Thursday, June 2, 2011

Science and the Ascension

I had a debate as to whether to post this on my own blogg or here. It is cases like this when we can thank God for George Boole, and so we can say "YES" to such "or" types of questions. Hee hee. (That's the famous trick we computer scientist use when asked if we want ice cream or cake. We reply, "Yes".)

Anyway, this is just a short excerpt but it is intense as usual. So read it and think about it, and get busy.
Now the whole of the rationalistic doubt about the Palestinian legends, from its rise in the early eighteenth century out of the last movements of the Renascence, was founded on the fixity of facts. Miracles were monstrosities because they were against natural law, which was necessarily immutable law. The prodigies of the Old Testament or the mighty works of the New were extravagances because they were exceptions; and they were exceptions because there was a rule, and that an immutable rule. In short, there was no rose-tree growing out of the carpet of a trim and tidy bedroom; because rose-trees do not grow out of carpets in trim and tidy bedrooms. So far it seemed reasonable enough. But it left out one possibility; that a man can dream about a room as well as a rose; and that a man can doubt about a rule as well as an exception.

As soon as the men of science began to doubt the rules of the game, the game was up. They could no longer rule out all the old marvels as impossible, in face of the new marvels which they had to admit as possible. They were themselves dealing now with a number of unknown quantities; what is the power of mind over matter; when is matter an illusion of mind; what is identity, what is individuality, is there a limit to logic in the last extremes of mathematics? They knew by a hundred hints that their non-miraculous world was no longer water-tight; that floods were coming in from somewhere in which they were already out of their depth, and down among very fantastical deep-sea fishes. They could hardly feel certain even about the fish that swallowed Jonah, when they had no test except the very true one that there are more fish in the sea than ever came out of it. Logically they would find it quite as hard to draw the line at the miraculous draught of fishes. I do not mean that they, or even I, need here depend on those particular stories; I mean that the difficulty now is to draw a line, and a new line, after the obliteration of an old and much more obvious line. Any one can draw it for himself, as a matter of mere taste in probability; but we have not made a philosophy until we can draw it for others. And the modern men of science cannot draw it for others. Men could easily mark the contrast between the force of gravity and the fable of the Ascension. They cannot all be made to see any such contrast between the levitation that is now discussed as a possibility and the ascension which is still derided as a miracle. I do not even say that there is not a great difference between them; I say that science is now plunged too deep in new doubts and possibilities to have authority to define the difference. I say the more it knows of what seems to have happened, or what is said to have happened, in many modern drawing-rooms, the less it knows what did or did not happen on that lofty and legendary hill, where a spire rises over Jerusalem and can be seen beyond Jordan.
[GKC The New Jerusalem CW20:315-6]


AND please remember: tomorrow begins the Great Novena, the one made at the express direction of Jesus Himself... please join us in prayer, as there are many problems and difficulties which so desperately need the aid which only the Holy Spirit can give!

2 comments:

Ratjaws said...

Dr. Thursday,
I find two things so interesting in your comments today:

First I quote:
Thursday, June 2, 2011 Science and the Ascension
"Thursday, June 2, 2011 Science and the Ascension I do not mean that they, or even I, need here depend on those particular stories; I mean that the difficulty now is to draw a line, and a new line, after the obliteration of an old and much more obvious line. Any one can draw it for himself, as a matter of mere taste in probability; but we have not made a philosophy until we can draw it for others. And the modern men of science cannot draw it for others." [GKC The New Jerusalem CW20:315-6]

Second:
Sunday, May 29, 2011 About Benson's The Dawn of All
"Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all." [GKC Orthodoxy CW1:236]

Here GKC's insight parallels what I've been reading in two other authors, both whom love their Catholic faith. Dr. Kenneth Doughery in his book Cosmology (1965), and, Dr. Wolfgang Smith in his book Science & Myth (2010). These above quotes remind me of the basic understanding that mystery reigns in our world. I've argued this many times with atheists and agnostics who think they can eradicate all miracles and supernatural events from reality with their "science" while remaining "objective" with the facts. The first quote brings out a beautiful insight as to what philosophy is in relation to this, that is, it draws lines that are universal. Science cannot even do what an individual can at that! The second brings out the fact that every scientist must exercise faith in order to do his objective duty. I've argued this with the non-religious and even irreligious when I ask, as Jaki often asks, why something and not nothing? Why is the world intelligible at all? Even Einstein stated this well when he said "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible." I've been learning from all these men that what contemporary science calls mystery, like so-called quantum strangeness, is really the consequence of bad thinking. That it's not the fault of the scientific method is clear from all the amazing technology it has given us. I think Monsignor Benson also makes this point in the broader text you cite. Science and theology work together! True mystery on the other hand comes to us in both religion, as miracles and supernatural acts, and science, as I now understand in the doctrinal component of prime matter. This latter idea I find comes to us through the perennial teaching of hylomorphism, of which Aquinas knew. It seems to me this mystery where matter at the subatomic level acts with a "dual nature" is science bumping its head up against the reality of substance under accidens (Aristotle) or as Fr. Jaki termed it, "the absolute beneath the relative." (title of his book). The most satisfying part of knowing form lies behind matter and actualizes its potencies is that instead of purely fictional ideas like multi-verses and time travel we can intellectually validate the miracle of transubstantion in the Eucharist.
Ratjaws (alias TCB)

JC said...

Woah, sorry about the links to this post (trackback) spam (not sure why that happened). You guys have a great site, though, and I enjoy popping in here to read it!

"Miracles were monstrosities because they were against natural law, which was necessarily immutable law."

This little statement fits pretty nicely with what Fr Jaki wrote time and again (in Miracles and Physics, in Limits of a Limitless Science and Other Essays, anywhere else where he discusses Godel's incompleteness theorem): namely, that miracles show that it is the laws of physics which are incomplete (and thus "mutable" in a sense). The actual miracles themselves cannot be thrown out as false (or fictitious) just because they don't fit within the current set of laws and theorems with which we try to describe nature.