Vatican moves slowly but surely on embrace with science

When I started teaching in 1996, I was hired by Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, to teach a course on science and religion. With degrees in both areas, I felt well prepared; but I soon learned that the amount of literature on the relationship between these two topics had swelled enormously, writes Ilia Delio in America magazine.

The growth rate of scientific progress in our time is astounding. Rapid advances in technology make it difficult to keep abreast of progress in such areas as genetics, robotics, molecular biology and neuroscience.

Discoveries in cosmology, astronomy and physics continue to disclose a universe that is ancient, dynamic, interconnected and expanding.

As technology advances at an exponential rate, it drives other areas of modern life to accelerate exponentially as well. The rapidity of technological change, writes the philosopher Nick Bostrom, suggests that continued innovation will have an even larger impact on humanity in future decades.

With these changes come new moral and religious questions, and the Catholic Church needs theologians willing to address them. Unfortunately, few Catholic universities have devoted resources to educating theologians willing to engage with the scientific world. This is a loss for both academic disciplines.

If the secular, scientific culture behaves like a rabbit, leaping across vast areas of discovery and invention, the Catholic Church too often behaves like a turtle, crawling up from behind, hesitant to accept new scientific discoveries.

The slow pace of the church’s embrace of science is not because of a hesitant pope. Benedict XVI has worked to connect the two disciplines, establishing within the Vatican, under the Pontifical Council of Culture, a department dedicated to dialogue between science and theology.

 The pope has issued various statements on the sciences and their impact on humanity and the earth and has expressed to Catholic youth his support of new computer technologies, when used correctly, to connect with others.

Overall, though, many theologians are reluctant to engage developments in science. It does not help that within the universities theology has been isolated from the sciences.

FULL STORY Faith and the cosmos (America)