Summer 2023 Issue II · Science and Religion: Histories, Myths, and Insights

About the 2023 Annual Seminar
“Science & Religion: Histories, Myths, & Insights”

“The history of science cannot be written by pulling scientific ‘firsts’ out of their historical context, but only by seeing with eyes and minds of our historical characters,” –Lawrence Principe, Ph.D., The Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.

The Center for Catholic Studies held its 25th Annual Summer Seminar, presented by Lawrence Principe, Ph.D. from May 31–June 2 at Seton Hall University’s Chancellor’s Suite.

The seminar, on the topic of “Science & Religion: Histories, Myths, & Insights,” welcomed Lawrence Principe, Ph.D., the Drew Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of History of Science and Technology and the Department of Chemistry, where he teaches courses including “Science & Religion” and “History of Science: Antiquity to 1700.” Principe is the presenter for two of “The Great Courses” on science and religion and serves as the Director of the Charles Singleton Center for the Study of Premodern Europe. His research focuses on the medieval and early modern periods, with emphasis on the history of alchemy and chemistry and the science-religion dynamic.
This three-day workshop explored the history, complexity, and philosophy of the relationship between science and religion. Faculty participants are invited to write a response essay. Selected essays will be published in Seton Hall’s e-repository and Integratio, the online publication of the Center for Catholic Studies.

The Center for Catholic Studies provides opportunities for faculty to reflect in depth on topics central to the Catholic intellectual tradition, including this Faculty Summer Seminar.

A Reflection on Religion, Counseling, Psychology, and Counseling Psychology by Peggy Brady-Amoon

 This year’s faculty seminar was a wonderful opportunity to explore the history and current tensions between religion and science from a Western, Catholic and Christian perspective. We considered the scientific contributions of Catholic and other Christian clergy and, in so doing, challenged the myth that religion and science are inherently incompatible. However, the emphasis in this illuminating seminar, including the readings and Dr. Principe’s short book,[1] was on the natural sciences. As such, I continued to wonder about the integration of science and religion in counseling and psychology, and counseling psychology, my primary discipline. This essay offers a brief reflection on the seminar from that multi-disciplinary perspective.

As I reflect on the seminar, I have become even more aware of my firmly held belief: that, at its best, religion augments almost everything else, including science. I credit the origins of that belief as well as my commitment to Catholic social teaching, including educational equity and human rights to my parents[2] and the Dominican Sisters who led schools I was privileged to attend. As a bonus, I attended Albertus Magnus HS, which translates to St. Albert the Great, and worked for decades at St. Thomas Aquinas College, both of which were founded by the same order of Dominican Sisters to honor two of the many saints who taught us that faith and reason and, by extension, religion and science, are complementary, not contradictory. This foundation of family, faith, and Catholic education undoubtedly inspired my educational, career, and life trajectory—and my current and future work based at Seton Hall.

During my long career exploration phase, I initially rejected psychology (and a few related fields) in favor of counseling (and later counseling psychology) because of the evidence that the latter two fields were more open to transcendence, spirituality, and, I surmised, religious beliefs. Nearly a decade later, when I was considering and exploring options for further education, I learned that psychology is broader and more diverse than I had thought for years—with great potential for promoting human growth and development—and was immediately intrigued by counseling psychology.


Psychology is a relatively young profession, albeit one that traces its early roots to Greek and other, principally European, philosophical inquiries into the human condition. The profession is rooted in science, yet the religious and cultural backgrounds of many early psychologists clearly influenced their work. As just a few examples, Sigmund Freud, often called the “father of psychology” and popularizer of the “talking cure”[3] was raised in an observant Jewish family. Carl Jung, his protegee and later rival, explored concepts such as synchronicity, collective consciousness, and spirituality. William James, the father of American psychology is credited with recognizing the psychological benefits of believing in God. Abraham Maslow, who like Freud, had Orthodox Jewish roots, contributed to our understanding of optimal living, self-actualization, and transcendence.[4],[5] At present, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Psychology is a diverse discipline, grounded in science, but with nearly boundless applications in everyday life.”[6] I have long wondered why, given this context and history—and an increased emphasis on respecting diverse people’s beliefs—that towards the end of the last century, religion and, by extension, spirituality fell out of favor in mainstream psychology.[7] In the context of the seminar, however, I am wondering if the shift within psychology concurrent with psychology’s increased emphasis on science, occurred with the broader cultural shift.

Counseling psychology

As a specialty within the larger field of psychology, counseling psychology is grounded in science. Counseling psychology is one of the three specialties that comprise professional psychology, also known as health service psychology. At the same time, counseling psychology is distinguished from other specialties in focusing on normal and optimal human growth and functioning, often encompassing religion and spirituality. Training in counseling psychology includes research methods and the evidence-based practice of psychology, including individual, group, family counseling and psychotherapy. Moreover, counseling psychology, like counseling, shares an historical commitment to recognizing and respecting human potential and using strength-based approaches to help diverse people reach their educational, vocational, and life goals.[8] In addition, counseling psychology and counseling have been at the forefront of the humanistic, multicultural and social justice movements in psychology and related fields.[9],[10] To me, the best aspects of religion (e.g., the dignity of the person) are fully compatible with counseling psychology.

Clergy & Public opinion study

Consistent with the above, my curiosity about the apparent disconnect between religion and psychology prompted a study I did as a graduate student with a classmate. We had evidence that some psychologists and other mental health professionals were not supportive of clients’ religious beliefs. We also had evidence that many people turn to clergy at times of need and wanted to know clergy’s opinions of psychology. Thirty-seven male Christian clergy (16 Protestant and 21 Catholic priests) working in active church ministry participated in this anonymous survey study. We compared participants’ results with the results of a survey of the general public’s opinions towards psychology. The results showed clergy participants were open to and significantly more knowledgeable about psychology than the general public. The results also suggested that psychologists who wish to work with clergy would benefit from identifying and articulating shared goals and build on clergy’s interest in the scientific aspect of psychology.[11],[12] Over the years, in multiple collaborations, I have found both to be true and, more recently, have been exploring hope as a protective factor in religious as well as secular contexts.

At the same time, notwithstanding calls in the profession to increase respect for diverse people[13] and evidence that religion is often beneficial,[14],[15] there is limited research on religion in psychology.[16] Furthermore, there continues to be emerging evidence of psychologists’ bias against religious clients such as Evangelical Christians.[17] As such, the broader field of psychology would clearly benefit from developing a greater respect and appreciation for religion and spirituality.

However, my experience, working primarily in contexts like Seton Hall and with colleagues open to the integration of religion and psychological science, has been (and is) rewarding. As just a few examples: 1) Openness to students’ religious/spiritual beliefs commitments/experiences and lack thereof lends another dimension of respect to developing and maintaining authentic teaching and advisement relationships that promote learning; 2) Teaching and modeling the practice of self-examination, appropriate disclosures, and skills to broach brave conversations is particularly important in counseling and professional psychology where students aspire to ethical and effective practice and 3) Requiring students to consider clients’ strengths and challenges in the context of clients’ lives, including religious and culturally informed belief systems, facilitates students’ professional and personal development.

My departmental colleague and fellow counseling psychologist, Cristina Cruza-Guet, who is currently working on a manuscript of her investigation of religion and social support as protective factors for Latinx elders, is president-elect of APA’s Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. That division, as its title suggests, works to promote research and practice that incorporates religion and spirituality in psychology.

Further reflections & conclusion

One of the many things I learned during this seminar is that the scholarly emphasis in premodern times was on synthesis, putting things together. That contrasts with so-called modern trends towards specialization and working in silos, even when integration would be beneficial. I also find parallels between that observation and observations that children and younger people tend to learn discrete facts, while abstract thought and the capacity to synthesize come with maturity and, some would argue, wisdom.[18]

I have also been reflecting on the narrow and sometimes faulty views that many people have of religion and psychological science. More broadly, many people are reported to be questioning expertise, higher education, and science, including generally supported scientific findings. In addition, a plurality of younger people in the US don’t identify with any religious group.[19] Although formal education is clearly an important route to increased knowledge, I wonder if it would help to expand our conceptualization of what counts as knowledge[20] to integrate the best of religion, spirituality, and science.

I have also become aware that my prior assumption, that people living today are smarter or at least more informed than our ancestors, because we have access to knowledge developed over millennia, is inaccurate at best. At the same time, I continue to wonder about the potential if we, as present-day humans, built on that foundation—and am humbled and honored to be a small part of that endeavor, including sharing the evidence that religion enhances science, including psychological science, in my current roles and life.


[1] Principe, L. M. (2011). The scientific revolution: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.

[2] Brady-Amoon, P. (2020, August 6-9). Social justice action: Promoting and extending counseling psychology values. [Division 17 Fellow presentation]. American Psychological Association 128th Annual Convention, Washington, DC, United States.

[3] Brady-Amoon, P., & Keefe-Cooperman, K. (2017). Psychology, Counseling Psychology, and Professional Counseling: Shared Roots, Challenges, and Opportunities. European Journal of Counselling Psychology, 6(1), p. 41.

[4] Brady-Amoon, P. (2012). Maslow, A. H. In R. W. Reiber (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the history of psychological theories, part 13, pp. 663-664. New York: Springer.

[5] Maslow, A. H. (1968). Toward a psychology of being (2nd ed.). Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.

[6] American Psychological Association. (n.d.).

[7] Miller, L. (2021), The Awakened Brain (Random House, 2021)

[8]Society of Counseling Psychology. (2023). What is counseling psychology?

[9] Pedersen, P. (1990). The multicultural perspective as a fourth force in counseling. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 12(1), pp. 93-95.

[10] Ratts, M. J. (2009). Social justice counseling: Toward the development of a fifth force among counseling paradigms. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education & Development, 48(2), 160–172.

[11] Brady-Amoon, P., & Johnson, D. S. (2001). Clergy and public opinions toward psychology. Presentation to the Annual Psi Chi Conference, Hunter College, New York, NY.

[12] Brady-Amoon, P., & Johnson, D. S. (2010, August). Clergy attitudes towards psychology. Poster session presented at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, San Diego, CA.

[13] American Psychological Association. (2017). Ethical principles and code of conduct for psychologists.

[14] Duffy, R. D. (2006). Spirituality, religion, and career development: Current status and future directions. The Career Development Quarterly, 55(1), 52–63.

[15] Miller, L. (2021), The awakened brain. Random House.

[16] Schlosser, L. Z., Foley, P. F., Stein, E. P., & Holmwood, J. R. (2010). Why does counseling psychology exclude religion? A content analysis and methodological critique. In J. G. Ponterotto, J. M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, & C. M. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural counseling., 3rd ed. (pp. 453–465). Sage

[17] Ruff, J. L. (2008). Clinician religiosity and response to divergent patient religiosity: An investigation into the effects of implicit and explicit stereotyping on empathy and prognosis in initial responding to patients who are religiously diverse from psychologists Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering (Vol. 69, Issues 4-B).  

[18] Rowland, T. L. (2012). Everything you need to know about Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. BrainMass.

[19] Twenge, J. M. (2023). Generations. The real differences between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents—and what they mean for America’s future. Simon & Shuster

[20] Belenky, M. F., Clinchy, B., Goldberger, N. R., & Tarule, J. M. (1986). Women’s ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. Basic Books.

Tortoises and Hares: In Defense of Required Humanities Courses by Elizabeth Brewer Redwine

             “Do you think that there really was a tortoise and that he beat a hare in an actual race?” asked Dr. Principe at the end of the second day of the faculty seminar. He used this example from Aesop’s Fables to show how stories that are fictional can still be true. Truth, Dr. Principe posited, is not just what one’s audience believes and comes in many forms. Finishing this second day of discussing the history of science and religion, he raised these questions about the current focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in global education and the early professionalization of students, often in these and other job-related, so-called “practical” fields. He invited participants to consider what may be lost in the divisive and technological current cultural environment.

              I teach in the English Department, coordinate the first-year class in the Core, Journey of Transformation, and teach both Journey and Core 2, Christianity and Culture in Dialogue. Many of the courses that I teach are required, and students believe that they know what professions and majors interest them already before walking into the classroom. Many show up slightly resentful, more so in recent years, about having to take required courses that, they believe, do not directly relate to their career plans. We have open conversations from the first day of class to the last about the role of these required courses in an education and at a university, and we do not always agree, but the discussions invite the students into difficult and complicated questions about what it means to be human, what they seek in an education, and what kinds of readings and conversations can help them navigate the world. I explain to the students with honesty and, I hope, humility that I do not have the answers to these questions but that I think that the discussion is important for this class and for their life in the university and beyond.

              We do not shy away from the big questions in these classes, reading, in the Core courses, Plato, Galileo, Darwin, Dante, Ibn Rushd, Pope Francis, Dr. King, Maimonides, Dorothy Day, Saint Oscar Romero, Tolstoy, and Toni Morrison, to name a few. These texts invite the students to deal with questions about purpose, meaning, and justice and ask them to take a step back from their more specific major-focused studies to consider their reasons for attending university and how careful reading and considerate discussion can shift their perspectives and create empathy and community.

              My sections of Core classes require service learning; the students complete a service lab, volunteering in local childcare centers, tutoring, traveling to Pennsylvania Station in New York to distribute food, writing letters to the elderly, and more. These experiences allow the students to write about their own service and consider their role in communities. The students connect service learning with the ideas from the course readings. They bring their service back to the classroom, reporting to classmates and making connections in the service community. Bringing the texts to the world and the world to the texts in writing helps students grapple with questions about their own role in the world in relation to ideas from the readings. These experiences complicate the stories of education as a simple path to a job and encourage challenging conversations about responsibility.

              The details of these Core classes express the concerns raised by Dr. Principe in his lectures. The current focus on STEM classes and early major and professional decisions put careers and financial gain at the center of college decisions for young people. These trends make sense; students feel, rightly, that with very little social safety net, for healthcare, home ownership, and a living wage, they must focus in college on attaining a job that will pay well.[1] This goal becomes the focus of college for many students and, again, we can see why. Students report that their high schools and families, for good, practical reasons, steer young people towards jobs that they believe will be financially remunerative. These concerns become more intense for the vast majority of students who are going into serious debt to attain an education and the many who will need to support parents, grandparents, siblings, and their own eventual families should they end up becoming parents someday. As a university educator, I never discount the students’ practical concerns that land so many of them in a zero-sum game of career-focused college classes with the eventual goal of a high salary.

              And yet, Dr. Principe reminds us that loneliness is a current epidemic in the United States, and I hope that education that asks students to consider the carefully read words of others and create community in the classroom may push back against this crisis. Just a before the day I am writing this, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murhy issued a national advisory about a loneliness crisis. Dr. Murhy warns that this “underappreciated public health crisis” contributes not just to physical illness like striking increases in heart disease, stroke, dementia, and premature death, but also leads to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Dr. Murhy advises that we “must prioritize building social connection the same way we have prioritized other critical public health issues such as tobacco, obesity, and substance abuse disorders.” The Surgeon General argues that religion and faith-based groups are a way to counteract loneliness Pope Francis has been raising alarms about loneliness and the connection to social media use for nearly a decade, starting with his famous 2015 sermon that argues that “social media is making us lonely.” A few years later, he claimed that social media can lead to loneliness and “spirals of hatred.” I include this research from both the country’s most important doctor and Pope Francis to illustrate the larger point of Dr. Principe’s seminar, that science and religion have a history of working together, and to suggest that in this time of a loneliness crisis, that work continues.

              Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Protestant leaders along with many other physicians and psychologists have also contributed important advice to the discussion of the loneliness epidemic, and, in response to the Seminar, my hope is that required courses can address this crisis, one we see in our young people every day especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. Service-learning shows that, religious or not, students can gain connection through helping in their community. The National Education Association alerted educators this spring that “rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation on campus have never been higher. Faculty and staff are overwhelmed.”[2] Science, government, and religious leaders agree that young people are in crisis.

              Humanities classrooms in both the Core and the English Department, among other humanities subjects, address these crises. Transparency with students helps, starting with what the students want to get out of a class and an education and then inviting students to reflect on where they struggle and what they see as the main problems in our current culture. The answers reflect the readings in ways that surprise students. When Ivan Ilyich in Tolstoy’s 1886 story The Death of Ivan Ilyich injures himself putting up wallpaper in his apparently perfect home that reflects a “successful” life, he begins a process of illness that will end in his death. The story asks us to watch his move towards death, the stripping-away of the superficial concerns of his life before his illness. The students put on the chalkboard what Ilyich’s culture tells him he should value, like wealth, status, appearance, etc., and then we put on the board what our culture tells us to value, and there are connections that we discuss. We then come to what matters to Ilyich at the end of his days, and the students discuss the role of human connection and faith in the end of his life. My hope is that conversations like these build community in the classroom and allow students to see what they may want to question in what the larger consumerist culture is telling them they should value.

              English Department classes also address Dr. Principe’s concerns about the limits of education laser focused on employment. Reading, and the listening that goes into close reading and discussion create empathy and community. A 2018 book, Read to Connect: Reading to Combat Loneliness and Promote Resilience by Natalia Tukhareli and published by Cambridge University Press uses both personal testimony and scientific research to show how the act of reading helps address loneliness. English classroom students, from the first year required classes to the classes for the majors and minors, reflect on this research, and again, bringing science and the humanities together, think about how reading and discussing literature helps their mental health and combats isolation.

              Toni Morrison based her novel Beloved on the case of a woman who killed her children rather than allowing them to return to slavery. In some parts of this country, as I write in June 2023, that novel is banned. Though based on historical fact, what happens to the characters is fictional, but in many larger ways the novel is true, and that is what makes it both dangerous and important. Dr. Principe’s lectures traced the creation of a false division between science and religion. Inviting students to think about how both scientific and humanities research shows that close reading and writing can address the isolation that plagues our society breaks down that divide. Reading, conversation, and writing inspires students to think about the many forms of truth, and classrooms where students are, for a brief period of time, not on their phones and not focused on material gain allow that space.   



[1] Inside Higher Ed reports that students are less likely go to go college because of “doubts about the financial returns of a college education.”



Galileo and Nursing Research Approaches to the Discovery of Meaning by Josephine DeVito

              Galileo contends that science deals with the world as it is observed, while religion deals with the sacred texts. How do we view science today? Science is the systematic study of natural phenomena to understand the nature of entities and their actions.[1] The scientific method involves the observation of events, the statement of a problem, and some reflection and deduction on the observed facts with the possibility of their causes and effects.  This leads to the formation of a hypothesis or research questions and the testing of the discovery of additional information. This knowledge is important to hopefully understand the phenomena of interest and in some cases improve human life.  An essential component of all science is the use of reason, that which identifies and integrates the materials provided by man’s senses.[2]

The Oxford English Dictionary defines religion as “belief in or acknowledgement of some supper-human power or powers (a god or gods) which is typically manifested in obedience, reverence, and worship.”[3] Religion can also be considered a type of philosophy, it is a systematic approach for answers to the basic questions faced by all human beings throughout history, which pose the following questions:[4]

  1. Where am I? What kind of world do I live in?
  2. Who am I? What kind of being am I?
  3. How do I know it? How do I obtain knowledge about the world?
  4. What should I do? How should I live my life?

              The question is, how did Galileo view science and religion? According to Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina in 1615, he explains the relationship between the two understandings of the universe, the scientific and religions and argues that they are compatible. This letter endures today as an example of how to unite worldviews that seem incompatible. It is an important document in the history of science. His observations of the Sun, Moon, and planets were foundational for the development of modern astronomy and led to widespread acceptance of the view that the Earth orbits the Sun. Galileo focused on two competing models of the planetary system. The Ptolemaic model, where the Earth is the center with other heavenly bodies orbiting around it. And the Copernican model, which places the Sun at the center of the planetary system. During Galileo’s time, the Catholic Church accepted the Ptolemaic model. From Galileo’s astronomical observations he was convinced that the Copernican model was correct. During this time, it was dangerous to promote views that challenge the authority of the church. In his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, Galileo tries to defend his theory while also defending himself against the church. He did not succeed.  The inquisition tried and convicted him of heresy in 1633, and he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

How do we view and acknowledge evidence-based research in nursing today?  What is the approach to research today? If different designs of research were available to Galileo, would he have to defend himself against the Church? It is important to differentiate the terms research, evidence-based practice (EBP) and quality improvement (QI) in professional practice.  Nursing is a systematic, rigorous, critical investigation that aims to answer questions about health-related phenomena. Researchers follow the steps in the of the scientific process.  There are two types of research: quantitative and qualitative. The methods used by nurse researchers are the same methods used by other disciplines, the difference is that questions are relevant to nursing practice. Published research studies are applicable to the practice and used to inform clinical decisions.[5] Evidence-based practice is the collection, evaluation, and integration of valid research evidence, combined with clinical expertise and an understanding of patient and family values and preferences to inform clinical decision making.[6] Quality Improvement (QI) is the systematic use of data to monitor the outcomes of care processes and the use of improvement methods to design and test changes in practice.[7]

How nursing research was conducted, and the methodologies used were not available for Galileo. For example, sometimes a distinction is made between the report of an event and its interpretation, therefore it is sufficed, to say that biblical interpretation is a specialized function of the universal human search for meaning. The Bible illustrates all these dimensions of interpretation of events that have been interpreted by prior traditions, whether oral or written.[8] Research methods are the techniques researchers use to structure a study and to gather and analyze information relevant to a research question. Two alternative paradigms approach developing evidence, which were not available to Galileo.  Positivism (or logical positivism) is rooted in the 19th century, guided by the philosophers Newton and Lock. It reflects a broader cultural phenomenon (modernism) that emphasizes the rational and the scientific. Constructivist paradigm (naturalistic) began as a countermovement to positivism with Weber and Kant. Constructivist and naturalistic inquiry view reality as not a fixed entity but rather is construction of the people participating in the research.  Reality exists within a context, and many constructions are possible. A methodological distinction is between quantitative research which is closely allied with positivism and qualitative research which is associated with constructivist inquiry.[9]

Even though the Church accepted the Ptolemaic model, Galileo observations indicated the Copernican model was a better fit.  We learn from all research but initially for Galileo the scientific community and the Church were more concerned about appearing correct than seeking the truth and how the Bible makes these claims, therefore Galileo begins by condemning his critics. He explains that the authority on natural phenomena should be on observation and experimentation, not the Bible. Galileo felt the Bible is the supreme authority, but it expresses ideals through metaphor, and we can use observation to clarify what the meaning is. In addition, the Bible avoids teaching about the nature of physical phenomena. He quotes Cardinal Baronisu, “The intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.”[10] The Bible uses metaphor and allusion, because a literal reading might cause people to take away meanings that are incorrect and even heretical. If qualitative research methods and designs were available, for Galileo, a phenomenology study could have added to the experience of the Bible meanings.

In conclusion, Galileo’s detractors cite the Bible to disprove his findings, but he believes citing the Bible as if it is literal is irresponsible.  He argues that theology is ‘queen:’ the most supreme area of study because it is about the word of God, not because it has authority over every subject. Theologians are supposed to debate what scripture means.  When they turn to physical phenomena, there can be false conclusions that simply confirm what they want to believe. His distractors also claim that because the Bible states the same things consistently, therefore this must be literally true. Galileo continues to argue that in cases where scientific evidence suggests something different from what the Bible states, it is our responsibility to find out the true meanings of the Holy Scriptures. We should not use Biblical evidence to understand the universe. Physical evidence leads to truths that we can prove and because the Bible is necessarily true in Galileo’s worldview, the Bible cannot contradict it. If we do not see scientific truth in the Bible, it is because we have an insufficient understanding of scriptures. Galileo concludes by stating that many theologians will interpret the Bible according to whatever opinion they currently hold to.[11]




[1] Seiler, F. God versus Nature: The Conflict Between Religion and Science in History. (Epigraph Books: New York, 2020), p. 7.

[2] Rand, A. The virtue of Selfness: A new Concept of Egoism. (Penguin: New York, 1964), p. 22.

[3] Oxford Dictionary definition

[4] Rand, A. The virtue of Selfness: A new Concept of Egoism. (Penguin: New York, 1964), p. 5.

[5] Lo-Biondo-Wood, G. & Haber, J. Nursing Research: Methods and Critical Appraisal for Evidence-Based Practice. (Elsevier: New York, 2022), p. 9.

[6] Sackett, D, Straus, S., Richardson, S. et al. Evidence-Based Medicine: How to Practice and Teach EBM (2nd ed.). (Churchill Livingston: London, 2000)

[7] Cronewell, L., Sherwood, G., Barnsteiner, J., et al. Quality and Safety Education for Nurses. (Nursing Outlook, 55(3). 2007), pp. 122-131.

[8] Montague, G. Understanding The Bible: A Basic Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. (Paulist Press: New Jersey, 2007), p. 11, 18.

[9] Polit, D. & Tatano Beck, C. Nursing Research: Generating and Assessing Evidence for Nursing Practice (11th ed.)  (Wolters Kluwer: New York, 2021), pp. 7-9.

[10] Choi, K.J. Christianity and Culture in Dialogue, (3rd ed.). (Hayden-McNeil Macmillan Learning: MI, 2018), p.259

[11] Choi, K.J. Christianity and Culture in Dialogue, (3rd ed.). (Hayden-McNeil Macmillan Learning: MI, 2018), p. 257, 258, 259, 260.


    History as a Key Mediating Discipline in the Science-Religion Interaction by Rev. Joseph R. Laracy, S.T.D.

    The Seton Hall University Center for Catholic Studies’ summer faculty seminar, “Science & Religion: Histories, Myths, & Insights,” led by Dr. Lawrence Principe, Drew Professor of the Humanities in the Department of History of Science and Technology, Johns Hopkins University, engaged a pressing issue in contemporary culture, both popular and scholarly: the relationship of natural science and the Christian religion. Two of the significant contributors to the science and religion field in the twentieth century, Father Stanley L. Jaki, O.S.B. (1924–2009), and Ian G. Barbour (1923–2013), both agreed that the fields of philosophy and history were essential “mediating disciplines” for a future, beneficial interaction between theology and natural science.[1] Principe’s splendid lectures addressed both fields, but given his expertise in the history of science, much of the seminar focused on significant historical figures, events, and issues, which greatly impact the contemporary relationship of theology and science. In this brief essay, we argue for the importance of historical studies[2] in the science and religion field as well as partially describe the origins of the “conflict hypothesis,” i.e., the claim of an intrinsic intellectual conflict between religion and science that inevitably leads to hostility.

    The Scholastic perspective on the nature and relationship of faith and reason was challenged in the Renaissance and early modern period with Martin Luther’s (1483–1546) doctrine of justification sola fide and René Descartes’ (1596–1650) modern philosophy established upon Cogito ergo sum (which might be described as philosophy sola ratione mea),[3] and Immanuel Kant’s (1724–1804) transcendental idealism.[4] This is also the time of the infamous “Galileo Affair.” The situation with Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) was a complicated matter beginning around 1610 involving betrayed friendship, ecclesiastical politics and tensions in the Curia, Aristotelian physics, Biblical hermeneutics, the Roman Inquisition, and a bit of italianità.[5] It is viewed by some as the quintessential case showing the intrinsic incompatibility of empirical science and Christian faith. However, as Kenneth J. Howell’s research has shown, the interaction of cosmology and Biblical interpretation in this time was much more complex than literal versus figurative Biblical interpretations, or Copernican versus anti-Copernican cosmologies.[6] In addition, what is sometimes mistaken as conflict of science vs religion can be really a conflict between different philosophies of science. Or, as Howell puts it, “conflicts over the very nature of scientific knowledge.”[7] The clash between Galileo and his former patron, Pope Urban VIII (1568–1644), that ended in Galileo’s conviction of “vehement suspicion of heresy” in 1633 is not the primary instigator of the modern conflict hypothesis. Galileo remained a practicing Catholic the rest of his life[8] and the Church continued to be a major patron of scientific discovery.[9]

    Given that many of the key figures in medieval and renaissance science were clerics, some of very high rank, such as Bishop Robert Grosseteste (c. 1168–1253, founder of the tradition of scientific thought in medieval Oxford), Archbishop Thomas Bradwardine (1290–1349, one of the first people to write down an equation for a physical process), Bishop Nicholas of Oresme (1323–1382, who explained the motion of the Sun by the rotation of the Earth and developed a more rigorous understanding of acceleration and inertia), Cardinal Nicolas of Cusa (1401–1464, who postulated non-circular planetary orbits and developed a mathematical theory of relative motion), Canon Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543, who formulated a heliocentric model of the Solar System), and many others, it is difficult to argue that the Catholic Church as an institution was “anti-science.”[10] Furthermore, as Principe points out, while the highest medieval university degree was in theology, “one could not become a theologian without first mastering the logic, mathematics, and natural philosophy of the day, since those topics were employed routinely in the advanced Christian theology of the Middle Ages.”[11] Principe noted in his Seton Hall lectures that the Roman Catholic Church was almost certainly the greatest patron of science for over half a millennium—until US government funding for research starting in the Second World War.

    The modern conflict hypothesis of religion and science really emerged in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with the rise of modern atheism in Europe. The French Revolution brought about the Cult of Reason (Culte de la Raison), France’s state-sponsored atheistic religion, intended as a replacement for Roman Catholicism. In 1794, the Cult of Reason was officially replaced by a rival deistic Cult of the Supreme Being (Culte de l’Être supreme), which was then banned in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821).[12] Nonetheless, the revolution had affected a radical and extensive dechristianization of France and created a climate of hostility toward the Catholic faith—a logical extension of the materialist philosophies of some Enlightenment thinkers such as François-Marie Arouet Voltaire (1694–1778), Denis Diderot (1713–1784), and others.[13] The Revolutionaries thus cast the Church against progress and “free thought” (Libre-Pensée). Meanwhile, German atheist philosophers such as Karl Marx (1818–1883), Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), and others declared war on Christianity, arguing that faith was inimical to reason. This ideology was ultimately instantiated in an extreme way in the Soviet Union with Marxist–Leninist “scientific atheism.”[14] As Stephen M. Barr points out, contemporary materialism has developed into a form of “anti-religious mythology.”[15]

    In the United Kingdom, atheists of this period also advanced the conflict hypothesis. Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895), often referred to as “Darwin’s Bulldog,” vigorously promoted the notion of a “war between religion and science.”[16] While strongly against organized religion in general, Huxley’s main target was the Roman Catholic Church. His anti-Catholicism led him to even claim that the Church “carefully calculated for the destruction of all that is highest in the moral nature, in the intellectual freedom, and in the political freedom of mankind.”[17] The situation was no better in the United States. John William Draper (1811–1882) and Andrew Dickson White (1832–1918) pursued a similar agenda to Huxley. Draper’s book, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science and White’s book, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom were quite popular. White’s book had a global impact and was ultimately translated into German, French, Italian, Swedish, and Japanese.

    The Anglican response to British atheism was largely ineffective because it was politically compromised, and perhaps too emotive. As Principe pointed out in his lectures, Anglican natural theology (which is very different from Thomistic natural theology, e.g., Aquinas’ Five ways) started off as a devotional act for religious natural philosophers. Later, it was used to try to refute atheism and connected with the religious support of the monarchy after its restoration in 1660 with Charles II. William Paley (1743–1805) and others developed arguments for the existence of God “from design” or “for design.” These “God of the gaps” approaches tended to appeal to emotions, e.g., awe and wonder. However, approaches such as the “watch argument” could be used to support polytheism (e.g., there are multiple watch makers) or deism (e.g., God is a distant, Divine architect).[18]

    Darwinian evolution in general, and natural selection in particular, challenged the design argument that supported theism, hence the anti-evolution reaction of the Church of England.[19] Ultimately, while design arguments may be beneficial for “exhortation” in a devotional context, they are not well suited for a probatory purpose. Early in his career, Ian Barbour commented on the failure of this form of natural theology, writing,

    There is little interest today in looking to nature for support for religious beliefs; the once-popular arguments of “natural theology”—such as the claim that evidences of design prove the existence of a Designer—appear dubious logically and, more significantly, reflect a speculative approach very different from the attitudes characteristic of religion itself.[20] 

    Recent scholarship in Anglican natural theology, such as developed by John Polkinghorne, has tried to overcome the aforementioned weaknesses. Polkinghorne, who was an internationally recognized professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge, as well as an Anglican cleric, argued that Christian “theism offers the ‘best explanation’ of the many-levelled character of human encounter with reality.”[21] Christian theism can offer a coherent account of order in the universe as well as its suitability for complex life. It can also give an account for the human experience of beauty and conscience, which certainly transcend what mere evolutionary survival would give rise to.

    Further complicating matters in the nineteenth century, some Anglican, Lutheran, and Reformed theologians and church leaders began to promote theological modernism. The Reformed exegete and philosopher, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), is widely considered to be the father of liberal Protestantism. The historical Christian view on the compatibility of faith and reason, revelation and science, was challenged in the context of Schleiermacher’s critique of Enlightenment rationalism. Schleiermacher advanced the radical position that God could only be experienced through feelings, not reason.[22] Christianity is most fundamentally just a feeling of absolute dependence on God. For Schleiermacher, faith is always experienced within a particular context, or faith community. The emotivist turn and rejection of traditional teachings of Biblical inspiration and inerrancy quickly led to relativism. If the words of the Bible were not asserted by the Holy Spirit and therefore teach the truth, which God wished for the sake of our salvation, there can be no authoritative Christian doctrine. Combined with the acceptance of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, modernists began to question traditional Christian doctrines, rooted in Sacred Scripture and shared by Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians for centuries. Rather, as Alistair McGrath states, modernist theologians “sought to anchor that faith in common human experience, and interpret it in ways that made sense within the modern worldview.”[23] This aligned well with Pietistic Lutheranism’s emphasis on religious experience and interdenominational tolerance.[24]

    Some Catholic intellectuals also embraced modernist philosophical and theological principles, leading to condemnations by various Popes as well as the First Vatican Council (1869–1870).[25] Vatican I strongly promoted a complementary perspective on faith and reason, as well as endorsed the study of natural science.[26] The excommunication of the modernist French priest, Alfred Loisy, was a significant event in the Catholic Church’s battle with modernism.[27] Loisy dissented from Catholic doctrine on the nature of the Church, Divine revelation, Biblical exegesis, the Sacraments, the Divinity of Christ, and more. In his memoirs he described himself as “more pantheist-positivist-humanitarian than Christian.”[28] The Church also responded to the modernist crisis by encouraging Biblical scholarship based on sound principles and methodology with the creation of the Dominican École Biblique in Jerusalem in 1890 and the Jesuit Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1909.[29]

    The liberalism of the modernists created a widespread, and at times well-funded fundamentalist reaction. For example, Lyman and Milton Stewart of Union Oil commissioned a set of ninety essays which would become The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth in 1915. However, as Edward B. Davis points out, “surprisingly, evolution had not been a principal target of The Fundamentals; the authors as a group were far more concerned about heterodox theology and the ‘German fancies’ of higher biblical criticism.”[30] Christian fundamentalists did pit themselves against evolutionists with various forms of creationism. Young Earth Creationists claim the moment of creation was around 4004 BC based on Anglican Archbishop James Ussher’s (1581–1656) chronology.[31] They reject all forms of evolution. Old Earth Creationists on the other hand accept contemporary geological and cosmological estimates for the age of the Earth as well as microevolution, i.e., the change in allele frequencies that occurs over time within a population causing intraspecific variation. They reject macroevolution, i.e., speciation. The Intelligent Design movement in many ways is a re-instantiation of Paley’s “god of the gaps” design arguments. The Catholic Church does not have a problem with evolution as a biological theory. A concern of Pope Pius XII, and others, is the error of confusing a biological theory for a metaphysical one.[32]

    Perhaps one of the main reasons that history is a key mediating disciplines in the science and theology space is the fact that, as Principe pointed out, contemporary evangelists of the conflict hypothesis make three historical claims. First, they assert that the architects of modern science were themselves non-religious or irreligious. This cannot be reconciled with the evidence that in fact, as Stacy Trasancos puts it, “science was born of Christianity” in medieval Europe[33] and that some of the leading figures in the Scientific Revolution were devout Christians, such as Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), Robert Boyle (1627–1691), and Isaac Newton (1642–1726), to name a few. Second, advocates of the conflict hypothesis aver that religion and faith played either a negative and adversarial role, or no significant role, in the Scientific Revolution (and by extension, afterwards as well). This claim is inconsistent with the legacy of the Church ranging from Papal sponsorship of the astronomy that led to the Gregorian Calendar in the sixteenth century, to the work of Augustinian monk, Abbot Gregor Mendel, in genetics in the nineteenth century, to the development of the Big Bang hypothesis by Belgian diocesan priest, Monsignor Georges Lemaître in the twentieth century. Finally, conflict promoters insist that the relationship between science and religion is a zero-sum game, i.e., as one advances the other must necessarily retreat. This claim also is difficult to reconcile with the growing interest in dialogue and integration of Christian faith and natural science by organizations such as the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Center for Theology and Natural Science (CTNS), the Society of Catholic Scientists (SCS), and many other groups.

    In light of the history discussed briefly in this paper, where does the Catholic Christian look for guidance in the ongoing quest to promote a beneficial interaction between theology and science? Saint Thomas Aquinas is certainly a Catholic “monument” to the beneficial interaction of natural philosophy, metaphysics, and revealed theology. His eloquence and articulacy in this area is beyond compare.[34] In Christian realist metaphysics, such as that elaborated by Aquinas, natural science has a crucial role in describing natural phenomena. However, natural science cannot have any role in accounting for their existence.

    Neo-Thomists have utilized the perennial insights of Aquinas’ metaphysical realism and rich notion of causality to explore many contemporary issues in theology and science.[35] Today, they are exploring open questions around emergence, complexity, non-locality, top-down causality, holism, and systems theory. Catholics would also do well to look to the writings of the recent popes. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have made contributions to the Catholic understanding of faith and reason.[36] A student entering the science and theology field must dedicate himself to the study of history (and philosophy), reading the works of distinguished scholars such as Lawrence Principe, Stanley Jaki, and Ian Barbour, to avoid the mistakes of the pitfalls of the past. History has a way of repeating itself.



    The author is grateful to Father Michael Bruno, Father Gabriel B. Costa, Edward B. Davis, Erik Freeman, Monsignor Thomas G. Guarino, Kenneth J. Howell, Francis Hunter, Father Christian Irdi, John T. Laracy, Matthew Laracy, Paul Laracy, Father Thomas K. Macdonald, Father Thomas P. Quinn, and Victor Velarde for beneficial discussion on this topic and feedback on earlier drafts. 

    Father Joseph R. Laracy (S.T.D. Pontifical Gregorian University) is a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark and assistant professor in the Department of Systematic Theology at Seton Hall University. He is also an affiliated faculty member with the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, the University Core Curriculum, the Catholic Studies Program, and the University Honors Program. Along with Father Paul Haffner, he is the editor of Stanley Jaki International Congress (Gracewing, 2020). Laracy is the author of Theology and Science in the Thought of Ian Barbour: A Thomistic Evaluation for the Catholic Doctrine of Creation (Peter Lang, 2021).



    [1] Ian G. Barbour, Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (San Francisco: Harper, 1997); Stanley L. Jaki, The Road of Science and the Ways to God, 3rd ed. (Real View Books, 2005).

    [2] History is also an essential discipline to understand philosophy itself, and how philosophy has shaped the world. See Julián Marías, History of Philosophy, trans. Stanley Appelbaum and Clarence C. Strowbridge, 22nd ed. (New York: Dover Publications, 1967); Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers, 2nd ed. (New York: Pocket Books, 1991).

    [3] Joseph R. Laracy, “Christianity and Science: Confronting Challenges to Faith and Reason in the History of Philosophy and Theology,” Faith 43, no. 5 (2011): 12–17.

    [4] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, ed. Gary Banham, trans. Norman K. Smith, 2nd ed. (New York: Macmillan and Company Limited, 2007).

    [5] Paschal Scotti, Galileo Revisited: The Galileo Affair in Context (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017).

    [6] Kenneth J. Howell, God’s Two Books: Copernican Cosmology and Biblical Interpretation in Early Modern Science (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004).

    [7] Kenneth J. Howell, “Did the Bulldog Bite the Bishop? An Anglican Bishop, An Agnostic Scientist, and a Roman Pontiff,” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 6, no. 3 (Summer 2003): 64.

    [8] Society of Catholic Scientists, “Galileo Galilei,” Catholic Scientists of the Past, accessed August 17, 2023,

    [9] Paul Haffner, The Tiara and the Test Tube:  The Popes and Science from the Medieval Period to the Present (Leominster, UK: Gracewing Publishing, 2014).

    [10] Joseph R. Laracy, “Priestly Contributions to Modern Science: The Case of Monsignor Georges Lemaître,” Faith 42, no. 3 (June 2010): 16–19.

    [11] Lawrence M. Principe, The Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011), 8.

    [12] William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution, 2nd ed. (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003).

    [13] Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (New York: Double Day, 2006).

    [14] Jan Tesar, The History of Scientific Atheism: A Comparative Study of Czechoslovakia and Soviet Union (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Gmbh & Co, 2019).

    [15] Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), chap. 2.

    [16] Sheridan Gilley and Ann Loades, “Thomas Henry Huxley: The War between Science and Religion,” The Journal of Religion 61, no. 3 (July 1981): 285–308.

    [17] Cyril Bibby, T.H. Huxley; Scientist, Humanist and Educator. (London: Watts, 1959), 155.

    [18] William Paley, Natural Theology: Or Evidence of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature, ed. Matthew D. Eddy and David Knight (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008).

    [19] Diarmid A. Finnegan, “Anglicans, Science, and the Bible in the Nineteenth Century,” in The Oxford History of Anglicanism, Volume III: Partisan Anglicanism and Its Global Expansion 1829-c.1914, ed. Rowan Strong (Oxford University Press, 2017).

    [20] Ian G. Barbour, Issues in Science and Religion (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966), 2.

    [21] John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), xii.

    [22] Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, trans. John Oman (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958).

    [23] Alister E. McGrath, Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought, 2nd ed. (Oxford, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2012), 196.

    [24] Ted Campbell, Christian Confessions: A Historical Introduction (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 128.

    [25] Pius IX, Quanta Cura, 1864; Vatican I, Dei Filius, 1870; Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, 1907.

    [26] Vatican I, Dei Filius, chap. 4.

    [27] Jeffrey L. Morrow, Alfred Loisy and Modern Biblical Studies (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 2019).

    [28] Houtin Albert and Sartiaux Félix, Alfred Loisy: Sa Vie, Son Oeuvre (Paris: CNRS Editions, 1960), 397.

    [29] Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 1893; Pius X, Vinea Electa, 1909.

    [30] Edward B. Davis, “Science Falsely So Called: Fundamentalism and Science,” in The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, ed. J.B. Stump and Alan G. Padgett (Oxford, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2012), 49.

    [31] James Ussher, Annales Veteris Testamenti, A Prima Mundi Origine Deducti (Ann Arbor: Proquest, Eebo Editions, 2010).

    [32] Pius XII, Humani Generis, 1950.

    [33] Stanley L. Jaki, Science and Creation (Lanham: University Press of America, 1990); Stanley L. Jaki, The Savior of Science (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000); Paul Haffner, Creation and Scientific Creativity: A Study in the Thought of S. L. Jaki (Front Royal, VA: Christendom Press, 2004); Stacy Trasancos, Science Was Born of Christianity (Titusville, FL: Habitation of Chimham Publishing, 2014); Joseph Laracy, “Creation, Revelation, and the Emergence of Empirical Science,” in Stanley Jaki Foundation International Congress, ed. Paul Haffner and Joseph Laracy (Leominster, UK: Gracewing Publishing, 2020), 27–73.

    [34] Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris, 1879, paras. 29–31.

    [35] Hrvoje Relja, “Il Realismo di S.L. Jaki: Dalla Convinzione Religiosa Tramite Il Realismo Moderato e La Creatività Scientifica Fino al Realismo Metodico” (PhD, Rome, Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, 2008); Michael J. Dodds, Unlocking Divine Action: Contemporary Science and Thomas Aquinas (Washington, D.C: The Catholic University of America Press, 2017); Edward Feser, Aristotle’s Revenge: The Metaphysical Foundations of Physical and Biological Science (Neunkirchen-Seelscheid, Germany: Editiones Scholasticæ, 2019); Mariusz Tabaczek, Divine Action and Emergence: An Alternative to Panentheism (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2021); Joseph R. Laracy, Theology and Science in the Thought of Ian Barbour: A Thomistic Evaluation for the Catholic Doctrine of Creation (New York: Peter Lang, 2021).

    [36] John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, 1998; Benedict XVI, The Regensburg Lecture, ed. James V. Schall (South Bend: St. Augustines Press, 2007); Francis, Lumen Fidei, 2013.

    Theology and the Human Sciences: Pushing the Consilience Envelope by Anthony L. Haynor, Ph.D.

                The subject of the relationship between the sciences and religion is of the utmost importance, particularly for us, faculty, working in an institution of Catholic higher education like Seton Hall.   Thus, it was with great interest that I enrolled in the Faculty Summer Seminar this year dealing with this topic. I learned so much from the seminar facilitator, Professor Lawrence Principe, who took us on an illuminating and informative tour of the history of the religion-science relationship. In broad strokes this history has ranged from warfare to calls for separation to an openness to some form of integration.

                As a sociologist by formal training, I am especially interested in the relationship between theology, on the one hand, and the human sciences, on the other.  For two decades I have taught on a biennial basis a course, “Catholicism and the Human Sciences,” that I developed.  At the heart of the course is the presentation and analysis of what I call “a spectrum of thought.” At one extreme, what I label “the divination of humanity,” are the secular or atheist humanist narratives concerning the human sciences. Here I draw heavily on the work of Henri de Lubac (The Drama of Atheist Humanism1), Bruce Mazlish (The Uncertain Sciences2, and John Milbank (Theology and Social Theory3). In this camp are thinkers such as Comte, Feuerbach, Marx, and Durkheim, who argue for the human sciences completely divorcing themselves from “theological” thought of any kind.  It is only with the renunciation of all theological traces that the human sciences can progress by focusing their full attention on the truth regarding human affairs and then applying that knowledge for the betterment and well-being of the human species and the human family. Comte’s term, “the religion of humanity,” captures this standpoint perfectly.  De Lubac concentrates on the philosophy of secular humanism that came for the above scholars to undergird their study of human affairs. For de Lubac, this had pernicious effects—the move toward social engineering and the undermining of the dignity and sacredness of the human person. Putting it in the starkest terms, “the divination of humanity” leads directly to totalitarianism, with the human sciences taking on the critical role of managing and guiding the new “sociocracy.”  Milbank focuses on the degree to which the new social order is characterized by an “ontology of violence,” that is, a view of the human arena as one characterized by power and control.  Mazlish, on the other hand, takes a decidedly salubrious view of the human scientific embrace of “the divination of humanity.”  He is unequivocal in arguing that the purging of theology from human scientific activity was instrumental in the development of the human sciences as autonomous modes of inquiry. Clearly accentuated is the liberatory effect of such purging for the human sciences and the project of societal reconstruction in a post-Christian age.

                At the other extreme is the “theology as human science” position most closely associated with John Milbank, who argues that the human sciences need to be grounded in theology (specifically, Catholic theology) in order to not succumb to an “ontology of violence” and avert the disastrous effects brought on by their secularization. This view of the “unitive” coupling of theology and the human sciences has been espoused in recent scholarship highlighting “the tyranny of reason.”4 The argument made is that the decoupling of theology and human science has fostered an intellectual vantage point that privileges power, individual autonomy of the worst kind, social constructionism in the extreme, and nihilism. The human sciences become the handmaidens of a secular humanist, utopian orthodoxy, and we are powerless to resist. What we experience painfully and unrelentingly is the tyranny of the secular humanist machine.5 The unitive coupling of theology and human science is replaced by the unitive coupling of atheist humanism and the autonomous and reasoned disciplines of inquiry unfettered by theological biases. Such a coupling has led to an impoverishing of the human condition in the contemporary age—intellectually, morally, and spiritually.

                Most of the “Catholicism and the Human Sciences” course is devoted to pushing back on both extreme positions, neither of which has ever resonated with me.  For as long as I can remember I have preferred or, perhaps more accurately, “assented”6 to the integration of Catholic and human scientific outlooks. While the extreme positions on the spectrum of thought regard the two worldviews as “warring” I have opted to see them as being in a relationship of “consilience.”7   In his discussion of this idea, E. O. Wilson focuses on how different aspects of the whole (the universe) depend on each other and could not exist without each other.  Wilson was operating solely on the naturalistic plane and making the case for studying the consilient relationships among physico-chemical, biological, psychological, and socio-cultural phenomena and how they cohere into an all-encompassing whole or system. I have been increasingly interested in developing an integrated human along the lines suggested by Wilson and have incorporated this project into my teaching (of the “Senior Seminar in Social and Behavioral Sciences” in particular) and research agenda. Obviously, this does not go far enough, for the consilience envelope needs to be pushed in the theological direction. I am certainly not saying (a la process theology) that the natural and the supernatural realms depend on each other (the former is after all contingent while the latter is non-contingent, the former conforms to the dimensions of time, space and motion while the latter is outside of space, time and motion). What I am saying is that as human knowers we need to explore conscientiously the complex interplay between the natural or temporal sphere on the one hand, and the supernatural sphere, on the other. How do they relate to each other in the universe that we call ours?  While God created the world, we, humans, are intimately involved in its ongoing creation with the indispensable help of God’s grace. Mutual dependence is not the right way to frame the connection—perhaps consilience is preferable.

                In attempting to articulate the consilience between theology and the human sciences as distinct, yet, on some level, reciprocal and interrelated ways of inquiry—put simply, an integrative strategy, the contributions of Bernard Lonergan have been indispensable. He put forward the distinction between a classicist worldview (emphasizing timeless and universal truths) and historical mindedness (emphasizing flux and historical situatedness).8 Lonergan also drew critically important distinctions among the “scale of values” (vital, social, cultural, personal, and religious), each of which becomes the province of disciplines of inquiry.9 Lonergan’s analysis of our civilizational trajectory is framed in terms of the theological categories of progress, decline, and redemption.10  He argues (following Gibson Winter11) that the human sciences must adopt perspectives that privilege free will and meaning and eschew perspectives that reduce human behavior to mechanistic, external forces.  In these formulations, Lonergan is pushing, I would argue, the consilience envelope.

                Examining the relationship between theology and the human sciences in terms of consilience enables us to get past the culture wars that currently plague us.  An integrative approach fully recognizes the autonomy of the human sciences within certain boundaries—metaphysical and theological.  A consilience “strategy” rejects the argument that theology and the human sciences are to be seen in unitive terms given the profound difference in their respective modes of knowing. It also opposes the position put forward by atheist humanists that progress in the human sciences requires the purging of theological input. The extreme positions are to be avoided—integration and consilience are to be assiduously pursued.     




    1. Henri de Lubac, The Drama of Atheist Humanism (San Francisco: Ignatius


    1. Bruce Mazlish, The Uncertain Sciences (Oxfordshire: Routledge, 2007).
    2. John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory (Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006).
    3. Yuval Levin, The Tyranny of Reason (Lanham: UPA, 2000).
    4. Paul Kingsnorth, “The Tale of the Machine,” Abbey of Misrule, June 29, 2023.
    5. John Henry Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (Anderite Press, 2015)
    6. E. O. Wilson, Consilience (New York: Vintage, 2014).
    7. Bernard Lonergan, “The Transition from a Classicist World-View to Historical Mindedness,” in A Second Collection (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), pp. 1-9.
    8. Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, Collected Works, Volume 14 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017).
    9. Mark T. Miller, The Quest for God and the Good Life (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2013).
    10. Gibson Winter, Elements for a Social Ethic (New York: Macmillan, 1966).



    Anthony L. Haynor, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice. His primary areas of disciplinary interest and expertise are social and cultural change, sociological theory, the relationship between self and society, and the philosophy of social practice. Dr. Haynor is currently studying communitarianism, the relationship between Catholicism and the human sciences, integrated human science, and civilizational prospects.


    Lonergan, Augustine and Contemporary Science by Richard M. Liddy

    Some years ago, while doing Ph.D. work in Rome, I had a rather remarkable breakthrough moment. It happened while studying Bernard Lonergan’s major work, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding. I recounted that personal story in my 2007 Startling Strangeness: Reading Lonergan‘s Insight.[1]  I had studied theology under Lonergan as a graduate student in Rome, but at the time I never envisioned getting a Ph.D. in philosophy. It was the early 60s, the time of the Second Vatican Council, and the Church and the world were changing. As a young priest, I was especially focused on social justice issues and wanted to do pastoral work in the changing cities of New Jersey.  Consequently, in July of 1964 I came home from Rome and did not want to return…but my Archbishop had other ideas.

    Archbishop Thomas Aloysius Boland was an elderly gentleman who kindly told me that the diocese wanted me to teach philosophy in the local seminary; therefore, I would be returning to Rome for three more years to obtain a doctorate in philosophy. I could hear the pain in my father’s voice as I called him on the phone and told him the news. After being away for four years, I would be leaving home again for three more years.

    Fortunately, during that same summer of 1964, I met a classmate, David Tracy, who said to me, “Well, if you study anything, study Lonergan—read Insight!”  And I did—and it changed my life.  Insight was, and is, a “great book” that, if embraced, promises a transforming experience. It fulfills Jerome Miller’s characterization of a great book: you don’t control it—it controls you.

    To be under the sway of a great work does not only mean that one assents to a particular set of key propositions contained in it; it means that one is so deeply engaged by the way of thinking that animates it that one’s own way of thinking is profoundly and permanently transformed….A great text is a world which we can understand only if we inhabit and learn to feel at home in it….[2]


    This seems to have been the case with Augustine of Hippo when, in the year 386, having left the materialist Manichees and tempted by skepticism, an acquaintance lent him some texts of the Platonic philosophers libri quidam platonici —probably Plotinus and Porphyry. These books changed his life. They moved his thinking from being wrapped up in images that led him astray to surrendering to veritas—the truth. The straight oar in water can certainly “seem” crooked, but it is not. Images can be very deceptive.

    My mind was in search of such images as the forms of my eye were accustomed to see; and I did not realize that the mental act by which I formed these images, was not itself a bodily image. [3]

    Lonergan’s “Insight”                                                                                                                                        

     In the introduction to Insight Lonergan evokes this experience of Augustine and then moves on to the modern sciences; for distinct from Augustine’s, this is the context in which we presently live.  His point is that we can have a similar experience to Augustine’s if we understand what modern science is all about.

    St. Augustine of Hippo narrates that it took him years to make the discovery that the name ‘real’ might have a different connotation from the name ‘body.’ Or, to bring the point nearer home, one might say that it has taken modern science four centuries to make the discovery that the objects of its inquiry need not be imaginable entities moving through imaginable processes in an imaginable space time. The fact that a Plato attempted to communicate through his dialogues, the fact that an Augustine eventually learned from the writers whom, rather generically, he refers to as Platonists, has lost its antique flavor and its apparent irrelevance to the modern mind. Even before Einstein and Heisenberg it was clear enough that the world described by scientists was strangely different from the world depicted by artists and inhabited by men of common sense. But it was left to 20th century physicists to envision the possibility that the objects of their science were to be reached only by severing the umbilical cord that tied them to the maternal imagination of man.[4]

    Since my own university background was not in the sciences but in the classics, I had a lot of stretching to do, to do to reach up to Lonergan‘s analysis of modern science. I had had the rudiments of algebra and geometry, and a class in trigonometry, but I never really understood what “trig” was all about.  Years later, a friend told me that the key for him was when the teacher made two intersecting lines on the blackboard, and then with his arm and elbow traced the image of different related triangles on the axis. I had no such teacher. The right image can make all the difference. Nevertheless, in spite of my shaky background, I really did want to know what “science” was all about.  I remember late-night bull-sessions in college dormitories as my friends and I discussed what “science” was all about and its relevance to religion.  After all, we were studying to be Catholic priests! 

    The Third Stage of Meaning

    A basic issue, therefore, is Who are we as human beings? And what happened to us historically with the emergence of science?  And what is happening now?  And what is the context in which we are now asking these questions?  Certainly, it differs from the Greek development from common sense living to theory, epitomized by Aristotle’s theoretical account of the structure of “being.” For with the emergence of the modern sciences, the question ‘Who are we?’ emerges in a new way: Who are we who are capable of theoretical science? For example, of artificial intelligence?’ Since the emergence of the natural and historical sciences our basic human question has become: Who are we who are capable of such feats? Who are we who are asking questions, having insights, making judgements and deciding?

    In his Method in Theology Lonergan gives an account of the philosophical trajectory of recent centuries culminating in a new stage of meaning epitomized by his effort to give a theoretical account of the levels of human consciousness.  Lonergan calls that account the “generalized empirical method” (or GEM) instantiated in the methods of the empirical, social and historical sciences.  As his Insight exemplified GEM in the natural sciences, so his Method in Theology instantiated the same basic method underlying the historical sciences and gave indications as to how that method could be applied to the social and human sciences.

    Besides the scientific, the religious, and the scholarly, there is the modern philosophic differentiation. Ancient and medieval philosophers were principally concerned with objects. If they attained any differentiation, that did not differ from the scientific. But in modern philosophy there has been a sustained tendency to begin, not from the objects in the world mediated by meaning but from the immediate data of consciousness. In a first phase, from Descartes to Kant, the primary focus of attention was cognitional activity. But after the transition provided by German idealism, there was a notable shift in emphasis. Schopenhauer wrote on Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, Kierkegard took his stand on faith; Newman took his on conscience; Nietzsche extolled the will to power; Dilthey aimed at a Lebensphilosophie, Blondel at a philosophy of action; Scheler was abundant on feeling; and similar tendencies, reminiscent of Kant’s emphasis on practical reason, have been maintained by the personalists and the existentialists.[5]

    So we are in a new world, a world of theory, but theory focused on interiority, that is, human consciousness and subjectivity. It asks: How link all the contributions of the above philosophies into a unifying vision of the structure of the human person?  Lonergan in his two key works, Insight and Method in Theology, aims at doing just that.

    Let me conclude by giving an account of the process of students learning contemporary quantum mechanics by the physicist, Freeman Dyson:

    The student begins by learning the tricks of the trade.  He learns how to make calculations in quantum mechanics and get the right answers…To learn the mathematics of the subject and to learn how to use it takes about six months.  This is the first stage in learning quantum mechanics, and it is comparatively easy and painless. The second stage comes when the student begins to worry because he does not understand what he has been doing.  He worries because he has no clear physical picture in his head.  He gets confused in trying to arrive at a physical explanation for each of the mathematical tricks he has been taught.  He works very hard and gets discouraged because he does not seem able to think clearly.  This second stage often lasts six months or longer, and it is strenuous and unpleasant.

    Then, quite unexpectedly, the third stage begins.  The student suddenly says to himself, “I understand quantum mechanics,” or rather he says, “I understand now that there really isn’t anything to be understood.” [6]

    In Lonergan’s account, the process of learning contemporary science is a process: first, of memorizing the mathematical formulae; secondly, undergoing a painful period of trying to imagine what the formulae might signify; and thirdly, becoming satisfied with the scientific formulae without having to have a visual image of what they might mean.  As Lonergan remarks on page 278 of Insight, “The perennial source of nonsense is when scientists try to tell the layman what scientific reality looks like!”[7]

    If empirical scientists would undergo the therapy of Lonergan’s Insight, they would discover the reality of themselves as open to the universe—and perhaps even to God.



    [1] See Startling Strangeness: Reading Lonergan’s Insight (Lanham MD: Rowan and Littlefield: Lanham, MD, 2007).

    [2] Miller, Jerome, In the Throe of Wonder: Intimations of the Sacred in a Postmodern World (SUNY Art Series: State University of NY, 1992) p. 53.

    [3]  Augustine, Confessions, 7, 1.  See Peter Brown, Augustine: A Biography (Faber and Faber, 1969).

    [4] Lonergan, B, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, vol. 3 (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1993) p. 15.  (Hereafter CWL)

    [5] “Doctrinal Pluralism,” Philosophical and Theological Papers, CWL vol. 17 (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 2004) p. 80.

    [6] Dyson, F., “Innovation in Physics,” in Rapport and Wright, eds., Physics (Washington Square Press: New York, 1965), pp. 259‑260.

    [7] Insight, CWL 278. “The problem set by the two types of knowing is, then, not a problem of elimination but a problem of critical distinction. For the difficulty lies, not in either type of knowing by itself, but in the confusion that arises when one shifts unconsciously from one type to the other. Animals have no epistemological problems. Neither do scientists, as long as they stick to their task of observing, forming hypothesis, and verifying. The perennial source of nonsense is that, after the scientist has verified his hypothesis, he is likely to go a little further and tell the layman what, approximately, scientific reality looks like! Already we have attacked the unverifiable image; but now we can see the origin of the strange urge to foist upon mankind unverifiable images. For both the scientists and the layman, besides being intelligent and reasonable, also are animals. To them as animals, a verified hypothesis is just a jumble of words or symbols. What they want is an elementary knowing of the ‘really real,’ if not through sense, at least by imagination.” In this regard I am led to think about the often stipulated “dark matter.” As one scientist remarked, “Does that mean anything more than that we do not know 95% of knowable reality?”

    Did God Send COVID? by John J. Ranieri

    The invention of science is not the reason that there are no longer witch-hunts, but the fact that there are no longer witch-hunts is the reason that science has been invented. Rene Girard, The Scapegoat.[1]

    As physician to the papal court in Avignon, Guy de Chauliac (1300-1368) was a firsthand witness to the “great and unprecedented mortality,” commonly referred to as the Black Death. He was keenly interested in the causes of the plague, and looking back at the devastating affliction, he made the following observations:

    Many have speculated on the cause of this great mortality.  In some places they believed that the Jews had poisoned the world, and so they killed them.  In others, they believed that it was the mutilated poor, and so they drove them away.  And in still others, that it was the nobles, so that they feared to travel in the world.  Finally it came to the point that a watch was kept in cities and towns, forbidding entry to anyone who was not well known.  And if they found anyone with powders or ointments, they made him swallow them, fearing that they might be poisons. But whatever the people said, the truth is that the cause of the mortality was twofold: one active and universal, one passive and particular.[2]

    A striking feature of the passage is De Chauliac’s explicit rejection of scapegoating behavior, exemplified in his contemporaries’ attempts to blame the plague on the Jews, the mutilated poor, the nobles, and anyone deemed to be a stranger.  The encompassing nature of his classifications would suggest that the good doctor is aware of a general human tendency to attribute the causes of natural calamities to individuals or minority groups who are almost always vulnerable to the desires and whims of the majority mob. “Whatever the people said,” De Chauliac knows better that the cause of the great mortality must be sought elsewhere. He recognizes scapegoating for what it is, and he refuses to be drawn into the persecutory mentality of the crowd. De Chauliac’s example helps to explain the meaning of the epigraph from the anthropologist and literary critic Rene Girard, who notes how:

    The scientific spirit cannot come first. It presupposes the renunciation of a former preference for the magical causality of persecution…In order to lead men to the patient exploration of natural causes, men must first be turned away from their victims.[3]

    What is being described here is the difference between a world in which people ask, “The crops have failed, whom should we sacrifice?” and a world in which they say, “The crops have failed, we need better irrigation techniques.”

    This insight is clearly present in De Chauliac’s text. Having rejected explanations that involve the scapegoating of others, he is left with the challenge of discovering alternative causes. In his view, “the cause of the mortality was twofold: one active and universal, one passive and particular.” He elaborates on the nature of this twofold cause, by explaining how its active, universal dimension may be due to a particular conjunction of the planets, while the passive and particular aspect depends on the health of the infected person. Today, to explain the origins of a pandemic by attributing it to a conjunction of planets may seem “unscientific;” but what should  be emphasized is that in the view of this 14th century physician, he is offering an entirely natural explanation of the phenomena.  Likewise, elsewhere in his work he makes it clear that the disease is spread by contagion, even if he is not entirely sure of the specific nature of the mode of transmission. His overall point, however, when speaking of the causes of the plague, is that these causes are natural. God is entirely absent from his explanation of the causes of the great mortality. De Chauliac’s understanding of what constitutes a natural cause may differ from those of contemporary science, but in the context of the time, the explanations he offers are based on natural phenomena. There is no appeal to supernatural causation in his account. The plague resulted from an unfortunate conjunction of planets, not from the direct action of God’s will. Therefore, the proper response to the contagion is to get as far away from it as possible and to avail oneself of the medicinal and preventive remedies available at the time.[4]

    In making the distinctions that he does, De Chauliac was employing concepts of primary and secondary causation that were available to natural philosophers and theologians in medieval Europe. Perhaps the difference between these concepts can be illustrated by asking the question “Does God make it rain?” To understand God as the primary cause of rain is to imagine God as turning the sprinkler on and off in accordance with the divine (and arbitrary) will. To accept the idea of secondary causation is to conceive of the world as having been created and sustained by God with its own intrinsic potentialities that are understood as being natural to it. In this understanding, God “causes” rain by creating a universe in which rain occurs in accordance with certain probabilities and conditions that unfold according to their own natural tendencies. This idea should not be confused with 18th century European Enlightenment notions of God as a watchmaker, who creates the mechanism, presses a button, and steps back from creation to let it run on its own. For a medieval thinker like Thomas Aquinas, God never steps back from creation, because creation is not to be imagined like making a cupcake. A more fruitful understanding might emerge if we conceive of God as the answer to the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” God sustains creation from moment to moment (and in this sense God can be understood as the cause of all that is), but as created, the universe operates and evolves based on its natural intelligibility. Heat, not God, causes water to boil; but apart from divine sustenance, there would be neither heat nor water, nor an intelligible context in which anything could be understood. This is the intellectual horizon which informs the work of Aquinas, as well as that of Guy De Chauliac as he tried to make sense of the devastation wrought by the Black Death.

    For some, to distinguish between primary and secondary causation may seem arcane or irrelevant, yet another example of medieval distinctions that make no difference to human life. But such a judgement would be hasty and misguided. The point can be illustrated by considering two other responses to the Black Death from two Muslim contemporaries, Ibn al-Wardi (1292-1349) and Ibn al-Khatib (1313-1374). Ibn al-Wardi was a historian and geographer living in Syria, and Ibn al-Khatib was a polymath (poet, physician, historian, philosopher) who lived in al-Andalus.

    Believing that God was the direct, primary cause of everything that happens, Al-Wardi drew the conclusion that the plague was sent by God. While believers might pray for God to end the pestilence, they must accept God’s will and submit to God’s decrees:

    The plague is for Muslims a martyrdom and a reward…When the Muslim endures misfortune, then patience is his worship. If someone says it causes infection and destruction, say: God creates and recreates. If we acknowledge the plague’s devastation of the people, it is the will of the Chosen Doer…Nothing prevented us from running away from the plague except our devotion to noble tradition.[5]

    It would be hard to imagine a clearer example of the idea that sickness is caused by God and that the proper response of the believer is to accept it as such in faith. Anyone who has attended a wake service will recognize that this is not an idea peculiar to Muslims or an idea that disappeared with the Middle Ages. How often in such circumstances do well-intentioned consolers remind the grieving that the death of their loved one is God’s will; in other words that God kills people when God so chooses, and that we are not to question the mysterious ways of the divine?

    Fortunately, al-Wardi was not the only or the last word in the Muslim world to comment on the proper way to respond to the Black Death. Al-Khatib, like De Chauliac, accepted the idea of contagion (and with it the idea of secondary causation), and his opinion of Muslim scholars who thought as al-Wardi did was scathing:

    The existence of contagion has been proved by experience, deduction, the senses, observation, and by unanimous reports…And amidst the horrible afflictions that the plague has imposed upon the people, God has afflicted the people with some learned religious scholars who issue fatwas against fleeing the plague, so the quills with which the scholars wrote these fatwas were like swords upon which the Muslims died…And in conclusion, to ignore the proofs for plague contagion is an indecency and an affront to God and holds cheap the lives of Muslims.[6]

    The affront to God is thinking and acting as if God is making people sick. For al-Khatib, the divine mandate is for human beings to use their reason to understand the natural causes of the horrible disease that assails them, and to do what is needed to either find a cure or discover effective means of preventing the contagion.

    Hopefully, these examples drawn from the writings of De Chauliac, Al-Wardi, and Al-Khatib show how ideas about natural and supernatural, primary and secondary causation can have profound consequences for human society, including matters of life and death. An understanding of these ideas can also help to answer the question that is the title of this essay. As a result of the pandemic, some people were inspired to rise to the occasion – to tend to the sick, to find the most effective means of preventing infection, and to find a vaccine. But there were also those who believed that COVID was sent by God as punishment for sin, that faith in God would keep them from getting sick, and who refused to wear a mask as a sign of their faith. However sincere, such attitudes exemplify magical thinking, bad theology, and an impoverished understanding of the way in which God relates to the world. Although the origination of COVID may not have been definitively determined, we would be wise not to attribute it to God.


    [1] Girard, Rene, The Scapegoat, trans. Yvonne Freccero (The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore [MD], 1986), p. 204.

    [2] Grant, Edward ed., A Source Book in Medieval Science, (Harvard University Press: Cambridge [MA], 1974), p. 773.

    [3] Girard, Rene, The Scapegoat, translation by Yvonne Freccero (The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore [MD], 1986), pp. 204-205.

    [4] Grant, Edward ed., A Source Book in Medieval Science, (Harvard University Press: Cambridge [MA], 1974), pp. 773-74.

    [5] Aberth, John, The Black Death, The Great Mortality of 1348-1350, A Brief History with Documents (Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston [MA], 2005), p. 113.

    [6] Aberth, John, The Black Death, The Great Mortality of 1348-1350, A Brief History with Documents (Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston [MA], 2005), pp. 115-116.

    The (mis)construction of authority and the persistence of mistaken beliefs: One librarian’s view by Lisa Rose-Wiles

    The first day of our faculty summer seminar “Science and Religion: Histories, Myths and Insights” introduced to two nineteenth century books, Andrew Dickinson White’s The Warfare of Science[1] and John William Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science[2], attributing these to his “purple prose” writing style.    Initially I was more amused than alarmed by White’s hyperbole and military language, attributing these to his “purple prose” writing style.   Terms like sieges, battles, battle-fields, conflict and combatants appear with predictable frequency, along with phrases like “the great sacred struggle for the liberty of science.”[3]  Draper’s language was somewhat less overblown, but more overtly hostile to religion, despite his claim to “present a clear and impartial statement of the views and acts of the two contending parties.[4] It was clear that both authors had an agenda in portraying religion (especially Catholicism) as the enemy of science, but I was not prepared for the Dr. Principe’s revelations regarding the wealth of misinformation, inappropriate (sometimes outright fraudulent) references, and above all the persistent influence of these two writers.

    According to library records,[5] Draper’s book has been available in 343 versions (various editions and reprints, including print books, eBooks and microform) in thirteen languages since its publication in 1874, with a new eBook edition published this year. White’s original History had a more limited distribution (30 versions) since 1876, but the expanded version, “A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom,[6] published in 1896 runs to 388 versions in twelve languages, also with a new eBook version this year. There are 784 citations to Google’s online version of Draper’s book, 58 to White’s 1876 book, and 929 citations to the 1896 book, which makes them appear to be great “authorities” on their subject.  But as a librarian I like to dig into such metrics, and I quickly discovered that not all of these citations were positive.  Describing Draper’s book as “the first to popularize the conflict thesis”, sociologist Michael Evans notes that “historians and sociologists have debunked systematically the various forms of the conflict thesis.”[7]  In a sociological review of the “warfare” narrative, John and Michael Evans observe that:

    There is a deep assumption spread through most academic writing about religion and science: the warfare narrative. In popular accounts, religion and science are fixed categories of thought that have always been at war, with the first skirmish being between Galileo and the seventeenth century Catholic Church …… This narrative is classically indicated in the title of an 1896 text …. A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. However, historians no longer accept the warfare narrative.[8]

    The warfare narrative implicitly assumes that the conflict or “war” between science and religion “is between a static religion and a static science” over “the authority to establish truth claims about the world”[9] [italics added]. The authors stress that science and religion are neither static nor monolithic, but dynamic and multi-faceted, with agreements and disagreements occurring during different periods and between diverse groups or individuals. They suggest that the conflicts between science and religion are not about religious beliefs per se, but are actually “social conflicts … between institutions or groups competing over differential interests, not differential notions of truth, and that there are particular individuals (“secularizers”) with a personal stake in the discrediting of religion.”[10]  They conclude that “rarely religion and science conflict at all and even more rarely do they conflict about the truth.”[11]

    So why does the “conflict / warfare” myth persist in the face of so much contrary evidence?  I suggest that two major and related factors are “authority” and “belief.”

    Debates about the nature and scope of authority date to at least the early modern period.[12] Modern philosophers typically divide authority into two types:  political (executive or behavioral) authority, which is authority based on the power vested in one’s position, such as a judge or police officer, and epistemic (non-executive) authority, which involves “authority over belief.”[13] Librarian Patrick Wilson makes a similar distinction between administrative or “performatory” authority and cognitive authority, which he describes as “a matter of social perception and recognition …. it is not what you “really” know but what others think you know that gives you authority.”[14] Bernard Lonergan also emphasizes the socially constructed aspect of authority, noting that “authority belongs to the community that has a common field of experience, common and complementary ways of understanding common judgments and common aims.”[15]

    The position that authority is socially constructed is reflected in the American Colleges and Research Libraries (ACRL) “Framework for Information Literacy.” The Framework includes six “Frames” designed to provide guidelines for developing various aspects of information literacy.  The first frame, “Authority Is Constructed and Contextual,” states:

    ‘Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required.’[16]

    There has been much debate about the “authority” frame, notably between Concordia librarian Nathan Rinne and Trinity Western librarian William Badke (interestingly, both have a background in Theology). Rinne contends that the Frame is rooted in social constructivism, pragmatism, post-modernism and relativism, and – most importantly – ignores pursuit of the truth.[17] Rinne stresses that research is not only a quest for knowledge but a quest for the truth, and that truth and authority are inextricably connected.   Badke contends that “we will never find complete consensus” on what constitutes absolute truth, and that a more realistic goal is reasonable confidence based on careful methodology and good evidence.”[18] However, Badke agrees with Rinne on the dangers of radical postmodernism, where everything is seen as subjective, and everyone’s perspective is equally valid. He concludes that “the most pressing enemy at the gates today is conjecture and speculation masquerading as authority.”[19]  This echoes Lonergan’s caution that recognized “authorities” can be inauthentic or illegitimate[20] —as seems to be the case for the “authorities” who were introduced in our seminar.

    So how is the authority of these two authors “constructed”? I suggest that one key factor is the perception that they are reputable experts occupying positions of prestige and power.  This is particularly true of White, then president of Cornell University, so there is an element of “executive” as well as cognitive authority in his case.  The issue that neither are historians, and both have personal and/or institutional interests in discrediting Catholicism (i.e., are “secularizers”) is not immediately apparent.  Any student who took the trouble to look up these authors would no doubt conclude that both are legitimate authorities whose word they should trust.

    In his monumental work Insight: A study of human understanding, Bernard Lonergan observes that much of what we “know” comes not from our own experience, understanding and judgment, but is based on the word of others who we judge to be trustworthy.  He cautions that when we critically scrutinize why we believe something to be true, we find “almost any belief … rests on other beliefs.[21]  Jeremy Wilkins similarly distinguishes between “immanently generated knowledge” and belief, noting that “because to believe is to hold in trust what only another understands and knows to be true, traditions of belief rest on authority.”[22] We  hope that those we believe are valid authorities, not only trustworthy but committed to an unbiased pursuit of the truth. Unfortunately, there is a strong human tendency to accept information that conforms to our existing beliefs and avoid or reject conflicting opinions,  often described as “confirmation bias.”[23] Thus, if one already holds a belief that religion is the enemy of science based on personal experience or something one has been told or read,  the belief will continually be reinforced by the persistent popular narratives that perpetuate the myth that science and religion are intrinsically opposed. Preexisting beliefs, whether rational or irrational, are highly resistant to change even in the face of contrary evidence.  Lonergan has much to say regarding the notion of belief, the danger of false beliefs, and how to best correct them. To vastly oversimplify, the solution lies in becoming critically aware of one’s own thought processes (“interiority”) and applying “rational consciousness” in making judgments about the truth (or otherwise) of a proposition – in other words, asking “is it so.”[24] The same process can be applied to questions and judgments about which individuals or institutions hold authentic authority and when it is rational to believe them.[25]

    So how do we determine—and as educators, train our students to determine – who is an “authority” and whose voice we should listen to?  My exercise in checking online credentials and number of citations clearly revealed the inadequacies of this simple (and often recommended) approach. Following up citations and historical background is time consuming, and although as a librarian I enjoy doing that, I suspect most students would find that infinitely tedious, and they may follow on up the (many) uncritical citations that simply reiterate the original falsehoods.   The critical point here is that the frame “authority is constructed and contextual” is not only an acknowledgement that not all “authority” is contained in the conventional peer reviewed literature (a clear embracing of “diversity, equity and inclusion”) but also a warning.  The social construction of authority, our reliance on belief in others as a source of knowledge, and the effects of confirmation bias are forces that we need to be aware of and impress on our students.  Librarians have a key role to play in helping students to understand and critically engage in the research process, including the need to carefully evaluate sources and employ their own rational consciousness in doing so.



    [1] White, A.D., The Warfare of Science. (Henry S. King and Company: London, 1876).

    [2] Draper, J. W. History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, (Appleton and Company: New York [NY], 1874).

    [3] White, A.D., The Warfare of Science. (Henry S. King and Company: London, 1876), p. 7.

    [4] Draper, J. W. History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, (Appleton and Company: New York [NY], 1874), p. ix.

    [5] Online Computer Library (OCLC) WorldShare record management searches.

    [6] White, A. D. A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. (Appleton and Company: New York [NY], 1896).

    [7] Evans, M. S. “Supporting science: Reasons, restrictions, and the role of religion.”  Science Communication 34 (2012): 334–362, p. 337.

    [8] Evans, J. H., and Evans, M. S. “Religion and science: Beyond the epistemological conflict narrative.”  Annual Review of Sociology, 34 (2008), pp. 87-105, p.88. See also Numbers, R. L. (Ed.). Galileo goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion. (Harvard University Press: Cambridge [MA], 2009).

    [9] Evans, J. H., and Evans, M. S. “Religion and science: Beyond the epistemological conflict narrative.”  Annual Review of Sociology 34 (2008), pp. 87-105, 88.

    [10] Evans, J. H., and Evans, M. S. “Religion and science: Beyond the epistemological conflict narrative.”  Annual Review of Sociology 34 (2008), pp. 87-105, 99.

    [11] Evans, J. H., and Evans, M. S. “Religion and science: Beyond the epistemological conflict narrative.” Annual Review of Sociology 34 (2008), pp. 87-105, 100.

    [12] Lanuza-Navarro, T. M. C. “Astrology in court: The Spanish Inquisition, authority, and expertise.” History of Science 55 (2017), pp. 187-209.

    [13] Kuehn, E. F. “Framing authority in theological libraries.” ATLA Summary of Proceedings 71 (2017), pp. 39–48, 41.  There is also “moral authority,” which seems to reside in a separate literature and is beyond the scope of this brief paper, but see for example Evans, J. How professionals construct moral authority: expanding boundaries of expert authority in stem cell science. Administrative Science Quarterly 66 (2021), pp. 989–1036.

    [14] Wilson, P. “Bibliographic instruction and cognitive authority.” Library Trends 39 (1991), pp. 259-270, 259.

    [15] Lonergan, B. J. F. Dialectic of authority. In A Third Collection: Volume 16. (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1974; reprinted 2017), pp. 1-9, 5.

    [16] Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for information literacy for higher education, (2015), p 4. (Accessed July 27, 2023).

    [17] Rinne, N. “Is authority always constructed and contextual? A classical challenge to the framework for information literacy.”  The Christian Librarian 59 (2016), pp. 207-223; Rinne, N.A. “The new Framework: a truth-less construction just waiting to be scrapped?” Reference Services Review 45 (2017), pp. 54-66.

    [18] Badke, W. B.  “Fake news, confirmation bias, the search for truth, and the theology student.”  Theological Librarianship 11 (2018): 5-6.  For a middle ground, see Kuehn, E. F.  “Framing authority in theological libraries.” ATLA Summary of Proceedings 71 (2017), pp. 39–48, 42.  Kuehn proposes that authorities are “reliable sources of testimony rather than the absolute truth” and that authority as referred to in the Framework means “something that identifies persons or texts as privileged mediators of knowledge about truth.”

    [19] Badke, W. B. “Fake news, confirmation bias, the search for truth, and the theology student.” Theological Librarianship 11(2018), pp. 5-6.

    [20] Lonergan, B. J. F.).  “Dialectic of authority.” In A Third Collection: Volume 16. (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1974; reprinted 2017): 1-9, p. 6.

    [21] Lonergan B. J. F. Insight: a study of human understanding. F. F. Crowe and R. Doran (Eds.) Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, vol. 3. (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1992), p. 733.

    [22] Wilkins, J.D.  “Thomism as a tradition of understanding.” The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review 85 (2021), pp. 247–293, 251

    [23] Silverman, B. G.  “Modeling and critiquing the confirmation bias in human reasoning.” IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, Systems, Man and Cybernetics, 22(1992), pp. 972–982; Badke, W. B. “Fake news, confirmation bias, the search for truth, and the theology student.” Theological Librarianship 11 (2018), pp. 5-6.

    [24] Lonergan B. J. F. Insight: a study of human understanding. F. F. Crowe and R. Doran (Eds.) Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, vol. 3. (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1992), pp. 346-8, 714.

    [25] For example, see Peters, M. “What is a fact? Notes on a fraught world in a polarized age.” The Lonergan Review, vol. 9 (2018), pp. 63-77.


    The Integration of Academic Discipline and Catholic Intellectual Integrity by Gloria Thurmond

    The 2023 Faculty Summer Seminar, facilitated by Dr. Lawrence Principe on Science and Religion, was a presentation replete with a detailed account of the intellectual construction of that which has been described as “the warfare” between religion and science down through the centuries of Western history. The illuminating account by Dr. Principe was presented through the resources and lens of leading theologians, scientists, and authors of the various historical periods. Of great insight was the explanation and analysis on how the dominant public attitudes on the perceived “warfare” were formed, and how they were prevalent well into the twentieth century.

    In an academic setting where all disciplines, including religion and science, must be allowed to maintain their own academic integrity, the Catholic university is well positioned to teach science and all other academic disciplines from the integrity of its Catholic intellectual identity. In the exploration of any given academic discipline, through the Ignatian view of the “potential for finding God in all things,” students of science and all other academic disciplines will be able to approach knowledge and mystery “in a manner that is worthy of thinking beings.”[1]

    An essay entitled “Shiver of Wonder” by the University of Portland professor and writer Karen Eifler, reflects a dialogue about chemistry with the Benedictine nun, Sister Angela Hoffman.  Sister Angela, a world class biochemist, and a professor of chemistry also at the University of Portland, spoke of rejecting the temptation “of bringing the Divine into a science classroom or lab.”

    While a large part of Benedictine spirituality is the understanding that “everything is a sign of the presence of God,”[2] science in the classroom, according to Sister Angela, must be pursued through questions that lead to “physical answers, not spiritual ones.”[3]  The metaphorical and spiritual language that describe the connections that are integral to the flourishing of life spiritually are not functional when the scientific goal is to understand the way life is put together. Through scientific means, it has been discovered that “everything is connected to everything else in some way; and the job of the scientist is to figure out those relationships.  This process is approached not by providing answers, but rather by asking questions and more questions.”[4]

    Through the cultivation of patience as a skill, in conjunction with the application of scientific inquiry and experimentation, the foundation can be laid from which students of science may encounter moments of “mystery and wonder when trying to explain why things work the way they are meant to work.”  Being physically and mentally ‘in the moment’ in scientific experimentation can potentially allow the science student to encounter wonder, mystery, and the discovery of “God in all things,” in the science classroom.  At the Catholic university, the integration between the scientific method and the Catholic intellectual identity, the Benedictine Rule of “listening with the ears of your hearts” must rest securely on the experience of “listening with the ears of your ears and seeing with the eyes of your eyes”[5]

    When paired with the critical thinking component of the Catholic intellectual tradition, the methodology of inquiry and experimentation in the science curricula creates the foundation and supports the student’s moral formation.   As a community of scholars united in a common effort to find goodness, truth, and beauty, the “Catholic university is challenged to find a place for bibles and papal decrees between the telescopes and microscopes.”[6]

    The Catholic university has the capacity to contribute to intellectual life not only in the field of science, but also across the full academic life of the university community.  Included in the intellectual life of the Catholic university is the opportunity for individual student formation for living a life of virtue. As rector of the Catholic University of Ireland, Cardinal John Henry Newman concluded the following:

    Here, then, I conceive, is the object of the Holy See and the Catholic Church in setting up Universities; it is to reunite things which were in the beginning joined together by God and have been put asunder by man. Some persons will say that I am thinking of confining, distorting, and stunting the growth of the intellect by ecclesiastical supervision.  I have no such thought. Nor have I any thought of a compromise, as if religion must give up something, and science something.  I wish the intellect to range with the utmost freedom, and religion to enjoy an equal freedom, but what I am stipulating for is, that they should be found in one and the same place and exemplified in the same persons.[7]

    According to Aristotle, “[I]t is virtue that leads the intellect to the right result.  In our efforts, says Aristotle, virtue makes us aim at the right mark, and practical wisdom makes us take the right means.”[8]  The essential connectedness of virtue and intellect at a Catholic university allows the student to experience the complete integration of every aspect of the academic community. During an address at the Catholic University of America in 2008, Pope Benedict said, “this is a place to encounter the living God …. This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching.”[9]

    To reiterate, the Catholic university is uniquely positioned to build its academic curriculum and community around the discipline of the scientific methodology of inquiry and experimentation, and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, in which the dimensions of critical thinking and intellectual integrity rest. Living a virtuous life becomes possible through the exercise of four components: Intellectual integrity, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage, and intellectual humility.

    As exemplified by Socrates, intellectual integrity was demonstrated through his routine and rigorous pursuit of knowledge.  The pursuit of knowledge is the primary function of human thought. When one attempts to live in accordance with one’s espoused ideals, this is an example of intellectual perseverance. This involves the tireless pursuit of ideas and questions initiated by endless curiosity and interest.

    Intellectual courage is developed through discipline and rigor over the course of a lifetime.  Socrates provides an excellent example of intellectual courage during his trial.  In the Apology, Socrates calmly elaborated his defense with views developed through his discipline of self-examination and through the examination of others over the course of a lifetime.

    Intellectual humility is the quality of realizing and admitting to the limits of one’s knowledge. Socrates’ wisdom was in knowing that he did not know. However, believing that knowledge was obtainable, Socrates practiced endless tough questioning to gain knowledge. He also believed that only knowledge was needed to make people perfectly virtuous. It follows that the college professors must model all components of intellectual integrity for the benefit of their students.

    The integration of scientific methodology with the critical and moral dimensions of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition creates a learning community that has the potential to foster academic excellence, motivate intellectual integrity, and to inspire a life of virtue.  The impact on the intellectual and moral formation of the student will lead to right thinking, right knowledge, and right living.



    [1] Eifler, K., Landy, T., Eds., Becoming Beholders, (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2014), p. xiii

    [2] Eifler, K., Landy, T., Eds., Becoming Beholders, (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2014), p. 226

    [3] Eifler, K., Landy, T., Eds., Becoming Beholders, (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2014), p. 226

    [4] Eifler, K., Landy, T., Eds., Becoming Beholders, (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2014), p. 227

    [5] Eifler, K., Landy, T., Eds., Becoming Beholders, (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2014), p. 228

    [6] Garvey, J., CUA Magazine, Intellect and Virtue: The Idea of a Catholic University, (Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, Spring 2011), p. 15

    [7] Garbey, J., CUA Magazine, Intellect and Virtue: The Idea of a Catholic University, (Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, Spring 2011), p. 16

    [8] Nicomachean Ethics 1144a

    [9] Garbey, J., CUA Magazine, Intellect and Virtue: The Idea of a Catholic University, (Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, Spring 2011), p. 19




    GLORIA J. THURMOND, D. Min., professor Emerita in Music, teaches as an adjunct instructor in the Music Program and in the University Core at Seton Hall University. With an interdisciplinary background in music education, vocal performing arts, and theological studies, Dr. Thurmond teaches vocal music, music theory, Music of Broadway, American music history, and classes for all three levels of the University Core Curriculum.  Dr. Thurmond is program director for the Seton Hall University Jazz ‘n the Hall concert series, interim director of the Institute for Communication and Religion, and co-director for the Assisi Performing Arts Music Festival held annually in Assisi, Italy.

    Rhetoric in the Spirit of Science: Models & Metaphors by John Wargacki

                     “By their metaphors ye shall know them.”

                                            —Professor Larry MacPhee

     My first officemate at Seton Hall University back in the late 90s was Dr. Larry MacPhee, an expert in 19th century American Literature who had taught in our English Department for over 40 years. Larry had a curious expression among his conversational repertoire: “By their metaphors ye shall know them.” Although I never discovered if Larry had in fact coined this utterance or if he was quoting from elsewhere, this clever riff off Christ’s words from Matthew’s Gospel, 17:12: “You will know them by their fruits,”[1] got my attention. My appreciation for this sagacious idea only grew over the years, in no small part because my dissertation on Hart Crane’s long poem The Bridge (1930) would rely on contemporary theory of metaphor for my critical approach. I quickly discovered that Larry’s words were not only verifiable experientially, but scientifically, by way of deep studies in linguistics and rhetoric from Noam Chomsky’s transformational grammar to Jacque Lacan’s Écrits,[2] up to George Lakoff’s “Contemporary Theory of Metaphor.” In short, cultural language domains, or recognizable patterns in writing or speech, are intrinsically tethered to our ways of thinking, worldview and, yes, even one’s spiritual identity. 

    On day one of the Center for Catholic Faculty Summer Seminar on “Science & Religion: Histories, Myths, & Insights,” Dr. Lawrence Principe not only reinforced these often-subtle connections, but further enhanced my personal and scholarly interest in the relationship between language and belief. One example came up when Dr. Principe, in providing the context for the “Dubious Origins of Conflict,” noted that Andrew Dickson White’s text from 1876, The Warfare of Science, casts its subject via the well-known metaphor of “warfare”:

    The military metaphor that White always applies to the relationship between science and religion appears in all of his writing—he seems to have loved it—he was in love with miliary terms. He called his bill ‘a signal for war,’ described the other senators and the colleges as ‘the enemy’. He dramatizes the whole process in the senate as ‘a succession of struggles, dangers, and fresh enemies.’[3]

    While this “warfare” analogy speaks to the intensity of White’s positions and how he views opponents, it further illustrates a central discovery from the work of one of the most important metaphor theorists in the last 50 years, cognitive psychologist and linguist, George Lakoff. Often, in conjunction with his research partner, Mark Johnson, Lakoff’s studies have led to breakthroughs in identifying what he calls “superordinate domains,” or deeply oriented, culturally rooted analogies that govern countless utterances in everyday speech. Among these many major superordinate domains is one that is commonly understood and appropriate to case with White: “ARGUMENT IS WARFARE.” Lakoff and Johnson explain the domain with examples:

    On the one hand, the conceptual structure of ARGUMENT IS WAR allows many different linguistic expressions to be used and understood.  In an American context, it is common to say things like, ‘Your claims are indefensible;’ ‘He attacked every weak point in my argument;’ or ‘I’ve never won an argument with him.’[4]

    As much as one may be familiar with such individual utterances, Lakoff and Turner are quick to point out two important takeaways from their work: 1.) Such phrases are rarely thought of as ‘metaphorical,’ in part because we use them so routinely; 2.) What makes this example and others understandable in communications of all kinds is the superordinate domain (ARGUMENT IS WAR), which governs such examples at the cognitive level. In their books, Philosophy in the Flesh and Metaphors We Live By,[5] Lakoff and Johnson explain in detail how superordinate domains work and what they reveal about our language, politics, religion, and many other aspects of life—another affirmation from the social sciences that “By their metaphors you shall know them.” Along with the effects on the study of literature and the humanities, their discoveries have intersected with virtually every other discipline from the social and natural sciences to theology and philosophy.

    One superordinate domain has been of particular interest to me and my scholarship in American poetry: LOVE IS A JOURNEY,’ in which the word ‘LOVE’ may just as easily be substituted with ‘LIFE,’ ‘CAREER,’ and other subjects appropriate to the ‘target’ domain. In his essay, “Contemporary Theory of Metaphor,” Lakoff uses this superordinate domains, one of western civilizations most prevalent, to explain succinctly the concept of “mapping” under the heading “Metaphors are not mere words”:

    What constitutes the LOVE IS A JOURNEY metaphor is not any particular word or expression. It is the ontological mapping across conceptual domains, from the source domain of journeys to the target domain of love. The metaphor is not just a matter of language, but of thought and reason, The language is secondary. The mapping is primary, in that it sanctions the use of source domain language and inference patterns for target domain concepts. The mapping is conventional, that is, it is a fixed part of our conceptual system, one of our conventional ways of conceptualizing love relationships.[6]

    Beginning last summer, I planned a year-long project for Seton Hall’s Mission Mentor Program in conjunction with my project mentor, Father Joseph Laracy, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology in the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology. We were interested in discovering how introducing students to the work of Lakoff and Johnson would function as a theoretical lens for heightening their awareness of metaphorical journeys found in assigned texts in my courses: CORE 1101 (Journey of Transformation); ENGL 2103 (Survey of American Literature I); and ENGL 6512 in the fall (American Horror Literature) in the fall; and ENGL 6212 last spring (American Poetry). Surveys were given at the end of both semesters in all six courses. Here is one representative response from Frank Hunter, a graduate student from ENGL 6512: 

    It [Lakoff’s theory] has helped me to see that all of Western literature and philosophy is on a journey. I understand that I am generalizing when I say all, but I truly mean every single work and author. As Boethius argues, all men are pursuing happiness and they take roads that they perceive to be good (even if they are objectively bad) to get there. Artisticand philosophical inquiry (at least that which should be taken seriously) all aims to the true and beautiful. Artistic endeavors may view the beautiful differently and may understand it to be another thing than what a rival or a preceding influence may have understood it to be, nevertheless the metaphoric motif of the journey is an attempt to get to the same destination (i.e., God, the truth and beauty). Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’ is a prime example of this perpetual artistic agon. 

    By the question-and-answer period on day one, Dr. Principe underscored how all of our ideas and breakthroughs from the scientific revolution to the present are predicted upon, not only data, but our unique imaginative ability to construct ‘models,’ from the Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to language that conveys a phenomenon that may exist beyond the realm of language (e.g., “black holes” to “dark energy,” etc.,). Indeed, all such models—so prevalent among STEM disciplines to our conversational metaphors in the humanities—provide the essential imaging for developing and expressing facts and truths beyond the literal. This idea is keenly demonstrated by the images on Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher’s Baroque frontispiece to his text on magnetism, of which Dr. Principe observes:

    …the mind of God that not only created everything, but also contains within itself the models or archetypes of everything possible in the universe. Kircher completes his image with the Latin motto: ‘Everything rests placidly, connected by hidden knots.’[7]

    Kircher’s “knots” then illustrate the underlying cognitive processes that make sense of such figures of speech and of the mind, while reminding us that the metaphorical “conversation” between science and religion is—like the universe—ever-evolving, often contentious, sometimes harmonious; indeed, made viable by those very metaphors we are known by.





    [1] Coogan, Michael, et al., editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, 4th ed., (Oxford University Press: New York, 2010), p. 1757

    [2] Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits, translated by Bruce Fink, (W. W. Norton: New York, 2007).

    [3] Principe, Lawrence. “Science and Religion: Histories, Myths, and Insights.” Center for Catholic   Studies Faculty Summer Seminar, 31 May 2023, Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J.

    [4] Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By (The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1980), p. 3.

    [5] Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson. Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought (Basic Books, A Member of the Perseus Books Group: New York, 1999).

    [6] Lakoff, George. “Contemporary Theory of Metaphor,” Metaphor and Thought, edited by Andrew Ortony, 2nd ed., (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1993), pp. 202-51.

    [7] Principe, Lawrence M. The Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press: 2011), p. 27.


    Integratio, Latin for integration, is the online publication of the Center for Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University. Through Faculty formation, we strive to integrate the Catholic Intellectual Tradition across all disciplines within the University.