Faith vs. science: they're not mutually exclusive

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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Television critics touted the popular 1990s sitcom "Seinfeld" as a "show about nothing."

The program used that description often in its nine-year run and even based an episode on Jerry Seinfeld, playing himself, and George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, pitching "a show about nothing" to NBC executives.

But even Jerry and George quibbled about the meaning of "nothing."

"Even nothing is something," Jerry assures the execs, later adding to George's description of an episode about going to work, "Well, uh, maybe something happens on the way to work."

"No, no, no. Nothing happens," George retorts.

"Well, something happens," Jerry responds, annoyed.

And back and forth they went in a modern-day version of Abbott and Costello.

Nothing. Something.

These two words refer to more than just an iconic sitcom with secular themes and indifferent characters. These words have much deeper significance, residing at the very center of our being.

Nothing. Something. With God smack dab in the middle.

"One thing we know about true nothing is that it can do nothing because it is nothing," said Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer in a recent presentation at Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury. "So, we don't want nothing to be doing something, like generating a universe, because the only thing it can do is nothing."

That's where our good God comes in.

"There may well have to be a transcendent cause, not only outside of our universe but outside of physical reality itself with its physical time and physical space, to move nothing to something," Father Spitzer said. "Something else must have done it."

And that something else?

"I would call it a creator," he said, adding, "It sounds like God to me."

Fake debate

Father Spitzer, a former president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., founded and directs the Magis Center, a foundation devoted to, as its website states, "Intellectual Evangelization through Cutting-Edge Research." The center is based in Irvine, Calif.

The Magis Center produces curricula for high schools through university physics classes, as well as for adult education. Father Spitzer has authored five books pertaining to faith-based science, including "New Proofs for the Existence of God" and "Evidence for God from Contemporary Physics and Philosophy." He also has produced several DVDs, including "From Nothing to Cosmos," "Science, God and Creation" and "The Reason Series" for high school students. He's also given countless presentations. Father Spitzer earned a masters degree in philosophy from St. Louis University in 1978 among his advanced degrees.

His message is twofold:

1) God created the universe out of nothing -- i.e. nothing to something.

2) Faith and science are related, as opposed to being mutually exclusive as the secular media and atheists such as Richard Dawkins would have us believe.

As such, Father Spitzer calls faith vs. science a "fake debate."

"You never should pit the creation of the universe against evolution because they're compatible with each other," he said before his presentation. "You can have a full-blown creation out of nothing ... and the universe completely fined-tuned for life, then the evolution of life emerges from that in some gradual, orderly fashion."

In fact, St. John Paul II, Pope Pius XII and Pope Emeritus Benedict have written that this is so.

"John Paul II wrote to the papal academy of sciences and basically said, 'Let's put this to rest for Catholics; you can adhere to an evolutionary theory -- and evolutionary theory seems to be the most tenable explanation -- so that's pretty much the end of it,'" Father Spitzer said. "With the publication of Humani Generis (On Human Origin), Pope Piux XII said we can believe in evolutionary theory so long as science supports it and so long as we don't deny that we have a unique transcendent soul capable of surviving physical death.

"And Pope Benedict wrote, 'This is how you're supposed to read Genesis.' You're not supposed to give it a literalistic interpretation."

Wrong message

Literalistic interpretation, such as creationism, is the antithesis of organizations such as the Magis Center and the archdiocesan Institute of Theological Encounter With Science Technology (ITEST). ITEST sponsored Father Spitzer on his recent visit, which included a stop at St. Louis University High School to speak to students there. ITEST is nearing its 50th anniversary, formed in 1966 and incorporated in 1968.

It should be noted that creationism is different than the creation of which Father Spitzer speaks. The theology of creationism is that the heavens and earth, and all life, including Adam and Eve, were created in a six-day span about 6,000 years ago before a seventh-day breather. Creation refers to the creation of the universe, which preceded and led to evolution.

In his presentation at tha Cardinal Rigali Center, Father Spitzer admonished the audience to avoid creationism at all costs.

"Whatever we do, please don't do things that make us the object of ridicule in public," he said. "Please don't say the universe is 6,000 years old, and please don't deny the principle of evolution. It causes fury and gets people to think we're really stupid. 'Do they really believe this?'

"We don't want to make ourselves a laughing stock when there is so much evidence for evolution -- fossil evidence, chemical evidence, geographical evidence. To go up against this ... please, this is the kind of help we do not need."

It's bad enough that modern culture does this by pitting faith vs. science.

"Our kids are going into one classroom, and they're coming out and getting another message," Father Spitzer said. "They're getting totally confused and it's totally unnecessary."

Blinded me with science

In his presentation, Father Spitzer spelled out the reasons faith and science go hand in hand, digging into various explanations for the creation of the universe, which occurred roughly 13.8 billion years ago. Multiverses, bouncing universes, static-egg universe.

"Every last one of them requires a beginning," he said. That is, nothing became something.

He also described things such as recessional and relative velocities, inflationary and space-time geometry, extragallatic nebula, tachyon fields and other multisylabic words. All of it can make a lay person's head spin, bringing to mind a lyric from Elton John's 1970s hit "Rocketman." All this science, I don't understand.

Father Spitzer peppered his presentation with questions: Are you confused yet? Still hanging in there? Are you with me? Are you still with me? Everybody all right? Sort of hanging in there?

His two main points: the Big Bang, the theory developed by Belgian priest Father Georges Lemaître, started the universe on its merry way 13.8 billion years ago; and the Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin proof of 2003 shows the universe to be expanding.

And a creator had to be behind it because even the smallest variant of the tiniest constant would have made life a non-starter. "Very bad for life forms," Spitzer said several times in his presentation, describing the slim odds of the universe and life as we know it developing by chance as "outlandish."

How outlandish?

"As small as the odds of a monkey typing the works of Shakespeare by random taping of the keys in a single try," he said, laughing.

"To make a long story short," he said in summation, "rumors of God's early demise have been greatly exaggerated."

Time magazine once asked, "Is God dead?"

"Alas, alas, I think not," Father Spitzer said. "In fact, I think the scientific evidence is seeming to show the contrary."

Why did God create?

"I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).

Yes, God loved us before He even created us.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that we believe that God created the world according to His wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance. We believe that it proceeds from God's free will; He wanted to make His creatures share in His being, wisdom and goodness (Catechism 295).

Creation is a free act of God who creates out of love and gift. The freedom of God is seen as He creates "out of nothing" (Catechism 296).

St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things "not to increase His glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it," for God has no other reason for creating than His love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened His hand" (Catechism 293).

The revelation of creation is inseparable from the revelation and forging of the covenant of the one God with His People. Creation is revealed as the first step toward this covenant, the first and universal witness to God's all-powerful love (Catechism 288).

God's eternal plan is that all persons share in divine communion — for God, after all, is a Trinity of communion and desires to share this life with humanity. The beginning of Ephesians explains the relationship of the divine Word to creation. "For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will" (Eph 1, 4-5). The Incarnation was intended even before creation itself. Humankind was created in view of becoming children of God in the Son through the Holy Spirit. Thus, from the beginning, God's purpose of creation is participation in God's life. What goes forth from God is designed to return to God. 

Resources

Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology

www.faithscience.org

Catholic Truth Society

www.ctsbooks.org

Magis Center

www.magiscenter.com 

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