Why Religion Matters More Than Science


scientistI just finished writing a thesis about the late Father Stanley Jaki’s work for a Master’s degree in Theology, and my brain hurts. I love that about scholarship. You learn, assimilate, and then possess new knowledge. It’s hard, but you earn it. In the end, it’s more exciting than going to the mall, buying a new dress, and getting a make-over. A new look may be fun, but a permanent lift to the intellect is euphoric.

Floating as I am, my thoughts turned to the new lessons I’ve gained. I realized something obvious but significant.

In discussions about science and religion, there is no clarity. The definition of “science” has become so ambiguous that no distinctions can be made. In 2009 the U.K. Science Council took an entire year to write an “official” definition of science and this is what they came up with: “the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.” That could mean anything. No wonder atheists praised it.

Jaki defined science precisely as “the quantitative study of the quantitative aspects of objects in motion.” He called it “exact science” because in some fields not everything is quantitative. Physics is the most exact science, but evolutionary biology, for instance, is exact only so far as it measures quantities and mechanism. Anything beyond quantification is “reasoned discourse,” and such reasoning should stand on its own merits. The benefit of this definition is that it allows you to identify what is exact in any science and what is owed to the much greater power of reasoning beyond quantities.

Did you catch that? Reasoning beyond quantities. So many of the questions we face in life have nothing to do with quantities, and that is — here’s the obvious and significant part — why religion matters more than science. Religion is about ultimate questions, morality and meaning, our purpose in life, our eternal destiny, our God.

So the next time you’re in a discussion about science and religion, remember this. We don’t comfort children who have nightmares by telling them how many neurons fired. We don’t mourn the death of a loved one because a carbonaceous mass decomposes. We don’t even do science because brain matter follows the laws of physics. We do it because we’re human, made in the image of God with the power of intellect and will and we want to understand our world. We do science because we know there’s more than science. Religion matters more than science, and I think it’s time to have some fun asserting that.

[editor’s note: Stacy’s thesis is now available in book form]


About Author

Stacy Trasancos, Ph.D. is a wife and mother raising seven children with her husband in New York. She is a chemist turned homemaker and joyful convert to Catholicism who is currently pursuing an MA in Theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary so that she can communicate the doctrines of the Church more effectively. She is Chief Editor at Ignitum Today and a Senior Editor at Catholic Lane. She writes about all that she is learning at her blog Accepting Abundance.

  • Christopher Fish

    i like it !! 🙂 …

  • noelfitz

    Dear Dr Trasancos,

    Many thanks for your brilliant article.

    It reminds me of a dinner we had in our house years ago with Prof Jaki and a small group of former colleagues from a group with which I am involved.

    It was one of the most intellectually stimulating dinner I ever enjoyed. We ate, drank and argued. I was hugely impressed with Prof Jaki’s intellectual sharpness, his range of interests and his courtesy in listening to others. He reflected the best of Benedictine values.

    However for me science, knowledge, the pursuit of truth, is important. Theology is the science of God and philosophy is the science of wisdom.

    Having read your post I searched my book cases and now have started re-reading Prof Jaki’s “God and the Cosmologists”.

    Recently I have not been involved with CL, since I was humiliated, insulted and held up for ridicule and contempt in it. But after reflection and the advice
    of a senior person in CL I have reconsidered and think the Catholic thing would
    be to move on.

    Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est.