March 11, 2005

Letters to the Editor

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Science and faith not mutually exclusive

In response to Lee J. Suttner’s letter in the Feb. 11 issue of The Criterion regarding the teaching of evolution along with creationism/intelligent design in science classrooms, I should like to add a few more thoughts.

It seems to me that Professor Suttner sets up a conflict between evolution and creationism that does not really exist, as I believe that each can be seen as complimentary to the other: the one seeking to explain what the other cannot. While the evidence appears to support the theory of evolution in many life forms, there are aspects of the genesis process that evolution cannot account for and will never be able to do so. The most obvious of these is the “phenomenon” of intelligence and the power to reason. Only man can reason.

Monkeys have remarkable capabilities for adaption, but there is a fundamental difference between this capability and “intelligence.” I don’t think any reasoning person would claim that intelligence and the power to reason could conceivably ever be a product of genetic mutation alone—at least not in the absence of an “intelligent designer!”

Reason tells us that every effect must have a proportionate cause. For intelligence to exist at all, it has to come from something that possesses intelligence—call that “something” what you will. Consequently, as a logical consequence, to deny the existence of an intelligent designer would, by that very fact, require denying along with it the very thing that separates man from the monkey: his intelligence.

Since what we are concerned with here is not science in the abstract, but science as it is taught in the classroom, perhaps we need to ask here, “What is the purpose of education?” Is it merely to provide a list of things to remember or is it about educating the whole person in all aspects of knowledge, not just in the physical sciences?

A person who has learned nothing but facts might be called knowledgeable, but would he be called wise? There is a difference, and it is through that intangible quality we call intelligence that we discern the difference. Could this capability ever be considered to be a result of random ­selection?

The human mind craves knowledge. It wants to know all the whys and wherefores. Of what value is it to know how a thing works, or how it came to be, if one doesn’t know what it is used for and what its purpose is?

It seems to me that much the same could be said of “pure science,” i.e., a ­science that does not, cannot or will not admit even to the existence of an element of reality that one’s reason tells him has to exist if the world, and one’s role in it, is to make sense. Even though it cannot be scientifically demonstrated, man knows, intuitively, that something beyond and above him has to exist.

Although “pure science” is admittedly a separate branch of knowledge, with its own objectives that are not to be confused with the objectives of a philosophy or religion class, still, they need not, nor ought they be, mutually exclusive. Each must respect and recognize the validity of the other, while knowing its own limitations.

Creationism is at the very least a conceivable and rational answer to the question: How did man become the rational being that he is? It is a question that science alone cannot answer and never will be able to answer, so why shouldn’t it be at least discussed in a science classroom? To ignore it or to bypass it is to ignore an essential element in the study of the creature called “man.”

-Brother Benedict Barthel, O.S.B., St. Meinrad


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