Roles of Science, Philosophy & Faith

From Adam Belanger

A scientist who does "animal research" writing from "self-confessed perspective of a so-called secular humanist":

I think many of the points made by yourself and other religious critics of secular thought are quite good. Mostly you and your colleagues catch such science luminaries as Hawking, Sagan, Darwin, etc., in their logical gaffes, and rightly point out that they make some rather heady claims about the "meaning" of it all, based on their scientific observations, claims which are themselves not very scientific...


Dear Adam,

Thanks for writing. I have read thru your emails a couple of times and have been thinking about them this past week. Quite naturally I am pleased that a scientist would take the time to read some of what I wrote and even more give such detailed response. I am not sure I can do any justice to your insights and questions, but would like make a few observations as well as ask a few questions.

First, I would not have any idea why the correspondence with the young woman stopped. I spend a lot of time in conversations with women, young and old, and realize they often find more urgent things to do than talk with an aging priest. :-)

A good book for sorting out roles of science, philosophy and faith is Ten Philosophical Mistakes by Mortimer J. Adler. Have you read it? He also has an excellent book called How to Think about God. He takes up a number of the cosmological questions you refer to in the final paragraphs. I'd be curious to hear what you think about his approach.

I agree with you that a scientist cannot avoid questions like: "Where did we come from? Where are we going? What does it all mean? Does there have to be a meaning? Where do I fit in all of this? Am I special?" But he has to try sort out in his own mind what he is saying based on particular scientific knowledge and what he asserts simply as a man. And to be honest with the rest of us so we know he is not using his authority as a scientist to impose a personal philosophy on the rest of us.

That was the reason I asked, "Is Evolution a philosophy (naturalism) masquerading as science?" I tried to distinguish between 1) the "fact" of evolution which would include things like what you mention in the bacteria experiment, that living things have mechanisms for adapting and ways of passing those adaptations on to their offspring, 2) the "myth" of evolution which would include all the "just so" stories that folks like Desmond Morris and Stephen Jay Gould entertain us with and 3) the philosophy of naturalism which seeks to explain the "higher" in terms of the "lower." Namely, the view that man is just a more complex animal, animals and plants are simply complex chemical reactions, etc. It's the words "simply" and "just" which are the problematic parts naturalistic reductionism. The Catholic Church (since the time of Pius XII) has been on record as not opposing the evolutionary hypothesis as long as it does not identify itself with a reductionist philosophy. Is there any scientific reason why it has to do that?

About reductionism I tried to explain why I think it is a mistaken philosophy especially regarding man. One of the places I tried to do that was in a review of the movie Bicentennial Man which, if you didn't see the film, was about the "gradual transformation" of a machine into a human being. I would enjoy your reaction to that review. Of course I am no match for Mortimer Adler (or G.K. Chesterton) in explaining how man differs from other animals not just in degree, but in kind.

Anyway, Adam, enough for now. I would be interested in your thoughts. If I am mistaken regarding scientific facts, please correct me. When Jesus told Thomas "More blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe," (John 20:29) he was referring to an act of faith in the one person who can be totally trusted, not a willful denial of facts.


Fr. Phil Bloom


Full Text of Adam's letters.

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