Recently I read in our local paper that yet again the teaching of evolution is a contentious issue with the State Board of Education. Oh my!
These challenges to the teaching of evolution in Texas schools do not result from good science but from bad religion. Science deals with questions of how. Religion deals with questions of why. Science cannot answer the question of why there is such a magnificent creation, nor why we are here and what is the meaning and purpose of our existence. Similarly, Religion does not answer how all this wonderful creation works, nor the many complicated and wonderful steps by which it all came to be. You would not ask questions about the American Revolution in math class, and you would not ask what 3 + 3 equals in history class. Each discipline asks different questions. Similarly, science and religion ask different kinds of questions about reality. To deny the well-founded science of evolution is to confuse the creator with the means of creation. They are not the same.
Catholics know this. In the Vatican Council II document Lumen Gentium, paragraph 36, we read:
“If by the autonomy of earthly affairs is meant the gradual discovery, exploitation, and ordering of the laws and values of matter and society, then the demand for autonomy” [from religion] “is perfectly in order. …. We cannot but deplore certain attitudes (not unknown among Christians) deriving from a shortsighted view of the rightful autonomy of science; they have occasioned conflict and controversy and have misled many into opposing faith and science.”
So, for Catholics, science and religion are not opposed. True religion fosters good science. Therefore, the teaching of evolution in our schools and universities is not only allowed, but indeed required. The more we find out how creation works, its marvelous complexity and beauty, the more we are lead to awe and a profound sense of gratitude to the Creator. Genuine science can be a pathway to wonder, and then on to faith.
Do not be afraid of the teaching of scientific evolution. But do be afraid of any kind of closure of mind to wonders and beauty of creation, including the remarkable story of evolution.