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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