Friday, May 28, 2010

Martin Gardner, R.I.P.

Of your charity, please pray for the soul of Martin Gardner, who died recently. His name and works appear occasionally in Father Jaki's writing - see below for a famous and important example.
--Dr. Thursday

...about one-third of chapter 4 of [G. K. Chesterton's] Orthodoxy, "The Ethics of Elfland," reprinted in 1957 in, of all places, Great Essays in Science, a title in the Pocket Library. A typical first printing of titles in that series was in the tens of thousands, and copies were available not only in all bookshops but also at many newsstands in the 1950s and 1960s. There was Chesterton in the company of Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Henri Fabre, J.R. Oppenheimer, Arthur Stanley Eddington, Alfred North Whitehead, and Bertrand Russell, so many giants in mathematics, physics, and natural history. Chesterton was also in the company of such prominent interpreters of science as John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, and even T. H. and Julian Huxley. In such a company Chesterton needed a special introduction if not plain justification. Martin Gardner, who as associate editor of American Scientist put together that volume, did indeed apologize: "It may come as a shock to many readers," he began his introduction of Chesterton, "to find a selection by Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) included here. The rotund British writer was not noted for his knowledge of things scientific.... Yet there are times, as in the following selection, when he startles you with unexpected scientific insights." Worse, Gardner noted in way of final forewarning, the selection came "from, of all places, Orthodoxy, Chesterton's most famous work of Christian apologetics," a work published, Gardner added, perhaps to take some of the sting out of the whole business, "fourteen years before Chesterton became a Catholic." There was, of course, one unquestionable compensation for being exposed to Christian apologetics at its best. It was Chesterton's style "for which the author is justly famous - brilliant, witty, alliterative, dazzling in its metaphors and verbal swordplay, and a joy to read even when you disagree with him."

The re-christening by Gardner of the selection as "The Logic of Elfland" might have prompted Chesterton to some pointed remarks going far beyond a lecture on editorial ethics. In the whole section quoted, and in fact in the entire chapter, the word logic is hardly to be found. Not that there is no logic in it, but it contains much more. Hence Chesterton's choice of the title, "The Ethics of Elfland"...

[SLJ Chesterton a Seer of Science]

Monday, May 3, 2010

Founding science

Where Honest Scientists Trace Their Roots

By Edward Pentin
ROME, APRIL 29, 2010 ( Without the Christian faith, there would be no modern science as we know it today.
That was the groundbreaking assertion made by Benedictine Father Stanley Jaki, a Hungarian-born physicist and theologian, who died last year aged 84.
A man of deep faith, lucid intelligence and great creativity according to those who knew him, Father Jaki’s expertise in science and theology led him to become one of the Church’s greatest thinkers, especially regarding the relationship between science and religion.
According to Father Paul Haffner, a professor of theology at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university in Rome, Father Jaki’s biggest contribution to modern science was the discovery that it “arose under the influence of a medieval Christian culture.” Before then, such a claim was strongly opposed by those who thought science was born out of the Enlightenment.
“They thought the Middle Ages were a dark ages, but in fact we know historically that’s not true,” explained Father Haffner, himself a prolific author who has written "Creation and Scientific Creativity," a theological study of Jaki’s thought. He cited great scientists of the medieval Church, in particular Jean Buridan, the 14th century French priest who sowed the seeds of the Copernican revolution (Copernicus was also a priest, a fact often overlooked in the Galileo controversy).

More here.