Those who gathered Nov. 3 for the Archdiocese of Louisville’s first Gold Mass in honor of the science profession heard that faith needs science and science needs faith.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said during the Mass at Holy Family Church that faith needs science in its pursuit of truth and that science needs faith to ask the moral questions.
The congregation of about 100 included scientists, science students, science educators and fans of science. The Gold Mass is one of several liturgies held in the archdiocese celebrating “noble professions.” Archbishop Kurtz noted that earlier in the year the archdiocese celebrated a Red Mass for legal professionals, a Blue Mass for first responders and a White Mass for healthcare professionals. Each profession was referred to as “noble,” science included.
The Gold Mass was a result of a Faith and Science Discussion Group that has been meeting for the past four years. The group meets to dialogue and to try to “understand the richness in compatibility between the work of science and the work of faith,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Kurtz told the congregation that there are “four marks” of faith-filled individuals who are scientists or aspiring to become scientists.
- The first is a gift of wonder and awe. A sense of wonder usually comes with the “stirring of curiosity.” Curiosity, said the archbishop, is a gift that allows individuals to “fathom God’s great creation.
“Jesus said that if you want to be a person of faith you should become like a little child. Maybe if you want to become a great scientist you should become like a little child. A little child has the capacity never to tire of a sense of awe,” said Archbishop Kurtz.
- The second is a desire to search for the truth.
“It’s what stirs scientists on to make great progress … to make great sacrifices in their lives. It’s also what inspires good theologians to study about the things of God,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “The search for truth has a double element of critical thinking, of being able to ask questions. It also has the capacity to ask the moral question, a question of faith and conscience … that is: ‘Because I can do something, should I do it? … Because I can do things that profit me but hurt the environment, should I do it?’
“Faith needs science to pursue a search for truth, but science needs faith in order to ask that question … ‘What should I or what ought I to do?’ ” said Archbishop Kurtz.
- The third is a desire to search for meaning.
“ ‘Does my life have meaning? What is the meaning of my being created, of living on Earth for a period of time. … What is the ultimate meaning of that?’ ” said the archbishop. “A scientist can uncover many things, but those ultimate questions need to be completed by a person of faith.”
- The fourth is the gift of humility.
“It takes some humility to say that my belief needs to be completed, there’s a journey for me to fully understand what I have been given as a gift … the gift of faith. So also the scientist need only look at theories he or she held 30 years ago and say, ‘Well I think I was mostly correct but I’ve learned something new.’ We don’t have all the answers and science and faith need each other,” said the archbishop.
He also thanked the congregation, telling them no matter the reason they decided to attend the Mass, “God wants us to be a part of the gift of making science and faith compatible in our hearts and in our culture. And without our efforts to be an agent of that compatibility, our culture will continue to see faith and science as two different worlds that never happen to speak to one another,” said the archbishop. “So, we pray that through our efforts God’s grace will bring them together in our lives and in our culture.”
Following the Mass, Dr. Kate Bulinski, an associate professor in Bellarmine University’s department of environmental studies, gave a lecture on “Faith and Science: Compatible and Complementary.”
Bulinski said popular culture often depicts science and religion as incompatible. That happens partly because there is a lot of misinformation about science and how science works, she said. Also, she noted, some faith traditions reject scientific evidence. Though there are faith traditions that embrace science, those traditions are “often painted with a broad brush of being seen as incompatible,” she said.
Bulinski said to her audience that science and faith can complement each other and can gain understanding from “talking to each other.” This is often seen when questions of ethics come up in scientific study, she said.
“Think about medical ethics and environmental ethics. When we are uncovering new ways of curing disease we need to think about the ethical implications. You can see where faith and ethics can inform the decision-making of how we apply our science,” said Bulinski. “Same with environmental ethics … understanding the technologies we use and how they impact the environment and thinking about the ethics of whether we should use that technology or not. Just because we can doesn’t mean that we should.”
Faith and science are not at odds, Bulinski said, on the contrary, “science can enhance faith and faith can enhance science.”