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Religion and science mix like gin and tonic

HONG KONG (SE): Some students, even young teenagers, have made the decision that they must make a choice between believing in science or religion.
Some even give up their religious belief in favour of science. 
 
This is a pity, as the relationship between religion and science does not present a problem. Science itself does not contradict religious belief and scientists with faith assure us that it is as a natural a mix as gin and tonic.
 
The stories of two men, who were both scientists and priests, both of whom came to China in the 19th century, are not bad examples of how it can be done.
 
The first was French, a Vincentian named Father Armand David. His superiors encouraged his scientific pursuits and he came to China as a zoologist and botanist.
 
Father David’s biographers are careful to note that he always gave priority to his religious duties, but also lived simultaneously in the fields of science and religion.
 
When he came to China in 1862, he was already well-known as a teacher of science and scientific colleagues insisted that he should be able to continue his research in China.
 
Father David is remembered as the man who introduced the Panda bear to Europe. Although he had never seen one, he carefully purchased a skin from a hunter to introduce knowledge of this species in his home country.
 
This was in 1869, so we will soon celebrate the sesquicentennial of the introduction of the Panda to western scientists and for this we can thank the missionary priest.
 
He is also remembered as discovering the endangered Père (Father) David Deer. His extensive botanical collections formed the basis of a study and book by Adrien Franchet, from the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum) in Paris, called Plantae Davidianae ex Sinarum Imperio (Varieties of Plants from Imperial China).
 
The second of these priests was an Australian, a diocesan from Adelaide named Father Julian Tenison-Woods. Father Tenison-Woods came to south-east and east Asia for scientific research between 1883 and 1886, mostly around what is now Malaysia.
 
His primary work was in geology, but he had no qualms about extending his science into botany, palaeontology and other fields. Father Tension-Woods visited Hong Kong four times in the course of his research journeys.
 
He included scientific information about Hong Kong in his writings on Asia. From Hong Kong, he ventured into Guangzhou in the midst of a war to visit a herbarium, which had been established there.
 
Australian researcher, Roderick O’Brien, has been working with a colleague from the University of Singapore, Tim Yap Fuan, and brought to light a long-forgotten report he prepared on the geography and geology of Malacca.
 
Dated 1883, it will soon be republished in the Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, a prestigious scientific journal which itself has a long history.
 
In what is now Malaysia, Father Tenison-Woods worked with an Italian botanist, Father Benedetto Scortechini, in preparing his collections and reports.
 
A feature of the work of pioneer priest-scientists is that few had formal qualifications in the natural sciences. That was an era when university degrees were not as common as they are now.
 
In some countries, Catholics were forbidden entry to universities. Many amateur, yet impressive scientists turned to learned societies to provide an avenue for publication of their discoveries and validation by peer review.
 
Father Tenison-Woods was a member or honorary member of learned societies in Australia and Asia, and he served science as the president of the Linnaean Society of New South Wales.
 
The stories of people who intertwined their Catholic faith with their scientific research is an encouragement and a delight. 
 
O’Brien gave a reminder during a recent visit to Hong Kong that Father Tenison-Woods thought of nature as a kind of book written by God, where we could gradually read and come to understand that God is good at science and did not create any religion that would contradict the science of the world he created.
 
Today we can join with Father David and Father Tenison-Woods to really rejoice in creation and rejoice in the God-revealing discoveries of science.