A physicist and a priest-theologian spoke at the University of Portland April 10 and sought to debunk the notion that faith and science are at odds.
Shannon Mayer, professor of physics and mother of two children at nearby Holy Cross School, said faith and science approach the world in "complementary ways."
Holy Cross Father Tom Hosinski, a professor of theology who has also studied science, says the two systems are different ways to approach the same truths.
Mayer told the group that while one field does not prove or disprove the other, observations and beliefs from faith exploration and scientific endeavor can "spill over" into one another and enhance both.
For example, physicists have found that the physical constants needed to keep the universe from either blowing apart or collapsing in on itself are phenomenally narrow. Were gravity only slightly different, or the charge of an electron just varied or the mass of a proton incalculably different, the universe might not exist.
"The precise balance is very critical," said Mayer, who has read that the chances of such luck are about the same as shooting an arrow across the universe and hitting a target one inch across.
For her, it's a universe "finely tuned" for the bringing about of life. Science, she concluded, does not prove her faith, but does encourage it.
Father Hosinski asked the crowd to consider a pot of water boiling on the stove. The scientist may describe it as a chemical phase change brought about by electrons being bumped about. But someone else may see it as a future cup of tea.
"People assume there is only one way to know the truth and science and religion compete for it," Father Hosinski said, criticizing both religious fundamentalists and atheists. "No one way of looking at things exhausts all truth."
While science tends to find the truth of processes, religion looks at meaning and purpose. Neither system can substitute for the other, Father Hosinski explained. "If we accept both of them, we have a fuller understanding of why the kettle is boiling," he said.