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Posts Tagged ‘Science’

If you haven’t seen this short segment, take a couple minutes to watch before reading further.  It’s quite entertaining 🙂

Well who could help being intrigued by devout atheist Bill Maher being in the lineup of Stephen Colbert, a practicing Catholic and outspoken defender of religion (both traits being anomalies in modern entertainment, to be sure).

As you can see, only a small fraction of the Maher segment dealt with religion.  But what little of the “big R” did show up packed more than enough “punch” for a spirited discussion, so here comes my response.

First, we’ll deal with the following statement:

I do admit there are things in the universe I don’t understand.  But my response to that is not to make up silly stories.

Notice that this response does not address the whole of what Colbert said.  (more…)

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Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)“Pope Francis Korea Haemi Castle 19 (cropped)” by Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped).jpg#/media/File:Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped).jpg

Every month, the Pope comes out with two specific prayer intentions: Universal and Missionary.  I have identified these in the past, but this time I decided they deserved a brief bit of commentary.

Scientists

InvestigadoresUR” by Urcomunicacion – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:InvestigadoresUR.JPG#/media/File:InvestigadoresUR.JPG

Universal Intention: 

That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Let’s be clear: Science is good.  It has been, and still is, an invaluable tool for humanity and has made a tremendous difference in so many ways.
The problem, from the Church’s (and, I hope, from any reasonable person’s) perspective, is not science, but scientism.  Scientism is the misguided belief that science can answer virtually everything, rendering religion invalid.  It reduces all knowledge to what is quantifiable, empirically discoverable, and verifiable by means of the scientific method.
In its most extreme form, scientism reduces the human person at the individual level to mere biology, and at the collective level to numbers or to marks on a “grid.”  With this view of humanity in place, matters of importance are not decided by the question, “Should we do it?”  Rather, they are decided by the question, “Can we do it?  Do we have the capability?”
And if carrying out our capabilities for what we consider the greater good means shutting down a particular biological configuration (the individual) or clearing out a few marks on a grid (groups), then so be it.  As the saying goes, “If you want to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs.”
Let us always make sure that scientific endeavors serve the genuine good of humanity, rather than subjugating the human person to the advancement of science.
I would like to mention, in passing, a fascinating and eye-opening book on this subject for those who are interested in exploring the notion of scientism further: “Technology as Symptom and Dream,” by Robert D. Romanyshyn.
Dorothy_Day_1934“Dorothy Day 1934” by New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection – New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dorothy_Day_1934.jpg#/media/File:Dorothy_Day_1934.jpg
 Missionary Intention:
Contribution of Women:  That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.
It may surprise many people to learn that the Catholic Church has a very robust and inspiring theology of womanhood.  In fact, the Church is at one and the same time more feminist and more “masculinist” than most of Western culture, which tends to regard gender as a mere biological accident (here again is the scientistic view of the human person).
Genesis 1:27 tells us that God made humankind in His image, and in the same sentence tells us this: “[M]ale and female he created them.”  Man and woman image God together; neither gender fully does so by itself.  Therefore, men and woman share equal dignity and offer unique gifts to the world, humanity, and the Church.
For more information on this, see my Mother’s Day and Father’s Day posts from 2013.
Images from Wikipedia

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A recent Salon.com article cited statistics indicating that the greatest Western intellectuals — in both science and philosophy — are leaning more and more in favor of disbelief in God.

Frankly, my first response to this was to recall how God often uses the foolish to shame the wise, revealing to little children what He has “hidden from the wise and the learned” (Mt. 11:25).

But for a fuller treatment of the issue, I refer you to Fr. Robert Barron’s latest video.  He nails it, as always 🙂

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Orpheus_EurydiceUndoubtedly one of the saddest myths of the ancient world was that of Orpheus and Eurydice.  After charming his way into Hades to find the soul of his deceased wife (Eurydice), Orpheus is promised that he can have her back from the dead as long as he does not turn around and look at her until he has reentered the Land of the Living.  Alas, he looks back too soon, and loses his beloved forever.

Orpheus is a sort of shadowy Christ-figure (albeit a failed one).  I imagine him walking forward towards the light with his beloved bride behind him, relying upon him to show him the way.

In my mind, there are a couple of analogies that could work here: Jesus Christ is the Orpheus-figure, and Eurydice represents His Bride, the Church.  And unlike Orpheus, Christ leads His Beloved unfailingly toward the light of the Kingdom.

Alternatively, we could look at it this way: Christ is the light at the end of the tunnel; mankind is Orpheus; and the remainder of creation is Eurydice.  And it is our “Orphic” duty to lead creation to its fulfillment in the Sabbath Rest which is the coming of God’s Kingdom.

But what happens when we turn our backs to the light?  What happens is we forfeit life — for ourselves, and for the creation subjugated to our dominion.

Dawn_of_the_Planet_of_the_ApesOkay…so what does any of this have to do with Matt Reeves’ recently released film “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?”  A decent amount — but what I have to say bears on the recent “Apes” franchise in general.

Rise-Planet-Apes-TrailerThe 2011 film “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” directed by Rupert Wyatt, shows us the genesis of the apes’ takeover of the earth.  Basically, the apes develop their human-like intelligence as a result of being the subjects of experimental drug testing.  Clearly, this is an example of human science and technology gone awry.  Good in themselves, they are divorced from a moral and ethical framework and subjugated to the modern technological hubris of man — or the idea that we should do something simply because we have the capability.

It is interesting, in this case, to note the ancient sense of the word “hubris.”  Blogger Alex Jones brought this up in a comment he made on my most recent post:

The opposite of wisdom is the ancient word “hubris.” Hubris in the ancient sense is belief in an opinion that is contrary to how it is in reality. (Bold mine)

Not that science and technology are the only areas of human endeavor that can be affected by, and in turn affect, this impulse; but they are particularly strong in conveying to man a degree of control over reality, and therefore take on a particular danger if not handled carefully.

Original Sin

In any case, this understanding of hubris is the essential aspect of the sin of Adam and Eve and their fall from grace.  By eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil — that is, by arrogating to themselves the uniquely divine prerogative of determining right and wrong — they presumed to make themselves the masters of reality.

So from the very beginning, we have been guilty of the “sin of Orpheus.”  We have abandoned our “Light” (God), and we have failed our “Eurydice” (creation) — and with disastrous consequences.

I’ll talk more about “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” — though without spoilers — in part two.

Still from “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia

 

 

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Fr. Barron at his best 🙂

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