By Michael Britton
It could be argued that science and scientific enquiry have reached a critical turning point in its evolution; with some, paraphrasing a Nietzschean term, have proclaimed that “science is dead.”
There are growing numbers of people who no longer subscribe to the belief in anthropogenic global warming, less parents are having their children vaccinated and the belief that the universe spontaneously came into existence from nothing, is also under fire.
Others have argued that science has become more driven by faith than pragmatic enquiry.
For example, agenda-driven scientific documentaries fill the screens of nations, telling viewers that if there a billion galaxies each with a billion suns and that each sun has plenty of planets, then there “must be life out there.”
Given the sheer numbers, this seems to be a logical and reasonable statement but, as the philosopher Professor Karl Popper stated: Any claimed scientific finding, also needs to be able to be falsified, or it is not a finding at all.
Therefore the finding that there “must be life out there” cannot be falsified because it is more of a scientific hope or gamble than an empirical and actual finding.
In fact, if anyone wanted to take a pragmatic, even scientific, gamble on the existence of God (and its implications) they could test out philosopher Blaise Paschal’s wager which sets out four approaches to life and what it might mean for the afterlife.
Firstly, God exists and a person lives their life as though he does; a good outcome for that particular person.
Secondly, God doesn’t exist but a person still lives their life as if he does; similarly, a good outcome as they lived a good life.
Thirdly, God exists but a person doesn’t live their life as if he did exist; could be a worry when death comes knocking.
And lastly, God doesn’t exist and a person doesn’t live their life as if He does; not much of a worry when death comes as nothing would make any difference because everything meant nothing.
In essence, Paschal gives four out of four reasons to logically believe, and live, as if God exists.
In some of the areas where science has progressed, faith has receded. But belief in God and science are not mutually exclusive fields of study. Catholics are given quite a lot of latitude in how they may approach the existence of the universe.
The Big Bang Theory, first postulated by Belgian priest, Father Lemaître, the evolution of humanity through Darwin’s findings and the Genesis story of creation are entirely compatible.
The Church hasn’t proclaimed that the world was made in seven days since the days of the early Church Fathers; and even then it wasn’t a unanimous belief.
The rest of the Genesis story is more of an allegory about the ontological death (or “wounds to the soul”) that sin causes; it doesn’t oppose the Big Bang Theory but, rather, compliments it.
To its credit, science has slowed pulled away many veils and uncovered many mysteries to life as we know it. But as the recently deceased Stephen Hawking stated later in life: This proved that we needed less of God.
It is true that science has discovered many of the hidden mechanisms behind the inner workings of the universe. But, despite a long rich history between the Church and Science, it is still often maintained that a belief in God is often assumed to put one in natural opposition to science, rather than in compliment to science.
A well-known saying, also used by Saint John Paul II, asserts that faith without science is superstition whereas science without faith is Nihilism.
Belief in black ladders, black cats and broken mirrors as bad luck do not have any element of science in them and is superstition at its worst.
But, similarly, an unrelenting belief in scientific development and progress, without faith, has seen the slaughtering of millions through the creation of weaponry technologies (such as the United States’ atomic and military capabilities) the near-extermination of an entire race of people by Nazis as if nothing mattered but the attainment of a scientifically supreme human being and the Soviet’s perusal of social sciences in attempting to create a “new man for new times.”
The Church has acknowledged that a sensitive and sensible balance is required between Faith and Science and this has been promoted through Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si.
This is why the Catholic Church continues to actively commit to science through its Pontifical Academy of Sciences which appoints around 80 scientists from all races, faiths and creeds to collaboratively participate in scientific enquiry; many of whom have won Nobel Prizes through some of their inquiries into the deepest of questions regarding existence.
Pope Francis has called for this dialogue to be respectfully continued.
The Big Bang Theory is arguably the most valid theory of creation for our time, which means every single element and, subsequently, every single person, star, comet, planet and piece of space rock has come from the same single source at the same point in time.
One may call that as an act of God (as the Agent) or one may call it an event without an Agent. The deeper question, yet to be resolved, is how did humans (whose building blocks equate to around 97 per cent similarity to that of all distant stars) gain consciousness to discuss and debate such mysterious issues.
From pages 10 and 11 of Issue 13: ‘God, Science, Church’ of The Record Magazine