(Honest) Science is Hardly at Odds with Faith

Much is made of those of faith — or politics differing from those of MSNBC — and their supposed “war on science.”

The phrase “climate change denier” — vile in its veiled, condescending comparison between those it describes and the few deluded racists remaining who deny the Holocaust — is common parlance. In fact, such people have been accused of fomenting “the beginning of the unraveling of an informed democracy” if they reach positions of political power.

The falsity or veracity of so-called “climate change” aside — as well as the ridiculing of the “46% of Americans [who] believe the story of Genesis is true” — the salient issue is the historical “conflict” between religion and science.

Giordano Bruno, burned alive in the main piazza of Rome on February 17, 1600 for postulating that the universe was infinite; Galileo, condemned to house arrest on his knees in the maw of the Vatican in 1633 for believing in the heliocentric solar system; and John Scopes, famously taken to court in 1925 and fined the then-massive sum of $100 in Dayton, Tennessee for teaching his students Darwin’s theory of evolution — these events and others haunt the modern world with their message of a war between power and truth, superstition and reason.

Still, is the religious impulse actually an urge to jettison objective reality utterly? The late scholar of mythology Joseph Campbell disagreed. Though as lapsed a Catholic as many, and hardly an apologist for the organized aspect of religion, he maintained that the conflict between religion and science is in fact one “between the science of 2000 B.C. and the science of 2000 A.D.” It is the fault of religious institutions to have codified this cosmological discrepancy, and the human need for the experience of some thing beyond that which is available to the senses is not at odds with an image of the universe based upon disinterested research.

One of the most powerful illustrations of how the science on which our betters boastfully base their atheistic belief, and the faith the supposedly ignorant and discredited hold dear, can be reconciled is Helen Whitney’s film, John Paul II: The Millennial Pope, which aired on the PBS program Frontline on September 28, 1999.

In the film, which chronicles the extraordinary life and profound, controversial beliefs of the lonely Polish seminarian who became one of the towering figures of our time, the act “Faith” turns to the problem of how the onslaught of a changing scientific world appears to challenge faith.

“At the end of this millennium, the question of faith should have died,” says the late priest Lorenzo Albacete (himself a theologian trained as an astrophysicist) over orange-tinted film of an atomic bomb’s chilling mushroom cloud. “Faith has never been so assaulted as it has been in our time. …[W]e are a people numbed by evil, seduced by false reason, overwhelmed by science. But even so, our yearning remains,” he adds.

And yet our yearning remains. And it would even seem that when told by Bill Maher that religion is “stupid and dangerous,” our yearning only grows in response to its degradation.

The worship of science — let alone the both obviously and obliviously religious fervor of the climate change (once “global cooling,” later “global warming”) alarmists, and their faith in the highly-flawedconsensus” of “97%” of scientists — is neither a beneficial nor morally sustainable source of spiritual fulfillment.

The veneration of something so sure to bring moral self-gratification, regardless of its honesty — let alone blatant politicization — is not a feasible outlet for human spiritual need. If science supposedly holds the “answer” — and, as Dennis Prager has made flatly clear, as far as an object of genuine worship is concerned, it most certainly cannot — then what is the yearner to do?

Five seconds after Father Albacete, mathematician David Berlinski offers his insight:

I think …[it is] an entirely credible observation that we are all oppressed by the results that we imagine science has given us.

On the one hand, when we turn to the heavens, we see these endless galaxies pinwheeling in the night sky, no trace of life as far as we can discern, unimaginable reaches of space and time, the whole thing frozen, gelid, uncommunicating, way beyond any finite power of human discernment or appreciation, smoldering, explosive processes at work in the cosmos which we can barely fathom, and the whole thing destined to dribble away in the endless reaches of space or contract again on itself.

Given our natural size and scale, the sheer immensity of things, the primitive nature of the drama taking place before our eyes, I think, gives us a very vulnerable sense. There’s an ache in the human heart. “Oh, my God! Look at how big that thing is!”

The other side of that equation is when we turn to living systems, we are endlessly provoked and dismayed to discover that, far from being unique in the animal kingdom, we seem to be kith and kin to every revolting and shambling thing that slithers or crawls across the face of the earth. It’s just an accidental rearrangement of the genetic alphabet that gives me my position and gives the fish his.

One of the things modern science has given us is a new object of veneration. Let’s call it the laws of nature. Some physicists even go so far as to credit the laws of nature with the creation of the universe.

And I think the Pope is saying, “Why repose your confidence in the laws and refrain from making the intellectually audacious step of saying these laws are what we, within the confines of the cave, actually can perceive of the nature of reality?

“But if the laws are luminous, if they give us instruction, if they provide an aspect of beauty that has never been seen before, surely this is suggestive. It says something to the human soul that these laws actually exist. Don’t worship in a temple that for all intents and purposes is your own creation. Simply look at the luminousness and make the next step.”

In other words, Berlinski, a secular Jew, says that while science itself is not a viable religion, what is revealed through the study of the physical world is more than evocative of a God’s glory, power, and presence.

Einstein’s E = mc2 — that energy can be come mass, and mass energy — is hardly a blaring sign post towards Richard Dawkins’ atheist utopia, but rather a truly profound spiritual statement from another secular Jew, Herr Einstein, the lowly patent office worker. Brahman, the transcendent, indescribable “Brrr!” of the universe, say the Hindu Védas, is the energy source out of which all things come, and back into which they go. Likewise, all things come from God’s creation, and with their inevitable disintegration, to that same glorious void they all return.

Therefore, a possible bridge for the atheist is simply to behold the majesty of the heavens and all things beneath them, and “make the next step,” for as Albacete says, “…[S]cience and the wonder it evokes in us is not an obstacle to belief but a privileged path to it.”

As Berlinski has said more recently, scientists today “really don’t waste any time telling you how much smarter they are than you,” while “the problem is the …overall omnipotence, intellectual omnipotence, that is assumed by the scientific community.”

Perhaps the road to a God’s baton being at the helm of the symphony of all scientific wonders could be smoothed by scientists undertaking the humbleness of the honest truth-seeker in revealing the omnipotence apparent in what is discovered, rather than assuming the mantle of it in what they believe.

Even if they wish to prove the opposite condition, then the same scientists must adopt the intellectual humility required to justify the adoration they expect.

Leave a Reply