Archive for June, 2015

Best commentary I have read on Laudato Si


In his weird and partly brilliant book on infinity, David Foster Wallace writes, “what the modern world’s about, what it is, is science.” That is, the heart of the modernity as a project is the new science developed in the 17th century, which consists in the application of a certain kind of symbolic-calculation to nature through experiments for the sake of technological power over nature. This science was “new” because unlike the old science its goal was not the contemplation of the truth in the forms of things; the goal of the new science was and is practical. As El Mono Liso recently noted, “the attempt to analyze the world as a series of mathematical equations or chemical formulas is ultimately not an unbiased analysis of static essences, but a blueprint by which civilized actors seek to bend all things to their own will, in our case…

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God the Geometer - 13th century

God the Geometer – 13th century

The Church has been and is the greatest supporter and defender of science. This is an historical fact. The above image, which precedes the advent of modern science by approximately 300 to 400 years, depicts Christ in the process of creating the world. He is measuring and setting its boundaries. (To those who think medievals believed the earth was flat notice that the world is here depicted round and Christ is using a compass, not a ruler – just saying). The image depicts order, not chaos; also, the Christian concept of time and creation is linear, not cyclic. Both of these are necessary understandings of the world for science to thrive. What prompted the drive that eventually led to the birth of modern science was a seeking of God Who is the Truth and Creator. The more we know about the world, the more insights we have of God. In the time prior to modern science and during the time of modern science the Church has always had many scientists who have made many contributions to the various fields of science.

Ironic because 35 lunar craters are named after Jesuit scientists

Ironic because 35 lunar craters are named after Jesuit scientists

If they are able to name even one, most people will name Gregor Mendel when asked to name a significant Catholic scientist. There are many others including Fr. Georges Lemaitre who was the first to definitively formulate what is commonly known today as the Big Bang theory.

Georges Lemaitre with Albert Einstein

Georges Lemaitre with Albert Einstein

The roots of science are Christian, specifically Catholic. Science, however, is now divorced (and has been for a while) from its Christian roots. Without its roots it is like a flipping iceberg. Why? Because science does not dictate its meaning. It doesn’t tell us how its findings should be interpreted in regards to the meaning of the world, universe, man, or animals, nor does it tell us how it is rightly or wrongly used. Science in and of itself has no metaphysic, no morality, no philosophy period. It doesn’t answer the big questions such as “What is the meaning of life?” Science does not tell us if there is or is not a spiritual reality. It also does not tell us if the material world for which science is used to study is good or evil, since good and evil belong to the realm of the spirit. But people including every single scientist do have thoughts on whether the world is good, evil, a mix, or neither at all (meaning they deny “good” and “evil” altogether). One’s underlying philosophy is the determiner for one’s approach to science (acceptance or rejection) and its use for good or ill.

Looking at articles and comment threads on the internet, one gets the very strong impression that most people don’t actually care about science. They think they do, and in the case of social liberals they never tire of putting themselves forth as objectively scientific while accusing the Church of being the great denier of science. The common conception that is almost never questioned is that at best science belongs in one corner (and is what really matters) and faith belongs in another and never the two shall meet. The other common conception is that the two are at odds with one another. The truth is that faith and science need each other.

And quite often destructive

And quite often destructive

Science does not and cannot exist in a vacuum. It is part of the whole of human thought and some philosophies rather than being supportive of science inhibit it. Gnosticism is one such philosophy. At best the Gnostic believes that the material world is irrelevant. At worst they believe that it is evil. What is common to all Gnostics though is that the world is not viewed as good. If it isn’t good then we need not take seriously what we learn from science. In fact, because science only studies the material world (which isn’t good) it is either irrelevant or evil itself. More practically, today’s Gnostics also have a good dose of hedonism and extreme individualism thrown into their worldview. For today’s Gnostic science is not good in itself nor for the knowledge that can be attained, but only good insofar as it can technologically advance a hedonistic individualism. (Simply put, science is reduced to technology).

Christianity (specifically the Catholic Tradition) unreservedly holds that the material world is good. That the material is something received from God for our benefit and has been entrusted to us for its care. For the Catholic Church the discoveries of science must always be taken seriously because they help us to dive deeper into the mysteries of creation and by extension the Creator.

God revealed that man and woman were made for each other and that man is man and woman is woman. Science actually supports this quite well. Putting aside the spiritual aspect of man, our being male and female isn’t just about parts. It sinks to the deepest material levels of our being: genetics and DNA. A man doesn’t just have a penis; he has x and y chromosomes. A woman doesn’t just have a vagina; she has two x chromosomes. The new Gnosticism, however, completely ignores this. Science means nothing. We are told that if someone is a man, but identifies as a woman then regardless of his chromosomes he is a woman. If a woman says she is a man because she identifies as a man then she is a man – chromosomes be damned. This is like saying Steve Martin really was born a poor black child. It wouldn’t be so infuriating except that people who promote this view are often the same people who say “science, science, science,” and don’t even know what Gnosticism is let alone that they are Gnostics.

Bruce Jenner 1

Bruce Jenner 2

One of these is in scientific fact like the other

We must look at the fulness of reality. If someone is a man and identifies as a woman, the question cannot be answered nor a solution be found by throwing out part of the reality. The reality is that if you have x and y chromosomes then you are a man. It’s genetics 101. The issue deserves understanding, impartiality, serious investigation, and a seeking of the truth that accounts for the whole person. People like Bruce Jenner have gone through too much pain and turmoil, interiorly and socially, to receive anything less.

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