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The Myth of the War Between Science and Religion

GodScience

For the past several years, I’ve been posting short commentaries on YouTube, probably the most popular website in the world.  I’ve covered everything from movies and music to books and cultural trends, but I’ve given special attention to the New Atheism. Among other videos, I’ve posted three answers to Christopher Hitchens’ book God is Not Great, a brief presentation of some classical arguments for God’s existence, and a response to Bill Maher’s movie Religulous.  As you might know, people are able to post comments in response to videos, and I’ve received a huge quantity of them—mostly negative—in regard to the aforementioned pieces.  Setting aside the venomous and emotionally-driven comments, I’ve been able to discern, in the more serious ones, a number of patterns.

The most glaring of these is what I would call scientism, the philosophical assumption that the real is reducible to what the empirical sciences can verify or describe.  In reaction to my attempts to demonstrate that God must exist as the necessary ground to the radically contingent universe, respondent after respondent says some version of this:  energy, or matter, or the Big Bang, is the ultimate cause of all things.  When I counter that the Big Bang itself demonstrates that the universe in its totality is contingent and hence in need of a cause extraneous to itself, they think I’m just talking nonsense.  The obvious success of the physical sciences—evident in the technology that surrounds us and facilitates our lives in so many ways—has convinced many of our young people (the vast majority of those who watch YouTube are young) that anything outside of the range of the empirical and measurable is simply a fantasy, the stuff of superstition and primitive belief.  That there might be a dimension of reality knowable in a non-scientific but still rational manner never occurs to them.  This prejudice, this blindness to literature, philosophy, metaphysics, mysticism, and religion is the scientism that I’m complaining about.

Another feature of this scientism—and it’s evident everywhere on my YouTube forums—is  the extremely disturbing assumption that science and religion are, by their natures, implacable enemies.  Again and again, my interlocutors resurrect the story of Galileo to prove that the church has always sided with obscurantism and naïve biblical literalism over and against the sciences.  The Catholic philosopher Robert Sokolowski has argued that the founding myth of modernity is that enlightened thought was born out of, and in opposition to, pre-scientific religion.  And this is why, Sokolowski continues, the conflict between religion and science must be perpetually rehearsed and revived, as a kind of ritual acting out of the primal story.  (If you want to see a particularly dramatic presentation of this, watch the movie Inherit the Wind.)

But this myth is so much nonsense.  Leaving aside the complexities of the Galileo story (and there are complexities to it), we can see that the vast majority of the founding figures of modern science—Copernicus, Newton, Kepler, Descartes, Pascal, Tycho Brahe—were devoutly religious.  More to it, two of the most important physicists of the 19th century—Faraday and Maxwell—were extremely pious, and the formulator of the Big Bang theory was a priest!  If you want a contemporary embodiment of the coming-together of science and religion, look to John Polkinghorne, Cambridge particle physicist and Anglican priest and one of the best commentators on the non-competitive interface between scientific and religious paths to truth.

Indeed, as Polkinghorne and many others have pointed out, the modern physical sciences were, in fact, made possible by the religious milieu out of which they emerged.  It is no accident that modern science first appeared precisely in Christian Europe, where a doctrine of creation held sway.  To hold that the world is created is to accept, simultaneously, the two assumptions required for science, namely, that the universe is not divine and that it is marked, through and through, by intelligibility.  If the world or nature is considered divine (as it is in many philosophies and mysticisms), then one would never allow oneself to analyze it, dissect it, or perform experiments upon it.  But a created world, by definition, is not divine.  It is other than God, and in that very otherness, scientists find their freedom to act.  At the same time, if the world is unintelligible, no science would get off the ground, since all science is based upon the presumption that nature can be known, that it has a form.  But the world, precisely as created by a divine intelligence, is thoroughly intelligible, and hence scientists have the confidence to seek, explore, and experiment.

This is why thoughtful people—Christians and atheists alike—must battle the myth of the eternal warfare of science and religion.  We must continually preach, as St. John Paul II did, that faith and reason are complementary and compatible paths toward the knowledge of truth.
 
 
(Image credit: Room4Debate)

Bishop Robert Barron

Written by

Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • ClayJames

    The obvious success of the physical sciences—evident in the technology
    that surrounds us and facilitates our lives in so many ways—has
    convinced many of our young people (the vast majority of those who watch
    YouTube are young) that anything outside of the range of the empirical
    and measurable is simply a fantasy, the stuff of superstition and
    primitive belief. That there might be a dimension of reality knowable
    in a non-scientific but still rational manner never occurs to them.
    This prejudice, this blindness to literature, philosophy, metaphysics,
    mysticism, and religion is the scientism that I’m complaining about.

    For many young people on youtube, scientism and the rejection of religion, is an easy way to feel a certain sense of intellectual superiority over their peers. Clearly, they are so smart that they stick to science and are able to see the truth that 90% of their peers are too ignorant to realize. The New Atheists and ¨thinkers¨ (I am using this term loosely) like Bill Maher or Stephen Fry help perpetuate this false sense of intellectualism. This is at the root of this new ignorant atheistic movement and this is why these groups and individuals within these groups refer to themselves as freethinkers even though many are anything but.

    The most dissapointing part of the New Atheist movement has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with the fact that this ignorant, lazy, disingenuos, anti-intellectual, angry movement replaces some of the great atheistic works of the past in favor of childish garbage.

    • Raymond

      "For many young people on youtube, scientism and the rejection of religion, is an easy way to feel a certain sense of intellectual superiority over their peers."

      "This is at the root of this new ignorant atheistic movement and this is why these groups and individuals within these groups refer to themselves as freethinkers even though many are anything but."

      Dear Kettle,
      You're black.
      Sincerely, Pot.

      • ClayJames

        I don´t think that means what you think it means.

        • Raymond

          I think it means that you state that "freethinkers" feel intellectual superiority over theists, then you make comments that demonstrate that you feel intellectual superiority over freethinkers.

          • ClayJames

            And like I said, your kettle/pot comment does not mean what you think it means. It would only apply if my feeling of their lack of intellectualism was based on the same ignorant foundation as the group in question. It is not.

            Let me give you another example. You can criticize a creationist´s claim of intellectualism and then also claim that intellectualism would actually lead to the refutation of that creationist´s claims. Unless your beliefs are based on the same ignorant premises, your response to me would make no sense.

          • Raymond

            OK, how about the beam and speck analogy? You need to overcome your feelings of intellectual superiority before you can address this issue meaningfully.

          • ClayJames

            If there is a feeling of intellectual superiority, it stems from the complete lack of intelligent discourse on one side.

            If one must not feel that their views are more reasonable and less ignorant than those they are arguing against in order to have a conversation, then creationists are all off the hook.

            You are focusing on the wrong thing. The problem is not the feeling of intellectual superiority, it is the feeling of intellectual superiority for all the wrong reasons.

          • Raymond

            I'm pretty sure I'm focusing on the right thing - or at least - my assessment of your feelings of intellectual superiority is valid. The "freethinkers" that you are so smugly superior to are thoughtful and reasonable people - as much as anyone is. I don't agree with all their statements by any stretch of the imagination, but to say that statements that you disagree with are de facto "ignorant" reveals your own issues - "intellectual superiority for all the wrong reasons".

          • ClayJames

            Do you think your views regarding the begining of the universe are intellectually superior to that of a creationist?

          • Raymond

            I don't have deeply felt views about the beginning of the universe because I haven't looked at all the science, and I don't have much interest in the topic, but I generally think that creationists fall into the Appeal to Authority fallacy in this regard.

          • ClayJames

            You didn't answer my question, so I will answer it for you. Creationism is an intellectually inferior idea since it ignores scientific thinking in order to make a scientific conclusion. Likewise, much of the claims made by the New Atheists are intellectually inferior ideas since they ignore philosophical thought in order to make philosophical conclusions.

            Creationism, just like much scientism, are intellectually inferior positions.

            This is what I am saying and your attempts to psychoanalyze me keeps missing the point.

          • Raymond

            I answered your question just fine - I just didnt fall into your trap to try to make me sound as if i believed I was "intellectually superior". While scientific study of the beginnings of the universe are interesting, I don't have that much interest in it. I am not a theist, so I dont need to try to prove the existence of God by debunking the Big Bang. And Creationism has its basis in a logical fallacy - maybe more than one - so I dont think it makes much sense.

            How about Intelligent Design? Is that intellectually inferior or superior?

          • honest2

            The 'Big Bang' Theory supports arguments for the existence of God as the lawmaker. When the universe was born as the Big Bang occurred, the laws of nature already existed.

          • Michael Murray

            The Big Bang didn't occur in the way you are suggesting. If you try to go "all the way back" the theories of space-times we have break down and to model what is happening would require a quantum theory of gravity which we currently lack. All we can really say is the universe was very small and then got big. What happened before it was small we don't know. Except that space-time probably breaks down and "before" probably doesn't mean anything.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_epoch

          • honest2

            The laws of nature preceded the Big Bang. If you are suggesting otherwise, you are scientifically wrong. The explosion and expansion of the universe followed the physical laws of nature which prevail today.

          • Lazarus

            "Scientifically wrong"? That's very precise. Care to show your work?

          • honest2

            See Paul Davies, physicist, "The Accidental Universe".

          • Michael Murray

            The word "preceded" probably makes no sense applied to the Planck Epoch. Time and space would be quantised and probably not even sensible concepts to talk about.

          • Rob

            The Big Bang theory, is arguably the best and now most widely accepted theory for the commencement of the current Cosmos. The "point" science seeks, is the very beginning of the "creation" process, that "commenced" the "Big Bang" of this current, or any previous Cosmos [unlikely one did exist, but the argument should be considered] - of course, all of this is entirely theory and in truth, will likely always be so. What is, increasingly clear, is at some "moment" time and space did commence and that is a pretty solid "proof" for a supernatural origin of everything, out of "nothing" and that is "no thing", ie, being the absence of any and every thing - that time and space appeared - not the empty space "slide of hand" some cosmo-personalities try on!

          • Michael Murray
          • Rob

            that may well all be interesting, but my claim is simply, that the "Big Bang Theory", is, to this very day, by far, the most respect and widely held scientific argument, for the commencement of our Cosmos.

          • If I say that person P is very wrong about judgment J, does that immediately imply that "[I] feel intellectual superiority over" person P?

          • immortalwombat10 .

            If you didn't feel intellectual superiority you would have no basis to infer that you can assess whether their judgment is wrong or right.

            But sadly Raymond argument fails from the very problem hes mocking with the pot/kettle analogy.

          • So by judging someone's judgment you have asserted intellectual superiority—right?

      • marlys

        ignorant atheistic movement.....hmm.more belittling..interesting.

      • It is not hypocritical to be sufficiently versed in a subject to understand how another group of people who comment on that subject seem to think they know everything worth knowing about it when they actually know next to nothing, nor to notice and call out their arrogance for thinking they know everything.

        • Raymond

          Somehow, I think the irony of that statement is lost on you.

          • Oh no, I get that you think religious people are ignorant and that you are trying to build the argument that religious people therefore have no right to criticize the ignorance of other people. But it actually doesn't work that way.

            If someone is expressing demonstrable ignorance about a subject, and you are sufficiently versed in the subject to be aware of it and to point it out, then you have every right to do so. For example, an atheist is perfectly in the right to point out where and how a Creationist does not understand geology or evolutionary theory, if if that atheist is otherwise totally ignorant of religion as a subject. But likewise, if the same atheist proclaims "religious people are like this or that" and it is incorrect, a religious person has every right to correct them. If the atheist is proclaiming that error smugly, with a sense of self-satisfaction over their intellectual and moral superiority over religious people (as many, many atheists are wont to do), then correcting them not only becomes a right but something of a pleasure.

          • Raymond

            I don't think you "get" much of anything at all. My point all along is that you are criticizing the speck of "intellectual superiority" in others while being oblivious to the "plank" of intellectual superiority in yourself. Your first paragraph above is putting words in my mouth, and your second paragraph oozes arrogance and misplaced feelings of intellectual superiority.

            And by the way, criticizing someone for feelings of intellectual superiority does not mean they are ignorant. They just feel that their intellectual "gifts" make then superior to others.

          • I'm sorry Raymond, but it still doesn't work that way. If someone is saying something about a subject and what they are saying is wrong, and you know it is wrong, you are well within your rights to correct them. If they happen to be smug about their error because they don't know they are wrong, that is an added bonus. But no, if you think that someone ought not to be corrected when they are saying that are wrong... well... that is wrong.

          • Tweck

            It's funny how, when I accuse another of having a plank in their eye, I often am overlooking the one in my own, and behaving in the exact manner I'm arguing against.

          • Raymond

            Isn't it though?

          • Tweck

            Yeah. o.O

      • Rob

        Seriously, if the "new atheists" are anyones benchmark, for "thinkers" [free or not - whatever that term means!], they really do need to start, reading some real Church AND secular history, of both philosophy and science. They [the new atheists] are, in truth, "the dumbing down of society", made in the flesh, for us all to see! ;)

    • VicqRuiz

      I grew up in a neighborhood full of lots of Polish and Czech "cookbook Catholics" for whom their faith could be summed up as "take the sacraments, visit the confessional, tell the beads, and you will go to heaven."

      They are, I suspect, the people who find the face of Christ in a grilled cheese sandwich, or Mary in a stain on the kitchen wall.

      They are the people who flock to hear the rambling screeds from the likes of the late Veronica Lueken.

      I doubt very much that any of them had ever read any serious theology, nor do I think many of them would know Thomas Aquinas from Thomas the Tank Engine. And yet I doubt that any Catholics here would fail to accept them as coreligionists.

      So I suggest a little care before using words like "ignorant","lazy", and "disingenuous".

      • ClayJames

        The point has nothing to do with not accepting someone as Catholic.

        There are many Catholics that are also ignorant, lazy and disingenuous. Where did I say that because someone is Catholic, that they cannot be described by these worlds?

        I fail to see your point.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Congratulations. You have discovered that not everyone has the time, skills, or interest to delve deeply into any particular subject. Many people drive automobiles without knowing much about auto mechanics, let alone thermodynamics. A lot of people are fanboys of science without knowing much about organic chemistry or particle physics aside from a few factoids and whatever they can quickly google. That's just the way it is in any field. Theology is no exception. I knew a fellow, a colleague in management consulting, who held a PhD in chemistry and who believed in the literal inerrancy of the Bible. But he also funded from his own pocket a microlending bank in West Africa that helped women there set up their own small businesses. There are a great many folks who believe the scientific account but who do not lift a finger to help the misfortunate. How do such things weigh in the balance.

    • marlys

      why are you resorting to name calling..ignorant,lazy disingenuous.....me thinks you are not quite so sure of yourself as you like to think you are.

      • ClayJames

        I am just using words that based on their definitions, best describe the attitude of some of these people.

        I would not have any trouble justifying every one of those words that I used.

    • Jim Jones

      > "It has to do with the fact that this ignorant, lazy, disingenuos,
      anti-intellectual, angry movement replaces some of the great atheistic
      works of the past in favor of childish garbage."

      Proof?

      • Lazarus

        Tons. Read Werleman, Wenke, Brucker and others.

        • Jim Jones

          So you have no answers?

          • Lazarus

            I answered you, very specifically. You asked for "proof", I gave you a list of current atheist writers to read that will give you your "proof" in spades. Must I do the reading for you also? Don't ask questions if you don't want answers.

          • Jim Jones

            You came up with a series of silly claims about atheists and yet you can't support any of them.

            Back at you:

            Australia's worst paedophile priest 'molested every boy' at school in Victoria, Australia

            Australia's royal commission into child sex abuse was told that senior Church leaders were aware of the crimes of Father Gerald Ridsdale and an "evil" paedophile ring that he operated for decades.

            A royal commission into child sex abuse heard that Father Gerald Ridsdale abused more than 50 children over three decades, including **all of the boys at the school in Mortlake**.

            In 1971, each of the male teachers and the chaplain at the St Alipius primary school was molesting children.

            Philip Nagle, who was abused at the school, held up a photograph of his fourth grade class and said that twelve of the 33 boys had since committed suicide.

            So, who are the evil ones here? I'll stick with the "ignorant, lazy, disingenuos[sic] anti-intellectual, angry atheists" thanks.

          • Lazarus

            May I compliment you on your style of trolling. It's not as if it is interesting, or intellectually challenging, or even original, but it has a certain level of enthusiasm to it. That's hard to find nowadays.

          • Tweck

            Ding! ...the pedophile card comes out! Way to derail an argument with incoherent trolling.

          • Jim Jones

            No, we're comparing the evil, immoral atheists with the far more morally superior priests.

            Oops.

          • Jim Jones

            I'm going to agree with atheists. Why is that so hard for you to understand?

            Meanwhile, you have Mike Huckabee on your side.

          • Lazarus

            When did I disagree with your right to "agree with atheists"?
            Do you regard Huckabee as a Catholic? Or is it just internet swagger?

            You have a habit of waiting a few days and then chiming in with these non sequiturs.
            Is that really how you want to communicate?

          • Tweck

            This is the typical new atheist argument. Offer no counter argument, demand the other guy do all your research for you, then... Wait for it... 3...2...1...

        • Ignatius Reilly

          CJ Werleman? I have no idea who you are referring to with regards to Wenke or Brucker. Clearly, us atheists don't pay much attention to these writers that you would consider garbage. CJ Werleman is not a new atheist.

          Now, you haven't actually offered proof that these writers have replaced the works of great minds. They could coexist as they always have. Around three quarters of academic philosophers at target schools are atheists. So it appears at least some people are doing some serious atheisting.

          It is quite silly to demand that modern atheists writers write at the level of the great thinkers throughout history. Hume is one of the ten most influential philosophers ever. If Dawkins of Harris or whomever cannot reach Hume's level of insight, it is silly to slight them for it. Since Hume is so great, why do those who are influenced by him become childish garbage?

          I'm surprised to see you defending Clay's unwarranted and ineffective invective against the new atheists. If I had said something like that about Kreeft or Feser, my comment would have been deleted.

          • Lazarus

            Oh please, Ignatius. Clay's point was a simple one. "Replace" simply means that these "works" are now around, can be read. Just read their titles and you will see that they fit as proof. I did not, and do not, "slight" Dawkins or Harris, I in fact enjoy their work (mostly), especially Harris.

            The authors that I have cited do the atheist cause no good. Before you get defensive about them, have a look at what they are churning out.

            As to Werleman's downhill ride, who knows what to call him nowadays. When he wrote screeds like "Jesus lied..." And "God hates you, hate him back" he was most certainly a new atheist.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Oh please, Ignatius. Clay's point was a simple one. "Replace" simply means that these "works" are now around, can be read.

            That is not what replace means. Clay has made this point several times and I have always ignored it. I am surprised that you are defending it. Usually when you make a point many times, you become more precise in your expression of it. Furthermore, reading his post again, it is clear to me that I am interpreting his meaning correctly. However, if you are right in your interpretation, so what? People have written silly books since it has been possible to mass produce them. More so now with modern technology. I'm sure people read some silly things back when Hume was writing as well.

            I did not, and do not, "slight" Dawkins or Harris, I in fact enjoy their work (mostly), especially Harris.

            One cannot make blanket statements about new atheists (which clay did) and then pretend like the most prominent new atheists are not included in the statement. Clay has in other comments explicitly slighted Dawkins, Harris, et al. You lawyers will defend anything it seems. ;-)

            The authors that I have cited do the atheist cause no good. Before you get defensive about them, have a look at what they are churning out.

            I don't even know who they are. I have never heard an atheist quote one of them. They seem to be small potatoes. Without first names, I can't even google them properly.

            Descartes, Hume and Russell were more influential in my atheism than anyone else. And I tend to like Dawkins and Hitchens.

            As to Werleman's downhill ride, who knows what to call him nowadays. When he wrote screeds like "Jesus lied..." And "God hates you, hate him back" he was most certainly a new atheist.

            I have never read Werleman. If his books are satirical polemics than I could see them a couple of them as fitting well in that role. Overall none of them pique my interest and judging from what I read online they are full of inaccuracies. It seems most of his witticisms are borrowed or plagiarized.

          • Lazarus

            I stand by my reply to Jones. He asked, I gave him some very clear examples of his "proof". The fact that you do not know of these gents does not detract from that.

            And speaking of lawyering - it was a simple and snippy question by Jones, answered in a simple and factual manner, let's not spin it beyond recognition :)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I disagree, but I'll let it go. The original comment was quite frustrating from where I sit.

      • ClayJames

        Do you have a couple of hours? Click on the New Atheist link at the top of the page. You will find all the proof you need.

        • Jim Jones

          What link?

          • ClayJames

            At the top of the page, under atheism.

          • Jim Jones

            Yeah, that didn't help. As it stands, you're complaining about them not having the skill level of those of 100 years (or thereabouts) ago. And yet they still destroy all of your arguments, even with their supposed 'subnormal' skills.

            What conclusions do you draw from this?

          • ClayJames

            If you really think that Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris are on the same intellectual footing as great atheist thinkers like Nietzche, Hume or Russell then there is nothing to be gained from this conversation. I suggest you read up on them and compare them because the differences could not be more clear.

  • Peter

    Am I correct in thinking that John Polkinghorne is a process theologian? He limits God's omniscience to knowing all there is to know about the present, while the future remains unknown to God until it occurs. God does not know in detail how a fertile universe will unfold but, as it does, God will know.

    The advantage of this is to enable God to fit seamlessly into a narrative where science and religion are perfectly complementary. It allows for the naturalistic unfolding of a fertile universe, leading to the potentially widespread development of life, without any moral contradictions concerning any suffering which may occur. How can God prevent what he does not know?

    The problem with this is that not only does it render God less than omniscient, but it also renders him no longer immutable. The ongoing acquisition of new knowledge about the unfolding universe will put God in a constant state of change, where he will continually change from not knowing something to knowing something. Such a God is not the Catholic God.

    • GCBill

      I'd go further and argue that the view you've described is flat-out incoherent. If at time t, God knows everything and only that which can be known during and leading up to t, in what sense can he exist timelessly at all? There doesn't seem to be any way to relate multitudes of temporally-bound knowledge-states back to someone who is supposedly outside of time.

      • Peter

        Polkinghorne argues that God by virtue of his timelessness is not incapable of knowing the future, but just chooses not to know.
        It is, he says, a self-imposed kenosis by God who waits to see how the universe unfolds.

        This self-limitation, he argues, is an integral part of God's creative act. Built into God's free choice to create the world is God's free choice not to know how it will unfold. Apparently, process theology is very popular among certain Christians.

  • Raymond

    Religion and science are clearly compatible, to the extent that highly religious people can be insightful and dedicated scientists. But the thing is, as these religious people conduct their scientific inquiry, they must push their religious beliefs and assumptions into the background. Scientific inquiry requires confidence in scientific method and true curiosity about the world and how it works. If scientists included their religious views in their scientific studies, they would just shrug, say "God is in the gaps" and try to make it home in time for Judge Judy.

    • ClayJames

      Who are ¨these religious people¨ and what beliefs are they pushing into the background?

      • Raymond

        I can't name any off the top of my head, but are you suggesting that there are no faithful Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Jews, Muslims, Buddists, etc. etc. who are also highly advanced thinkers and researchers in the sciences? All of those individuals profess deep and sincere faith in their various religions, but none of them stoop to saying "I'm stumped. It must be God."

        • Raymond
        • ClayJames

          I am aware that there are many Catholic scientists. I just thought you were implying that there were Catholic scientists that push their religious beliefs into their scientific research. I was just wondering who those would be today.

          • Raymond

            Oh no. Sorry if I was unclear. I meant that religious scientists must push their religion aside in their scientific inquiries.

          • Peter

            Louis Pasteur didn't agree with you:

            "“Little science takes you away from God but more of it takes you to Him"

          • Galorgan

            The same is said of philosophy. It's odd that we see diminished rates of theism within philosophy and science, then.

          • Raymond

            Actually, I think he does. There are many scientists who would state that their work gives them a greater sense of God, but their work in what Pasteur calls "little science" is still divorced from issues of faith and dogma.

            I would be interested in the context however.

    • Robert Macri

      But the thing is, as these religious people conduct their scientific
      inquiry, they must push their religious beliefs and assumptions into the
      background

      (I will base my reply on the assumption that you do not simply mean this in the sense that people generally focus on one thing at a time due to limited powers of attention, but rather that science and religious belief are non-intersecting sets that cannot even in principle be considered together.)

      I am a scientist (physicist), and I have never once had to push my religious beliefs or assumptions into the background while engaged in science. On the contrary, the elegant simplicity and beauty of natural law speaks to me eloquently of the existence and wisdom of the creator. And my religious convictions are in perfect harmony with my "non-scientific belief" that nature should be elegant, simple, beautiful, and altogether sensible.

      This is an expectation which, I am most certain, I share with the vast majority of my colleagues, religious or not. But the key point is that it is a expectation apart from science... the kind of belief that some might expect to be pushed into the background, as you say.

      Scientific inquiry requires confidence in scientific method and true curiosity about the world and how it works.

      Why must one push aside belief to meet such a requirement? An auto mechanic has confidence that he can diagnose a problem and fix it, and he may also take delight in learning more about modern technology, but he doesn't have to put aside his belief in the existence of the manufacturer who built the car, or the person who owns the car and keeps the tank and tires filled, or the insurance company that promises to pay for repairs...

      My Catholic view is that divine truth wholly and non-competitively contains the natural, just as an artist is more than his art (and the latter cannot, even in principle, exist apart from the former). I can admire the art without thinking of the artist, but there is no restriction that I must only consider the two separately.

      And, by the way, the "scientific method" is not something sacrosanct. There is no reason other than by purposeful design or sheer, incredible good luck that it should work at all. (And the latter assumption is not particularly "scientific".)

      Also, scientists do not simply follow a "method" (turn the crank, out comes the sausage). We "theorize in a straitjacket", often flying into as much wild fancy as current data allows, because a model needs to do more than explain existing observations. Ideally it predicts NEW testable phenomena... points us in new directions. Yes, those models must ultimately be constrained by observation, but they have a hypothetical reality far beyond any initial data. If they did not, they would be nothing more than a laundry list of observations, with no more explanatory power or room to grow our understanding than an actuarial table.

      As for the curiosity you mention: that is precisely what drives many of us to consider the philosophical whys in addition the scientific hows, and there is no reason to suggest that the whys and hows are discreet, non-intersecting sets. The atheist and theist will certainly tend to ask different kinds of "why" questions, but those questions necessarily form a belief and one which they need not push aside.

      If scientists included their religious views in their scientific studies, they would just shrug, say "God is in the gaps" and try to make it home in time for Judge Judy.

      First, Catholicism is not a "god of the gaps" religion. (I will not presume to speak for other religions here.) That is, we don't say that either there is a
      natural explanation or a supernatural one, or that God cannot make use of natural means. It's not a one-or-the-other proposition.

      Second, as I said above, there's no reason to keep the whys and hows separate.

      Suppose that we were actually all part of a virtual reality computer program a la "The Matrix". Scientists, then, would in effect be studying programming... the "rules" of perceived existence. Now, if one of the "scientists" learned the truth about the matrix, he would not have to push that knowledge aside to continue doing good science, for the techniques for uncovering the "rules" will not necessarily have changed. If anything, his new understanding would give him greater insight, and pose newer and more fruitful considerations. Maybe he would theorize that the machines would prefer more computationally efficient code, for instance (to conserve power), and this assumption would greatly aid his "research", allowing him to weed out certain theories. And maybe he would ponder certain other scientific possibilities that would never have occurred to him otherwise.

      But if he were to "push aside" his new understanding and just go along with the "no matrix" assumption of prior science, then he would be a very poor scientist indeed.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      But the thing is, as these religious people conduct their scientific
      inquiry, they must push their religious beliefs and assumptions into the
      background.

      Much in the same way that my auto mechanic must push his evolutionary beliefs and assumption into the background when he rebuilds a transmission.

      none of them stoop to saying "I'm stumped. It must be God."

      Indeed, and why should they? At least in the Latin tradition, God was supposed to have endowed natures with the powers to act directly on one another. William of Conches wrote: [They say] "We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it." You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so. Or Albertus Magnus, who wrote, “In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.”

      So you are simply pushing medieval Catholic doctrines here.

  • Lazarus

    "We must continually preach, as St. John Paul II did, that faith and reason are complementary and compatible paths toward the knowledge of truth"

    I would certainly ask the atheist to relinquish the "war" nonsense, but I do understand that to ask them to agree that science and religion are actually "complementary " and "compatible " could be problematic. Coming from an atheist perspective one could hopefully acknowledge a place in the sun for each discipline, and approach the other with respect and tolerance without necessarily believing them to be compatible or complimentary.

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    Thank you Bishop for a wonderful article. Science and religion are not at constant odds. There will be no disagreements so long as science refrains from making claims on traditionally metaphysical topics and so long as religion avoids superstitious ideas about miracles. There is no guarantee that science and religion will always respect these boundaries, and so some conflict between the two will likely persist. Conflict isn't so bad. It keeps minds sharp and makes life more interesting.

  • David Nickol

    I suppose one might reasonably argue that there is no conflict between science, properly understood, and religion, properly understood. But who will tell us what the proper understandings of science and religion are?

    Certainly there are religious people who, as part of their religious beliefs hold that young-earth creationism is true. Others, as part of their religious beliefs, hold that evolution (as understood by most scientists) is at best flawed and Intelligent Design is true. Shall we say that for those who hold such beliefs, they are not really religious beliefs?

    When Galileo was condemned by a group of Cardinals and the Pope, should we argue that that wasn't religion?

    It seems to me it is in some ways a purely theoretical statement to say that science and religion do not conflict. Is it not a conflict, for example, when religion, on the one hand, insists there must be a spiritual soul for a human person even to be alive let alone capable of abstract thought, while on the other, neuroscientists and others seek to show that the workings of the brain are purely physical? Or is it not a conflict when religion claims that the human race had "two parents" and science says otherwise?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      When Galileo was condemned by a group of Cardinals and the Pope, should we argue that that wasn't religion?

      http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown.html

      • David Nickol

        I am sure it is fascinating, and I will read it, but I don't think it answers my question, which is basically as follows: When a religious doctrine was in conflict, or is currently in conflict, with a scientific belief, does that religious doctrine not count as religion? When it is said that religion and science cannot be in conflict, what is meant by religion?

        I guess I could accept some formulation such as, "What is true in religion cannot contradict what is true in science, since truth cannot contradict truth." But that is basically a tautology.

        We might also say, "A true religious belief cannot contradict another true religious belief." But that cannot possibly mean that there are no religious beliefs that conflict with one another.

        For the most part, I accept that the Catholic Church has not fought a war against science. But what is meant here by religion? For religious believers who want creationism taught in schools instead of evolution, is their rejection of evolution not religious? And if it is not, what is it?

        I think it is clear enough just to speak of "science," but I don't think it is clear enough to speak of "science and religion." There are plenty of examples of religious people who are indeed at war with science. How do we make a clear distinction between religion, on the one hand, and what religious people espouse in the name of religion, on the other?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          When a religious doctrine [conflicts] with a scientific belief, does that religious doctrine not count as religion?

          Pretty much. Or else the scientific belief does not count as scientific. A good example is the eugenics movement of the early 20th century. The leading scientists agreed that Darwinian theory was true -- and remember that this was before the rediscovery of Mendel's genetics -- and therefore we ought to breed people like horses, forbid marriages involving idiots and other lesser folk, encourage marriages among the brights, and so on. Opposition by the Church on religious ground was portrayed as "anti-science." Ultimately, it was resolved that eugenics was policy not science and public policy was simply not a consequence of scientific fact.

          Another example is the Usual Suspect, the one scientist that is reliably trotted forth in these discussions; viz., Galileo. A geostationary theory was the settled science for a great long time, based on the best empirical science (lack of parallax, etc.) Therefore, the Fathers of the Church, back in the early centuries, when interpreting various Scriptural passages interpreted them in light of the settled science: the earth does not move. Geomobile theories in the Early Modern Age were competing with this established consensus science, and had not gotten much traction. The State of the Art was such that a respectable mathematical model could be made of it, but an entirely new physics would be needed to account for it. (Remember, astronomy was a branch of mathematics, not of physics.)

          The phases of Venus blew the Ptolemaic and Gilbertian models out of the water, and they were largely abandoned forthwith. But the Tychonic and Ursine models were compatible with the phases of Venus and they explained why there was no visible parallax or "Coriolis" effects. The Copernican and Keplerian models appeared to be contradicted by these facts.

          Cardinal Bellarmino wrote that if geomobility were to be established as factually true, the Church would have no choice but to say she had not properly understood the passages in question, but until then there was no good reason to depart from the Patristic understanding. It was not enough to show that the appearances could be explained by geomobilie as well as by geostationary models. You actually had to show that geomobility was factually true. In modern terms, the Church demanded that geostationary models be "falsified" before science would abandon them.

          So, in this case, there was a religious belief, though it was never doctrinal; but it was based on solid science -- that was found in the mid-1800s to be wrong.

          what is meant by religion?

          Cicero related the term to "re-binding" (re ligere), that is to communal rituals and rites by which a people "re-bound" themselves to one another through shared customs. But it is not clear that, say, Finnish shamanism and Mahayana Buddhism are even the same kind of thing. By that we don't mean merely that they have different rituals, but that they are not even members of the same genus.

        • Lazarus

          Your questions highlight what to me is one of the problems with this so-called "war". Every instance should be considered on its own merits, as an ad hoc instance. Your questions will no doubt have different answers and different nuances in different circumstances.

        • Ken

          Both religion and science seek truth, so in that sense they do not conflict. However, both religion and science have been wrong from time to time. I think what he means by science and religion not conflicting is that the goals of both science and religion dont conflict.

          btw, Galileo taught at a Catholic university amd he was instructed not to teach something that conflicted with both church teaching and the science of the time. He agreed in writing to not teach that, but after the bishop died he went back on his word and began teaching it. Not only this, but he mocked the church's position in a book he wrote while he was employed by the catholic university. For all this he suffered house arrest (probation)

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei#Controversy_over_heliocentrism

          • David Nickol

            I think what he means by science and religion not conflicting is that the goals of both science and religion dont conflict.

            Well, it sounds like the theory is fine, but in actual practice, there are still problems. So when religion and science conflict, how do we know which one is wrong? It is clear that young-earth creationists have religious beliefs that contradict modern geology, paleontology, and evolutionary biology. Even most believers here think young-earth creationists are wrong. So is this a case of science contradicting religion? Or do we say that young-earth creationism is not a religious belief?

            It seems to boil down to saying religious truths are true if they are true. Or perhaps religious truths may reasonably be held to be true if they are not contradicted by science.

          • Ken

            creationism v. Evolution is not really a religious issue. People should no more use religion to answer scientific questions as they should use science to answer religious questions. Science for the most part asks "how", but religion asks "why". For example, science can tell us how to make the atomic bomb, but it is relogion and philosophy that tells us why we should, or should not use it. Science tells us how to make a gun, but cannot tell us if it is wrong to shoot someone. Science tells us how we got here, but it is religion that helps us answer why we are here. This conflict between science and religion happens when people try to use religion to answer questions that should be left up to science.
            To answer your question simply, I would go with the scientists on this one.

          • David Nickol

            creationism v. Evolution is not really a religious issue.

            According to a Gallup poll:

            More than four in 10 Americans continue to believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, a view that has changed little over the past three decades. Half of Americans believe humans evolved, with the majority of these saying God guided the evolutionary process. However, the percentage who say God was not involved is rising.

            Who is supposed to tell 42% of Americans that their religious belief about human origins is not a religious issue?

          • Ken

            Who cares? Really, who cares? Why does it matter if people believe the earth was created 6000 years ago, or if man was made of mud by the hand of God. If it gives them comfrt to believe this, then who cares? Like I said, science tells us the how and religion tells us the why. So explain to me WHY it is importaint for the average person to believe in evolution? The average person dosnt understand how there cell phone works, or how their car works, but I don't see a lot of people getting all concerned about alieviating that ignorance.

          • David Nickol

            So explain to me WHY it is importaint for the average person to believe in evolution?

            It may or may not be important, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether science and religion are in conflict. As I have said before, I have no problem with saying there can be no conflict between religion, properly understood, and science, properly understood. But how many people can we be sure are practicing religion, properly understood? Or, for that matter, science, properly understood?

            The question is, "What is religion?" Is it what religious people believe and do, or is it some abstraction that can't even be defined? The fact is, when creationists fight to get creationism or "creation science" taught alongside evolution in public schools, there is a conflict between science and religion as actually practiced.

            It seems you get into "no true Scotsman" territory by declaring there is no conflict between science and religion. If I am an Evangelical Christian who wants creationism taught in the schools, and the school science faculty says, "That's not science," there is a conflict between science and religion. You can say, "Well, creationism isn't really religion," but who has the right to say what a person's religious beliefs should be? Who is going to examine all of the world's religions and decide what in each and every one of them is religion, and what is not religion?

            It is no problem if science and religion contradict each other, as long as they remain independent of one another. But they don't always remain independent of one another.

          • billwalker

            Galileo had POWERFUL friends or he'd have gotten much more punishment.. Fatal punishment.

  • David Nickol

    When I counter that the Big Bang itself demonstrates that the universe in its totality is contingent and hence in need of a cause extraneous to itself, they think I’m just talking nonsense.

    Isn't this doing what Lemaître himself warned against? Even today, I don't think most physicists would agree that the Big Bang marks the beginning of the universe "in its totality" emerging from nothing. This seems to be a case of religion using the Big Bang for a religious argument, and when (in al likelihood) science discovers that the Big Bang in no way is the beginning of the universe "in its totality," people will look back (as the do on Galileo) and say, "Well, of course religion and science are always in harmony, but religious people invoking the Big Bang overstepped the proper boundaries of religion."

    Science can never contradict religion if religion beats a hasty retreat from every position science proves to be untenable.

    • Rob Abney

      I read that line as a response to a "scientism" claim that the big bang was responsible for the universe, then the Bishop responds that in fact the big bang more accurately points to the contingency of the universe not that it is the beginning of the universe.

      • Mike

        apparently the establishment did not WANT the big bang to be true bc they felt that it would give religious folks rhetorical fire power which it has as the most reasonable reading of it is that the universe had a beginning.

  • David Nickol

    Maybe Bishop Barron should either define religion, or argue that there is no war between science and Catholicism.

  • That there might be a dimension of reality knowable in a non-scientific but still rational manner never occurs to them.

    I think the notion of a "scientific manner" needs to be problematized, e.g. via Paul Feyerabend's Against Method. We can see that his argument—for which he was excommunicated from the philosophy of science—has been finally accepted by the likes of über-naturalist Penelope Maddy's Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method:

        A deeper difficulty springs from the lesson won through decades of study in the philosophy of science: there is no hard and fast specification of what 'science' must be, no determinate criterion of the form 'x is science iff …'. It follows that there can be no straightforward definition of Second Philosophy along the lines 'trust only the methods of science'. Thus Second Philosophy, as I understand it, isn't a set of beliefs, a set of propositions to be affirmed; it has no theory. Since its contours can't be drawn by outright definition, I resort to the device of introducing a character, a particular sort of idealized inquirer called the Second Philosopher, and proceed by describing her thoughts and practices in a range of contexts; Second Philosophy is then to be understood as the product of her inquiries. (1)

    From here, we can talk about how the very notion of "what science is" has changed over time, and ask if those changes abide by whatever is asserted to be "scientific method". If the foundation used to launch attacks against religion cannot survive paradigm shifts in science itself, then I would locate the error in thinking there, rather than trying to argue that there are "non-scientific but still rational manner[s]" of thinking.

    Another way to get at this would be to look at how oncologists treat cancer. According to a trustworthy source, 50% of 'episodes' cancer patients experience do not well-match (i) textbook cases; (ii) previous experience of all oncologists in the groups they organize to collaborate on treatment. This is a kind of variety with which scientists could not do science. And yet, we want to think that oncologists are being systematic, are doing something other than 'The Bad Thing' of which religionists are accused. This would establish a kind of reasoning which deals with significant complexity of real life, complexity and variability which any traditional notion of 'science' cannot address.

  • marlys

    all i know is the scientists who today are denying climate change are christian fundamentalists mostly....it seems that progress scares the hell out of christians hense bruno ...burned at the stake....galileo on house arrest...christianity seems to want to uphold the status quo & will do anything to asure that happens. which puts it for me anyway in diametrical opposition to science.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Bruno was a hermetic mystic. What "progress" did he represent?

      Cardinal Dini, a friend of Galileo, wrote to him that "this very morning I have been to visit the Father [Grienberger, chief astronomer at the Roman College], to see if
      there were any further news. I found that there was nothing fresh
      except that Father Grienberger would have been better pleased if you had first given your proofs [of geomobility] before beginning to speak about the Holy Scriptures…”
      -- Letter, Dini to Galileo, 7 Mar 1615

      So one senses more going on than the usual hero-myth in which so many place their faith. Bellarmino reminded him gently that he had to have empirical proof before the Church would re-examine the traditional readings of the scriptures in question, which were, after all, grounded in the settled consensus science of the day.
      http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown.html

      • Peter

        Despite his heresy, Giordano Bruno may go down in history as having the most progressive insight into the universe of any person up to that time. His vision of distant stars surrounded by populated worlds is not so far-fetched now as it was back then.

        In fact it is very plausible. As soon as the first new generation telescope spectroscopically detects the signs of life in an exoplanet's atmosphere, Giordano Bruno, as a scientist at least, will be vindicated.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Giordano Bruno, as a scientist at least, will be vindicated.

          He was not a scientist. He made no observations, collected no data, devised no evidence-based theories. As an astronomer ("mathematicus") he was completely unclear on the concepts and his comments in The Ash Wednesday Supper shows that he was unfamiliar with the astronomy of the day.

          When the moons of Mars were discovered, no one claimed that Jonathon Swift, as a scientist, was vindicated, simply because in his Gulliver's Travels his Laputan astronomers told Gulliver that Mars had two moons!

          Science does not consist of Lucky Guesses.

          • Peter

            Ok, Giordano Bruno was an outspoken heretic but it is wrong to demonise the man completely. In an unprecedented fashion, he predicted that the stars were suns in their own right with planets around them potentially harbouring life, and that the universe was homogeneous and isotropic. Not bad guesses for 400 years ago!

            As for Jonathan Swift's Martian moons, wasn't it observed at the time that Venus had none, Earth one and Jupiter three, and therefore the general consensus, which any layman could pick up on, was that by extrapolation Mars had two?

            Giordano Bruno's cosmological predictions, on the other hand, were so personal, unique and radical at the time which makes them even more remarkable now that they are vindicated. In spite of his obvious heresy, the Church should not be afraid of acknowledging his extraordinary achievements.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I'm not sure the World Soul has been vindicated. Bruno was a mystic and did not make cosmological predictions. He made pronouncements, none of which were scientifically supported. If he made some pronouncements that later science can read as similar to scientific discoveries, it only means that they have harvested a few soundbites and not the full context.

            The idea that the stars were others suns was also suggested by Nicholas de Cusa, from whom IIRC Bruno cribbed the idea. DeCusa's punishment was to be raised to a cardinal's hat in the Church.

          • Peter

            Didn't Nicolas de Cusa claim that the stars were other earths, not other suns? The Catholic Encyclopedia records him as writing that "the earth is a star like other stars".

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Don't forget, he was using stella. All the planets were stars:. "wandering stars" vis a vis "fixed stars."

          • Peter

            So it's not quite the same as Bruno's accurate claim that all stars were sunlike with planets orbiting them.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Though perhaps more accurate than Bruno's claim that the entire universe is a living organism, that mathematics is useless for doing science, or that the infinity of "worlds" is based on a passage from the Book of Daniel [https://math.dartmouth.edu/~matc/Readers/renaissance.astro/6.1.Supper.html]:

            [This infinite world] is the true subject and infinite material of the infinite divine actual potency, as this was made well understood both by regulated reason and discourse and by the divine revelations which state that there is no count of the ministers of the Most High, to whom thousands of thousands assist and ten hundreds of thousands administer.[25] These are the great animals of which many, with the clear light which emanates from their bodies, are from all sides visible [to us].
            [transl. note: 25. Bruno once more contradicts himself by using the Scripture as a proof of a cosmological tenet, in this case of the alleged infinity of the world. ]

            [transl.note: "Bruno's reference to his own principles which are supposedly better even than those given by Copernicus, and which are founded on reason and experience, clearly shows his megalomania and his misconceptions about science. The principles he had in mind were rooted in gross animism, rank pantheism and, last but not least, in Hermetic mysticism." ]

            But here is what the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy tells us of Nicholas Cusa [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cusanus/]:

            Nicholas also recognizes in Book Two that the natural universe is characterized by change or motion; it is not static in time and space. But finite change and motion, ontologically speaking, are also matters of more and less and have no fixed maximum or minimum. This “ontological relativity” leads Cusanus to some remarkable conclusions about the earth and the physical universe, based not on empirical observation but on metaphysical grounds. The earth is not fixed in place at some given point because nothing is utterly at rest; nor can it be the exact physical center of the natural universe, even if it seems nearer the center than “the fixed stars.” Because the universe is in motion without fixed center or boundaries, none of the spheres of the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic world picture are exactly spherical. None of them has an exact center, and the “outermost sphere” is not a boundary. The universe is therefore “infinite,” in the sense of physically unbounded. Cusanus thus shifts the typical medieval picture of the created universe toward later views, but on ontological grounds.

            For Nicholas, the exact center and circumference of the created universe are to be found only in God. What we take to be center and outer limits depends on our viewpoint. If we change perspectives, say to that from another planet (which might indeed be inhabited) and take it to be center, then earth might be zenith. In this way we come to realize that what is taken as fixed or central can be altered to be moving and at the zenith, depending on the location of the standpoint we pick in the unbounded universe. The reason, Cusanus writes, is that there is no exactness outside of God, and only “God, who is everywhere and nowhere, is its [the universe's] circumference and center” (II.12, Hopkins translation).

            For comparison:
            1. Giordano Bruno, The Ash Wednesday Supper. https://math.dartmouth.edu/~matc/Readers/renaissance.astro/6.1.Supper.html
            2. Nicholas de Cusa, On learned ignorance. http://www1.umn.edu/ships/galileo/library/cusa3.pdf

          • Peter

            Nevertheless, billions are being spent on new generation telescopes to find more planets orbiting distant stars and life on those planets. If they are successful and life is found, Giordano Bruno will go down in history as having been the first to propose it in its correct order.

            He has already been partially vindicated by the discovery of planets orbiting stars:
            "There are countless suns and countless earths all rotating round their suns in exactly the same way as the seven planets of our system. We see only the suns because they are the largest bodies and are luminous, but their planets remain invisible to us because they are smaller and non-luminous......Take comfort, the time will come when all men will see as I do." (Wikiquotes)
            Not bad for 400 years ago.

            Unfortunately, anti-Catholics will use this as a stick to beat the Church with. They will say that he was executed because he predicted the truth, even though that was far from the real reason for his heresy.

  • George

    "Copernicus, Newton, Kepler, Descartes, Pascal, Tycho Brahe—were devoutly religious"

    did any of those people have the freedom to say they weren't Christian?

    • Mike

      what do you think?

      • Of course not, with the persecution of anyone who strayed from the official dogmatic flavor of the time. Pascal got in trouble for being slightly too Jansenist, and Newton was a heterodox Christian but fortunately kept it quiet enough to save his skin.

        • Mike

          so they were mostly crypto atheists under the heel of the boot of christian oppression?

          • That's absurd. You'd need a lot of evidence before I'd buy that claim.

          • Mike

            ok so many of them were perhaps devote sincere christians.

          • Perhaps? Yes, perhaps. Though that simply returns us to the start of this thread, where George brought up the fact that they didn't have religious freedom.

          • Mike

            how do you know they didn't have that freedom? i mean i'd say in england catholics were in danger of losing their jobs etc but in the 17 century there were all kinds of spiritualist movements and sects etc.

        • Mike

          do you think that all serious scientists should become atheists?

          • I don't think being a scientist entails any particular beliefs. Science, to me, is a method that thrives on its practitioners having different perspectives.

          • Mike

            so is having a different perspective on global warming scientific?

          • A perspective that still denies global warming is unscientific, but nevertheless it might remain useful to the progress of science by keeping climate scientists rigorous.

          • Mike

            "nevertheless it might remain useful to the progress of science by keeping climate scientists rigorous."

            i agree with this part as science can never in principle "stop". it has to look for better and better and better explanations.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      did any of those people have the freedom to say they weren't Christian?

      In what manner would that be a scientific claim?

    • Rob Abney

      George, In what way were they inhibited from saying that they weren't Christians?

      • George

        is the answer "yes", did they have the freedom to say they weren't christians if they, hypothetically, weren't?

        what was the social pressure in their days against being a heretic? how much does it really help the catholic apologist's side to say these men were christians? is it really a big deal when taken in context? how easy would their respective societies have made it for them to publicly be otherwise?

        • Rob Abney

          I'm not sure what your answer is; do you have some specific details that you know of that shows that any of these men were actually non-christian?

  • For the past several years, I’ve been posting short commentaries on YouTube, probably the most popular website in the world.

    YouTube falls short of that status. That the author couldn't be bothered to spend five seconds Googling isn't a sign of careful writing. :-

    I’ve been able to discern ... a number of patterns. The most glaring of these is what I would call scientism, the philosophical assumption that the real is reducible to what the empirical sciences can verify or describe.

    Ooh, my interest is perked up. Like many, I'm inclined to say that I myself am a scientismist.

    The obvious success of the physical sciences ... has convinced many of our young people ... that anything outside of the range of the empirical and measurable is ... primitive belief. ... This prejudice, this blindness to literature, philosophy, metaphysics, mysticism, and religion is the scientism that I’m complaining about.

    I can see that from your perspective it looks like a failure of imagination; from their perspective they might see instead that the failure of literature, philosophy, metaphysics, mysticism, and religion to display any analogous outward sign of success (like approaching a consensus) makes those things unusable as sources of truth.

    founding figures of modern science ... were devoutly religious

    Eh, that's no different than modern Saudi scientists being Muslim. Of course people who don't have freedom of religion aren't often going to publicly depart from the required religiosity.

    the modern physical sciences were, in fact, made possible by the religious milieu out of which they emerged.

    "In fact"? That's a curiously strong claim. What are the facts that support it, and what alternative theory are we comparing against? Recall that we're scientismists - we're going to want some evidence before accepting a claim about how the world works.

    all science is based upon the presumption that nature can be known, that it has a form.

    That's not actually true. Instrumentalism is a common alternative to scientific realism. Instrumentalism only points out that the mental models of reality that we choose to use will be ones that are intelligible to us - it doesn't presume that the world itself can only have one of the forms that would be intelligible to us.

    This is why thoughtful people—Christians and atheists alike—must battle the myth of the eternal warfare of science and religion.

    Easy. :) There's no eternal battle because science already won: there's no longer a religion with the strength to suppress scientific inquiry. And that's as it should be.

    • Mike

      "There's no eternal battle because science already won"

      which science? is physics more fundamental than biology?

      • Science as an institution.

        • Mike

          can science adjudicate ultimately questions of value in your opinion?

          • The judiciary adjudicates. Science, as an institution, discovers.

            Scientists do often make discoveries about what people value, how those values originated, and how we can better achieve those values. So science can clearly answer some questions about value.

    • ClayJames

      Assuming there is a God, as a proponent of scientism, how can science prove the existence of God?

      • Largely that depends on which type of god one is imagining. There are too many incompatible ideas about what a god would be, and I can't address them all.

        But I think an excellent and reasonably general place to start would be by searching for the kinds of effects that popular devotion attributes to gods. Among many theists we find the ideas that their gods (1) answer their prayers, (2) bless the faithful, and (3) provide firmer moral foundation. All of these three points have been investigated in various ways, and the evidence does not support the theists' views. But the evidence could have gone the other way, and it's sensible to expect that they would have gone the other way in a world where there was a real god of the sort that the people worship.

        • ClayJames

          1) Could you please give me a valid study that shows that God does not answer prayers? I think it is fair to say that we are not looking at evidence that God grants every wish that is asked, no smart Christian believes God is a genie, but I am looking at a study that says there is no added benefit in prayer.

          2) How does science show that God doesn´t bless the faithful (whateve ryou mean by that?

          3) How does God not provide a firmer moral foundation. The most you can do here is to say that theists are not any more moral than atheists, but that does not mean that God does not provide a firmer moral foundation. This is a philosophical question, not a scientific one.

          • 1) http://lmgtfy.com/?q=efficacy+of+prayer

            2) The faithful do not have better life outcomes than others.

            3) Correct, the testable implication is that theists do not have better morals than non-theists.

            "This is a philosophical question, not a scientific one"

            Scientismist, remember? If it's a philosophical question, I say it's also a scientific question. Anything that has real-world consequences can be studied via those consequences.

          • ClayJames

            1) I said valid. Every single study I have seen on that matter is
            invalid. For example, how do those studies regarding intercessory prayer
            guarantee that their control group is not polluted? In other words, how
            do they know that the group not receiving intercessory prayer is in
            fact not receiving intercessory prayer (from friends or family for example)?

            2) Neither did Jesus or the apostles and one can still believe they were blessed.

            3) And therefore, the testable implication can say nothing about God providing a firmer moral foundation. A firmer moral foundation has nothing to do with whether people act according to that moral foundation.

            Anything that has real-world consequences can be studied via those consequences.

            This is the most important point and I would like to give you a thought experiment that would help me understand your position.

            Assume that the supernatural exists and that I can supernaturally turn a glass of water into wine. Clearly, this is a situation with a real-world consequence that can be studied by science. Not only can it be studied by science, it can be falsified and validated by science. If it can´t possibly be validated by science, then its not science. How would you go about proving that I turned the water into wine supernaturally? Remember that we are assuming that I did do this supernaturally and if this is a scientific question (because it has a real-world consequence) then we should be able to confirm it through science.

          • 1) You are free to reject the scientific consensus on a matter, but that is a fact about you and not about the science.

            One failure of rationality we often see is when people don't actively search out evidence, and in fact avoid it and struggle against it, acting as though they ask themselves "What does the evidence permit me to believe?" on matters where they want to believe, and "What does the evidence require me to believe?" on matters where they don't want to believe. Of course, the rational response is instead to find out what explanation fits with the evidence with least assumptions, then believe only and exactly that. And that's what I prefer to aim for.

            2) That's true but irrelevant in this case since the goal wasn't to research your personal ideas about God, even if based on your knowledge of Bible stories. The goal was to test an effect attributed in popular devotion by theists to their gods: that divine providence is discernably at work in the lives of the faithful.

            3) Again, you're free to speculate on "firm" moral foundations that somehow don't provide any discernable moral support, but how you imagine these things and your quibbles about my word choice are irrelevant. I've already stated the empirical question I'm interested in about morality.

            "Assume that the supernatural exists..."

            Unfortunately "supernatural" is far more ambiguous, polysemous, and less definite as a word than even the notorious "god" word. Research needs relatively clear questions to start. One field that is salient is paranormal research. So far the claimed paranormal effects haven't been discovered, but we can imagine a world where, say, telekinetic transmutation was discovered. If it always occurred in a theistic religious context, that would be good evidence of divine origin, which matches one definition of "supernatural". ("Pertaining to a god and his or her powers over nature" is my preferred definition of "supernatural", but of course other people would pick other meanings of the term.)

          • ClayJames

            1) I am not rejecting scientific consensus, ignoring the evidence, or failing to believe because I dont want to. I asked a question that any scientist should ask regarding an experiment and that is, how do we know that the control group in the experiment I mentioned is not polluted? I am still waiting for your answer.

            2) No, your goal was to show that people that are ¨blessed¨ also go through turnmoil and suffering, which would be accepted by any Catholic who knows about what he is talking about. You are attacking a strawman.

            3) It has nothing to do with your word choice. There is a difference between saying that you need God to ground morality and that people that believe in God are more moral than those that don´t. These two claims are completely different and you are confusing them.

            I gave you a specific example so that we could address it instead of talking about generalities. For science to be applied, the question at hand must be falsifiable and verifiable. If it cannot be both of these things, then it is not science. Therefore, assuming that I turned water into wine supernaturally, give me the process that you would follow in order to verify this.

    • Robert Macri

      YouTube falls short of that status. That the author couldn't be bothered
      to spend five seconds Googling isn't a sign of careful writing. :-

      I just did a quick search (on Bing, not Google) and YouTube came in at #1 on all the results I saw under "most popular video sharing websites" and in the top three under "most popular websites". Furthermore, Bishop Barron used the qualifier "probably", which clearly indicates that he is stating an opinion. Do you require him to Google his own opinion, or are you splitting hairs because he didn't add the qualifier "video sharing"?

      Besides, do you really expect everyone to qualify every offhand comment precisely or are you just raising an unjustifiable standard for the purposes of easy criticism?

    • Robert Macri

      I can see that from your perspective it looks like a failure of
      imagination; from their perspective they might see instead that the
      failure of literature, philosophy, metaphysics, mysticism, and religion
      to display any analogous outward sign of success (like approaching a
      consensus) makes those things unusable as sources of truth.

      Success is not the same as "consensus". If it were, then you would be forced to concede the failure of the atheist viewpoint, as it lacks the majority.

      Furthermore, scientific truths are absolutely not defined by consensus. Many times in history leaps in scientific progress have come about in spite of the overwhelming consensus of the prevailing opposite view. Even the great Einstein vigorously opposed certain elements of quantum mechanics, just as his own general theory of relativity had itself once been opposed by the consensus of the establishment.

      Finally, even in mathematics we have proof that there are truths which cannot be proven within any given system (I am referring to Godel's proof). If this is true even for mathematics (it is), then how can you suggest that there is no usable truth in other disciplines? You can say that technology has demonstrated great utility in your life, but not that it contains the sum of all truth. But even on the basis of utility I think you would be missing the mark. It is not science, after all, which gives us favorable politics, or free enterprise, or the laws and socially accepted ethos which preserve your life and flourishing.

      Is it a "usable truth" to assert that you have a "right", or "fair expectation" not to be murdered? Please use science to demonstrate the existence of such a right, as you do not seem to allow for "usable truth" from other sources.

    • Robert Macri

      founding figures of modern science ... were devoutly religious

      Eh, that's no different than modern Saudi scientists being Muslim. Of
      course people who don't have freedom of religion aren't often going to
      publicly depart from the required religiosity.

      I don't see the point of your objection. Bishop Barron was illustrating that religious views are not at odds with science (as some, but not all, atheists claim), not that the existence of scientists of a certain religious persuasion prove the claims of that religion.

      • David Nickol

        I am too lazy to do the research on the list of "founding figures of modern science," but it seems to me that all of them that I can think of departed from religious orthodoxy to the extent that they had to be cautious about expressing their scientific and/or religious views. Copernicus didn't publish until he was on his deathbed, and took pains to say he was presenting only a hypothesis, not describing reality. Kepler was a Protestant who disagreed with some basic Protestant doctrines, so he was in conflict with both the Catholics and the Protestants. Newton had all kinds of unorthodox or crackpot theories (for example, he didn't believe in the Trinity). A number of the works of Descartes were put on the Catholic Church's Index of Forbidden Books (along with works of Kepler and Galileo).

        What seems to be common to all of them was not so much their religiosity, but their willingness to question authority and arrive at their own conclusions.

        • Alexandra

          Gregor Mendel, father of genetics, did not depart from orthodoxy, as he was a Catholic monk.

          • David Nickol

            He is not mentioned in the OP. The list under discussion is in the following passage:

            Leaving aside the complexities of the Galileo story (and there are complexities to it), we can see that the vast majority of the founding figures of modern science—Copernicus, Newton, Kepler, Descartes, Pascal, Tycho Brahe—were devoutly religious.

            Faraday and Maxwell, mentioned later, were both Protestants. And John Polkinghorne is identified in the OP as an Anglican priest.

          • Alexandra

            Sorry for my misunderstanding David. Take care.

    • Robert Macri

      all science is based upon the presumption that nature can be known, that it has a form.

      That's not actually true. Instrumentalism is a common alternative to scientific realism. Instrumentalism only points out that the mental models of reality that we choose to use will be ones that are intelligible to us - it doesn't presume that the world itself can only have one of the forms that would be intelligible to us.

      But if the world did not have an intelligible form then science would in fact not have been successful. Instrumentalists might philosophize about whether or not nature need be intelligible to the human mind, but nature clearly is intelligible, at least that much of it that we have thus far explored.

      As a scientist I am sometimes wearily amused (if not bemused) by the emergence of certain claims of the philosophy of science well after science has arrived at some stable configuration of theory or practice. Instrumentalism as you describe it is a perfect example. Philosophy of science has never led anyone to a discovery of any kind, but rather tries to pin itself onto the scientific process after the fact in an attempt to explain what scientists have already achieved. And as it is not itself a discovery of science, it should not enjoy the kind of authority that scientific success has built up for itself.

      Scientists have a belief, or at least a hope, that our efforts will bring us to a greater understanding of nature. Without that hope, we would be fools, tilting at windmills. I wholeheartedly agree with Bishop Barron's assertion that the belief in nature's intelligibility underpins the pursuit of science.

    • Robert Macri

      the modern physical sciences were, in fact, made possible by the religious milieu out of which they emerged.

      "In fact"? That's a curiously strong claim. What are the facts that support it, and what alternative theory are we comparing against? Recall that we're scientismists - we're going to want some evidence before accepting a claim about how the world works.

      Just to clarify, such a claim does not suggest that modern science could not have emerged from a non-religious culture, but that it did in fact emerge and flourish in the Christian west. And as history is replete with examples of the Catholic Church's support of academic pursuits (the founding of the university system and the financial support of scientific endeavors are cases in point) it is easily demonstrated that science was indeed nurtured by the religious environment. Indeed, it was the monk who preserved knowledge of all kinds, furthered the cause of learning itself, and even educated the barbarian.

      • David Nickol

        . . . . it is easily demonstrated that science was indeed nurtured by the religious environment.

        That would be, however, the "religious environment" of the 17th century and later. We have had this debate before, but one has to ask if Catholicism was so conducive to the birth of modern science, then why did it take over a millennium and a half for religion to give birth to modern science? And what about the Reformation?

        • neil_pogi

          there were also atheists 'producing scientists' before the catholic church was established, but why the catholic church only 'nurtured' it? where were the athiests scientists then?

    • Robert Macri

      Easy. :) There's no eternal battle because science already won: there's
      no longer a religion with the strength to suppress scientific inquiry.
      And that's as it should be.

      Are you suggesting that science somehow struggled its way free from religion? That is historically inaccurate. As I stated in another post here, the Catholic church nurtured science (and academia in general, because the church established the university system.).

      And of course there is indeed a battle, just not between science and religion as institutions, but rather between those who would attempt to wield science as a club to attack religion (e.g. Richard Dawkins, who repeatedly claims that science has discredited religion, and that religion is "one of the world's great evils") and those who maintain science and theology are not enemies.

  • Bruce Grubb

    The real problem is people don't really understand what science really is; they think science looks for some Absolute Truth. In reality, it creates *models* of reality on how it is _thought_ reality works that make predictions that can be refuted or confirmed. When something is observed that the model doesn't explain well the model is 'tweeked' until the model becomes ridiculously complex and someone creates a new model.

    By the time of Galileo the Aristotle model was total mess with over 90 kludges to Aristotle's original design and insanely complex. As James Burke points out the Council of Trent embraced Copernican heliocentrism as a way to fix the badly messed up calendar brushing it off as a "mathematical convenience".

    Two must read works for anyone who really wants to understand what science is are IMHO James Burke's _Day the Universe Changed_ and Horace Mitchell Miner's "Body Ritual among the Nacirema".

    The first work shows how the model (structure) of the universe changes as the old model become too complex or simply cannot explain repeated observations.

    The second is a satirical look at what happens when the model drives the data rather then the data driving the model.

  • Peter

    There is nothing in science that contradicts the teachings of the Church, nor can I imagine any new discovery which would do so. In fact, the more we discover, the more it points us to God. What science is now becoming is a road which leads the human race towards greater knowledge of its Creator. The more we learn about how the universe works, the more we get to know the mind of God.

    Pasteur was right when he said that "“little science takes you away from God but more of it takes you to Him". Darwinism gave rise to the understanding that living things are not specially created by God, which led those with a limited perception of what God is to the premature belief that God did not exist.

    Now, scientific discoveries show that the universe is a complex structure, precisely configured from the beginning to create the building blocks of life which, when established, will go on to produce complex organisms. Plugging the current gap in knowledge, from the building blocks to the establishment of life, is just a question of time. We will then see and understand God's design in its entirety.

  • Jack

    God is not a science question...ergo God cannot have a science answer.

    Science is no more capable of adjudicating this question than it is at determining the morality of ethical questions.

    • ClayJames

      But Richard Dawkins says that god is a scientific hypothesis.

      • Jack

        ...right. If I take the Catholic notion of God seriously (namely that God is not constrained by space and time, and not contained within the physical universe) and science (which is able to examine things that are entirely present within the universe) is incapable of doing such a thing.

        If you, or Mr. Dawkins would like to propose an experiment that will conclusively demonstrate or refute God, I'm all ears.

        • ClayJames

          I was agreeing with you and my comment was simply pointing out another ridiculous claim made by a New Atheist similar to the ones the Bishop was talking about. Sorry if I wasn´t clear.

          To expand on this point, especially because some people here had a problem with the language I used, this comment by Dawkins is best explained by at least one of these things and possibly a couple of them:

          Ignorant : He has no idea of the things you just described (the limits of science and the notion of God)
          Lazy : He has no desire to look up the basic definitions and contraints of the words that are used or lacks any kind of nuance needed in order to have this discussion.
          Disingenuous : Knows the limits of science and the notions of God, but decides to ignore them in order to make a point.

        • George

          "namely that God is not constrained by space and time, and not contained within the physical universe"

          how do you know any of that?

    • George

      glad to hear that, if it means apologists will stop saying things like the cosmic inflation theory confirms the genesis story, or that the universe is fine tuned for life by god.

      or do theists really get to have things both ways? what are apologists doing when they appeal to scientific discovery?

      • Jack

        I can only speak for myself. If science is unable to disprove God, it is also unable to prove God. I don't try to argue as you suggest others do. As I see it science is neutral about God. God, requires philosophical arguments..."a finely tuned universe" is more of a philosophical question, not a scientific one.

        • neil_pogi

          but science can't prove morality, love and intention.
          science can't even prove itself.

      • Peter

        The universe does appear to be fine-tuned by a great intellect. Look at the genius, for example, behind protoplanetary discs which are formed from the element-rich nebulous remnants of supernovae.

        As the discs form, gravity causes them to rotate and centrifugal forces come into play. The heavy elements necessary to form planets are pushed to the edge while most of the lighter elements, necessary for nucleosynthesis, remain in the centre. As the star forms, it irradiates the surrounding heavier elements into organic compounds which then bombard the newly-formed and cooled planets.

        This event alone is so harmonious that it is difficult to imagine that it is anything other than the product of a great mind.

  • Its a shame that mr Barron repeats here the same tired statements we see time and time again. Science can't explain everything, that Galileo thing was complex, actually lots of important scientists were religious.

    It would be interesting to see his response to Jerry Coyne's new book Faith vs Fact, which deals squarely with this issue. Coyne makes a number of interesting observations, such as that there are dozens of books explaining that science doesn't conflict with religion, but relatively few to the converse. I agree with his suspicion than these books are not written in response to scientists attacks on religion, but rather because religious people know that when people really learn about science, they do accept that it contradicts much of what is in their religious texts. And there really is conflict there. The Bible actually does express a view that the earth is only a few thousand years old, rather than a few billion. A glaring and silly error if there was any relationship between the book's authors, but an expected result if written by bronze and Iron Age humans. Similarly the statement that humans descended from no more than two human individuals is in direct conflict with the scientific finding that there were never less than a few thousand humans.

    Now catholic readers will shout that these are not in conflict. That they can read these two in a way that makes sense. Well, they can interpret the bible to mean some strange metaphor that is contrary to a plain meaning. But I am not so sure that the rank and file do this. Many religions simply reject the science. And as Coyne observes most religious folk would hold on to their religious beliefs if an important tenet of their faith were contradicted by a clear scientific finding to the contrary. That disturbs me.

    • Andrew Y.

      Many religions simply reject the science.

      Apparently most do not reject science, according to Wikipedia.

      “Global studies which have pooled data on religion and science from 1981–2001, have noted that countries with high religiosity also have stronger faith in science, while less religious countries have more skepticism of the impact of science and technology.[186] The United States is noted there as distinctive because of greater faith in both God and scientific progress. Other research cites the National Science Foundation’s finding that America has more favorable public attitudes towards science than Europe, Russia, and Japan despite differences in levels of religiosity in these cultures.[187]”

      […]

      “The MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins examined the views of religious people in America on origins science topics like evolution, the Big Bang, and perceptions of conflicts between science and religion. It found that a large majority of religious people see no conflict between science and religion and only 11% of religious people belong to religions openly rejecting evolution.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relationship_between_religion_and_science

      The Bible actually does express a view that the earth is only a few thousand years old, rather than a few billion. A glaring and silly error if there was any relationship between the book’s authors, but an expected result if written by bronze and Iron Age humans.

      If you’re going to accuse Fr. Barron of repeating tired arguments, perhaps you should refrain from it as well.

      • I never said most religions reject science.

        • neil_pogi

          most scientists receive nobel prizes. and these scientists are theists and christians

    • Robert Macri

      Its a shame that mr Barron repeats here the same tired statements we see
      time and time again.

      School teachers repeat the same "tired statements" time and time again too. It's called teaching, and it is necessary because not everyone has heard or understood every one of those statements.

      Furthermore, Bishop Barron's statements are simply responses to the same "tired attacks" that some still hurl against the church. Should Catholics stop responding just because the attacks have not changed over the last few centuries?

      religious people know that when people
      really learn about science, they do accept that it contradicts much of
      what is in their religious texts

      On what do you base such a claim?

      I have found no contradictions between my faith and my understanding of nature (as a physicist).

      If you think you have found a contradiction I will be happy to discuss it with you. Show it to me... and, please, don't just toss up some
      supposed contradictions between some religious straw man and science, but
      between science and the Catholic faith properly understood, as it has
      been taught for 2000 years. And do not take Catholic scripture and insist that we read it in a non-Catholic way. (That would be much like insisting that we read the owner's manual of your car in, say, a Freudian sense in order to argue that its recommendations for service and maintenance should be ignored.)

    • Robert Macri

      The Bible actually does express a view that the earth is only a few thousand years old, rather than a few billion.

      Straw man alert.

      Catholic doctrine does not assert that the earth is only a few thousand years old. If you want to argue against that position, it would be more profitable for you to do so on a fundamentalist website.

      Now catholic readers will shout that these are not in conflict. That they can read these two in a way that makes sense. Well, they can
      interpret the bible to mean some strange metaphor that is contrary to a plain meaning.

      So we must interpret scriptures your way? Why?

      If you do not like poetry because you only look for "plain meaning", should we all eschew it? Does it then have no value?

      It is of great importance to note that the bible is not a book, it is a collection of books, written in a variety of literary styles. It is no more correct to imply that the "bible" can only be defended when it is read metaphorically than it is to say the same of all the books in a public library. Some of those books will be history, other science, others poetry. Should we read them all as historical texts?

      No, each book must be read with the particular literary style in mind as was clearly intended by the author. It is simply not sensible to say that we can find nothing of value in "On the Origin of the Species" just because "Green Eggs and Ham" is full of nonsense to the mind of a strict literalist. And it would be equally absurd to say that Dr. Seuss has nothing to teach children (e.g. "Don't judge by appearances") simply because he did not employ the same academic writing style as Darwin.

      Likewise, the very beginning of the creation narrative in Genesis tells us very clearly that the author intended to pass on truth by way of poetry and allegory, because if he intended it as a literal laundry list of facts he would not have posited the creation of "day and night" three days before the creation of earth and sun (without which day and night have no meaning). It is clear that the days of creation were ordered in a way to present three "realms" or "environments" followed by three types of things to govern those environments. Not three 24-hour days. It is simply not defensible to insist upon a literal-historic meaning here, no matter how much you would like to do so (because, of course, that is the easiest position for you to attack).

      And because Genesis employs time in a poetic fashion ("days" that are not 24 hour periods) we must assume the same kind of poetic license in the ages of the descendants of Adam and Eve (as well as recognizing that scriptures often calls a descendant a "son" even if there are many intervening generations).

      So a "plain meaning" here, while convenient to those who want to argue against religion, is simply not indicated even within the text itself. That is, Catholics are not retreating from a "plain meaning" we cannot defend; we are interpreting scripture in the manner in which it was intended.

      And remember, just because we must read the first chapters of Genesis in a poetic/allegorical fashion, it does not follow that we must read all of scriptures in this way (as in Seuss vs Darwin, above).

      Furthermore, on what basis do you insist on a "plain meaning"? Very often people indeed do write truth in an allegorical fashion, even when dealing with science.

      For example, there is a story about the development of quantum field theory which describes a mythical land ("Quafithe", for Quantum Field Theory) which was explored by a number of animals in a number of different ways (Richard Feynman was a crow flying above, Julian Schwinger was a mole tunneling under, etc.). (You can search online, or find the story here : http://www.roadsidedog.com/images/Driving_Mr_Feynman_Chap_1_2.pdf )

      Now, why did someone write the history of the development of QFT this way? To make it memorable (entertaining) and understandable to a wider audience.

      Does that mean that the story lacks value? Not at all. Writing it in this way does not alter the underlying truths that the story presents.

      A reasonable person would no more insist on a purely literal reading of the first chapters of Genesis than an historian of science would insist that the story of Quafithe is utter nonsense without value or truth content.

      • Sure catholic doctrine does not say that the universe is only a few thousand years old, but the bible does. You don't have to interpret the Bible my way, I am expressing an opinion about your interpretation. I am saying it is unreasonable.

        If the Bible was advanced as poetry, I would interpret it differently. But if it is being advanced as a record of things that actually happened we should compare it to what we know about what happened not from ancient texts but science.

        I'm not saying it lacks value. As a historical document it is incredibly valuable. It tells us a great deal about how people though centuries ago, as poetry i find it rather poor, as moral instruction I find it disgusting.

        As I believe I noted above the bible does make some empirical claims that, on a plain reading are in conflict with what science has discovered. On a reading that the plain meaning should be rejected in favour of one that matches science, it is fine. But when you interpret it so vaguely, you really cannot pin down what it means. I suspect this is why so many Christianites have split off, despite a history of enforcing a single theology by force.

        • Alexandra

          Hi Brian, Where in the bible does it say the universe is only a few thousand years old?

          • ClayJames

            If the Bible was advanced as poetry, I would interpret it differently.
            But if it is being advanced as a record of things that actually happened
            we should compare it to what we know about what happened not from
            ancient texts but science.

            A bible is a collection of books written over many centuries, by many different people, to many different types of audiences and in many different writing styles. In this context, your comment makes no sense.

            Also, just because you can interpret the Bible a certain way (as a literal record of what actually happened) does not mean that this interpretation is as valid as any other. There are clearly incorrect interpretations of the Bible and one that attempts to interpret it literally is exactly that.

          • Alexandra

            Hi Clay, I agree with the sentiment ;) - but I'm guessing this reply was intended for Brian, not me.

          • ClayJames

            My bad, it was indeed for Brian.

          • Lazarus

            "...and one that attempts to interpret it literally is exactly that."

            With one or two exceptions, of course ;)

          • ClayJames

            This is like saying that we shouldn´t attempt to interpret everything that we find in a library literally, with one or two exceptions.

            The Bible is not a book, it a collection of books written by different people, with different motives, for different audiences in different times. To say that we should approach all these books the same is extremely ignorant.

          • Lazarus

            Relax, Clay, I'm on your side.

            I was specifically referring to the resurrection as being one of those interpretations where most Catholics would insist on a literal interpretation. As you know, that interpretation of the Bible should be a nuanced and informed exercise, depending on several factors such as context, genre and so on.

          • David Nickol

            There are clearly incorrect interpretations of the Bible and one that attempts to interpret it literally is exactly that.

            I hope no one would deny that there are incorrect interpretations of the Bible. The real question is whether there are correct interpretations, and if so, how are they made and how do we know? To take an obvious example, did the entire human race descent from two "first parents"? It is now acknowledged by the Catholic Church that the story of Adam and Eve is relayed in "figurative" language:

            390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

            Now, once it is understood that the story of Adam and Eve is in "figurative" language, is similar to other creation myths, and so on, the obvious conclusion is that it is a fable. But before it was realized that it was a fable, very important Christian doctrine was based upon it, assuming it to be real. So the principles one would normally look to in interpreting an ancient creation myth in this case have to be partially abandoned. Yes, it is told in figurative language, but nevertheless it is factually true in certain respects. The obvious question, it seems to me, is that if the Genesis account is a story, in figurative language, about the first human male and female, who disobeyed God, why don't we just get the "real story." What is the point of telling the story of two real people who freely committed an "original fault," and then turning it into a fable about two people who were tricked by a snake into eating forbidden fruit?

            It would seem to be just as easy to believe there were two people called Adam and Eve who were tempted by a snake to eat forbidden fruit as to believe there were two "first parents" who were tempted by a fallen angel named Satan to do a thing we will never know, but who nevertheless the biological origin of all human beings.

            I think the Catholic Church would long ago have abandoned the idea of "first parents" if the doctrine of Original Sin had not been built up around the fable of Adam and Eve.

          • ClayJames

            The real question is whether there are correct interpretations,
            and if so, how are they made and how do we know?

            This is a question that could be asked of any ancient work of literature.

            Now, once it is understood that the story of Adam and Eve is in
            "figurative" language, is similar to other creation myths, and so on,
            the obvious conclusion is that it is a fable.But before it was realized that it was a fable, very important Christian doctrine was based upon it, assuming it to be real.

            You have set up a false dichotomy. A myth can have a very real message and still be a myth. Also, your implication that everyone took genesis as literal fact and then it was realized to be a fable is incorrect. There are writers in the New Testament that took Genesis as an allegory and early Biblical scholars of the 3rd century believed that parts of the Bible should be read allegorically (see Origen´s De Principiis). So it is not true that there was a drastic change in interpretation and that Christians later realized it was a fable or a myth.

          • You add up the lifetimes of the people in the genealogies, until you get to Jesus.

          • Alexandra

            Ok, I see. Thanks. So you are using the Young Earth Creationist's interpretation.
            I'm certain nowhere in the Bible is the actual age of the universe stated.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm certain nowhere in the Bible is the actual age of the universe stated.

            If I tell you that I was born a few months after World War II ended, I have not stated my age, but if you can do simple arithmetic, then you will know good and well how old I am.

            Similarly, Bishop Ussher used simple arithmetic to determine what the Bible had to say about the age of the earth.

          • Alexandra

            Hi Doug,
            Yes, I can follow the logic of the YEC interpretation. You take the genealogy from Luke, the ages of the patriarchs in Genesis, the chronology in the Age of Kings, and so forth, and add it all up...
            (The differing questions of: the age of humanity, of the earth and creation, and the age of the universe, depend on various interpretations from the Bible.)

            But, this does not mean it is the "right" and only "valid" interpretation (regarding creation) from the Bible - even if you wanted to take a purely literal approach. For example in 2Pet.3:8 it says: "that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day".

            Here is a good article from Catholic Answers related to my point:
            http://www.catholic.com/tracts/creation-and-genesis

          • Doug Shaver

            You take the genealogy from Luke, the ages of the patriarchs in Genesis, the chronology in the Age of Kings, and so forth, and add it all up...

            That's all I'm saying.

            But, this does not mean it is the "right" and only "valid" interpretation

            I didn't say it was. But it is often the case -- and not just in biblical hermeneutics -- that a person will say X when they mean Y. That doesn't mean they didn't actually say X, and it doesn't matter how many people agree that Y is the correct interpretation of X.

          • Alexandra

            Thank you for the information Doug. I do find that for most of the Bible, the plain meaning is clear. But it is also such a complicated, sophisticated,and profound work. Lot's of debate. :) But ultimately the interpretations are about seeking truth. The truth remains the truth no matter if we all agree, or none of us do. I am grateful for the guidance of the Church.

          • Doug Shaver

            But ultimately the interpretations are about seeking truth.

            It should be. In my experience, many believers interpret the Bible on the assumption that it will confirm something that they are already convinced must be the truth.

          • Lazarus

            I'm not sure that I can agree with all of that, Doug.
            Up to certain extent I will grant you the point, we at times read the Bible through our preconceived lenses and biases and expectations, a little delusion which I would suggest most of us, on both sides, suffer from.

            But in Catholicism we tend to have a body of formal and informal Biblical exegesis that in my view would neutralize most, if not all, of that subjective reading that we find amongst some denominations. While debates and arguments abound in the Church as far as certain interpretations are concerned, I would think that we are facing sort of the same way in most controversial instances. If your point does not refer to the RCC I would agree with you to a much higher degree.

          • Doug Shaver

            we at times read the Bible through our preconceived lenses and biases and expectations,

            That's another way of saying what I said. What are you disagreeing with?

            If your point does not refer to the RCC I would agree with you to a much higher degree.

            I referred only to "many believers." If you're claiming that none of those believers is a Roman Catholic, then whether I agree with that or not, it's still consistent with what I said.

          • Lazarus

            Ok, I'm with you.

          • David Nickol

            What I see when I read contemporary Catholic biblical exegesis is a certain distancing from traditional interpretations. Take, for example, the "protoevangelium" (Genesis 3:15) as translated and footnoted in the NAB:

            I will put enmity between you and the woman,
            and between your offspring and hers;
            They will strike at your head,
            while you strike at their heel.

            * [3:15] They will strike…at their heel: the antecedent for “they” and “their” is the collective noun “offspring,” i.e., all the descendants of the woman. Christian tradition has seen in this passage, however, more than unending hostility between snakes and human beings. The snake was identified with the devil (Wis 2:24; Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9; 20:2), whose eventual defeat seemed implied in the verse. Because “the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8), the passage was understood as the first promise of a redeemer for fallen humankind, the protoevangelium. Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. A.D. 130–200), in his Against Heresies 5.21.1, followed by several other Fathers of the Church, interpreted the verse as referring to Christ, and cited Gal 3:19and 4:4 to support the reference. Another interpretive translation is ipsa, “she,” and is reflected in Jerome’s Vulgate. “She” was thought to refer to Mary, the mother of the messiah. In Christian art Mary is sometimes depicted with her foot on the head of the serpent.

            The NAB, it seems to me, is careful to distinguish between what the passage actually says, and what "Christian tradition" (with a small t) has made of it. The NAB does not assert that Genesis 3:15 actually contains a prediction about the Virgin Mary. It might be argued that the modern exegete should simply ignore Christian tradition and concentrate on what the text actually says. However, even in my Jewish Study Bible, the Jewish scholars occasionally take note of Christian interpretations of key passages of Hebrew Scripture even though they don't accept them. So I think it is appropriate for a Catholic exegete to take note of traditional Catholic interpretations, even when they are not justified by the text.

          • Lazarus

            That is a good example. Still, I would say that in Catholicism the opportunity to interpret the Bible as you wish is much reduced. Even in an example such as the one you cited the Catholic has two or three very narrowly described options of exegesis that could be regarded as viable.

          • David Nickol

            It seems to me that outside Catholicism, while there are (rare) people who insist on their own personal interpretation of the Bible, there are largely a limited number of schools of thought to which most Bible-believers belong. Within Catholicism, there is certainly room for personal interpretations, but the Catholic Church reserves to itself the right to be the ultimate authority.

            I think a lot of "conservative" Catholics are either ignorant of what contemporary Catholic exegetes have to say about the Bible, or they are appalled and consider contemporary exegesis to be heretical. The faction here that I call "Strange Notions Catholics" do not like the New American Bible and seem to rely on the Ignatius Study Bible. Ironically, the preferred Bible today of "conservative" Catholics is often the Revised Standard Version (with a handful of trivial "Catholic" changes), which sat on my non-Catholic father's shelf untouched for years because the other five of us in the house (all Catholics) were forbidden to look at it.

            ‘The stone that the builders rejected
            has become the cornerstone;
            by the Lord has this been done,
            and it is wonderful in our eyes’

          • Lazarus

            When I really want to do some serious exegetical work (which mercifully is not that often) I regard Pope Benedict as my go-to guy. What a scholar.

          • David Nickol

            Strange. He is undoubtedly a brilliant theologian, but I don't consider him a biblical scholar (like John P. Meier, Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmeyer, and others). The Jesus of Nazareth volumes are interesting, but they are basically "popularizations" from a very personal point of view.

          • Lazarus

            Please don't read those if you want to see Benedict in full flight. They are indeed popular works, aimed at a very non-scholarly market. Explore some of his other work, I can give you some recommendations if you wish.

            Brown is in a class of his own, Meier is great, Fitzmeyer can be quite derivative. There are a few young guns coming to the fore in the field.

          • David Nickol

            Sure, I would be interested in a recommendation that shows Benedict in "full flight" as a biblical scholar. And I would be interested to know whom you consider to be "young guns."

          • Lazarus

            By Ratzinger himself :
            The Spirit of the Liturgy ;
            The Transforming Power of Faith;
            Behold the Pierced One or
            Truth and Tolerance.

            About Ratzinger :
            Resurrection Realism : Patrick Fletcher
            The Ratzinger Reader (various)

            His various conversations with Peter Seewald are also worth the time. There are so many other good titles that I can personally recommend . Maybe add his "Milestones".

            As to other worthwhile Catholic theologians and scholars, more of recent vintage, I would suggest you consider anything by Gerhard Lohfink, Gerald O'Collins, Richard Bauckham, John F. Haught, Denis Edwards, Thomas Massaro...

            That is a terribly eclectic list just picked randomly from my library, with a very indistinct understanding of "young guns" ;)

          • David Nickol

            Ordered The Transforming Power of Faith, Behold the Pierced One, and Truth and Tolerance. (Anything with the word liturgy in it, even a book title, puts me to sleep.)

            I already own two books by Gerhard Lohfink and three by Gerald O'Collins.

            Thanks for the recommendations.

          • Lazarus

            I hope you find some value there. If not, send me the bill ;)

          • David Nickol

            It was a pleasant surprise to find all the Ratzinger titles were reasonably priced. Often books recommended by participants in forums like this one are either out of print, with used copies costing $50 and up, or, if in print, at least that expensive, even if there is a Kindle version. Having spent my entire career in the publishing industry, I can understand why some books (especially textbooks) are so expensive. But I am often mystified why others seem so outrageously overpriced.

          • Alexandra

            Hi Doug, (Sorry for the delay in responding.)

            >>>"It should be. In my experience, many believers interpret the Bible on the assumption that it will confirm something that they are already convinced must be the truth."

            I trust your experience,- mine is limited on this subject. Its saddens me that people do this. You run the risk of misleading yourself.

            I think Pope Benedict XVI said it well:
            "...every exegesis must fall short of the magnitude of the Biblical text. No matter what explanation we give, it will be inadequate."

          • No! I am using a reasonable interpretation of the age of the earth and the universe from the Bible as a whole. It is actually not an interpretation, it is a reasoned inference from statements made in the Bible as facts.

          • Alexandra

            Sorry Brian, I should have asked if it was your interpretation/inference, rather than assumed it. My assumption was based on creationists following the young earth interpretation. A further description is indicated here:
            https://strangenotions.com/what-is-the-difference-between-creation-evolution-intelligent-design/
            Your further responses to others has answered my questions. :) Thanks.

        • Lazarus

          Maybe a brief study of the ancient Catholic practice of lectio divina will show the honest enquirer some of the rich and varied ways in which Catholics are encouraged and "allowed" to interpret Scripture while throughout retaining meaning.

          Science sometimes jarringly contrasts with a literal reading of the Bible, but that certainly does not limit or destroy the value that can be derived from the Bible. Such interpretation need not be vague at all. I suppose though that it may seem that way to someone not involved in that process though.

          Your comment about poetry is an interesting one. Would you agree that some of the Psalms can be viewed as poetry? Do we really interpret our modern day records of "things that actually happened" as science? What about politics, and law, and art?

          • The question I am addressing is the idea of taking the bible as being an entirely true and historical account of the origin of the world and of the people involved. It is an incredibly varied and multi sourced collection of writings and editing over thousands of years. Some of it is oral tradition written down some of it is poetry some of is theological instruction. But, at times, it makes claims about empirical things which on a plain reading conflict with what science tells us. Since, and only since science has shown these plain readings to be false, some theological traditions like Catholicism have interpreted them differently. Others maintain that the plain reading is accurate and hold that the earth is only 6000 years old.

            Anything can be viewed as poetry and from my experience of the psalms that is exactly what they are. I don't know about politics, but law has generally accepted tools of interpretation of texts. These prioritize a plain reading unless there is a reason to do otherwise.

          • Lazarus

            The Bible should clearly not be used as a reliable manual on science, or even history, in most instances. You are not going to find too many Catholics advocating that approach.

  • And by the way, mr Barron states things as obvious which are not and which I dispute. The Big Bang theory does not entail a contingent universe and therefore a god. These are philosophical musings which are not grounded in empirical science.

    • Robert Macri

      The Big Bang theory does not entail a contingent universe and therefore a god.

      If, in fact, the universe began as a singularity, then that is exactly what the Big Bang Theory does do, because space-time itself came into being at that moment as well.

      Some, like Hawking, attempt to play a shell game where there is no definable "time zero" (just as there is no start or end position on the surface of a basketball), but that no more avoids the conclusion of contingency than a round object such as a basketball avoids the need for a manufacturer. (And it seems to me that Hawking has no scientific reason to attempt this, but is driven by purely philosophical motives: namely, his atheism.) Furthermore, Hawking's "solution" turns the universe into a massive "perpetual work" machine (I do not like the misnomer "perpetual motion", but that is what I am referring to), which cannot be defended.

      Others speak of a multiverse (spawning new universes endlessly), but there is no empirical evidence for such a supposition, and there are reasons to suspect that such a system could not extend back in time indefinitely (based, for instance, on the laws of thermodynamics. I have provided such arguments elsewhere, and can repeat them if anyone is interested.)

      But if we are going to claim the authority of science we must stick to what is in evidence, not muse on science fiction.

      Now, because our theories cannot extend all the way back to any "time zero" (but only to the Planck epoch), it is possible that other things happened before that which we do not know about but which could be relevant to the discussion, but those "things" are not currently in evidence and thus do not enjoy the authority of science. The expansion of the universe from a immensely-dense, miniscule state is in evidence and does have scientific backing. It is this, I am sure, to which Bishop Barron refers.

      That is, it is perfectly reasonable to state that existing scientific evidence (not science-fiction or science fancy) is compatible with religious faith.

      It is not reasonable to state that some arbitrary, hypothetical physical phenomenon which has no current empirical support can disprove anything at all. We can imagine different things, but imagining does not constitute science.

      Scientific understanding can and does change, but that is not an argument against measuring a hypothesis (such as creation in the Catholic understanding) against existing hard evidence.

      • It think you are wrong on this. Consider your statement that time arose at "that moment" this doesn't make sense. There was no moment for time to arise in, because time did not exist. There was no time at which material reality did not exist.

  • Clay

    “A man is perfectly entitled to laugh at a thing because he happens to find it incomprehensible. What he has no right to do is to laugh at it as incomprehensible, and then criticise it as if he comprehended it. The very fact of its unfamiliarity and mystery ought to set him thinking about the deeper causes that make people so different from himself, and that without merely assuming that they must be inferior to himself.

    ~G.K. Chesterton: “What I Saw in America.”

    • Robert Macri

      A wonderful quote. Thanks!

  • FPrefect

    You can't demonstrate that a god or anything else must exist merely by pointing out that things in the universe come from other things and placing something as a root cause ahead of it and expect to be taken seriously. The philosophical notion that something must be a first mover setting all other movement in motion requires you to exempt the mover from the chain. This supposed initial mover gets a lot of specificity attached to it through some of the various religions and their claims of revelations. However, unless we include the unverifiable testimony from antiquity or the claims of modern day mystics, the arguments never really gets beyond that point: a first mover had to create the first motion. This is where your contingency argument dead ends.

    Now, nobody has any empirical evidence of what that mover was or can properly explain away why the chain cannot be infinite. However, the mover is alleged to be an outside operator or a predecessor of the rules which govern the universe. No evidence or even argument is ever presented to support the claim that the initial mover is responsible for these rules. The philosophical argument never extends to offer such a mover any authority or even conscienceless. Philosophers invent this authority out of thin air and give it to the mover.

    That isn't to say science has any better ideas for the existence of movement or the laws that we observe governing at least our little corner of the universe. Some speculate that true nothingness is unstable and that something has to explode out of nothing. Why is it unstable then? What makes that the rule? It gets absurdly off the rail from this point.

    Where you seem to get lost in your assessment of the ideas of others is that you assume the scientific method of inquiry has a limit and that these questions are unanswerable. That limit puts all of the ultimate answers forever out of reach unless there is an awareness of some form out there interested in sharing it with. It being itself not governed by any rules, any time of intervention imaginable is suddenly thrust into the realm of possibility. Imagination and delusion are no longer separable from delusion of any sort and any scrutiny to a claim is longer capable of sound assessment as the party making the revelation is not governed by any rules. Going back to the point though, why must there be a limit? Science has certainly not even approached the ultimate answers to our deepest big questions but it has already unlocked medicines and technologies beyond the imagination of even the earliest religious thinkers. Science isn't defeated by the unknown and unless you have some reason to believe that certain things are forever unknowable that you've neglected to ask before, you haven't shown a limit exists to the extent that science can answer questions.

    Now you point out, accurately, that there is no reason that scientific reasoning and religious reasoning need to be in conflict. Unfortunately, you fall off the track by appealing to the religiosity of scientific thinkers. It wouldn't matter if they believed in pink unicorns. Scientific theories are not forever subject to the belief systems held by their original authors. Scientists also have a long history of being wrong. The process builds off both failure and success. However, over the long run, science has taken us from caves to skyscrapers and from blood letting to therapies which have extended the human lifespan in ways that religious claims have never been able to. Religious claims that can be verified become understood within science while all other religious claims either have been completely disproven or remain unverified.

    You were right to point out that scientific success stories may blind many to religion but if religion has something to offer this world, it sure has been keeping itself rather silent. As a Catholic, you certainly have your reasons for rejecting the claims of other religions. You reject spirituality of various forms in the very language of your Apostle's Creed. Fortunately for you, you accept the findings of science. I mean, we're on the internet right now. It seems that we both benefit from science. We both even learn from it. However, you and I reject almost all of the same spiritual notions. We reject almost all of the same metaphysics. The difference is that I also reject yours because it fails for precisely the same reasons. That not smugness, I get no joy in the conclusion that what you and millions of others believe fails to answer the same questions that science has so far failed to answer. I'm still left as clueless about it all as you are.

    However, I consider myself open-minded. I've been wrong in my life on a great many occasions. Maybe your view has some rational answers to my questions that you have yet to provide. The world is waiting for those answers but if you truly think you and your philosophy have a place at the same level or even above science, you'll have to do better than griping that the kids on youtube don't like you or pointing out that a great many smart people have been religious. You'll have to justify the value and meaning you hold in your worldview. If it truly merits acceptance, you'll have to explain why your religion triumphs over its religious competitors and why it is better or equally prepared than science to address the most burning questions regarding human existence.

  • Richard Casey

    There is no science without God, they are one and the same! Living Energy is all the proof necessary. Think about it!

    • FPrefect

      That is an unsupported assertion amd not an argument. You just demonstrated the type of flawed debate strategy that rightfully gets believers laughed at. Living energy? So if scientists manage to create life from non-life, will you change your mind?

      • Lazarus

        Richard's argument is most certainly not "an unsupported assertion". It is, at least as far as the first sentence is concerned, a conclusion that follows for the Christian at the end of the assessment that leads to faith. You may of course disagree with that conclusion, but it is most certainly not "unsupported ".

        And why on earth would scientific replication do away with the Christian perspective? From the Christian perspective we are co-creators with God, and we create order, life, progress and so on all the time - just like we believe God does.

        • FPrefect

          You still haven't provided support and neither has Richard. In fact, you seem to suffer from the same problem as he does. A mere statement of a contrary position isn't an argument.

          He stated that existence of living energy alone was proof of a god. I thought that position idiotic and asked that natural follow up question. What if we can create livong energy from non living elements. That would demonstrate that it is possible for an entity that isn't a god to create life. That still wouldn't prove a negative but it would show that life isn't the exclusive domain of a god thus negating the premise of his argument that the existence of living energy was in it of itself proof of a god. As I just showed, it isn't proof of squat. It is, as I said, an unsupported assertion and anyone considering his statement honestly and logically is forced to comw to that conclusion. I'll never understand how people who credit a god for everything can't be bothered to use the reasoning skills they presume their god gave them. You guys do yourself a disservice by not engaging in the debate seriously. Now, do better or admit you're either unwilling or unable.

          • Lazarus

            You continue to define yourself to victory. In the meantime you have failed to deal with even my opening premise, that is that the Christian worldview leads to certain assumptions and lived realities, which may or may not be objective truths, but that for the Christian those realities are certainly not unsupported assertions.

            Edited to remove unnecessary crankiness.

          • Doug Shaver

            the Christian worldview leads to certain assumptions and lived realities

            No worldview leads to assumptions. Every worldview starts with assumptions.

          • Lazarus

            I disagree with that, and I do so from personal experience. My investigation of faith, the arguments for and against the existence and nature of God, a long list of experiences and considerations, have brought me to a place where i had to choose whether to live the life of faith or not, whether that which the Church requires of me is warranted. Based on my own assessment, based on my own experiences, and fully accepting and understanding that I do so on faith, I have made a whole series of assumptions. I assume that God exists, and that he is accurately described by the Church, I assume that Jesus was resurrected and that has consequences for my life. My faith is my worldview, my faith is a long list of (in my view, at least) warranted assumptions.

          • Doug Shaver

            My faith is my worldview, my faith is a long list of (in my view, at least) warranted assumptions.

            That confirms what I said, except that I said nothing about whether the assumptions constituting a worldview were warranted. My worldview is a set of assumptions, too, and of course I think they're all warranted.

          • FPrefect

            You're along way from objective truths as you haven't even reached rational thought. You started by defending Richard's post "There is no science without God, they are one and the same! Living Energy is all the proof necessary. Think about it!" That's it in its entirety. He provided no support for his assertions and you have, so far, failed to contribute anything that remotely provides either substance to the dialogue or the most basic shred of support for his assumptions.

            In your cart before the horse argument, you've merely restated your unsupported position. "...the Christian worldview leads to certain assumptions and lived realities, which may or may not be objective truths, but that for the Christian those realities are certainly not unsupported assertions." We can break down this backward notion too though. It may not help you but might be educational for anyone else reading it:

            First: "The Christian worldview leads to..." See, you are already lost in the woods here. The problem being that the world view itself is a product of causation.

            Second: "certain assumptions and lived realities" Starting with the premise that there is a god certainly changes the way you view the world and nobody with argue with that.The problem is that the argument doesn't begin with the Christian world view. That would be circular reasoning akin to saying that the bible is true because the bible says it is true.

            Third: "which may or may not be objective truths" I may or may not have had a sandwich for lunch yesterday. If I did, then my having had a sandwich is objectively true. If I did not, it isn't objectively true. It really isn't that hard a concept to grasp.

            Finally: "but that for the Christian those realities are certainly not unsupported assertions" If my dietary concerns were of concern to millions of people and they really really hoped that I had a sandwich, that hope and any underlying philosophy pertaining to it would still be completely irrelevant to the objective truth of what I in fact had for lunch. No amount of prayer, meditation, or squinting their eyes would change that or provide any support whatsoever. The christian worldview doesn't provide support for Richard's or your assumptions. Now, that isn't to say a Christian can't can't offer up objective evidence to prove anything. It merely states that being a Christian or having such a worldview isn't in it of itself evidence of anything. A Christian can apply reason or the scientific method. There are tons of bright Christians out there who do this all the time. All I've merely explained to you is that there is absolutely zero support from Richard's assumptions and no matter how hard you pray or wish otherwise, you don't alter objective reality.

            Now, you've made it clear that I've made you cranky. There really isn't a nice way to another person that they are dead wrong on a point. I can only attempt to assure you that I don't do it out of malice or hatred. Some of the kindest and most wonderful people I've ever met have been Christians. Many Christians I've met have been smarter than me, stronger than me, and more caring than me. I count many Christians among my friends, heroes, and cherished relatives. I have concluded using nothing more than reason and logic that you are absolutely incorrect. I understand that religion is a deeply personal thing and that the mere act of challenging it stirs up emotional responses in the most ardent believers. I hope you'll see beyond that emotional response and focus on the logic or at the very least understand that my opposition is not based on a desire to make you suffer.

          • Lazarus

            You must be absolutely breathless after all of that.

            Your ramblings make it clear, to me at least, that you (a) have not understood my original point and (b) have no interest in civil discourse. I am however greatly relieved that you have "no desire to make (me) suffer".

            You have set up an array of strawmen on topics that I have not mentioned or even hinted at. I really do not see it to be a wise investment in time to dismantle that crow's nest of topics that you have raised. I'm sure that within that box there's another one, and another one.

            So, I'm going to let you chalk up a victory, while I ask you very naively, and with dwindling hope, to carefully read what I wrote. Notice how it answers your first criticism. Notice how it has sweet nothing to do with your most recent army of strawmen. If you get it, and want to discuss it, I would be glad to take it further with you. If you want to continue our "discussion" as you have up to now I will congratulate you on your victory and say goodbye.

    • Doug Shaver

      Think about it!

      Do you think it possible for someone to think about it and still disagree with you?

  • immortalwombat10 .

    My problem with this article is its title and conclusion dont match its import. To replace "science" with scientism, then to say that scientism and religion are diametrically opposed in our modern society, and then to claim its a myth that science and religion are opposed just further muddies the water. The fact is in modern terms they are in opposition, and frankly should be.

    Religion drove the great historical scientists to learn because that is the basis upon which religion thrives, Growing in knowledge, testing everything and holding on to the good. When a person does something wrong morally, the way to change and do it rightly, is to become knowledgeable of what was wrong and to change where they were ignorant of their actions. Its fundamental to religion, so it results often in the pursuit of knowledge as a byproduct.

    On the flip side, the pursuit of knowledge by itself without that intrinsic motivation is merely egotistic, to inflate oneself on the basis of superiority. So the basis upon which science derives itself is inherently opposed even though science is often the result of religious pursuits.

    Think of it akin to marriage. If a person marries because they first have a basis of love, it will often lead to children. But if a person merely has a child without love, its almost always the complete opposite result both for the life of the child, and the life of the relationship that bore it.

  • Frida

    I do have a comment to make, and by no means do I mean for my comment to sound like I disagree with the very well put together commentary by Bishop Barron. However, in his statement "But the world, precisely as created by a divine intelligence, is thoroughly intelligible, and hence scientists have the confidence to seek, explore, and experiment" there is a lack of explanation of the ethics that are equally important to practice along with the freedom to "explore and experiment", because within the created universe, there are divine things intertwined with them, mainly, God's presence and His Breath of Life within each created human being. And though our souls may not be Divine as being "God", they are to be held with a certain reverence. We can see the body, we have dissected it and analyzed it, but also in the name of science very unethical experiments have been performed on human beings, from conception to elderly and the mentally unstable. The fact that the universe and everything within it was "created" by an infinitely intelligible God does not give us the right nor permission to conduct such inhumane and unethical experiments where reverence for life is lost. Also, with all due respect, I do very much disagree with Phil Rimmer in his reply to ClayJames a day ago, where he said in regards to the existence of the soul that "You can't [prove its existence]. You can only have growing confidence that they don't exist by failing to find unaccountable brain states." Imagine that mentality before Einstein's time regarding gravity, and trying to deny its existence because humanity hadn't arrived to the discovery of its scientific proof. But not only that... He is also trying to deny its existence because a lack of proof for it in a completely different mechanism, that is, the brain. And by that comment I do not mean to disproof the possibility of the soul leaving an imprint in our brain, even if we have not yet found that state (As if now a days we know "everything"). But what I mean is that the soul can dwell within a body, record all its information and memories, and yet be completely independent from it. Just like a flash drive can be plugged into a computer, record all its information, or bring new information to it, and yet, when disconnected from the computer, you wouldn't necessarily know it was ever plugged into it. My analogy and explanation are lacking a lot of intricate details, but my main point in my comment is just to draw attention to the fact that just because things and human beings were "created", this fact alone does not grant us permission to experiment without proper ethics, specially in grounds regarding life, the soul and the human dignity.

  • Soupy

    Too many people today are "book smart" and have lost their natural ability for "common sense" ... why all the back and forth talking about "intellectualism and free thinkers?" ... I'm 84 and guess what? I believe that there had to be something there that caused the "Big Bang" ... Stephen Hawkins went as far back as he could with all due respect, and he came up with a "SINGULARITY" ?? ... I say the Singularity is "GOD" !

  • Ken

    I’ve had many conversations online with atheist and it very
    quickly boils down to them making some statement like “you’re ignorant” or “you
    obviously didnd go to college” or “if you studied science you would understand
    and not think like that”. Then they tell me that almost all scientists are atheist so that proves that religion is based on ignorance. Funny thing is that while I have had conversations with dozens of atheists who tell me their beliefs are based on science, I have not found one who actually clams to be a scientist. So the fact is that their beliefs are based on the faith they have in scientists, not science its self.
    I try to point out that this is no different than me saying i believe something because my priest told me, but they dont seem to get it. "no science is based on reason, while religion is based on faith", at least that is what they were told in science class. Science has become the religion of our time and scientists the new high priest.

    • neil_pogi

      atheists are telling the public that the universe created itself ('pop' - oh well, they hate this word, so i use 'created itself') - evidence please! or is this based merely on blind faith? i really like to know what are the instruments they use in detecting that a 'nothing' has creative power!

      atheists are telling the public that the origin of life evolved from non-living matter - but why living matter suddenly dies? is there another way of reviving it? to come into life again? is this based on faith or science?

  • Jim Jones

    > "The most glaring of these is what I would call scientism"

    And . . . we're done. If you have to invent insults just to make your point you really don't have any basis for your argument. No amount of wishful thinking can make up for that.

    > "my attempts to demonstrate that God must exist"

    Define 'god'.

    • Alexandra

      Hi Jim,
      "Scientism" is neither an invented term by Bishop Barron nor an insult, per se. It's a description of a world view.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism

      The Catholic description of God can be found in the Catholic catechism (available online) and the Nicene creed. I'd be happy to try to answer any of your questions regarding this description if needed.

      P.S. There is a link up above under "God": to articles here at SN commenting about God's nature.

  • John

    Can you name a single fact about objective reality that can reliably be arrived at through faith or the practice of religion?

    • Lazarus

      First problem - can you name a single fact about objective reality?
      Kidding. Of course.

      I'm reading a combination of Merton and the desert fathers, and while I am light years removed from their achievements, they tell us over and over of a very clear and lived reality, facts if you will, that they arrive at through their contemplative practices. They confidently tell us how this leads them to know God, to know God's love, and they will probably simply smile when we ask them for "proof" in the way we use that word here on the Internet.

      So, let's try a more mundane, Everyman example. I can tell you that I have never felt, lived, experienced the sense of awe and wonder and community that I feel at Mass. Not in the army, not at varsity, not in any group or community. And most of us experience that on a weekly basis, right down the street. Please tell me that you are not going to deny that that experience is indeed "a single fact about objective reality that can be reliably arrived at through faith ..."

      • John

        Are you saying that you can tell that a religion's claims about reality (the existence and identity of supernatural beings, events in history, etc.) are true when believers feel a sense of awe, wonder, and community? Don't Evangelicals, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists all feel a sense of awe, wonder, and community through the "lived reality" of their religions?

        Your religion (and everyone else's) makes claims about reality. How do we *reliably* determine which ones are true? Surely it's not just by feelings, right?

        • Lazarus

          Personally I believe that all of those religions somehow touch some truth, some reality that is available to us. I am indeed saying that there are avenues of knowledge and actual experience open to us that cannot, and maybe should not, be dissected in a laboratory. These are examples. And as to "reliably" - it is simply unfair to unilaterally declare that such personal experience is unreliable. It may well turn out to be the most reliable way of experience open to us. And it is open to all of us, no hearsay necessary. There is simply no convincing evidence that precludes this type of evidence as being as veridical as what you are looking for.

          • John

            Are you concerned with whether your beliefs are true or not? Do you believe that your religion accurately describes reality?

          • Lazarus

            I am indeed, I think everyone should be concerned about that. The dilemma we face is that there is no objectively compelling method by which we can establish the full extent of that truth. Science is tempting as an answer, because it gives us these testable realities to work with. But is that all, is that really the only tools in the human toolbox? I would say no.

            With that in mind I eventually arrived at a place where, after a lot of intellectual work, I knew I had to choose. I am not one of those believers that will even try to convince you that my religion must be true. I hold that all of us should freely concede the possibility that our metaphysical and religious views may be wrong. From that acceptance my Catholicism is for me the most plausible option. Not perfect, not always easy, but the best of the live options. For me.

            Over the years I've made peace with the possibility of being wrong. The accuracy of my beliefs are very important to me, but I simply don't think that we can arrive at absolute certainty. And, if you show me conclusively that I had it wrong a day before I die I will still regard it all as a beautiful and worthwhile ride.

            As to accurately describing reality, we should bear in mind that Catholicism in no way limits or precludes me from seeing reality in a "scientific manner" (which largely I do) - it just goes further than that. In other words, at best I am indeed experiencing reality in its fullness, or at worst, I am experiencing reality with a few unnecessary add-ons.

  • Ken

    Dkdkk

  • Jack

    Lovely article. The argument is outstanding.

  • I agree and believe that a connection can lead to the awaited truths.

    https://connectivityweb.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/connectivity-beyond-limits/