1.1.Science and Theology in Dynamic Interaction
and Galileo initiated the challenge of science for Christian theology. The
following centuries gave rise to a mercantile society increasingly informed
in matters of technology and science.This
resulted in a creeping challenge for theology and the churches.The
Dominicans and Jesuits attempted to bridge this growing gulf. Then,
in 1859, Wallace and
The new understanding of biologic and geologic evolution brought important results.It was found that some 600 million years ago, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere of our Earth reached a significant level.This allowed a new energy cycle for living beings.Instead of only “peaceful” photosynthesis, the oxidation of organic materials appeared as a new source of energy for life.Evolving Creation thus required that the new and respectively more developed living beings now would have to search for organic material as a source of energy.They would have to harvest or kill and devour the lower or weaker living beings or those with less fighting skill.In the course of evolution, this resulted in mobility and, ultimately, the development of brains of these new living beings for the search of food, avoidance of danger, and prevalence in mutual rivalry.
Other scientific insights have occurred more recently: geophysics regarding the dynamic and repeatedly catastrophic conditions on Earth; psychology regarding the human soul; relativity theory regarding the connection between matter, energy, time, and space; quantum mechanics regarding the absence of determinism  and a certain interconnectivity on the subatomic level ; molecular biology regarding the origin of life; and neurophysiology and cognitive psychology regarding human consciousness, thought, ingenuity, and emotions.Among the newest insights have been those of astrophysics and space exploration regarding the evolution of the universe in the depth of space and in the course of time.Numerous planets around other stars have already been discovered, and the SETI project  is looking for highly developed civilizations on other celestial bodies.
Scienceis focused on understanding the world we live in – based on the always and everywhere valid laws of nature and the causal connections in the universe (including probabilistic events).But questions remain about the ultimate origin of existence and, among some scientists, questions regarding the appearance of complex events in evolution that had extremely low probability of appearing, especially when considering their timing.More importantly, however, questions remain regarding the exceptional role of humans in the world, of man’s quest for meaning or purpose of existence, and the relation of man to God and God to man.Science has not paid attention to these last questions, and it may never be able to do so.For science, the only place for God is in the original instant of Creation and is doubted by most scientists in any ongoing participation in the evolution of the world, specifically in response to personal prayer or in a final judgment and transcendental afterlife.
Theology is focused on believed divine revelations regarding the character of God, moral laws for mankind, divine judgment, and a possible afterlife.Theology begins to accept the evolutionary theories of the sciences but, more importantly, does not only believe in God’s active participation and personal presence in the world; it actually sees a “scientific” opening for such understanding (see the Intelligent Design Theory).This view is based on the fact that no significant development and turn of destiny had to occur in just that way.Everything resulted from a number of probabilities, some being of the most sublime kind (as discussed by Chaos Theory).In scientific terms, this results from Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and from the spontaneous appearance of patterns in complex, dynamic systems.This may also result from the appearance of certain ideas or “inspirations” in the minds of people, at least the “chosen” ones among them.In all those sublime correlations, one can seethe hand of God, who utilizes nature for His designs.
In general, scientists and theologians have assumed complementary perspectives or have at least found some mutual accommodation.Neither attacks the other any longer.After all, they both live together on this space vehicle Earth in one and the same universe and look together at the same world.Most people actually live under both perspectives.In daily life and at work, scientific-technical perspectives prevail, as well as some Darwinian situations.On weekends, in family life, and among friends, religious and idealistic concepts prevail.
Where shall we go from here?Scientists will be concerned with scientific facts, laws, principles, theories, and questions of origin.Theologians will be concerned with divine creativity and agency, morality, faith, and the doctrine of redemption for a sinful world through Jesus Christ and the mercy of a loving God-Father.For thousands of years, religious teachers have based moral doctrine on the belief that the moral laws were given by the gods or by God, that there is a personal responsibility of the individual, and that a divine judgment after death will bring corresponding reward or punishment in an eternal afterlife (at least for the souls).
John Paul II discussed this retreat of theology in the encyclical “Fides
et Ratio” and arrived at this conclusion:“Deprived
of reason, faith has stressed feeling and experience, and so runs the risk
of no longer being a universal proposition” (
Philosophy, in its best expression, is professionally trained and disciplined thought, analyzing concepts and progressing from analyzed and accepted premises to more advanced knowledge and truth.Between believed religiosity and the reality of the natural sciences, philosophy increasingly became marginalized and turned toward unusual niches of thought.There, philosophy kept those agitated who find their foundation neither in religion nor in the sciences.Lately, the Post-Modernism school of philosophy has propagated “deconstructionism”, which questions everything – except itself.
Philosophy was the old protagonist of religion, but then became integrated in Catholic teaching through the Scholastic thinkers, until modern approaches to philosophical thought were developed.With the encyclical, “Fides et Ratio“, the Catholic Church attempts to reacquire the support of philosophy.That encyclical also postulates that the natural sciences are nothing but an accumulation of detailed knowledge and the attempt to transform the world technologically.This overlooks the fact that from time to time science derives basic new principles and perspectives of our existence in this world from that quantity of detailed observations.These newly found principles or perspectives should provide the starting point for new philosophical speculation and could give cause for correction to traditionally accepted religious thought.
The new perspectives of science mainly included the understanding of natural evolution.But by now, they also include the knowledge of numerous large-scale biological extinctions in geological time, the expectation ofmore intelligent life somewhere else in the universe, and the recognition of the temporal finiteness of all cosmic structures, including our own solar system.The significance of these and other insights for religious thought will be discussed in this essay.