Wednesday, November 15, 2017

‘Intelligent’ Design? Relax, God is Stranger Still

By Fr. John Garvey

There has been some debate, even at local school-board levels, about the theory of evolution vs. creationism and the more recently offered idea of “intelligent design.” Now Cardinal Cristoph Schönborn has weighed in with an op-ed piece in the New York Times (July 7), claiming that Christians cannot believe that life’s origins can be found in natural selection’s chancy, random stabs at development. Some kind of intelligent design must lie behind it, and reason can lead to a rational belief in an intelligent designer. This has been seized on as a retreat from John Paul II’s endorsement of the theory of evolution as real science, a sign that the new papacy will retreat from serious science into the intelligent design camp. (It may only show that Cardinal Schönborn is not as sophisticated in his understanding of contemporary philosophy and science as John Paul II was.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

God and Science (3 of 3)

...continued from part two.

Against Supernaturalism

The value of the Trinity thus described is wholly compatible with a scientific account of the world in which the lineaments and workings of natural processes in space and in time are accounted for without recourse to God as a direct causal agent. If, for example, we believed that hurricanes happened because God sneezed, then what would be the point and practical advantage of meteorology?

We must say rather that the lineaments and processes of the natural order are in and of themselves signatures of the divine. These signatures cannot be shaped by a calligraphy of intelligent design without invoking the capricious intervention of a episodically active god in an otherwise chaotic and frequently fragile and dangerous evolutionary process. Such extrinsic and invasive actions of a god from beyond the Cosmos—the classic form of supernaturalism—neuter both science and theology. The divine signatures are rather to be found in the beauty, elegance and fittingness of the natural operations themselves which are both emergent in their complexity and convergent in their function. Consciousness, for example, is a fluid and dynamic artifact of emergent complexity; physiological commonality a functional convergence of evolution. Neither is a deterministic process, but each nonetheless has its own teleology (that to which it tends), notwithstanding the chaotic and random factors involved. God, then, only acts “from beyond” when, ex nihilo, He creates space and time itself.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

God and Science (2 of 3)

Something from Nothing

The Jews did not know God because they philosophised about Him, but rather because they had entered into a relationship with the One who had made a friend with Abraham and the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. His ways had been made known in salvation and judgement; and this required from them faithfulness and love, repentance and hope. The expression of this relationship was a personal and existential knowledge of the Creator, utterly transcendent to anything created—literally the Uncreated One. This transcendent Being they came to know as above and beyond infinity, space, time, created reality itself, was so sacred that even his Name could not be spoken. Later in Israel’s history, and particularly after the emergence of the Wisdom writings in the post-Exilic environment of Hellenism, the people of God began to reflect more thoroughly on the presuppositions and implications of their faith in an utterly transcendent Creator. There is then a marked progression and refinement in understanding for example between Genesis, which only considers creation from the starting point of pre-formed matter (1:2), and 2 Maccabees 7:28, which follows the received faith to its logical conclusion, namely that the Cosmos was made out of nothing (ex nihilo) or rather, more properly, out of that which had no being.

Monday, October 16, 2017

God and Science (1 of 3)

By Archpriest Gregory Hallam

It has become a truism for many in the West that faith and science belong to two conflicting world views. An atheist will say that science is rational, based on empirical observation and self-correcting as new theories eventually modify or replace old out-dated ones. Faith, on the other hand, is held to be irrational, defined by static religious texts and immovable religious authorities, which can be neither challenged nor revised.There is another view that regards this conflict as a needless clash of two Titans of similar breed: fundamentalism in religion and triumphalism in science.

Rather than a genuine standoff between two antagonists we have instead a phony war based on a cartoon version of both disciplines and, therefore, a misunderstanding of the true purpose of each. These two approaches to Reality—science and religion—are actually complementary, this other view holds, and not at all mutually exclusive. Orthodox Christianity shares a common platform with these more positive voices, but with its own distinctive approach. A perspective from history will help.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Creation of the World: The Crossroads Between Theology and Science (5 of 5)

...continued from part four.

The matter of the creation of the world is, in itself, a field where the religious and scientific views of the world meet. Any investigation of this ‘world-shattering event’ would certainly involve pausing to remark on the dynamic which is evolving in the ranks of the scientific community. Ideas come and go, arriving and departing, and all the time constantly being tested against observable data[24]. This dimension is of importance when the scientific view is contrasted with the religious concept of creation. The religious concept appears to be static and well-established in sacred texts, which were written when an entirely different world-view prevailed, and in social environments with a completely different educational composition from our own.