Our Common Rationality: Sinking our roots deeper through dialogue

I had the honour of sharing an evening of conversation with students and community members at the Newman Centre on the topic of living in harmony with nature and technology. This was part of the Genesis: Faith and Science Forum, which meets every two weeks on Monday nights at Newman to promote dialogue between faith and science. Dialogue comes from the Ancient Greek διάλογος (“conversation”), from διά (diá, “through, inter”) and λόγος (“speech, discourse”). We centered the dialogue around integral human ecology, which has been doctrinally developed in Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’, as well as Benedict XVI’s social encyclical Caritas in Veritate and other magisterial teaching. I wanted to capture how we can be at home in the world with a mature scientific outlook, and settled on the title “Building a Nest in the Tree of Life”.

The main topic we explored is how evolutionary theory is compatible with the Gospel of Creation, which Francis proclaims in his encyclical on the “Care for Our Common Home” (Cf. LS 62-100). Francis reminds us to draw from every well spring available to generate creative solutions of how to live in harmony with creation, “If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it. (LS 63)”. In what follows below, I would like to share what inspired me to present these ideas, offer my hopes for the future of the Genesis Forum, and offer a reading list for further enrichment. The Second Vatican Council offers criteria for the “Rightful Autonomy of Earthly Affairs” in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws. These, as the methods proper to every science and technique must be respected. Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God [Cf. First Vatican Council, Dei Filius]. The humble and persevering investigators of the secrets of nature are being led, as it were, by the hand of God, even unawares, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.

Science enriches faith when it puts us more into contact with reality, which has come from the loving hands of our Father God. God creates freely out of love for the purpose of manifesting his glory, and we and all of creation sing his praise through our created dignity, goodness, beauty, unity and truth. Faith sheds light on reality, and helps the believer move forward in their research amid complexity and possible confusion from worldviews incompatible with the Gospel that are intertwined with existing knowledge. The encyclical Lumen Fidei further explains how science benefits from faith, which Laudato si’ quotes in its section on “Religions in dialogue with science”. Faith encourages the scientist to remain constantly open to reality in all its inexhaustible richness. Faith awakens the critical sense by preventing research from being satisfied with its own formulae and helps it to realize that nature is always greater. By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.

Mariano Artigas (1938–2006), was a spanish scientist, philosopher and theologian. He studied physical sciences and philosophy in Barcelona and Rome and devoted his professional career to building bridges between science and religion. He contributed to developing a language where both science and religion can offer their contributions in the language suited to them. His work was in deep continuity with Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics, and enriched this understanding of being with insights from 20th century physics. His work is continued by the Science, Reason and Faith group at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. Fr. Mariano Artigas was a priest of Opus Dei, whose founder taught ordinary Catholics how to live their faith in the day-to-day. Everyday life is the true setting for your lives as Christians. Your daily encounter with Christ takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind.

I believe the future of the Genesis Forum lies in building bridges between science and religion. In the context of creation theology, Santiago Sainz wrote: In reality, a sound epistemology not only distinguishes between the spheres proper to the natural sciences and faith respectively, but also acknowledges within philosophy a certain principle of mediation, since the sciences, with their own methods and objectives, do not cover the whole sphere of human reason; and faith, which refers to the same world as science, needs philosophical categories in order to formulate its meaning and enter into dialogue with human rationality.

What better time to build bridges then while studying science at university? Each conversation with classmates provides opportunities for dialogue: in class, completing assignments and studying for exams together. Through dialogue enlightened by faith we can transform data into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom. By dialoguing with those around us, we prevent a confused stagnation from setting in, and are primed to see the deep interconnections in creation that mirror the profound interconnected interiority of the Triune God (Cf. LS 238-240).

I believe the unique offering of the Genesis Forum is in promoting this community of dialogue. We live in a world-in-motion, and many of us long to sink our roots deeper, to really feel at home in the world, to become socially invested and belong. Dialogue flourishes under long term relationships such as family, old friends, professional mentors, family doctors, personal trainers and spiritual guides. In these long-term relationships people are deeply known and appreciated. My hope for the Genesis Forum is that the participants themselves will learn through teaching. We can take turns offering our expertise and become confident through passing the lessons we have learned to those around us. I look forward to seeing examples of how everyone is enlightening their work with the light of faith and the warmth of Christ’s love in the upcoming year.

Geoffrey Woollard (seen in the centre of the photo above with attendees at the Genesis: Faith and Science forum at Newman Centre) studied biophysics (BSc) and structural biology (MSc) at UBC. He moved to Toronto to work in biotechnology.


Full list for further reading related to this article: 

Benedict Ashley and John Deely, How Science Enriches Theology, St. Augustine’s Press (2012), 248 pages • Mariano Artigas, The Mind of the Universe: Understanding Science and Religion, Templeton Foundation Press (2001), 384 pages • Knowing Things for Sure: Science and Truth, UPA (2006), 290 pages • Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), Libreria Editrice Vaticana (2009), 106 pages • Josemaría Escrivá, In Love with the Church: Passionately Loving the World, Scepter Publishers (2007), 13 pages • Francis, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), Libreria Editrice Vaticana (2013), 68 pages • Why the only future worth building includes everyone, TED2017 (2017), 18 min • Romano Guardini, The Lord: Part Two, V, The “Kindness of God”, Gateway Editions (2016), 12 pgs • John Paul II, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), Libreria Editrice Vaticana (1998), 154 pages • Jose Morales, Creation Theology, Publisher: Four Courts Press Ltd (2000), 261 pages • Anthony Rizzi, The Science Before Science, Authorhouse (2004), 390 pages • Santiago Sanz, Summaries of Catholic Teaching: Creation, opusdei.ca, http://multimedia.opusdei.org/pdf/en/36- creation.pdf, accessed 8 Dec 2017, 9 pages



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