Science versus the Church--"Truth Cannot Contradict Truth"
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The title of this book, “Truth cannot contradict truth”, is taken from an address by Pope St. John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Science in 1996. His talk was on evolution, and how the theory of evolution, as supported by empirical data, did not contradict Catholic teaching.
That is the theme of this book: nothing that we know about the world from empirically verified scientific theories conflicts with Catholic teaching. Where there does appear to be a conflict, it arises from theories that are not verified by observation and that, in most cases, can never be so tested. As in many cosmology theories, theories about how (and whether) the universe came to be, are untestable and lie in the domain of what might be best termed “mathematical metaphysics”. In short, there is no war between science and the Church.
How am I going to show this? In the first chapter, I’ll discuss how we know things either by logic, by empirical test, or by Revelation. In the second, I’ll explore the limits of science, limits that I’ve encountered in my scientific career and limits set by philosophy. Since the Catholic Church was the midwife for the scientific enterprise, as I’ll demonstrate in Chapter 3 (and as has been shown by Pierre Duhem and Stacy Trasancos), there should be no reason for the two to be at war. History confirms this, as does the rapprochement of Pope St. John Paul with science.
In Chapter 4. several views on Creation are discussed: that of the Catholic Church (Creatio ex Nihilo—Creation from Nothing), and the various cosmology theories (some highly speculative) of both Beginning (or non-Beginning) and Last Days. Catholic teaching can be reconciled with all of these, but the one that lends itself most easily to empirical evidence and Creation dogma is the Big Bang theory.
The Anthropic Principle—the idea that the physical laws and constants of the universe are finely tuned to enable carbon-based life—is discussed in Chapter 5. Some of the current theories for evolution, models for how the descent of species might occur, are examined in Chapter 6. Contrary to some opinions, the Church is not “against” evolution; it denies only those theories of evolution that hold man to be entirely material, without a soul.
Several concepts of “soul”, “consciousness”, “mind” are set forth in Chapter 7—who (or what) might have a soul or be conscious, and what science and the Church have to say about this. There is no uniform opinion amongst scientists and philosophers, but the teaching of the Church is well defined.
In Chapter 8 I talk about miracles, what constitutes a miracle, give examples of miracles in the Old and New Testaments and in more recent times, and show how the Church has a rigorous standard of evidence for miracles. Finally, on a very personal note, I argue that a scientist can believe in miracles, even though some non-believers would deny this.
At the end of each chapter there are questions meant to stir the reader to deeper reflection about the chapter material. There is not a right or wrong answer to any of these, but I hope they help to make the content clearer and more meaningful.
What's New in Version 1.1
A new chapter, 9, has been added to sum up the book; it does so by comparing the first four questions in the Baltimore Catechism with a catechism that might be prepared by scientists who are atheists.