Astronomer oversees science-religion dialogue

June 25, 2010

Eye on Faith and Science


Jennifer Wiseman, a NASA astrophysicist, has joined the American Association for the Advancement of Science as director of its Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion. (CNS photo/courtesy AAAS)

Jennifer Wiseman, an astrophysicist for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, wants to foster a better dialogue between religion and science.

The new director of the Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science believes people are tired of the perception that there is an inherent conflict between faith and science.

Both “can inspire a sense of awe and humility,” she said during a recent panel discussion on the topic in Washington, D.C., and both have something valuable to learn from the other.

The AAAS dialogue program, established in 1995, seeks to foster communication between scientific and religious communities and advance the association’s commitment to relate science to the concerns of society at large.

In announcing her appointment, AAAS chief executive officer Alan Leshner noted, “With continuing battles over the teaching of evolution in the schools and new fundamentalist attacks on the reliability of climate science, there is a need more than ever for a constructive conversation between scientists and religious groups.”

Along those lines, Wiseman said she is interested in meeting with seminaries and religious leaders as way of advancing the dialogue.

“The seminaries have been coming to us and requesting educational support,” she told Catholic News Service in an interview. “Religious leaders want to know how to talk about the relationship of science and faith. I sense a great thirst in the religious community to bring science into their teaching, into the excitement of their lives and bring it into healthy contact with theology.”

While the Catholic perspective was missing from the panel discussion, CNS followed up with an interview with John Haught, a theologian with the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University and author of 18 books on religion and science.

Haught, who offered a Catholic perspective on evolution during the interview, likewise called for more engagement with the religion-science dialogue, emphasizing that it also needs to extend to people in the pews.

I agree. Science is a means for gaining a better understanding of God’s creation and how it works, and religion gives us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of scientific discoveries and their moral and ethical implications.

That’s why a continuing and fruitful dialogue between the two is certainly needed, particularly at a time when new scientific discoveries and challenges are a daily occurrence. Our Catholic Church, with its long history of supporting intellectual pursuits, should be a leader in promoting the dialogue.

About Joe Towalski

Editor of The Catholic Spirit, husband, dad, baseball fan(atic), astronomy buff. Follow me on Twitter @towalskij

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