Integral ecology

Enrique Solano: "The Catholic scientist knows the beginning and the end of the film".

Enrique Solano, president of the Society of Catholic Scientists of Spain, points out in this interview with Omnes that "brilliant Catholic scientists and popularizers are needed to establish a bridge between specialized knowledge and the people on the street".

Maria José Atienza-October 30, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes

Enrique Solano is president of the Society of Catholic Scientists of Spain. It is the Spanish branch of the Society of Catholic Scientists an international organization, created in 2016, which presents itself as a forum for dialogue for believing scientists who wish to reflect on the harmony and complementarity between science and faith.

Solano, PhD in Mathematical Sciences from the Complutense University of Madrid, dedicated to Astrophysics, is currently a Research Scientist at the Astrobiology Center.

His interest in demonstrating the compatibility of science and faith has led him to give numerous lectures and talks on this supposed conflict and, this year, the Francisco de Vitoria University hosted the second edition of the congress organized by the Society of Catholic Scientists of Spain, which addressed topics such as the relationship between technology and ethics or the vision of the Catholic scientist from the media and creation and evolution.

This relationship between science and faith, its history and the myths and truths that are intertwined in this area is the theme of the November issue of Omnes magazine.

Scientist and Catholic: Is the idea that these terms are incompatible still present?

-Unfortunately, this is so. The idea that science serves to "explain what there is" and religion is "for believing in something" is still accepted by a fairly significant percentage of society. In fact, there are surveys in the USA, carried out a few years ago with young people who abandoned the Catholic religion, which indicate that, among 24 possible causes, the conflict between science and religion appears in fourth place, even above the abandonment of the idea of a merciful God because of a family tragedy. This is enormously surprising and, dare I say it, scandalous, and gives us an idea of the work that remains to be done by Catholic scientists.

There are two main causes of this situation: on the one hand, the dominant current in society that tries to denigrate or even make everything that carries the adjective Catholic disappear from public life. And, on the other hand, the invisibility in which we Catholic scientists have lived for a long time, who have not wanted/been able to take the step forward to show ourselves to the public and let society know that we are not an extinct species in the past. Society of Catholic Scientists of Spain.

There are those who, even today, defend that a Catholic "subjugates" his rational knowledge to his faith, is this a credible statement? 

There are non-believing scientists who maintain that the Catholic scientist, when he goes to Mass, leaves his brain at the entrance of the church. Likewise, others defend that the Catholic scientist passes his results through the sieve of faith so that everything is coherent and harmonious. 

Neither of the two previous statements is true. In the words of George Lemaître, priest, father of the Big Bang and one of the most important cosmologists of the 20th century, "if a believer wants to swim, he had better do it just like a non-believer. And the same goes for the natural sciences, if a believer works in them he should do it as a non-believer." 

Scientists, both believers and non-believers, work using the same tools and the same methodologies. 

Many of the great advances in science have been made by believers. Does faith help scientific work?  

-This is one of the main arguments to show the harmony between science and faith. Many of the most brilliant scientists, including the "fathers" of some scientific disciplines, have been Catholics. And even today, in the 21st century, we find scientists of enormous prestige who have no problem in reconciling science and Catholic faith. As I indicated in the previous answer, all scientists, regardless of their beliefs, use the same methodology, which is what we call "scientific method". In this sense, faith contributes nothing to research. 

The advantage that the Catholic scientist has is that he knows the beginning and the end of the movie. He knows that there is a Creator who established laws in nature and knows that everything has a purpose and a purpose. Knowing that we are not the fruit of blind evolution and that we are destined to live a few decades in a cosmic ocean governed by forces infinitely superior to us, but that we are the result of God's love, that we have infinite dignity since we are made in His image and likeness and that we are offered the prize of eternal life at His side, is something that helps you not only to focus your scientific work but to live in a totally different way.

When and why did the divorce between science and faith occur? Why have we still not "overcome" it? 

-The high point of the rupture between science and faith occurred at the end of the 19th century, when different ingredients came together to create the "perfect storm". On the one hand, a new guild was introduced into society: the modern scientist, as we know it today, which had appeared only a few decades earlier. The difficulty of access of this guild to the universities, controlled by the Church at that time, generated in scientists a feeling of "tribe" with a common enemy: the Church. To this should be added the birth of a new philosophical current, Marxism, and the ideological use it makes of science, expanding the idea of the existence of two sides: science (the good side) that pursues the happiness of man through scientific and technical progress, and the Church (the bad side), determined to hinder this progress as much as possible. 

The culmination of this situation was the publication of two books, J. W. Draper's "History of the Conflicts between Religion and Science" in 1875 and Andrew Dickson White's "A History of the War of Science with Theology in Christianity" (1896). Both books are riddled with errors and inaccuracies, but they had an enormous impact on several generations of scientists, particularly in the Anglo-Saxon world. 

Today, no serious historian defends the conflict hypothesis and none of the books have any credibility for modern authors. But its aftermath is still evident within the scientific community. 

Are the media an aid to scientific dissemination? 

-No doubt about it. The Catholic scientist cannot be satisfied with living on his pedestal of knowledge. Brilliant Catholic scientists are needed, but there is also a need for disseminators who establish a bridge between specialized knowledge and the people on the street. Catholic scientists need to be present in the social debate. And, for this, the media are absolutely essential as an amplifying element.

From the Society of Catholic Scientists of Spain, for example, we have created the so-called "expert groups" that we make available to the media who want to know the opinion of a Catholic scientist on a particular discovery or a particular news item. 

It is necessary that the Catholic scientist be present in the social debate. And, for this, the media are absolutely essential as an amplifying element.

Enrique Solano. President Society of Catholic Scientists of Spain

Old questions such as evolution, extraterrestrial life, scientific progress or new ones, such as the advance of transhumanism, what challenges do they pose for a Catholic scientist?  

-In order to understand all these issues, it is necessary to have a holistic view of them. Science and faith add and do not subtract and both are necessary to reach a global understanding of the problem. Particularly interesting is the issue of transhumanism and how the Catholic faith can serve as a beacon to illuminate what can be done and distinguish it from what, even if it can be done, should not be done.

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