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Professor Tom McLeish of Durham University recently made a common Christian reply to the New Atheist claim that science and faith are opposed. On Radio Ulster he affirmed that science “uses our capacity for faith” in “new ideas” in a similar manner to “believing in God”. (It can be heard for ten more days here, go to 15:10 for a couple of minutes). New Atheist Jerry Coyne has responded to these responses in his recently published book “Faith versus Fact: Why science and religion are incompatible”. He points out that the heart of successful scientific methodology is to verify any trusted idea experimentally. This is indeed radically different from rationally verifying our faith in Christ (which process Coyne, disappointingly for this calmer and more reasoned New Atheistic piece, fails even to discuss). Scientific hypotheses are intuited but need not be trusted until verified.
Coyne also deals effectively with the related claim, especially strong in Catholic circles, that scientists must “have faith in reason”. He points out that “we don’t have faith in reason; we use reason … and if you’re not using it, whether you’re justifying religious or scientific beliefs, you deserve no one’s attention” (p.210-11).
Yet there is something that can be salvaged from this Christian new apologetic on science and religion. Coyne has in effect acknowledged that the personal “use” of reason by our minds is intrinsically present in all our knowledge of matter, and all our knowledge of anything else. It is concurrent with the intuition of self-evident premises such as the Law of Non-Contradiction. Coyne would rightly deny that all this involves a priori knowledge. Yet the mind’s power of immediately intuiting and actively engaging with the environmental order in which we are immersed, is in the scientist just as in the religious believer.
Edward Holloway developed Coyne’s point this way:
“We do not argue to our being from our thought. We do not experience 'Cogito ergo sum'. We affirm our dynamism of being, we find ourselves in intuition of self and the other together ....I am - therefore I think.... It is in the dynamism of being that we find ourselves in thought. It is the consequence and measure of what existentially we are, and the manner we relate to the 'other' in which we swim like fish; the 'other' in which we are immersed.” [Perspectives in Philosophy II, p.81]
Such human “mindfulness” should be reflected upon in order to understand what the success of science means, and, as a result, in discerning an absolute Mind to be worshipped.
July - August 2017
Recent Blog Posts
- Blog: 12.01.17
- Blog: 13.12.16
- Blog: 09.10.16On his blog and in a recent Catholic Herald piece (9.9.16) Bishop Robert Barron offers some excellent reflections upon a recent Pew survey looking at reasons why young people are leaving Christianity in droves. He well shows how Roman Catholic leaders and teachers are dangerously underestimating ...Read More
- Blog: 23.08.16
- Blog: 08.08.16On 23 June 2016 a referendum was held in which a narrow majority of voters in the United Kingdom (nearly 52%) voted in favour of leaving the European Union, the so-called “Brexit”. This contrasts with the large majority (67%) who had voted to join the then European Community in 1975. ...Read More
- Blog: 17.07.16Thirty odd years after this overview of twentieth century Catholic intellectual culture, the points of James Hitchcock seem even more relevant. Below are some extracts but the, significantly longer, full article repays study. [Post-mortem on a rebirth. The Catholic Intellectual Renaissance, from ...Read More