Working with Science - The Catholic Church has shown a willingness to embrace science, including the use of solar panels on the Vatican to conserve energy. Tom Sheridan writes that science plays a valuable part in the Church today. CNS photo
Working with Science - The Catholic Church has shown a willingness to embrace science, including the use of solar panels on the Vatican to conserve energy. Tom Sheridan writes that science plays a valuable part in the Church today. CNS photo

As jokes about scientists and God go, this one's pretty funny.

Seems a bunch of scientists figured they were better than God. "We're smart enough that we don't need you anymore," they told him. "We can even clone humans." So God challenged them to a man-making contest. "Just like I did in the old days," he said.

"Sure," said the chief scientist, bending down to grab a handful of dirt.

"No, no!" said God. "You go get your own dirt!"

Like so much humor, it's a joke with a bite of reality. After all, science and religion don't have a history of getting along.

Just ask Galileo Galilei.

Everyone knows what happened to Galileo, the genius who vainly tried to convince the church its preaching about the earth being the center of the universe was wrong. He was accused of heresy and ended his days under house arrest. Yes, the incompatibility between science and faith is well-known.

Or is it?

Despite its long and rancorous relationship with science, the Catholic Church today views science more supportively. Consider:

The Church has long maintained its own astronomical observatory at Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills south of Rome and has a second state-of-the-art facility in Arizona. In September, a smiling Pope Benedict XVI was photographed holding a Martian meteorite from the outer space the Church once disparaged.

The miracle - and the mystery - of creation, long viewed solely through the lens of Scripture, is now understood better from a scientific perspective, but one in which the presence of God is never far away.

Many fundamentalist Christians cast Charles Darwin, the "father of evolution," as a heretic.

Presenting creation and evolution as if they are mutually exclusive is absurd, Pope Benedict told Italian priests and deacons in 2007, believing that even evolution can demonstrate insights into the miracles of God. "There are so many scientific proofs in favor of evolution, which appears to be a reality we can see," he said.

Nor is Pope Benedict alone. Popes Pius XII and John Paul II also accepted the role of biological evolution. In a 1950 encyclical Pope Pius wrote that there is no conflict between evolution and faith, as long as there are certain firm points of faith where no concession can be made.

And in 1996 Pope John Paul honored Darwin's work, telling the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that "new knowledge leads to recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis."

Want more evidence that science and faith can coexist?

The Vatican has become a leader in using scientific advances to harness environmentally friendly energy to help combat global climate change. Solar panels dot Vatican rooftops, providing power.

The Church also is embracing the science of communication, encouraging those in the electronic media to teach, evangelize and proclaim the Gospel.

But the faith/science linkage is not absolute.

While accepting scientific advances, Pope Benedict has also warned that science and technology must not be turned into gods that exploit humankind. In 2007, the pope said science and technology "invite man to a deeper awareness of the weighty responsibilities involved in their application." Science must be guided by "robust and firm ethical standards," especially involving the dignity of life, he added.

Perhaps the best description of the true connection between faith and science comes not from a pope or theologian, but from Albert Einstein, who said: "Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind."

And that's no joke.

      Click here to read Liz Quirin's Viewpoint.

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