Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ancient Style and Today's Discussions at the 'Vatican Science Academy'

I became a Catholic for reasons, not feelings. There's an emotional component to my faith, too, though:1 I like being Catholic.

This photo illustrates part of why being Catholic is so satisfactory:

(The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, used w/o permission)

Those folks are in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Roughly half of them wear clothing not very different from what citizens of Imperial Rome were used to seeing. The building's style comes from ancient Rome, about 2,000 years ago, but it's comparatively new: built only four and a half centuries back.2

The Catholic Church is old. Ancient.

But not 'old fashioned,' in the sense of desperately clinging to outdated observations and ideas that turned out to be wrong.

Science and the Catholic Church go 'Way Back

The first exclusively scientific academy was Accademia dei Lincei, founded in Rome in 1603. It kept going during it's founder's life, but lost steam after that. Pope Pius IX revived it as the Pontifical Academy of the New Lynxes in 1847. Pope Pius XI kick-started it again in 1936, with a new name: the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.3

Folks at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences have discussed bioethics: including stem cell research, which the Vatican thinks is a good idea. Provided researchers don't kill people in the process.4

Flying Saucers, No: Astrobiology, Yes

(The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, used w/o permission)

I'm about as sure as I can be, that the Vatican isn't 'really' hiding space aliens at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.5 On the other hand, some of the very serious discussions of what sort of life may exist elsewhere in the universe have been at the Holy See's science academy.6

Which shouldn't be all that surprising: A rule prohibiting Catholics from saying that God couldn't have made life on other worlds has been around since the 13th century.7

Related posts:

1 Emotions, by themselves, are neither "good" or "bad." Reason is important, too. Don't take my word for it, though:
I've discussed emotions and faith before:
2 Source: Casina of Pius IV,
from "Vatican Gardens," Karen Esswein (Spring 2005)

3 Source: "History," Pontifical Academy of Sciences

4 Posts about stem cell research:
I think Western culture is beginning to accept the notion that nobody's "beyond good and evil," not even doctors or medical researchers. Which reminds me of what the Maarchli family's been going through lately.

I wasn't surprised when news of Joseph Maraachli's death came last week:
"'Baby Joseph' Dies in His Canadian Home Surrounded by" (September 28, 2011)

"The baby who in March was hours from being pulled off life support at a Canadian hospital but was rescued by a pro-life group that brought the boy to the U.S. for treatment, died Tuesday night in the comfort of his own home in Windsor, Ontario.

" 'Baby Joseph' died with his mother Sana Nader, father Moe Maraachli at the home, CBC News reported.

" 'It seemed like a relaxing breath, like he was OK. It didn’t seem like he struggled,' Nader said, according to the report. 'It was God's way of telling us his last breath was OK.'

"The family of 20-month-old Joseph Maraachli, who suffered from a rare, progressive neurological disease rendering him in a vegetative state, understood his long-term prognosis was grim. But they sought a medical procedure that would, at the minimum, allow boy to die at home instead of in a hospital bed hooked up to a respirator...."
Posts about Joseph Maraachli and his family:
5 I haven't heard or read about flying saucer enthusiasts for a while, apart from comic relief in some televised dramas. That's just as well, I think. Much of what I used to run into assumed that wise, benevolent space aliens were just simply itching to solve all our problems. If only we'd 'really believe.' Comparing flying saucer fans to cargo cults is hardly an original idea, and that's almost another topic.

The Catholic Church says we should worship God, and not waste adoration on that which is not God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2083-2086, 2096-2097) Makes sense to me.

6 We haven't found life anywhere other than Earth. But over the last few decades we've discovered that the materials needed for life are fairly common: in our part of the universe, anyway. Speculation about how life could exist on other worlds is no longer a topic that 'serious' scientists avoid:
  • "Study Week on Astrobiology"
    The Pontifical Academy of Sciences (November 6-10, 2009)
    (from The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, archived ca. October 2, 2011)
Related posts:
7 The question of whether or not life might exist somewhere other than Earth came up a few hundred years ago. As a practicing Catholic, I'm forbidden to say that God couldn't have made a universe with life elsewhere: according to Proposition 27, "219 Propositions" (1277). See Footnote 3, "Space Aliens, Michele Bachmann, and Daft Assumptions" (September 2, 2011).

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.