The Church and Scientific Knowledge


#1

I was on another forum today where this article was posted. It is a secular forum with a “religion” folder which draws people from many religions.

Pope condemns ‘pagan’ love of power, money

“Have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny?” the pope asked.

I got into a discussion with an athiest about this statement by the pope and would like some input:

Athiest: Its true, knowledge is what is going to hurt the church the most. It is ironic that the Pope would mention that knowledge is a diversion of destiny seeing as that is why people read the bible; for knowledge of God.

Cattitude: Perhaps he’s speaking of seeking knowledge that makes you think you “shall be as gods”. That’s the kind of thinking that leads people to think they don’t need God. Why do you think knowledge is going to hurt the Church? What knowledge, and how?

A: I am referring to scientific knowledge. A better understanding of the big bang, evolution, anthropology, etc. I think will do just what you say; lead people to think they don’t need a God and i think the Pope must realize this. The Pope is trying to discourage people away from knowledge (science) to protect the church.

Cat: The Catholic Church is not at all opposed to scientific knowledge, unless it leads someone away from God because of their own short-sightedness. [Here I quoted [URL=“http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/159.htm”]CCC 159

] I think he’s talking about the thirst for material things, power, knowledge,etc that does override moral laws.

A: Science never leads towards a god. God is not even part of the equation. Georges [Lemaitre] formed his [Big Bang] theory thinking as an educated scientist and not that of a priest.
What type of knowledge overrides moral law?

How would you respond to the parts I’ve bolded, or any other questions/comments here? I hope it makes sense, I cut some parts out to keep it as brief as possible.


#2

Atheist declares:

The Pope is trying to discourage people away from knowledge (science) to protect the church.

I bet he’d be as hopping mad as some creationists were, if he bothered to read what the Pope actually wrote about science.


#3

The originator of the Big Bang theory wasn’t the only scientist who was a priest. There have been thousands of priest scientists over the centuries. The Vatican Observatory sponsors a lot of non-Catholic scientists. The Church believes in the unity of knowledge, and finds nothing to fear from scientific knowledge.


#4

Do you have any references I can shoot at him?


#5

Can anyone comment on this:
“What type of knowledge overrides moral law?”

The reference to moral law comes from the CCC paragraph 159, here is part of it:
"Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God.

Here are some references to moral law from the CCC:
1713 Man is obliged to follow the moral law, which urges him “to do what is good and avoid what is evil” (cf. GS 16). This law makes itself heard in his conscience.

1952 There are different expressions of the moral law, all of them interrelated: eternal law - the source, in God, of all law; natural law; revealed law, comprising the Old Law and the New Law, or Law of the Gospel; finally, civil and ecclesiastical laws.

After thinking about it for a little while, I came up with some examples of (scientific) knowledge/research that override moral law:

[LIST]
*]how to perform an abortion
*]IVF
*]embryonic stem cell research
*]human cloning
*]how to carry out euthanasia
[/LIST]

Of course, I don’t expect this list to impress my athiest friend, heck many Chirstians don’t even agree! :mad:
At any rate, while some scientific knowledge overrides moral law, the vast majority does not.

Comments welcome!


#6

Yes, those are good examples.
Other things like live experiments on human beings, development of birth control pills, sex change operations …

I think some weapons technology might be immoral – weapons that cause torture to the victims (chemical warfare). Scientific experiments to create means of torture, for example, would be immoral. Experiments on nuclear bombs might be immoral also especially if testing them releases deadly radiation in the atmosphere.

Some experiments are immoral not in themselves but in the risk versus the benefits. For example, experiments to create more powerful and deadly viruses may be immoral if the risk of them spreading in the populace is too high.


#7

The Pope is warning about the idolatry of knowledge which many have today. This is very common in the world of “scientism” where it is believed that science is the only true means of knowledge. But science is actually the most superficial method since it can only observe external, material things (matter and molecules).

There can be gluttony regarding knowledge, selfishness with knowledge, and a misuse of knowledge (as I just mentioned).

Knowledge sought for selfish reasons (wanting knowledge of someone else’s private life for example) will corrupt the human person. The belief that human beings are capable of all knowledge and are entitled to it (or are worthy of it) is a mark of the arrogance that is quite common today in our culture.

The Holy Scripture warns about the person who thinks he can understand the mysteries of God. The more he uses natural human knowledge (science) to do that – the further from the truth the person will drift.


#8

I did get into a discussion with my atheist dad about BC. He said birth control prevents abortion. Well this is only justifying sexual immorality. But he had his mind set on how wonderful BC is and a wonderful invention. I think he is mainly antichildren.

:rotfl: :rotfl:
You made my day CAt :smiley:
If we just move things around we may be going in circles. But I did read the article :thumbsup: this is the cutest thread I ever tried to follow.


#9

Thanks for the replies. (dessert, glad i could make your day, but I’m not sure what you mean by “cutest thread”?)

The discussion has taken a different turn in that another fellow thinks the pope is “attacking” the Jesuits in this statement. I don’t know much about it, but I know the Jesuits are pretty liberal, and I did read where Benedict reminded the Jesuits of their vows of obedience, etc. (back in Feb 08)

So, am I being naive at taking this statement and the rest of this article at face value? Is there something going on with “Vatican politics” that I don’t know about?

Thanks again!


#10

There might be some criticism of the modern Jesuits and other religious orders that put secular knowledge at the same level as contemplative knowledge of God.

Actually, that does seem very likely that the Holy Father is talking about that.

There are many Catholic religious who have set aside prayer and meditation in favor of academic studies on various topics. But their vocation is to worship God first – without that they’ll be spiritually empty (and that is what happened in a lot of religious orders).

The Jesuits specialize in a lot of education, but not for it’s own sake. The modern Jesuits, unfortunately, started thinking of themselves as academics first and consecrated religious only second (some did, not all).


#11

The Pope is warning about the idolatry of knowledge which many have today. This is very common in the world of “scientism” where it is believed that science is the only true means of knowledge.

Among the uneducated, perhaps. Scientists have repeatedly pointed out that science cannot rule out things beyond it’s ken.

But science is actually the most superficial method since it can only observe external, material things (matter and molecules).

Of course. If more people understood this, there would be less envy and hatred of science.

There can be gluttony regarding knowledge,

I don’t see how. "Know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
God is truth. And you can never know too much of the truth.

selfishness with knowledge,

Perhaps. But notice that you can go into any college library and help yourself to all of it. Science is a very limited way of knowing; it is foolish to be envious of it.


#12

Barbarian observes:
I bet he’d be as hopping mad as some creationists were, if he bothered to read what the Pope actually wrote about science.

Do you have any references I can shoot at him?

Right here.
bringyou.to/apologetics/p80.htm

Atheists, at least the aggressively anti-God ones, share with fundamentalists the notion that science and God are at odds. This paper seems to especially dismay them. It overturns so many of their prejudices about Christians.


#13

“envy” of science? Envy of what? Peer reviewed papers?

Peace,
Ed


#14

Part 69 shows that divine providence is crucial, not just chance and selection.

Peace,
Ed


#15

Now I feel like a complete idiot. What makes you think the Holy Father is speaking about religious orders vs. lay Catholics? Again, did I miss something in the article, or do I just not know enough about “Vatican politics”?


#16

No, I’m just speculating. You shouldn’t feel like an idiot at all. :slight_smile: There is nothing that indicates that the Holy Father is talking about religious orders. But in my opinion, he is concerned about “knowledge for knowledge’s sake” within Catholic religious orders since that is a distraction from the missionary effort. Knowledge must be oriented towards the service of God and not just for the sake of itself.

I don’t think this is a question of Vatican politics either. The Holy Father is speaking to the entire world – certainly at Lourdes which is a place of universal appeal.

Maybe the example of St. Bernadette is a good one. She was considered ignorant and she was condemned by the scientific establishment of her time (for a while). But she is one of the greatest saints ever.

In fact, St. Bernadette appeared (Our Lady appeared) in France at a time when “scientism” and atheism were becoming dominant. So the Lourdes messages are a powerful antidote to the anti-supernatural spirit that affected the world (and the Church also).

The Holy Father was warning about materialism. But the pursuit of knowledge (there is much useless knowledge) can be just as bad. People in academic communities who become proud because they think they know things are an evidence of a misuse of knowledge.


#17

Great explanation - I feel much better - Thanks!


#18

Part 69 shows that divine providence is crucial, not just chance and selection.

Which is nicely consistent with evolutionary theory, as the Pope has observed.


closed #19

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.