Sunday, November 27, 2011

God Doesn't Make Junk: Or Mistakes

I watched a documentary called "The Human Family Tree" this week. National Geographic's summary of their 90-minute DVD reads, in part:
"Join geneticist Spencer Wells and a team of technicians from National Geographic's Genographic Project as they trace the human journey through time and space, from our origins in the heart of Africa to the ends of the world. Cutting edge science, coupled with a cast of New Yorkers...."
("The Human Family Tree," DVD, National Geographic Store)
With a copyright date of 2009, the "cutting edge science" probably isn't quite so much now: but it's still fairly contemporary.

Genetics, Science, and Getting a Grip

I enjoyed seeing a selection of folks living in New York City react to information about their very distant ancestors. The documentary showed how genetic markers trace the New Yorkers' forebears back, over thousands of generations.

"Enjoyed?" Maybe that sounds odd, coming from a 'religious person:'
  • I'm a Catholic
    • And take my faith very seriously
  • Genetics is a science
    • 'Everybody knows' that science is against religion
      • And vice versa
In this case, 'everybody' is wrong.

Despite what shrill secularists and latter-day Know Nothings claim, science and religion aren't absolutely opposite ways of thinking. Not for someone who learns what the Catholic Church says:
"...'methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.'...."
(Gaudium et spes, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 159)

God, Creation, and Knowledge

The way I see it:
  • God created everything
    (Catechism, 268)
  • We're supposed to seek God
    (Catechism, 1)
  • We can learn some things about God by studying what He created
    (Catechism, 31-36, 282-289)
    • But God has revealed more about Himself, than what's in creation
      (Catechism, 37-38)
One place where we can get into trouble is confusing God's creation with God. Or assuming that God doesn't exist because there's a physical world.

Then there's the idea that 'ignorance is next to Godliness,' or that avoiding knowledge is a virtue.

"The Sky Proclaims Its Builder's Craft"

I see creation as a world of wonder. I also think that not studying the created world is a strange way to honor God the Creator.

The Church doesn't seem to have a problem with paying attention to creation. (Catechism, 280, 282-289) Particularly since "The world was made for the glory of God," and "Creation reveals God's Glory" (Catechism 293-294; "Creation Reveals God's Glory," Pope John Paul II (March 12, 1986))

Again, it's idolizing creation, or some creature, that gets us in trouble. (Catechism, 2112-2114)

Among other things. Job 5:7, and all that.

For me, ignoring what we've learned about creation would feel like saying, "I'll worship you, God: but I refuse to be interested in stuff that glorifies you." That approach to the Almighty isn't quite disrespectful - but it seems odd, to deliberately avoid knowledge about what God has spread across the skies:
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder's craft."
(Psalms 19:2)

"Hallelujah! 1 Praise the LORD from the heavens; give praise in the heights."
(Psalms 148:1)

"Praise him, sun and moon; give praise, all shining stars."
(Psalms 148:3)
I put an excerpt from "Jubilee of Scientists," Pope John Paul II (May 25, 2000) at the end of this post.1 I think these are some key points from that excerpt:
  • Science
    • "...Was considered the only criterion of truth or way to happiness...."
      • In past centuries
      • By some folks
      • Sometimes
    • Reveals
      • Laws which govern the universe
        • Their interrelationships
    • Draws people toward God
      • "...all research ... gives man the possibility of discovering the Creator...."
  • Some folks felt that God wasn't 'scientific'
  • Faith
    • Integrates all research
    • Deepens understanding
    ("Jubilee of Scientists," Pope John Paul II (May 25, 2000))
I don't see that studying God's creation is being criticized.

Dualism, Creation, and a Sticky Science

I suspect that a dislike of science has roots far deeper than the 19th century. For at least a couple thousand years, some folks have been diffident, at best, about the physical world. I've mentioned two high-profile dualistic heresies before: Manichaeism, and Gnosticism. (Catechism, 285)

Gnosticism says that the physical world is evil, which is uncomfortably close to some contemporary Western notions about what 'being spiritual' is.

The Church says that "God creates an ordered and good world." (Catechism, 299) I had no problem accepting that idea. Living in a part of the world with dramatic seasonal changes, but where water melts again each spring, may have helped.

Then there's the sticky, icky, side of biology. Let's face it: living things can be messy.

God: Large and In Charge

Maybe I wouldn't have thought of making a physical creation on the scale that God did: but I'm not going to tell the Almighty, "you can't do that." I've read the book of Job, particularly Job 38-41.

We've learned a few things in the two-dozen-plus centuries since someone wrote Job, but the bottom line hasn't changed. God is large and in charge:
"Then Job answered the LORD and said: 1 I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:1-7)
I don't expect to know everything about God's creation, much less why God did things the way He did. But I'm pretty sure that
  • God doesn't make junk
  • Giving us brains and curiosity wasn't a mistake
  • Knowledge of the Infinite God is beyond our abilities
    • But that we're supposed to
      • Be curious
      • Use the reason God gave us
I don't know that I'd quite call it a downside, but being a reasoning, rational, being does raise some issues:
"God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. 'God willed that man should be "left in the hand of his own counsel," so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.'26
"Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.27"
(Catechism, 1730)
And that's another topic. Somewhat-related posts:
Links to yet more slightly-related posts:
From National Geographic:

1 Excerpt from "Jubilee of Scientists," Pope John Paul II (May 25, 2000):
"In past centuries, science, whose discoveries are fascinating, has held a dominant place and at times was considered the only criterion of truth or way to happiness. A reflection based exclusively on scientific elements tried to accustom us to a culture of suspicion and doubt. It refused to consider the existence of God or to view man in the mystery of his origin and his end, as if this perspective might call science itself into question. It sometimes saw God merely as a mental construct which would not stand up to scientific knowledge. These attitudes have estranged science from man and from the service it is called to offer him...."

"...Based on an attentive observation of the complexity of terrestrial phenomena, and following the object and method proper to each dicipline,[!] scientists discover the laws which govern the universe, as well as their interrelationship. They stand in wonderment and humility before the created order and feel drawn to the love of the Author of all things. Faith, for its part, is able to integrate and assimilate every research, for all research, through a deeper understanding of created reality in all its specificity, gives man the possibility of discovering the Creator, source and goal of all things. "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (Rom 1:20)...."
("Jubilee of Scientists," Pope John Paul II (May 25, 2000))

No comments:

Like it? Pin it, Plus it, - - -

Pinterest: My Stuff, and More


Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store

Popular Posts

Label Cloud

1277 abortion ADD ADHD-Inattentive Adoration Chapel Advent Afghanistan Africa America Amoris Laetitia angels animals annulment Annunciation anti-catholicism Antichrist apocalyptic ideas apparitions archaeology architecture Arianism art Asperger syndrome assumptions asteroid astronomy Australia authority balance and moderation baptism being Catholic beliefs bias Bible Bible and Catechism bioethics biology blogs brain Brazil business Canada capital punishment Caritas in Veritate Catechism Catholic Church Catholic counter-culture Catholicism change happens charisms charity Chile China Christianity Christmas citizenship climate change climatology cloning comets common good common sense Communion community compassion confirmation conscience conversion Corpus Christi cosmology creation credibility crime crucifix Crucifixion Cuba culture dance dark night of the soul death depression designer babies despair detachment devotion discipline disease diversity divination Divine Mercy divorce Docetism domestic church dualism duty Easter economics education elections emotions England entertainment environmental issues Epiphany Establishment Clause ethics ethnicity Eucharist eugenics Europe evangelizing evolution exobiology exoplanets exorcism extremophiles faith faith and works family Father's Day Faust Faustus fear of the Lord fiction Final Judgment First Amendment forgiveness Fortnight For Freedom free will freedom fun genetics genocide geoengineering geology getting a grip global Gnosticism God God's will good judgment government gratitude great commission guest post guilt Haiti Halloween happiness hate health Heaven Hell HHS hierarchy history holidays Holy Family Holy See Holy Spirit holy water home schooling hope humility humor hypocrisy idolatry image of God images Immaculate Conception immigrants in the news Incarnation Independence Day India information technology Internet Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Japan Jesus John Paul II joy just war justice Kansas Kenya Knights of Columbus knowledge Korea language Last Judgment last things law learning Lent Lenten Chaplet life issues love magi magic Magisterium Manichaeism marriage martyrs Mary Mass materialism media medicine meditation Memorial Day mercy meteor meteorology Mexico Minnesota miracles Missouri moderation modesty Monophysitism Mother Teresa of Calcutta Mother's Day movies music Muslims myth natural law neighbor Nestorianism New Year's Eve New Zealand news Nietzsche obedience Oceania organization original sin paleontology parish Parousia penance penitence Pentecost Philippines physical disability physics pilgrimage politics Pope Pope in Germany 2011 population growth positive law poverty prayer predestination presumption pride priests prophets prostitution Providence Purgatory purpose quantum entanglement quotes reason redemption reflections relics religion religious freedom repentance Resurrection robots Roman Missal Third Edition rosaries rules sacramentals Sacraments Saints salvation schools science secondary causes SETI sex shrines sin slavery social justice solar planets soul South Sudan space aliens space exploration Spain spirituality stem cell research stereotypes stewardship stories storm Sudan suicide Sunday obligation superstition symbols technology temptation terraforming the establishment the human condition tolerance Tradition traffic Transfiguration Transubstantiation travel Trinity trust truth uncertainty United Kingdom universal destination of goods vacation Vatican Vatican II veneration vengeance Veterans Day videos virtue vlog vocations voting war warp drive theory wealth weather wisdom within reason work worship writing

Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

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.