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Intersections of Logic and Faith
by Brett Petruzzelli
2016-05-13 09:07:06
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In today’s world, especially, the concepts of science, logic, and reason are growing evermore apart from the belief in anything unseen; namely religion.  This is undoubtedly due to the rapid advancement in the world of science and the long denial of those advancements by the Catholic Church, the largest denomination, of the largest religion in the world.  But why does this mean that the reality has to be polarized at just science backed logic or blind faith?

In actuality, the Abrahamic religions as a whole have liked to deny, or put their own, often misguided, twist on scientific discoveries.  As an early disclaimer to this, in October of 2014, Pope Francis was quoted as saying “[God] created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.”  And that’s great, that’s exactly what all this is about, accepting that maybe there is a collision of the two, God and science.  However, he went on to make statements like “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.” And “Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense — an unguided, unplanned process … is not.”  Both of which make very little sense from a scientific standpoint.  That is the exact problem, when the Pope decides to accept one, very widely proven, theory, he takes it, ads his own strange stipulations to it, making it a mangled shell of truth.  But, to not be too critical, this was a huge, although late, step in coming closer to a solid common ground.

evol01_400On the topic of faith, let’s examine what exactly God is. God is often portrayed as being a wise, older, male with an athletic frame and suave hair; the perfect model for a father figure.  By doing this we humanize God in a way that confuses many.  Set aside the Christian belief that God humanized Himself in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, and focus on the older scriptures.  The concept of God is portrayed as more of an omnipotent, omniscient, being.  A force that created the universe, and life.  In the book of Exodus, Moses poses the question to God of what his name is, and who it is he should say has sent him to the Israelites, to which God response "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you." (Exodus 3:14).  The exact phrasing of this statement is both mystic and easily confusing; the implied takeaway is that God is all around us, as well as existing in all things within our realm or universe.  The concept of God as an ever present force or energy, rather than an actual man, is much easier for many to follow and accept, as well as being more accurate according to scripture.

In reality, science and religion already see semi-eye to eye in many fascists of the universe.  Take, for example, the creation of the universe itself.  Just the belief of science that there was something created out of relatively nothing, through the Big Bang Theory” is enough to make people with religious conservative ideals stand up and say “I told you so.” Accompanying the Big Bang is the theory of the Combination of Fundamental Forces, or the Unified Field Theory.  Here’s where things can begin to get a little complicated, strap in; the basic fundamental forces of nature are gravity, weak, strong, and electromagnetism, three of these operate at a sub-atomic level, while the fourth, gravity, operates at a macro level; they are essentially the basic principles that operate the universe.  Many physicists believe that, before the Big Bang, these forces were all one, some saying that they were just combined, others saying that they were all a part of a single underlying force that we have yet to discover, and that a very short time after the Big Bang they divided into the unique forces we know today.  This is a clear parallel to the Abrahamic belief that everything comes from, and is, a singular unity.

 Einstein’s theory that all matter is comprised of energy makes it easier to believe that everything does in fact have a spiritual backing; because energy, and the theory of conservation of energy, makes the idea of a “force” and even a soul very believable, since both are perceived to be all around us, as well as within us, without us having the ability to see, or even fully perceive it. 

These findings and theories, as well as others, lead many people of faith to say that science is the one that needs to catch up to religion.  This argument stems from the way these findings are interpreted, and of course, interpretation, is just the way we choose to perceive something.  In defense of these scientists, it’s very easy to take someone else’s research, spin it to fit your narrative, and say that you’ve known that all along.

Where science falls short is its overall reluctance to admit the possible existence of absolutely anything divine.  While making great feats in advancing our society, technology, and our perception of the universe, science is not without its flaws.  It’s fair to say that for every theory that is proven, there are a number that are disproven.  Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s leading physicists, is undoubtedly a genius, he has also been disproven a number of times; does that discredit him entirely?  Not at all, but it does prove that there are still glaring weaknesses in our current scientific method, and demonstrates how ample evidence is needed before anything should be believed.  I look at it under the microscope of false until proven true, skepticism is good in some situations.

So if science is often not able to prove their own theories, then why should we believe them when they say there is no divine power?  Scientists are able to theorize how the universe was created, and how it developed.  What they cannot answer is why the universe was created, or why it, as well as us, developed as we did.

The most common and rudimentary question posed in philosophy is “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  It is also the hardest question to answer.  Truthfully, we as people may never be able to answer it.  Or maybe the answer lies somewhere between the different thought processes we hold today.  We can accept science and its principles, but we can also concede that is very possible that a divine being is behind all of this.  Science has its undeniable findings, and some of the “how” of the universe, what they may never have is the “why” the universe is.

At the end of the day, we are all free to believe what we want, and that’s exactly what religion and theories of science are, beliefs.  What’s important to note, is that both are great for our culture.  Both provide an important peace, one through logic, and one through faith.  And although they often contradict, I suspect the answer to many of our more philosophical questions can be answered when we look at both as one, instead of blindly rejecting one in the name of the other.



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Emanuel Paparella2016-05-13 12:31:47
Brett, unless you have exactly the same name as somebody else, you recently took one of my Italian classes at Broward College. Am I mistaken in this? This thoughtful insightful essay of yours comes as no surprise. I trust you will continue your interest in the subject, perhaps even pursue philosophy studies. The philosophy of religion is in fact integral part of those studies.

Be that as it may, had you also taken one of my philosophy classes which I also teach at the same institution you would have studied a chapter in the textbook on Logic and Introduction to Philosophy on “Divine Command Ethics” which deals with the subjects you survey: Galileo and Faith, Positivism and materialism, Thomas Kuhn on how pro visionary are the laws and paradigms of science, and most importantly, Thomas Aquinas who some 800 years ago wrote his Summa for beginner philosophy students to demonstrate one thing, that truth is one and indivisible, as you correctly hint at the end of your essay, and that when faith and reason contradict each other it is usually a matter of misinterpretation of what is not meant to be logical or scientific but poetical, as most world scriptures based on metaphors, mythology and the poetical, in fact are.
Indeed, why is there something rather than nothing is the question that science will never be able to answer because the question (dealt by Heidegger at the very outse of his Being and Time) is not concerned with utility but with purpose and intention. Science still has not explained scientifically why had the big bang come one millionth of a second too late or too early there would have been no universe. Alas, Hawking has no clue on how to answer the question via his atheism, so he is left with saying that the universe is eternal: it explodes and expands and then contracts again eternally (to what imaginable purpose?), or that it created itself, which is equivalent to saying that if I find a watch in the street I can assume that it made itself by pure chance and gave itself an evolutionary intelligent process. That of course, is not even logical, never mind faith and religion who at least assign a purpose and intelligence to something that surely exhibits it. But let the debate go on.

P.S. You may wish to read the Ovi magazine symposium of May 15th which also deals with the issue.

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