Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine March-April 2006
An Ordered Cosmos?
Dear Fr Editor,
Much of the intelligent design discussion is valuable in letting people know that "science" is not a monolithic source of secure knowledge. There are mysteries within the world and they find their reflection in science. Theories proliferate before the rational conundrums of human thought: is the universe limited or unlimited in space and time? Are space and time continuous or discontinuous? What are the smallest building blocks of reality? Are electrons and photons waves (continuous) or particles (discontinuous)? How can probabilities be known except in relation to a certitude? How can anything be measured without an absolute standard? Yet the absolute standard, precisely because it is absolute, transcends the realities to be measured. (If the speed of light is Einstein's absolute, serving as the measure for all other velocities, how can it be measured? But if it cannot be measured, how can it serve as a standard of measurement for others?)
Then there is the mystery of human knowing, as Fr. Polkinghorne pointed out: how can the human mind know reality when reality is outside of and different from my mind? How can a part be known aside from the whole which influences it. Regarding life Wordsworth wrote and Whitehead frequently quoted, "We murder to dissect." Our analyses fail to grasp the living whole. Materiality and life (soul) are as much mysteries for modern science as they were for ancient Greek philosophy.
Let us remember that human intelligence works with abstractions and that all our human laws are abstract. If we cannot fully understand ourselves -- and we allegedly "know" ourselves from within -- how can we expect to comprehend the universe and encapsulate it in a Unified Field Theory or anything similar? Our theories are conformed to law since we cannot think haphazardly. Law implies a determinism: there are no exceptions. How then is our freedom compatible with an all-encompassing law? How can we speak of God's law except very analogously? His intelligence far surpasses ours. The Infinite cannot be grasped by the finite. It is a wonder that our thought reaches reality at all. Yet it does. It somehow approximates the realitywhich only the infinite God can comprehend. He alone can join in a "law" both the regularities of the universe and the "randomness" of our freedom.
Yet there is an analogy between our knowing and God's because an all-good God made the universe and revealed the mystery of His love through it. We know that for sure not through the multifarious scientific theories, often contradictory in their premises even when called "complementary," but through the Incarnation of God's only Son. He is the analogy that assures us that the Infinite is not opposed to the finite but supports it and makes Himself intelligible through it. We need non-determining intelligibility in order to respond freely to the demands of His love. "He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him!"
John M. McDermott, S.J.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: We would find Professor McDermott’s exhilarating approach a bit too sceptical. We think the intelligible, lawful determinism of the physical realm which experience (scientific or otherwise) uncovers actually points to prior, free, spiritual mind. This is the pattern of human experience. It is such mind as the source of order which grounds measurement and holistic unity. All matter is intrinsically, existentially relative to the control and direction of Mind.
Dear Fr Editor,
It hadn't occurred to me until recently reading Faith what a scam
the multiverse cop-out is. It turns any and every legitimate empirical
theory about this universe into an unverifiable ad hoc one about this
and all the other, unobservable, supposed universes.
That this question-begging device has had to be invoked to avoid the
anthropic and religious consequences of the uniqueness of the world's
physical structure is a measure of the threat that this evidence poses to materialism.
The fundamental shape of the Universe is completely wrong for a random
origin of life theory. If there were a broad set of initial conditions
consistent with the development of complex structures and a thin
scattering of islands of life here and there, then yes, this would be
a scenario in which life could be regarded as a random outcome. But we
live in the opposite: initial conditions are incredibly narrowly
specified and it is increasingly clear that there is life all over the place.
Athanasius puts it succinctly in section two of On the Incarnation
"In regard to the making of the universe and the creation of all
things there have been various opinions, and each person has
propounded the theory that suited his own taste. For instance, some
say that all things are self-originated and, so to speak, haphazard.
The Epicureans are among these; they deny that there is any Mind
behind the universe at all. This view is contrary to all the facts of
experience, their own existence included."
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Our slight demur here would be that even if the order of the cosmos showed a lot less of the directionality that it clearly does the intelligible order that remained would still be a witness to a specific, unified cosmos, and thus to controlling Mind.
Future of British Catholicism
Father Kullu’s article was a stunning critique of where we are at and what we should be about. God Bless him and you for its publications. It invites a response.
I spent decades as a Personnel Manager in large organisations and the public service. Many organisations failed because although they had appropriate policies and objectives they did not adhere to them. “Key result areas” were identified but disregarded. A culture evolved of Orwellian doublespeak and spin. A plethora of initiatives, debate and learned articles created a “fog”. Objectives and the realities of life were obscured.
According to the Second Vatican Council, the Eucharist is the Church’s “entire spiritual wealth”. Reducing Masses, closing parishes, etc, is the ‘Eucharistic deprivation’ of God’s people and a grave wound to the Mystical Body of Christ. We all know “small” parishes where closure has meant that significant numbers of the faithful have stopped going to Mass. “Key result area” analysis should produce a very different approach from these policies of despair.
Churches should remain open. Smaller presbyteries might be shut. Priests could be housed in larger presbyteries and service a deanery or large cluster of parishes. Priests would play to their strengths, primacy being given to the Mass. Mass does not depend for its efficacy on a large or even a “vibrant” community.
East Bawtry Rd
Scotus and the Primacy of Christ
Dear Fr Editor,
I have just received my first copy of your magazine and I cannot tell you how happy I am with its contents and the tone of its articles. After trolling many others I think I have found the one that suits me best.
The two articles on the Primacy of Christ are excellent but I am bound to say so after being a life long devotee of John Duns Scotus, a key idea in his thought.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: We plan to publish an interesting article on Scotus’ approach to this subject in an upcoming issue.