Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 15, 2008
Science and religion have co-existed throughout the ages
By AUSTIN MARDON
Religion is not set within a vacuum, but exists within its time as far as world views and technology.
In the past, many men and women of science were persons of faith and in the Western world were even clergy. Modern genetics is based on the pea experiments that were done by Gregor Mendel, a member of the clergy. Before him, we did not have a modern understanding of how genetics worked in a systematic way. He lived in Europe (France in the 19th century).
St. Albert the Great, the teacher and defender of Thomas Aquinas, was a well-known scholar and in the modern context could easily be seen as not just a scholar but also a scientist.
Galileo never gave up his faith in being a Christian or a Roman Catholic all through his trials for preaching a heliocentric - sun-centred solar system.
Modern universities in Europe and some in North America started out as colleges of higher learning with a large religious element if not a sole source. Science is an attempt to understand the world using probability and our minds. This comes out of a Christian desire to understand the world as created by God.
Ancient science and scholarship was preserved in the West by monasteries for a thousand years until the advent of the Renaissance in the 15th century. Science is a tool - as is technology - that can be used for good or for evil.
Modern scientists and theologians such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin showed even in the modern world these two worlds can exist together and complement each other.
Our personal ongoing health is dependent on modern medicine. Without whose advances due to science, many of us would be sick or dead.
Finally ironically both ethical science and Christianity both aspire to improve the human condition. It is sad that they can be so at odds even centuries after the trial of Galileo.
(Austin Mardon recently received the Order of Canada for humanitarian works. He has authored a series of books and 169 scholarly peer reviewed communications, including pieces in Science and Nature.)
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