion
                                                                                              and saw the trial as a powerful vehicle
Endless debate—or opportunity                                                                 for widespread publicity of their own
for mutual enrichment?                                                                        perspectives.
                                                                                                 In the decades that followed, the ten-
                                                                                              sion between evolution and creationism
BY AMY UELMEN                                  made it unlawful “to teach any theory that     resurfaced periodically and the controver-




A
                                               denies the story of Divine Creation of man     sies wound their way through the courts.
           RE SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS PER-    as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead   In 1968 the U.S. Supreme Court struck
         spectives impossible to recon-        that man has descended from a lower            down an Arkansas statute that forbade the
         cile? Recent debates in current       order of animals.” In a duel that became       teaching of evolution in public schools
         U.S. culture have highlighted         a cultural icon, thanks to the film Inherit     as a violation of the First Amendment’s
some of the most difficult tensions. Per-       the Wind, two famous lawyers of the day,       prohibition against the establishment of
haps one of the most powerful symbols of       William Jennings Bryan and Clarence            religion. Two decades later, in a slightly
how difficult it is to bring them together is   Darrow, locked horns over what seemed          different twist, the U.S. Supreme Court
the debate over Charles Darwin’s theory        to be an irresolvable conflict between sci-     considered the Louisiana “Balanced
of evolution. Shortly after the                                                                         Treatment for Creation-Science
British scientist first outlined                                                                         and Evolution Science” Act.
his theory in On the Origin                                                                             While no school was required
of the Species (1859), books                                                                            to teach either evolution or
with titles such as History of                                                                          creation science, the law for-
the Conflict Between Religion                                                                            bade the teaching of evolution
and Science (1874) and A His-                                                                           unless accompanied by instruc-
tory of the Warfare of Science                                                                          tion in creation science. The
with Theology (1896) painted                                                                            Court found this too was an
the portrait of the seemingly                                                                           unconstitutional establishment
irreconcilable tension.                                                                                 of religion.
   This year marks the eightieth                                                                           The debate continues to
anniversary of one of the most                                                                          rage. In recent months, public
famous evolution-creationism
                                                                                                     WIKIPEDIA ENCYCLOPEDIA




debates in the United States. In
1925, a young science teacher,                                                                                                Left: Lawyers Clarence Darrow
                                                                                                                              and William Jennings Bryan
John Scopes, had violated the                                                                                                 during the Scopes’ trial in 1925
Tennessee “monkey law” which

6   LIVING CITY, OCTOBER 2005
                                                                                                                             issues
school board hearings in several states        accounts, but also to risk losing their          interference of a “designer” in the midst
have served as a platform for debates          deeper meaning.                                  of otherwise natural processes inserts non-
on whether science teachers who teach              But scientists can also slip into their      scientific elements into the analysis, and
the theory of evolution must also give         own kind of fundamentalism. As Catho-            thus threatens the legitimate autonomy of
equal time to alternative theories of the      lic theologian John Haught, director of          the scientific endeavor.
origins of life, including evidence that       Georgetown’s Center for the Study of                As human beings, scientists are cer-
the universe is not the product of blind       Science and Religion, noted in his recent        tainly right to reflect on the broader mean-
and mindless random selection, but rather      book, Deeper than Darwin, “The leap              ing of their research. But to the extent
the fruit of “intelligent design.” This past   from ‘Darwin got it right’ to ‘Darwin tells      that they move beyond discussion of the
July, when Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna        the whole story’ has proven increasingly         natural order into the realm of philosophi-
published an editorial on the controversy      irresistible.”                                   cal and theological reflection about the
in the New York Times, even more fuel              Some “scientific materialists” draw           origins of life, they should expect to be
was added to the fire.                          sweeping philosophical conclusions from          engaged not just on the level of scientific
                                               their scientific data. In his 1995 book,          “evidence and results,” but also philo-
Does a discussion of the origins of life       River Out of Eden, British scientist Rich-       sophical and theological explanations.
necessarily entail a duel between science      ard Dawkins claimed that religion has
and faith?                                     nothing to add to our understanding of           How might these worlds be brought
                                               life because it fails to meet the “objective”    together?
                                               tests of science: “Scientific beliefs are sup-    A first step would be to clarify that science
                                               ported by evidence, and they get results.        and religion need not directly clash. As
                                               Myths and faiths are not and do not.”            Professor Haught explains, the universe
                                               Because he sees no scientific explanation         can be compared to a book that can be
                                               for life’s deepest questions, he assumes         read on many different levels. Just as one
                                               there are no answers at all: “The universe       can parse the grammatical structure of a
                                               we observe has precisely the properties          sentence, or engage in broader and more
                                               we should expect if there is, at bottom, no      thematic reflection, science and religion
                                               design, no purpose, no evil and no good,         work on different “reading levels” and
                                               nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.        provide different kinds of insight about
                                                   So long as creationists and scientific        the universe.
                                               materialists insist that their texts “tell the      But this is only the first step. Would it
                                               whole story,” they will continue to be at        be possible to imagine a dialogue in which
                                               loggerheads.                                     science and religion speak to one another,
 Charles Darwin
                                               Might the theory of “intelligent design”
At the extremes of the debate, a large part    offer some hope for reconciling faith and
of the problem is that both “creationists”     science?
and some scientists seem to be asking too      On one hand, it seems to pose an attractive
much of their principle texts.                 response to the harder edges of scientific
   In a 1994 Vatican document, The Inter-      materialism. It seems to capture the
pretation of the Bible in the Church, the      response not just of scientific experts,
Pontifical Biblical Commission pointed          but also of many ordinary people in front
out several problems with a “fundamen-         of the wondrous complexity and beauty
talist” interpretation of biblical texts.      of nature: how could this possibly be the
When the inerrancy of certain details          product of mindless chance? How can we
in the biblical texts is over-emphasized,      not see in creation the hand of God?
or when the bible is read only as a               Some, however, are concerned that the
book of historical facts, one may miss         “intelligent design” inference is too rigid
the intended symbolic or figurative            and simplistic. As Professor Haught notes,
meaning. Similarly, biblical texts were        “there is wonderfully intricate patterning
never intended to serve as a science           in nature, of course, but there is much
textbook. To force them into this func-        disorder and suffering as well.” Others
                                                                                                                                                 VISIPIX




tion is not only to confuse the scientific      are concerned that to posit the direct

  “Both religion and science must preserve their autonomy and their distinctiveness.
  Religion is not founded on science nor is science an extension of religion.”

                                                                                                                 LIVING CITY, OCTOBER 2005   7
issues
learn from one another, and even challenge pose that science should become religion integrity of its elements.”
each other’s assumptions?                  or religion science. On the contrary, unity In the dialogue between science and
   In a 1988 message, Pope John Paul always presupposes the diversity and the religion, as in all areas of culture, to build
II described this kind of                                                                           relationships of unity in
exchange as crucial to the                                                                          diversity is quite a chal-
growth and development of                                                                           lenge. It requires a readiness
human culture, for it chal-                                                                         to admit that one’s own dis-
lenges us to move beyond                                                                            cipline or perspective does
our “separate compart-                                                                              not “tell the whole story,”
ments.” “A divided com-                                                                             and to listen and learn from
munity fosters a fragmented                                                                         another’s perspective. But
vision of the world,” he                                                                            if we embark on this path,
wrote. “[A] community                                                                               we will surely be enriched
of interchange encourages                                                                           by a “common interactive
its members to expand                                                                               relationship,” in the words
their partial perspectives                                                                          of John Paul II, “in which
and form a new unified                                                                              each discipline retains its
vision” (see box). But he                                                                           integrity and yet is radically
also insisted that the dia-                                                                         open to the discoveries and
logue must proceed with                                                                             insights of the other.”




                                                                                                             DESIGNPICS
                                 “                                                                ”
respect for the autonomy                                                                            Amy Uelmen is the director of
and identity of each disci-                                                                         the Institute on Religion, Law
pline. The Pope explained:     Dialogue between science and religion is crucial to                                & Lawyer’s Work
                                                                                                    at Fordham University School
“The Church does not pro- the growth and development of human culture.                                                      of Law



    Unity, not Identity                          contribute to our vision of who we are          the integrity of its components. We are
    In 1988, Pope John Paul II sent a            and who we are becoming.…                       asked to become one. We are not asked
                                                     We might ask whether or not we are          to become each other.
    message to Rev. George V. Coyne,             ready for this crucial endeavor ... Do we           To be more specific, both religion and
    S.J., Director of the Vatican                dare to risk the honesty and the courage        science must preserve their autonomy
    Observatory, on the occasion of              that this task demands? We must ask our-        and their distinctiveness. Religion is
    a Vatican-sponsored symposium                selves whether both science and religion        not founded on science nor is science
    to commemorate the 300th                     will contribute to the integration of human     an extension of religion. Each should
    anniversary of the publication of            culture or to its fragmentation ... If they     possess its own principles, its pattern of
    Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae              are to grow and mature, peoples cannot          procedures, its diversities of interpreta-
    Naturalis Principia Mathematica.             continue to live in separate compartments,      tion and its own conclusions.
                                                 pursuing totally divergent interests from           Christianity possesses the source of
    It provides a wonderful description          which they evaluate and judge their world.      its justification within itself and does not
    of the deepest challenges for the            A divided community fosters a frag-             expect science to constitute its primary
    dialogue between religion and                mented vision of the world; a community         apologetic. Science must bear witness to
    science. A brief excerpt follows.            of interchange encourages its members to        its own worth. While each can and should
                                                 expand their partial perspectives and form      support the other as distinct dimensions

    T   URNING TO THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
        religion and science, there has been
    a definite, though still fragile and pro-
                                                 a new unified vision.
                                                     Yet the unity that we seek ... is not
                                                 identity. The Church does not propose
                                                                                                 of a common human culture, neither
                                                                                                 ought to assume that it forms a necessary
                                                                                                 premise for the other. The unprecedented
    visional, movement towards a new and         that science should become religion or          opportunity we have today is for a
    more nuanced interchange. ... In the         religion science. On the contrary, unity        common interactive relationship in which
    process [of dialogue] we must overcome       always presupposes the diversity and the        each discipline retains its integrity and
    every regressive tendency to a unilateral    integrity of its elements. Each of these        yet is radically open to the discoveries
    reductionism, to fear and to self-imposed    members should become not less itself           and insights of the other.
    isolation. What is critically important is   but more itself in a dynamic interchange,                                                 

    that each discipline should continue to      for a unity in which one of the elements        The full text of the message is available at
                                                                                                 Interdisciplinary Documentation on Religion
    enrich, nourish and challenge the other      is reduced to the other is destructive, false   & Science, www.disf.org/en/documentation/12-
    to be more fully what it can be and to       in its promises of harmony, and ruinous of      880601_LettVatObs.asp


8    LIVING CITY, OCTOBER 2005

				
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