Episode 15: Science and Scripture

Show Notes

Many of us wonder about the relation between science and scripture: have modern advancements in physics disproven creationist cosmology? In this episode, our hosts Professor Gabriel Reynolds and Francesca Murphy are joined by acclaimed particle physicist Dr. Stephen Barr, professor emeritus at the University of Delaware president of the Society of Catholic Scientists. 

Barr challenges the notion that physics has made the scriptural description of creation and the cosmos obsolete. On the contrary, Barr argues that science and religion share a common purpose: since God is the ultimate and infinite act of understanding, He is the flash of insight, or “solution,” for which both scientists and theologians search. Believing in God is the extension of science, fulfilling its deepest desires to discover order and beauty. The search for beautiful order is thus one shared by theologians and scientists alike: Barr explains, “the deeper we go in our understanding of the physical world, the more beautiful the mathematics, the more beautiful the theories are. That’s not really controversial.”

However, according to Barr, this complementarity does not suggest that scripture necessarily lends itself to literalistic scientific interpretations, especially with regard to the creation account of Genesis. To read scripture as a science manual undermines its original purpose: it is theocentric and anthropocentric, concerned primarily with man’s relationship with God, not exact descriptions of the laws of the material world. Yet, to “read” nature without the grounding of the scriptural narrative, which teaches man that man is ordered towards communion with God, leads to “worship” of the material world and a belief in fate and material determinism. The scriptural narrative therefore complements and augments the scientific narrative, and both show the power and intelligence of the Creator.

Join our hosts and guest in this episode as they delve into the relation between particle physics and the intelligent design theory, the historical controversy between Galileo and the
Church, human evolution, interpretation of scripture, and how modern advancements in cosmology strengthen, not dismantle, religious faith in the Creator.

Further Reading

For further resources and information, please see the Society of Catholic Scientists as well as Stephen Barr’s website.

Featured Guest

Dr. Stephen Barr is Professor Emeritus at the University of Delaware and director of its Bartol Research Institute. Dr. Barr specializes in elementary particle physics, cosmology, and grand unified theories; in addition to his scientific research, he has a special interest in the complementarity of science and religion. He is the president of the Society of Catholic Scientists and has released several books, including his most recent, The Believing Scientist: Essays on Science and Religion.

Stephen Barr

university of delaware, professor emeritus of physics

IMAGE CREDIT: Google Art Project