Wednesday, February 23, 2011

True Science vs. Scientism

So, you've finished with Bernadette and moved on to Joseph, eh? Well, not so fast!

Let's return to our beloved Bernadette for a moment. As noted in the posts below, the Lady of Massabielle appeared to the humble young girl of Lourdes during a time that saw the rise of secular humanism. And perhaps that is one of the reasons that Our Lady chose to appear at that time, to counter the hubris of man with the message of simple faith, a message of transcendent truth, that there is a Truth, a Logos, beyond the constricted limits of this worldly existence.

Over at the Archdiocese of Washington blog, Monsignor Charles Pope writes about one of the errors of that age, scientism, an error which has persisted to the present.

I want to show forth a Christian admiration for science and distinguish it from the error of scientism. . . .

[In his Gospel, John] teaches that when God spoke creation into existence through his Word (Logos) his Logos (Jesus) sets things forth with a Logike (logic) that is discernible and could be studied to make one wise in the ways (the logic) of God. Creation thus manifests Jesus, for he is the Word through whom the Father spoke everything into existence. In the Catholic Tradition we have come to call this scriptural teaching, Natural Law. In effect we can discern a logic, or rationality, to what God has made and come to know of God and his will for us. . . .

Secularism tends to see the created world as a closed system which cannot speak to anything outside itself. Secularism tends to exclude anything mystical in creation that points beyond or outside the closed system. It is more than simply an agnostic notion that we simply cannot know of things beyond, it is an antagonism to any reality beyond the here and now. And, in the more militant agnosticism and atheism common in current times, there is downright hostility to any requirements that the spiritual realm or anything outside the secular system might propose.

Scientism is an ideologically unbalanced form of science. It insists that if something cannot physically measured or observed it is not real; it does not exist at all. . . . scientism strays into philosophy and theology by making claims it cannot measure or verify. Scientism says that if something is not physically manifest, it does not exist. That is a philosophical claim, not a scientific one. Those guilty of scientism also often make theological claims in insisting that there is no God. This claim cannot be proved, measured or verified using scientific methods. As such, scientism strays beyond the discipline of proper science. In so doing, scientism creates a toxic climate for a proper dialogue between faith and science.

True Science is a Joy – Both faith and science have their proper role and proper place and, when these are respected, a Catholic ought rightly rejoice in the findings of proper science. . . .

But scientism is an ugly and fraudulent claimant to the scientific mantle. . . . Scientism distorts true science and adulterates it. It poisons the climate and makes dialogue more difficult. It manifests hostility to religion and faith, something which no true scientist needs to have.

A truly Catholic perspective is to rejoice in science. Our tradition enshrines the understanding that creation is revelation and the more we can know of this creation, the more we can know of God, the more we can know of his Logos, Jesus Christ our Lord. Thank God for true science, it is, for the believer another path to God. . . .

Scientism is not Science – Toward a Christian Admiration for True Science (emphasis in original)

Faith is not a matter of arbitrary irrational belief, it is a matter of reason. Faith and reason go hand-in-hand. It is faith which opens man to the transcendent, to be able to grasp the truth of things unseen. As Pope Benedict has said,

When Christian faith is authentic it does not mortify freedom or human reason; then, why should faith and reason be afraid of one another, if on meeting one another and dialoguing they can express themselves in the best way? Faith implies reason and perfects it, and reason, illuminated by faith, finds the strength to rise to knowledge of God and of spiritual realities. Human reason loses nothing when it is open to the contents of faith; what is more, the latter calls for its free and conscious adherence.

That is why the lowly Bernadette, ignorant in the eyes of the learned, was much more wise than the intellectual elite of her time. Her simple faith opened her up to truth, much greater truth, than the mere appearances of truth that the deluded secular humanists believe are all that exist. Having eaten the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in their intellectual arrogance, they have not become smarter or wiser, but have instead merely learned to be ignorant of real truth.

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