Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Cognitive unity with nature"

"THE important point for the historian of science is that Aquinas gave to a broadly shared rational conviction a concise formulation which had symbolic power…. He (Aquinas) noted that it is natural for man to be in cognitive unity with nature."

~Fr. Stanley L. Jaki: The Road of Science and the Ways to God.

The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas, by Andrea da Firenze.
Fresco, 1366-67; Cappellone degli Spagnoli, Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Intelligent Design?

Recommended reading:
Intelligent Design? by Fr. Stanley L. Jaki.

In this 32-page booklet, Jaki discusses the flaws and shortcomings of Intelligent Design theory: “This booklet on the Intelligent Design theory of evolution was prompted by the front-page report which The New York Times devoted to that theory in three consecutive days this past August. Those reports and other cover stories surely exposed an aspect of that theory which is its at least indirect connection with biblical fundamentalism. But that theory has in its armor other and far more serious chinks about which Christians, who take seriously Saint Paul's warning in the Romans that their service is a "reasoned service," should be fully aware.

“On no account should they espouse the fallacy of the "biblical" doctrine of the special creation of each species. This notion flies in the face of sound exegesis and sane theology. The shortcomings, often very serious, of Darwinian theory cannot be remedied with Intelligent Design theory, which philosophically cannot cope with design and purpose. Moreover, it is a subtle rehash of the doctrine of special creation. Even worse, as it claims to be a "scientific" theory of evolution, it implies that design, insofar as it means purpose (and indeed divine purpose) can be the object of measurements, which is the touchstone of truth in science.”

See this booklet at Real View Books

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

“The skill of misinformation”

COMMUNICATION is now a science, or rather the skill of misinformation. A journalist must know the technique of how to escape the charge of editorializing in the guise of reporting. The simplest form of that skill is to find somebody who agrees with the position of the newspaper and ask him or her for an opinion. This is then reported as being representative of the thinking of society at large, but it reflects above all the view of the editor and perhaps also of the reporter. The technique is a skill in the art of lying, about which most reporters and editors as well as professors in schools of journalism are not really concerned. No room there for an Augustine of Hippo, who, on thinking ever more seriously about becoming a Christian, realized that his profession, for which the State paid him, was to promote lies. This dawned on him when, shortly before his conversion, he was supposed to deliver an oration on the emperor’s birthday. He knew that, like other rhetors paid by the State, he had to lie from both corners of his mouth by presenting a rascal as a paragon of virtue.

I am not saying that such an art is explicitly endorsed in our schools of education, but it is hardly met head on, because there everything has to be politically correct. There the chief aim is to make everybody feel comfortable with anyone else’s views and patterns of behavior. The result is that modern society is coming apart at the seams. Statistics on crime, on deviant behavior, speak louder than words. The science of education has become an instruction in brazen pragmatism.

~Stanley L. Jaki: “The Science of Education and Education in Science.” (in Lectures in the Vatican Gardens)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Relativity theory an absolutist theory

SCIENCE, exact science that is, has become synonymous with the theory of relativity and with quantum mechanics. In the broader cultural context the science of relativity is all too often taken as a proof that everything is relative. This might not have happened if Einstein had followed the suggestion of a friend of his, E. Zschimmer, who in 1922 urged him to rename his theory of relativity as “Invarianten-theorie,” or the theory of invariance. In his reply, Einstein admitted that the expression “relativity theory” “is unfortunate and has given occasion to philosophical misunderstandings.” Yet he felt that although the new name would “perhaps be better, it would cause confusion to change the generally accepted name after all this time.”

Apart from cultural considerations, the new name, “theory of invariance,” would have done much more justice to the science of relativity. On hearing physicists talk everywhere of “the theory of invariance” the broader public would have come to suspect that Einstein’s real achievement consisted in shedding light on some very absolutists aspects of the physical world. Such are the independence of the speed of light of the velocity of its source as well as of its detector, and the unchanging form of the basic equations of electromagnetism regardless of the motion of the coordinate system with respect to which they are formulated. The theory of relativity is a form of physical science far more reliably absolutist than Newtonian physics was with its doctrine of absolute space and time.

~Stanley L. Jaki: “Science, Culture and Cult.” (Lectures in the Vatican Gardens)

"Lectures in the Vatican Gardens"

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence?

AS IS well known, Christian theology, with its dogmas of creation out of nothing and in time, gave the clue to Buridan and Oresme for a breakthrough toward a right doctrine about inertial motion. Pierre Duhem, a giant among historians of science, said this early in this century [20th cent.], and some others after him, though they remained ignored in this respect as much as he is. I do not mention this point here as a further question of whether the rise of those two dogmas would repeat itself on other planets having science. My reason relates to the fact that the same Christian theology also has it as a dogma that every human mind or soul is a special creation. Those holding to that dogma cannot, of course, dictate to God where and when to infuse intelligence or soul into flesh and blood primates. Those holding that dogma can, however, be assured that all descendants will have essential uniformity of intellect, the very uniformity that protagonists of ETI [Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence] cannot assume while trying to detect radio signals, coded in terms of our intellect, from outer space. Again, on the basis of the same dogma, extra-terrestrial beings may safely be expected to know something about love and brotherhood, whereas ETI champions must assume that all encounters with ETI will be encounters with another species locked in a grim struggle for life with us. C.N. Yang, a Nobel-laureate physicist, was very much to the point when he said, about twenty-five years ago, that on detecting radio signals from outer space we should go into hiding.

On too many points the ETI program is a deliberate snubbing of the true history of scientific progress and a deliberately flippant espousal of plain contradictions in terms of their basic premises. Of course, the great breakthroughs of science have always implied at least some apparent contradiction. But Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Planck, and Einstein offered something tangibly positive in exchange for some apparently impossible claims. The ETI program has nothing similar to offer. That investigations performed in its name resulted in considerable scientific benefits is, in my opinion, most doubtful, even concerning the past two decades, to say nothing of earlier times.

But there should be no doubt that the cavalier approach of ETI champions to the question of human intellect is acting in the cultural context in a most harmful way. The ETI program is a systematic devaluation of the dignity of human intellect. The ETI program is doing now—on a far vaster scale and with the help of global TV—what had been done earlier by the popularization of mechanistic science. In looking back on the rise of Hitler and Stalin and the horrors of World War II, W. Heitler, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, aptly stated in 1949: “In the decline of ethical standards which the history of the past fifteen years exhibited, it is not difficult to trace the influence of mechanistic concepts which have unconsciously but deeply crept into human minds.”

This is a fact of history, the kind that historians of ETI must take seriously if they want to be seen as serious historians. Otherwise, they will be the flippant raconteurs of what happened on the level where facile games are played with the intellect. Tellingly, such games rate high in today’s publishing world and in the academic establishment in cahoots with it.

~Stanley L. Jaki: Extra-Terrestrials and Scientific Progress. (1985) 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Galileo on Science & the Bible

[The following letter by Galileo Galilei to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany outlines his views on the relation between science and the Bible.] 

Galileo Galilei: Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany, 1615.

To the Most Serene Grand Duchess Mother:

Some years ago, as Your Serene Highness well knows, I discovered in the heavens many things that had not been seen before our own age. The novelty of these things, as well as some consequences which followed from them in contradiction to the physical notions commonly held among academic philosophers, stirred up against me no small number of professors─as if I had placed these things in the sky with my own hands in order to upset nature and overturn the sciences. They seemed to forget that the increase of known truths stimulates the investigation, establishment, and growth of the arts; not their diminution or destruction.

Showing a greater fondness for their own opinions than for truth they sought to deny and disprove the new things which, if they had cared to look for themselves, their own senses would have demonstrated to them. To this end they hurled various charges and published numerous writings filled with vain arguments, and they made the grave mistake of sprinkling these with passages taken from places in the Bible which they had failed to understand properly, and which were ill-suited to their purposes.

These men would perhaps not have fallen into such error had they but paid attention to a most useful doctrine of St. Augustine's, relative to our making positive statements about things which are obscure and hard to understand by means of reason alone. Speaking of a certain physical conclusion about the heavenly bodies, he wrote: "Now keeping always our respect for moderation in grave piety, we ought not to believe anything inadvisedly on a dubious point, lest in favor to our error we conceive a prejudice against something that truth hereafter may reveal to be not contrary in any way to the sacred books of either the Old or the New Testament."

Well, the passage of time has revealed to everyone the truths that I previously set forth; and, together with the truth of the facts, there has come to light the great difference in attitude between those who simply and dispassionately refused to admit the discoveries to be true, and those who combined with their incredulity some reckless passion of their own. Men who were well grounded in astronomical and physical science were persuaded as soon as they received my first message. There were others who denied them or remained in doubt only because of their novel and unexpected character, and because they had not yet had the opportunity to see for themselves. These men have by degrees come to be satisfied. But some, besides allegiance to their original error, possess I know not what fanciful interest in remaining hostile not so much toward the things in question as toward their discoverer. No longer being able to deny them, these men now take refuge in obstinate silence, but being more than ever exasperated by that which has pacified and quieted other men, they divert their thoughts to other fancies and seek new ways to damage me.

I should pay no more attention to them than to those who previously contradicted me-at whom I always laugh, being assured of the eventual outcome-were it not that in their new calumnies and persecutions I perceive that they do not stop at proving themselves more learned than I am (a claim which I scarcely contest), but go so far as to cast against me the imputations of crimes which must be, and are, more abhorrent to me than death itself. I cannot remain satisfied merely to know that the injustice of this is recognized by those who are acquainted with these men and with me, as perhaps it is not known to others.

Persisting in their original resolve to destroy me and everything mine by any means they can think of, these men are aware of my views in astronomy and philosophy. They know that as to the arrangement of the parts of the universe, I hold the sun to be situated motionless in the center of the revolution of the celestial orbs while the earth revolves about the sun. They know also that I support this position not only by refuting the arguments of Ptolemy and Aristotle, but by producing many counter-arguments; in particular, some which relate to physical effects whose causes can perhaps be assigned in no other way. In addition there are astronomical arguments derived from many things in my new celestial discoveries that plainly confute the Ptolemaic system while admirably agreeing with and confirming the contrary hypothesis. Possibly because they are disturbed by the known truth of other propositions of mine which differ from those commonly held, and therefore mistrusting their defense so long as they confine themselves to the field of philosophy, these men have resolved to fabricate a shield for their fallacies out of the mantle of pretended religion and the authority of the Bible. These they apply with little judgement to the refutation of arguments that they do not understand and have not even listened to.

First, they have endeavored to spread the opinion that such propositions in general are contrary to the Bible and are consequently damnable and heretical. They know that it is human nature to take up causes whereby a man may oppress his neighbor, no matter how unjustly, rather than those from which a man may receive some just encouragement. Hence they have had no trouble in finding men who would preach the damnability and heresy of the new doctrine from their very pulpits with unwonted confidence, thus doing impious and inconsiderate injury not only to that doctrine and its followers but to all mathematics and mathematicians in general. Next, becoming bolder, and hoping (though vainly) that this seed which first took root in their hypocritical minds would send out branches and ascend to heaven, they began scattering rumors among the people that before long this doctrine would be condemned by the supreme authority. They know, too, that official condemnation would not only sup press the two propositions which I have mentioned, but would render damnable all other astronomical and physical statements and observations that have any necessary relation or connection with these.

In order to facilitate their designs, they seek so far as possible (at least among the common people) to make this opinion seem new and to belong to me alone. They pretend not to know that its author, or rather its restorer and confirmer, was Nicholas Copernicus; and that he was not only a Catholic, but a priest and a canon. He was in fact so esteemed by the church that when the Lateran Council under Leo X took up the correction of the church calendar, Copernicus was called to Rome from the most remote parts of Germany to undertake its reform. At that time the calendar was defective because the true measures of the year and the lunar month were not exactly known. The Bishop of Culm, then superintendent of this matter, assigned Copernicus to seek more light and greater certainty concerning the celestial motions by means of constant study and labor. With Herculean toil he set his admirable mind to this task, and he made such great progress in this science and brought our knowledge of the heavenly motions to such precision that he became celebrated as an astronomer. Since that time not only has the calendar been regulated by his teachings, but tables of all the motions of the planets have been calculated as well.

Having reduced his system into six books, he published these at the instance of the Cardinal of Capua and the Bishop of Culm. And since he had assumed his laborious enterprise by order of the supreme pontiff, he dedicated this book On the celestial revolutions to Pope Paul III. When printed, the book was accepted by the holy Church, and it has been read and studied by everyone without the faintest hint of any objection ever being conceived against its doctrines. Yet now that manifest experiences and necessary proofs have shown them to be well grounded, persons exist who would strip the author of his reward without so much as looking at his book, and add the shame of having him pronounced a heretic. All this they would do merely to satisfy their personal displeasure conceived without any cause against another man, who has no interest in Copernicus beyond approving his teachings.

Now as to the false aspersions which they so unjustly seek to cast upon me, I have thought it necessary to justify myself in the eyes of all men, whose judgment in matters of` religion and of reputation I must hold in great esteem. I shall therefore discourse of the particulars, which these men produce to make this opinion detested and to have it condemned not merely as false but as heretical. To this end, they make a shield of their hypocritical zeal for religion. They go about invoking the Bible, which they would have minister to their deceitful purposes. Contrary to the sense of the Bible and the intention of the holy Fathers, if I am not mistaken, they would extend such authorities until even m purely physical matters─where faith is not involved─they would have us altogether abandon reason and the evidence of our senses in favor of some biblical passage, though under the surface meaning of its words this passage may contain a different sense.

I hope to show that I proceed with much greater piety than they do, when I argue not against condemning this book, but against condemning it in the way they suggest─that is, without understanding it, weighing it, or so much as reading it. For Copernicus never discusses matters of religion or faith, nor does he use argument that depend in any way upon the authority of sacred writings which he might have interpreted erroneously. He stands always upon physical conclusions pertaining to the celestial motions, and deals with them by astronomical and geometrical demonstrations, founded primarily upon sense experiences and very exact observations. He did not ignore the Bible, but he knew very well that if` his doctrine were proved, then it could not contradict the Scriptures when they were rightly understood and thus at the end of his letter of dedication, addressing the pope, he said:

"If there should chance to be any exegetes ignorant of mathematics who pretend to skill in that discipline, and dare to condemn and censure this hypothesis of mine upon the authority of some scriptural passage twisted to their purpose, I value them not, but disdain their unconsidered judgment. For it is known that Lactantius─a poor mathematician though in other respects a worthy author─writes very childishly about the shape of the earth when he scoffs at those who affirm it to be a globe. Hence it should not seem strange to the ingenious if people of that sort should in turn deride me. But mathematics is written for mathematicians, by whom, if I am not deceived, these labors of mine will be recognized as contributing something to their domain, as also to that of the Church over which Your Holiness now reigns."

Such are the people who labor to persuade us that an author like Copernicus may be condemned without being read, and who produce various authorities from the Bible, from theologians, and from Church Councils to make us believe that this is not only lawful but commendable. Since I hold these to be of supreme authority I consider it rank temerity for anyone to contradict them─when employed according to the usage of the holy Church. Yet I do not believe it is wrong to speak out when there is reason to suspect that other men wish, for some personal motive, to produce and employ such authorities for purposes quite different from the sacred intention of the holy Church.

Therefore I declare (and my sincerity will make itself manifest) not only that I mean to submit myself freely and renounce any errors into which I may fall in this discourse through ignorance of matters pertaining to religion, but that I do not desire in these matters to engage in disputes with anyone, even on points that are disputable. My goal is this alone; that if, among errors that may abound in these considerations of a subject remote from my profession, there is anything that may be serviceable to the holy Church in making a decision concerning the Copernican system, it may be taken and utilized as seems best to the superiors. And if not, let my book be torn and burnt, as I neither intend nor pretend to gain from it any fruit that is not pious and Catholic. And though many of the things I shall reprove have been heard by my own ears, I shall freely grant to those who have spoken them that they never said them, if that is what they wish, and I shall confess myself to have been mistaken. Hence let whatever I reply be addressed not to them, but to whoever may have held such opinions.

The reason produced for condemning the opinion that the earth moves and the sun stands still in many places in the Bible one may read that the sun moves and the earth stands still. Since the Bible cannot err; it follows as a necessary consequence that anyone takes a erroneous and heretical position who maintains that the sun is inherently motionless and the earth movable.

With regard to this argument, I think in the first place that it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the holy Bible can never speak untruth─whenever its true meaning is understood. But I believe nobody will deny that it is often very abstruse, and may say things which are quite different from what its bare words signify. Hence in expounding the Bible if one were always to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning, one might; fall into error. Not only contradictions and propositions far from true might thus be made to appear in the Bible, but even grave heresies and follies. Thus it would be necessary to assign to God feet, hands and eyes, as well as corporeal and human affections, such as anger, repentance, hatred, and sometimes even the forgetting of things past and ignorance of those to come. These propositions uttered by the Holy Ghost were set down in that manner by the sacred scribes in order to accommodate them to the capacities, Of the common people, who are rude and unlearned. For the sake of those who deserve to be separated from the herd, it is necessary that wise expositors should produce the true senses of such passages, together with the special reasons for which they were set down in these words. This doctrine is so widespread and so definite with all theologians that it would be superfluous to adduce evidence for it.

Hence, I think that I may reasonably conclude that whenever the Bible has occasion to speak of any physical conclusion (especially those which are very abstruse and hard to understand), the rule has been observed of avoiding confusion in the minds of the common people which would render them contumacious toward the higher mysteries. Now the Bible, merely to condescend to popular capacity, has not hesitated to obscure some very important pronouncements, attributing to God himself some qualities extremely remote from (and even contrary to) His essence. Who, then, would positively declare that this principle has been set aside, and the Bible has confined itself rigorously to the bare and restricted sense of its words, when speaking but casually of the earth, of water, of the sun, or of any other created thing? Especially in view of the fact that these things in no way concern the primary purpose of the sacred writings, which is the service of God and the salvation of souls─matters infinitely beyond the comprehension of the common people.

This being granted, I think that in discussions of physical problems we ought to begin not from the authority of scriptural passages but from sense­experiences and necessary demonstrations; for the holy Bible and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine Word the former as the dictate of the Holy Ghost and the latter as the observant executrix of God's commands. It is necessary for the Bible, in order to be accommodated to the understanding of every man, to speak many things which appear to differ from the absolute truth so far as the bare meaning of the words is concerned. But Nature, on the other hand, is inexorable and immutable; she never transgresses the laws imposed upon her, or cares a whit whether her abstruse reasons and methods of operation are understandable to men. For that reason it appears that nothing physical which sense­experience sets before our eyes, or which necessary demonstrations prove to us, ought to be called in question (much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages which may have some different meaning beneath their words. For the Bible is not chained in every expression to conditions as strict as those which govern all physical effects; nor is God any less excellently revealed in Nature's actions than in the sacred statements of the Bible. Perhaps this is what Tertullian meant by these words:

"We conclude that God is known first through Nature, and then again, more particularly, by doctrine, by Nature in His works, and by doctrine in His revealed word."

From this I do not mean to infer that we need not have an extraordinary esteem for the passages of holy Scripture. On the contrary, having arrived at any certainties in physics, we ought to utilize these as the most appropriate aids in the true exposition of the Bible and in the investigation of those meanings, which are necessarily contained therein, for these must be concordant with demonstrated truths. I should judge that the authority of the Bible was designed to persuade men of those articles and propositions, which, surpassing all human reasoning could not be made credible by science, or by any other means than through the very mouth of the Holy Spirit.

Yet even in those propositions which are not matters of faith, this authority ought to be preferred over that of all human writings, which are supported only by bare assertions or probable arguments, and not set forth in a demonstrative way. This I hold to be necessary and proper to the same extent that divine wisdom surpasses all human judgment and conjecture.

But I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them. He would not require us to deny sense and reason in physical matters, which are set before our eyes and minds by direct experience or necessary demonstrations. This must be especially true in those sciences of which but the faintest trace (and that consisting of conclusions) is to be found in the Bible. Of astronomy; for instance, so little is found that none of the planets except Venus are so much as mentioned, and this only once or twice under the name of "Lucifer." If the sacred scribes had had any intention of teaching people certain arrangements and motions of the heavenly bodies, or had they wished us to derive such knowledge from the Bible, then in my opinion they would not have spoken of these matters so sparingly in comparison with the infinite number of admirable conclusions which are demonstrated in that science. Far from pretending to teach us the constitution and motions of the heavens and other stars, with their shapes, magnitudes, and distances, the authors of the Bible intentionally forbore to speak of these things, though all were quite well known to them. Such is the opinion of the holiest and most learned Fathers, and in St. Augustine we find the following words:

"It is likewise commonly asked what we may believe about the form and shape of the heavens according to the Scriptures, for many contend much about these matters. But with superior prudence our authors have forborne to speak of this, as in no way furthering the student with respect to a blessed life-and, more important still, as taking up much of that time which should be spent in holy exercises. What is it to me whether heaven, like a sphere surrounds the earth on all sides as a mass balanced in the center of the universe, or whether like a dish it merely covers and overcasts the earth? Belief in Scripture is urged rather for the reason we have often mentioned; that is, in order that no one, through ignorance of divine passages, finding anything in our Bibles or hearing anything cited from them of such a nature as may seem to oppose manifest conclusions, should be induced to suspect their truth when they teach, relate, and deliver more profitable matters. Hence let it be said briefly, touching the form of heaven, that our authors knew the truth but the Holy Spirit did not desire that men should learn things that are useful to no one for salvation." 

The same disregard of these sacred authors toward beliefs about the phenomena of the celestial bodies is repeated to us by St. Augustine in his next chapter. On the question whether we are to believe that the heaven moves or stands still, he writes thus:

"Some of the brethren raise a question concerning the motion of heaven, whether it is fixed or moved. If it is moved, they say, how is it a firmament? If it stands still, how do these stars which are held fixed in it go round from east to west, the more northerly performing shorter circuits near the pole, so that the heaven (if there is another pole unknown to us) may seem to revolve upon some axis, or (if there is no other pole) may be thought to move as a discus? To these men I reply that it would require many subtle and profound reasonings to find out which of these things is actually so; but to undertake this and discuss it is consistent neither with my leisure nor with the duty of those whom I desire to instruct in essential matters more directly conducing to their salvation and to the benefit of the holy Church." 

From these things it follows as a necessary consequence that, since the Holy Ghost did not intend to teach us whether heaven moves or stands still, whether its shape is spherical or like a discus or extended in a plane, nor whether the earth is located at its center or off to one side, then so much the less was it intended to settle for us any other conclusion of the same kind. And the motion or rest of the earth and the sun is so closely linked with the things just named, that without a determination of the one, neither side can be taken in the other matters. Now if the Holy Spirit has purposely neglected to teach us propositions of this sort as irrelevant to the highest goal (that is, to our salvation), how can anyone affirm that it is obligatory to take sides on them, that one belief is required by faith, while the other side is erroneous? Can an opinion be heretical and yet have no concern with the salvation of souls? Can the Holy Ghost be asserted not to have intended teaching us something that does concern our salvation? I would say here something that was heard from an ecclesiastic of the most eminent degree: "That the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven. Not how heaven goes."

But let us again consider the degree to which necessary demonstrations and sense experiences ought to be respected in physical conclusions, and the authority they have enjoyed at the hands of holy and learned theologians. From among a hundred attestations, I have selected the following:

"We must also take heed, in handling the doctrine of Moses. That we altogether avoid saying positively and confidently anything which contradicts manifest experiences and the reasoning of philosophy or the other sciences. For since every truth is in agreement with all other truth, the truth of Holy Writ cannot be contrary to the solid reasons and experiences of human knowledge." 

And in St. Augustine we read:

"If anyone shall set the authority of Holy Writ against clear and manifest reason, he who does this knows not what he has undertaken; for he opposes to the truth not the meaning of the Bible, which is beyond his comprehension, but rather his own interpretation, not what is in the Bible, but what he has found in himself and imagines to be there."

This granted, and it being true that two truths cannot contradict one another, it is the function of expositors to seek out the true senses of scriptural texts. These will unquestionably accord with the physical conclusions, which manifest sense and necessary demonstrations have previously made certain to us. Now the Bible, as has been remarked, admits in many places expositions that are remote from the signification of the words for reasons we have already given. Moreover, we are unable to affirm that all interpreters of the Bible speak by Divine inspiration for if that were so there would exist no differences among them about the sense of a given passage. Hence, I should think it would be the part of prudence not to permit anyone to usurp scriptural texts and force them in some way to maintain any physical conclusion to be true, when at some future time the senses and demonstrative or necessary reasons may show the contrary. Who indeed will set bounds to human ingenuity? Who will assert that everything in the universe capable of being perceived is already discovered and known? Let us rather confess quite truly that "Those truths which we know are very few in comparison with those which we do not know."

We have it from the very mouth of the Holy Ghost that God delivered up the world to disputations, so that man cannot find out the work that God hath done from the beginning even to the end. In my opinion no one, m contradiction to that dictum, should close the road to free philosophizing about mundane and physical things, as if everything had already been discovered and revealed with certainty. Nor should it be considered rash not to be satisfied with those opinions, which have become common. No one should be scorned in physical disputes for not holding to the opinions, which happen to please other people best, especially concerning problems which have been debated among the greatest philosophers for thousands of years. One of these is the stability of the sun mobility of the earth, a doctrine believed by Pythagoras and all his followers, by Heracleides of Pontus (who was one of them), by Philolaus, the teacher of Plato, and by Plato himself according to Aristotle. Plutarch writes in his Life of Numa that Plato, when he had grown old, said it was absurd to believe otherwise. The same doctrine was held by Aristarchus of Samos, as Archimedes tells us; by Seleucus the mathematician, by Nicetas the philosopher (on the testimony of Cicero), and by many others. Finally, this opinion has been amplified and confirmed with many observations and demonstrations by Nicholas Copernicus. And Seneca, a most eminent philosopher, advises us in his book on comets that we should more diligently seek to ascertain whether it is in the sky or in the earth that the diurnal rotation resides.

Hence it would probably be wise and useful counsel if, beyond articles which concern salvation and the establishment of our Faith, against the stability of which there is no danger whatever that any valid and effective doctrine can ever arise, men would not aggregate further articles unnecessarily. And it would certainly be preposterous to introduce them at the request of persons, who, besides not being known to speak by inspiration of divine grace, are clearly seen to lack that understanding which is necessary in order to comprehend, let alone discuss, the demonstrations by which such conclusions are supported in the subtler sciences. If I may speak my opinion freely, I should say further that it would perhaps fit in better with the decorum and majesty of the sacred writings to take measures for preventing every shallow and vulgar writer from giving to his compositions (often grounded upon foolish fancies) an air of authority by inserting in them passages from the Bible, interpreted (or rather distorted) into senses as far from the right meaning of Scripture as those authors are near to absurdity who thus ostentatiously adorn their writings. Of such abuses many examples might be produced, but for the present I shall confine myself to two which are germane to these astronomical matters. The first concerns those writings which were published against the existence of the Medicean planets recently discovered by me, in which many passages of holy Scripture were cited. Now that everyone has seen these planets, I should like to know what new interpretations those same antagonists employ in expounding the Scripture and excusing their own simplicity. My other example is that of a man who has lately published, in defiance of astronomers and philosophers, the opinion that the moon does not receive its light from the sun but is brilliant by its own nature. He supports this fancy (or rather thinks he does) by sundry texts of Scripture which he believes cannot be explained unless his theory is true; yet that the moon is inherently dark is surely as plain as daylight.

It is obvious that such authors, not having penetrated the true senses of Scripture, would impose upon others an obligation to subscribe to conclusions that are repugnant to manifest reason and sense, if they had any authority to do so. God forbid that this sort of abuse should gain countenance and authority, for then in a short time it would be necessary to proscribe all the contemplative sciences. People who are unable to understand perfectly both the Bible and the science far outnumber those who do understand them. The former, glancing superficially through the Bible, would arrogate to themselves the authority to decree upon every question of physics on the strength of some word which they have misunderstood, and which was employed by the sacred authors for some different purpose. And the smaller number of understanding men could not dam up the furious torrent of such people, who would gain the majority of followers simply because it is much more pleasant to gain a reputation for wisdom without effort or study than to consume oneself tirelessly in the most laborious disciplines. Let us therefore render thanks to Almighty God, who in His beneficence protects us from this danger by depriving such persons of all authority, reposing the power of consultation, decision, and decree on such important matters in the high wisdom and benevolence of most prudent Fathers, and in the supreme authority of those who cannot fail to order matters properly under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Hence we need not concern ourselves with the shallowness of those men whom grave and holy authors rightly reproach, and of whom in particular St. Jerome said, in reference to the Bible:

"This is ventured upon, lacerated, and taught by the garrulous old woman, the doting old man, and the prattling sophist before they have learned it. Others, led on by pride, weigh heavy words and philosophize amongst women concerning holy Scripture. Others─oh shame!─learn from women what they teach to men, and (as if that were not enough) glibly expound to others that which they themselves do not understand. I forebear to speak of those of my own profession who, attaining a knowledge of the holy Scriptures after mundane learning, tickle the ears of the people with affected and studied expressions, and declare that everything they say is to be taken as the law of God. Not bothering to learn what the prophets and the apostles have maintained, they wrest incongruous testimonies into their own senses─as if distorting passages and twisting the Bible to their individual and contradictory whims were the genuine way of teaching, and not a corrupt one." 

I do not wish to place in the number of such lay writers some theologians whom I consider men of profound learning and devout behavior, and who are therefore held by me in great esteem and veneration Yet I cannot deny that I feel some discomfort which I should like to have removed, when I hear them pretend to the power of constraining others by scriptural authority to follow in a physical dispute that opinion which they think best agrees with the Bible, and then believe themselves not bound to answer the opposing reasons and experiences. In explanation and support of this opinion they say that since theology is queen of all the sciences, she need not bend in any way to accommodate herself to the teachings of less worthy sciences which are subordinate to her; these others must rather be referred to her as their supreme empress, changing and altering their conclusions according to her statutes and decrees. They add further that if in the inferior sciences any conclusion should be taken as certain in virtue of demonstrations or experiences, while in the Bible another conclusion is found repugnant to this, then the professors of that science should themselves undertake to undo their proofs and discover the fallacies in their own experiences, without bothering the theologians and exegetes. For, they say, it does not become the dignity of theology to stoop to the investigation of fallacies in the subordinate sciences; it is sufficient for her merely to determine the truth of a given conclusion with absolute authority, secure in her inability to err.

Now the physical conclusions in which they say we ought to be satisfied by Scripture, without glossing or expounding it in senses different from the literal, are those concerning which the Bible always speaks in the same manner and which the holy Fathers all receive and expound in the same way. But with regard to these judgments I have had occasion to consider several things, and I shall set them forth in order that I may be corrected by those who understand more than I do in these matters─for to their decisions I submit at all times.

First, I question whether there is not some equivocation in failing to specify the virtues which entitle sacred theology to the title of "queen." It might deserve that name by reason of including everything that is included from all the other sciences and establishing everything by better methods and with profounder learning. It is thus, for example, that the rules for measuring fields and keeping accounts are much more excellently contained in arithmetic and in the geometry of Euclid than in the practices of surveyors and accountants. Or theology might be queen because of being occupied with a subject which excels in dignity all the subjects which compose the other sciences, and because her teachings are divulged in more sublime ways.

That the title and authority of queen belongs to theology in the first sense, I think, will not be affirmed by theologians who have any skill in the other sciences. None of these, I think, will say that geometry, astronomy, music, and medicine are much more excellently contained in the Bible than they are in the books of Archimedes, Ptolemy, Boethius, and Galen. Hence it seems likely that regal preeminence is given to theology in the second sense; that is, by reason of its subject and the miraculous communication of divine revelation of conclusions which could not be conceived by men in any other way, concerning chiefly the attainment of eternal blessedness.

Let us grant then that theology is conversant with the loftiest divine contemplation, and occupies the regal throne among sciences by dignity But acquiring the highest authority in this way, if she does not descend to the lower and humbler speculations of the subordinate sciences and has no regard for them because they are not concerned with blessedness, then her professors should not arrogate to them-selves the authority to decide on controversies in professions which they have neither studied nor practiced. Why, this would be as if an absolute despot, being neither a physician nor an architect but knowing himself free to command, should undertake to administer medicines and erect buildings according to his whim─at grave peril of his poor patients' lives, and the speedy collapse of his edifices.

Again, to command that the very professors of astronomy themselves see to the refutation of their own observations and proofs as mere fallacies and sophisms is to enjoin something that lies beyond any possibility of accomplishment. For this would amount to commanding that they must not see what they see and must not understand what they know, and that in searching they must find the opposite of what they actually encounter. Before this could be done they would have to be taught how to make one mental faculty command another, and the inferior powers the superior, so that the imagination and the will might be forced to believe the opposite of what the intellect understands. I am referring at all times to merely physical propositions, and not to supernatural things, which are matters of faith.

I entreat those wise and prudent Fathers to consider with great care the difference that exists between doctrines subject to proof and those subject to opinion. Considering the force exerted by logical deductions, they may ascertain that it is not in the power of the professors of demonstrative sciences to change their opinions at will and apply themselves first to one side and then to the other. There is a great difference between commanding a mathematician or a philosopher and influencing a lawyer or a merchant, for demonstrated conclusions about things in nature or in the heavens cannot be changed with the same facility as opinions about what is or is not lawful in a contract, bargain, or bill of exchange. This difference was well understood by the learned and holy Fathers, as proven by their having taken great pains in refuting philosophical fallacies. This may be found expressly in some of them; in particular, we find the following words of St. Augustine:

"It is to be held as an unquestionable truth that whatever the sages of this world have demonstrated concerning physical matters is in no way contrary to our Bibles, hence whatever the sages teach in their books that is contrary to the holy Scriptures may be concluded without any hesitation to be quite false. And according to our ability let us make this evident, and let us keep the faith of our Lord, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom so that we neither become seduced by the verbiage of false philosophy nor frightened by the superstition of counterfeit religion." 

From the above words I conceive that I may deduce this doctrine That in the books of the sages of this world there are contained some physical truths which are soundly demonstrated, and others that are merely stated; as to the former, it is the office of wise divines to show that they do not contradict the holy Scriptures And as to the propositions which are stated but not rigorously demonstrated, anything contrary to the Bible involved by them must be held undoubtedly false and should be proved so by every possible means.

Now if truly demonstrated physical conclusions need not be subordinated to biblical passages, but the latter must rather be shown not to interfere with the former, then before a physical proposition is condemned it must be shown to be not rigorously demonstrated─and this is to be done not by those who hold the proposition to be true, but by those who judge it to be false. This seems very reasonable and natural, for those who believe an argument to be false may much more easily find the fallacies in it than men who consider it to be true and conclusive. Indeed, in the latter case it will happen that the more the adherents of an opinion turn over their pages, examine the arguments, repeat the observations, and compare the experiences, the more they will be confirmed in that belief. And Your Highness knows what happened to the late mathematician of the University of Pisa who undertook in his old age to look into the Copernican doctrine in the hope of shaking its foundations and refuting it, since he considered it false only because he had never studied it. As it fell out, no sooner had he understood its grounds, procedures, and demonstrations than he found himself persuaded, and from an opponent he became a very staunch defender of it. I might also name other mathematicians who, moved by my latest discoveries, have confessed it necessary to alter the previously accepted system of the world, as this is simply unable to subsist any longer.

If in order to banish the opinion in question from the world it were sufficient to stop the mouth of a single man─as perhaps those men persuade themselves who, measuring the minds of others by their own, think it impossible that this doctrine should be able to continue to find adherents─then that would be very easily done. But things stand otherwise. To carry out such a decision it would be necessary not only to prohibit the book of Copernicus and the writings of other authors who follow the same opinion, but to ban the whole science of astronomy. Furthermore, it would be necessary to forbid men to look at the heavens, in order that they might not see Mars and Venus sometimes quite near the earth and sometimes very distant, the variation being so great that Venus is forty times and Mars sixty times as large at one time as at another. And it would be necessary to prevent Venus being seen round at one time and forked at another, with very thin horns; as well as many other sensory observations which can never be reconciled with the Ptolemaic system in any way, but are very strong arguments for the Copernican. And to ban Copernicus now that his doctrine is daily reinforced by many new observations and by the learned applying themselves to the reading of his book, after this opinion has been allowed and tolerated for these many years during which it was less followed and less confirmed, would seem in my judgment to be a contravention of truth, and an attempt to hide and suppress her the more as she revealed herself the more clearly and plainly. Not to abolish and censure his whole book, but only to condemn as erroneous this particular proposition, would (if I am not mistaken) be a still greater detriment to the minds of men, since it would afford them occasion to see a proposition proved that it was heresy to believe. And to prohibit the whole science would be to censure a hundred passages of holy Scripture which teach us that the glory and greatness of Almighty God are marvelously discerned in all his works and divinely read in the open book of heaven. For let no one believe that reading the lofty concepts written in that book leads to nothing further than the mere seeing of the splendor of the sun and the stars and their rising and setting, which is as far as the eyes of brutes and of the vulgar can penetrate. Within its pages are couched mysteries so profound and concepts so sublime that the vigils, labors, and studies of hundreds upon hundreds of the most acute minds have still not pierced them, even after the continual investigations for thousands of years. The eyes of an idiot perceive little by beholding the external appearance of a human body, as compared with the wonderful contrivances which a careful and practiced anatomist or philosopher discovers in that same body when he seeks out the use of all those muscles, tendons, nerves, and bones; or when examining the functions of the heart and the other principal organs, he seeks the seat of the vital faculties, notes and observes the admirable structure of the sense organs, and (without ever ceasing in his amazement and delight) contemplates the receptacles of the imagination, the memory, and the understanding. Likewise, that which presents itself to mere sight is as nothing in comparison with the high marvels that the ingenuity of learned men discovers in the heavens by long and accurate observation....

Your Highness may thus see how irregularly those persons proceed who in physical disputes arrange scriptural passages (and often those ill understood by them) in the front rank of their arguments. If these men really believe themselves to have the true sense of a given passage, it necessarily follows that they believe they have in hand the absolute truth of the conclusion they intend to debate. Hence they must know that they enjoy a great advantage over their opponents, whose lot it is to defend the false position; and he who maintains the truth will have many sense-experiences and rigorous proofs on his side, whereas his antagonist cannot make use of anything but illusory appearances, quibbles, and fallacies. Now if these men know they have such advantages over the enemy even when they stay within proper bounds and produce no weapons other than those proper to philosophy, why do they, in the thick of the battle, betake themselves to a dreadful weapon which cannot be turned aside, and seek to vanquish the opponent by merely exhibiting it? If I may speak frankly, I believe they have themselves been vanquished, and, feeling unable to stand up against the assaults of the adversary, they seek ways of holding him off. To that end they would forbid him the use of reason, divine gift of Providence, and would abuse the just authority of holy Scripture─which, in the general opinion of theologians, can never oppose manifest experiences and necessary demonstrations when rightly understood and applied. If I am correct, it will stand them in no stead to go running to the Bible to cover up their inability to understand (let alone resolve) their opponents' arguments, for the opinion which they fight has never been condemned by the holy Church. If they wish to proceed in sincerity, they should by silence confess themselves unable to deal with such matters. Let them freely admit that although they may argue that a position is false, it is not in their power to censure a position as erroneous─or in the power of any­one except the Supreme Pontiff, or the Church Councils. Reflecting upon this, and knowing that a proposition cannot be both true and heretical, let them employ themselves in the business, which is proper to them; namely, demonstrating its falsity. And when that is revealed, either there will no longer be any necessity to prohibit it (since it will have no followers), or else it may safely be prohibited without the risk of any scandal.

Therefore, let these men begin to apply themselves to an examination of the arguments of Copernicus and others, leaving condemnation of the doctrine as erroneous and heretical to the proper authorities. Among the circumspect and most wise Fathers, and in the absolute wisdom of one who cannot err, they may never hope to find the rash decisions into which they allow them selves to be hurried by some particular passion or personal interest. With regard to this opinion, and others, which are not directly matters of faith, certainly no one doubts that the Supreme Pontiff has always an absolute power to approve or condemn; but it is not in the power: of any created being to make things true or false, for this belongs to their own nature and to the fact. Therefore, in my judgment one should first be assured of the necessary and immutable truth of the fact, over which no man has power. This is wiser counsel than to condemn either side in the absence of such certainty, thus depriving oneself of continued authority and ability to choose by determining things, which are now undetermined and open and still lodged in the will of supreme authority. And in brief, if it is impossible for a conclusion to be declared heretical while we remain in doubt as to its truth, then these men are wasting their time clamoring for condemnation of the motion of the earth and stability of the sun, which they have not yet demonstrated to be impossible or false….
Text source: Internet Modern History Sourcebook

Statue of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642);
outside of the Uffizi, Florence.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"A new and modern historiography"

[U]nlike in the Old Testament where God’s saving Kingdom is but partially distinguished from the vision of an earthly kingdom, in the New Testament the Kingdom of God demands eyes fixed ultimately on a new heaven and a new earth, that is, a state beyond the end of all ordinary physical processes.

Such is a new vision worthy of a genuinely New Testament, a vision anchored in the new Adam that made possible the rise of a new and modern historiography through Augustine of Hippo. His De civitate Dei is an unabashed casting of all events into a contest between the forces of the Fall and the force of the Resurrection. In Augustine’s view the resurrection of Jesus revealed itself as a singular historic force, especially through its power to impose linearity on thinking about history. Unlike the most noble event in classical, the death of Socrates, which noble pagans could assume to recur in needless numbers of times in a history going through the same cycles to no end, the death and resurrection of Christ inspired the very opposite thinking about all facts: They all appeared as unrepeatable events ties to a single straight filament. 

~Stanley L. Jaki: The Savior of Science, Chap. Five—The All Saving Love. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Natural science can neither affirm nor deny God’s existence

The incomplete nature of science

IN his historic address, delivered in Cologne Cathedral on November 15, 1980, Pope John Paul II first noted in general the limits of science: “Scientific affirmations are always particular. They are justified only in consideration of a given starting point, they are set in a process of development, and they can be corrected and left behind in this process.” He then pointed at the conviction that the world is orderly and brought into focus the principal aspect of the limitedness of science by asking: “But above all: how could something constitute the result of a scientific starting point when it first justifies this starting point and therefore must be presupposed by it?”[46] A year later the Pope restated before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that science is limited in itself, for “the conquests of science are at times provisional, subject to review and rethinking, and they will never succeed in expressing the whole truth hidden in the Universe.” The same science appeared also limited in relation to other disciplines as the Pope continued about “truths which science cannot discover, but which question the mind of the scientist in the innermost part of his being, where he experiences an irresistible longing and yearning for the divine.”[47]

While these points have always been central in Jaki’s writings he also emphasized one specific point, not touched upon by the Pope. The point relates to what is to be meant by the total explanation science can give. Jaki kept saying, that it is possible for science to give eventually a total account of the quantitative aspects of material things. A further aspect of this claim of Jaki’s is that even when science succeeds in doing so, it can never be sure, either theoretically or empirically, that it has reached that final account.[48] Also, Jaki has always stressed that the account is not an explanation in the ontological sense which the Pope clearly had in mind in saying that science “will never succeed in expressing the whole truth hidden in the Universe.”

The Pope has also applied this understanding of the incompleteness of science to the discussion of the proofs of the existence of God: “To desire a scientific proof of God would be equivalent to lowering God to the level of the beings of our world, and we would therefore be mistaken methodologically in regard to what God is. Science must recognize its limits and its inability to reach the existence of God: it can neither affirm nor deny his existence.”[49] In particular, the Pope has urged the utmost caution concerning the use of the big-bang theory as a means of arriving at a notion of creation in time: “Any scientific hypothesis on the origin of the world, such as the hypothesis of a primitive atom from which derived the whole physical universe, leaves open the problem concerning the universe’s beginning. Science cannot of itself solve this question: there is needed that human knowledge that rises above physics and astrophysics and which is called metaphysics; there is needed above all the knowledge that comes from God’s revelation.”[50] John Paul II made it clear that metaphysics and revelation are needed in any discussion of the origin of the cosmos. The consonance of Jaki’s views and arguments on these matters with the papal teaching should be all too obvious. What he adds as his contribution, apart from a few specific theoretical arguments, is a wealth of data and views from the history and philosophy of science, remote and recent.

~Paul Haffner: in Creation and Scientific Creativity: A Study in the Thought of S.L. Jaki, Chap. 8—The Ecclesial Perspective.

46. L’ Osservatore Romano (Weekly English Edition), Nov. 24, 1980, p.7.
47. Discourses of the Popes, p. 170.
48. See p. 24-29 above.
49. L’ Osservatore Romano (Daily Italian Edition), July 15, 1985, p.1.
50. Discourses of the Popes, p. 162.       

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Pius XII: The Proofs for the Existence of God in the Light of Modern Natural Science

Pope Pius XII
Address of Pope Pius XII to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, November 22, 1951.

1. This meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences brings Us an hour of serene happiness, for which We are grateful to the Almighty. At the same time it affords Us the welcome opportunity to spend some time in the company of a select group of eminent Cardinals, illustrious diplomats, outstanding personages, and of yourselves, the members of the Pontifical Academy, who are indeed worthy of the solemnity of this gathering. For, by your research, your unveiling of the secrets of nature, and your teaching of men to direct the forces of nature toward their own welfare, you preach at the same time, in the language of figures, formulae and discoveries, the inexpressible harmony of the work of an all-wise God.

2. In fact, according to the measure of its progress, and contrary to affirmations advanced in the past, true science discovers God in an ever-increasing degree ─ as though God were waiting behind every door opened by science. We would even say that from this progressive discovery of God, which is realized in the increase of knowledge, there flow benefits not only for the scientist himself when he reflects as a philosopher-and how can he escape such reflection? ─ but also for those who share in these new discoveries or make them the object of their own considerations. Genuine philosophers profit from these discoveries in a very special way, because when they take these scientific conquests as the basis for their rational speculations, their conclusions thereby acquire greater certainty, while they are provided with clearer illustrations in the midst of possible shadows and more convincing assistance in establishing an ever more satisfying response to difficulties and objections.


3. Thus stimulated and guided, the human intellect approaches that demonstration of the existence of God which Christian wisdom recognizes in those philosophical arguments which have been carefully examined throughout the centuries by giants in the world of knowledge, and which are already well known to you in the presentation of the "five ways" which the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas, offers as a speedy and safe road to lead the mind to God. We have called these arguments "philosophical." This does not mean that they are a prioristic, as they are accused of being by a narrow- minded and incoherent positivism. Even though they draw their demonstrative force from the power of human reason, they are nevertheless based on concrete realities established by the senses and by science.

4. In this way both philosophy and the sciences, by means of activities and methods which are analogous and mutually compatible, carry on their work. Though in different measures, they all make use of both empirical and rational elements and cooperate in harmonious unity for the discovery of truth.

5. But if the primitive experience of the ancients could provide human reason with sufficient arguments to demonstrate the existence of God, then with the expanding and deepening of the field of human experiments, the vestiges of the Eternal One are discernible in the visible world in ever more striking and clearer light. Hence it seems helpful to re-examine on the basis of new scientific discoveries the classical proofs of the Angelic Doctor, especially those based on motion and the order of the universe (S. Th., 1 p., q. 2, art. 3); that is to say, to inquire if, and in what degree, a very profound knowledge of the structure of the macrocosm and the microcosm contributes toward strengthening these philosophical arguments.

6. It is also helpful to consider, on the other hand, if and to what degree these proofs have been weakened, as is not infrequently affirmed by the fact that modern physics has formulated new basic principles, ruled out or modified certain ancient ideas, whose content was perhaps judged in the past to be fixed and definitive, such as time, space, motion, causality, substance all of which concepts are supremely important for the question which now occupies us. The question, then, is not one of revising the philosophical proofs, but rather of inquiring into the physical foundations from which they flow although limitations of time will oblige Us to restrict Our attention to only some few of these foundations. There is no reason to be fearful of surprises. Not even science itself aims to go outside that world which today, as yesterday, presents itself through these "five modes of being" whence the philosophical demonstration of the existence of God proceeds and draws its force.


7. From these "modes of being" of the world around us which, in greater or lesser degrees of comprehension, are noted with equal evidence by both the philosopher and the human mind in general, there are two which modern science has, in a marvelous degree, fathomed, verified and deepened beyond all expectations: (1) the mutability of things, including their origin and their end; and (2) the teleological order which stands out in every corner of the cosmos.

8. The contribution thus made by science to the two philosophical arguments which hinge on these facts and which constitute the first and the fifth ways of St. Thomas, is most notable. To the first way, physics especially has provided an inexhaustible mine of experiments, revealing the fact of mutability in the deepest recesses of nature, where previously no human mind could ever even suspect its existence and vastness. Thus physics has provided a multiplicity of empirical facts which are of tremendous assistance to philosophical reasoning. We say "assistance," because the very direction of these same transformations, precisely in view of the certainty afforded by physics, seems to Us to surpass the value of a mere confirmation and acquires almost the structure and dignity of a physical argument which is in great part new, and more acceptable, persuasive and welcome to many minds.

9. With similar richness other sciences, especially the astronomical and the biological sciences, have in our own day contributed to the argument from order such a vast array of knowledge and, so to speak, so stupefying a vision of the conceptual unity animating the cosmos, and of the teleology directing its movements, as to anticipate for modern man the joy which the poet imagined in the empyrean heaven when he beheld in God "Into one volume bound by love, the same that the universe holds scattered through its maze" (Alighieri Dante, Paradiso, Canto 33, 85-87).

10. Nevertheless, Providence has disposed that just as the notion of God, which is so essential to the life of each individual, can be gathered easily from a simple look at the world ─ in such a way that not to understand the voice of creation is foolishness (Wis., 13, 1-2) ─ so also this same idea of God finds confirmation in every new development and progress of scientific knowledge.

11. Wishing to give here only a rapid summary of the priceless services rendered by modern science to the demonstration of the existence of God, We shall limit Ourselves, first of all, to the fact of changes, pointing out principally their amplitude and vastness and, so to speak, their totality which modern physics meets in the inanimate cosmos. We shall then dwell on the significance of their direction, which is likewise verified by science. Thus, in Our treatment of these points, we shall, so to speak, be lending an ear to a miniature concert of the immense universe, which nevertheless has a voice strong enough to sing "the glory of Him who moveth all that is." (Dante, Paradiso, 1, 1).


The Fact of Mutability

(a) in the macrocosm:

12. At first sight it is rightly a source of wonderment to recognize how the knowledge of the fact of mutability has gained ever greater ground, both in the macrocosm and in the microcosm, according as science has made new progress, as though confirming with new proofs the theory of Heraclitus: "Everything is in flux": panta rhei. As is known, our own everyday experience brings to light an immense number of transformations in the world around us, both near and far away, particularly the local movements of bodies.

13. But, over and above all, these local movements strictly so called, the manifold chemico-physical changes which take place in the world are equally noticeable, as, for example, the change in the physical state of water in its three phases of steam, liquid, and ice. We are aware also of the far-reaching chemical effects produced by the use of fire, the knowledge of which goes back to pre-historic times, and of the weathering or rocks and the corruption of vegetable and animal life.

14. This common experience is corroborated by the natural sciences, which have taught people to understand these and other similar changes as processes of destruction and construction of corporeal substances in their chemical elements, that is to say, in their tiniest parts, the chemical atoms. Going still farther, natural science made known that this chemico-physical mutability is not, as the ancients thought, restricted to terrestrial bodies, but even extends to all the bodies of our solar system and of the great universe, which the telescope, and still more the spectroscope, have demonstrated to be composed of the same kind of atoms.

(b) in the microcosm:

15. Nevertheless, in the face of the undeniable mutability of even inanimate nature, there still rises the enigma of the unexplored microcosm. It seemed, in fact, that, unlike the organic world, inorganic matter was in a certain sense immutable. Its tiniest parts, the chemical atoms, were indeed capable of combining in most diversified manners, but they appeared to be endowed with a privilege of eternal stability and indestructibility, since they emerged unchanged from every chemical synthesis and analysis. A hundred years ago, the elementary particles were still regarded as simple, indivisible, and indestructible.

16. The same idea prevailed regarding the material energy and forces of the cosmos, especially on the basis of the fundamental laws of the conservation of mass and energy. Some natural scientists went so far as to consider themselves authorized to formulate in the name of their science a fantastic monastic philosophy, whose sorry memory is linked up, among others, with the name of Ernst Haeckel. But in the very lifetime of the latter, toward the end of the last century, even this over-simplified conception of the chemical atom was shattered by modern science. The growing knowledge of the periodic system of chemical elements, the discovery of the corpuscular radiations of radio active elements, along with many other similar facts, have demonstrated that the microcosm of the chemical atom, with dimensions as small as ten-millionths of a millimeter, is a theater of continuous mutations, no less than the macrocosm known to all.

In the electronic sphere:

17. It was in the sphere of electronics that the character of mutability was first established. From the electronic structure of the atom there emanate radiations of light and heat which are absorbed by outside bodies, corresponding to the energy level of the electronic orbits. In the exterior parts of this sphere there takes place the ionization of the atom and the transformation of energy in the synthesis and analysis of chemical combinations. At that time, however, it was possible to suppose that these chemico- physical transformations provided one last refuge for stability, since they did not reach the very nucleus of the atom, which is the seat of its mass and of the positive electric charge which determine the place of the chemical atom in the natural system of the elements, and where it seemed science had found, so to speak, an example of an absolutely stable and invariable being.

And in the nucleus:

18. But already at the dawn of the new century, the observation of radioactive processes, which, in their last analysis, were connected with a spontaneous breaking down of the nucleus, began to exclude any such example. Hence, once science had established the fact of instability reaching down into the deepest depths of known nature, there still remained one further perplexing fact, since the atom was apparently unattackable, at least by human forces, because in the beginning all efforts to hasten or to retard its natural radioactive disintegration, or even to break down inactive nuclei, had failed.

19. The first very modest attempt to break down the nucleus (of nitrogen) goes back to hardly more than three decades ago, and it is only in recent years that it has been possible, by bringing into play tremendous forces, to produce very numerous processes involving the formation and the breaking down of nuclei. Although this result-which, insofar as it contributes to the cause of peace, is certainly to be inscribed among the glories of our century-represents in the field of practical nuclear physics no more than a preliminary step, nevertheless, it provides for our consideration an important conclusion, namely, that atomic nuclei are indeed, by many orders of magnitude, more firm and stable than ordinary chemical compositions, but this notwithstanding, they are also, in principle, subject to similar laws of transformation, and hence are mutable.

20. At the same time it was possible to establish that such processes have the greatest importance in the economy of energy of the fixed stars. In the center of our sun, for example, according to Bethe, and in the midst of a temperature which goes as high as some twenty million degrees, there takes place a chain-reaction returning upon itself, in which four hydrogen nuclei combine with one nucleus of helium. The energy thus liberated comes to compensate the loss involved in the radiation of the sun itself.

21. Also, in modern physical laboratories, through bombardment with particles endowed with tremendous energy or with neutrons, successful efforts are being made to effect transformations of nuclei, as can be seen in the example of the atom of uranium. In this connection mention must also be made of the effects of cosmic radiation which can break down even the heaviest atoms, thus not infrequently liberating entire swarms of sub-atomic particles.

22. We have desired to cite only some few examples, but such as could establish beyond all possible doubt the explicit mutability of the inorganic world, large and small: the countless transformations of the forms of energy, especially in the chemical decompositions and combinations taking place in the macrocosm and in no smaller degree, the mutation, a law which is analogous to the law of entropy for the macrocosm. The direction of spontaneous evolution is determined through the diminution of utilizable energy in the structure and the nucleus of the atom, and, up to the present time, science knows of no processes capable of compensating or annulling this exploitation through the spontaneous formation of nuclei having high energy value.


In the future:

31. If the scientist turns his attention from the present state of the universe to the future, even the very remote future, he finds himself constrained to recognize, both in the macrocosm and in the microcosm, that the world is growing old. In the course of billions of years, even the apparently inexhaustible quantities of atomic nuclei lost utilizable energy and, so to speak, matter becomes like an extinct and scoriform volcano. And the thought comes spontaneously that if this present cosmos, today so pulsating with rhythm and life is, as we have seen, insufficient to explain itself, with still less reason, will any such explanation be forthcoming from the cosmos over which, in its own way, the shadow of death will have passed.

In the past:

32. Let us now turn our attention to the past. The farther back we go, the more matter presents itself as always more enriched with free energy, and as a theater of vast cosmic disturbances. Thus everything seems to indicate that the material universe had in finite times a mighty beginning, provided as it was with an indescribably vast abundance of energy reserves, in virtue of which, at first rapidly and then with increasing slowness, it evolved into its present state.

33. This naturally brings to mind two questions:

Is science in a position to state when this mighty beginning of the cosmos took place? And, secondly, what was the initial or primitive state of the universe?

34. The most competent experts in atomic physics, in collaboration with astronomers and astrophysicists, have attempted to shed light on these two difficult but extremely interesting problems.


35. First of all, to quote some figures-which aim at nothing else than to give an order of magnitude fixing the dawn of our universe, that is to say, to its beginning in time- science has at its disposal various means, each of which is more or less independent from the other, although all converge. We point them out briefly:

(1) recession of the spiral nebulae or galaxies:

36. The examination of various spiral nebulae, especially as carried out by Edwin W. Hubble at the Mount Wilson Observatory, has led to the significant conclusion, presented with all due reservations, that these distant systems of galaxies tend to move away from one another with such velocity that, in the space of 1,300 million years, the distance between such spiral nebulae is doubled. If we look back into the past at the time required for this process of the "expanding universe," it follows that, from one to ten billion years ago, the matter of the spiral nebulae was compressed into a relatively restricted space, at the time the cosmic processes had their beginning.

(2) The age of the solid crust of the earth:

37. To calculate the age of original radioactive substances, very approximate data are taken from the transformation of the isotope of uranium 238 into an isotope of lead (RaG), or of an isotope of uranium 235 into actinium D (AcD), and of the isotope of thorium 232 into thorium D (ThD). The mass of helium thereby formed can serve as a means of control. This leads to the conclusion that the average age of the oldest minerals is at the most five billion years.

(3) The age of meteorites:

38. The preceding method adopted to determine the age of meteorites has led to practically the same figure of five billion years. This is a result which acquires special importance by reason of the fact that the meteorites come from outside our earth and, apart from the terrestrial minerals are the only examples of celestial bodies which can be studied in scientific laboratories.

(4) The stability of the systems of double stars and starry masses:

39. The oscillations of gravitation between these systems, as also the attrition resulting from tides, again limit their stability within a period of from five to ten billion years. 40. Although these figures may seem astounding, nevertheless, even to the simplest of the faithful, they bring no new or different concept from the one they learned in the opening words of Genesis: "In the beginning . . .," that is to say; at the beginning of things in time. The figures We have quoted clothe these words in a concrete and almost mathematical expression, while from them there springs forth a new source of consolation for those who share the esteem of the Apostle for that divinely inspired Scripture which is always useful "for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, for instructing" (2 Tim., 3, 16).


41. In addition to the question of the age of the cosmos, scholars have, with similar earnestness and liberty of research and verification, turned their daring genius to the other problem which has already been mentioned and which is certainly more difficult, concerning the state and quality of primitive matter.

42. According to the theories serving as their basis, the relative calculations differ in no small degree from one another. Nevertheless, scientists agree in holding that not only the mass but also the density, pressure, and temperature of matter must have reached absolutely enormous proportions as can be seen from the recent work of A. Unsold, director of the Observatory of Kiel (Kernphysik und Kosmologie, in the Zeitschrift fur Astrophysik, 24, B. 1948, pag. 278 306). Only under such conditions can we explain the formation of heavy nuclei and their relative frequency in the periodic system of the elements.

43. Rightly, on the other hand, does the mind in its eagerness for truth insist on asking how matter reached this state, which is so unlike anything found in our own everyday experience, and it also wants to know what went before it. In vain would we seek an answer in natural science, which declares honestly that it finds itself face to face with an insoluble enigma. It is true that such a question would demand too much of natural science as such. But it is also certain that the human mind trained in philosophical meditation penetrates more deeply into this problem.

44. It is undeniable that when a mind enlightened and enriched with modern scientific knowledge weighs this problem calmly, it feels drawn to break through the circle of completely independent or autochthonous matter, whether uncreated or self-created, and to ascend to a creating Spirit. With the same clear and critical look with which it examines and passes judgment on facts, it perceives and recognizes the work of creative omnipotence, whose power, set in motion by the mighty "Fiat" pronounced billions of years ago by the Creating Spirit, spread out over the universe, calling into existence with a gesture of generous love matter bursting with energy. In fact, it would seem that present-day science, with one sweeping step back across millions of centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to that primordial "Fiat lux" uttered at the moment when, along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, while the particles of chemical elements split and formed into millions of galaxies.

45. It is quite true that the facts established up to the present time are not an absolute proof of creation in time, as are the proofs drawn from metaphysics and Revelation in what concerns simple creation or those founded on Revelation if there be question of creation in time. The pertinent facts of the natural sciences, to which We have referred, are awaiting still further research and confirmation, and the theories founded on them are in need of further development and proof before they can provide a sure foundation for arguments which, of themselves, are outside the proper sphere of the natural sciences.

46. This notwithstanding, it is worthy of note that modern scholars in these fields regard the idea of the creation of the universe as entirely compatible with their scientific conceptions and that they are even led spontaneously to this conclusion by their scientific research. Just a few decades ago, any such "hypothesis" was rejected as entirely irreconcilable with the present state of science.

47. As late as 1911, the celebrated physicist Svante Arhenius declared that "the opinion that something can come from nothing is at variance with the present-day state of science, according to which matter is immutable." (Die Vorstellung vom Weltgebaude im Wandel der Zeiten, 1911, pag. 362). In this same vein we find the statement of Plato: "Matter exists. Nothing can come from nothing, hence matter is eternal. We cannot admit the creation of matter." (Ultramontane Weltanschauung und Moderne Lebenskunde, 1907, pag. 55).

48. On the other hand, how different and much more faithful a reflection of limitless visions is the language of an outstanding modern scientist, Sir Edmund Whittaker, member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, when he speaks of the above-mentioned inquiries into the age of the world: "These different calculations point to the conclusion that there was a time, some nine or ten billion years ago, prior to which the cosmos, if it existed, existed in a form totally different from anything we know, and this form constitutes the very last limit of science. We refer to it perhaps not improperly as creation. It provides a unifying background, suggested by geological evidence, for that explanation of the world according to which every organism existing on the earth had a beginning in time. Were this conclusion to be confirmed by future research, it might well be considered as the most outstanding discovery of our times, since it represents a fundamental change in the scientific conception of the universe, similar to the one brought about four centuries ago by Copernicus." (Space and Spirit, 1946, pag. 118-119).


49. What, then, is the importance of modern science for the argument for the existence of God based on the mutability of the cosmos? By means of exact and detailed research into the macrocosm and the microcosm, it has considerably broadened and deepened the empirical foundation on which this argument rests, and from which it concludes to the existence of an Ens a se, immutable by His very nature.

50. It has, besides, followed the course and the direction of cosmic developments, and, just as it was able to get a glimpse of the term toward which these developments were inexorably leading, so also has it pointed to their beginning in time some five billion years ago. Thus, with that concreteness which is characteristic of physical proofs, it has confirmed the contingency of the universe and also the well-founded deduction as to the epoch when the cosmos came forth from the hands of the Creator.

51. Hence, creation took place in time. Therefore, there is a Creator. Therefore, God exists! Although it is neither explicit nor complete, this is the reply we were awaiting from science, and which the present human generation is awaiting from it. It is a reply which bursts forth from nature and calm consideration of only one aspect of the universe; namely, its mutability. But this is already enough to make the entire human race, which is the peak and the rational expression of both the macrocosm and the microcosm, become conscious of its exalted Maker, realize that it belongs to Him in space and in time and then, falling on its knees before His sovereign majesty, begin to invoke His name: Rerum, Deus, tenax vigor,Immotus in te permanens,Lucis diurnae tempora successibus determinans (Hymn for None).

(A free English translation is: "O God, creation's secret force/Thyself unmoved, yet motion's source/Who from the morn till evening's ray/Through every change dost guide the day.")

52. The knowledge of God as sole Creator, now shared by many modern scientists, is indeed, the extreme limit to which human reason can attain. Nevertheless, as you are well aware, it does not constitute the last frontier of truth. In harmonious cooperation, because all three are instruments of truth, like rays of the same sun, science, philosophy, and, with still greater reason, Revelation, contemplate the substance of this Creator whom science has met along its path unveil His outlines and point out His features.

53. Revelation, above all, makes His presence, so to speak, immediate, vitalizing, and loving, like that presence of which either the simple faithful or the scientist is aware in his inner soul when he recites unhesitatingly the concise terms of the ancient Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth."

54. Today, after so many centuries which were centuries of civilization because they were centuries of religion, the need is not so much to reveal God for the first time as it is rather to recognize Him as a Father, reverence Him as a lawgiver, and fear Him as a Judge. If they would be saved, the nations must adore the Son, the loving Redeemer of mankind, and bow to the loving inspirations of the Spirit, the fruitful Sanctifier of souls.

55. This persuasion, taking its remote inspiration from science, is crowned by Faith which, being ever more deeply rooted in the consciousness of the people, will truly be able to assure basic progress for the march of civilization.

56. This is a vision of the whole, of the present as of the future, of matter as of the spirit, of time as of eternity, which, as it illuminates the mind, will spare to the men of today a long tempestuous night.

57. It is that Faith which at this moment inspires Us to raise toward Him Whom we have just invoked as Vigor, Immotus, and Pater, a fervent prayer for all His children entrusted to Our care: Largire lumen vespere, — Quo vita nusquam decidat, (Hymn for None) — light for the life of time, light for the life of eternity.