Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Myth of Science vs. Faith

"Right here we have the major lie at the heart of modern anti-religious scientific propaganda: the war between faith and science." (see and also this for more on the historical facts about Bruno)

Yup. That about sums it up. It's a real shame, too, because I love science, and especially as it pertains to cosmology, and I really wanted to enjoy the obviously well-produced Cosmos. Plus, I like many others it seems have an odd fondness for Neil deGrasse Tyson, so it pains me to see him promote rubbish. :-/

It's high time we are done with the myth that religion is antithetical and antagonistic to science. It's time the Galileo type mythology be laid to rest and the actual history be rooted in its historical context, where it belongs. Even if you refuse to accept the historical facts and to take the time to understand the historical context around the cases like Galileo, you can't refute that these things happened 3-400 years ago. Talk about beating a long-dead horse..

The reality is that "religion" (a broad term indeed, and hard to generalize about) is not inherently antithetical to science, and specifically, Catholics and the Catholic Church are pro science. And it is because of our religious beliefs that we are pro science, not in spite of them. God is the very foundation of truth, of reality, and science is a way for us to discover and understand more about this reality, which again, is ultimately rooted in God.

Science and faith are two, complementary paths to discover truths about this reality we find ourselves living in. They work together and can only ever be complementary when understood with clarity and honesty--because they both illumine the truth.

One of my own patrons, St. Albert the Great, was a well known natural scientist in his time (the 1200s), and the historical facts are that many, many scientists (among them some of the most notable) were Catholic (and are today), including many priests and vowed religious. Ask yourself how it could be that there are and have been so many faithful scientists if faith and science were so incompatible as some would have you believe.

It is a historical fact that the very idea of the university came out of Christendom, at the very height of medieval, Christian, Catholic culture. That's right, those supposed "dark ages" brought about the birth of the university, of hospitals, and of most of the notions that imbue our current conceptions of the "common good." Even the so-called "Enlightenment" came out of this "dark" Christian past, and it wasn't in spite of it but because of it. The notion of "progress" itself, of a dogged pursuit of self-improvement towards an ideal of perfection--that, too, is a fundamentally Christian notion.

Furthermore, our contemporary notion of natural science as a pursuit in itself also has its Christian roots. It is a fact that the scientific method was formalized and popularized in the West by a Catholic bishop (Grosseteste) and a Franciscan friar (Bacon). None of this is to imply (obviously I hope) that the practice of science is inherently dependent upon Christianity; the point here is to simply recognize that historically science grew from Christian roots (remembering that this is contra the myth that the two are somehow antagonistic).

It is also a historical fact that the proposer of the Big Bang theory that laid the groundwork for a lot of modern cosmology was a Catholic priest (Lemaître). It is a historical fact that the father of modern genetics was a Catholic monk (Mendel). The list goes on and on.

It is a historical fact that many popes have made pro-science pronouncements and sponsored, supported, and established many scientific institutions. It is a historical fact that our official, most authoritative doctrinal documents are pro-science (e.g., the Catechism).

Despite the overwhelming weight of historical and doctrinal evidence, many atheists and even some theists continue to foster the delusion that faith and science are incompatible. This is either inexcusable ignorance or dishonest malice. There is no good, honest reason to perpetuate this myth. If you up to this point believe this myth, please educate yourself.

Surely we do have enough real disagreements to sort out without manufacturing and perpetuating patently false ones.. let me suggest something--the core issues that drive our real disagreements and is the true driver behind a lot of this myth and its popularity. It is twofold: 1) the relative value and trustworthiness of knowledge that comes from faith versus the knowledge that comes from science/reason and 2) the propriety of constraining scientific inquiry.

It is my hope to cover these two topics in upcoming posts. Stay tuned. ;)