Complete the Scientific Revolution with a Theology of Science

Complete the Scientific Revolution with a Theology of Science

Stacy Trasancos

In Fr. Stanley Jaki’s thesis that science was born of Christianity, we talked aout the impetus theory from Fr. Jean Buridan leading the way to Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. That period is usually taken as the Scientific Revolution, a change from looking at nature qualitatively to starting to quantify the motion of objects in nature. And that was seen as an explosion, as the rise of modern science. As we’ve seen, there was a whole progression to that point based on a Catholic world view of Creation.

We call this period the Scientific Revolution, and I argue that we still live in the Scientific Revolution, that the advancement of scientific knowledge in the last couple hundred years is unparalleled in any other time in history and that we are still learning more about how to manipulate nature, how to improve our lives by learning how to use atoms and build molecules to make new materials for cell phones, communications. We’re living it right now. What I want to propose by completing the Scientific Revolution is that the work of scholars today and in the future is to take all of this tremendous knowledge that we’ve gained with modern science and bring it back to a unity with philosophy and theology, not like it was in the Middle Ages, but a new unity between philosophy, theology, and science in a more mature way.

If science was born of Christianity, and it grew up, and it’s now like an adolescent, it’s time to complete the Scientific Revolution by bringing modern, grown up science, back to a unity with philosophy and theology.

So, the Theology of Science, then, refers to the study of what God has revealed about Himself and about us in Creation. That is taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (68, 279-301). The Theology of Science is about understanding science in its proper context as the study of the handiwork of God, for all branches especially physics, chemistry, and biology. Because ultimately we must point beyond the particles that make up science, because our Catholic faith begins and ends with miracles. The Church herself is both at home in this world but also a precursor of the world to come.

Likewise, we human persons stand out beyond nature. I am most fond of this scripture passage—one that my mentor Fr. Jaki often cited—of Christ’s words when he calls the multitude together with his disciples and asks them: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mk 8:36). Science is only part of the journey. Science may point us to heaven, but science is not our destiny. Science does not have all the answers.

I invite you to be part of this discussion of the Theology of Science where we remember our heritage that science was born of a Christian world view, or looking at nature as Creation, as the handiwork of God, and that science is to study that handiwork. No more are we worried about the conflict myth, about science and theology being in conflict. We see science (to repeat) as the study of the handiwork of God, and we develop a Theology of Science, a Theology of Creation, whereby we learn what we can from science to better understand ourselves, our home, and our place in the world, and we use what we know from Divine Revelation to shed light on scientific enterprise.