Examining links between science and Catholicism

Millie Ronkainen

A Walk in the Life

I’ve had people ask me if it’s difficult to be a Catholic and a biology major several times since I started college. I suppose they ask this because of the assumed discord between Catholicism and science. “Catholics don’t believe in evolution or global warming, right? Is it weird when your professors talk about that stuff in class?”

Not really, because those are not statements representative of Catholic teaching.

Let’s look at evolution. It is important to understand that creation, according to Genesis, should not be entirely discredited. However, because God is not a human being, time does not pass for him the way it passes for us. A millennium to us could be an instant for God. Therefore, when the Bible states creation occurred in six days, followed by a day of rest, we have no authority to restrict that time frame to a literal human time frame of six days.

Think about it this way: humans were not even present until the sixth day–why should we subdivide creation into “days” according to human standards? However, Catholics do believe the Bible is divinely inspired. Therefore, we know this time frame comes from God and has significance, just likely not a literal one.

Also, if we are to acknowledge God as all-powerful, who are humans to say he could not choose the moment to attach a soul to a being, making it distinct from an animal? It is possible we were created through evolution from lower animals. Catholics just recognize God chose a specific moment to give us a free choice and differentiate us from animals by attaching a soul to our bodies.

Overall, Catholics understand God to be the driving force behind evolution and that he uses evolution to create what pleases him. Catholics do not believe that evolution is random and by chance, but that God is purposefully using it as a creative tool.

Now for global warming and climate change: Pope Francis wrote an encyclical, or official church document, about the dangers of climate change, over-industrialization and consumerism. He cites scientific evidence supporting global warming and warns humanity of our shared responsibility in the care of the planet.

He speaks of consumerism in regards to its effect on our culture by highlighting its impact on the people who are now living in toxic dumps, sorting through our discarded trash for their livelihood. Pope Francis also points out its effect on our indifference towards protecting our resources.

Pope Francis uses a section of his encyclical, named “Laudato Si,” to commission a greater sense of responsibility from humanity. He encourages us to find alternative energy sources, avoid buying excessively and wasting what we purchase, use water responsibly and recycle what we can.

Pope Francis pleads with humanity to stop destroying ecosystems for our own interests. Essentially, in this encyclical, the highest human authority in the Catholic church is agreeing with the scientific evidence for global warming and calling us to a greater responsibility in taking care of our planet through environmental awareness and preservation.

Contrary to popular belief, Catholicism and science, especially biology, are extremely compatible. I think being Catholic has given me a sense of appreciation and awe at the beauty of creation, especially through the process of evolution.

Being Catholic has also convicted me to be environmentally conscience, not just out of respect for ecological creation but also for the sake of humanity,  which will inherit the earth we leave behind.