Science, reason and faith: A challenge of our time

Author: José Manuel GIménez Amaya
Published in: bulletin MFC. Nº 103
Date of publication: December 2012

For some years now, the relationship between science and faith has been experiencing a rapprochement that only a short time ago seemed unthinkable. In my opinion, this process - a process in the sense that it is developing slowly and very subtly - has been substantially influenced by at least three factors.

The first is of a religious nature. The impressive prestige of the last two pontificates of the Catholic Church, in which the rationality of faith and the question of the knowledge of truth have been strongly emphasised, is slowly but surely bearing fruit. The intelligent and attractive catechesis by John Paul II and now by Benedict XVI clearly and effectively convey the idea that the Church is not a spiritual "ghetto" that has nothing to do with the development and the scientific achievements of man. After the dramatic experiences against human existence that we have lived through and that we still live through every day, it is now beginning to be understood that the Church is a true and vigorous guarantor in the defence of man in the face of a senseless science that can be turned against the human being himself.

The second factor is the very crisis of experimental sciences that has taken hold in the last years of the last century and the beginning of this one. Here again, it seems that the weight of a twentieth century that has been fraught with impressive and devastating tragedies - the likes of which have never been seen before in the history of humanity - and in which science has played a very important role in its development with all its technological arsenal, has weighed heavily on human life on earth; it has also become clear that science itself is insufficient to provide convincing answers to the great questions of contemporary man, which are, to a large extent, of an ethical and existential nature.

At the same time, the sciences themselves have been curtailed in their approach researcher by the very finiteness of the experimental method. This has been seen especially in those disciplines that have been characteristically primed in recent decades: the biomedical sciences. The big questions about the functioning of the human body, and the development of devastating disorders such as cancer and cardiovascular, neurodegenerative or mental diseases are still in many respects unanswered. One of these more developed biological sciences, neuroscience, has also brought to the fore that the big questions about our brains and their importance in our behaviour are still a long way from receiving enlightening answers.

And, finally, thirdly, the realisation that this reality of the lack of expectations of experimental science is calling for a unity of knowledge and an interdisciplinarity that are seen as truly necessary in order to tackle the most complex problems of human beings and nature. However, these aspects have been largely forgotten in people's training and are now not fully available to anyone who wants to use them. Something has gone wrong, and simply going back to rummage through the past does not fix it. A renewed vision of knowledge and its anthropological location in the human being is needed.

Hence the growing interest in the relationship between science and faith. In this dialogue, the basic question is the knowledge of truth. Faith and science are not opposed to each other but complement each other in order to arrive at the truth. This is one of the core points of the current Pope's message: the conviction that everything that is truly rational is compatible with the faith revealed by God and with the Holy Scriptures. Authors such as, among others, the founder of our group of research Science, Reason and Faith of the University of Navarra (CRYF), Mariano Artigas, have also pointed out with great success how reason in its broadest sense - the Philosophy- is a privileged bridge to masterfully articulate the relationship between science and faith.