“A proper understanding of creation, especially an understanding set forth by a thinker such as Thomas Aquinas, helps us to see that there is no conflict between evolutionary biology or any of the natural sciences and a fundamental understanding that all that ‘is’, is caused by God,” Professor William E. Carroll of Oxford University’s theology faculty told CNA Aug. 22.
“Evolutionary biology is that area of science which helps us to understand better the origin and development of human beings, but whatever those arguments are in evolutionary biology they, in principle, do not conflict with the fundamental understanding that all that ‘is’ is created by God,” Carroll said.
Professor Carroll was a keynote speaker at the Rimini Meeting, an international gathering organized by the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation. From August 19 to 25 the event in the Italian seaside town of Rimini is exploring a range of contemporary cultural issues, including the relationship between faith, reason and science.
“God causes the world to be the kind of world which it is and the natural sciences help to disclose what kind of a world we have,” Carroll explained.
Sharing a platform with him was Professor Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Both men expressed a particular appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI’s ongoing efforts to encourage greater dialogue between faith and science.
“There is a spectrum of intransigence in the religious community and in the scientific community,” Tattersall remarked, explaining, “that is why the dialogue is useful because maybe it will broaden flexibility on both sides.”
In January 2012, Pope Benedict established a new Science and Faith Foundation, which will be headquartered at the Vatican. He said that his aim in doing so is to build a “philosophical bridge” between science and theology.
“One of the great insights of the Pope, which he continually emphasizes, is an enlargement of reason, a recognition that rationality is not limited to what the natural sciences do but that there’s a larger sense of rationality that includes both philosophy and theology,” Carroll said.
He suggested that the recent debate has occasionally become confused by the interventions of high-profile scientists like Richard Dawkins or Lawrence Krauss.
Both, he claimed, “are really ignorant of philosophy and theology, and so they make all sorts of goofy philosophical and theological claims.”
“Science is a different way of knowing than spiritual faith, both answer to a need that humans have ‘to know,’ but they are answering different parts of the question,” added Tattersall.
In fact, Tattersall pointed out, “many scientists are believers, so there’s certainly no incompatibility in principle between the two.”