(Recently published online at Homiletic & Pastoral Review)
One of the most vexing issues facing ministers in the Church is the raging debate in our media and schools over evolution, and its implications for those of us who believe that God created “the heavens and the earth.” At the heart of this vexation lies a fundamental issue: The nature of sacred doctrine and how it relates to the disciplines of science. There probably isn’t a better thinker to turn to for this issue than St. Thomas Aquinas. At the very beginning of his Summa Theologiae, he lays the foundation for the study of sacred doctrine and its relationship to the rest of the sciences. We will begin with a careful look at Aquinas’ starting point and then see how it might be applied to some scientific platforms which have seemed to conflict with sacred doctrine. Continue reading
Posted in In Depth Articles, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Science & Religion
Tagged Catholic, Evolution, faith, Galileo, God, Science, science and religion
My article “Science & Faith” has been published at the Homiletic & Pastoral Review. Here is an excerpt:
One of the most vexing issues facing ministers in the Church is the raging debate in our media and schools over evolution, and its implications for those of us who believe that God created “the heavens and the earth.” At the heart of this vexation lies a fundamental issue: The nature of sacred doctrine and how it relates to the disciplines of science. There probably isn’t a better thinker to turn to for this issue than St. Thomas Aquinas. At the very beginning of his Summa Theologiae, he lays the foundation for the study of sacred doctrine and its relationship to the rest of the sciences. We will begin with a careful look at Aquinas’ starting point and then see how it might be applied to some scientific platforms which have seemed to conflict with sacred doctrine.
I essentially argue for the Thomistic position, which really gave birth to the scientific method, that science and faith do not conflict.
Sacred doctrine, then, is a science in the sense that it is a rational reflection upon the principles received through revelation. It’s not a science in the sense that the Trinity was discovered as a result of experimentation in a laboratory. The Real Presence isn’t proposed as a scientific theory, or law, as the result of studying a consecrated host under a microscope. The doctrine of the Real Presence is based on Sacred Scripture, wherein Jesus declared: “This is my body, this is my blood.” Sacred doctrine is the science that takes revelation as it’s principle, proceeding to explain what this means for us who are communicants.
How does this science of sacred doctrine differ from the other sciences? As already mentioned, the object, or thing studied in sacred doctrine, is something beyond the reach of the natural sciences. The natural sciences deal with matter as it is available to us through our senses. Yet, God is not available to our senses. Since knowledge of God is, in part, beyond the reach of sense experience and reason, God has decided to reveal it to us through sacred scripture and doctrine. Thus, our knowledge is supplemented by sacred scripture so that we may know what is necessary for salvation.
Read the entire article and let me know what you think!
Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Science, Science & Religion
Tagged Evolution, intelligent design, Philosophy, Religion, Roman Catholic, Science, St. Thomas Aquinas, Theology, thomism
After watching Bill O’Reily take Richard Dawkins to task over Dawkins’ new book, The Magic of Reality, I’m convinced that O’Reily has a legitimate point but seems ill-equipped to argue it.
Granted, O’Reily has probably tackled one of the most complex issues of the day to try and talk about with some coherence in a framework of about 5 minutes at the most so what can we really expect? I think a much better job of it could be done, nevertheless, so I offer a few observations on how it could be done.
The real issue with Dawkins is his blind faith in a 19th century view of reality and his evangelical zeal in spreading it at the expense of all other views. The real issue with this faith is that it has already been superseded by modern science for one thing… and it’s also dependent upon the suppression of a major segment of human knowledge.
In short, not only is Dawkins’ world view anti-science… it’s also anti-human. Modern science has moved beyond the 19th century conceptualization of “matter” and Dawkins has not kept up. His world-view is really the flip-side of that coin known as “fundamentalism” in that they both share the 19th century understanding of science. That world-view was indebted to Rene Descartes and his bifurcation of reality into the world of extension and the world of reason… the world of matter and the world of spirit. This left a plethora of problems not only for science but for theology as well. These problems have manifested themselves in the horrendous “intelligent design” debates that we’re witnessing these days. (No, Aquinas did NOT subscribe to what we know today as the “Intelligent Design” movement”)
Colin Tudge, of The Independent does a very good job of it in his review of Dawkins’ book. Just a snippet:
All in all, what consciousness is is perhaps the most burning topic in modern science. The general conclusion so far is that the Dawkins-style concept of “reality” just won’t do. This crude materialism belongs at best to the 19th century.
The rest of his review can be read here…
O’Reily let Dawkins lead him by the nose and he came across as completely incompetent. The stakes in this debate between religion and science are just too high to do a toss-off 5 minute treatment of it that leaves his viewers more in the dark the they were to begin with. I hope he does his research a bit more thoroughly before attempting it again.
THIS is the go-to guy for the Intelligent Design debate and faith: Dr. Francisco Ayala
In 2005, there was some debate over the issue of what, exactly, is the Catholic teaching on the subject of “brain death”. I was caught up in it because my employer at the time, Ignatius Press, was (and still is) the publisher of the magazine the Catholic World Report. An article that appeared in the issue of April 2005 expressed some views that seemed to me to leave readers unclear about what the teachings of the Church are on the matter. John M. Haas has written an excellent article on the topic and does a lot to clear up the confusion. I wasn’t managing editor at the time the article appeared which Dr. Haas references, but was managing editor of their other magazine, the Homiletic & Pastoral Review. Management of CWR was added to my plate that same year.
I am very happy to provide a link to this piece and offer my heartfelt thanks for his work. Please read “Catholic teaching regarding the legitimacy of neurological criteria for determining death“, by John M. Haas.
Posted in Catholic, Ethics, Philosophy, Religion, Science
Tagged brain death, Ethics, ignatius press, John M. Haas, Philosophy, Religion, Roman Catholic
To place the current natural disasters in perspective, it might help to recall that the Earth is approximately 4.6 billion years old. The vast majority of this time has seen cataclysmic changes in geology that make the current natural disasters we have experienced seem like a baby’s hiccup. Not to sound callous or unmoved by recent events, especially the horrific developments in Japan after their earthquake and tsunami… but what I hope to do is provide some perspective on natural events like this and thereby hopefully provide some sense of comfort as we all face them. I say “comfort” because natural disasters like the current one in Japan leaves a lot of us believers wondering why God, a loving God that cares about us, allows such things to happen. Continue reading
Posted in In Depth Articles, Philosophy, Religion, Science
Tagged earth, earthquake, evil, Evolution, faith, hope, Japan, natural disasters, suffering, thomism, tsunami
There is a lot of noise coming from people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett, to the effect that religion does more harm than good and therefore should be eradicated from the face of the Earth (Witness a recent debate on the goodness or badness of religion between Hitchens and Tony Blair). The media has labeled these voices as a “movement”, a “New Atheism” movement. I’ve looked closely at the various arguments being advanced by the three I mention and, to be frank, I don’t see what it is about their messages that would justify labeling it as “New Atheism”. For the most part there is nothing new in what they offer in their brand of atheism. Dawkins, Hitchens and Dennett are simply regurgitating arguments that have been made numerous times by a wide variety of atheists.