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?” 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.”
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. 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.” 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.” 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.