58 • Part I. The Creed: The Faith Professed
sophical reasoning and can even come to a knowledge of God and many
of his purposes through an understanding of created realities.
Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World
Gaudium et Spes
; GS) of the Second Vatican Council teaches that
“methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is car-
ried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws,
can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the
things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering
investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand
of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who
made them what they are” (CCC, no. 159, citing GS, no. 36).
This does not mean that there have not been conflicts between sci-
ence and religion. For example, in the seventeenth century, Galileo,
building on previous discoveries, held firmly to the conviction that the
earth moves around the sun. This was not acceptable to many of his
contemporaries including Church authorities. As a result, he was sub-
jected to a Church investigation and placed under house arrest for the
rest of his life. Pope John Paul II ordered a study of Galileo’s case, which
resulted in his exoneration in 1992.
In modern times, the scientific teaching on evolution has also led to
conflict with some Christians. Since 1925, the celebrated “Scopes mon-
key trial” in Dayton, Tennessee, has had a lasting effect on the popular
understanding about evolution. The famous orator and frequent presi-
dential candidate William Jennings Bryan argued from the principles
of a literalist interpretation of the Bible. Clarence Darrow, his agnostic
counterpart, ridiculed his approach as contrary to scientific progress.
Through subsequent dramatic presentations like
Inherit the Wind
on stage and in film, this debate fixed in the American mind the
mistaken notion that in the debate over evolution, the only choice is
between biblical literalism and Darwinism, when, in fact, there are
some who recognize physical and biological evolution as the work
of the divine Creator.
The Catholic Church, however, has continued to uphold the prin-
ciple that there is no intrinsic conflict between science and religion. In
his 1950 encyclical
Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to