For centuries, faith and science have been at odds as new discoveries were made and new innovations impacted human culture. But the Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (ITEST) does not believe that science and faith are opposed to one another. Rather, they are complementary as humans seek to better understand our complex and evolving world. Recognizing the importance of discussing these issues and supporting faithful people in science and tech-minded professions, ITEST provides a space for discussion, educational materials, and Christian perspectives in the ongoing faith-science debate.

Every day, science and technology are becoming a bigger part of our culture. There are believing scientists in our parishes, and we need a forum to discuss how faith plays a part in what we learn about and discover.

In the late 1960s, amidst a changing culture and a population that was questioning more and more, a physics professor at St. Louis University noticed the growing advances in science and technology. But as an ordained priest, he was also aware that faith and religion were taking a back seat in the discussion. Believing that faith and science go hand-in-hand, Fr. Robert Brungs, SJ joined forces with other scientists, professors, and theologians to form ITEST in 1968.

Since then, ITEST has grown significantly in the US and to 30 countries around the globe. Now, the organization is more relevant than ever, as the discussion about faith and science has grown to epic proportions. The organization publishes educational literature, facilitates discussion between religious and lay scientists, and provides helpful resources to parishes and schools seeking to teach a more complete curriculum between faith and science.

In the college setting especially, ITEST focuses on engaging millennials in healthy discussion, as young people are increasingly turning to solely science-based mediums and are disaffiliating with religion at an alarming rate. Yet, millennials still crave the opportunity to discuss faith and science issues with others. At a Catholic student ministry event on the campus of Iowa State University in the early 2000s, Fr. Brungs was met with so much interest for discussion after Mass that there was standing room only, with several students staying into the wee morning hours to speak with him. ITEST continues to attend conferences, set up booths, and engage with scientists of all ages to spread advocacy and invite discussion.

With a grant from the OSV Institute in 2018, ITEST was able to publish a booklet called “Scientists Speak of Their Faith: A Model for Parish Discussion,” a resource guide for facilitating conversation between Catholic scientists, engineers, physicians, technologists, and medical specialists of all ages to speak with fellow parishioners about their profession and opinions in relation to their faith. The booklet was launched in five parishes throughout St. Louis, prompting a number of meetings and discussion nights around the archdiocese, which many of the parishes will repeat in the coming year. With success in their home city, ITEST plans to expand the program nationally in the coming years.

In addition, the organization has also used OSV Institute grant funds to develop a faith and science-based series of learning modules for pre-K to eighth grade called Creation Lens, which helps Catholic and Christian schools supplement existing curricula to teach that faith and science are complementary (not opposed) pathways toward greater knowledge of God.

Going forward, the institute hopes to be able to host a conference in 2020 on increasingly heated topics like genetic engineering, transhumanism, and AI in the human body. With more and more news about technological advances and ethical issues around human biology, ITEST believes it’s important to be involved in the discussion.

“Modern science has made it so that anyone who owns a device is now a technologist of some kind,” says Sr. Marianne Postiglione, Associate Director at ITEST. “It’s an increasingly important aspect of our lives, and we’ve got to be in on the discussion.”

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