Evolution is Accidental to Us, not to God

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“As to the Divine Design, is it not an instance of incomprehensibly and infinitely marvelous Wisdom and Design to have given certain laws to matter millions of ages ago, which have surely and precisely worked out, in the long course of those ages, those effects which He from the first proposed. Mr. Darwin’s theory need not then to be atheistical, be it true or not; it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of Divine Prescience and Skill. Perhaps your friend has got a surer clue to guide him than I have, who have never studied the question, and I do not [see] that ‘the accidental evolution of organic beings’ is inconsistent with divine design—It is accidental to us, not to God.”

—John Henry Newman, Letter to J. Walker of Scarborough, May 22, 1868

Robert Spaemann: looking beyond scientism

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Robert Spaemann

On 10 December 2018, Robert Spaemann, a great Catholic philosopher, died at the age of 91.

Is naturalism true? Spaemann gives as a warning: we should hold firm to believing in ourselves as being able to grasp truth as reality …

The following text is taken from a very dense but beautiful article called “Rationality and Faith in God”.

“The trace of God in the world that we have to take as our point of departure today is man; it is we ourselves. But this trace has the peculiarity that it is identical with its discoverer, and thus does not exist independently of him. If we, as victims of scientism, no longer believe ourselves, who we are and what we are, if we allow ourselves to be persuaded that we are merely machines for the spreading of our genes, and if we take our reason to be nothing more than the product of evolutionary adaptation, which has nothing to do with the truth, and if the self-contradiction of this claim does not horrify us, then we cannot expect that anything at all will be able to convince us of the existence of God. For, as we said above, these traces of God that we ourselves are do not exist unless we want them to, even though—thank God—God exists perfectly independently of them, whether or not we recognize him, know about him, or give him thanks. It is only we ourselves who can cross ourselves out.”

You find the text here: http://www.communio-icr.com/files/spaemann32-4.pdf , and the German original here: http://www.kath-info.de/gottesglaube.html.

Bishop Frederick Temple on Darwin’s theory of evolution

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Frederick Temple (1821-1902)

Right Reverend Frederick Temple (30 November 1821 – 23 December 1902) was an English academic, teacher, Anglican churchman, first Bishop of Exter and later Archbishop of Canterbury, known for his writings on science and religion. At his death, he was buried at the cloister garden of the Canterbury Cathedral.

At the famous meeting of the British Association in 1860, in which Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895) and Samuel Wilberforce (1805–1873) debated the theories of evolution and creationism, Rev. Temple preached a sermon in which he endorsed the theory of evolution as compatible with Christian doctrine. This same year, Temple published a series of articles in Essays and Reviews (1860) in which he outlined a historical theory of the intellectual and spiritual growth of the races, using examples from Hebrew, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and other cultures. However, the work has received as controversial and later retracted.

In 1884, Temple again addressed the theory of evolution in his “Brampton Lectures on the Relations between Religion and Science,” further elaborating:

“The doctrine of Evolution leaves the argument for an intelligent Creator and Governor of the world stronger than it was before. There is still as much as ever the proof of an intelligent purpose pervading all creation. The difference is that the execution of that purpose belongs more to the original act of creation, less to acts of government since. There is more divine foresight, there is less divine interposition; and whatever has been taken from the latter has been added to the former.”

27 November 1783: John Michell anticipates black holes

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We think of black holes as a 20th century invention, dating back to 1916, when Albert Einstein first published his theory of general relativity and fellow physicist Karl Schwarzschild used those equations to envision a spherical section of spacetime so badly warped around a concentrated mass that it is invisible to the outside world. But the true “father” of the black hole concept was a humble 18th century English clergyman named John Michell – a man so far ahead of his scientific contemporaries that his ideas languished in obscurity, until they were re-invented more than a century later.

Source: APS News – November 2009 (Volume 18, Number 10); This Month in Physics History. November 27, 1783: John Michell anticipates black holes

Image: Title and excerpt from Michell’s 1783 paper in which he first described the concept of a “dark star.” Source: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 74, p.35, 1783.

 

 

Bernard Joseph Lonergan on the Question of God

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On 26 November 1984, Bernard Joseph Lonergan (1904 – 1984) died in Pickering (Canada). A Jesuit philosopher, his chief works Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (1957) and Method in Theology (1972) deal with epistemology, in which he seeks to establish a method within theology comparable to scientific language and the scientific method.

Lonergan names St. Augustine and St. John Henry Newman as major influences upon his early thinking. In the epilogue to Insight, Lonergan mentions the important personal transformation wrought in him by a decade’s apprenticeship to the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. He produced two major exegetical studies of Thomas Aquinas: Grace and Freedom, and Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas.

Here is a glimpse into his thoughts on the Question of God

“The facts of good and evil, of progress and decline, raise questions about the character of our universe. Such questions have been put in very many ways, and the answers given have been even more numerous. But behind this multiplicity there is a basic unity that comes to light in the exercise of transcendental method. We can inquire into the possibility of fruitful inquiry. We can reflect on the nature of reflection. We can deliberate whether our deliberating is worth while. In each case, there arises the question of God.

The possibility of inquiry on the side of the subject lies in his intelligence, in his drive to know what, why, how, and in his ability to reach intellectually satisfying answers. But why should the answers that satisfy the intelligence of the subject yield anything more than a subjective satisfaction? Why should they be supposed to possess any relevance to knowledge of the universe? Of course, we assume that they do. We can point to the fact that our assumption is confirmed by its fruits. So implicitly we grant that the universe is intelligible and, once that is granted, there arises the question whether the universe could be intelligible without having an intelligent ground. But that is the question about God.”

Method in Theology (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1975), pp. 101-103.

Source: Lonergan, The Question of God

Further recommended reading: About Bernard Lonergan, 2019

Scientists reflect on their faith (XI)

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Rose Amal is an Australian chemical engineer, currently serving as Scientia Professor and ARC Laureate Fellow in the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of New South Wales, Australia, where she is the director of the Particles and Catalysis Research Group. She was recently named 2019 NSW Scientist of the Year.

Prof. Amal says that it is her Catholic faith which has guided her research career developing methods to purify air and water and create sustainable sources of energy. It is her calling and passion to help ensure future generations “have a planet in which they can live comfortably”.

She told The Catholic Weekly she felt “very honoured and humbled” to receive this award.

‘“Everyone has their different journey, depending on the background their gifts and talents and if my story inspires them it does not mean their journey will be the same,” she said.

“I am often asked to speak to young researchers, and I always tell them that we are all the author of our book, and my book is probably close to the end, but for them they have many blank pages and the power to write a good story so they should always do their best to do that.”

She hopes to inspire more school students especially girls to do science, engineering and maths subjects when they are young. […]

St Andrew’s parish priest Father Laurie Cauchi said the parish is grateful to have her as a member of its family. “Rose is so generous with her time and talents and yet so humble,” he said. “If only we had a few more parishioners like her. Rose is living proof that scientists can still have great faith in God.” […]

Prof. Amal continued: “People might see that my career is going very smoothly, that I have just cruised through, but that’s not the case. There have many hard times and failure in both my professional and private life and in those times I’ve had to rely on my faith to get through it. Many times I did not know what I should do when it came to making important decisions. I normally rely on my faith, listen to God, and then I know what I have to do to sort through these problems in a positive way.”’

Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz: Theodicy

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On 14 November 1716, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz died in Hannover (Germany). A German philosopher, logician, mathematician, and physicist, he was also a lawyer and diplomat. He was one of the most cultured and multifaceted figures in the 17th century. Independently from Isaac Newton, he arrived at the notion of infinitesimal calculus. He placed the relationship between faith and reason at the center of his reflections, particularly in his works Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man and the Origin of Evil (1710) and Principles of Nature and Grace, Based on Reason (1714). A passionate supporter of the unity of knowledge, for his entire life he cultivated the dream of reducing the multiplicity of human knowledge to a logical, metaphysical, and pedagogical unity, centered on the key teachings of Christian theology. From the time he was a young man, he had conceived of a work that would encompass this aim, the Éléments de la philosophie générale et de la théologie naturelle, which he was not able to complete.

The claim that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds is the central argument in Leibniz’s theodicy, or his attempt to solve the problem of evil. Thomas Aquinas answered differently: God could have created a better universe – it would have been different. But it would not have been a universe without pain and suffering. Nonetheless, Aquinas confirms that the world is good and is a participation of God’s goodness. All creatures are part of this goodness, all (bio)diversity just gives as a small picture of God’s overall goodness and beauty.

Summary taken from: www.inters.org

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Further recommended reading:

Marcelo Gleisner, Who—or What—Caused the First Cause? – Archetypes of creation and the origin of all things. 07 November 2019

‘Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was right on when he proclaimed that the hardest question we can ask is “Why is there something rather than nothing?”’