Christians are Anti-Science? or: Jesuit Astronomers

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35 moon craters

There are 35 moon craters (or even more!) that have been named to honor Jesuit scientists. These are the ones portrayed here on our blog:

We also provide information on two great companions of Matteo Ricci in the China mission, another Jesuit: Johann Adam Schall von Bell, SJ: Jesuit missionary who was appointed a Mandarin on the official Chinese calendar reform; and a convert to the Catholic faith: Xu “Paul” Guangqi: a governor, agricultural scientist and mathematician.

And there is more: a few days ago, we shared on facebook and twitter this image prepared by the Vatican Observatory astronomer Br. Bob Macke SJ on a selection of asteroids named for Jesuits:

The Vatican Observatory has a blog: https://www.vofoundation.org/blog/ and can be found on twitter under @VaticanObserv. 

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Georges Lemaitre – the Big Bang Cosmology and its metaphysical implications (II)

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This is the second of two part. You can read the first part here.

Lemaitre‘s Cosmology and Stephen Gould’s NOMA

NOMA stands for Non-Overlapping Magisteria, meaning that science and religion simply should not or do not overlap. Therefore, there is only one responsible level of explanation at a given time, either the scientific one, for example, when it comes to evolution, fossils, molecular genetics, or the religious one, which helps to understand what the meaning of life is, whether there is a soul, and Heaven. (This is of course simplistic). NOMA can be criticized, just because there are overlaps, especially when it comes to us humans: just that he can think about abstract concepts such as NOMA suggests that there is something that exceeds the purely materialistic sphere of science. While Christians complain that NOMA gives science too much competence (“it is always religion that has to give way”), Atheists see in NOMA a cheap excuse to introduce a bit of religion through the back door.

While NOMA wants to achieve a mere juxtaposition, that is not one of Lemaitre’s goals. He is concerned with the clear separation of the categories “physics” (meaning all scientifically detectable things) and “meta-physics”, and both categories (or levels) must not be blurred or mixed. He is firmly anchored in the Thomistic viewpoint, which distinguishes between the first cause (God) and the second causes (the creatures in the broadest sense), which act according to their inherent (and ultimately God-given) qualities and possibilities.

Lemaitre sees both categories simultaneously present:

“Physics does not exclude Providence. Nothing happens without its order or permission, even if this gentle action is not miraculous. Evolution, whether of the universe or of the living world, could be made at random by quantum leaps or mutations. Nevertheless, this chance has, from a superior point of view, been directed towards a goal. For us Christians, it was oriented towards the appearance of life. In what was done, there was life, intelligence and life was light in man and finally in humanity by the incarnation of the Man-God: the true light that illuminated our darkness.

Chance does not exclude Providence. Perhaps chance provides the strokes mysteriously actuated by Providence.” [5]

God’s providential actions will not be rendered superfluous or non-existent due to scientific insights. But Providence remains often hidden to us, similarly as God Himself remains “a hidden God”

“Truly, you are a God who hides himself” (Is 45:15)

God is hidden behind and in His creation. He is a “hidden God”, transcending all our knowledge and cognition. “Truly, you are a God who hides himself“, as we read in Isaiah [Is 45:15].  We will find this term and concept often in Lemaitre’s writings. Already in 1931, Lemaitre writes:

“I think that everyone who believes in a supreme being supporting every being and every acting, believes also that God is essentially hidden and may be glad to see how present physics provides a veil hiding the creation”.

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“If creation sings Your praises so will I” – Joel Houston on creation and evolution

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Not all, but many, even those not pertaining to an Evangelical community, will be familiar with the Hillsong band and their founder Joel T. Houston from Sydney, Australia. A song that came out in 2017, has creation, evolution, our salvation and the praise and worship to Our Lord as topic. Based on a question on twitter, Joel T. Houston posted some excellent tweets that you may want to read, even if you are not so familiar with the “twitterverse”. 

First the song:

 

God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

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Fatima: Miracles and Natural Laws

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fatima 1.jpgToday, on 13 May, Catholics remember Our Lady of Fatima. And on 13 May 1981, Pope John Paul II was hit by a bullet that could easily have been deadly. Exactly one year later,  the Holy Father visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima to commemorate in a very special way the first anniversary of the attempt on his life and the sixty-fifth anniversary of Our Lady’s first apparition there. He said:

“I seemed to recognize in the coincidence of the dates a special call to come to this place. And so, today I am here. I have come in order to thank Divine Providence in this place which the Mother of God seems to have chosen in a particular way. Misericordiae Domini, quia non sumus consumpti (Through God’s mercy we were spared-Lam 3:22), I repeat once more with the prophet.” [1]

We may also call it Divine Providence that the three sheperd children saw several apparitions of Mary from 13 May to 13 October 1917, in the middle of World War II and at the wake of the Communinist Revolution in Russia. On 13 October 1917, the so-called “sun miracle” happened. All people present saw the sun turning like a ball and coming closer and going back up again. Is the miracle the fact that the turning and moving of the sun is not compatible with the laws of nature? Not necessarily, as Fr. Stanley Jaki tries to explain.  It is rather timing and message, that’s important in God’s plan.

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Here is Fr. Stanley Jaki on this meteorological phenomenon:

“Enough data are on hand to force one to recognize the meteorological nature of “the miracle of the sun” and to look askance at the phrase, “the sun danced over Fatima.” That the miracle was not solar, that it did not imply any “solar activity” in the scientific sense of that term, is indicated by the fact that nothing unusual was registered by observatories about the sun at that hour. Prior to that hour rain was coming down heavily over the area from the late morning hours on, with the clouds being driven fast by a westerly wind across the sky. A cold air mass was obviously moving in from the Atlantic, only at about 40 kms from Fatima, which itself is at about 15 kms to the east from the line where the land begins to form a plateau well over 300 meters above sea level. The hollow field, Cova da Iria, outside Fatima is itself at about 370 meters. An actual view of the geographic situation is a great help for an understanding of the true physical nature of “the miracle of the sun,” especially when one takes a close look at cloud patterns typical over the Cova.

I feel that at this juncture I must summarize my explanation of the miracle. It began at about 12:45 pm, solar time, after the rain suddenly stopped, and lasted about ten to fifteen minutes. During all that time, the sun, that had not been seen for hours, appeared through thin clouds, which one careful observer described as cirrus clouds. Suddenly the sun’s image turned into a wheel of fire which for the people there resembled a “rodo de fuogo” familiar to them in fireworks. The physical core of that wheel was, as we now have to conjecture, an air lens full of ice crystals, as cirrus clouds are. Such crystals can readily refract the sun’s rays into various colors of the rainbow.

The references to the strong west-east wind and to the continued drift of clouds may account for the interplay of two streams of air that could give a twist, in a way analogous to the formation of tornadoes, to put that lens-shaped air mass into rotation. Since many present there suddenly felt a marked increase in temperature, it is clear that a sudden temperature inversion must have taken place. The cold and warm air masses could conceivably propel that rotating air lens in an elliptical orbit first toward the earth, and then push it up, as if it were a boomerang, back to its original position. Meanwhile the ice crystals in it acted as so many means of refraction for the sun’s rays. Some eyewitnesses claimed that the “wheel of fire” descended and reascended three times; according to others this happened twice. Overwhelmed by an extraordinary sight that prompted most of the crowd to fall on their knees, even “detached” observers could not perform as coolly as they would have wished. Only one observer, a lawyer, stated three decades later that the path of descent and ascent was elliptical with small circles superimposed on it.” [2]

[1] Pope John Paul II, Homily, Mass of Our Lady of Fátima, Fátima, Portugal, 13 May 1982
[2] Stanley L. Jaki. A Mind’s Matter: An Intellectual Autobiography (Cambridge U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), Chapter 13 “A Portuguese Proverb.”
Images: blogspot; americaneedsfatima.

There is more in the article from Stacy Trasancos: http://www.catholicstand.com/fr-stanley-jaki-on-the-fatima-miracle/

Billy Graham on Faith and Science

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Billy Graham, known as “America’s pastor”, passed away on 21 February 2018. Here at Science meets Faith, we share two of his testimonies on the interaction between faith and science.

The first comes from his book Billy Graham: Personal Thoughts of a Public Man (1997):

“I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren’t meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man. … whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God.

The second is a TEDtalk from 1998 titled “Technology, faith and human shortcomings” (February 1998):

“…How do we change man, so that he doesn’t lie and cheat and our newspapers are not filled with stories of fraud in business, or labor, or athletics, or wherever? The Bible says the problem is within us, within our hearts and our soul. Our problem is that we are separated from our Creator, which we call God… we need to have our souls restored…

“The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was not a religious man, but he said: ‘It’s in our hearts that the evil lies, and it’s from our hearts that it must be plucked out.’ Albert Einsteinmade this statement: ‘It’s easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.’ ….

“You’ve seen people take beneficial technological advances, such as the internet we’ve heard about tonight, and twist them into something corrupting. You’ve seen brilliant people devise computer viruses that bring down whole systems. The Oklahoma City bombing was simple technology, horribly used. The problem is not technology, the problem is the person or persons using it. King David said he ‘knew the depths of his own soul.’ … Yet King David sought God’s forgiveness and he said: ‘You can restore my soul.’ You see the Bible teaches that we’re more than a body and a mind, we are a soul. And there’s something inside of us that is beyond our understanding. That’s the part of us that yearns for God, or something more than we find in technology.”

Video source and transcript online.

Relationship between Science and Faith: the ‘conflict-myth’

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There is a popular conception that the historical relationship between science and religion has been one of conflict or even all-out warfare. Historians of science call this commonly held notion the “conflict thesis.” In this video, historians of science Lawrence Principe and Edward Davis examine the historical roots and social context of the origin of the conflict thesis. Principe and Davis explain that the beginning of the conflict thesis can be traced primarily to the popular works of two 19th century Americans: John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White. Principe and Davis evaluate Draper and White’s conflict thesis to show that the language of warfare falls far short of historical reality. Nevertheless, the popularity of these two works and the global influence of Draper and White’s thesis has ensured a lasting legacy that still informs our current understanding of how science and religion typically relate.

Pope Francis to Scientists on Lemaitre, Einstein and Aquinas

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Dear friends,

I extend a heartfelt welcome to you all, and I thank Brother Guy Consolmagno for his kind words.

The issues you have been addressing during these days at Castel Gandolfo are of particular interest to the Church, because they have to do with questions that concern us deeply, such as the beginning of the universe and its evolution, and the profound structure of space and time, to name but a few.  It is clear that these questions have a particular relevance for science, philosophy, theology and for the spiritual life.  They represent an arena in which these different disciplines meet and sometimes clash.

As both a Catholic priest and a cosmologist, Msgr. Georges Lemaître knew well the creative tension between faith and science, and always defended the clear methodological distinction between the fields of science and theology.  While integrating them in his own life, he viewed them as distinct areas of competence. That distinction, already present in Saint Thomas Aquinas, avoids a short-circuiting that is as harmful to science as it is to faith.

Before the immensity of space-time, we humans can experience awe and a sense of our own insignificance, as the Psalmist reminds us:  “What is man that you should keep him in mind, the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps 8:5). As Albert Einstein loved to say: “One may say the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.” The existence and intelligibility of the universe are not a result of chaos or mere chance, but of God’s Wisdom, present “at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old” (Prov. 8:22).

I am deeply appreciative of your work, and I encourage you to persevere in your search for truth. For we ought never to fear truth, nor become trapped in our own preconceived ideas, but welcome new scientific discoveries with an attitude of humility. As we journey towards the frontiers of human knowledge, it is indeed possible to have an authentic experience of the Lord, one which is capable of filling our hearts.

Greeting Address to the participants of the Conference organized by the Vatican Observatory,  Friday, 12 May 2017

Source: Vatican homepage