Monday, August 19, 2013

Science, God & Creation

Fr. Spitzer, S.J. of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith holds a PhD whose thesis is entitled: A Study of Objectively Real Time.

It must be noted that he argues entirely dialectically, since otherwise Fr. Spitzer would disagree with St. Thomas's article: Summa Theologica I q. 46 a. 2 "Whether it is an article of faith that the world began?" (answer: YES! It's de Fide divina.) or De Æternitate Mundi (I liked the examples taken from St. Augustine toward the end, which are also mentioned in the Summa article's replies to the objections), in which he argues there is

  1. nothing contradictory in the notion that God could have created an eternal universe
  2. no way we could know the eternity (or not) of the world from natural reason (which goes for the Trinity, too).
Essentially, Fr. Spitzer is using the Kalam argument, which relies on scientific theories to prove the premise that the universe is not eternal.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Science, Truth, & Morality

Just as Einstein noted that a physicist must not restrict himself solely to physics but must also be a philosopher so that he can "make clear in his own mind just how far the concepts which he uses are justified, and are necessities," Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2009 encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate ("Charity in Truth"), relates the importance of combating a segmentation of knowledge to that of economic prosperity (my emphasis and [comments]):
30. In this context, the theme of integral human development takes on an even broader range of meanings: the correlation between its multiple elements requires a commitment to foster the interaction of the different levels of human knowledge in order to promote the authentic development of peoples. Often it is thought that development, or the socio-economic measures that go with it, merely require to be implemented through joint action. This joint action, however, needs to be given direction, because “all social action involves a doctrine”. In view of the complexity of the issues, it is obvious that the various disciplines have to work together through an orderly interdisciplinary exchange. Charity does not exclude knowledge, but rather requires, promotes, and animates it from within. Knowledge is never purely the work of the intellect. It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, but if it aspires to be wisdom capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be “seasoned” with the “salt” of charity. Deeds without knowledge are blind, and knowledge without love is sterile. [Summa Theologiæ, Iª q. 12 a. 13 ad 3: "[Faith is] a kind of knowledge, inasmuch as the intellect is determined by faith to some knowable object." Cf. this.] Indeed, “the individual who is animated by true charity labours skilfully to discover the causes of misery, to find the means to combat it, to overcome it resolutely”. Faced with the phenomena that lie before us, charity in truth requires first of all that we know and understand, acknowledging and respecting the specific competence of every level of knowledge. Charity is not an added extra, like an appendix to work already concluded in each of the various disciplines: it engages them in dialogue from the very beginning. The demands of love do not contradict those of reason. Human knowledge is insufficient and the conclusions of science cannot indicate by themselves the path towards integral human development. There is always a need to push further ahead [This is what Einstein means, too, by saying: "At a time like the present, when experience forces us to seek a newer and more solid foundation..."]: this is what is required by charity in truth. Going beyond, however, never means prescinding from the conclusions of reason, nor contradicting its results. Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.
31. This means that moral evaluation and scientific research must go hand in hand [Morality involves determining what the greatest good is in a given situation. It involves much more than resolving never to kill anybody, to "be nice," etc. It guides even questions in science such as "How should I approach this problem?", "What methodology should I use?", "Where is it taking me?", "It is worth it?", etc.; consequently, morality is vitally important for those who seek truth (cf. Veritatis Splendor).], and that charity must animate them in a harmonious interdisciplinary whole, marked by unity and distinction. The Church's social doctrine, which has “an important interdisciplinary dimension”, can exercise, in this perspective, a function of extraordinary effectiveness. It allows faith, theology, metaphysics and science to come together in a collaborative effort in the service of humanity. It is here above all that the Church's social doctrine displays its dimension of wisdom. Paul VI had seen clearly that among the causes of underdevelopment there is a lack of wisdom and reflection, a lack of thinking capable of formulating a guiding synthesis, for which “a clear vision of all economic, social, cultural and spiritual aspects” is required. The excessive segmentation of knowledge [Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical LetterFides et Ratio (14 September 1998), 85: AAS 91 (1999), 72-73.], the rejection of metaphysics by the human sciences [Cf. ibid., 83: loc. cit., 70-71.], the difficulties encountered by dialogue between science and theology are damaging not only to the development of knowledge, but also to the development of peoples, because these things make it harder to see the integral good of man in its various dimensions. The “broadening [of] our concept of reason and its application” [Benedict XVI, Address at the University of Regensburg, 12 September 2006.] is indispensable if we are to succeed in adequately weighing all the elements involved in the question of development and in the solution of socio-economic problems.
An excellent book that tackles this problem is The Way toward Wisdom (vide this excerpt and this article) by Benedict Ashley, O.P., a proponent of River Forest Thomism.

The Assumption & Unity of Knowledge

Assumption of the Virgin
c. 1774
Oil on canvas, 220 x 82 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The definition of the Dogma of the Bodily Assumption into Heaven of Our Blessed Mother was given on All Saints Day, November, 1950, just a few months after the promulgation of Humani Generis on August 12, 1950. Pope Pius XII writes in Munificentissimus Deus: "Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place [such as WWII] and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue." What is underlined is certainly Humani Generis's concern, too.

Intellectuals like the great Canadian philosopher of science Charles de Koninck, who wrote the excellent philosophico-theological short work "Ego Sapientia: The Wisdom that is Mary," noted that the bodily Assumption reaffirms the unity of man (contra, e.g., Cartesian dualism, which splits body and soul) and thus also the unity of knowledge (as Our Lady is the highest form of knowledge: Wisdom Herself).

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pierre Duhem on Philosophers Pretending to Know about Physics

Pierre Duhem gave an "intervention" during the philosopher Père Bulliot's presentation at the Third International Scientific Congress of Catholics in Bruxelles (1894). It caused quite a stir, but it's excellent advice:
Only the principles of the different positive sciences are of interest to philosophers; but, in order to know these principles, it is not enough to read a book of popularization, not even the first chapters of a treatise written by a competent scientist. One does not comprehend the meaning and bearing of the principles on which a science rests except when one has studied that science for years, applied in a thousand ways those principles to particular cases, and mastered in depth the technique of what the Germans call the materials of science.

For example, the obvious sense of Euclid's [parallel] postulate is accessible to a child who studies the first book of geometry. But in order to understand the exact sense of that postulate, to grasp the reasons which give it a special place among the truths of geometry, to see clearly what would become of geometry if that postulate were to be abandoned, one must have a complete mathematical training which requires years of work.

If therefore we want to handle with competence and fruitfully the questions which are of the domain common to metaphysics and to positive science, let us begin with studying the latter for ten, for fifteen years; let us study it, first of all, in itself and for itself, without seeking to put it in harmony with such and such philosophical assertion; then, as we have mastered its principles, applied it in a thousand ways, we can search for its metaphysical meaning which will not fail to accord with true philosophy.

Anyone who would find exaggerated a similar labor must not forget that every hasty, scientifically incorrect solution of one of the problems relating to the common frontiers of science and philosophy, would result in the greatest prejudice against our cause. The philosophers must imitate the patience of scientists. Once a problem is posed, scientists devote centuries, if necessary, to solving it. They accept only a precise and rigorous solution.

At any rate, the schools we are combatting give us example. The positivist school, the critical school, publish numerous works on the philosophy of science. These works carry the names of the greatest names of European science. We cannot triumph over these schools except by opposing them with researches done by people who, too, are masters of the positive sciences.
(source: Jaki, Stanley L. Uneasy Genius the Life and Work of Pierre Duhem. Boston: The Hague, 1984, pp. 113-4.)