The theme of “faith and reason” is extremely common, and so readers might wonder why I have chosen it as the the new subtitle of my blog. I have, indeed, decided to orient this blog in a new direction, by devoting it to the subject of faith and reason. But my intention is more determinate than that might suggest.
Our recent beloved Pontiff John Paul II spoke of a springtime of Evangelization. The hope he inspired in that prospect was and still is very real. But how will such a hope be fulfilled? To think from the top down, it is of course certain that God’s ever present grace and mercy are what will bring it about.
But we ought to think as well from the bottom up, so to speak. A true springtime of Evangelization, a true renewal of Christian culture, must surely be one which will embrace the whole of human life; it will not just be a Christian life superficially superimposed over an old way of life which is indifferent, or even antithetical, to spiritual life.
And so we shall have to examine what has led to the secular way of life which often suffocates our spirit. That secular way of life must be examined from its roots: how did it come about that a very strong element of Western culture now resists any desire to turn our hearts towards Divine Love, and to put our hope in anything that transcends the sensible?
Part of the answer is that our culture began, centuries ago, to believe it could find its moorings in a vision of human reason in which God plays no part. The critical mainstay of that vision was “science:” a science which, according to the conviction of many, had no need of the Divine. Gradually, this “scientific” vision of human perfection filtered down into every aspect of life. Hence, today, we frequently hear of prominent representatives of “science” and “faith” debating the merits of the one vision or the other.
But my decision to reorient this blog is the direct result of my own conviction that taking sides in this debate will never yield a solution, because doing so is part of the problem. Such an assertion no doubt demands some explanation.
Everyone is familiar with the attitude of a Godless science, such as that of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Those like myself who espouse Christianity naturally think such an attitude to be a mistake. But we are less often aware of how we ourselves might contribute to such an attitude, how we might in fact share something of the very same attitude without realizing it. There is a widespread opinion held among those who espouse the traditional natural philosophy which says that modern science is restricted to “ratiometric” considerations, and that it therefore teaches us nothing about the essential character of natural things. In its more extreme version, the opinion goes so far as to say that science never gets beyond the hypothetical. This is an opinion borrowed from the positivist school, which conveniently allows some to keep science at arm’s length, and not take it seriously. Given such a superficial view, one can’t be too surprised that serious scientists would have one more reason to not take philosophy seriously; and insofar as philosophy is in some ways a bridge to theology, they then refuse to take the latter seriously as well.
What we need now is a renewal — really, a rebirth — of what is called the “philosophy of science.” The very phrase “philosophy of science” tends now to have a dismal ring to it. Why should one think such a thing is even necessary? Certainly most scientists would, with good reason, eschew the judgment of second-rate armchair philosophers pronouncing judgment on a discipline which is not their own and which, for the most part, they understand only rather poorly. And, in all candor, it must be said that many philosophers, even some of the better of them, have brought this contempt upon themselves. One would be wrong to think that the famous dispute between Galileo and those who feared looking through his telescope ever came to an end. It is alive and well today. And today as in Galileo’s time, both science and philosophy are the worse for it.
In sum there is a great need for a reintegration of science and philosophy. My hope in this blog is to contribute to that reintegration. In my next post I will outline a way to set forth. As part of my goal will be to inspire fruitful conversation, thoughtful and constructive comments will be more than welcome.