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.
(Columbia Pictures. via Space.com, 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.
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.
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)
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.
"God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed - the sixth day."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)
- "Smallpox, Science, and Silliness"
(February 12, 2014)
- "Planets, Creation's Afterglow, and Double Stars"
(February 7, 2014)
- "Truth Cannot Contradict Truth"
(October 13, 2013)
- "Standing Orders and Spider-Man"
(June 30, 2013)
- "Still Shining in the Darkness: or, Be Not Afraid of Geekness"
(August 22, 2012)
- "Understanding the Bible"
Mary Elizabeth Sperry, Associate Director for Utilization of the New American Bible, USCCB