Blind in Granada *(1)
Author: Héctor L. Mancini
Published in: congress "Identidad Cristiana de la Persona".
Date of publication: September 2006
Give him alms woman,
there is nothing in life
like the pain of being
blind in Granada.
(Francisco A. de Icaza)
What distinguishes a Christian scientist from a non-Christian scientist?
What does "Christian identity of the person" mean?
When this question is asked in general terms, the answer is simple: a person's Christian identity is made up of all those traits which allow us to recognise the face of Christ in him or her, regardless of his or her circumstances *(2).
Among all the characteristics derived from the previous answer and which are applicable to any person, there are some peculiar traits that this image acquires depending on the activities they carry out. To limit myself to these, I will restrict the question to the following, which is my own experience:
What distinguishes a Christian scientist from a non-Christian scientist?
A scientist, regardless of his or her religious or philosophical beliefs, is a person who has focused his or her life on the search for truth in some aspect of nature and has transformed that search into official document, with greater or lesser luck and talent. It therefore seems relevant to ask whether on that particular aspect, the criteria he uses to decide whether something is true or false, there is something that distinguishes a Christian scientist from a non-Christian scientist.
This is not an isolated question. It is associated with others, completing the picture that defines what is understood by truth in the general culture. We can mention a few: what is truth for common sense, what does the word truth mean for science, what does a Christian understand by truth, do the above definitions coincide or are they different?
Each of them opens up a perspective in itself and in relation to other areas of culture that we cannot exhaust here *(3) and therefore we will limit the analysis to what is indispensable to consider the question that gives degree scroll to this work. The union of all the perspectives leads to the profound meaning assigned to it by H.H. J. Paul II in his 10th encyclical, which he called "The Splendour of Truth" *(4).
Science, method and reality
Human beings need to interpret reality in order to understand, relate to and use the world in which they live, and also to express their inner world and give meaning to their own existence. In this quest, which is both intellectual and expressive, human beings use certain values underlying reality. Just as an artist seeks to realise his vocation by relating it to his interpretation of Beauty, a vocational scientist tends to search for Truth in the knowledge of nature. Some aspect of nature will be "the reality" to be explored.
Regardless of their training staff , religious identification and philosophical views, for ordinary scientists, reality is identified with nature and "is there", it is something given, observable, and can be subjected to measurements of various kinds subject. In order to be scientific, their observations must have some important characteristics. First of all, they must be objective, which means that the results cannot depend on the observing subject. Anyone making the same observation under the same conditions should find the same results.
The scientific researcher cannot analyse the whole of reality. First of all because he would have to include himself in it. To achieve objective results he needs to reduce it to a few relevant aspects and then, with some prior idea in his mind, begin to explore it. This reduction can then be modified to incorporate new details, which in turn may or may not be relevant. That is, as a matter of method, science is always "reductionist".
In addition, the events it explores must be repeated, either in the same or similar objects. For example, to study the death of a star, a phenomenon that is very difficult to observe and reproduce, one must analyse what happens to many stars from the same subject and only with these data will one be able to reconstruct the process of this singular event. But a truly unique event (e.g. incarnation) will escape these analyses and cannot be analysed scientifically.
With all these precisions and others that we will not discuss here, it is achieved that in the so-called "exact sciences" there are no opinionable questions beyond those that make the error of the method *(5). The laws of physics are not open to opinion, they are simply verifiable.
This reduction of reality to a few aspects necessary to define the object of study is the basis of the success of science in the predictions it makes, and it is also what makes it possible to classify the sciences into "hard" and "soft".
The "hard" sciences are those whose object of study is perfectly defined. This univocal definition of the object will then allow the use of mathematical language, with all the logical rigour it possesses. To the extent that the object of study cannot be precisely defined, the conclusions of science will become, first and foremost, statistical. A class of predictions which, while retaining their quantitative character, exclude individual concrete cases from forecasting. Their results are predictions about the average of a set of observables *(6).
If the lack of definition of the object of study is further increased, the unambiguous and quantitative character of the predictions is lost and they can hardly be called "scientific conclusions". Therefore, many statements in social and political life that claim such a character must be treated with caution.
In the following reflections on science we will focus on Physics, which is considered the paradigm of the exact sciences applied to nature, and the only one that extends its method of study to the whole universe, to the "Cosmos". Scientific cosmology, although it deals with the totality of known nature, the broadest object we can think of, is therefore not a separate and more general science. As a scientific discipline , it is just another chapter within Physics. The other sciences of nature, such as Chemistry or biology, are limited to more restricted aspects of this reality. Therefore, the methodological discussion in the field of Physics allows us to obtain conclusions that are valid by inclusion for the other sciences.
Science in general does not make any a priori statement about what the word reality means or what it should mean, and therefore the areas where it tries to apply its method seem to have no limits, which tends to confuse the object of study with the whole of reality. He will consider a knowledge as true when the results of his experiment coincide with the results of the theory that describes the object, both expressed in mathematical language.
The scientific "universe" is thus a quantitative universe and so far, to explore it, nothing seems to differentiate one scientist from another.
Searching for the truth
The scientist, with this particular method we have just outlined, approaches reality and obtains from it a series of data that will then be evaluated in a certain theoretical framework . This is where the analysis of the meaning of the word "truth" in science begins.
For ordinary people, the concept of truth has to do with a match between the reality they observe and an intellectual representation they have previously possessed. He takes data from reality and confronts them with others that he has stored inside him and which, in the first place, come from what we call "common sense". The conclusions obtained, if they are general, will be incorporated as new data to this common heritage.
Nowadays, what we understand by common sense goes far beyond experience staff, and we see that its scope has been broadened by science and technology. Nowadays, the established results of science (for example, the existence of atoms or the result of CT scans) must be considered as "common sense" as the order of the colours of the rainbow, observable to the naked eye.
Even considering only a few centuries ago, it can be argued that man today possesses a much richer common sense and consequently, his criterion of truth should be much broader and deeper, however, as we shall see, this is not so. It may be broader, but not deeper.
The rigorous philosophical discussion of the concept of "truth", however extensive, is impossible to comment on here and we could not fill in this small essay if we were to discuss all its implications *(7). Therefore, we will focus on the notion of truth just expressed, based on common sense and maintaining the idea of "bidirectional" adequacy between object (or "thing") and thought, an idea that was in normal use in the Philosophy until long after St. Thomas Aquinas *(8).
For science, as a consequence of its method, the search for truth has some additional restrictions. Firstly, adequacy requires a global coherence on the whole plane of thought. Adequacy between everything observable and/or measurable and the whole set of representations that describe it. Theoretical and experimental data must "fit" into a coherent overall body, a gigantic jigsaw puzzle derived from a minimal set of relatively self-evident "First Principles". Their conclusions, in the so-called "analysis" stage, must be derived from them and verified in an experiment, and a reverse procedure , the "synthesis", will be necessary to incorporate new data (or laws) into the theoretical framework .
When there is a fit between theory and experiment, we say that knowledge is "true". Therefore, a set of isolated data is not a scientific truth, even if they are numerical data coming from a theory, an experiment or an observation. Nor are conclusions drawn from a theory completely disconnected from experimental verifications scientific truths. In this case, until its results can be verified, it is only a theory.
The current scientific puzzle is of such a dimension that no human brain is capable of grasping all its details. Consequently, ordinary people tend to think that the subject of knowledge encompasses the whole of reality and that all the steps followed in its construction are objective and verifiable, i.e., that they have the quality of scientific truth.
Science and society
The search for truth through scientific methods has allowed man to understand many aspects of the functioning of nature, society and even himself. The success achieved in the prediction of phenomena gives science a great social predicament and, as we have just mentioned, in many areas there is a tendency to consider that subject knowledge is complete, that it exhausts reality. People today believe in science. They have transformed science into a belief, and in order to solve all the questions that require an ideology to support and justify them, society resorts to "scientific belief".
Contrary to its origins, science, which has been the refuge of rationality, has been transformed by the common man into a belief, a pseudo-science, and people want to believe, and make people believe, that through it the true knowledge is exhausted. And the reason for this is self-justification, because this knowledge comes from man himself and exempts him from all reference letter to an external reality that transcends him. Man thus achieves a belief that depends only on himself.
But despite this independence, there are restrictions that the method itself imposes: reality must be limited to subject and knowledge to the quantitative. Otherwise, scientists would quickly cease to believe in this dogma.
Most people confidently accept this belief, but in reality, they are ignorant of the deep concrete contents of science and its limits of application.
Although science is not topic easy, anyone can verify very simply that the set of scientific truths is not complete. To begin with, it does not clarify essential questions about our own existence such as: why are we here, where do we come from, where are we going, where are we going?
It can also be seen that not all steps taken to obtain scientific results are strictly "scientific". At the beginning of all knowledge there are always beliefs, i.e., there are unproven truths on which man rests *(9). For example: it is assumed that the truth sought by science exists and, moreover, that it can be known. A very strong aprioristic assumption, not always explicit and which reaches its maximum tension when it is extended to the whole of reality as a whole.
But at the same time, it is a very useful belief, because it justifies all scientific work. It would be very difficult for anyone to embark on this adventure of thought if he or she were of the opposite opinion: that truth does not exist. If truth did not exist, science itself would be a provisional and completely useless task.
Scientific thought, then, has started from a non-scientific belief, which cannot be verified by the methods and means used by science. And this is not the only belief on which science rests, there are many more: it is assumed that nature is intelligible, that it possesses regularities or laws accessible to the intellect and that under certain conditions, these laws will always and everywhere be fulfilled.
And, surprisingly, it turns out that at least to some extent Degree, these assumptions are fulfilled *(10), although it is not possible to say scientifically whether these theories and tests are exhausting reality or not.
But the initial belief works. The scientific research succeeds in finding these laws of nature, exploiting them and predicting consequences. And even if it cannot explain "scientifically" why this is so, it achieves an operational verification of the initial assumption: nature is intelligible to man.
And the people, in turn, believe but go no further. That same subject of empirical verification that he has used to know that reality is intelligible, would allow him to know that this subject of knowledge scientific, is not enough for him to understand the meaning of his own life, a meaning that must also be founded, at least initially, on a belief.
But the dominant thinking in today's society has chosen to treat these two beliefs differently and has ended up not accepting the latter.
Nothing disturbing would be happening if this part of reality that escapes did not give rise to a series of questions for which there are no answers. Man cannot scientifically answer essential questions that he asks himself on a daily basis: is this right or wrong, how should I live, how should I die?
As can be seen, reality has a wider scope than that detected by scientific methods, the immeasurable escapes and with it the most relevant questions for life. Scientific truth is not a complete, self-sufficient truth for man, but the "scientific creed" has already become established in society and is often widely used and exploited by politicians.
If we maintain this creed, there are few defences against problems for which science has no answer. Essentially there are three: one can deny their existence and consider that if the problem is not scientific, it is not a problem, one can resort to myth to solve it, or one can flee from them to avoid despair *(11).
The first proposition is well known and has been defended by the positivist philosophical school, probably the current closest to science*(12 ) (but this philosophical theory should not be confused with the scientistic creed we are talking about).
Among the myths *(13) related to the topic under discussion are the idea of permanent progress, political myths, "different" or "superior" races or peoples, and that of more direct relation, a reprise of the old myth of "freedom without limits" which combines very well with the "scientific creed".
Thirdly, there is escape. In order to avoid confronting the essential problems without a scientific solution, contemporary society has a wide repertoire of escape mechanisms that start at the level of knowledge and go all the way to the most practical questions of existence. We will briefly review these mechanisms. First of all, in order to give the impression that a thought has a scientific origin, the quantitative is often made to predominate, even in a forced way, and it is denied that there is any other valid subject of knowledge .
One of the clearest examples is the reduction of Ethics to Statistics. A fact ceases to be right or wrong and in order to analyse it, we simply present data numbers of how many people act in one direction or another, directions which are all assumed to be valid and which become "alternatives". Then, society sanctions as legal rule that which is done by "the majority" (although often minority alternatives are also imposed by those in power).
It can also be seen here that flight is intertwined with myth. This reasoning conceals, at least as a possibility, the idea of absolute freedom understood as the absence of limits, a mythical idea that has been present since the dawn of humanity. Limits will only emerge from the electoral statistics.
The first thing that is achieved in this way is, obviously, moral relativism, all options are alternatives between equivalent "lifestyles". Nothing is good or bad, it simply depends on the issue vote that prevails at a given moment *(14).
Another way of dealing with that for which there is no scientific answer is to suppress the question as irrelevant or insoluble, or to delay it in the hope of finding an answer. This is an attempt to spread another belief: man must be content with the answers he has and think that sooner or later all problems will be solved by man himself by means of scientific procedures (another myth: "permanent technical-scientific progress"). If only this utopia were realisable, many conflicts would be avoided, because although they are generally unknown, no one disputes the contents of science, everyone believes in them.
Thus, although there is talk of eliminating poverty, violence, disease, delaying old age, curing anguish, increasing life span and the like, it can be seen that the real status for humanity as a whole is getting worse and worse. We humans, by our own means, end up building "towers of Babel". Higher and higher borders. Walls that separate us from problems and from other people. Walls of stone, wire, electrified, concrete or intangible like economic barriers.
Old failures are recurrently repeated: the Roman walls, those of Avila, the Chinese wall, apartheid in South Africa, the Berlin Wall. Now we have others: that of Israel-Palestine, those of Ceuta and Melilla, that of the United States and Mexico and more to come... It is still believed that they provide protection and keep us out of trouble.
Our "advanced" societies seek to dilute the essential realities that are always present in nature, such as birth, illness, misery, poverty or death, by separating them from everyday experience. Isolating them in nurseries, old people's homes, mortuaries, as far as possible, out of sight and out of touch. On final, the fundamental realities of life are replaced by an illusory, made-up, more acceptable reality, created through wellbeing, the cult of one's own body and youth, consumption or leisure. If not through drugs, hedonism and any other escape subject .
By these means, our "advanced" Western societies flee from problems and questions to which science has no answer. Much more than in a "society of knowledge", we are living in a "civilisation of flight" *(15).
The essential questions
Man flees or hides within the walls, but unfortunately he does not manage to escape. The essential questions that concern him are precisely those that affect the deepest part of his own self, in his unconscious, those that wound him most deeply. He carries the problem with him. Sooner or later, these fundamental questions return with anguish; illness, death, war, famine, misfortune, boats or cataclysms cannot be avoided by not asking about them. At the most decisive moment for the sufferer, the question resurfaces and science has no answer to console or to hide it.
In today's society dominated by the belief in science, these questions are unanswerable for a common reason: the lack of possibilities of science to exhaust the concept of reality, and consequently, of what Truth means, a concept necessary both to found an ethic and to give meaning to the person and to the whole universe. The reductionism inherent in the scientific method prevents it from seeking a meaning for the whole universe and for the human being.
We have barely begun to give examples and we have already seen that not seeking an adequate global response from the outset has serious consequences for the individual and for society as a whole. And the consequences are more dramatic in technically advanced societies, where scientific belief is stronger. There, even the clear notion of the boundary between life and death is lost, an issue that a primitive society is usually very clear about. And it is lost for ideological convenience.
In their laws, with all their science, developed societies do not seem to dare to define clearly when human life begins and when it ends, so as not to set limits to individualism. To "freedom without limits". A great achievement, but its consequences appear immediately: abortions, euthanasia or biological "tests" are justified. The limits of life end up being elastic, a question of politics and statistics. By transforming truth into statistics, the problem has been given the quantitative bath it needed to be considered a scientific issue. Then a vote is taken and everyone is happy, the "statistical truth" has been achieved. But the problem and its consequences are still there, it has not been solved and sooner or later they turn against man.
It is necessary for the self-regulation of man and society to find a way to re-establish the limits of freedom *(16), but this solution cannot come from the domination of some men over others, whether by peaceful or violent methods. Humanity knows these attempts all too well; they have failed hundreds of times at the hands of tyrants of all kinds subject: individualists, elitists, aristocrats, democrats or populists, all with the best of intentions. The worst European dictatorships of the 20th century, such as fascism, Nazism or Stalinism (which often share the self-designation of "National Socialism") have had majority support, they used to win elections.
As can be seen, ethics cannot be replaced by statistics and even if only to avoid these evils, the solution should transcend man.
But man today, with the predominance of the quantitative in his thinking, has lost the notion of "transcendence", has hidden God and lives as if He did not exist *(17). With this concealment he tries to justify his agnostic or indifferent materialism, the dominant ideology in today's western culture. With it, he believes he can become master of life and death and manage his existence without any absolute reference letter .
When is a human being a human being, a person: at the first cell, at the 14th week, at the 25th week or at the age of 4? When does it cease to be a human being, at the age of 45 or 70 or whenever? And the body that will be manufactured as a replacement human being, will it be a person, will it have any rights, and the body that is dug up for research and put in a museum, will it not be a deceased, our ancestor, and will it deserve respect, can it be killed to stop an epidemic, up to how many dead?
There are no objective answers to these questions, we must vote on something we do not know. We have locked ourselves into a terrible paradox: man, believing that he can assert himself autonomously before God, suppresses Him from view and, as a consequence, ends up losing his dignity as a person.
We have looked to science to prove that God does not exist, to justify the atheism or agnosticism that we commonly practice in our culture, and we have no rational answer. We have found the root of the problem: without God, there is no "Humanism" possible. Everything is open to opinion.
This is so because the essential questions mentioned above are answered positively and satisfactorily only when the whole universe is given a meaning: a transcendent origin and a transcendent purpose. The fundamental questions for man have a religious answer: God created the universe for a purpose, the universe is not ours. But today's man, who presumes to be tolerant, does not tolerate talk of God in society. He has God as topic forbidden.
Today one can talk freely about sexuality, abortion, homosexual marriages, euthanasia, cloning, but one cannot talk about God. To talk about God one has to go into the private sphere, to hide oneself. Thus, the Creator of all things, the one who gives them meaning, is considered in developed societies only a backward and obsolete word, a salvation and explanation for all that is inexplicable, a matter of primitive and pre-scientific societies. This is how God is treated in the media speech, in political relations and even in family and personal relationships, with honourable exceptions. This is the dominant thinking in today's culture.
Behind this lies the ancestral fear of losing one's freedom. Contemporary man believes he will lose his autonomy and freedom if he talks about God and does not want to do so. If God does not exist, we assume that everything is relative and we can do whatever we want. There are only models of life, all valid and alternative, open to opinion and without absolute references. Yours and mine. The triumph of the "law of concupiscence".
A status that comforts all materialistic and agnostic thinkers, those who propagate the dominant ideology. But which brings in its bosom the greatest anguish and depression known to mankind of all times. Anguish that cannot be compensated by travel, entertainment, amusement and tons of anti-depressant pills, sleeping pills and waking pills.
Nothing is enough for him, because man has lost the meaning of his existence.
The search for global meaning
If man seeks an explanation for himself and for the universe, a Truth on which to rely, it is necessary to speak of God. He alone, the absolute and necessary Being, is capable of giving meaning to all existence. He is the only firm rock.
To narrow down the answer to our faith, we know that any Christian who has sought to orient his life has found his way in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. After a long process of maturation nourished by revelation, man, thanks to the witness of other men, has formed a vision of himself and of the world in which the person of Christ, the Word of God, is the very project of man as conceived by God before creation.
Therefore, when the Word of God made man reveals Himself and says to us: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" *(18), we Christians find in Him the part of the truth that was missing to guide our lives and answer our essential questions. Christian truth is an incarnate truth.
In all daily realities, from the smallest and simplest to the most transcendent, at every small or large crossroads in our lives we must choose between different options that bring us closer to or distance us from God. Thus, from option to option, we forge our path as we walk and we notice from the beginning that God the Creator has created us free. Free to decide which path to take. And faith, the key to entrance to the Kingdom of God, is the most transcendent choice we have made, the first in the order of causes: the answer we give to the question of God's existence *(19).
God, if He exists, allows us to decide freely on this question. If we answer in the affirmative, then He offers us a complete programme of life, through the model that His Word, the Incarnate Word, leaves us. By acting in this direction we are coherent and harmonise our life and our thinking. But we also have a new interpretation of reality, one that gives meaning to the whole of nature. And a scientist, if he is a Christian, does not escape this reality. There he finds the contents of truth in his own existence and in nature.
This new dimension of truth, like the other, the purely scientific one, has an intellectual representation, a new "adequacy" for all things. It gives meaning to the whole of life, it puts our thoughts and deeds on agreement . For the Christian, this truth, "the complete Truth", exists and is incarnated, and rather than requiring intellectual acceptance, it achieves its effectiveness in action, it is an existential truth, the truth that John Paul II called "Splendorous" *(20).
Therefore, if we refuse to believe that God exists and try to maintain coherence between our thinking and our actions, we will need to look for another path that gives meaning to our lives and provides us with answers to that part of reality that escapes science.
According to the conclusions we can draw from current scientific knowledge, the options we have are few: either we are beings created by a Higher Principle, the Cause of all causes (although we do not know exactly how) that we call God, or the universe of which we are part is the only necessary being and its development seems to be none other than that which defines chance at every moment, a movement without any purpose whatsoever. Universe in which, instead of being "Children of God", we become "children of chance", of chance, products of a fluctuation in the subject and energy.
At final when we began to think we made a choice between believing in God, which obliges us as people, or believing in chance, which leaves practically all existence unjustified and then anything goes. Superficially, it seems that by ridding ourselves of God we have gained freedom. But to choose chance is to choose a substitute for God, a "god" that relativises the whole universe and reduces it to an eternal dance without meaning, leaving us with the fundamental problems of our existence unanswered and our anguish intact.
By choosing to follow God, we choose to coincide with all of nature and our decision in the long run deadline, will always be the most coherent one, the only one suited to nature. It will be the result of using our freedom correctly: to achieve good and happiness, fulfilling the purpose for which all nature has been created.
If we choose chance, there will be no difference between us and any animal. We will think that in prehistoric times the dinosaurs were the masters of the earth and lords of history, that today we are, and that tomorrow the descendants of ants or any other living beings, better adapted to catastrophes, will be.
Thinking in this way, the vision of life loses all human dimension, it becomes a savage and permanent struggle, a perpetual pendulum swing between life and death, which are presented as two stages of a continuous transformation between subject and energy. There is no foundation on which to base ethics. Men, species, stars and galaxies are born and die, we have to kill in order to eat and continue living. Everything arises from previous states and nothing makes sense except the struggle for survival, even if we no longer know what it is worth surviving for.
With this choice, dreaming of being absolutely free, we have ended up lowering our dignity. Our actions, which we had imagined to be freer without God, lose their meaning when projected into the future. We thought we had made great progress and we find that this is nothing new either: it already happened to Icarus, we lose our wings when we fly close to the sun.
Christian scientists, atheists and agnostics
A Christian who deals with the scientific research , first of all believes in God and as a person, will seek the guidance that God offers him for his life. It will provide enlightenment and guidance for his existence. He is aware that scientific truth is a half-truth, which does not give him answers about his life and the meaning of life in general, but at the same time gives him a safe knowledge about the "modus operandi" of nature.
Once you have accepted the existence of God the Creator, you will be able to discuss on that framework, with a full view of the truth, even the role that God may have assigned to chance in creation or the like. But he will always be aware that everything in the universe, including chance, has a meaning.
And to search for Truth in this context means to find the adequacy between what things are in physical reality and the meaning they possess within God's plan, within the overall purpose of the Universe. A Christian knows that behind every reality of nature, more or less clearly, there will be the hand of God the Creator.
Sometimes the profound harmony between the revelation he receives and the reality he observes may not be evident to him. Advances in knowledge and in the maturing of faith are not always simultaneous, nor are they always at the same level in one and the same person. Many times, and for many Christians, it seemed that their faith and their science were incompatible. Often too, as history shows, these apparent incompatibilities ended up being resolved on a higher level at knowledge. A Christian scientist knows, like Bartimaeus, that if he asks to see, he will see *(21). For behind every reality of nature there is God, and sooner or later the "adequacy" will emerge which, if hidden today, will be evident tomorrow.
There are many examples in history and it is not always faith that revises the contents. As in science, procedure is normal, this adaptation has often reappeared for purely scientific reasons. This was the case with the Big Bang model , initially proposed by a scientist and Catholic priest, Father Lemaitre *(22). This theory was initially resisted by many physicists, probably because it was too much like a "creation" description and there were some alternatives that avoided it. However, there are very few scientists today who do not accept the standard cosmological model that has been derived from it.
With this new openness to the possibility of God's action, a new level of "adequacy between science and faith" was produced. A common space appeared showing that at least in principle, science and faith are not incompatible. The Christian, through Faith, can see the whole Truth.
But this does not prove creation, and although model raises severe (scientific) questions about how the initial state came about, it does not even prove that God exists. Nor does science seem to act "in favour" of the initial choice called for by faith. Such rational demonstration, if it exists, is outside the realm of science, i.e. it does not engage a non-Christian scientist.
A scientist who does not have a Christian conception of the universe (or who doubts it) will simply be looking for a fit between physical reality and a set of mental representations that describe it. That is, he will be looking for a representation of things, which may be completely devoid of global meaning and exist as a mere product of chance. Such a scientist is not lying or untruthful when he describes them, nor does he have to change his science. His scientific criteria will coincide with those of a religious scientist, his science is good science.
But when all aspects of reality are considered, it emerges that the criterion of truth he is using is incomplete or restricted, it lacks the global sense that the religious conception adds to it.
He, personally, has not managed to accept God, let alone recognise himself as his son: he only sees what he can see, a complete lack of meaning.
It is sad to see this in one who is prepared to know the material universe and to find the traces of God in nature. But unfortunately, he does not see them. One can be "blind in Grenada".
An agnostic is halfway there, believing that this difference, if it exists, has no human answer. If we were to judge, we would say that in some sense, he is also right, even if only partially. To resolve the difference he observes, he would need faith, and the first step on the path of faith is to make that decision in the face of the fundamental option we have mentioned: to affirm that God exists, with the elements (or rudiments) of faith that one has at that moment. Once this initial decision has been assumed and incorporated into his person, he could take a path of faith experiences that gradually lead him to understand the language in which God writes the History of Salvation in nature and in society. But at that moment, he himself does not even believe in the possibility of making such a decision. He does not even know if he can see it.
This simplification seems to classify scientists into three groups: those who see, those who do not see and those who do not know if they can see. But it should be clear that these are three extreme states, which to some extent happen to all of us, almost on a daily basis.
When we talk about the blind, we always think of others, but who is not blind at some time of the day, are we not blind when we doubt, or when we think things like:...if nobody is looking, can't I do this business that is so profitable for so-and-so,...so that they don't reach our beaches: can't they stop those boats on the high seas,...I am going to vote for so-and-so, even though he approves of abortion,.... I won't be fooling around with a large family and being faithful to my wife?...I can't stand this life any more, I'd like to die *(23).
In order to see, we all need to have the light of faith permanently lit, and ours is usually always very poor. It is sad, but we are all sinners, at least of original sin. As St. Paul would say, we do not do the good we want, but the evil we do not want, and we too are blind in Grenada.
Truth and Freedom
It is said in theology that God does not deny faith to those who honestly seek it. It means in this context, that we normally have more indications available to us from God to believe in his existence, than to deny it. God has left his name written everywhere in nature. But there will always remain a space created by Him for our freedom, a space to be filled by us with our intellect, feelings and spirit. This free space, human, but created in the image of divine freedom, leads us to have the possibility of denying God's own existence, despite all those positive traces we may have experienced to the contrary.
The acceptance of God is the first step in the life of faith, the one that leads to a coherent exercise of Truth. It takes place outside the limits of science and is, by its very nature, first and foremost a metaphysical intellectual choice. But in reality it is much more than that, it is a meeting staff with God, to which we have been called and to which we can respond by accepting quotation or not. On this free choice will depend the rest of our intellectual life. Unfortunately, there is no scientific method to help us make it, because it involves the whole person, transcends the quantitative and occupies all our freedom. And since we have the maximum of freedom before God *(24), we can also make mistakes.
If there were any possibility of nullifying this free choice, or a concrete demonstration against it, the concept of freedom in the human being would simultaneously be nullified.
For this very reason, one cannot blame someone who honestly does not have sufficient faith to affirm the existence of God. If he did, that faith would lead him to seek the transcendent meaning of truth, but he lacks it.
Obviously, whether a person accepts or denies that God exists does not seem to have any direct effect on the reality that is observed, except for the consequences on the observer and his own existence. This means that God must have created the Universe endowed with that "splendid truth" and full of meaning which the believer observes. God's imprint is present in all creation. Each of us, in our freedom, accepts or rejects it. It is we who choose which part of the truth we want to see and in which way we want our existence to unfold.
In order to try to understand God, we need not only our intellectual capacity, but also all that Revelation teaches us, because its content is beyond man's natural knowledge *(25). We cannot reach it on our own. To fully understand the Truth implies knowing, in addition to the scientific laws written in nature, the complete message of revelation. Each with its own dynamics.
Finally, why do we not also consider those who are ignorant of scientific knowledge about the universe to be "blind"?
Simply because the presence of nature can also be experienced by means other than the intellect. To experience the scent of wet earth in the spring, the sunlight tinting the sea in the west or the range of ochres and reds of autumn, we do not need the intellect, indeed, it almost bothers us.
On the other hand, whoever does not set his faith in motion will not be able to understand intellectually anything about the existence of God. By the above ways, one can indeed arrive at faith, but without faith it is not possible to advance in the knowledge of God. The old masters used to say that theology can only be learned "on one's knees".
A Christian scientist must be faithful both to his scientific conception of truth as "adequacy between things and the intellect", and to a second adequacy: the search for the meaning that things possess in relation to God's Plan. It must do so without mixing the two conceptions, so as not to fail to be true in either case. They are two sides of the truth, autonomous, but complementary and non-exclusive *(26).
As a scientist, man must submit himself to all the controls available to contemporary science in order to verify the validity or certainty of his affirmations. In this there is no distinction between scientists, be they religious, atheist, indifferent or agnostic. Science, to be truly science, must be universal and tends to be more and more a collective creation.
As a Christian, he must also seek the meaning that this truth has in relation to God's plan for the whole of creation and act by choosing at every moment of his life the option that brings him closest to Him. And God, through Jesus Christ, asks of man a double commandment: "Love God above all things and your neighbour as yourself". A request that has demanded us first of all to choose to have faith in Him, and which then unfolds in an infinite range of circumstances in which every man, whether a scientist or not, must act. The Christian has a clear path to follow and obtains his happiness and liberation by following it. But in the first place, at the beginning of all, is his acceptance of God the Creator, the "fundamental choice" made in his life.
This definition of the dual perspective of the Christian has a long tradition in the Church. A recent example can be found in the answer of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the question put to him by the journalist Peter Seewald in his book "God and the World" *(27):
The journalist asks: "The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar - a wonderful name for a theologian - was of the opinion that all things can be seen from a twofold perspective, as fact and as mystery. Seen as fact, man is a product of chance at the edge of the cosmos, but seen as mystery he was willed by God out of love for himself. Does this correspond to the fundamental idea for approaching the Christian conception of the world and of man?
Cardinal Ratzinger replies: "I would say yes. At first we only perceive simple facts, that which is. This also applies to history, which in the end could have been different. Certainly no one can be satisfied with mere facts, if only because we ourselves are in principle a mere fact, and yet we also know that we have and can be something more than a mere chance existence.
For this reason it is essential to analyse what lies behind the pure factuality and to understand that the human being has not simply been thrown into the world by a game of evolution. Behind it is that each person has been willed. Every person is God's idea. Everything that in principle is there factually harbours a plan and an idea, which then also gives meaning to the search for my own idea and to the union with the whole and with the course of history."
And we close this essay (with your permission for the audacity), completing the verse by Don Antonio de Icaza that we used to begin with:
there is a greater sorrow;
to behold the universe
and not finding the Creator.
discussion paper submitted to congress "Identidad Cristiana de la Persona". University of Navarra. September 2006.
This doctrine is already present in St. Paul, when he states his complete identification with Jesus Christ: "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2, 20). Later, its history becomes confused with the history of Christianity and reappears frequently. For example, in the spirituality of T. De Kempis "The Imitation of Christ", or more recently, in S. J. Escrivá de Balaguer "It is Christ who passes by" RIALP, (Homily for the feast of Christ the King, invites us to be: "alter Christus, ipse Christus"), to cite but a few authors.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church alone we already have numerous points for considering the word truth in relation to faith (58, 91, 105ff., 144, 213 ff., 1742, 1777, 2104, 2465 ff.). Assoc. of Edit. (1992)
SS John Paul II "Veritatis Splendor", dedicated to the analysis of the foundations of the moral law. St. Paul's Press (1993).
M. Artigas, "Philosophy de la ciencia experimental" EUNSA, Pamplona (1989). M. Bunge "La Ciencia, su método y su Philosophy", EUDEBA, Buenos Aires. H. Mancini "Science and Faith: the perspective of a physicist". Nuestro Tiempo, January 1995.
M. Bunge "Causality: the principle of causality in modern science" EUDEBA, Buenos Aires (1972) 3rd Edition.
"Adaequatio rei et intellecto". Without entering here into the discussion on ontological truth and logical truth. See, for example, J. Pieper "La veritá delle cose".
Ortega y Gasset, "Sobre ideas y creencias". El Espectador, Buenos Aires (1940).
A. Einstein himself comments in one of his works that "one of the least intelligible things about nature is just that: that it is intelligible".
M. Benzo, "Teología para Universitarios", Ediciones Cristiandad. Madrid, 6th Ed. (1977). Chap. III.
See the famous propositions of L. Wittgenstein, or B. Russell, "La Sabiduría Occidente" Ed. Russell, "The Wisdom of the West" Ed. Aguilar 2nd Ed. Madrid (1964).
The social danger of this reasoning subject has been detected and analysed by positivist thinkers themselves, who try to base ethics on other principles, going so far as to propose the possibility of "ethical experiments" to validate certain theories (M. Bunge, "Ética, Ciencia y Técnica", Ed. Sudamericana, Buenos Aires, 1996). One thesis currently heard to justify homosexuality is surprising: it assumes that man is a kind of androgyne until, say, the age of 15, and that at that age he decides whether he wants to be a man or a woman. If it doesn't match biology, he gets an operation (at the cost of social security) and that's it. There are presidents who support this: we are free.
To appreciate the almost unbelievable disparity of opinion on the old phrase: "your freedom ends where the freedom of others begins", just look up the phrase on the internet and compare the results with other entries such as "freedom and power", "freedom and poverty", etc.
By centring his thinking on the quantitative and recognising it as the only source of rationality, man places himself, as St. Thomas Aquinas formulated it, in a status in which the "law of Concuspiscence" prevents him from seeing the "Natural law". The message of creation is obscured. For a brief commentary on the "four laws" see, e.g. J. Ratzinguer, "God and the World" pp. 150 ff. Conversations with P. Sewald, Galaxia, Gutemberg. Circulo de Lectores. Barcelona (2005).
For more information see, e.g., the articles on the origin of the universe at http://www.unav.es/cryf.
M. Flamarique: "Scrutinise the Scriptures (III)". Cycle B Ordinary Sunday XXX, Desclée de Brower (1996).
In my opinion, in this conscious act man brings into play the maximum of his dignity as a person. To be able to decide freely before God whether to accept or reject Him, makes us act with that freedom which we have in the image of God, the absolutely free Being. Therefore, at the same time, his absolute and conscious rejection is the sin that brought about the most absolute condemnation, which is represented by the Fallen Angel.
Point 54 et seq. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Cited work.
Physicists are used to working with duality of concepts at the level of thought. Quantum Mechanics is a very clear example. When we consider the wave-corpuscle duality for subject and energy, we know that at bottom, "wave" and "corpuscle" are only two concepts, that reality is very complex and that sometimes only one is not enough to describe it. Moreover, there is always a mathematical language facility to privilege the use of one or the other.
J. Ratzinger "God and the World" pp.71 (Work cited). In addition to von Balthasar and Card. Ratzinger, one can read this same conception in other contemporary theologians such as Hans Küng (dialogue with the cosmologist G. Börner) "Science and Theology" research and Science, June 2006).