The BBC recently produced an excellent two-part programme concerning the beginning and end of the universe (available until 28th April). The presenter, Prof. Jim Al-Khalili, is a regular presenter of “The Life Scientific” on Radio 4 and has presented several television series on science. He is an excellent and enthusiastic explainer of things scientific. He has also been President of the British Humanist Association and describes himself as a 'cuddly atheist'.
The New Atheism debate has confirmed one significant cause of the atheism of many scientists, particularly physicists. They view religion as engendering an anti-scientific outlook, one where the whole enterprise of scientific enquiry is undermined by dogmatism, even if the particular dogmas are contradicted by scientific fact, such as creationism.
It was particularly pleasing that in this programme credit was given to Mgr. Georges Lemaître, the Belgian priest-physicist who came up with the Big Bang theory, without implying that he was a physicist despite being a Catholic priest. We might argue that Lemaître's theological outlook actually provided a perfect philosophical basis for his physics. The very notion that observation, in this case astronomical, can enable us to explain, or at least try to explain, the structure of the universe implies that the universe is explicable, rather than chaotic. Indeed, the whole enterprise of human knowing, the natural sciences included, shows this. Philosophy indicates that we cannot just take this order within physical reality for granted. The very intelligibility to us of scientific 'law' and causality implications concerning spiritual mind which, in the Faith theology, implies the necessary existence of a supreme spiritual being. The orthodox catholic view is, and has always been, that faith and observed fact cannot contradict each other since truth cannot contradict truth.
May / June 2018
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