Thursday, April 26, 2012

yet another blog from a rational catholic scientist

“It is also necessary—may God grant it!—that in providing others with books to read I myself should make progress, and that in trying to answer their questions I myself should find what I am seeking.
Therefore at the command of God our Lord and with his help, I have undertaken not so much to discourse with authority on matters known to me as to know them better by discoursing devoutly of them.”
St. Augustine of Hippo, The Trinity I,8. 

This is to be a blog about the consonance/compatibility of science and the teachings of the Catholic Church.     If you ask why yet another blog about science and religion, I'll answer that I hope to bring a different perspective, as a late convert to the Church (at the age of 64, 18 years ago) and as a physicist (now retired after 60 years in academia and medical physics).

Being a physicist (since 1951), I should, according to popular opinion, be an atheist, or at worst an agnostic with no clear idea of whether God exists or that He acts in the world.   That opinion, given loud voice in the media and on the internet, is of course not correct.   There are many physicists, among them Nobel Prize winners, who are believers  (to be listed later) just as there are many who are not.

So, scientific achievement is not in itself a basis for crediting or discrediting belief in God, nor should it be on rational grounds.    There are intelligent people who are atheists, and there are intelligent people who are theists.    And it is not true, despite claims of evangelical atheists to the contrary, that one either lacks intellectual acuity or has to suppress one’s critical faculties in order to believe in God.

What then are the roots of faith, and in this context, by faith I mean belief in God?  The purpose of this blog is to explore (but not necessarily answer) this question in both a general and personal way.    To begin,  I offer a general apology (not apologia):  I am not a professional philosopher although I have done much undirected reading in this last decade.   What philosophical discourse I’ll attempt will be distilled from such reading and, of course, can be subjected to critical analysis by those more academically versed in philosophical arguments.

First, I’ll discuss what might be rational (and sometimes irrational) grounds for belief, particularly belief in God.     Next, I will give a personal account of my own (rather later) road to belief, which was, unlike St. Paul’s, a top-down conversion.    Finally, I will    examine what the world around us tells us about the existence and intervention of God, in both a scientific and supra-scientific context.

I will also try to show (as a quondam practicing scientist) the "Limits of a Limitless Science" (the elegant phrase used by Fr. Stanly Jaki) and, in particular, that my faith as a Catholic is entirely consonant with what science tells us about the world.

I hope comments will be constructive and, based on unhappy experience with evangelical atheists on Facebook and other web sites, I will be ruthless in deleting comments and barring posters who are rude, uninformed and clearly not seeking a meaningful dialog.

One word about the header picture:  the left hand image is that of William Blake's beautiful painting, "The Ancient of Days";  the middle image is that of the hypothetical digrammatic history/timeline of the universe, including its inflationary phase (the bell shape at the beginning);  the right hand image is a WMAP image of microwave radiation from the original creation event, the embers left of the initial gigantic energy of "the Big Bang", the observation of which is crucial evidence for that initial event.  Together these illustrate what a synthesis of faith and reason can achieve.

More will be forthcoming, at an irregular rate....Thanks for looking.

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