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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Stephen Barr: Truth of Science and Revelation
University of Delaware Professor Stephen Barr (bio) has an article in this month's issue of Columbia magazine, published by the Knights of Columbus, that deals with the relationship between science and religion. (It's not available online.) To summarize, he points out that there is no conflict between evolution and religion: science tells us how the human body developed (i.e., how God chose to have it develop) and religion tells us the origin of the soul. The Catholic Church has long supported the theory of evolution. (One of our priests, Gregor Mendel, is the father of genetics, as Barr reminds us in a separate interview.) He points out that evolution in no way denies the dignity of men:
...[O]ur dignity does not come from our physical origins. In fact, the Bible reminds us over and over that "we are dust." Rather, our dignity comes from being made "in the image of God," having a spiritual nature that in some way resembles his own.
Barr continues on to discuss intelligent design, saying:
The fact is, it's far from proven that natural selection is enough to account for the complexity of living things. If some biologists were more humble and textbooks more honest, they would simply admit this.

The intelligent design movement goes even further, however. Proponents of intelligent design believe that Darwinism cannot explain life's complexity, and that therefore one can prove scientifically that there is an "intelligent designer" of living things.

Must Catholics agree with them? Well, yes and no. Obviously, God is infinitely intelligent and he designed the world and all it contains. In that sense, all Catholics believe in "intelligent design." However, believing God designed the world doesn't mean you have to reject Darwinism or any other natural scientific explanation, whether in biology, chemistry, physics, geology or astronomy.
We have to remember that all scientific explanations are based on the idea that the universe is an orderly place where things follow certain rules, which we call the "laws of nature." Those laws are God's laws - Psalm 148 tells us that God "gave laws to heaven and earth."
Properly understood, there

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