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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Science of God - Personal Conclusions

Having written all of those thoughts regarding Dr. Schroeder’s book, I don’t think my understanding of them would have been complete without at least trying to explore my own faith on these matters.

First, it seems clear to me that I was obviously impressed with Dr. Schroeder’s attempt to take his expertise in mathematics and physics and try to apply them to his apparent firmly held faith system. Based on my reading, I will surely look at conflict between believers and nonbelievers in a different light from now on. One thing I did note though after having finished the book a few weeks ago now, is that perhaps the science he uses is not as soundly supported as he claims – this is alluded to many times by the author of the response website linked in the third post. Although perhaps unfortunate, it is the truth. Even still, I’d say the key for me having read all of these thoughts is that the book of Genesis is not clear cut when describing the origins of our universe, and there is much room on both sides of the line for virtually infinite discussion and understanding. However, this is also not a problem for me as a believer because the detailed description of the natural world does not impact the message of Jesus, nor does it impact my hope for Salvation. As Christians or as whatever we are – we can’t have fear of science, science discovery, or scientific thought.

I was actually comforted in a similar way when doing a bit of research on the Catholic Church’s teaching on these matters when I found this from Pope Leo XIII:

- “No real disagreement can exist between the theologian and the scientist provided each keeps within his own limits. . . . If nevertheless there is a disagreement . . . it should be remembered that the sacred writers, or more truly ‘the Spirit of God who spoke through them, did not wish to teach men such truths (as the inner structure of visible objects) which do not help anyone to salvation’; and that, for this reason, rather than trying to provide a scientific exposition of nature, they sometimes describe and treat these matters either in a somewhat figurative language or as the common manner of speech those times required, and indeed still requires nowadays in everyday life, even amongst most learned people" (Leo XIII,Providentissimus Deus 18).

And as the Catechism states it:

- “Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things the of the faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are" (CCC 159).

It is with this framework in mind that I will continue to hope that the two sides continue to converge to some similarly shared wisdom. In fact, here is a passage from the Catechism which describes how that convergence will occur:

- "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 159).

And continuing with my understanding of Faith through the Catholic Christian lens, I often wondered throughout my reading if the Church actually had at some point specifically addressed the origins of the universe. I was again very happy to have found that the Catholic Church actually encourages this type of research:

- "The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 283).

I find it even more interesting that the first person to propose the Big Bang theory was actually a Catholic priest.

It seems that the Church does not require too much from its believers with regard to these nebulous matters. However, the Church does require that we maintain that no matter what one believes, it is only through the power of God that it occurred. Concerning human evolution, the Church concedes that our bodies could have been evolved from some previous form (through God’s guidance) and inherited from our parents, it is not a question that whether or not there was special creation of his soul. Pope Pius XII addressed this specifically:

- The teaching authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions . . . take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—[but] the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God" (Pius XII, Humani Generis 36).

I am most excited by the discoveries of these supports of Catholic Church’s teaching because it is clear that the Church has no fear of science or scientific discovery – my hope all along.

So that concludes my exploration of the book The Science of God and my search for understanding as a Catholic Christian. As I have oft quoted experts throughout these words, I felt it would be appropriate to quote a few of the people who I have had conversations with regarding the different matters since beginning this writing.

MS:

- “Just goes to show that with any belief system, it's necessary to ascribe to a number of relatively arbitrary assertions, such as those outlined above. You simply need to walk into the "faith store", a la Baskin-Robbins, and decide what flavor you like.”

AP:

- “The more I think about it, the more I feel that in order to prove/disprove the existence of God, you would have to understand the entire workings of the "Universe". When it began, how it began, what was before it (if anything), the true extent of the Universe (what is past the edge of it), if it is really a Universe or is it a Multiverse, why is the speed of light the Universal speed limit, what dark matter is, how rare or common life is, what the purpose of the Universe is, etc… ad infinitum. Basically, you would have to be omniscient. Therefore, I believe only someone with the power or knowledge of God could prove/disprove his existence.

AM:

- “These concepts get at something I have felt for quite a while as a Christian - It is how an individual acts that determines the clarity by which that individual realizes the unifying base of existence. In fact God explicitly tells the Israelites that their being chosen is not b/c they have inherently superior virtues as a people, prayer and sacrifices to the JudeoChristian God are not to induce changes in the deity as in other religions, but in the offerer. As Christians are now the “new Israel,” I think that I would be wise to keep this in mind – I am not better than anyone because of my Faith.”

Amen to all of that. Thanks for reading. AMDG J

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