Response to NYTimes Article “Mystery and Evidence”

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/mystery-and-evidence/?hp

I don’t think Catholicism is hostile to the scientific method in the least: we believe that God us to understand the beautiful nature he created, so that we can better our lives. The trial of Galileo is famous…, but I think it reflects the hostility of the Europeans to science more than the hostility of Christians. The religion bloomed even in Greece! We forget, when we talk about medieval times, that people were influenced more by their local culture and its superstitions than by the Catholic Church.
But to get to the main point. I’m sympathetic to the author’s point, because people who think that religion (or any other basic human activity, like dance or music or sports) is beneath them are shortsighted. But he could explore this idea more. Scientists can be as dogmatic as anyone; let’s not forget some of the ridiculous rubbish scientists have spewed over the years, like alchemy and leeching. Paradigm shifts in science are so difficult because scientists who have invested so much in the old paradigm cling to it with their emotions, not just their logic.
It takes faith to believe in the scientific method, just like it takes faith to believe in God. You can believe in both, or you could believe in neither and be a skeptic like David Hume. If a scientist is proven wrong, he doesn’t question the scientific method; he questions his own assumptions. So it is with a Christian whose prayers are not answered. If I pray for something that would be bad for me, should God answer that?
Oddly enough, the existence or non-existence of God doesn’t interest me as much anymore. Partially it’s because of the miracles that have happened to me. More importantly, it’s because my religion has taught me how to love other people, and it continues to discipline and guide me. Anyone would have to admit that that’s worth my time.

Explore posts in the same categories: Religion, Science, Math, Technology

4 Comments on “Response to NYTimes Article “Mystery and Evidence””

  1. Naughty Stuart Says:

    “I don’t think Catholicism is hostile to the scientific method in the least”

    *****I do and history agrees with me.

    “The trial of Galileo is famous…, but I think it reflects the hostility of the Europeans to science more than the hostility of Christians.”

    ***** hahaha! Blaming Europe for oppression of Galileo! That’s rich! Science got its start in Europe during the Renaissance! The Scientific Method draws on Greek thought for inspiration! The reason Galileo was persecuted was because he contradicted THE BIBLE, which came from a Semitic, non-European people! Please…

    “The religion bloomed even in Greece!”

    ***** You scratch the surface and speak of half-facts. The Greeks only accepted Christianity because Byzantine scholars changed that strange desert religion into something more rational, organized, doctrinal and hence more palatable to the Western spirit. The religion then went on to bloom all over Europe BECAUSE of the changes the Greeks made. Western thought is based on, not opposed to, Greek rationality. Christianity succeeded in Greece not because it is inherently friendly to rational thought, but because the Greeks MADE it so.

    “We forget, when we talk about medieval times, that people were influenced more by their local culture and its superstitions than by the Catholic Church.”

    ***** AHAHAHA! You are KILLING me! “Local (indigenous, European) culture and its ‘superstitions’ (sic)” were STAMPED OUT by Christian entities all throughout the early part of the first millennium AD. Those ” local superstitions” were what we now call Paganism. By the time of the Middle Ages, explicit Paganism was completely replaced by the Church. Don’t try to pass the buck to those who were not there.

    “Scientists can be as dogmatic as anyone;”

    ***** Agreed. Stephen Hawking, for example, is a dogmatic buffoon who berates anyone who doesn’t see the world in the material model which he does. He acts haughty towards anyone who not bow to his self-described “brilliance.”

    “So it is with a Christian whose prayers are not answered. If I pray for something that would be bad for me, should God answer that?”

    ***** Agreed… and who the hell really cares about those people, anyway? Why would you waste time on anyone who wants you to “prove” god exists. God isn’t up for debate.

    “Oddly enough, the existence or non-existence of God doesn’t interest me as much anymore.”

    ***** Nor should it. My only question to you is why the hell you accepted the notion that god was up for debate in the first place. You doubted that god exists… why? Peer pressure? I don’t deny those people the right to debate god. I just think that they’re hapless.

    In the words of the repeated sex offender and bully incarnate Bill O’Reilly… What say you?

    • jsmyth Says:

      Thank you for your response! I appreciate hearing your perspective.

      I’d like to clarify that when I say Christianity, I mean Christianity as doctrine, not Christianity as the sum of everything Christians have done in the last two thousand years. I believe there is only one truth, and as time has passed, we’ve come to understand it more and more. The Church hierarchy was hostile to Galileo, but unless you can prove that the Church today would have to throw out Galileo, I don’t think my statement is false. The current resistance of the Church to modern science is based on its position that an embryo is a human life, and destroying it means killing someone, not its rejection of the scientific method.

      I think Christian outreach to the Greeks started with Paul in Acts, and the Gospel of John is also written in a more philosophical style. You mentioned the later theologians who helped develop Christianity, and I certainly don’t want to minimize their contributions. They really did help develop Christian thought so it would appeal more to intellectuals. I don’t think they contradicted what came before, though. I the whole point of Christianity being universal is that it can appeal all kinds of people, from Semitics to Greeks.

      I simply can’t agree with you that the Catholic Church completely stamped out pagans. It’s not like there were druid churches next to Catholic ones, but the cultural memories remained – even Shakespeare drew on them for his plays – .

      The Middle Ages began with the fall of the Roman Empire and its way of life. After that, the different European tribes ran their own affairs, and it took a long time for countries like France and especially Germany and Italy to reassemble.

      I’ve been to a lot of countries, and everywhere I went Catholics lived a little differently because they were conditioned by the culture in which they grew up. If that’s true even now, when communication is so easy, it must have been even more so in the Middle Ages, when cities were days apart. Everyone professed Christianity, but that doesn’t mean all cultures were standardized. And I think it follows that the priests of the Middle Ages would have different attitudes toward science than the priests of the Byzantine Empire.

      I simply can’t agree with you that Christianity completely stamped out paganism. No, no one openly professed it, but wasn’t superstition one of the hallmarks of the Middle Ages? We still have black cats and broken mirrors today. None of that was in the Bible. Not to mention witch hunts. We talk a lot in America about Halloween, Christmas, and Easter being pagan festivals that were turned into Christian ones, and I wonder if the same is true regarding all the ceremonies for local saints in European towns. Once in Madrid I went to a festival for St. Anthony in which all the unmarried women puts their hands in a plate of pins. When they lifted their hands, the number of pins stuck in their flesh was supposed to equal the number of men who were interested in them. That’s the kind of tradition that’s older than the church. Faeries and Greek gods and fantasy novels about knights and dragons were ever-present in European literature though they predated Christianity. The Romantics and Nationalists of the 19th and 20th centuries brought all these ideas back with full force.

      The Renaissance happened after St. Thomas Aquinas brought Aristotle back into the universities. Before then, they were Platonists. Some of the ancient texts that were reintroduced came to Europe via the Muslim world, but much was also preserved by Christian monks copying manuscripts over the centuries.

      After Aristotle came back, he was accepted as the authority on almost everything related to science. Galileo challenged the Aristotelian view of the universe which had prevailed for a thousand years and which seemed congruent with Christian theology. You’re right that the priests used a literal interpretation of the Bible against Galileo, and literal interpretation prevailed at the time because it was the easiest thing to teach, but it’s not like figurative interpretation of Scripture was discovered in the Renaissance. After all, Christians had to explain why Jesus said “this generation will not pass away until these things have taken place” in a monologue about the “end times” in Matthew 24. But you are correct that the proof of the Copernican theory was a big blow to the Church that continues to damage it today.

      Why did I doubt God exists? I hadn’t seen him or felt his presence that strongly in my life. Now I have, and there’s no turning back…but sometimes I feel like I live without God, because I forget Him.

      Why did I debate the existence of God? I wanted to have answers to all the big questions, even if they were difficult ones.

      Thanks again for writing me!

      • jsmyth Says:

        Also, “Not to mention witch hunts” means that burning witches isn’t in the Bible, but it was a (terrible) reaction to paganism, not a product of it.

  2. jsmyth Says:

    “After Aristotle came back, he was accepted as the authority on almost everything related to science. Galileo challenged the Aristotelian view of the universe which had prevailed for a thousand years and which seemed congruent with Christian theology.”

    To specify, Aristotle hadn’t been accepted for a thousand years, but the earth-centered cosmology had been.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: