Thursday, September 24, 2009

Science and the New Atheists

It seems as though every way I turn recently, I come upon the intersection of faith and science and the new atheists. Just yesterday, there was an excellent article by Mark Shea at Catholic Exchange, in which he examined the arguments of the new atheists in a Thomistic fashion. Expanding upon some of the comments that he made during his recent appearance on Catholic Answers, Mr. Shea lays out five arguments (two good and three really weak) against the existence of God. Namely,:

Objection 1: The Argument from Evil
Objection 2: The Everything-Works-Fine-Without-God Argument
Objection 3: The Argument from Intellectual Maturity
Objection 4: Argumentum Contra Suckers
Objection 5: Argument from Chronological Snobbery

The first two objections are the only reasonable objections, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, and he dealt with them hundreds of years ago. For a full breakdown of how the five arguments are most commonly expressed in modern times, I encourage you to read Mr. Shea’s article, Padding the Case for the New Atheism.

I said there were multiple dots to connect, besides Mr. Shea’s, and so there are. Very recently, Dr. Benjamin Wiker, author of The Darwin Myth, was a guest on EWTN’s Life on the Rock. Dr. Wiker is not a proponent of a young earth theory, nor does he deny the mechanism of evolution in the development of species. In fact, he asserts that anyone who believes the earth is only 6,000 years old and God planted fossil evidence in order to test man’s faith is flirting with heresy because it implies that God himself is inherently deceptive. What Wiker objects to is the Darwinist ideology that holds a purely materialist view of evolution, with God’s participation excluded. The Church has nothing to fear from science.

Br. Guy Consolmagno was a guest on Catholic Answers for a show titled, The Christian Roots of Science. Brother Guy is a Jesuit with a PhD in Planetary Science, and he has conducted his research from the Vatican Observatory since 1993. As can be expected, the subject of Galileo’s trial by the Church was raised. It really wasn’t about his scientific theories, except maybe to the extent that he might have tried to assert that science trumped Revelation. Plus his persecution had to be among the mildest in recorded history.

Today, I happened to listen to the second hour of Monday’s Catholics Answers Live, in which Mark Brumley, the President of Ignatius Press, was the guest for Why Arguments for God are Important. Mr. Brumley noted that there are three reasons why even faithful, believing Christians should be familiar with the arguments in favor of God’s existence: our own faith is strengthened in the process, it aids our evangelizing efforts in being able to make the case to non-believers, and it clarifies in our own mind exactly who and what God is. It just so happens that Ignatius Press publishes a book, the Handbook of Catholic Apologetics, that has an entire chapter devoted to presenting 20 different arguments for the existence of God. I would be surprised if the five classic proofs of St. Thomas Aquinas weren’t the first five covered.

Finally, at least for now, was last Thursday’s Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours:

Lord, it is your will that men use their minds to unlock nature’s secrets and master the world, may the arts and sciences advance your glory and the happiness of all peoples.

Now I have to ask, does that sound like a Church that is hostile toward science?

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