By Fr. George Adimike
Notwithstanding that faith and science are not identical twins, they are siblings born out of love of God and should not be in rivalry. Though some people misconstrue their rivalry to mean enmity, religion chimes with science as fruits of God’s creative wisdom for making sense of our existence. God entrusted His universal estate to man, and consequently, religion and science originated from man’s acknowledgement of such a gift and his focus on its consequent responsibility. Man’s recognition of his inadequacy and awareness of his dignity makes him to surrender to his maker and to invest himself in the task of universal entrepreneurship from which religion and science originated.
Religion and science are, therefore, two different ways of living our lives as creatures of God in appreciation of our poverty and endowment. They are all valid modes of relational and rational expressions of human existence. In religion, man stands in order to understand while in science, he understands to stand. Religion answers the question of ‘why’ and science answers the question of ‘how’. Faith responds to purpose and science responds to procedure, and each is unique and great in its sphere. Whenever any of them fails to respect the boundary and ventures into the arena of the other, it violates the legitimate autonomy of each and arrogates to itself an authority it lacks. Thus, it misleads people.
Through religion, man acknowledges his littleness and appreciates that his nobility comes only from God. Thus, man binds himself together with God and also with his fellow humans as a way of making meaning of his life. No one, therefore, practises religion alone. This and this alone gives sense to Emile Durkheim’s argument that religion is a sociological reality. Similarly, through science, man looks at the world and recognises the inner power he possesses to confront it. Through science, he sees the world as a challenge, and the charge to take dominion over creation propels him to engage it beyond stewardship to entrepreneurship. He seeks to bring creation under his control, and as such, to explore it to his benefits. These two spheres, namely religion and science, are legitimate means to respond to our vocation and should inform and enrich each other.
Even though created in the image and after the likeness of God, and in the words of the Psalmist, men are ‘gods’ (cf Gen. 1:27; Psalm 82:6; Psalm 8:5), he is still mortal and counts for nothing (cf Psalm 8: 4; Dan 4:35). In the complexity of human existence, religion reminds science of the limitations of man for which he needs God, the meaning of existence and raison d’être of things. It furnishes science with purpose and guides it as a soul. In contrast, science is enamoured with man’s lordship over creation that affords him so many possibilities. Thus, science reminds religion that man has the key to progress, and therefore cannot just possibly be passive in anticipation of God’s provision. Science, as a gentle reminder even if, every so often, an aggressive one that God requires man to build the world, furnishes man with procedure, ramifications, possibilities, and structure.
Both religion and science appeal to reason because underlying them is the Logos, the eternal meaning and the creative thought, which underlies every reality. The fact that everything is connected gives a sufficient warrant to anchor the multiplicity of things in the world on unity. Logos, that creative reason, the meaning-source and central intelligibility beneath and informing all reality, is the only possibility for knowledge, science and religion. It is so because without the fundamental underlying meaning to things, any attempt to connect facts relative to faith or science becomes futile and foolish. Hence, the possibility of connecting experiences and carrying out experiments is rooted in the existence of this common ground of intelligibility and meaning. If there is no such ground, then things can only exist as separate facts that cannot be connected. By implication, there cannot be science or religion. Both religion and science presume that an intelligible principle governs reality. Both presuppose a Logos that norms all laws and informs intelligibility.
Both religion and science are, therefore, genetically related though configured to confront reality differently while aiming to achieve the same purpose, the glory of God and flourishing of man. Inasmuch as man grows into an understanding of self and his world, he still vacillates in his appreciation of the two aspects. Sometimes both faith and science behave like typical average siblings, who struggle to outshine and thus get mileage over the other. This sibling rivalry has been manifesting itself in history in many and several ways, including that the one that gets privilege over the other tries either to marginalize, deny or lord it over the other. Often, instead of the necessary cooperation for the good of man, they seem to be in perpetual competition for attention, influence and power over the other. The unforeseen consequence is that while some religious people try to domesticate God, some scientists abandon him or try to deny him. Whatever one of the siblings claims, very likely, the other rejects or mocks.
This rivalry is manifesting itself during this COVID-19 pandemic. Each one jeers at the other for the failure to provide a solution. Instead of co-operating to resolve this threat to humanity, some religionists announced the impotence of science even without giving it enough time to make a try. They prematurely mocked science, and, indeed, accused it of being the cause of the problem. Some extremists (science sceptics) here called for its abandonment, and, as typical of the elder brother, wondered why science should be given attention at all after disregarding God while he (religion) has always been with the Father (cf. Luke 15). Some of those that are inclined to science took the younger brother (science)’s truancy to another level of depth and announced the failure of faith in God. They announced that the failure of religion to make any meaningful contribution shows its absolute irrelevance or a pure delusion. They (atheists and agnostics) showed religious leaders helplessly waiting on the men of science to rescue the world.
Their rivalry robs the world of necessary cooperation and synergy required to understand both the cause and the solution to this pandemic and to appreciate its message to humanity. One cannot fail to marvel in admiration of Pope Francis for the leadership he gives in the direction of a synergy. He led in prayers and spoke to humanity and urged men of science in their research. In all, he entreated God to save His people, and encouraged us to draw strength and hope from the Lord, who alone can resolve the problem miraculously or medically. In other words, God, in His freedom, can use either science (ordinary means) or miracle (extraordinary means) to achieve whatever and whenever He deems fit as both came from His creative love.