The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More on Science, Man and God

Yesterday I criticized Stephen Hawking for trying to eliminate both philosophy and God, but it was really more of an off-the-cuff response and didn't offer much in the way of serious objections. My criticism actually centers on science as a vehicle in the pursuit of knowledge and its limitations as it engages in that pursuit.

It's important, first of all, to realize that science has been the source of humanity's expanding knowledge of our material world. But in accomplishing this science is essentially deterministic. Science accepts that all activity within the material world is determined by material causes and that these causes and their resultant activities can be expressed as "laws". Isaac Newton's legendary apple, for example, fell down and not up because of the law of gravity.

The problem arises when science attempts to apply its determinism to human thought and activity. Indeed, when a scientist like Hawking states that philosophy is dead he's also saying that human life in all its variety is subject to the same kind of deterministic "laws" that affect galaxies or falling apples. If we believe this then we must believe that free will is illusory, and such concepts as good and evil or justice and truth are meaningless. The focus of human intellectual life must then shift from the contemplation of these and similar concepts to an examination of the merely pragmatic, of what works. Human life loses its unique value (and without God, its sacredness) and has no more inherent worth than anything else in the universe.

The effect on society of such thinking is predictably horrifying. It results in the kind of society depicted by Orwell or Huxley, a society in which government becomes the master and the individual becomes a slave.  We've already tried several versions of this society in fascist Germany and in Marxist experiments over the past hundred years. All have failed or are on the road to failure.

What the totally deterministic scientist doesn't seem to realize is that much of his knowledge really doesn't apply to human beings. Problems that center on human behavior are not scientific problems but moral problems, problems that cannot be resolved by his deterministic laws.

Scientists do wonderful things as long as they stick with science. When they try to put God and man in a "black box", or worse, when they try to eliminate our uniqueness and His omnipotence, they always fail.

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