God; Science and the Catholic perspective of it all.
Fr. Raymond Taouk
The Catholic Church points out to us that although we be men according to nature we all have a supernatural destiny to attain. We need however a supernatural help to attain this destiny. What has this to do with Science you may ask? Well everything and nothing. . .
The Catholic Church like her divine master points out to us that our natural birth alone is not sufficient for us to attain that supernatural end. But this seems to present some basic problems; namely how do I attain a supernatural end if it is beyond my own power to obtain it. How do I even come to know of this supernatural reality?
Well, when we speak of natural and supernatural we need to understand what we are actually talking about - by Natural we mean; - that which belongs to the very nature of a thing. It belongs to the very nature of a horse to have 4 legs. -
What would be supernatural for the horse would be for it to have the ability to speak like a human being.
Likewise, by Supernatural we mean that which transcends the nature of a being. - ie. It totally transcends my nature as a man to be able to fly.
However in a sceptical world one might be tempted to ask, how can we know of the existence of a supernatural reality when it is beyond our nature know obtain it in the first place?
By our reason alone we can know there is a God, by means of simply grasping as St. Thomas Aquinas points out "If the world and motion have a first beginning, some cause must clearly be posited to account for this origin of the world and of motion." (Summa contra gentiles 1. 13. 30)
And yet this God, Himself, is not accessible to our senses. He is a purely spiritual being.
We can know there is a God, by looking at the world around us. This is why even someone like Isaac Newton, who was not a Catholic would be forced to admit as a man of science that "This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being. This being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he wont to be called 'Lord God'. - Principia, Book III, cited in; Newton's Philosophy of Nature; Selections from his writings, p. 42, ed. H.S. Thayer, Hafner, Library of Classics, NY, 1953.
On this point of Newton we see 5 important things that are important for us to grasp -
1. The True God is the cause of all things.
The difference between Our God; the one true God, and all the other false divinities is that all the false god's of mythology are themselves produces of the universe - they were made according to their worshipers from something in the universe, Our God, made the entire universe. He alone is as we say in Our Creed, "True God of God".
2. The Scientific explanation for things, is not the same as the explanation for God.
God is the reason that there any explanations for anything at all in the first place ! Without God, no science would be possible. - What is more is that the laws in nature are not brought about by themselves, they are simply laws that the maker has set in them as to work the way they do. As the well known French philosopher Etienne Gilson well put it, "This world of ours is a world of change; physics, chemistry, biology can teach us the laws according to which change actually happens in it; what these sciences cannot teach us is why this world, taken with its laws, its order, and its intelligibility, is or exits. If the nature of no known thing is 'to be,' the nature of no known thing contains in itself the sufficient reason for its own existence. But it points to its sole conceivable cause." - That cause we call God.
You can not prove that God exists in the same way that you prove water exists or any material thing. What can be physically demonstrated, God - why? Because God can not be reduced to matter - If he could, He would be limited and finite and therefore not God.
God can be know from his effects, much like the Artist is not in His artwork, but; his brushstrokes are. The brush strokes are His material creation of the universe. .
Were are not merely the result of random selective evolutionary process.
A single strand of DNA - the basic building block of life - is made up of a sequence of chemicals that are represented by the letters A, G, T, and C. These chemicals (A, G, T, and C) - these basic building blocks of DNA - are arranged in a sequence that is over 1 billion characters long. So, the statistical probability of human DNA coding happening completely by blind random chance - with no intelligent agent doing the inputting - is approximately 4 raised to the billionth power. In other words, there seems to be no chance that it was chance.
What is more is that, If you are simply a result of a random selective evolutionary process, then how can you trust your mind. Why is also not part of a random selective evolutionary process. In which can no truth is possible, since not before too long your truth will have evolved into something else. - But the reality is that God has not programmed anything in that manner, but rather he has established everything to work on terms of defined laws. - This leads me to my next point.
3. In every one who does Science, there is an underlying act of faith; yes, an act of faith, in that they all must first believe that there is an intelligibility in the universe and that through a rational process it can actually be discovered because the one who made it has as such positioned things in such a way that it operates in a logical and rational manner. Without God, there is no such reason for things to be that way, but precisely because of the fact that there is a supreme intelligence that governs all things, we can discover with our limited intellects how some of that creation works. - That process we call in our little world, 'science'. Science did not create anything that it studies. It is not omnipotent. Science is simply a way to describe what already exists.
What this means, in practice is that the material things of the world are more than sufficient to lead us to God as nature itself is not neutral, it has the signature of God, its creator written all over it. We can say that all of Creation is shouting out the existence of God, His goodness, His love, His beauty. This is what King David proclaims in his 18th Psalm:
“The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declares the work of his hands. Day to day it utters speech, and night to night shows knowledge. There are no speeches nor languages, where their voices are not heard.” -
St. Paul uses this point to tell us that: "For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable." - Romans 1
In short wether it be the Atheist or the Agnostic like Albert Einstein, they remain inexcusable and will only end up in a deeper place in hell for claiming to be men of learning and denying the obvious.
4. Science is not a Person or a thing as such, it is simply the unravelling of the laws put to there by an intelligence far greater than it.
The world exists because it was created out of nothing by an intelligent being. That being himself is a person, a Divine Person !
5. It is precisely in our ability to reason and grasp logical truth that we are set apart from all other creators in this world. It then precisely by means of this rationality that we have that we are able to come in contact with the supernatural order. - This is why the Catholic Church has always explained that we worship God primarily through faith, because faith is an act of the intellect.
It is for this reason a dog or cat etc could not be in the state of grace or make an act of faith, because they don't have a rational soul, or intellect. It is through this rational gift that we come in contact with the divine.
But how can you prove something when it lies completely beyond the physical and therefore beyond science?
It is much like life itself. You can't prove life. That is you can't prove consciousness, but you know it exists. We know ideas exist yet we don't see the idea itself. We may see the effect of an idea, such as invention, or something that is produced as a result of an idea. But the reason we don't see the idea is that it is immaterial. Likewise, just as we believe in an immaterial reality, called an idea. We also believe in immaterial realities we call concepts, such as freedom, love, rights, truth etc. They exist even if we don't see them on a material level or are able to material evidence for their existence.
We many not really know what energy is, but we know it is real and it exists. We don't really know what gravity is, but we know that it exists. We can't give scientific proof for Love but we know that it is real and that it exists. Likewise things like, logic, moral obligation, laws of mathematics, consciousness etc are all things that are immaterial entities that exist impendent of us and can not be explained from a purely material; 'scientific' perspective.
The 'proof' for such realities is not on the level of science it is more on the level of philosophical realities, like that of truth and goodness. We know that goodness exists, but you don't see goodness walking down the street. You don't see love walking down the street. You can't measure them in a test tube, yet we know they are real and that they exist. - To deny the existence of God because you don't have the 'scientific proof' is as foolish as denying the existence of the previously mentioned notions; but far greater, as all these notions are only realities as a consequence of the existence of that reality that is the foundation of them all; namely God Himself.
- The material universe is governed by immaterial realities.
The material universe governed by Non-material laws of physics. These laws are true and they are independent of the how we may feel or think. The law of gravity is true. The laws of thermodynamics are true. The laws of chemistry are true. The laws of mathematics are true. Has anyone ever seen gravity? Does gravity have height, weight, length, width, or depth? What about time? Is time real? Is it material? What about truth? Does it have spatial dimensions? Is it a material item?
The existence of non-material things - concepts, physical laws, truth, etc - that every single human being is aware of and affected by, whether they will admit that they objectively exist or not, is a is a scientific fact , even though they are beyond the world of 'science' (in that they can not be measured on a purely empirical manner).
For this reason same reason the First Vatican Council openly affirmed that: "If anyone is so bold as to assert that there exists nothing besides matter: let him be anathema".
We need to ask ourselves more profoundly what is the purpose of the created universe? The observable world of science and nature have been placed there to lead us to God.
Fr. Raymond O.S.O.C points out the context for us in all this - (From his book; Book You - pg. 58)
"God allowed man to discover and invent things that, with them, man might harness the powers of heaven and earth and have these, too,, help him to the realization of those potentialities in his immortal soul which can make him more and more godly. But too often these inventions make him more and more ungodly. More often these inventions minister both directly and indirectly, to the seven capital sins which sleep in every human and to the three concupiscence's which will never die.
Let us grasp reality. Modern industry has raised the standard of your living to a great height, but what has it done to the standard of your life? Day in and day out, and often enough all the night through, it produces things that minister untiringly to the needs, the longings, and even the lusts of your body. But what does it produces that will minister to the ever pressing needs, the yearnings, and the unyielding loves of your immortal soul? Material progress and financial prosperity have been achieved. But at the exorbitant cost of man's humanity and his peerless and utterly priceless personality. "
In short, the material world often looks at what we are made of; and so it tries to give us more material, but what it doesn't address is what we are made for? Why am I here? What is my destiny. - Without this we only are feeding out blind passions like a hungry goat. -
The point is that we have an eternal soul and consequently an eternal destiny that we must rightly reach -
"To admit that you are the possessor of an immortal soul calls for courage; for it is an admission that carries with it the weighty burden of responsibility. It not only says that you are an individual who must answer for all our decisions and every one of your deeds, but that you are a shaper of a personal destiny that will endure forever. That frightens a lone human - and rightly so ! But no human needs ever be alone.
But should you want to deny this reality?
"If you do not possess an immortal soul, you have no grounds for hope, no reason for effort, no call for courage, no demand for loyalty; while anything like sorrow, remorse, or repentance is completely senseless. If you are not the possessor of a soul that is immortal, love, fidelity, justice, honesty, patriotism, and the like are mere catchwords, coined to lure the unthinking on to the accomplishment of something for the benefit of the ones who coined the catchwords."
That is a profoundly important that I want to insist on - Atheism has not been shy in proclaiming that there is no meaning to life that life is a pointless accident. But this would only be logical if we were here only as a result of blind evolutionary process of chance. Fate has had her mischievous way with us. Then the logical conclusion is that in this case, our birth was pointless; our life is pointless; and our death will be equally just as pointless. . . Indeed, if every thought we have is merely the result of chemical and electrical processes over which we have absolutely no control, and which were brought into being by blind unthinking chance, then by definition, there can be no purpose to life. Love is not real. Freedom is not real. Rights are not real. We are nothing more than biological robots. We have no more purpose or value than an ant, or a worm, or even a rock.
What is life’s purpose for the Atheist? There is none whatsoever. In Richard Dawkins’ dismal words: “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference… We are machines for propagating DNA… It is every living object’s sole reason for being.” - In short, no purpose - A miserable and hopeless dark existence is the Atheists only logical conclusion.
But, No, thank God, on the contrary:
"But if you have an immortal soul, (as indeed we do) you not only have something to live for; you have Someone to die for! You can face all difficulties, take all risks, ride all blows, rise from every defeat; for no mater how bowed or bloody you may become, you can never be beaten! If you have an immortal soul, life is not so much a wearying warfare as a stirring challenge to the best that is in you - and, ultimately it is found to be a divine romance !" - (Fr. Raymond O.S.O.C points out the context for us in all this - From his book; Book You - pg. 58).
The Catholic Church alone gives us a grasp of the entire picture of life and the entire universe, where as all other positions only hold part of the picture and therefore lack the context for the whole purpose of creation and the ultimate destiny of their own lives.
In this regard Fr. Denis Fahey, in his work on the Mystical body of Christ in the modern world rightly point out that:
"The anathemas of the Church are in the full sense acts of homage to the integral (whole) truth. The poet sees only poetry, the experimental scientist only his test-tube,, the astronomer the starry sky. Irreligion nearly always has its source in this narrowness, for irreligion is short-sightedness, a defect of vision. This is one of the causes of the present tide of unbelief, since 'science' has buried itself in matter. For science thus becomes a narrow view of things, and because it is narrow, and precisely because of this narrowness, it is anti-Catholic. To enter the Catholic Church does not mean abdicating 'free-thought' for an obscure childish dogmatism; but rather it means the enabling one's soul to attain true liberty and a complete grasp of the order of the Divine plan. The Catholic religion dominates over all errors. Opposed to her are all the partial systems, all the individual philosophies, all the particular religions, etc. When we examine them, we see that every element of truth that is found in the religions elaborated by men is to be found in the Church's teaching, but incorporated into a transcendently higher synthesis. When one understand that, one can sympathetically point out to non-Catholics that the elements of truth to which they cling are all to be found in God's Church and far more. "
Faith - clarifies the defect in our reason. -
We require then the truth of the Faith to give us the bigger picture and to allow our vision to be elevated beyond the narrow scope of matter. In fact it is for this reason that the first Vatican Council pointed out -
"Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they mutually support each other, for on the one hand right reason established the foundations of the faith and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of divine things; on the other hand, faith delivers reason from errors and protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds." (Vatican Council I)