I was surfing the television a few nights ago and came across something on EWTN that really irked me. It was an embarrassingly stupid show called “I was a Teenage Darwinist.” It featured some mountebank striding up and down in front of an audience, wisecracking and sneering at Darwinism and evolution. His method was to set up straw men and knock them down with silly remarks laced with cornpone humor.
In the fifteen minutes that I could bear to watch him, he also discussed Copernicus and Galileo in completely misleading terms that suggested that he had only the loosest understanding of what he was talking about. It was obvious that the guy was no kind of scientist. And, indeed, when I looked him up on the internet I found that he is a lawyer. Obviously the kind that gives lawyers a bad name.
What in the name of all that is holy was this tripe doing on one of my favorite television channels?
The sad fact is that EWTN is just not serious enough about science. There are some bright spots. One bright spot is Fr. Robert Spitzer, president of Gonzaga University, who, though not a scientist, discusses science in a knowledgeable and illuminating way. Another is Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, who is a biologist of impressive credentials. But they are the exceptions.
It is rare to see on EWTN research scientists of international reputation. And that is not because there aren’t any good Catholics who fit that description. Just among my friends and acquaintances in my own field and closely related fields of research—theoretical particle physics, cosmology, and astrophysics—I know well over a dozen accomplished scientists who are devout and orthodox Catholics, completely loyal to magisterium across the board. I am talking about people with Ph.D.s from Ivy League schools and impressive research records. I am talking about people who also watch EWTN, read journals such as First Things, and belong to such organizations as Opus Dei and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.
In fact, just in the last few years I have become aware that there are considerably more believing and practicing Catholics in my field than I had imagined. (Admittedly, still only a small percentage of the total number of scientists in these fields.) And most of them are relatively young. In June, I went to a particle-physics conference in Seoul, South Korea, and there I ran into three young Catholic theoretical physicists I hadn’t known of before (as Catholics, that is), and learned from them of a fourth.
Not all these people would necessarily want to appear on EWTN as guests—some of them don’t have tenure yet, and some may be too shy. But they could act as consultants for EWTN. The next time someone suggests to EWTN that they air drivel like “I Was a Teenage Darwinist,” they could check with their scientific consultants first.
I think that many people have gotten the false impression that religion, let alone theological orthodoxy, has few if any friends in the world of science. This leads them to adopt an overly defensive stance toward science, which sometimes erupts into pre-emptive attacks on it. Films such as “I Was a Teenage Darwinist” reflect fear and hostility to science. That is not the way to go. In the long run it will be ruinous to the Church. It will drive a wedge between the worlds of faith and science. Bright young people will feel that they have to choose one or the other. But they don’t: There are many bright young people who live happily in both worlds.