Why Are We Here?
God and science
by Helen Gwynne-Kinsey
Suitable for Key Stage 4/5
To consider the relationship between science and religion.
Preparation and materials
- You will need to display the questions ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘Where do we come from?’.
- Have available the following YouTube videos and the means to show them during the assembly:
- ‘Wonders of the Universe’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYqlIviD4es (1.30 minutes long)
- ‘A Vatican Scientist’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8wLH4z7tn4 (5.00 minutes long, but you only need to play it until 1.34 minutes)
- Show the questions ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘Where do we come from?’.
Ask the students to consider possible answers for each question. You may wish to encourage the students to share their answers.
- Ask the students to consider how a scientist such as Professor Brian Cox would answer such questions.
Show the YouTube video, ‘Wonders of the Universe’.
- Explain that Brian Cox acknowledges that it is an essential part of human nature to want to find out why we are here and where we have come from.
- Point out that most religions claim that the answer to questions about our existence can only be found by reference to God. Indeed, until around the end of the fourteenth century, science and religion were in close agreement with each other. This is because, at that time, it was acknowledged that scientific explanations always included a reference to God.
However, the beginnings of modern science in the sixteenth century led to a major change in the way in which people understood God’s place in the universe. This change resulted in a gradual separation of science and religion, so that it became possible to accept scientific principles without reference to God.
- Some people consider religion and science to be in direct opposition to each other. However, many scientists and many Christians believe that this is not the case. Science and a belief in God can be intertwined. For example, science and religion both seek to understand the world in which we live, as well as our place within that world. Furthermore, someone who believes that God created the world doesn’t have to deny scientific findings. For example, many Christians believe that God used scientific laws to create the universe and all that it contains.
- The Catholic Church runs two astronomical observatories that are staffed by priests who are scientists. One of them, Brother Guy Consolmagno, explains that the Catholic Church is interested in scientific research because ‘We are human beings. We need to feed our souls, we need to feed our curiosity . . . You can be a scientist and be religious. There isn’t a conflict.’
Show the YouTube video, ‘A Vatican Scientist’.
Time for reflection
Let’s consider this statement: it is claimed that in the observable universe, there are at least 10,000 stars for every grain of sand on all of Earth’s beaches.
- How does that make us feel about our place in the universe?
- What do you think about science and God?
- Do both need an element of faith if we are to believe them?
Maybe this could lead to some good discussions in lessons.
We are but a tiny part of this vast universe in which we exist.
Nevertheless, we are not insignificant.
Each one of us has a part to play in the society in which we live.
Let us aim to do only those things that are positive and supportive
In relation to family, friends and the wider community.
Let our purpose be one of bringing harmony to this tiny part
Of the vast universe in which we have our existence.
Optional: you may wish to play an extract from The Planets by Gustav Holst. A version is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Isic2Z2e2xs (49.14 minutes long in total)