Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Science and faith.

I note with amusement the description of an article on "Scientist goes public with his belief in God and the acceptance of evolution."

This is groundbreaking? This is noteworthy?

Sure, but only if you have some grave misconceptions about basic theology.

While I'm not overly impressed with Professor Giberson's defense of his faith (rather weakly conveyed, but hey, we can't all be J.R.R. Tolkien), I am surprised at the fact that the existence of a believer-scientist actually passes for news nowadays. It is simply perpetuating the myth of the uneducated believer, by pointing out that, hey, one of them DOES believe in science!

Let me just touch on one tiny part of the Catholic Church, the Jesuit order.

Contributions to seismology by the Jesuits were so numerous that it became known as the "Jesuit science." 35 craters on the Moon are named for Jesuit scientists and mathematicians.

Jesuits made significant contributions to the development of:
  • Pendulum clocks
  • Pantographs
  • Barometers
  • Reflecting telescopes
  • Microscopes
  • The field of magnetism
  • The field of optics
  • The field of electricity
In addition, they observed, in some cases before anyone else:
  • the colored bands on Jupiter's surface
  • the Andromeda nebula
  • Saturn's rings
They theorized about:
  • the circulation of blood (independent of Harvey)
  • the theoretical possibility of flight
  • the moon's effect on the tides
  • the wave-like nature of light
They were also responsible for:
  • making star maps of the Southern hemisphere
  • the creation of symbolic logic
  • successful flood-control measures along the Po and Adige Rivers
  • introducing plus and minus signs into Italian mathematics

In 2005, Paul Cardinal Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for culture, said the Genesis account of creation and Darwinism were "perfectly compatible" and attacked "fundamentalists who want to give a scientific meaning to words that have no scientific aim." The point of Genesis, he said, was that the universe didn't create itself. The rest is details.

At a Vatican conference on evolution earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI said, "There is no opposition between faith's understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences."
Following the Pope's remarks, Stephen Hawking gave a lecture on "The Origin and Destiny of the Universe."

It was the second time the brilliant Hawking (who calls himself "a believer, but not in the traditional sense") has lectured at the Vatican.

Echoing the same thought, the Rabbinical Council of America has stated that "evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a divine creator nor with the first two chapters of Genesis."

Tom Jones (Bachelor of Science, USAF Academy, Ph.D., Planetary Science, University of Arizona), wrote the following about his first flight on the space shuttle:

During one orbital night, Kevin (Chilton, pilot), Sid (Guitierrez, commander) and I gathered on the flight deck for a short communion service. Kevin, a Eucharistic minister, carried the Blessed Sacrament with him, in a simple golden pyx. The three of us shared our amazement at experiencing the beauty of creation, and thanked God for good companions and the success achieved so far. Then Kevin shared the Body of Christ with Sid and me, and we floated weightless on the flight deck, grateful for this comradeship and communion with Christ.

And deist scientists aren't just American, either.

Consider this "Orthodox Encyclopaedia" interview:

Father Alexiy Uminskiy: Good morning! We all remember the words allegedly said by Yuriy Gagarin: I went up to the outer space and didn't find any God there. Many years have passed. Does this axiom still work for the modern space explorers?

Valeriy Korzun: I know another phrase, also said by Gagarin: If you haven't met God on Earth you won't meet Him in outer space. This phrase is much closer to my heart. A lot has changed: every crew gets a priest's blessing before the launch now.

Father Alexiy Uminskiy: Is there a church in Zvyozdny Gorodok?

Yuriy Lonchakov: Yes, there is, it was built three years ago.

Father Alexiy Uminskiy: Is there a specific saint cosmonauts pray to before the launch? Do you have a heavenly patron?

Valeriy Korzun: Not as such, but we have always considered St. Nicholas the Wonderworker our patron, because he takes care of all travellers.

Father Alexiy Uminskiy: Do you take icons along to space?

Yuriy Lonchakov: Yes, we take small ones along. I always have an icon of St. George the Victorybearer, because my name is Yuriy, it's a variation of George.

Father Alexiy Uminskiy: I have recently been very surprised to learn that a church has been built in Baikonur. Do you know after whom it is consecrated and what services it holds?

Valeriy Korzun: I haven't heard that it's already been built, but I know there is an Orthodox community there, and they used to meet just in a room, and their priests came to bless us before the launch.

Father Alexiy Uminskiy: Many people now consecrate their homes and cars, ships are consecrated, I even consecrated a theatre. Are rockets consecrated?

Yuriy Lonchakov: I don't know about rockets, but before the crew puts the space suits on, a priest is always invited to consecrate them.

Valeriy Korzun: And the bus that takes them to the launch pad. We don't know about the rockets because we don't deal with them, but they say they do get consecrated.

Father Alexiy Uminskiy: This must be wonderful - to fly all around the Earth on a consecrated space ship!
Valeri Petrov, Yuri Gagarin's best friend, has repeatedly stated it was not Gagarin but Khrushchev who said the bit about not finding God in space, and he attributed that statement to the cosmonaut. What Gagarin did say, says Petrov, is, "An astronaut cannot be suspended in space and not have God in his mind and heart."

A scientist who's also a deist? Hardly uncommon, and not exactly earth shattering.
Above: Astronauts and cosmonauts in the Zvezda module of the International Space Station share some repulsive-looking food amongst an Orthodox Crucifix, a painting of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow (built from 1839-1883, destroyed by that p.o.s. Stalin in a couple of hours in 1931, and rebuilt to exact specs a few years back), Our Lady of Kazan, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Christ Pantocrator, and a boyish, adorable Yuri Gagarin.

No comments: