Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Talking on science and religion at the local grammar school

Nearly two years ago, I blogged about a Visit to Chis 'n Sid, the popular nickname for our local non-denominational school, Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar. For non-UK readers, I should explain that a "grammar school" in the UK is a school where pupils are selected by academic ability.

Today, I was at the school again, at the invitation of one of the senior pupils who is a parishioner at Blackfen. The subject was the same: "Science and Religion", and I received a warm welcome at the voluntary lunchtime "Christian Union" meeting. The turnout was very impressive - and included at least half a dozen members of staff, mostly from the science department. The school includes pupils of all religions and none, so I had no idea what the makeup of the audience would be. My young parishioner made the wise decision of advertising the talk without specifying that it was organised by the Christian Union, so that people did not have to wonder whether they had to be Christians to attend.

Before the talk, a couple of the younger pupils were asking each other "Are you for science or are you for religion?" so that gave me a good opening to say that as a Christian, I was for both. I tried to get across, in the fairly brief time available, that the wisdom of God is shown both in creation and in revelation and that the study of science leads us to God.

The intelligent and courteous questions from pupils and staff left me with a very good impression of the school and I was sorry not to have had longer to continue the discussion. From the discussions, it was evident that a number of people there were sincere Christians, perhaps of a more evangelical background. I think there is a real concern among many that the science of material evolution is a danger to the Christian faith. My own thesis, in line with the Faith Movement, (and see especially the pamphlets on Science and Religion) is that the evidence for evolution in the material universe is compelling, and presents no danger to the faith, provided of course, that we do not include the spiritual soul as something "evolved". (Since it is not material, the soul cannot be part of such a material process but is directly created at the moment of conception, as the Church teaches.)

As Catholics we have every reason to be positive about the natural sciences since the enormous progress in science of the last few centuries arose out of the intellectual ferment of the high middle ages, particularly relying on the Christian philosophical acceptance that God acts through secondary causes; and therefore it is a rational and proper thing to study the causes of things in the material world.

A further development today, I think, is that pessimism about the ability of the human mind to know the truth, and the post-modern reduction of science to just another of the myths we live by, are leading to the erosion of the scientific endeavour. It might seem ironic to suggest that Christians will be at the forefront of defending the natural sciences - but if the sciences are founded ultimately on the Christian philosophical view of the world, we should not find it surprising that eventually Christians might be the last defenders of the natural sciences.

One day in the future, hacking a path through the jungle of subjectivism, political correctness and Counterknowledge, we could find an astonishing ally. "Professor Dawkins, I presume?"
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