'Wonder' film series shows faith, science not at war, Bishop Barron says

Bishop Robert E. Barron, then a Los Angeles auxiliary, speaks during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore Nov. 11, 2019. Bishop Barron, who now heads the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minn., launched a new conference Jan. 13-14, 2023, to show how the Catholic Church champions "the unity of faith and reason." Held in Dallas, the conference was hosted by the Word on Fire Institute, part of the nonprofit Word on Fire Catholic Ministries media apostolate founded by Bishop Barron. (OSV News photo/CNS file, Bob Roller)

(OSV News) -- A new film series aims to show that faith and science are as interlinked as the double helix of a DNA molecule.

The Word on Fire evangelization ministry recently announced the release of "Wonder," a five-part documentary project that explores the interplay between various aspects of science and Catholic tradition.

Produced through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the episodes -- narrated by actor Jonathan Roumie -- will be released Feb. 13-17, one per day, on Word on Fire's website and YouTube channel.

The nature of light, Trinitarian traces in the cosmos, human and animal language, St. Augustine and evolution are among the topics on tap, along with a detailed look at how the geometry of Chartres Cathedral's North Rose Window in Chartres, France, points to the theology of salvation.

The films' release follows Word on Fire's Jan. 13-14 Wonder conference in Dallas, which featured an array of experts in physics, philosophy, technology, theology and history.

Word on Fire founder Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, said in a Jan. 31 news release that he was ''ecstatic" over the "Wonder" series' release.

The ministry has dedicated considerable resources over the years "to show that the war between faith and science is untrue," said Bishop Barron in his statement.

The often oppositional relationship between scientific and religious worldviews "has been a perennial concern of Bishop Barron's apologetic and evangelization efforts for decades," said Word on Fire CEO Father Steve Grunow in an email to OSV News.

Faith often withers due to "perceived discrepancies" between religious belief and science, Father Grunow said.

The issue "is particularly evident in younger generational cohorts … (inhibiting) religious belief and practice," he told OSV News.

Both scientists and theologians bear responsibility for "the false perception that scientific and religious ways of knowing are innately conflictual," said Father Grunow. "We can all do much better at presenting our positions with clarity and charity."

He pointed out that Christianity actually helped to lay the groundwork for modern scientific inquiry by viewing the world as distinct from its Creator, rather than "an object of worship," and "created to be known" on its own terms.

Director Manny Marquez told OSV News the "Wonder" films -- which were "unlike anything else" he had worked on -- presented "an opportunity to make a difference in the conversation" between faith and science.

But from a technical perspective, the task was not an easy one, he admitted.

"When you are talking about things ranging from the omega-minus particle to the Trinity, there will be challenges," Marquez told OSV News.

Marquez said he first spent more than a month reading the "amazing and densely academic" script penned by Chris Baglow of the Science and Religion Initiative at the University of Notre Dame's McGrath Institute for Church Life.

The trick was "deciphering what we could shoot, and then what would have to be created or animated," said Marquez, crediting animator and visual effects artist Carl Graham and cinematographer Rod Hassler for their roles in bringing the script to life.

Composer Sean Beeson's score and Roumie's narration were also among "the ingredients … for this (series) to be a powerful evangelical tool," said Marquez, a Catholic, adding that the series deepened his "understanding of God and nature."

"I have many friends … that question my belief in God, because they are very much of the school of scientism. I felt that maybe this project could lead some of them to a change of heart," he said. "In the same manner, I have Catholic friends that are hostile to ideas of science. If we could show the goodness, truth and beauty of the two main topics combined, we would be achieving something worthwhile."



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