|Albrecht Durer, St. Michael Fighting the Dragon|
from Wikimedia Commons
“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.” [emphasis added] Stephen Hawking. ABC Interview, 2010"
The arrogance of scientists is evident nowhere more than in their zealotry against religion." Rabbi Yonason Goldson, Jewish World Review, 26th April, 2017.
"If we discuss a war between science and the Church (notice the difference in upper case), we must define what weapons are legitimate and where the battle is to take place." Robert Kurland,"Truth Cannot Contradict Truth"
Reading about the recent "March for Science" and what it really stood for*, I thought about my own past skirmishes between belief in science as the all-in-all and my need for a deeper faith. I recalled that time 22 years ago when I told scientific colleagues--friends--about my conversion and Easter entry into the Catholic Church, and I imagined them shaking their heads and saying "What's happened to old Bob, has he gone completely off his rocker?" Those were the sort of comments I had heard 40 years earlier after a promising graduate student in theoretical chemistry became a Evangelical Christian and forsook his career.
My friends were tolerant of my idiosyncratic behavior (to my face), but I could imagine them saying "he's not doing science any more so I guess this religion bit is an old age pastime." Or maybe not. According to them, belief in God indicated poor judgment, but not a moral defect. It showed poor taste, like choosing Gershwin over Bach, a Buick over an Audi, or voting for Bush (41) instead of Clinton.
The toleration they showed is becoming is much less common nowadays. There have have been a spate of recent books by theoretical physicists**, evangelical atheists who would convert religious believers to their own faith, scientism. What is scientism? It's the belief that science can explain everything that needs to be explained and that it can provide a foundation for morals and ethics.
That faith in science is misplaced. As my favorite authority on the limits of science, Fr. Stanley Jaki, would put it:
"To answer the question 'To be or not to be?' we cannot turn to a science textbook."
--Fr. Stanley Jaki, The Limits of a Limitless Science.
HOW SCIENCE WORKS--SOME CASE STUDIES
|Frankenstein's Laboratory, from Wikimedia Commons|
My wife, a student of medieval history, has told me that "History tells you most of what you need to know about a subject", so we'll start with some examples from the history of science to show 1) that science is fallible and tentative, and 2) that it is totally dependent on empirical tests.
He then introduced a theory in which heat consisted of an invisible fluid, caloric, which flowed from a hot thing to a cold thing. The theory accounted quantitatively for temperature changes when a hot body was put into a contact with a cold one (e.g. dropping a given amount of cold water into a given amount of hot water.) A principle employed in such calculations was that since caloric was a substance, i.e. something material, the total amount of caloric involved in heat transfer had to be conserved.
|Sir James Joule's Apparatus|
from Wikimedia Commons
Lakatos's "Scientific Research Programme"
- the laws of physics are the same for systems ("frames of reference") moving at constant velocity (i.e. "inertial systems");
- the speed of light (in vacuum) is constant, regardless of the speed of source or receiver;
- neither energy nor mass is conserved but only mass + energy (from E=mc²)
WHAT SCIENCE CAN'T DO
"Science...is synonymous with measurements, which are accurate because they can be expressed in numbers. Those numbers relate to tangible or material things, or rather to their spatial extensions or correlations with one another in a given moment or as time goes on.” "The Limits of a Limitless Science," Asbury Theological Journal 54 (1999), p.24
"Hamlet's question, ‘to be or not to be,’ has a meaning even deeper than whether an act is moral or immoral. That deeper meaning is not merely whether there is a life after death. The deepest perspective opened up by that question is reflection on existence in general. In raising the question, ‘to be or not to be,’ one conveys one's ability to ponder existence itself. In fact every bit of knowledge begins with the registering of something that exists. To know is to register existence. But this is precisely what science cannot do, simply because existence as such cannot be measured.[emphasis added].”--Fr. Stanley Jaki, loc. Cit., p.30.