Summary: There must be a dialogue between science and faith, but it must also be an unequal dialogue; faith trumps the claims of any science that denies God.
Thursday of Fourth Week in Lent 2016
Joy of the Gospel
In this fourth week of Lent, the week of Laetare Sunday–Joy Sunday– it is quite appropriate to continue our series on Pope Francis’s encyclical, the Joy of the Gospel. Let’s be clear that joy and enjoyment are not identical. In fact, sometimes they are antithetical. We can experience the joy of being married even when we are not enjoying what is happening to us. We can experience the joy of celebrating Liturgy even if the music is insipid and the preaching is mediocre. I’m pretty sure that Moses did not enjoy leading the stiff-necked, half-barbarous nation of Israel out of Egypt. Even after Pharaoh ceased oppressing him, his own people continued the maltreatment. But Moses felt joy in the presence of the Lord, and joy in the promise that God made to him and to Israel.
You may recall that after treating of the Gospel and peace, the Holy Father has been writing about dialogue and communication, first with political entities and persons. Now he moves on to the dialogue with science: ‘Dialogue between science and faith also belongs to the work of evangelization at the service of peace. Whereas positivism and scientism “refuse to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive sciences”, the Church proposes another path, which calls for a synthesis between the responsible use of methods proper to the empirical sciences and other areas of knowledge such as philosophy, theology, as well as faith itself, which elevates us to the mystery transcending nature and human intelligence. Faith is not fearful of reason; on the contrary, it seeks and trusts reason, since “the light of reason and the light of faith both come from God” and cannot contradict each other. Evangelization is attentive to scientific advances and wishes to shed on them the light of faith and the natural law so that they will remain respectful of the centrality and supreme value of the human person at every stage of life. All of society can be enriched thanks to this dialogue, which opens up new horizons for thought and expands the possibilities of reason. This too is a path of harmony and peace.
‘The Church has no wish to hold back the marvelous progress of science. On the contrary, she rejoices and even delights in acknowledging the enormous potential that God has given to the human mind. Whenever the sciences – rigorously focused on their specific field of inquiry – arrive at a conclusion which reason cannot refute, faith does not contradict it. Neither can believers claim that a scientific opinion which is attractive but not sufficiently verified has the same weight as a dogma of faith. At times some scientists have exceeded the limits of their scientific competence by making certain statements or claims. But here the problem is not with reason itself, but with the promotion of a particular ideology which blocks the path to authentic, serene and productive dialogue.’
The word “science,” scientia, refers to the universal pursuit of truth. Unfortunately, since the so-called Enlightenment, many who claim to be scientists have denied man’s ability to learn the truth about anything that we can’t sense. This limits our understanding of things to what we can see, taste, touch, hear and smell, especially what we can measure. So many scientists think that to be objective, they have to be atheists, or at least agnostics. But that’s not even a quarter-baked philosophy of science. To claim that knowledge is confined to sense knowledge is a statement that cannot be confirmed by sensory investigation alone. It’s entirely illogical, and–if I may say so as a teacher of adolescents–very adolescent, very immature.
So there must be a dialogue between the physical and biological sciences and faith, and, when there is a contradiction, our faith–dogmatic faith–is what we must hold. This is entirely logical and scientific. There is no uncertainty about the basic principles of faith, like there is a God. There is no plus-or-minus there, whereas in every measurement, there is some quantity of uncertainty. In fact, right at the root of all physical science is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
So when, as always seems to happen around Easter, some idiot claims to have disproved a tenet of our faith, or debunked some passage of Scripture, we should react perhaps more with amusement than consternation. And pray for such to experience a real relationship with the One God in peace.