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Why the Believer Knows More About Science

If I had to name the most important topics in science during our time, they would probably be evolutionary biology, cosmology, particle physics, and psychology to understand the human person better.

However, if I had to name the most important issue in science today, it would be something more over-arching. It would be the general issue of metaphysics and philosophy applied to scientific research and interpretation.

This isn’t something I understood even as a scientist in academia or the industry. It isn’t taught, discussed or even admitted. But it’s as obvious as the clouds in the sky, which is probably why this is something I’ve learned studying theology.

Among Catholics, it’s standard practice to try to comprehend the mysteries of nature within the context of the mysteries of faith. The way scientific data is interpreted will be guided by philosophy, and more importantly, an overall metaphysical principle, what some would call a “worldview.” A perusal of the documents from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences makes this concept obvious, even in the papers presented by different scientists. It is especially apparent inPope Benedict XVI’s opening address to participants of the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2010 (pages 23-24).

Again, this is nothing new. It’s the way Aristotle viewed knowledge, the way the Scholastics viewed knowledge, and it is traditionally the way Catholics viewed knowledge. Faith is nota human invention. The believer bases faith on Divine Revelation, and bases science on Creation. Both have their common source in God, the Eternal Truth. It is true, the believer is less free in his knowledge than the unbeliever, but only because he knows more.

The non-believer has one source of knowledge – reason.

The believer has two – faith and reason.

For the philosophical Modernist who fundamentally denies objective truth and replaces it with experiential, sentimental (i.e. subjective) truth, the data collected from experiments to test a hypothesis can be interpreted according to his own particular worldview. Whatever it may be…

For instance, if he is an atheist who denies the existence of God, then the (perhaps unspoken) metaphysical principle guiding his research and conclusions is to show that science can explain the universe without needing to “invoke” God (e.g. Hawkings), or to show God is unnecessary. This will be the case whether it is cosmology, evolutionary biology, physics, or psychology, and whether said scientists are in the lab, at a conference, or scribbling competitively on napkins in a bar. No God.

I’m not sure yet how the Catholic Modernist would refute such an atheist without knocking the legs out from under his Modernism (as defined by Pope Pius X) for he must allow the atheist to interpret his own data according to his own worldview – as if it were true. But false worldviews cannot bring about true conclusions in science. If there is no objective truth external to man, there is no true science.

Relativism destroys the essence of science, and reduces it all to mere opinion.

The Catholic scientist follows a different metaphysical principle, that God is the Author of all truth, Creator of all things. Every experiment is designed guided by this principle, every set of data is interpreted by this principle, every new hypothesis is formulated by this principle.

Pope Benedict XVI begins his address in 2010 by noting that the twentieth century is one of major achievements in science, which has led to two extreme characterizations. Because science has advanced so fast, many have come to view science as the way to answer all questions of our existence and hopes, and others have come to fear it as a means by which we will destroy ourselves. The first group has lost faith in God; the second in man.

Pope Benedict XVI points out that neither extreme is correct.

Science should remain a “patient yet passionate search for truth about the cosmos, about nature and about the constitution of the human being.” There will always be successes and failures in science, but exciting new discoveries lead to better understanding allowing for the improvement of theories. Science approached this way becomes a an “unveiling” of man’s intellectual connection with natural reality. And as generations progress, so too will science.

In the twentieth century we have understood our place in the cosmos better, at both the grand and the infinitesimal scales. In science the common denominator for all experimentation is that it is a systematic method of observing nature. Because it is not always possible to directly observe nature at these scales, an even stronger impetus to be aware of a metaphysical or philosophical guiding principle thus results. The Church is convinced that science benefits from man’s spiritual dimension and his acknowledgement that there is a world independent of him, with inherent logic, and also a world that he does not fully understand.

“Scientists do not create the world.” Rather, they learn about it, try to imitate it, and follow its laws. In this way the scientist – a human being – is observing a constant – a logos – that he has not created. Science, then, necessarily leads him to admit the existence of God, “All-Powerful Reason,” which sustains the world. That is where science and religion meet.

As a result, science becomes a place of dialogue, a meeting between man and nature and, potentially, even between man and his Creator.” – Pope Benedict XVI


Sources:
Hagen, J. (1912). Science and the Church. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Encyclical of Pope Pius X on the Doctrines of the Modernists (1907).
The Scientific Legacy of the 20th Century. The Proceedings of the Plenary Session, October 28-November 1, 2010. Vatican City (2011).


Stacy Trasancos is a mother of seven, joyful convert to Catholicism with a Ph.D. in Chemistry and a M.A. in Dogmatic Theology. She is Editor-in-Chief of Catholic Stand and author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. She writes from her tiny office in a 100-year-old restored Adirondack mountain lodge that overlooks a small spring-fed lake. More about her here. Find her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter. Contact her by email


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  • Folkpunch

    I’m a little confused by this article. You say, “Pope Benedict XVI begins his address in 2010 by noting that the twentieth century is one of major achievements in science…” It looks like you are saying that the pope thinks the 20th century was created by science. I must be missing something.

    You say, “The non-believer has one source of knowledge – reason.” That is a gross oversimplification. Science is based on evidence, theory and prediction. If the theory can successfully predict an outcome then we have something. You also say, “The believer has two – faith and reason.” But faith is prejudicial and for that reason it can get in the way. The faithful person will go in “knowing” that there is a god and so will interpret accordingly. You admit this yourself when you say, “God is the Author of all truth, Creator of all things. Every experiment is designed guided by this principle, every set of data is interpreted by this principle, every new hypothesis is formulated by this principle.” Because you have decided in advance what the outcome will show you are in fact doing bad science.

    Any atheist scientist will tell you – Stephen Hawking will tell you – that they would be very excited to find that there actually is a supreme deity. That would be really big news! But the evidence just isn’t there. It’s not that atheist believe there is no god, rather it’s that they don’t believe there is one. Big difference.

    • Mary Kochan

      “It looks like you are saying that the pope thinks the 20th century was created by science. I must be missing something.”

      Uh, yeah, you are missing an understanding of grammar. In order for the sentence to mean your interpretation, it would need an additional article. It would have to read: “Pope Benedict XVI begins his address in 2010 by noting that the twentieth century is one of THE major achievements in science.”

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Folkpunch,

    “I must be missing something.”

    Yes. It is a fact that the 20th century is one of major achievements in science, no matter who says it, it is still true.

    “Science is based on evidence, theory and prediction. If the theory can successfully predict an outcome then we have something.”

    Yes, that’s called reasoning.

    I’ve discussed science with many atheists, and it pretty much always comes down to this. Unless you have faith, you are arguing from ignorance (the fallacy, not the pejorative) when you tell people what it means to have faith.

    It’s like never having fallen in love, and telling someone who has what they believe. You’re only arguing from the outside based on what you perceive, but not from the inside based on what is actually true.

    “It’s not that atheist believe there is no god, rather it’s that they don’t believe there is one. Big difference.”

    Please explain.

  • Folkpunch

    “It is a fact that the 20th century is one of major achievements in science…” The 20th century is a time span. Science did not achieve a time span. This doesn’t make sense. (Mary: This is like saying science is responsible for the month of January. Exactly what did science achieve IN the 20th century?)

    When you whittle the scientific method down to “reasoning” you miss everything and you misrepresent it. Are you doing this on purpose?

    “Unless you have faith, you are arguing from ignorance (the fallacy, not the pejorative) when you tell people what it means to have faith.” I’m not saying what it means for you but what it means in practice in the world. Your falling in love analogy is a good one. They say love is blind and it often is. We all know people who have made big life mistakes because they were blinded by love. Bad marriages, abusive relationships. I agree, love and faith can be very similar.

    “It’s not that atheist believe there is no god, rather it’s that they don’t believe there is one. Big difference.” A lot of people think that an atheist believes there is no god. That’s incorrect. An atheist does not believe there is one. The first definition is a belief; the second is the absence of a belief. You probably don’t believe that Jupiter is a real god. An atheist doesn’t believe there are any real gods.

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Folkpunch,

    Major achievements in science DID occur in the 20th century. I don’t know what in the world is difficult for anyone to understand that? No one is saying science achieved a time span (???), but that there were scientific achievements that occurred during the 20th century.

    The scientific method requires one to reason. It requires reason to make a hypothesis, to construct experiments, to analyze data, to form conclusions, to ask questions.

    That’s, basically, why chickens don’t publish in research journals. Can’t reason. Just waddle around and lay eggs or crow or something.

  • Folkpunch

    This is becoming comedy. Here is your original sentence: “Pope Benedict XVI begins his address in 2010 by noting that the twentieth century is one of major achievements in science, which has led to two extreme characterizations.” You do not say “there were major scientific achievements in the 20th century,” or “the 20th century saw great advances in particle physics,” no – you said “the TWENTIETH CENTURY IS one of major achievements in science.” You are saying that science is RESPONSIBLE FOR THE TWENTIETH CENTURY! You either have an inflated idea of science or your editor cut out a bunch of words. For the purposes of this exchange I will assume that you mean to refer to advances too numerous to mention. Okay, that’s out the way.

    Yes, the scientific method requires reason, but if that’s all there was to it then there would be no need for universities, doctoral theses, laboratories, peer reviews, or conferences. We could all be just reasoning our way around the galaxy. I think you’re being lazy.

    Chickens: “Just waddle around and lay eggs or crow or something.” Roosters crow, not chickens.

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    “Pope Benedict XVI begins his address in 2010 by noting that the twentieth century is one of major achievements in science…”

    Stand by it.

    That means there were major scientific achievements.

    Could you just disclose whether English is your first language or not? That seems to be the problem.

    Also, do you understand where universities came from? Do you understand the origin of the word “doctor” or “thesis” or “laboratory”? I can explain.

    Thanks!

  • Folkpunch

    I was going to ask you the same thing.

    “Also, do you understand where universities came from? Do you understand the origin of the word “doctor” or “thesis” or “laboratory”? I can explain. “ Arrogant aren’t you…

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Nope. Confident.

    You go first, since you threw down the gauntlet.

  • Folkpunch

    I have to come clean – I have no idea how I did it but I’ve been misreading your sentence for a day. Boy do I feel stupid. My apologies.

    Let’s get back to the faith vs. no faith idea. You propose that a believer is a better scientist than a non believer, am I correct? You criticize the atheists by saying that they would interpret the data with the intent of not finding god, which is dishonest. (I say that the atheist is not someone who believes that there is no god, but rather just someone who does not believe there is one. It’s not an active position in that sense. So they would not be looking for no god. If god showed up that would be big news, if not no big deal) The Catholics, however, seeing through the lens of god as “the author of all truth” behave differently. You explain: “Every experiment is designed guided by this principle, every set of data is interpreted by this principle, every new hypothesis is formulated by this principle.” Why is this better? It seems to me that you are describing a method of prearranging your findings, which is also dishonest. Is it not possible that in fact god has NOT been found and that the universe is now understood to be working just fine without the need of deities? You may not like the results but isn’t it possible that they have been achieved honorably?

    You said earlier that faith was like being in love and I said yes, but it is often said that love is blind. Being in love can lead to all kinds of mistakes and bad decisions. Do you not agree? Shouldn’t we leave love and faith out of the discovery process?

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Folkpunch,

    I figured it was a misunderstanding.

    First, yes, there are atheist scientists who let their thinking be guided by their atheism. Evolution is a big, huge example. So is cosmology. They believe that with enough scientific answers they can show no need to “invoke” God. That doesn’t mean an atheist cannot do honest science, but it is still true that some do not. Every scientist operates under a metaphysical umbrella. If it is “nothing I do can ever be taken to agree with religion!” then that’s a poor, false metaphysical principle.

    You ask a lot of good questions, but let’s work through this systematically.

    First, all I can do is show you, through demonstration (i.e. logical argument) that faith is reasonable.

    So, this is where I like to start. 1) Will you tell me what, to you, constitutes proof. 2) Do you understand what is meant by the word “God”?

    I’ve found that with atheists, it’s a waste of time to try to prove something unless we both understand what constitutes proof and what we are trying to prove.

  • Folkpunch

    “Every scientist operates under a metaphysical umbrella. If it is “nothing I do can ever be taken to agree with religion!” then that’s a poor, false metaphysical principle.” As is “nothing I can do can ever be taken to agree with the absence of religion,” right? Why do you always leave out the other part of the argument? Both approaches are prejudicial.

    1) Will you tell me what, to you, constitutes proof. Proof is a word that I would like to stay away from as it doesn’t do us much good. Proof is an exercise in logic and if you want to do that then okay. I would prefer to talk about evidence.

    .2) Do you understand what is meant by the word “God”? By your wording I suspect that what you mean to ask is “Do you understand what I mean by the word ‘God?’?” There are many people with many definitions of god. We can’t do this if you are going to start out by claiming the high ground. How do I define god? Historically I define god as the creator of the universe, giver and enforcer of all laws, orchestrator of nature, and a presence which has mutated from many to singular. Personally, I define god as “the iconic representation of the ideal.”

    Your turn.

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    1) So for you, evidence = proof? If so, what evidence is required to prove something as true?

    2) No, I mean how Catholics define that word theologically (to the extent that anyone can define something ineffable). I’m not interested in proving that your definition is reasonable. LOL.

    Are you familiar with any of this? It seems that atheists just make up what they think Catholics think and then prove that wrong, but they don’t bother to actually learn what they are arguing against in the first place.

  • Folkpunch

    Before we go on would you please address the first point in my last message? It seemed to slip through the cracks. I had agreed with you that an atheist looking to disprove the existence of god would be prejudicial, of course. That’s why we have standards of review. And then I said that a believer looking to prove that god exists would also be prejudicial. I asked if you agreed and I pointed out that you don’t seem to admit to prejudice on the side of religion.

    We really need to address this. We can’t have a one sided conversation

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    I didn’t address that point because it’s out of order.

    This statement is a logical ignorance (I don’t mean that negatively, I mean that it’s wrong.)

    “As is “nothing I can do can ever be taken to agree with the absence of religion,” right?”

    It’s false. We don’t believe religion is proved by science, so we don’t think science needs to prove religion.

    I need you to first tell me what you consider valid evidence to determine the truth of something. I have an idea what you’ll say, as I’ve had this discussion many times, but I want you give the answer, not me give it for you.

    I also need you to understand what we mean by “God.” I’ve never met an atheist who actually argued against what Catholicism actually teaches. Instead, they make up something (frankly ridiculous) and then disprove it. We’ll, yeah, but that’s a logical fallacy (strawman).

    “We firmly believe and simply confess that there is only one true God, eternal and immeasurable, almighty, unchangeable, incomprehensible and ineffable…one absolutely simple essence, substance or nature…one principle of all things, creator of all things invisible and visible.” Fourth Lateran Council 1215

  • Folkpunch

    You say this sentence is wrong: “As is “nothing I can do can ever be taken to agree with the absence of religion,” right?” When I wrote that I was responding to you, just turning your sentence around. You had said that an atheist would intentionally misinterpret evidence because they would not allow themselves to see anything that suggested god, and I was saying that the same is possible for a religious person but in the opposite direction.

    “We don’t believe religion is proved by science, so we don’t think science needs to prove religion.” It seems like you’re agreeing that a religious person could be prejudicial, but you also seen to be saying that it’s okay. Not okay for the atheist but okay for the religious.

    If this is actually what you’re saying then we can’t talk anymore. I can’t hold a conversation or debate with someone who uses a double standard. We either both go by the same rules or we don’t or at all.

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Yes, Folkpunch, I have seen instance after instance where atheist scientists do not seem to be searching for truth. You can’t say the same of Catholics, especially if you’ve not read the documents or tried to understand faith in God.

    We’ve never started the debate because you 1) won’t define what constitutes evidence for you to know if something is true and 2) refuse to actually acknowledge what it is that is to be proved.

    I’ve debated many atheists, I’m a convert myself and a I know a thing or two about science and theology. I’ve learned that unless those two questions are answered it will go like this:

    Atheist: Prove God exists.

    Catholic: Studies, articulates and explains the exhaustive discourse on the theological proofs, both deductive and inductive according to strict formal logic.

    Atheist: Nuh,uh, that doesn’t prove anything because I can’t see a bearded man in the sky.

    Catholic: That isn’t what we believe, nor is it what we prove.

    Atheist: Then I can’t have a dialogue with you, it’s so unfair.

    Catholic: So you believe justice exists?

    Atheist: It’s just something we know.

    Catholic: What about infinity? Is it true, are numbers really infinite?

    Atheist: You’re just dumb, _________________ fill in ad hominem.

    I won’t lie to you, I understand why Sir Isaac Newton said atheism was odious. It’s bereft of any deep thought.

    I leave you with this:

    http://www.acceptingabundance.com/nobody-made-it-can-you-tell-what-is-created-and-what-is-not/

    Have a good day!

  • Folkpunch

    I have no idea what kind of “atheists” you’ve been talking to but none of them that I know talk the way you outline.

    If I am unwilling to debate it is because, like I said, I will not engage with somebody employing a double standard. You clearly say that it’s not right for an atheist scientist to not be searching for truth. I agree. Everybody should be unprejudiced when looking for the truth. But you seem to be unable to admit that it is also not right for a Catholic scientist to “not be searching for truth.” In fact you boldly claim that Catholics are incapable of not looking for truth! Really? History is filled with Catholics who hide the truth or just plain lie. You know this as well as I do. The recent pedophile scandals are the most obvious contemporary example. Are they not Catholic? Yes they are! Have they not been hiding the truth? Yes they have.

    From the outset you claim infallibility. I don’t mean to be insulting but that is a very arrogant position to take. You are immune to fallacy while I am not. I can’t proceed like

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Sigh. You know, when you drop the pedophile bomb, it is like the Godwin fallacy. Argue with an atheist long enough, they’ll resort to it. Always. It is against Catholic doctrine to abuse children. The people who did that rejected the loving teachings of the Church. People — not the Church. You need to remember the difference. A bad physicist doesn’t render all of physics wrong.

    I agree that a scientist should search for truth. Period. We agree, both of us I hope, that pure science is that – pure, an honest assessment of the real, material world.

    With me so far? I don’t for a minute believe that you are anything but “with me” on this point, you seem genuinely interested in truth, as opposed to agenda. I get that.

    I said I’ve seen some atheists with agendas. You said some Catholics might have agendas. Fair enough. If we both agree that seeking truth is the priority (sans agendas), then we’re all good and agreed there. OK?

  • Folkpunch

    Okay, if you can agree that people who are Catholic are capable of having agendas then we can go ahead.

    “1) So for you, evidence = proof? If so, what evidence is required to prove something as true?” Evidence does not equal proof it just increases the likelihood, and all evidence is not equal. For me I would like to get as close as we can to “irrefutable evidence.” For instance, DNA evidence has freed people from Death Row, in spite of the testimony of witnesses, because so far as we know it is irrefutable. I would also like to know how the evidence was gathered.

    “2) No, I mean how Catholics define that word theologically (to the extent that anyone can define something ineffable). I’m not interested in proving that your definition is reasonable. LOL.” This is a little insulting. You asked me “Do you understand what is meant by the word ‘God’?” and I answered. The catholic Church does not own the word or the concept. There are roughly 38,000 different versions of Christianity, and I’m sure they all have their own definitions. The Hindus have 30 MILLION gods. So it’s a big word with a lot of definitions. As far as the Catholic meaning, no- you tell me.

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Folkpunch,

    Agreed, we are all human. We can fail. We try. :-)

    1) Are you saying that nothing can be proved as true then? If so, why should I believe you?

    2) For the Church, the Church does own her own definitions. She tries mightily to see the world as it is.

    You came to a Catholic website, so you must realize that you are dealing with people who have rejected, based on reason and faith, all the other definitions of God — as heresy! This is, ahem, not a Hindi site.

    The Catholic meaning of the word “God”? I gave it already.

    “We firmly believe and simply confess that there is only one true God, eternal and immeasurable, almighty, unchangeable, incomprehensible and ineffable…one absolutely simple essence, substance or nature…one principle of all things, creator of all things invisible and visible.” Fourth Lateran Council 1215

  • Folkpunch

    “1) Are you saying that nothing can be proved as true then? If so, why should I
    believe you?” I’m not trying to convince you of anything. But I would like to know the evidence for your belief.

    “2) For the Church, the Church does own her own definitions. She tries mightily
    to see the world as it is.” Of course, but you asked me about god without making a distinction. How was I to know? There are so many definitions. I think it would help to see the world as it is by interrogating the world without preconceptions.

    And yes, I know this is a Catholic site. I got here because of an article about the “Backyard Atheists” who put up a billboard using a discredited quotation falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson. It was a really stupid thing to do but they did it. What caught my eye was the article written on this site that used that bit of stupidity to paint the entire population of atheists as liars. It was the worst kind of simplistic chauvinism. Anybody can do that of course, but it was blatant and nobody challenged it. I had to join to make a comment, and then I started looking around. I saw your piece about how believers make better scientists and thought I would wade in. It’s more rewarding to have external dialog isn’t it? If you only talk to people who accept your central premise then how can you learn? How can anybody learn? My point in mentioning the number of gods is to raise a question. A rather serious one, I think:

    With all the millions of sacred identities given to the idea of the ineffable, the many names, the attributes – all the followers and believers of which are equally as certain as you are – how do you reconcile it all? Webster defines heresy as “adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma.” In that sense you are heretic to the Baptists, who are heretic to the Muslims, and so on. So from my position I would like to understand how it is that you can be so certain of the unique and unassailable truth of your position.

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Ahh! Gotcha, Folkpunch.

    Thank you for explaining. I’m up really late with a baby, and usually don’t comment at such a late hour.

    But tomorrow, I hope we can continue. You are asking way more intelligent questions than I asked even as I was converting! It is most definitely a matter of love, real love. Not blind love. I understand why you could be confused about what the Church teaches.

    Until tomorrow! (err…later today)

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Folkpunch,

    1) The evidence was from experience, reason, and empirical evidence, I assented in faith the same way I decide to believe anything else, only faith in God and loyalty to the Church resonated in my soul too because each step I took was like walking into light and I grew more and more certain that it was the Truth.

    2) How were you to know that I was referring to Catholic teaching? Well, scroll up to the top of the website. :-)

    You are getting to the heart of the matter in your last part. Those are the questions men have been asking for all time.

    The ancient Greeks had already reasoned that God existed, that’s why the Apostles were able to explain the Revelation of Christ to the pagan world. There have been volumes and volumes written by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, Popes, theologians, scholars, that address why the Church guards the truth about God. It is a continual process of the Magisterium to refute the errors of false religions and heresies. For anyone interested there is ample material to reason through this and see for yourself whether it is true or not. The intellect can work on these things, if you will it.

    “So from my position I would like to understand how it is that you can be so certain of the unique and unassailable truth of your position.”

    If that’s genuinely true, then you’d be willing to learn. Until you make that effort, it is kind of like a elementary student telling a professional mathematician that he would like to understand how the mathematician can be so certain of the unassailable truth of addition. The student can only understand if he is willing to try, and not just argue with his eyes and ears – and mind – closed.

    Following? :-D

  • Folkpunch

    You make reference to evidence, can you tell me what it is? “Until you make that effort, it is kind of like a elementary student telling a professional mathematician that he would like to understand how the mathematician can be so certain of the unassailable truth of addition.” Yes, except that the mathematician can easily demonstrate the 2 + 2 = 4, which is the foundation of all mathematics. So can you show me the evidence for the existence of god?

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    So it’s demonstrate now? :-D

    How will you prove, with evidence (you said you needed evidence), that 2 + 2 = 4.

  • Folkpunch

    Put two pairs of rocks in front of the elementary student, separated by a space of a few inches. Ask the student to count each pair: one, two, and one, two. Then put them all together in one group and ask the student to count them again: one, two, three, four.

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Folkpunch,

    I know this will sound ridiculous, but it’s how atheists sound when they ask the same questions of theology.

    That’s a demonstration, but it doesn’t prove anything. You didn’t prove that the abstract idea of the numbers one, two, three and four, or the abstract idea of addition and equality are real. You just used some words, appealed to authority and asked me to believe blindly that I should assign those meanings to what I can see with my eyes.

    So, if I’m playing Devil’s Advocate, you proved nothing. You provided no evidence. You are just asking me to accept your preconceived notions — your dogma.

    Now go read my article again, paying specific attention to my comments about relativism.

  • Folkpunch

    You’re right, I do think it’s ridiculous. You could say that my demonstration “doesn’t prove that the abstract idea of the numbers is real,” and then we can get into intellectual quicksand and never get out. I drive over bridges every day that were designed by people who don’t know how to prove the abstract of the numbers they use, built by builders who don’t know either, and used by commuters who also don’t know. How shall we explain this? Can we agree to come up with evidence for the points we are trying to make? My little demonstration can be reproduced at any time should anyone like to make sure there are no smoke and mirrors. Can you describe a similar demonstration for the existence of god?

    By the way, with all due respect I find your use of relativism to be problematic. You argue against it, which is fine in some ways and not in others. “Pie and Ice Cream are good” is a relative statement. It is totally subjective. Gravity is not.

    “Relativism destroys the essence of science, and reduces it all to mere opinion.” Okay, but then you say: “The Catholic scientist follows a different metaphysical principle, that God is the Author of all truth, Creator of all things. Every experiment is designed guided by this principle, every set of data is interpreted by this principle, every new hypothesis is formulated by this principle.” This is not okay. You have just introduced a prejudice which doesn’t belong in any serious investigation. Is it okay for the police to pursue their investigation based on principle that you are guilty of the crime for which you are charged? Is it okay for the atheist to pursue scientific investigation based on the principle that that god had nothing to do with it? Any real investigation must be open to new ideas and cannot be conducted with pre-arranged conclusions. I don’t understand why you don’t see this, or if you do, why you think it’s okay. You cannot go through life with your mind made up.

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    “You’re right, I do think it’s ridiculous.”

    Good, I was playing Devil’s Advocate, i.e. the role of the atheist.

    “…we can get into intellectual quicksand and never get out.”

    You get it! That’s why a thinking person should never deny there is objective truth.

    “Can we agree to come up with evidence…”

    See Question #1 which I asked you repeatedly and you did not answer. So I played Devil’s Advocate to get you to realize WHY you need to answer that. Even in mathematics, one must accept axioms.

    “Can you describe a similar demonstration for the existence of god?”

    Of course, if I know you are willing to think through it instead of say in infinite regression, “That doesn’t prove anything!” This is a serious hang-up for atheists. I’ve argued with lots of them. They refuse to articulate what constitutes proof — even as they demand you provide it.

    Do two rocks prove the axioms of mathematics? No, that is backwards. Two rocks don’t prove the axioms of math any more than they prove the existence of God – but they demonstrate both so that one can know them. (When you’re ready, I’ll give you the demonstration. Catholic theology is rich in these studies.)

    “It is totally subjective. Gravity is not.”

    Good, you recognize there is objective truth.

    “Is it okay for the police to pursue their investigation based on principle that you are guilty of the crime for which you are charged?”

    No. Now please answer this. Would it be OK to discover an apple pie recipe based on the principle that the woman who baked it is willing to communicate with you? I want an answer here! :-)

    “Any real investigation must be open to new ideas…You cannot go through life with your mind made up.”

    Right you are!

  • Folkpunch

    “Question #1” – What evidence do I need? Like the bridge builder I need something that I can use to make a prediction. The builder may not understand the abstract proof of the numbers he uses but he knows that if he uses them he can construct a bridge that will hold eight lanes of traffic and not fall down. Because he can make that prediction he is confident to put in his bid, and because the prediction is a good one, people will drive on the bridge when it’s completed. Tell me something like that about god.

    “Would it be OK to discover an apple pie recipe based on the principle that the woman who baked it is willing to communicate with you?” It would be okay, of course. Most bakers are willing to communicate so I’ll wait to find out why this is important.

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    OK. You need to be able to use the knowledge to make a prediction because the knowledge represents reality.

    Next question.

    Do you admit that in reality something does in fact exist which nothing greater can be thought?

  • Folkpunch

    No I don’t. Show me something big an I can imagine something bigger.

    Do you accept evolution?

  • http://www.acceptingabundance.com/ Stacy Trasancos

    Folkpunch,

    A question to contemplate though, because numbers have always fascinated me: If what you said is true, how is it we can count from 0 to 1? Aren’t there an infinite amount of numbers between those two concepts? Yet, somehow we know we can get to 1. We know instinctively there is an absolute distinct from the infinite. You can have the last word on that. I find it exciting to think about.

    Evolution? I accept that living things can evolve in some ways. I don’t know if I buy the metaphysical principle that all diversity of life can be explained that way. You’ve got a bit of a problem with evolution, don’t you? :-D We are entirely incapable of predicting the next species that will naturally evolve.

    This will be my last comment here. Again, I appreciate the discussion. You are very welcome to join the discussions on my blog. There are atheists who regularly comment there.

    http://www.acceptingabundance.com/why-atheists-love-science/

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    The limit, as x approaches zero, of one divided by x is something so big that nothing bigger can possibly exist. You can describe it in different ways. You can even speak of different densities of such a big thing, as in the unending number of prime numbers, on the one hand, compared to vastly denser unending number of real numbers, on the other.

    But if you are imagining something larger, you operate outside material reality. You have already entered the realm of faith, whether you recognize it or not.

    And that, by definition.

  • Folkpunch

    That’s called Zeno’s Paradox and it’s a fun game to play but it resolves fairly easily because no mater how many times you divide that distance between zero and one you still wind up with one when you add all the parts together. These things only show us how smart we are and yet how easily fooled. We are our best con artists, we can believe in spoon benders, faith healers, mind readers, astrologers, angels, demons, and saviors of all sorts. And that’s why we need to look past our traditional stories and myths, stop believing things just because somebody with social power tells us it’s true, and see what the world is really made of. We need to stop being puppets.

    Every religion has an airtight case within it’s own explanation, and every religion knows beyond question that they are the right one. They are closed systems. We need to open them a little bit and look at the relationships between the stories they tell and the real world as we observe it. It won’t hurt, it may even help to shed light on our histories.

    Thank you for the discussion, I learned a lot.