Man's Origin a Mystery for Science and Faith

A Bishop of Oviedo Views Evolution

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OVIEDO, Spain, AUG. 29, 2005 ( Faith and science should be used to understand each other, says a bishop in a book on, of all things, the prehistoric site of Atapuerca in northern Spain.

Auxiliary Bishop Raúl Berzosa of Oviedo wrote «A Believer’s Reading of Atapuerca: Christian Faith Vis-à-vis Theories of Evolution» (Desclée de Brouwer) which addresses the question of compatibility between Christian beliefs of creation and the latest evolutionary theories.

In this interview with ZENIT, Bishop Berzosa speaks of his book, and its focus on the relationship between faith and science.

Q: What light do the Atapuerca archaeological sites contribute?

Bishop Berzosa: On one hand, without a doubt, the most important human fossil record, at the world level, of what occurred in the last million years of the history of humanity. To date, remains of hominids have been found of «Homo heildelbergensis,» «Homo antessor,» «Homo Neanderthal» and «Homo sapiens.» Because of this, it has been declared a site of human patrimony.

From the paleontological point of view, the discovery of the new species «Homo antessor» seems to ratify the thesis that the cradle of the whole of humanity had its origin in Africa.

Q: What does a believer’s reading of Atapuerca reveal to us?

Bishop Berzosa: First, that up to now we only know the «script» of an already-written film, which dates back, if theories about the big bang are confirmed, some 15 billion years, of which Atapuerca is almost the penultimate episode. But we cannot just stay with the script, wonderful though it might be, given what has already been written.

We must question ourselves about the author or the writing of the script and why it was written that way and not another way.

In other words, we cannot limit ourselves to the supposed scientific data, including the hypothesis of evolution. We must ask ourselves questions of depth. For example, why does something exist and not a void? Or, why does something that exists, exist in the concrete way that it exists, and not in another way?

Q: Why are faith and science needed?

Bishop Berzosa: On one hand, to respond to the questions we asked ourselves in the preceding question.

Science has a specific field. It must be complemented with philosophy and theology. In reality we see there are levels, and all are necessary to complement one another, and all have their reason for being: the physical, philosophical, social, aesthetic, ethical and religious levels.

On the other hand, for science to be truly science it must always be open to questions beyond itself. Science is always the penultimate, as affirmed Laín Entralgo and José Ortega y Gasset.

But, in turn, to be authentic and not mere fideisms, theology and faith must take into account the data of the sciences, aware of their provisional nature. In sum, science and faith are obliged to understand one another as good fellow travelers, not as strangers or enemies.

Q: You end the book with a sort of decalogue in which you advocate a finalist view of evolution, opposed to the belief in the universal law of biological chance. Have you had a response from the scientific community?

Bishop Berzosa: Yes, a very positive response from scientists, not only Christians or believers, who are open to the totality or the mystery of transcendence. I have received very interesting letters and books in this connection from Spanish thinkers. Some scientists have also quoted me in different media.

Those who continue to advocate chance or merely natural laws are divided in two blocs: the majority and the silent. When some have addressed the issue, at times in very offensive tones, they haven’t addressed me personally, but have done so in conferences and through the mass media.

Anyway, I usually affirm that, on the topic of Atapuerca — which, in a word, is the meaning of evolution — I am neither the best author nor are my works the most complete. It has been my lot to be something of a «hunting bloodhound» that points out the prey and who warns about how far scientists can go who meddle, from the stance of a materialist and biologistic ideology, in the field of philosophy, ethics and religion.

Q: You wrote this book when you were not yet a bishop. From the perspective of this new pastoral responsibility, would you change anything in your address on the dialogue of faith and science?

Bishop Berzosa: Nothing of the contents. In the form, I might endeavor, as I must do constantly, to divulge even more and make what I want to communicate more accessible, which is not at all mine but is part of the faith that I have received from the Church.

One of my convictions is that only the truth received makes us truly free and helps us to live in fullness.

Benedict XVI expressed this beautifully when he affirmed, in his first homily, that we are beings who are desired and loved by God in Christ. We are not here by chance or accident. This is our secret, and herein lies our profound greatness and dignity.

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