c) Faith, Science, and Truth

scientist prayingQuotes At-A-Glance: Faith, Science, and Truth

(See Further Down the Page for the Full Quotes along with Who Said It.)

  1. Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. (Pope John-Paul II)
  2. Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind. (Albert Einstein)
  3. Once you realize that the Bible does not purport to be a textbook of science, the old controversy between religion and science vanishes. (Georges Lemaitre)
  4. The truth cannot contradict the truth. (Pope John-Paul II, quoting Pope Leo XIII)
  5. A little knowledge leads away from God, but much knowledge leads towards him. (Isaac Newton)
  6. Who set the planets in motion? (Isaac Newton)
  7. God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth. (Pope John-Paul II)
  8. Reason and faith cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of men and women to know themselves, the world and God in an appropriate way. (Pope John-Paul II)
  9. We are not a lost atom in a random universe. We are not the result of necessity or chance, but have been willed into existence. (Fr Chris Hayden)
  10. Faith is not an irrational leap in the dark; it is the reasonable response to the real…. Faith is no more than honesty before reality. (John Waters)
  11. Either God made the world or He did not make the world. There are no other possibilities. If I decide He did not make the world, I have to come up with a better explanation, and this has for millenia taxed more practised minds than mine. (John Waters)
  12. Science is a very successful way of knowing, but not the only way. We acquire knowledge in many other ways, such as through literature, the arts, philosophical reflection, and religious experience. A scientific view of the world is hopelessly incomplete….
    Once science has had its say, there remain questions of value, purpose, and meaning that are forever beyond science’s domain, but belong in the realm of philosophical reflection and religious experience. (Francisco J. Ayala)
  13. Technology has remedied countless evils which used to harm and limit human beings. (Pope Francis)
  14. Our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience. (Pope Francis)

Faith, Science, and Truth

(Note: Unlink the other pages on this site, you will see that this page on Faith and Science also includes quotes from non-Christians. The inclusion of those quotes hopefully enable readers to understand more fully the quotes from believers.)

“Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.

For the truth of the matter is that the Church and the scientific community will inevitably interact; their options do not include isolation…. The uses of science have on more than one occasion proved massively destructive, and the reflections on religion have too often been sterile. We need each other to be what we must be, what we are called to be.”

— Pope John-Paul II in a letter 1st of June 1988 to Reverend George Coyne SJ,
Director of the Vatican Observatory

“Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

— Albert Einstein
(page 46 of “Albert Einstein: Ideas and Opinions; reprint 2005; Souvenir Press; with an attribution to a paper from 1941, “Science, Philiosophy, and Religion: A Symposium, published… New York” or see here for more)

“Once you realize that the Bible does not purport to be a textbook of science, the old controversy between religion and science vanishes.”
“The conflict has always been between those who fail to understand the true scope of either science or religion. For those who understand both, the conflict is simply about descriptions of what goes on in other people’s minds.”
“There were two ways of arriving at the truth. I decided to follow them both. Nothing in my working life, nothing that I have ever learned in my studies of either science or religion, has ever caused me to change that opinion. I have no conflict to reconcile. Science has not shaken my faith in religion, and religion has never caused me to question the conclusions I reached by strictly scientific methods.”

— Georges Lemaitre, physicist and priest, in a New York Times article ‘LeMaitre Follows Two Paths to the Truth’, February 19th 1933, as published here in a pdf

“Knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is, and yet not be able to deduct from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations….

And if one asks whence derives the authority of such fundamental ends, since they cannot be stated and justified merely by reason, one can only answer: they exist in a healthy society as powerful traditions, which act upon the conduct and aspirations and judgements of the individuals; they are there, that is, as something living, without its being necessary to find justification for their existence. They come into being not through demonstration but through revelation, through the medium of powerful personalities. One must not attempt to justify them, but rather to sense their nature simply and clearly.

The highest principles for our aspirations and judgements are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations. If one were to take that goal out of its religious form and look merely at its purely human side, one might state it perhaps thus: free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind.

— Albert Einstein
(page 41 to 44 of “Albert Einstein: Ideas and Opinions; reprint 2005; Souvenir Press; with an attribution to his address at Princeton Theological Seminary; May 19, 1939; or see here for more)

“Science is the century-old endeavor to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thoroughgoing an association as possible.

…. a person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonalvalue.

In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary. Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts. According to this interpretation the well-known conflicts between religion and science in the past must all be ascribed to a misapprehension of the situation which has been described.

…. Whoever has undergone the intense experience of successful advances made in this (scientific) domain is moved by profound reverence for the rationality made manifest in existence. By way of the understanding he achieves a far-reaching emancipation from the shackles of personal hopes and desires, and thereby attains that humble attitude of mind toward the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence, and which, in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man. This attitude, however, appears to me to be religious, in the highest sense of the word. And so it seems to me that science not only purifies the religious impulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism but also contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life.

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. In this sense I believe that the priest must become a teacher if he wishes to do justice to his lofty educational mission.

— Albert Einstein
(page 44 to 49 of “Albert Einstein: Ideas and Opinions; reprint 2005; Souvenir Press; with an attribution to a paper from 1941, “Science, Philiosophy, and Religion: A Symposium, published… New York” or see here for more)

“A little knowledge leads away from God, but much knowledge leads towards him.”

“Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion.”

— Both quotes from the scientist Isaac Newton

  • “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth….
  • God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth….
  • Every truth attained is but a step towards that fullness of truth which will appear with the final Revelation of God: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully” (1 Cor 13:12)….
  • Without wonder, men and women would lapse into deadening routine….
  • A legitimate plurality of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based upon the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of today’s most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in truth. Even certain conceptions of life coming from the East betray this lack of confidence, denying truth its exclusive character and assuming that truth reveals itself equally in different doctrines, even if they contradict one another….
  • Reason and faith cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of men and women to know themselves, the world and God in an appropriate way.
  • There is thus no reason for competition of any kind between reason and faith: each contains the other, and each has its own scope for action….
  • In brief, human beings attain truth by way of reason because, enlightened by faith, they discover the deeper meaning of all things and most especially of their own existence. Rightly, therefore, the sacred author identifies the fear of God as the beginning of true knowledge: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov1:7; cf. Sir 1:14)….”
  • (and much more!)

— Pope John-Paul II (in his ‘Fides et Ratio’ encyclical)

“Einstein used to say: “What is eternally incomprehensible in the world is that it is comprehensible” (The Journal of the Franklin Institute, 221:3 [March 1936]). This intelligibility, attested to by the marvelous discoveries of science and technology, leads us, in the last analysis, to the transcendent and primordial thought imprinted on all things.”

— Pope John-Paul II (‘Pope John-Paul II: A Reader edited by O’Collins, SJ, page 34, published by Paulist Press: Mahwah, New Jersey, 2007).

“In the Christian understanding, the energy at the heart of the universe is even more fundamental than the energies that are described in such marvellous detail by physics and astronomy.

The fundamental energy is fatherhood, the fatherhood through which God has brought reality into being. And so we are, in the words of Benedict XVI, “not a lost atom in a random universe.” We are not the result of necessity or chance, but have been willed into existence…. The faith knowledge that we are called into existence, held in existence by God, changes the way people live — and indeed the way they die.”

—Fr Chris Hayden (‘Signposts of Life’ in The Irish Catholic newspaper, December 29th, 2011)

“What is truth? In simple language truth is telling it as it really is. Today’s society has done a number on truth. It is fashionable to teach that truth is relative, that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Of all the lies that are told, this one has to be the most damaging.

Contrary to what is being taught in some institutions of learning, truth is absolute, not relative. If something is true, it’s true for all of us, regardless of where we are…. The truth matters. To speak the truth is the beginning of wisdom.

…. When we teach that everything goes, that it doesn’t matter what we do as long as we are sincere, we are not telling the truth, we are telling lies. Sincerity doesn’t make suicide bombing right. If I believe sincerely that suicide bombing is right, I am sincerely wrong. Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if no one is doing it. If there is no morality, if there is no right or wrong, if it all comes down to what I decide, then I shouldn’t be surprised when a couple of students gun down innocent classmates, or an organisation in the name of God flies planes into buildings and kills innocent people? False ideas about truth, lead to false ideas about life.

There are many truths about truth: Truth is discovered, not invented. Truth is not dependent on our preferences. Something is true whether we like it or not. Before Galileo, people sincerely believed the world was flat, not round. They were sincerely wrong.

What is the greatest problem in our world today? … A popular answer is “I don’t know, and I don’t care,” and that about sums up the source of many of our problems today. Once we kill the concept of truth, we kill the concept of true religion and true morality.

… What is it that tells us something is wrong? God! Conscience! We must follow our consciences. But as Thomas Aquinas reminds us, we are obliged to follow an enlightened conscience. Enlightenment does not come easily in a confused world. It’s a mighty struggle at times to arrive at the truth. Sophocles is adamant: “Truth is the strongest argument.” If there is no God, we would never know we had made a wrong choice. If we had the final say, then any choice we made would have to be right. A world in which everyone believes he or she has the final say — I don’t want to even think about it — it would be a world of chaos and confusion.”

— Fr Vincent Travers OP in his book ‘Larger than Life @ God.com’, 2009, Brunswick Press Limited in the chapter ‘The Great Lie’ pages 130-133

“I believe that everyone is ‘religious’, whether aware of it or not, or like it or not, because religion is no more and no less than the total relationship with reality…. ‘Religion’ requires me to invite everything in, to open up to the whole of reality, a large element of which is mysterious and unknowable…. Science is simply the pursuit of knowledge, and this is self-evidently a good thing.

…. No amount of knowledge of the external world is of any use if I do not achieve a similar level of understanding of myself, of my essential structure, of how I relate to reality… It is here that organised religion has focused its main attentions, sometimes clumsily but usually with the proper intention of offering to man the means to avoid the grief that comes from abusing his own freedom, which he is instinctually inclined to do…. Our cultures do not understand what freedom is, defining it as the ability to do as we please, blind to man’s experience which consistently reveals that this avenue of exploration leads ultimately to disgust and disaster.

…. Faith is not an irrational leap in the dark; it is the reasonable response to the real…. Faith is no more than honesty before reality. What do I see? Where did it come from? And then, where did I come from? Who or what made me? What makes me now, in this moment, if I do not make myself? Sooner or later, the true intelligence arrives at God, because God is what intelligence derives from.

…. Either God made the world or He did not make the world. There are no other possibilities. If I decide He did not make the world, I have to come up with a better explanation, and this has for millenia taxed more practised minds than mine.”

— John Waters, in his book ‘Beyond Consolation: or How We Became Too Clever For God… and Our Own Good’, 2010

“I acknowledge there is a wholly consistent alternative description of the natural world and our place in it, which can lead one to exactly the actions I may wish to take or encourage others to take, all without any belief in God. Nothing is wrong with that position. It used to be my own, but as I have gotten older, I find I no longer can honestly hold to it.

When I asked my teacher Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz how to respond to this criticism of my position by non-believing friends, he said, “If you know someone who says the Throne of God is empty, and lives with that, then you should cling to that person as a good, strong friend. But be careful: Almost everyone who says that, has already placed something or someone else on that Throne, usually themselves.”

I find myself accepting the God of my ancestors in part because it is my way of discovering meaning and purpose without denying or distorting the data of science, and in part because otherwise I might put some person, some ideology, some dream of completed science in God’s place.”

— Robert Pollack, professor of biological sciences, lecturer in psychiatry, and director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Columbia University (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/religion/faith/statement_04.html as of August 2012)

“The Church’s magisterium is directly concerned with the question of evolution, for it involves the conception of man: Revelation teaches us that he was created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1:27-29). The conciliar constitution Gaudium et Spes has magnificently explained this doctrine, which is pivotal to Christian thought. It recalled that man is “the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake” (No. 24).

In other terms, the human individual cannot be subordinated as a pure means or a pure instrument, either to the species or to society; he has value per se. He is a person. With his intellect and his will, he is capable of forming a relationship of communion, solidarity and self-giving with his peers.

St. Thomas observes that man’s likeness to God resides especially in his speculative intellect, for his relationship with the object of his knowledge resembles God’s relationship with what he has created (Summa Theologica I-II:3:5, ad 1). But even more, man is called to enter into a relationship of knowledge and love with God himself, a relationship which will find its complete fulfillment beyond time, in eternity.

All the depth and grandeur of this vocation are revealed to us in the mystery of the risen Christ (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22). It is by virtue of his spiritual soul that the whole person possesses such a dignity even in his body. Pius XII stressed this essential point: If the human body take its origin from pre-existent living matter, the spiritual soul is immediately created by God (“animas enim a Deo immediate creari catholica fides nos retinere iubei”; “Humani Generis,” 36). Consequently, theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the spirit as emerging from the forces of living matter or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man.”

— Pope John-Paul II in his Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 1996 (also found on the newadvent.org website)

“Science is a very successful way of knowing, but not the only way. We acquire knowledge in many other ways, such as through literature, the arts, philosophical reflection, and religious experience. A scientific view of the world is hopelessly incomplete. Science seeks material explanations for material processes, but it has nothing definitive to say about realities beyond its scope. Once science has had its say, there remain questions of value, purpose, and meaning that are forever beyond science’s domain, but belong in the realm of philosophical reflection and religious experience.”

— Francisco J. Ayala, professor of biological sciences and of philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. His scientific research focuses on population and evolutionary genetics; he also writes about the interface between religion and science. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/religion/faith/statement_01.html as of August 2012)

“Give us deeper reverence for the truth, and such wisdom in the use of knowledge that your kingdom may be advanced and your name glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”

— page 140 of ‘The Book of Common Prayer”, the concluding prayer for Tuesdays’ (under Weekday Intercessions and Thanksgivings) The Incarnate Life of Christ: Revelation and Human Knowledge (printed in Dublin: The Columba Press, by authority of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, 2004)

“Dear friends and physicians, you are called to care for life in its initial stage; remind everyone, by word and deed, that this is sacred — at each phase and at every age — that it is always valuable. And not as a matter of faith — no, no — but of reason, as a matter of science! There is no human life more sacred than another, just as there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another. The credibility of a healthcare system is not measured solely by efficiency, but above all by the attention and love given to the person, whose life is always sacred and inviolable.”

Pope Francis in an address to doctors, September 20 2013, (Address to Participants in the Meeting Organised by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations)

“Pius XI asked those whom he called the Church’s “senatus scientificus” to serve the truth. I again extend this same invitation to you today, certain that we will be able to profit from the fruitfulness of a trustful dialogue between the Church and science…. We know that the truth cannot contradict the truth (Leo XIII).”

— Pope John-Paul II in his Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 1996

“Technology has remedied countless evils which used to harm and limit human beings. How can we not feel gratitude and appreciation for this progress, especially in the fields of medicine, engineering and communications? How could we not acknowledge the work of many scientists and engineers who have provided alternatives to make development sustainable?….

Our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience. Each age tends to have only a meagre awareness of its own limitations. It is possible that we do not grasp the gravity of the challenges now before us.”

— Pope Francis in his June 2015 encyclical on the environment, Praise Be, sections 102 and 105.

Extra:
You may also find interesting all the Addresses by the various Popes to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, all the way back to 1917 (see the links on the left hand side of the page). And/or all the Addresses to the similary-named Academy, the “Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

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