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A Special Word about Roman Catholic Schools

Roman Catholicism has such a rich tradition in the sciences that we want to see this celebrated. For instance, the priest-scientists who played major roles in our understanding of nature should be held up as examples to follow. Figures such Gregor Mendel and his genetic laws, Georges Lemaitres and big bang cosmology, or Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and paleontology should have their portraits hung in the science laboratories of Catholic high schools. In this way, young students can be encouraged to follow science as a sacred calling that is in no way in conflict with their faith.

With respect to biological evolution itself, it should be taught as the best scientific model that currently explains the observed data, as well as one with predictive value and the possibility for falsification. The Roman church has spoken about Darwin’s theory throughout the 20th century, culminating in the wonderful statements from Pope John Paul II, who wrote in his 1996 message to the Papal Academy of Sciences:

Today, almost half a century after the publication of (HumaniGeneris ), new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.John Paul II, in Science and Theology: The New Consonance, edited by Ted Peters (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998) 150.

The attitude in the science classrooms of Roman Catholic schools should exactly follow Pope John Paul II’s thoughts that he expressed in a letter to Father George Coyne, head of the Vatican Observatory:

Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish."Message from His Holiness John Paul II," in Physics, Philosophy, and Theology, ed. by Robert John Russell, William Stoeger, S.J., and George V. Coyne, S.J. (Notre Dame IN: University of Notre...

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