WHISTLER, B.C. -- Religion has nothing to fear from science, says a Jesuit physicist and theologian.
Rev. Robert Spitzer told a weekend forum for religious leaders that developments in quantum physics over the past 50 years have given scientific plausibility to religious belief in miracles, Creation and God.
These new discoveries have also made it painfully obvious to scientists that science can never replace faith, he said at the forum organized by the Ottawa-based Centre for Renewal in Public Policy.
"We're already well beyond the idea that there is a competition between science and religion.
"They can elaborate and enrich each other."
He said the business of science is to measure phenomena, and relate such things as mass, force and acceleration.
But the scientific method is open to error because scientists never know for sure that they have all the available evidence.
Father Spitzer, a professor at Seattle University in Washington, said the laws of physics have all been rewritten in this century because of new discoveries.
Scientists once thought the universe was infinite in mass and time. Now they know it is limited, and have even calculated the actual mass of the universe.
Physicists have also discarded the old idea of an atom, with its electrons spinning around a proton, because they have discovered that particles simply don't behave in neat ways. Some even appear to anticipate what the experimenter wants, and perform to expectations. Science still has no adequate explanation for why that happens.
"Scientists once said the laws of nature were immutable, and that miracles can't happen. The whole idea that miracles are impossible is gone.
"Now there's plenty of room in science for the possibility of miracles."
Father Spitzer said that social scientists still haven't caught up to the implications of these changes in quantum physics. If a particle is no longer predictable in its movement, then it's obviously impossible to reduce such complex phenomena as love, and the appreciation of art and music to simple psychological laws, he said.
Many scientists have also come to believe that there must be an intelligent force governing the universe, because it has become scientifically more plausible to believe in a creator and a designer than to believe in the creation of the universe by random chance, said Father Spitzer.
What scientists now know is that if the mass of the universe were slightly greater, there would be nothing in space but a dense black hole. If the mass were slightly smaller, all of the particles would have flown apart, and there would be no universe.
"In either case, life would have been impossible," he said.
Father Spitzer said Albert Einstein and other scientists eventually concluded that some intelligent force brought about the universe, because the odds against the emergence of human life by chance are so high that Creation made more sense.
Father Spitzer said religion should not venture into science's territory, but neither should science pronounce on matters of faith.
"Science is concerned with physical reality. Faith doesn't restrict itself to physical reality."
The scientists of the 19th century believed that believers' view of Creation and the intelligent force behind today's physical force was naive.
Now, says Father Spitzer, most scientists realize that science simply has nothing to say about humanity's instinctive hunger for God.
Isaac Newton, the discoverer of gravity, and author of two of the most influential physics books ever written, retired from science at the age of 29, and devoted the rest of his life to theology, said Father Spitzer.
"He certainly believed in a Designer."
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