Saturday, June 17, 2006

Small Group Sessions

This is one of those times when I feel like Chesterton, I just can't get enough nothing to do. Unfortunately, there is still plenty to do, so I can't take enough time to process what just happened.

Father Jaki had a small group session on Intelligent Design which I just attended. Out in the courtyard and in the vendor hall, there is a buzz and talk is flying about what just happened in the room.

You know it is good when you feel so challenged when you hear someone speak, that you find your mind reeling, the gears turning, and your knowledge seems inadequate for any response.

I now understand that ID is NOT science, and cannot ever be classified as science. The very word "design" is a philosophical word.

Well, Father is very blunt, and he even told us that the bible can't be so correct, which caused people to walk out of the room, because the bible says in Genesis Chapter one that the plants were created before the sun, which we know can't happen. He also said that we know now that the sun was "born" so many millions of years ago (I believe he said 50) but that the world is estimated at 150 million years, so that some say this is a 3rd generation sun, and that the moon came about after the earth's formation. But it is only when you try to use Genesis Chapter one as a science text that this is a problem. In faith, we can believe Genesis Chapter one happened as it did, there is no problem with it as long as you don't use it as a science text book.

Then he also mentioned how upset he was that a Catholic Cardinal wrote a letter to the NYTimes, defending ID, which he said was most unfortunate. No Catholics seemed upset enough to walk out of the room, though.

He also said some thing about what fundamentalists believe, and another person walked out angrily. There was a lot of tension in the air. It is very hard to have core beliefs challenged, and it is hard not to look at things like science and ID, which people can be very emotional about, logically and rationally.

I can't say what happened in the Inklings, the Dickens, the Catholic Lit or the Planned Giving sessions, I wasn't there.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Please explain the confusion again, about the sun, planets, & Genesis...


  3. I think it might be a bit too cute to banish "design" from the realm of science and limit it to philosophy. Though I'm skeptical towards the more specific claims of the ID movement, they're right that perceiving design plays a role in archaeology, for example. That design can be quantitatively measured is probably doubtful, but nobody banishes archaeology to the realm of pseudoscience because it rests on the presumption that design can be perceived.

    Hope the rest of the conference goes well. Did anybody make it from the Denver GKC society, or Denver generally? I haven't kept up with the group these past few months.

  4. Kevin,
    I know that I am not the person to explain all this. Fr. Jaki is a physicist with a few PhD's, winner of the Templeton Prize, who has been working in this field for 60 years. He has put more thought into this than most people, and I suggest to read his books.

    Look at his resume

    and at his book (a review)

    and as you can see from this page

    this is a complex issue with much to read about.

    I think it is not "cute" to "banish" design to philosophy. It is a simple categorical reality. Science is quantitative, it can be measured. Archeology is not a "science" - it is a "social" science, and therefore, not in the same realm as physics, chemistry or astronomy, which are considered the "hard" sciences. See here

  5. I know some of the works of Jaki and generally admire his work. But just because he's smarter than I am doesn't keep me from arguing with him.

    All taxonomies of science are somewhat arbitrary, but some are more arbitrary than others. The "hard" vs. "soft" distinction, in my unauthoritative opinion, is one questionable distinction.

    Whether design, human or otherwise, can actually be quantified is a topic very worthy of exploration. No sense letting academic categories keep us from asking such questions.

  6. "Fr. Jaki is a physicist with a few PhD's"

    He has a PhD in physics and a PhD in theology. He knows what he's talking about.

    "But just because he's smarter than I am doesn't keep me from arguing with him."

    He has a PhD in physics and a PhD in theology. He knows what he's talking about. And he does not suffer fools gladly. :-)

  7. Well, I suppose Fr J can take up his differences (if any) with Cdl. Schonborn, who has some theological props of his own.

    As to Genesis: Fr. Jaki would seem to be taking exception to the proposition that God is All-Powerful.

    If He wanted dandelions to grow without sunlight, He did so. QED.

    Dandelions certainly seem to be able to grow, regardless of MY rules!

  8. He is not taking exception to that proposition at all. What he is doing is demonstrating the hazards of asking more from Genesis than it was ever meant to do (which is one of the many problems that occur when taking a Sola Scriptura approach to Sacred Scripture.

  9. St. Augustine wrote the definitive treatise, "The Literal Meaning of Genesis", in the year 456. There he warned against using the scriptures as if they were intended to present scientific information. The worst result, he explained, is not that persons voicing such views will be laughed at, but that the Scriptures themselves will be brought into disrepute.

    At the time of Galileo, Cardinal Barberini was fond of making this distinction in a slogan. It has been much quoted ever since:

    “Scientists teach how the heavens go, and religions teach how to go to heaven.”

    Father Jaki stated the warning as clearly as possible for us. “Christians, who separate faith from reason can only engage in losing battles. The age of the earth, the age of man, the origin of organic life, and similar propositions, which can be proved or disproved empirically--because they are empirical propositions--are such slippery grounds.”

    Unfortunately for the Bible side, especially in the English-speaking world and most especially in the United States, the original attack on Darwin came mainly from Bible Fundamentalists. Using the Bible is an infallible source of scientific information, these sincere believers put themselves into one indefensible position after another, and they have made the general Christian view seem false and even childish (exactly as St. Augustine had warned). That is why there is an impression among Darwinists that the official stance of Christianity is Bible literalism, for which they have a lively contempt. And who can blame them?
    ~ John Peterson

  10. Here is another link to read on Fr. Jaki, who is Hungarian, by the way. I said the wrong nationality.

  11. I missed Fr. Jaki's talk, unfortunately, but here's my $.02:

    I would say ID is philosophy which can change the way you look at science. After all, everything you do and everything you think is based on your philosophy. Modern science has serious philosophical issues because the usual position is that we can study science apart from philosophy. The fact is, we can't. If we're nihilists, we can't make the same kind of sense of the universe. The universe, after all, is a single, whole thing, and science, philosophy, and so forth are different pairs of glasses we put on to find out different things about it.

    Which is why I don't like it when people say, "Religiously, I believe the plants were created first, but scientifically, the sun must have." It just doesn't float. It's a shattered view of things.

    Just my thoughts -- all due respect to Fr. J.

  12. Re-reading this later, I'm not even sure what I said is at all relevant to the discussion. Sorry.

    I guess I should make a couple things clear. I don't believe we should get our science from Genesis. I just don't think that science can contradict Genesis. You can take Genesis figuratively if you like. But I always stress and even over-stress that there can be no inherent contradiction.

    Personally, I think Genesis has far more relevant information about the beginning of things than scientists. Scientists want to tell us the mechanics, but that isn't important or useful to how we are to live our lives. Genesis tells us Who created the world, and gives us a hint to why, and that is earth-shakingly relevant.

    I still don't really understand why people get so upset about this. To me, neither a scientist nor a theologian, God created the world and that's all I claim to know about it.


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