As Catholics we know how the world was started. God created us, and he created everything on Earth. That is visible in the complexities of every living thing. If the exact tilt of the Earth’s axis was off by even a foot, none of this would be possible. If we were any nearer or any further from the sun, none of this would be possible.
Everything in Earth is interconnected and works in harmony. This is God’s handiwork shining through. The idea that it could be random is utter nonsense. Many of our peers will point to the Big Bang and say, “That is how the universe started, not God.” Let’s explore this a little deeper by learning about the first man to present a theory on the Big Bang. I also forgot to mention, he was a devout Catholic Priest.
Georges Lemaître was a Belgian national born in 1894. He studied engineering at a Catholic University, but had to stop his education to serve in World War I. Coming out of the Great War he saw horrific things during trench warfare that led him to want to be a priest.
While a priest he continued his studies and received a masters degree from Cambridge, and a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These degrees were in Physics and Astronomy. Hard to say the church is against all science when they pay for one of their priests to get advanced degrees in the hard sciences.
Albert Einstein is a household name, and everyone knows that he created the Theory of Relativity, but we do not always know what that means. His Theory of Relativity was was Georges Lemaître spent most of his time researching and he discovered something interesting. Einstein’s calculations proved that the Universe was actually expanding, not static with no end.
This starts to get a little complex, so forgive me for not going too far into the details. To get to the heart of it Lemaître was saying that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity disproved his theory of the Universe being static. Lemaître said that everything started from one point in the Universe, where all matter was concentrated. Then a chain reaction occurred which made that matter explode out, creating the Universe.
The Church has an interesting view on Faith (religion) and Reason (science). The Church believes that Faith without Reason leads to superstition, and Reason without Faith leads to relativism. Both are inherently wrong.
This is in stark contrast to the common societal view that the Catholic Church is against science and reason. In fact, many of our Popes have been supporters of scientific theory that the average Catholic does not accept.
The first Pope to approve the Big Bang was Pope Pius XII, but he is not alone. St. John Paul II was in favor of the Big Bang Theory, and Pope Francis is also a supporter of the theory. The Catholic view of this theory was overall very positive. While the Church did not accept Einstein’s view of the Universe being static and infinite with no end or beginning, because Faith tells us that God did create the world out of nothing. They were very receptive to Lemaître’s theory that the Universe started in one location and exploded in a ball of light to fill the Universe. The Church even knows who that original ball of matter was created by!
This quote by Pope Pius XII, the Pope During Lemaître’s time, explains it well, “It would seem that present-day science, with one sweep back across the centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to the august instant of the primordial Fiat Lux (Let there be light).”
Basically, Pope Pius XII was saying that this scientific theory did not disprove the Catholic view of creation, but rather proved it because it explained HOW God created the world. None of these Pope’s were speaking ex-cathedra, or in official capacity as to change doctrine, but they do have the support of the Catechism.
Section 283 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this well,
“The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers. With Solomon they can say: "It is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements. . . for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.”
And section 159,
Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth. Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.”
What these two sections of the Catechism are saying is that true scientific discovery and theory cannot be contrary to the truth of the Catholic Church, as long as the means to achieve that discovery are moral and just. The debate on science or religion is not a debate, science can only expand our Faith by showing us the means that God has used to create us and the rest of the world.
That is a beautiful thing.
Next time you hear someone saying that science and faith cannot coexist, point them to Georges Lemaître, Saint John Paul II, and the Catechism.
P.S. The picture above is of the Library at the Catholic University of Leuven, where Fr. Lemaître started his studies before the war, and then became a lecturer after his PhD.