Science and Christianity Showcase

Allthings2all is hosting the Science and Christianity Showcase. It’s a clearinghouse for

posts by Christians addressing the general theme of scientific reason as it relates to Christian faith. I

submitted Jerry Nora’s

primer on stem cells. The posts are diverse and many topics are covered. There is one topic, however,

which was forbidden: creationism vs. evolution. I was glad to hear of the topic’s exclusion since I see it as

a red herring and an albatross to the Body of Christ.

Since we’re on the topic of science and Christianity, here are some relevant articles.

Scientist With “Religious

Vision” Wins Templeton Prize

NEW YORK, MARCH 13, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Charles Townes, whose inventions include the maser and laser, and who

has spent decades as an advocate for the convergence of science and religion, has won the 2005 Templeton

Prize.

A life where science and faith

coexist
By Robert Tuttle | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

NEW YORK ? When Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles Hard Townes was a professor at Columbia University

during the 1950s, a colleague, Willis Lamb, asked him if God ever helps him in the lab. Dr. Townes gave the

question some thought. “Well,” he recalls telling Lamb. “I think so.”

Faith and Reason Aid Each Other, Says John

Paul II

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 13, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the quest for

wisdom, John Paul II explained when receiving a delegation from a Polish university.

Psychology That Is True to Science, True to

God
Gladys Sweeney on What Therapy Can Do for Troubled Believers

WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 13, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A psychology rooted in the Catholic understanding of the human

person is not only true to science, but true to God.

Religion or Science?

The two laws at work under which we are limited and from which we seek answers to life’s questions are religion and science. Our conscience introduces us to the first, formal education introduces the second. Albert Einstein loved science, yet expressed humility upon finding himself buried beneath seas of data pointing to the existence of a mind behind the numbers. If he didn’t deny God, why should we?

Comments 9

  1. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Tom, right now monogenism is corroborated, at least, by studies of the Y-chromosome and mitochondrian DNA (the latter is inhereited essentially from one’s mother via the ovum) that indicate that we all have a common male and female ancestor.”

    That’s very interesting. As an anthropology student, the only opinions I had heard firsthand were from professors who were at least very skeptical of monogenism. Again, interesting.

    “Now science would still say that there may have been other humans, just that their matrilineage or patrilineage died out at some point.”

    Now that’s the catch, isn’t it? If this is the case, then they must’ve been fallen as well (having died and all). But did they fall at the same time as our ancestors? Or did our ancestors’ fall count for them is some sorta weird way? That really doesn’t seem to work, because the Catholic view has original sin being passed by procreation. The only thing that seems to work in this situation is to call those beings which died out somewhat less than human, and therefore not subject to the fall.

    “And even if that were thrown out, you said that Augustine’s notions of the fall were “almost canonized” and almost require monogenism. When I hear one almost, I know that a theologian has wiggle room, and with two almosts, I’m not very worried.”

    By almost canonized, I mean that Augustine’s doctrines regarding grace, the Fall, and Original Sin were made articles of faith, not that the Augustinian corpus was specifically canonized. Basically, while Augustine is himself not infallible, his teachings on the matter we’ve been discussing are.

    Posted 21 Mar 2005 at 7:54 pm
  2. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Tom, what do you mean by truths of science clashing “with a bit of theology”? Whose theology, and regarding what?”

    The most obvious clashes are with Fundamentalist notions about creation and the Earth’s age, and the Orthodox reluctance to accept evolution (I’m not sure whether or not the Orthodox actually have a position, but I’ve heard from numerous Orthodox who say they’ve been told that evolution is irreconcilable with faith in the Trinity). The site that hosted the science & religion articles was not limited to any particular sect or Church. But the trouble that pertains to Catholics most seems to me to be that Augustine’s ideas about the Fall, more or less canonized by the Councils of Orange and Trent, almost require monogenism, which is somewhat of a tenuous claim that may one day be shown false; my impression from Anthropology courses is that the majority of anthropologists deny monogenism. If polygenism is true and can’t be reconciled with the Catholic dogmas regarding the Fall (that’s an “if” there), then Catholicism comes crashing down as a whole religious system, because it would show that our councils and magisterium are not infallible. For Catholics, that should be enough of a scare right there, if you ask me (not that you did, though ;-)), because we believe that our Church is infallible. If it turns out our “infallible” claims our wrong, then at that point, what is Catholicism, really? It’s a bunch of old dudes with pointy hats on, and very old and meaningless traditions that *aren’t* guarded by the Holy Spirit. I’m just saying that this is why the debate’s relevant.

    Also, since the age of the Earth is in the billions of years, how were other life-forms living before the appearance of humanity, and the subsequent Fall? I’m somewhat certain that the relevant doctrines tell us that there simply was no suffering before the Fall, human or otherwise. It’s possible that one could spin that to mean that carniverous animals killed each other for food, but that there was no pain in the death.

    “Clashing with Aquinas’ theology? But then again, Aquinas didn’t believe in the Immaculate Conception.”

    I wasn’t referring to Aquinas, because I really can’t think of any difficulties with what little of his stuff I know. And from what I’ve heard, it’s not that Aquinas didn’t believe in the Immaculate Conception, but that he couldn’t see how it would work without appealing to the ol’ “well, God can do anything…” Since it had enough of a tradition to not be thrown away outright, he didn’t deny it, either. Then again, that’s only what I’ve heard, not what I’ve read personally.

    “And if it’s a “truth” of science, wouldn’t it by definition NOT clash with authoritative (as opposed to speculative, even by a pope or Doctor of the Church), theology”?

    No, it wouldn’t; I agree with you here; I’m simply saying that science has wrinkled Catholic theology a little. Not contradicted it, but made it a little bit rough. My original point was that the truth of evolution as it regards the polygenism versus monogenism debate is relevant, and it should be debated; if evolution isn’t true, then it’s easier to posit monogenism, which I believe makes life *much* easier. I guess what I’m trying to point out is that the evolution debate is not irrelevant. I, however, reiterate that evolution versus creation is a false dichotomy.

    Note: I’ve been informed, and myself noticed, that my real-life tone, when represented online, comes off as much more abrasive than it really is, in person. Please don’t think, Jerry or Eric, that I’m being rude or anything. . . thanks!

    Posted 20 Mar 2005 at 10:03 pm
  3. Tom Smith wrote:

    Also, evolution *is* an albatross around the neck of the Body of Christ (all those in full communion with the Holy Father). It’s an albatross because it presents real problems to the Catholic Church which have not been answered authoritatively by the Magisterium. Not that they are unanswerable, but that they are not currently answered, which is probably a good thing, considering how theologians and philosophers of the past have been rather off the mark when applying physics and metaphysics to science, as with the Galileo vs. Bellarmine controversy, when St. Robert, arguing a Scholastic physics, simply couldn’t conceive of how Galileo’s empirical observations could be true, understandably thinking him a royal idiot (which he was, but not because of his scientific views).

    Posted 15 Mar 2005 at 6:52 pm
  4. Funky Dung wrote:

    I don’t think evolution and Christianity are mutually exclusive, therefore the debate is a waste of time and effort. Christians should have bigger fish to fry. I don’t think there’s much to disagree with in microevolution. Macroevolution may be a different matter. I still think it’s a distraction from important issues.

    Posted 15 Mar 2005 at 10:19 pm
  5. Tom Smith wrote:

    I haven’t followed ther links you give, because I’m trying to get a paper written. But I have a few initial reactions.

    About the last link, the one in which Einstein is described, I’ve never really heard from a reliable source that Einstein was a theist, or even a wishy-washy agnostic; after reading a short biography of him several years ago, I was left with the impression that he was a rather straight-up atheist throughout most of his adult life. Many Christians love to attribute to Einstein a story about an angry professor who tries to disprove God by asking whether or not God created all things, extending “all things” to include evil. The protagonist, ostensibly young Albert, responds by Thomistically claiming that evil is a lack of good, as cold is a lack of heat. Anyway, that story has been shown to be, at best, apocryphal. There’s a lot of misuse of Einstein by Christians, and I suspect that this link might contain some of it.

    Secondly, I disagree with you rather strongly about the exclusion of evolution vs. creation in the Allthings2all site. Do you mean the debate itself is a red herring, or that evolution is the red herring? I’d say evolution bears very directly on the Catholic notion of creation and the Fall. Although almost all the Fathers emphasize what would now be called a figurative reading of Scriture, the problem of evolution and the Fall is rather great. Since one of the consequences of the Fall, according to the Augustinian model, used by Catholics, Anglicans, and traditional Protestants, is the introduction of suffering and death into the world, what were the dinosaurs doing to each other? Getting along, and then not dying? Were carnivores eating grass? At what point did Homo erectus (or Homo Neanderthalensis, depending on whether or not you consider Neaderthals to be early Homo sapiens) become Homo sapiens, and therefore become ensouled? And if humanity is descended of more than two primieval humans, here’s the kicker: when the first two Homo sapiens fell, did they fall for the rest of humanity, or did the entire first generation of humans fall simultaneously? I’d tend to say that the Catholic view of the Fall is most easily supported by monogenism, namely, that all humanity is descended from two archaic Homo sapiens, because it allows for a neat Fall in the first two humans, rather than the mess described above. In the Anthropology coursework I’ve done, it seems that there is legitimate debate on the question of monogenism vs. polygenism. As per the dinosaur question, whether or not nature was “red in tooth and claw”, I’d have to answer that the Earth outside Eden was, prior to the Fall, the way it is now, and that the animals in the Garden were victims of the Fall of Adam & Eve.

    Posted 15 Mar 2005 at 6:36 pm
  6. Tom Smith wrote:

    Just because you’re on one side of the debate doesn’t mean that the debate’s a red herring. There are people who disagree with you, and think that evolution is very salient to the debate over what happened at Creation (like me). Setting up a dichotomy of evolution opposed to creation is false, I agree, but the debate over whether or not evolution exists is important because, as Catholics, we believe that the fullness of truth is protected in the Catholic faith. And if there’s a bit of theology that opposes truths shown through science, then we must reject it. The doctrines regarding the Fall tend to push the boundaries of science, and must be justified in this light.

    To be completely honest, I don’t think it’s wise for Catholics to support polygenism. Pius XII clearly lays out that, although the Catholic belief is not in a literal Creation, or even in a “seven days-seven stages” Creation, we must assent to a Creation and Fall in which two people fell, and that concupiscence, original sin, and suffering/death entered the world because of it. There are a few things I’m not sure of. First, whether or not suffering and death includes non-humans outside the Garden, or merely those within it. Secondly, I dunno whether or not Humani Generis, the encyclical in which this business is found, is considered a teaching or private theology. I would tend to lean toward teaching, although, due to the monogenism bit, it’d be much easier were it private theology.

    Posted 15 Mar 2005 at 10:01 pm
  7. Funky Dung wrote:

    The debate is a red herring. I do not believe in the literal creation account. I do not believe in monogenism. I do not believe all pain and suffering came from the Fall. I believe the original created order included ecosytems complete with carnivores and disease. I believe the current fullness of human suffering came from the Fall. I suspect, though I have no proof, that had the Fall not happened humanity would have been born, lived in perfect communion with God, and been bodily assumed into Heaven at the end of their lives. The Fall brought about the suffering that separation from God and imperfect communion with fellow humans bring.

    Posted 15 Mar 2005 at 8:27 pm
  8. Jerry Nora wrote:

    Tom, right now monogenism is corroborated, at least, by studies of the Y-chromosome and mitochondrian DNA (the latter is inhereited essentially from one’s mother via the ovum) that indicate that we all have a common male and female ancestor. Now science would still say that there may have been other humans, just that their matrilineage or patrilineage died out at some point.

    And even if that were thrown out, you said that Augustine’s notions of the fall were “almost canonized” and almost require monogenism. When I hear one almost, I know that a theologian has wiggle room, and with two almosts, I’m not very worried. But this is good, and this is why the Magisterium is wise to keep its trap shut about the theological implications of scientific work while it is still very immature. It would not do for us to paint ourselves into a corner on incomplete data!

    (My citation of Aquinas had nothing to do with whether or not you cared much for him or read him or really anything aside from the fact that even very solid theologians are prone to later correction. Hence my caution when you spoke of science and theologians’ clashing. The matter of how our study of human origins relates to a doctrine that may be classified as infallible via epispocopal authority, is of course, is more important, though ultimately not something that keeps me up at night.)

    Posted 20 Mar 2005 at 11:48 pm
  9. Jerry Nora wrote:

    Tom, what do you mean by truths of science clashing “with a bit of theology”? Whose theology, and regarding what? Clashing with Aquinas’ theology? But then again, Aquinas didn’t believe in the Immaculate Conception.

    And if it’s a “truth” of science, wouldn’t it by definition NOT clash with authoritative (as opposed to speculative, even by a pope or Doctor of the Church), theology (“Truth does not have to fear truth”–Pius XII, upon receiving word from the archaeologists that they might NOT find evidence of St. Peter’s bones below the Vatican).

    Posted 20 Mar 2005 at 4:16 pm

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