Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why Methodological Naturalism in Empiriological Sciences?

The basis of modern empiriological sciences, such as experimental and theoretical physics and astronomy, is "naturalized epistemology," called also "methodological naturalism" or "scientific naturalism." This holds that the methods of empiriological sciences should assume that phenomena they study have only natural causes irrespective of whether supernatural agents can or do effect them. This has allowed for scientists to reproduce experiments and verify results regardless of the scientists' non-scientific beliefs. Science has relegated the Why? questions for the How? questions; final causes are no longer addressed. Because we can only know God and other non-physical realities via the physical word (Rom. 1:20), this implies that the immaterial or supernatural order affects the material or natural order.

Let us address these questions:
  1. Does the supernatural affect the natural?
  2. If so, why should we incorporate their effects into our physical theories?
  3. How would we avoid considering "God did it" as a sufficient explanation of a natural effect?
  4. How would we know an exception to a natural law due to something supernatural from an exception due to natural causes?
St. Thomas Aquinas provides an answer to questions 1 and 3 in his discussion on how the universe has a rational plan:
Accordingly that God love His own goodness is something necessary, but it does not necessarily follow from this that it should be reflected in creatures, since the divine goodness is perfect without this. Consequently although the divine goodness is the reason why creatures were originally brought into being, yet this depends on the simple will of God. Supposing, however, that God wishes to communicate His goodness to His creatures by way of likeness as far as it is possible, this is the reason why creatures are of divers kinds: although there is no necessity for this diversity being according to this or that degree of perfection, or this or that number of things. And supposing it to be God's will to establish a particular number in things, and to bestow on each thing a particular measure of perfection, this is the reason why a particular thing has such and such a form and such and such matter: and so on in like manner.

It is therefore clear that the dispensations of providence are according to a certain reason, and yet this reason presupposes the divine will.

Accordingly a twofold error is refuted by what we have said. First, there is the error of those who maintained that all things are the result of God's simple will without any reason. This is the error of the Moslem theologians in the law of the Mohammedans, as Rabbi Moses relates (Doct. Perp. iii. 25.), according to whom the sole reason why fire heats rather than chills is because God so wills. Secondly, we refute the error of those who assert that the ordering of causes proceeds from divine providence by way of necessity. Both of which are false, as is clear from what has been said.

There are certain expressions of Scripture that would seem to ascribe all things to God's simple will. But such things are said, not to remove reason from the dispensations of providence, but to show that God's will is the first principle of all things, as we have already shown. Such are the words of the Psalm cxxxiv. 6.: Whatsoever the Lord pleased, He hath done, and of Job ix. 12: Who can say: Why dost Thou so? and of Rom. ix. 19: Who resisteth His will? Augustine likewise says (3 De Trin. iii., iv.): God's will alone is the first cause of health and sickness, reward and punishment, grace and retribution.

Accordingly if we be asked the wherefore of a particular natural effect, we can assign the reason to some proximate cause: provided, however, that we refer all things to the divine will as their first cause. Thus if it be asked: Why was the wood heated at the presence of fire? we reply: Because to heat is fire's natural action: and this, because heat is its proper accident: and this results from its proper form: and so on until we come to the divine will. Hence if we reply to the question Why was the wood made hot? by saying: Because God so willed: we shall answer rightly, if we intend to trace the question back to its first cause, but incorrectly if we intend to exclude all other causes.

Summa Contra Gentiles, lib. 3 cap. 97 n. 13-17

Hence in empiriological sciences "we intend to exclude all other causes," i.e., we only focus on the natural cause. But, related to the induction hypothesis, what if our repeated observations of the fire in St. Thomas's example conclude only 99.999% of the time that "to heat is fire's natural action?" What if there were another cause, one supernatural, 0.001% of the time? Would this falsify the theory that "to heat is fire's natural action?" No, it would not falsify the natural theory, for in this case it would be a miracle. Determining when a miracle occurs would answer question 4 above. St. Thomas offers some insights into what a miracle is when he says:
These works that are sometimes done by God outside the usual order assigned to things are wont to be called miracles: because we are astonished (admiramur) at a thing when we see an effect without knowing the cause. And since at times one and the same cause is known to some and unknown to others, it happens that of several who see an effect, some are astonished and some not: thus an astronomer is not astonished when he sees an eclipse of the sun, for he knows the cause; whereas one who is ignorant of this science must needs wonder, since he knows not the cause. Wherefore it is wonderful to the latter but not to the former. Accordingly a thing is wonderful simply, when its cause is hidden simply: and this is what we mean by a miracle: something, to wit, that is wonderful in itself and not only in respect of this person or that. Now God is the cause which is hidden to every man simply: for we have proved above that in this state of life no man can comprehend Him by his intellect. Therefore properly speaking miracles are works done by God outside the order usually observed in things.

Of these miracles there are various degrees and orders. The highest degree in miracles comprises those works wherein something is done by God, that nature can never do: for instance, that two bodies occupy the same place, that the sun recede or stand still, that the sea be divided and make way to passers by. Among these there is a certain order: for the greater the work done by God, and the further it is removed from the capability of nature, the greater the miracle: thus it is a greater miracle that the sun recede, than that the waters be divided.

The second degree in miracles belongs to those whereby God does something that nature can do, but not in the same order: thus it is a work of nature that an animal live, see and walk: but that an animal live after being dead, see after being blind, walk after being lame, this nature cannot do, but God does these things sometimes by a miracle. Among these miracles also, there are degrees, according as the thing done is further removed from the faculty of nature.

The third degree of miracles is when God does what is wont to be done by the operation of nature, but without the operation of the natural principles: for instance when by the power of God a man is cured of a fever that nature is able to cure; or when it rains without the operation of the principles of nature.

Summa Contra Gentiles, lib. 3 cap. 101

If our intellects can abstract the supernatural from the natural in an object under study, why should we worry about the supernatural? Our findings will never contradict the supernatural because God never contradicts nature, Who is the very rational Author of it. But what about question 2? Consider this: Understanding the natural order to the exclusion of the supernatural order is akin to understanding the moon with astronomy to the exclusion of mathematics. Why do that? St. Thomas, on the difference between mathematics and physics, says:
Since, therefore, the objects of mathematics are abstracted from motion according to the intellect, and since they do not include in their intelligibility sensible matter, which is a subject of motion, the mathematician can abstract them from sensible matter. And it makes no difference as far as the truth is concerned whether they are considered one way or the other. For although the objects of mathematics are not separated according to existence, the mathematicians, in abstracting them according to their understanding, do not lie, because they do not assert that these things exist apart from sensible matter (for this would be a lie). But they consider them without any consideration of sensible matter, which can be done without lying. Thus one can truly consider the white without the musical, even though they exist together in the same subject. But it would not be a true consideration if one were to assert that the white is not musical.

In Physic., lib. 2 l. 3 n. 5

He says: "And it makes no difference as far as the truth is concerned whether they are considered one way or the other." Therefore, if the goal of science is to seek truth, then it would not hurt to consider natural phenomena in the light of supernatural, metaphysical, or immaterial causes. But this would be unnecessary because of what St. Augustine says in Contra Faustum, XXVI, 3: "God the creator and author of all natures, does nothing unnatural: because to each thing, that is natural which is caused by Him from whom is all measure, number and order in nature." Does this imply that a Catholic scientist can consistently practice methodological naturalism without worrying about possibly capricious supernatural influences because even supernatural beings, such as angels, have natures created rationally and according to the Divine Reason?

Yet all these arguments assume a sharp division between supernatural and natural orders. Does such a sharp division exist? Should it exist? Or would the physical empiriological sciences prosper if their formal objects were in both natural and supernatural orders?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Galileo vs. Aristotle? Science vs. Reason?

Was Galileo really opposed to all of Aristotle's science and philosophy? Is modern science opposed to reason? Let us begin with a consideration of faith and reason. In September 2006 Pope Benedict XVI—the Pope of Christian Unity—gave his famous "Regensburg lecture" at his alma mater university in Germany. He treats of the relationship between faith and reason, opening a dialogue to those religions who do not recognize Λόγος (Logos) or creative order suggestive of a reason-abiding God in the universe. He begins by reminiscing about
a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists and, naturally, between the two theological faculties. Once a semester there was a dies academicus, when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university, making possible a genuine experience of universitas. [...] It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the "whole" of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole.
Then he continues with a quote from 1391 by the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus on Islam which many mistake by synecdoche for the essence of his whole lecture but which the Pope of Christian Unity is using merely as an example of a disconnected faith and reason. He could have used a different example, possibly, such as by noting how one defines the phrase "Holocaust denial" most frequently as "the belief or assertion that the Holocaust did not happen or was greatly exaggerated"—equivocal by definition since one never denies something, i.e., claims its nonexistence, when he means it exists but to a lesser extent—but then he might have been accused of anti-Semitism instead of simply as pro-rationality. Reason, therefore, rarely exists separate from rational religion. The important point of his lecture is that acting reasonably is in accord with God's nature. This is not only important in "subjective" areas of life but especially in the natural sciences and mathematics, too.
"God", [Manuel II] says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death..."


At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the λόγος". This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, σὺν λόγω, with logos. Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (cf. Acts 16:6-10) - this vision can be interpreted as a "distillation" of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.
The Greeks, whether moderns want to admit it or not, have given us such a rich heritage, prominently: the mathematician Euclid and his Elements; Plato and his philosophy; the first physicist, Aristotle, and his Posterior Analytics, the basis of the modern scientific method of arguing through effects to the causes of things.
The ideal [of a unified science with a "progressive Aristotelianism" philosophy such as that of the Thomists and Scholastics] is that perhaps best set by Thomas Aquinas and his teacher Albertus Magnus [both 13th century], neither of whom was a slavish follower of Aristotle (as was the famous Arab commentator Averroes), but instead used the analytical techniques of their mentor to develop sciences completely unknown to the Greeks. Paradoxically, the ideal is also suggested by Galileo [†17th century], who disagreed with many teachings proposed by the Aristotelians of his day, but who nevertheless was well acquainted with the methodology of the Posterior Analytics. Indeed, so well equipped was he that he could maintain that were Aristotle then alive and had access to the new empirical evidence he himself had made available, the philosopher would have sided with him rather than with his proclaimed disciples. Much more, of course, is here assimilated within an Aristotelian synthesis than could have been known to either Albertus, Aquinas, or Galileo, including information that has become available only in the late twentieth century.

Fr. William A. Wallace, O.P.'s The Modeling of Nature (pg. xv)

Commenting on Aristotle's Physics II, R. Nogar—in "Toward a Physical Theory," The New Scholasticism 25 (1951), 397-438—says: "Aristotle made it very clear how the approach of the mathematician, even in considering the same reality, was an entirely different approach from that of the strictly physical scientist." This is something worth considering in the light that many scientists, e.g., Faraday, were excellent experimentalists with the slightest clue about mathematics. Have we become too blinded by the utility of mathematics in Newton's successful Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy)?

Returning to the Regensburg lecture, the Pope of Christian Unity continues by noting that we moderns want to forget that so much of science and technology owes its existence to Greek thought—Euclid, Plato, Aristotle, etc.—coupled also with the Church's amazing Medieval universities, funding, and support of technology's prerequisite scientific development.
Behind [dehellenized or non-Greek-based] thinking lies the modern self-limitation of reason, classically expressed in Kant's "Critiques", but in the meantime further radicalized by the impact of the natural sciences. This modern concept of reason is based, to put it briefly, on a synthesis between Platonism (Cartesianism) and empiricism, a synthesis confirmed by the success of technology. On the one hand it presupposes the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, which makes it possible to understand how matter works and use it efficiently: this basic premise is, so to speak, the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature. On the other hand, there is nature's capacity to be exploited for our purposes, and here only the possibility of verification or falsification through experimentation can yield decisive certainty. The weight between the two poles can, depending on the circumstances, shift from one side to the other. As strongly positivistic a thinker as J. Monod has declared himself a convinced Platonist/Cartesian.


This gives rise to two principles which are crucial for the issue we have raised. First, only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity. A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.
The rejection of God as Λόγος (Logos) thus leads to self-limited science and reason; therefore, not only atheism—exemplified in this debate between Richard Dawkins and Hugh Hewitt—but also belief in an irrational god is the biggest opponent to reason and true science.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


What is truth? Quid est veritas? (John 18:38). This is the ultimate question all scientists must pursue, but before discussing why a univocal truth no longer appears as the aim of modern universities and research institutions, let us define truth more precisely.
The Philosopher says (Metaph. vi, 4), "The true and the false reside not in things, but in the intellect."


[T]ruth resides primarily in the intellect, and secondarily in things according as they are related to the intellect as their principle. Consequently there are various definitions of truth. Augustine says (De Vera Relig. xxxvi), "Truth is that whereby is made manifest that which is;" and Hilary says (De Trin. v) that "Truth makes being clear and evident" and this pertains to truth according as it is in the intellect. As to the truth of things in so far as they are related to the intellect, we have Augustine's definition (De Vera Relig. xxxvi), "Truth is a supreme likeness without any unlikeness to a principle": also Anselm's definition (De Verit. xii), "Truth is rightness, perceptible by the mind alone"; for that is right which is in accordance with the principle; also Avicenna's definition (Metaph. viii, 6), "The truth of each thing is a property of the essence which is immutably attached to it." The definition that "Truth is the equation of thought and thing" is applicable to it under either aspect.

St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica Iª q. 16 a. 1 s.c. & co.

If our intellect conforms to reality, then one says this is truth. To find truth, then, we need to apply our intellects to understand everything; this is research. But if truth resides in the intellect, does not this imply a plurality of truths, one for each scientist's understanding of a thing? Does not this imply a relativism of truth? How can scientists, then, come to a consensus—not democratically by majority rule, however—about the truth of, say, a hydrogen atom? Here is this objection, viz., to the fact that the truth is in the intellect:
[W]hatever is true, is true by reason of truth. If, then, truth is only in the intellect, nothing will be true except in so far as it is understood. But this is the error of the ancient philosophers, who said that whatever seems to be true is so. Consequently mutual contradictories seem to be true as seen by different persons at the same time.

ibid. Iª q. 16 a. 1 arg. 2

To which St. Thomas replies by invoking the divine intellect, the intellect of God who is Truth Itself (John 14:6):
The ancient philosophers held that the species of natural things did not proceed from any intellect, but were produced by chance. But as they saw that truth implies relation to intellect, they were compelled to base the truth of things on their relation to our intellect. From this, conclusions result that are inadmissible, and which the Philosopher refutes (Metaph. iv, 5ff.). Such, however, do not follow, if we say that the truth of things consists in their relation to the divine intellect.

ibid. Iª q. 16 a. 1 ad 2

We can see that if "natural things did not proceed from any intellect, but were produced by chance" as the atheistic Darwinists think, then truth is only relative to each particular person's understanding of a natural thing. There would be no scientific consensus nor understanding. Science would be doomed. Yet there is hope.
As said above (Article 1), truth is found in the intellect according as it apprehends a thing as it is; and in things according as they have being conformable to an intellect. This is to the greatest degree found in God. For His being is not only conformed to His intellect, but it is the very act of His intellect; and His act of understanding is the measure and cause of every other being and of every other intellect, and He Himself is His own existence and act of understanding. Whence it follows not only that truth is in Him, but that He is truth itself, and the sovereign and first truth.

ibid. Iª q. 16 a. 5 co.

Therefore, in order to avoid a cacophony of truths, we must "say that the truth of things consists in their relation to the divine intellect." This is why theology, the study of God, is the supreme science (ibid. Iª q. 1 a. 5 s. c.) with metaphysics and the other sciences being her handmaidens. So why does absolute truth no longer appear as the aim of modern universities and research institutions? The simple reasons are that most (1) deny the Ultimate Truth, God; (2) conceive academic freedom as an aimless free-inquiry; and (3) unquestioningly uphold as dogma the relativism of truth. "For to seek the truth [and understanding today] [...] [is] to follow flying game," as Aristotle says in Metaphysics IV, 5, 1009b40. It does not have to be this way.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dysfunctional Democracy

A democracy is a "rule by the people" (δῆμος "people" and κράτος "rule") which, allegedly according to Alexander Tytler, goes through the following cycle:
  1. From bondage to spiritual faith
  2. From spiritual faith to great courage
  3. From courage to liberty
  4. From liberty to abundance
  5. From abundance to complacency
  6. From complacency to apathy
  7. From apathy to dependence
  8. From dependence back into bondage
St. Thomas Aquinas, commenting on Aristotle's Politics III, 8 in In Libros Politicorum Aristotelis Expositio, Lib. III, lect. 5-6., says:
[Pol. III, 6-10: The names of the perverted constitutions.]
[...] They are as follows: The perversion of kingship is called tyranny; the perversion of aristocracy, oligarchy (which means: power of the few); finally democracy (meaning; power of the people, or rather the vulgar mass) is the perversion of that polity in which the many dominate but on the basis of at least one virtue, viz., military bravery. Hence, Aristotle concludes, tyranny is the dominion of one man aiming at his own interest; oligarchy is the dominion of a few aiming at the interest of the rich; democracy is the dominion of many aiming at the interest of the poor. None of these constitutions takes thought for the common good [...]

[Ibid. 8; 1279b 34-1280a 6: The criterion of number is not adequate.]
[After closer examination of these definitions] it appears that, in the case of democracy the large number of the holders of power is an accidental circumstance; and likewise, in the case of oligarchy the small number is merely accidental. For it is nothing but a fact that everywhere there are more poor than rich people. The above mentioned names, therefore, owe their origin [not to a universally valid reason but] simply to a fact which happens to be true in most of the cases. Since, however, a specific differentiation cannot be obtained on the basis of what is merely accidental, it follows that, per se, the distinction between oligarchies and democracies cannot be made in virtue of the larger or smaller number of the rulers. Rather their specific difference results from the difference between poverty and riches. If a regime is ordained to the increase of the possessions of the rich, its very species is determined by this end and it is for this reason that it differs specifically from a regime whose end is liberty, which regime is democracy. Hence, wherever the rich hold political power, no matter whether they are many or few, there will be oligarchy; and wherever the poor hold this power, there will be democracy; and that the latter are many and the former few is nothing but an accidental circumstance. For only a few have riches yet all partake of liberty. This is why both classes fight each other. The few want to dominate for the sake of their possessions and the many want to prevail upon the few since they believe that, by the criterion of liberty, they have just as good a right to political power as the rich.
"Democracy is the dominion of many aiming at the interest of the poor" which does not take "thought for the common good" and "whose end is liberty." What is liberty? If it is freedom from tyranny, then democracy is a self-defeating constitution since it seeks to defeat precisely what it is.

"The criterion of number" is indeed inadequate. Why should, e.g., a 49% to 51% vote on something, say, abortion, determine if it is lawful or true? It could have been a 48% to 52% or even a 10% to 90% vote. The rule by the majority is very arbitrary and implicitly assumes a relativism of truth, i.e., that there is no absolute truth or moral law.

No wonder Pope John Paul II spoke out over 56 times against the war in Iraq, whose goal has been to impose democracy, an intrinsically dysfunctional form of government, on a country not susceptible to it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Reason & Faith: Double-Truths?

Averroes, the prominent Islamic philosopher who said "I necessarily conclude through reason that the intellect is one in number; but I firmly hold the opposite through faith," thought that scientific truths are completely separate from and can even contradict truths not based on human reason, such as truths divinely revealed. This would seem to give science more academic freedom, being apparently unencumbered by seemingly unnecessary religious dogma. But the Islamic philosophy's decoupling of reason from religion and upholding a "double-truth" is a false philosophy with dangerous, irrational consequences, e.g., radical fundamentalism. However, science and the Catholic faith are compatible, as St. Thomas Aquinas's writings, the basis of Catholic philosophy, establish. In his De Unitate Intellectus Contra Averroistas ("On the Unity of the Intellect Against the Averroists"), the thirteenth-century St. Thomas refutes Averroes's denial of the individuality of the human intellect:
Just as all men naturally desire to know the truth [Aristotle, Metaphysics I, 1, 980a], so there is inherent in men a natural desire to avoid errors, and refute them when they are able to do so. Now among other errors, the error that seems especially inappropriate is the one concerning that very intellect through which we are meant by nature to avoid errors and know the truth.

For a long time now there has been spreading among many people an error concerning the intellect, arising from the words of Averroes. He tries to assert that the intellect that Aristotle calls the possible intellect [Aristotle, De Anima III, 4, 429a 18-24], but that he himself calls by the unsuitable name "material," is a substance separate in its being from the body and not united to it in some way as its form, and furthermore that this possible intellect is one for all men. Against these views we have already written many things in the past [e.g., Summa Theologiae I, q. 76, a. 1 & 2]. But because the boldness of those who err has not ceased to strive against the truth, we will try again to write something against this same error to refute it clearly.

It is not now our intention to show that the above-mentioned position is erroneous in this, that it is opposed to the truth of the Christian Faith. For this can easily enough become evident to everyone. For if we deny to men a diversity of the intellect, which alone among the parts of the soul seems to be incorruptible and immortal, it follows that after death nothing of the souls of men would remain except that single substance of intellect; and so the recompense of rewards and punishments and also their diversity would be destroyed.

However, we intend to show that the above-mentioned position is no less against the principles of philosophy than against the teachings of Faith. And because, so they say, the words of the Latins on this subject have no savor for some persons, but these men say that they follow the words of the Peripatetics, whose books on this subject they have never seen, except those of Aristotle who was the founder of the Peripatetic Sect; we shall show first that the above-mentioned position is entirely opposed to his words and meaning.

De unitate intellectus, pr.

Nowhere can the Catholic faith contradict true science or vice versa, even though there have been many accusations: (1) that of the Galileo affair, which was due to the fact that, unlike Copernicus, Galileo asserted his theory as absolutely true and not simply as a scientific theory subject to possible error, or (2) that the Church disapproves of the scientific theory of biological evolution, which is untrue; for according to Denzinger's 1911 edition of his collection of Catholic dogma, Enchiridion Symbolorum et Definitionum, the First Vatican Council states:
1797 [The impossibility of opposition between faith and reason]. But, although faith is above reason, nevertheless, between faith and reason no true dissension can ever exist, since the same God, who reveals mysteries and infuses faith, has bestowed on the human soul the light of reason; moreover, God cannot deny Himself, nor ever contradict truth with truth. But, a vain appearance of such a contradiction arises chiefly from this, that either the dogmas of faith have not been understood and interpreted according to the mind of the Church, or deceitful opinions are considered as the determinations of reason. Therefore, "every assertion contrary to the truth illuminated by faith, we define to be altogether false" [Lateran Council V, see n. 738].

1798 Further, the Church which, together with the apostolic duty of teaching, has received the command to guard the deposit of faith, has also, from divine Providence, the right and duty of proscribing "knowledge falsely so called" [1 Tim. 6:20], "lest anyone be cheated by philosophy and vain deceit" [cf. Col. 2:8; can. 2]. Wherefore, all faithful Christians not only are forbidden to defend opinions of this sort, which are known to be contrary to the teaching of faith, especially if they have been condemned by the Church, as the legitimate conclusions of science, but they shall be altogether bound to hold them rather as errors, which present a false appearance of truth.

1799 [The mutual assistance of faith and reason, and the just freedom of science]. And, not only can faith and reason never be at variance with one another, but they also bring mutual help to each other, since right reasoning demonstrates the basis of faith and, illumined by its light, perfects the knowledge of divine things, while faith frees and protects reason from errors and provides it with manifold knowledge. Wherefore, the Church is so far from objecting to the culture of the human arts and sciences, that it aids and promotes this cultivation in many ways. For, it is not ignorant of, nor does it despise the advantages flowing therefrom into human life; nay, it confesses that, just as they have come forth from "God, the Lord of knowledge" [1 Samuel 2:3], so, if rightly handled, they lead to God by the aid of His grace. And it (the Church) does not forbid disciplines of this kind, each in its own sphere, to use its own principles and its own method; but, although recognizing this freedom, it continually warns them not to fall into errors by opposition to divine doctrine, nor, having transgressed their own proper limits, to be busy with and to disturb those matters which belong to faith.
Before a scientist might judge this as the Church's apparently being threatened by science and desperately trying to keep it "in its place," note what St. Thomas Aquinas says:
[T]he argument from authority based on human reason is the weakest, yet the argument from authority based on divine revelation is the strongest.

Summa Theologica Iª q. 1 a. 8 ad 2

It would seem this is untrue because correct interpretation of divine revelation is difficult and subject to human error and speculation. But that human reason is subject to error is precisely the point; authority based on human reason is like building a house on sand. Compared to divine authority—authority based on the solid foundation of something most perfect, powerful, and immutable, i.e., absolute truth itself—human reason is unstable, changing, fleeting, and restrained by time. Therefore, "the argument from authority based on divine revelation is [indeed] the strongest;" and consequently science, with its roots in a true philosophy (i.e., Scholastic Thomism) that does not contradict divine revelation nor human reason but strives to understand a single absolute truth, is even stronger. This is true science.