Sunday, February 23, 2014

Science, Faith, and Albertus Magnus

This isn't your usual "religious" blog.

In the last few weeks, I've written about planetary defense against asteroids and comets, why smallpox isn't a threat any more, and how Neanderthal genes may affect folks trying to stop smoking.

My shameless interest in science and flagrant faith flies in the face of the view that religion and science are at war.

My faith doesn't depend on a lively interest in this wondrous creation: but it's not threatened by knowledge, either.

Space Aliens, Authority, and Getting a Grip

(Columbia Pictures. via, used w/o permission.)

I think UFO religions are a mistake, but that searching for extraterrestrial life is reasonable: and fascinating. I'm not one of the 90.19% who believe space aliens are "out there," but I certainly won't claim that life exists on Earth and only on Earth.

Assuming that there must be life on other worlds makes as much, or as little, sense as assuming that there isn't: given what we know today. Some of us will keep looking for life, and learning about the universe, using science: until we find a better method. (February 7, 2014)

My guess is that the Church won't issue a policy statement about dealing with space aliens until, and unless, we actually meet some. When, and if, that happens, I'm quite certain that we won't be told to shut our eyes and pretend they're not there. We've been through something like the "are we alone?" debate before.

On March 7, 2014, it'll be 737 years since the Church banned claiming that there's only one world.

God's God: Aristotle's Not

I gather that the issue was authority.

Back in the 13th century, educated Europeans had a very high opinion of Aristotle. Some may even had the attitude expressed by Dante, that Aristotle was "the Master ... of those who know."

A few researchers realized that the universe might be much more than our Earth and sky.

Others, predictably, didn't like the new idea: which would have been okay. Insisting that other worlds can't exist: because Aristotle said so? That's a problem, since nobody's opinion outvotes God's.

As I've said before, that's when the Church stepped in. After March 7, 1277, Catholics weren't allowed to claim that Earth must be the only world. (January 29, 2012)

I did a little checking, and learned that the 219 Propositions of 1277 were later annulled. Interestingly, the Wikipedia article about that particular document didn't mention Proposition 27/219, so I'm guessing that the 'God's God, Aristotle's not' principle is still valid.

Evolution and "A State of Journeying"

I've explained why I don't denounce evolution as "the religion of the antichrist." (January 2, 2014)

(From "The Three-Story Universe," © N. F. Gier, God, Reason, and the Evangelicals (1987), via Nick Gier, University of Idaho, used w/o permission.)

I'm sure that God could have created a universe designed along the lines imagined by ancient Mesopotamians: and which was only a few thousand years old.

But I'm also willing to take the universe "as is."

Over the last several centuries, we've learned that we live in a vast and ancient cosmos: which operates under rational physical laws. I don't see how that can interfere with faith in an infinite, eternal, and rational Creator. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 159, 202, 279, 301)

We've also learned that things change. Considering what happened when the first of us broke the lease in Eden, I'm very glad that this universe is in a "state of journeying." (Catechism, 302-305) (January 18, 2012)

Dürer, Eden, and Getting a Grip

Believing what the Church says about Adam, Eve, and original sin is one thing. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 355-378, 388-412) (July 11, 2012)

Trying to believe that our first parents were German is daft. (May 16, 2012)

That sort of silliness isn't necessary, since the Bible wasn't written by Americans: or by folks with a contemporary Western worldview.

If I assumed that every word of the Bible is literally true, from the viewpoint of a post-Victorian American, I might not get past the two creation stories in Genesis. (Genesis 1:1-2:4 and Genesis 2:4-9)

I could read the two accounts of creation, notice that they're not exactly alike: and assume they're different because religion is stupid.

Or I could assume they're both literally, word-for-word, true: and that I'm puzzled because thinking is a sin.

Instead, I read Genesis 1:1-2:4 and 2:4-25 as an explanation of God's role in our existence: among other things.

As far as I'm concerned, all that's changed in the last few centuries is how much we know about the "clay" God used. (December 13, 2013)

If anything, I'm impressed at how similar the 'origins' accounts in Genesis and those in other cultures are.

The "Golden Age," Χρυσόν Γένος or Chryson Genos, is unique to ancient Greece and Rome: but a remarkable number of other folks remembered that we've known better days.

Maybe that's because folks around the world share the same basic hopes and fears. Or maybe we're looking at what happens when a scattered humanity tells the same tale around the evening fire for a million years, and that's another topic.

Patron Saint of — Scientists?!

"God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed - the sixth day."
(Genesis 1:31)
This wonder-filled universe is still "very good," and we've still got the Adam's job of tending it. (Catechism, 373, 2402)

Science and technology aren't transgressions, they're tools we're expected to use: wisely. (Catechism, 339, 2292-2296) (March 17, 2013)

It's no wonder, though, that some folks think the Catholic Church encourages superstition: Albertus Magnus is a patron saint of scientists, students, medical technicians, philosophers, and the natural sciences.

And he was interested in astrology.

Back in the 13th century, Albertus Magnus was occasionally called a wizard and magician: hardly surprising, considering his "tampering with things man was not supposed to know," as the fictional Mr. Squibbs put it.

His posthumous career as an alchemist was equally imaginative, but his interest in astrology wasn't.

Astrology, along with any other sort of divination, is against the rules today. (Catechism, 2116)

In the 13th century, being interested in astrology didn't make someone an "astrologer" in today's sense.

Researchers of the late Middle Ages thought that Earth was a small part of the universe: and that what happened 'out there' affected what happened here. They were right about that, but further study showed that the real 'cosmic' influences don't lend themselves to fortunetelling. Astrology isn't astronomy, even though both involve stars and planets.

Wrenching myself back on-topic — Albertus Magnus saw no conflict between worshiping God and studying God's creation.

Neither do I.

As a Catholic, I must believe that God is truth, that truth cannot contradict truth, and that studying this astonishing universe is okay. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 159, 214-217)

Related posts:
More about what the Bible is, and isn't:
  • "Understanding the Bible"
    Mary Elizabeth Sperry, Associate Director for Utilization of the New American Bible, USCCB

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.