Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science
By Stacy A. Trasancos
Publisher: Ave Maria Press
Review Author: Philip Lehpamer
Stacy A. Trasancos was working as a research chemist studying artificial photosynthesis of inorganic-organic nanometer-scale composite particles when she realized that a chasm exists between the tiny truth she was trying to discover in the laboratory and a giant truth: Nature already operates in an organized and coordinated scheme. This led to her religious conversion. Now, as a guide for those who engage in faith-and-science discussions, she offers three steps as preparation: Know what the Church teaches, study the science so that you understand what it has actually discovered, and sort out the system of wills — a concept she explains in her new book.
Particles of Faith guides the reader in questions of the physical sciences, for example:
(1) Does the Big Bang prove God? Trasancos reminds us that reasoning from evidence is inductive and thus always probable. Nevertheless, here modern science complements and corroborates metaphysical arguments for God (she references Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., and his work at the Magis Center). But her view is that if the Big Bang theory is evidence of God, as she believes it to be, then so is “photosynthesis, so is the seed, and so is every…atom.”
(2) Is the atomic world the real world? Here Trasancos writes that the laws of physics are complete in that God created a fully interacting totality, though humans may never be able to describe all those laws. Yes, the atomic world is the real world, invisible, and our knowledge of it remains incomplete.
(3) Does quantum mechanics explain free will? In brief, quantum mechanics cannot explain free will because free will is not a subject of particle physics.
Trasancos then discusses questions of the biological sciences:
(1) Did we evolve from atoms? Her position is that Scripture says God created all things, living and nonliving, spiritual and material, and physical evidence indicates that we evolved from the beginning, as our bodies are made of matter. However, we are also souls, so the diversity of life and human existence is not fully explained by evolution.
(2) Are creationism and intelligent design correct? Both are flawed, in Trasancos’s view, because creationism seems to reject science in an attempt to protect the faith, while intelligent design is too narrow and does not acknowledge that all of God’s creation is the work of intelligence.
(3) Can a Christian accept the theory of evolution? Here Trasancos concludes with the observation that genetic studies indicate that all human females alive today are descendants of one woman who lived about 200,000 years ago, and there is a common male ancestor from the same period. Adam and Eve cannot be found, but a Christian can still believe that God created them directly, and accept and follow scientific developments.
(4) When does a human life begin? Trasancos, a mother of seven children, writes, “Scientifically, we are not sure when during fertilization a new human comes into being, but we are sure that a healthy human zygote is a healthy human body at its early developmental stage. Together these truths inform us that those humans are worthy of life and protection.”
Toward the conclusion, Trasancos states the book’s single most important point: “If (1) faith illuminates the encounter with science, then (2) faith comes first,” and thus, “(3) Never, ever upend that order.”
A Catholic book on faith and science might be expected to have a chapter on Jesus, His divinity and relationship to the God who created everything, but that is not within the scope of this work. Particles of Faith can strengthen belief in God, leaving aside Christ and the Church. Trasancos explains that her book “is not a memoir of my full religious conversion.” Perhaps when that story is told, the reader will find out how she went from the God of particles to the Son of God who died on the Cross.
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