“RELIGION, SCIENCE AND THE [POPULAR] MISCONCEPTIONS
‘For the scientist… the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been there for centuries.’ Robert Jarrow (Astrophysicist)
‘NEVER ALLOW YOURSELVES TO BECOME NARROW’
During his state visit to Britain in September 2010 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke to a group of religious leaders of different faiths, not only about the need for science but also about the limitations within the scientific world. He said, ‘They cannot satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart, they cannot fully explain to us our origin and our destiny, why and for what purpose we exist, nor indeed can they provide us with an exhaustive answer to the question ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also warned against rejecting religion in favour of purely scientific outlook by further saying, ‘Never allow yourselves to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerous and narrow if it ignores the riches or ethical dimensions of life just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world.’
FR LEMAITRE’S THEORY
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI may well have been referring to Stephen Hawking, who writes in his latest book that no divine force is needed to explain why the universe was formed and who also argued in his book The Grand Design that physics, and not a creator, was responsible for the Big Bang.
It was indeed in 1927 that a Belgian Catholic priest Fr George Lemaitre, a Jesuit and a student of astronomy and mathematics both in Cambridge (England) and Harvard, who proposed his theory of an expanding Universe to explain the movement of the galaxies.
FR LEMAITRE ARRANGED A MEETING WITH ALBERT EINSTEIN
His studies at this point were inconclusive and he arranged a meeting with Einstein who, although interested, generally dismissed his theory; he was also suspicious of the religious implications of Fr Lemaitre’s ideas.
AFTER EINSTEIN HAD DISMISSED HIS NEW THEORY, FR LEMAITRE STILL WENT AHEAD TO PRESENT HIS FINDINGS TO THE BRITISH SCIENCE ASSOCIATION
However, in 1931 Lemaitre was invited to London by the British Science Association to discuss cosmology and spirituality. There he described his new solution… the Universe had begun from a tiny and incredibly dense singularity containing all its existing matter.
‘THE PRIMEVAL ATOM’
This he called ‘the primeval atom’ or a ‘Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation’. It wouldn’t be known as the Big Bang theory until the British physicist, Fred Hoyle, did a radio series in 1949 in which he attempted to debunk it. He failed to change many people’s minds by then, but he did give it a better name. Neither Eddington nor Einstein were persuaded by this idea – as Stephen Hawking, perhaps the world’s most famous living astrophysicist, has said, ‘few people [meaning scientists] took the idea of the beginning of the Universe seriously’.
FR LEMAITRE DIDN’T GIVE UP PROMOTING THE BIG BANG THEORY
But Fr Lemaitre was a passionate and persuasive man, and he was gaining a wider audience as he began to travel the US. He decided to surprise Hubble and Einstein by turning up to meet them both unexpectedly in 1931 and push his idea again. This time he won them over, demonstrating how their work led to his conclusion.
THE BASIS OF MODERN COSMOLOGY WAS ESTABLISHED BY FR LEMAITRE FINALLY CONVINCING EINSTEIN AND HUBBLE OF HIS THEORY
It was a dramatic event – Hawking has said that, ‘The basis of modern cosmology was established at this meeting. Looking back I can recognise this as the foundations for my own work.’
‘THE BIGGEST BLUNDER OF MY LIFE’
Einstein regarded his initial rejection of an expanding Universe as the ‘biggest blunder of my life’. The existence of God, of course, is not settled by the truth of the Big Bang theory, nor should religion rest its case on any scientific theory.
THE UNIVERSE HAD A DISTINCT BEGINNING
But what can be said is that the Big Bang fits surprisingly well with the religious idea that the Universe had a distinct beginning, willed by the Creator. Unsurprisingly, the arguments put forward by the new atheists are never truly investigated [for instance Darwin’s ‘evolution theory’ lacks any credible scientific basis whatsoever]; rather than studying the precepts of Christianity they tend to be hostile to religion in all forms, viewing it as merely a kind of superstition; they are likewise hostile to traditional claims about the nature and source of morality.
TODAY’S PICTURE – BIOETHICS
EMBRYO RESEARCHER: FACED WITH THE CHOICE BETWEEN GOD AND SCIENCE, I DITCHED GOD
In 2004 Dr John Haas, the president of the National Catholic Bioethics Centre in America met with a scientist who had cloned a human embryo. In the course of that meeting, the scientist said he had been raised an evangelical Protestant, but that at a certain point, he had to make a choice between religion and science. Dr Haas’ response was, ‘But you didn’t have to choose,’ and, like the good evangelist that he is, he began to explain. A meeting that was supposed to last for 30 minutes went on for hours.
‘NATURAL SCIENCE ON ITS OWN SIMPLY CANNOT GENERATE THE WISDOM IT NEEDS IN ORDER TO PROGRESS WITHOUT DOING HARM’
Dr Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard University Law Professor who has served on the Pontifical Council for the Laity spoke of urgent need to renew the intellectual apostolate. Dr Glendon said ‘the importance of that task has been brought home to me very concretely in the course of serving over the past year on the National Bioethics Council. Over the past several months in discussions of cloning, stem-cell research and genetic engineering, I’ve seen not only how necessary it is for theologians and philosophers to keep up with advances in natural science, but also how much the natural sciences need the human sciences – for natural science on its own simply cannot generate the wisdom it needs in order to progress without doing harm’.
THE HEDONISM OF THOSE ATTEMPTING TO PLAY GOD, OR: THE ‘MOVE OVER GOD YOU ARE IN MY SEAT’ ATTITUDE
The truth regarding embryonic stem cell scientific technology seemingly has been lost on those who swear by its profound benefits with regards to its ‘curative potential’ for certain conditions; to date most of the general public will be aware, if not entirely au fait with the fact that this scientific breakthrough has broken down due to a complete lack of positive results; in short, this technology has wasted more government funds than ever due to the hedonism of those who attempt to ‘play God’ and those who believe them capable; for as long as we allow scientists and politicians to adopt the ‘move over God you are in my seat’ attitude we are spiralling deeper into the moral chaos so pervasive today.
EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH IS BASED PURELY ON FISCAL GAIN
Any orthodox bioethicist will tell us that stem cells taken from embryos are immature and only capable of producing tumours rather than cures.
PRODUCING TUMOURS RATHER THAN CURES
On the contrary, adult stem cells which are mature and present in all humans from the fully developed foetal stage, the umbilical cord and the placenta, have proven successful in various conditions, particularly in cardiac and ophthalmic medicine. Using adult stem cells from a patient whose trachea was removed due to disease, a medical scientist was able to reproduce a trachea, which was then successfully transplanted into the patient.
The difference between the research into embryonic and adult stem cell research is based purely on fiscal gain and not on ethical scientific procedures or results. Whilst millions of pounds of government funds have been and still are used for embryonic stem cell research, adult stem cell research costs a great deal less because the cells are self-donated by the patient.
God has provided all the answers; the world has provided all the errors! Religion provides the means to seek the truth whilst science provides the means to put it into practice using ethical means.
‘Religion and science are not in opposition but both on a path of truth.'(Pope Benedict).”
– This article was published in “The Crusader” (The Magazine of the Crusade of Mary Immaculate) issue March 2014 [Capital sub-headings added afterwards]. For subscriptions or for membership please visit http://www.thefriary.businesscatalyst.com (external link).