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Why Catholics should know about science

Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.Pope St. John Paul II, Letter to Rev. George Coyne, S.J., Director of the Vatican Observatory. 

My evangelizing mission as a Catholic (even though a Converso) and a physicist, is to refute the claims of atheists (including prominent scientists) that science denies the teaching of the Catholic Church.   In many articles, adult education classes, and an ebook, “Truth Cannot Contradict Truth,”  I have argued that nothing science truly tells us about the world conflicts with Catholic teaching.   But I’ve found in the adult education classes and comments on the articles, that I’m not only preaching to the choir, but that those who should receive the message don’t really understand what science is all about, so the message is in a foreign language as far as they’re concerned.

Accordingly, I’m thinking of rewriting the ebook to include material that will help Catholic innumerates (and I’m not trying to be snide here; my wife is one of those) understand what science is all about–how it’s done and what its limits of truth are.  In short, I want to provide a text on basic science–physics, molecular biology, statistics–that will give the needed base for Catholics to assess critically the claims of atheistic science and to refute them for their children and friends.

I’ve given more details about this in a post for the Catholic Writers Guild, which has drawn some interesting and encouraging comments.   However, I still have some doubts about whether at 87.7 years I have the focus and the energy to carry this enterprise to a conclusion.   As the Kurt Weill song goes, “But it’s a long, long while from May to December…and I haven’t got time for the waiting game.”   If I do this book, it’s no more blogging, science-fiction or Midsomer Murders (or very little).

So, dear reader, do you think this is a worthwhile enterprise?   If such a book were published, would you buy it?

Many thanks.

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Bob Kurland, Ph.D.

Retired, cranky, old physicist. Convert to Catholicism in 1995. Trying to show that there is no contradiction between what science tells us about the world and our Catholic faith. Intermittent blogs and adult education classes to achieve this end (see http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/ and http://home.ptd.net/~rkurland). Extraordinary Minister of Communion, volunteer to federal prison and hospital; lector, EOMC. Sometime player of bass clarinet, alto clarinet, clarinet, bass, tenor bowed psaltery for parish instrumental group and local folk group.

8 Comments

  1. Bob:
    I’m a Catholic school teacher, and I would find a version addressed to young people studying science in high school very useful. Most of what I find either assumes too much background knowledge or speaks in vague pleasantries about evolution, life issues, the Big Bang, and so on. A lesson on how to explain the difference between primary and secondary causality to 14-year-olds would be worth the price.

  2. I’d buy it.

    One thing to remember: truth may not contradict truth, but truth might be incomplete. Science has not yet answered everything about creation, so theories do not provide full answers. Theology admits to the existence of mysteries that cannot be fully answered. Therefore we might see apparent contradictions, but eventually we will find they are not so.

  3. It’s a good idea and much needed in our time! Of course, if writing to those not so familiar with science, you’ll need to dumb it down somehow without losing its meaning. I would like to see emphasis on how modern science actually strengthens the case for God. And of course, as in all things, take it to prayer.

  4. My main warning would be not to get your hopes too high– many people who don’t understand science don’t want to. They think what they think, and that’s it.

  5. As a convert, and a chemist by degree, I ask you politely to please undertake this enterprise, and I commit to purchasing the resulting book.

  6. I am sorry not to have commented on this post before, Dr. Kurland. I was in Pennsylvania on personal business and electronic communication was limited to an Android cell phone that displays this web site in an unusual and unreadable manner. However, also as a Catholic convert, and a nuclear energy professional of some 40 years experience, I urge you to undertake this enterprise, and like Diane above will purchase the resulting book. People like you, Dr. Stephen Barr of the Bartol Research Institute and the University of Delaware, Father Robert Spitzer of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith, and our own Dr. Stacy Trasancos are absolutely vital to shining the light of faith and reason into a world darkened by paganism, hedonism and scientism. You men and women must not hide your light under a bushel. The more you write and say about what you know, the better that ignorance and idiocy and confronted and confounded. Thank you for your witness to the Truth. God bless you!

  7. As one whose discipline is history and social science, I note that these things run in cycles. While I am certainly alarmed at the propagation of error by many with issues and preconceived views, I am usually vindicated later as more knowledge on a subject comes out and error tends to retreat. Right now science seems ascendant and religious themes set aside. In fact, the beliefs of some in the scientific world regarding physical concepts rival the vigor of spiritual belief even though their concepts are just that with minimal real support. My only real distress comes from some of these people being taken seriously with no real foundation and causing considerable distress among the less knowledgeable. The present issue of climate change comes to mind when many consider the issue settled as if there is no more to learn on the subject. Reminds me of the wag at the beginning of the twentieth century who proposed closing the U S Patent Office because everything had already been invented.

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