Wednesday, June 3, 2009

True Science

Natural science and the Catholic faith have two different ends, although they are not mutually exclusive. One is to understand the physical world, God's creation, and the other is to know God directly. St. Thomas Aquinas, a medieval doctor of the Church whose best works treat the relationship between science and faith, says in his Summa Theologica Iª q. 1 a. 5 s. c., in response to the question "Whether sacred doctrine is nobler than other sciences?", that "Other sciences [e.g., the natural sciences] are called the handmaidens of this one [i.e., theology, sacred doctrine]: 'Wisdom sent her maids to invite to the tower' (Prov. 9:3)."

Although sciences besides the study of sacred doctrine are subordinate to the Catholic faith, this in no way relegates them. Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius X were very pro-science; they saw how the errors of modernism not only threatened the Catholic faith but also threatened true science, too. They condemned these two propositions, respectively: Catholicism is compatible with modern civilization (Syllabus of Errors, 80.) and Catholicism is incompatible with true science (Lamentabili Sane, 65.); hence, modern civilization and true science are incompatible.

But why are modern civilization and true science incompatible? Firstly, modern civilization is opposed to the Church. The huge popularity of anti-Catholic entertainment attests to this:
Is there anything science can't do? Evidently not. Here is Brown at his wackiest (p. 658): "Science has come to save us from our sickness, hunger, and pain! Behold science-the new God of endless miracles, omnipotent and benevolent! Ignore the weapons and the chaos." It's even an elixir for personal problems: "Forget the fractured loneliness and endless peril. Science is here!"

The fact is that Catholicism promoted science & astronomy: Science would not have progressed as it has. "For the last fifty years," says professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr., "virtually all historians of science...have concluded that the Scientific Revolution was indebted to the Church." Sociologist Rodney Stark argues that the reason why science arose in Europe, and nowhere else, is because of Catholicism. "It is instructive that China, Islam, India, ancient Greece, and Rome all had a highly developed alchemy. But only in Europe did alchemy develop into chemistry. By the same token, many societies developed elaborate systems of astrology, but only in Europe did astrology lead to astronomy".

The Catholic role in pioneering astronomy is not questioned. J.L. Heilborn of the University of California at Berkeley writes that "The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial aid and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment than any other, and, probably, all other institutions." The Jesuits scientific achievements alone, reached every corner of the earth.

What was it about Catholicism that made it so science-friendly, and why did science take root in Europe and not some place else? Stark knows why: "Because Christianity depicted God as a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being, and the universe as his personal creation. The natural world was thus understood to have a rational, lawful, stable structure, waiting (indeed, inviting) human comprehension."

Joseph Dias

Secondly, many believe modern science is more universal than the Church and try to arrive at a purer religion that everyone, regardless of their beliefs, can understand and accept. Pope Pius X condemns this as "broad and liberal Protestantism" (Lamentabili Sane, 65.).

Lastly, modern civilization asserts there is no absolute, objective truth and reality: relativism. Modernism and relativism are big issues impeding some from coming to the Catholic faith, as encyclicals like Pope St. Pius X's Pascendi Dominici Gregis and Pope Pius XII's Humani Generis show. The Berkeley philosopher John Searle proves very well, and solely in philosophical terms, the irrationality of relativism in his "Refutation of Relativism" paper. The argument basically runs thus: "You can't even state relativism without denying it." Resulting from relativism is the notion that all the world's religions can coexist, i.e., syncretism, which is atheistic. It assumes the gods of the various religions do not exist in reality because if they all did exist, and because there are contradictions between the gods of different religions, there would be a contradiction in reality. Consequently, there would not be one truth but chaos, contradicting half-truths, and irrationality. Reality, however, is sensible and rational; not only can the natural sciences attest to this, but so can the Catholic faith, too. Read, e.g., Pope Benedict XVI's Epiphany '09 homily and his philosophy of mathematics. If there is no absolute truth or one single God governing the universe, then all religions' gods are only figments of their individual adherents' imaginations. That gods are whatever one wants them to be is Luther's Protestant idea that everyone is his own authority or even his own god, i.e., sola fide or "faith only" in any god(s). This is why Pope Pius X condems "broad and liberal Protestantism" in Lamentabili Sane.

In summary, only with an increase of virtue and morals in today's civilization, resulting from a return to the Catholic Church, can true science progress.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Does God Exist? Einstein Responds.

Einstein and Catholicism

Did you ever know that Einstein's Catholic elementary school education was responsible for his lifelong wonder of the universe and its orderliness, the Λογος (Logos), "Word of God, or principle of divine reason and creative order, identified in the Gospel of John with the second person of the Trinity incarnate in Jesus Christ" (New Oxford American Dictionary)? From Einstein: His Life and Universe (pgs. 15 & 20):
[...] when Albert turned 6 and had to go to school, his parents did not care that there was no Jewish one near their home. Instead he went to the large Catholic school in their neighborhood, the Petersschule. As the only Jew among the seventy students in his class, Einstein took the standard course in Catholic religion and ended up enjoying it immensely. Indeed, he did so well in his Catholic studies that he helped his classmates with theirs. [...] Einstein avoided religious rituals for the rest of his life. [...] He did, however, retain from his childhood religious phase a profound reverence for the harmony and beauty of what he called the mind of God as it was expressed in the creation of the universe and its laws.
This reverence, even for a scientist, is not something to be left in one's childhood, for "unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 18:3). Even in his adulthood Einstein pondered the mystery of transubstantiation:
Father Charlie had come to talk about Christ in light of Einstein's theories and Einstein obliged and directed the discussion towards the Mass. "What is it? What happens?" Einstein asked his guest. Father Charlie explained that during Mass heaven and earth are joined by the infinite living body of Christ when the whole substance of bread and wine becomes the true body and blood of Christ, only the appearances of the bread and wine remaining. Einstein became extremely interested in the concept of transubstantiation, the changing of one substance into an other. He asked Father Charlie to explain the conversion in the Eucharist, by the priest at Mass. Father Charlie eagerly explained transubstantiation to his host as analogous to Einstein's famous formula E=mc²: Just as matter can be broken into energy-God becomes present on earth in the Mass.

While Einstein listened attentively, Father Charlie said, "During the Last Supper Christ said to his disciples, 'This is my body [τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου], this is my blood [τοῦτο ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά], that is being shed for you.' This means that what looks like bread and wine by God's power have become the body and blood of Christ."

"Then this means," Einstein said, "that Christ is infinite and timeless."

Christ with a Priest's Face

The Catholic Mass with which Einstein was familiar and during which the mystery of transubstantiation occurs is the following:

Fr. Calvin Goodwin, Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), commentates the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To view more videos about the Extraordinary Form (called also by the various names "Gregorian Rite masses," "Latin masses," "Tridentine masses," etc.), buy the FSSP's DVD The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite: An Instructional Video for Priests and Seminarians.

Physics can demonstrate God's existence.

From a translation of St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica Iª q. 2 a. 2 co. from a footnote on pg. 24 of his Division and methods of the sciences, a commentary on Boethius's De Trinitate, St. Thomas addresses whether one can demonstrate God's existence:
Demonstrations can be made in two ways: one is through the cause, and is called propter quid, and this is to argue from what is prior absolutely. The other is through the effect, and this is called a demonstration quia; this is to argue from what is prior relatively only to us.
Another translation, from the Fathers of the English Dominican Province:
Demonstration can be made in two ways: One is through the cause, and is called a priori, and this is to argue from what is prior absolutely. The other is through the effect, and is called a demonstration a posteriori; this is to argue from what is prior relatively only to us.
Natural science, which argues not through the cause of the universe (i.e., with a demonstration propter quid or a priori), can only prove the existence of this Cause (i.e., God) through Its effects (i.e., with a demonstration quid or a posteriori), even if natural science, the study of the physical world, can never know the essence of God, Who is purely spiritual. Thus natural science, like physics, can demonstrate God's existence.

An atheist scientist is often a materialist; he maintains that matter is eternal and therefore does not need a creator. Science, especially quantum mechanics and particle physics, can prove that matter is not eternal; particles, such as matter–anti-matter pairs like an electron and anti-electron, can pop in and out of existence when interacting with each other, for example.

One must be careful about the meaning of the word "matter." When physicists say "matter," we mean "physical matter," but ὕλη in the philosophical sense is much broader. It does not just mean "that which has mass or, due to Einstein's equivalence of mass and energy E=mc², energy, too." From the Oxford English Dictionary:
This use of form (Aristotle's μορφή or εἶδος) and matter (ὕλη) is a metaphorical extension of their popular use. In ordinary speech, a portion of matter, stuff, or material, becomes a 'thing' by virtue of having a particular 'form' or shape; by altering the form, the matter remaining unchanged, we make a new 'thing'. This language, primarily applied only to objects of sense, was in philosophical use extended to objects of thought: every 'thing' or entity was viewed as consisting of two elements, its form by virtue of which it was different from, and its matter which it had in common with, others.
Thus in the case of the "annihilating" electron and anti-electron, matter, even in the restricted physicists' sense of the word, is not reduced to nothing (i.e., annihilated). No, this matter, in the philosopher's sense, merely changes form; it was an electron and anti-electron before interacting, and now it is pure energy.

It would then seem that matter is eternal. But how can it be if natural science can demonstrate the existence of a Creator?