Science and Christ

And then comes the question of Christ himself – who is he? Turn to the most weighty and most unmistakable passages in the Scriptures. Question the Church about her most essential beliefs; and this is what you will learn: Christ is not something added to the world as an extra, he is not an embellishment, a king as we know crown kings, the owner of a great estate… He is the alpha and the omega, the principle and the end, the foundation stone and the keystone, the Plenitude and the Plenifier. He is the one who consummates all things and gives them their consistence. It is towards him and through him, the inner life and light of the world, that the universal convergence of all created spirit is effected in sweat and tears. He is the single centre, precious and consistent, who glitters at the summit that is to crown the world, at the opposite pole from those dim and eternally shrinking regions into which our science ventures when it descends the road of matter and the past.

When we consider this profound harmony that for us Christians links and subordinates the zone of the multiple and zone of unity, the essentially analytical domain of science and the ultra-synthetic domain of religion, then, my friends, I believe that we may draw the following conclusions: and they are the moral of this over-long address.

1. Above all, we Christians have no need to be afraid of, or to be unreasonably shocked by, the results of scientific research, whether in physics, in biology, or in history. Some Catholics are disconcerted when it is pointed out to them – either that the laws of providence may be reduced to determinisms and chance – or that under our most spiritual powers there lie hidden most complex material structures – or that the Christian religion has roots in a natural religious development of human consciousness – or that the human body presupposes a vast series of previous organic developments. Such Catholics either deny the facts or are afraid to face them. This is a huge mistake. The analyses of science and history are very often accurate; but they detract nothing from the almighty power of God nor from the spirituality of the soul, nor from the supernatural character of Christianity, nor from man’s superiority to the animals. Providence, the soul, divine life, are synthetic realities. Since their function is to ‘unify’, they presuppose, outside and below them, a system of elements; but those elements do not constitute them; on the contrary it is to those higher realities that the elements look for their ‘animation’.

2. Thus science should not disturb our faith by its analyses. Rather, it should help us to know God better, to understand and appreciate him more fully. Personally, I am convinced that there is no more substantial nourishment for the religious life than contact with scientific realities, if they are properly understood. The man who habitually lives in the society of the elements of this world, who personally experiences the overwhelming immensity of things and their wretched dissociation, that man, I am certain, becomes more acutely conscious than anyone of the tremendous needs for unity that continually drives the universe further ahead, and of the fantastic future that awaits it. No one understands so fully as the man who is absorbed in the study of matter, to what a degree Christ, through his Incarnation, is interior to the world, rooted in the world even in the heart of the tiniest atom. We compared the structure of the universe to that of a cone: only that man can fully appreciate the richness contained in the apex of the cone, who has first gauged the width and the power of the base.

3. It is useless, in consequence, and it is unfair, to opposed science and Christ, or to separate them as two domains alien to one another. By itself, science cannot discover Christ – but Christ satisfies the yearnings that are born in our hearts in the school of science. The cycle that sends man down to the bowels of matter in its full multiplicity, thence to climb back to the centre of spiritual unification, is a natural cycle . We could say that it is a divine cycle , since it was first followed by him who had to “descend into Hell” before ascending into Heaven, that he might fill all things. “Quis ascendit nisi qui descendit prius, ut impleret omnia.”

Source: P. Teilhard de Chardin, Science and Christ (London: Collins, 1968), pp. 34-36, translated by René Haque

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The Scientist as Believer (2/2)

[Second Part]

Horgan: What do you think of Darwinian explanations of altruism, or what you call agape, totally selfless love and compassion for someone not directly related to you?

Collins: It’s been a little of a just-so story so far. Many would argue that altruism has been supported by evolution because it helps the group survive. But some people sacrificially give of themselves to those who are outside their group and with whom they have absolutely nothing in common. Such as Mother Teresa, Oskar Schindler, many others. That is the nobility of humankind in its purist form. That doesn’t seem like it can be explained by a Darwinian model, but I’m not hanging my faith on this.

Horgan: What do you think about the field of neurotheology, which attempts to identify the neural basis of religious experiences?

Collins: I think it’s fascinating but not particularly surprising. We humans are flesh and blood. So it wouldn’t trouble me—if I were to have some mystical experience myself—to discover that my temporal lobe was lit up. That doesn’t mean that this doesn’t have genuine spiritual significance. Those who come at this issue with the presumption that there is nothing outside the natural world will look at this data and say, “Ya see?” Whereas those who come with the presumption that we are spiritual creatures will go, “Cool! There is a natural correlate to this mystical experience! How about that!”

Horgan: Some scientists have predicted that genetic engineering may give us superhuman intelligence and greatly extended life spans, perhaps even immortality. These are possible long-term consequences of the Human Genome Project and other lines of research. If these things happen, what do you think would be the consequences for religious traditions?

Collins: That outcome would trouble me. But we’re so far away from that reality that it’s hard to spend a lot of time worrying about it, when you consider all the truly benevolent things we could do in the near term.

Horgan: I’m really asking, does religion require suffering? Could we reduce suffering to the point where we just won’t need religion?

Collins: In spite of the fact that we have achieved all these wonderful medical advances and made it possible to live longer and eradicate diseases, we will probably still figure out ways to argue with each other and sometimes to kill each other, out of our self-righteousness and our determination that we have to be on top. So the death rate will continue to be one per person, whatever the means. We may understand a lot about biology, we may understand a lot about how to prevent illness, and we may understand the life span. But I don’t think we’ll ever figure out how to stop humans from doing bad things to each other. That will always be our greatest and most distressing experience here on this planet, and that will make us long the most for something more.

Collins: That’s delightful—and probably blasphemous! An alternative is the notion of God being outside of nature and time and having a perspective of our blink-of-an-eye existence that goes both far back and far forward. In some admittedly metaphysical way, that allows me to say that the meaning of suffering may not always be apparent to me. There can be reasons for terrible things happening that I cannot know.

Horgan: I’m an agnostic, and I was bothered when in your book you called agnosticism a “cop-out.” Agnosticism doesn’t mean you’re lazy or don’t care. It means you aren’t satisfied with any answers for what after all are ultimate mysteries.

Collins: That was a put-down that should not apply to earnest agnostics who have considered the evidence and still don’t find an answer. I was reacting to the agnosticism I see in the scientific community, which has not been arrived at by a careful examination of the evidence. I went through a phase when I was a casual agnostic, and I am perhaps too quick to assume that others have no more depth than I did.

Horgan: Free will is a very important concept to me, as it is to you. It’s the basis for our morality and search for meaning. Don’t you worry that science in general and genetics in particular—and your work as head of the Genome Project—are undermining belief in free will?

Collins: You’re talking about genetic determinism, which implies that we are helpless marionettes being controlled by strings made of double helices. That is so far away from what we know scientifically! Heredity does have an influence not only over medical risks but also over certain behaviors and personality traits. But look at identical twins, who have exactly the same DNA but often don’t behave alike or think alike. They show the importance of learning and experience—and free will. I think we all, whether we are religious or not, recognize that free will is a reality. There are some fringe elements that say, “No, it’s all an illusion, we’re just pawns in some computer model.” But I don’t think that carries you very far.

National Geographic Magazine, February 2009

The Scientist as Believer (1/2)

The often strained relationship between science and religion has become particularly combative lately. In one corner we have scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker who view religion as a relic of our superstitious, prescientific past that humanity should abandon. In the other corner are religious believers who charge that science is morally nihilistic and inadequate for understanding the wonders of existence. Into this breach steps Francis Collins, who offers himself as proof that science and religion can be reconciled. As leader of the Human Genome Project, Collins is among the world’s most important scientists, the head of a multibillion-dollar research program aimed at understanding human nature and healing our innate disorders. And yet in his best-selling book, The Language of God, he recounts how he accepted Christ as his savior in 1978 and has been a devout Christian ever since. “The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome,” he writes. “He can be worshiped in the cathedral or in the laboratory.” Recently Collins discussed his faith with science writer John Horgan, who has explored the boundaries between science and spirituality in his own books The End of Science and Rational Mysticism. Horgan, who has described himself as “an agnostic increasingly disturbed by religion’s influence on human affairs,” directs the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Horgan: As a scientist who looks for natural explanations of things and demands evidence, how can you also believe in miracles, like the resurrection?

Collins: I don’t have a problem with the concept that miracles might occasionally occur at moments of great significance, where there is a message being transmitted to us by God Almighty. But as a scientist I set my standards for miracles very high.

Horgan: The problem I have with miracles is not just that they violate what science tells us about how the world works. They also make God seem too capricious. For example, many people believe that if they pray hard enough God will intercede to heal them or a loved one. But does that mean that all those who don’t get better aren’t worthy?

Collins: In my own experience as a physician, I have not seen a miraculous healing, and I don’t expect to see one. Also, prayer for me is not a way to manipulate God into doing what we want him to do. Prayer for me is much more a sense of trying to get into fellowship with God. I’m trying to figure out what I should be doing rather than telling Almighty God what he should be doing. Look at the Lord’s Prayer. It says, “Thy will be done.” It wasn’t, “Our Father who art in Heaven, please get me a parking space.”

Horgan: I must admit that I’ve become more concerned lately about the harmful effects of religion because of religious terrorism like 9/11 and the growing power of the religious right in the United States.

Collins: What faith has not been used by demagogues as a club over somebody’s head? Whether it was the Inquisition or the Crusades on the one hand or the World Trade Center on the other? But we shouldn’t judge the pure truths of faith by the way they are applied any more than we should judge the pure truth of love by an abusive marriage. We as children of God have been given by God this knowledge of right and wrong, this Moral Law, which I see as a particularly compelling signpost to his existence. But we also have this thing called free will, which we exercise all the time to break that law. We shouldn’t blame faith for the ways people distort it and misuse it.

Horgan: Many people have a hard time believing in God because of the problem of evil. If God loves us, why is life filled with so much suffering?

Collins: That is the most fundamental question that all seekers have to wrestle with. First of all, if our ultimate goal is to grow, learn, and discover things about ourselves and things about God, then unfortunately a life of ease is probably not the way to get there. I know I have learned very little about myself or God when everything is going well. Also, a lot of the pain and suffering in the world we cannot lay at God’s feet. God gave us free will, and we may choose to exercise it in ways that end up hurting other people.

Horgan: Physicist Steven Weinberg, who is an atheist, asks why six million Jews, including his relatives, had to die in the Holocaust so that the Nazis could exercise their free will.

Collins: If God had to intervene miraculously every time one of us chose to do something evil, it would be a very strange, chaotic, unpredictable world. Free will leads to people doing terrible things to each other. Innocent people die as a result. You can’t blame anyone except the evildoers for that. So that’s not God’s fault. The harder question is when suffering seems to have come about through no human ill action. A child with cancer, a natural disaster, a tornado or tsunami. Why would God not prevent those things from happening?

Horgan: Some philosophers, such as Charles Hartshorne, have suggested that maybe God isn’t fully in control of his creation. The poet Annie Dillard expresses this idea in her phrase “God the semi-competent.”

National Geographic Magazine, February 2009

Math believes in God

Lecomte de Nouy, ​​renowned scientist among scientists, said “those who, sincere and honest, do not support the need for a transcendent organizing force is limited to say I do not know. But refrain from influencing others. Those without evidence consistently strive to destroy the idea of ​​God, act in a vile and unscientific “and said that we can make use of probability theory to prove mathematically impossible to explain the beginning of life on earth by chance.

Nouy professor, based on the calculations of Charles Eugene Guye, explains his assertion, which amounts to the following.

Imagine you have a thousand grains of white powder and a thousand black dust grains located in a transparent glass tube, whose diameter is slightly greater than the grains. These grains are placed in the tube so that we see the 1,000 black grains at the bottom, and on them were 1000 white grains. The tube half shows two colors: white and black. The degree of dissymmetry is total, or 1, mathematically speaking: all white beads are then blacks together and equally without mixing. See one half black and half white is, wholly or dissymmetry.

Now the tube, by a closure which prevents the grains fall is attached to a ball-shaped container made of glass.

Say you open the lock and mixed grains fall in the crystal ball. Once there, shake the ball and black and white grains are mixed randomly, giving the appearance of gray. We return to open the tube and we enter the grains, after having agitated. It will be highly unlikely that, again, we obtain the initial result that all whites and blacks are together also, keeping the two initial colors, although the possibility exists, but is negligible.

If we repeat the operation many times, each time stirring the grains, is very unlikely to return to get the total initial asymmetry, but not impossible.

Applying the statistical calculation, we found that the possibility of a return to the original position after each attempt dissymmetry is of 0.489 x 10 to about 600. Obviously, these exponents greater than 100, they lose all human significance. As an example, we know that the distance from the earth to the sun, expressed in microns (thousandths of a millimeter) is only 15 x 10 to 15 (since we are talking of exponential quantities, see the difference with the power increase to 600). As another example of such magnitude that is, it is considered that the age of the earth would be 2 seconds x 10 to 17.

A single protein molecule has a degree of dissymmetry of 0.9, and at least constitute not two but four disimétricamente ordered elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, as well as copper, iron or sulfur .

One of the simpler molecules, egg albumin, has a molecular weight of 34,500, with a degree of dissymmetry 0.9. Well, to simplify the calculations, we take as simple molecular weight protein like 20,000, and that its elements were only two. The possibility that by chance were combined and appropriately be dissymmetrical of 2.02 x 10 to the minus 321, and so to achieve a single protein, not a whole egg.

Obviously, if we had enough material to mix, and in sufficient time for mixing, shaking eventually end long shot, but the volume of necessary substance that could be given that probability would be that of a sphere whose radius will bring to light to get through 10 to 82 years light, ie over the entire volume of the universe, ie a volume of one sextillion sextillion sextillion larger than the Einsteinian universe.

On the other hand, the probability that a single molecule is formed 0.9 dissymmetry randomly with existing material on earth, would require 10 to 243 thousand million years, but the age of the sun is only 5 x 10 to the 20 seconds. Therefore, under the circumstances, it is impossible for a single molecule of albumin is created randomly, and if, for these things to chance, the opportunity was given to the principle of “the runs”, we would have only a single molecule albumin, no life on earth. Life on earth could only appear after it had cooled, which leaves only 1 x 10 ^ 9 years. Obviously there is not enough time to wrought chance, even giving the best possible conditions.

There are means, above all, we are talking about a single molecule, and that there is a living cell would need to be combined properly million molecules. Needless make probabilistic calculation of what this means to be able to give up the chance.

How we are not all mathematicians, would suffice intuitively realize that if we see a clock there is a watchmaker that created it. Who in their right mind would argue that the clock has been set at random, spontaneous combination of the materials of the universe?

Much more complex than a watch life and yet, there are still fools who say there is no God: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 53).

If there are things that are, by force must be something that has always existed and has in itself the reason for its existence, aseity, for without this being “who is”, there is nothing back there, and today nobody state that brings inert matter itself the reason for its existence, while at the same time, we know that living things, either.

We only have God, right?

Why, then, there are some who argue that God does not exist? Very simple, as Virchow said, great biologist who lived in the former USSR, there are only two possibilities: creation or spontaneous generation, but although spontaneous generation is not scientific and never will be evident, since on principle reject God, accept spontaneous generation. Virchow was tributary to the society in which he lived, but that recognition of God, conversely, is very significant.

Source: Jesús Fernández-Pedrera Correa (serviciocatolico.com)

Does science make belief in God obsolete?

As an experimental physicist, I require hard evidence, reproducible experiments, and rigorous logic to support any scientific hypothesis. How can such a person base belief on faith? In fact there are two questions: “How can I believe in God?” and “Why do I believe in God?”

On the first question: a scientist can believe in God because such belief is not a scientific matter. Scientific statements must be “falsifiable.” That is, there must be some outcome that at least in principle could show that the statement is false. I might say, “Einstein’s theory of relativity correctly describes the behavior of visible objects in our solar system.” So far, extremely careful measurements have failed to prove that statement false, but they could (and some people have invested careers in trying to see if they will). By contrast, religious statements are not necessarily falsifiable. I might say, “God loves us and wants us to love one another.” I cannot think of anything that could prove that statement false. Some might argue that if I were more explicit about what I mean by God and the other concepts in my statement, it would become falsifiable. But such an argument misses the point. It is an attempt to turn a religious statement into a scientific one. There is no requirement that every statement be a scientific statement. Nor are non-scientific statements worthless or irrational simply because they are not scientific. “She sings beautifully.” “He is a good man.” “I love you.” These are all non-scientific statements that can be of great value. Science is not the only useful way of looking at life.

What about the second question: why do I believe in God? As a physicist, I look at nature from a particular perspective. I see an orderly, beautiful universe in which nearly all physical phenomena can be understood from a few simple mathematical equations. I see a universe that, had it been constructed slightly differently, would never have given birth to stars and planets, let alone bacteria and people. And there is no good scientific reason for why the universe should not have been different. Many good scientists have concluded from these observations that an intelligent God must have chosen to create the universe with such beautiful, simple, and life-giving properties. Many other equally good scientists are nevertheless atheists. Both conclusions are positions of faith. Recently, the philosopher and long-time atheist Anthony Flew changed his mind and decided that, based on such evidence, he should believe in God. I find these arguments suggestive and supportive of belief in God, but not conclusive. I believe in God because I can feel God’s presence in my life, because I can see the evidence of God’s goodness in the world, because I believe in Love and because I believe that God is Love.

Source: William D. Phillips, a Nobel Laureate in physics, is a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute of the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Legalization of abortion = Abortions by coercion

In March, the country delegates to the United Nations (UN), discussed strategies for the “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”. The final document, negotiated by Michelle Bachelet as head of UN Women, was again complicated by the controversy generated by the abortion language in the so-called “reproductive rights”.

Chile is one of several countries doing repairs in the field, but there are other reasons related to the leitmotif of these sessions in my opinion, cause enough discomfort and inconvenience to delegates from several countries with legal abortion. When considering taking the life of an unborn child, either chemically or by poisoning surgically dismembered, legal or not, it is logical to conclude that abortion is itself a violent act. But at the same time, as discussed by researchers from different countries in a side event at the meetings of UN Women-abortion would be another form of violence against women.

Although the relationship appears independent of the legal status of abortion, it is a fact that thousands of women are legally forced to abort against their will, a phenomenon known as “abortion by coercion.” The legalization of abortion increases the problem, mainly due to greater permissiveness, ease of access and substantial increase in incidence rates of elective abortion.

In recent decades, several studies indicate that a significant proportion of legal induced abortions -25% or even more coercion occurs by the partner or a relative of the woman or girl with child. In fact, among the most common risk factors for abortion and subsequent mental health problems, is the history of domestic violence or intimate partner abuse history in childhood. Sometimes it’s own mother, father or both who forced abortion of a pregnant daughter. To this was added repeated abuse cases where teenagers resort to legal abortion in case of pregnancy.

Studies conducted in Finland, confirmed that abortion increases to more than double the risk of suicide in women of reproductive age, while the term pregnancy reduces it. A recent study in Chicago showed that abortion increases the risk of marital problems, including domestic violence, drug abuse and divorce. At the same time, there is a strong correlation between abortion rates and murders of women.

In China, thousands of women are forced to abort due to the one-child policy. The sex-selective abortion of thousands of girls is a harsh reality of discrimination against women in China culturally reproduced also in India.

In Latin America, the history of induced abortion is significantly associated with suicidal ideation in Brazilian women. In Mexico, physical violence against pregnant women increased from 5.3% to 9.4. Studies multiply and these are just a few examples.

At the opening of the sessions organized by UN Women, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon stressed that “there is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable “. If these are not just words of good breeding, the alarming expansion of legal abortion as a form of violence against women should not go unnoticed for any nation that respects fundamental human rights. Skip discussion, is simply hypocritical promote an agenda: discuss all violence against women and girls, less abortion where it is legal.

Source: Elard Koch, Biomedical science researcher at the University of Chile and current director of the Institute http://www.melisainstitute.com MELISA, Embryo Center and Maternal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Catholic University of the Holy Conception.

Glossolalia – ‘Speaking in tongues‘

Glossolalia – ‘speaking in tongues‘ – is a practice best known in association with ‘Charismatic’ branches of Christianity. Practitioners, often as part of religious services, produce streams of speech which correspond to no known language.

But could glossolalia sometimes be associated with a brain abnormality? Here’s an interesting case report: Temporal lobe discharges and glossolalia

Ms A was a 44-year-old female who presented to an outpatient clinic complaining of muscle tension and headaches for about 4 months… some of her friends were worried that she had been jerking her left arm while speaking in tongues, an occurrence that is atypical during glossolalia. The jerking movements occurred at no other times. She reported speaking in tongues for about 20 years, learning how to do this while attending church services. She experienced a very deep feeling of peace and tranquillity while speaking in tongues.

Medical tests, including a brain scan, came up normal. EEG revealed normal neural activity during a resting state. But…

Attempts were then made to reproduce the arm jerking. Ms A did not feel comfortable speaking in tongues aloud during the EEG because she thought it disrespectful to record this phenomenon. However she was willing to enter into a meditative state in which she prayed silently in tongues. When she did so, she appeared very relaxed, possibly even in light sleep. After several minutes of silent glossolalia, electrical discharges would begin to emanate from the right posterior temporal region

As we see here:

Now, Neurocase has in the past published some rather dubious religious-experience EEG data; in that case, I’m pretty sure the ‘temporal lobe spikes’ were just a recording artefact. This time around, it looks real enough. The fact that the suspicious signal came from the right temporal lobe also fits with the woman’s left arm jerks, because the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body.

However, so what? These kind of results are always intriguing, but this one should serve as a reminder that brain activity can be caused by behaviour, as well as causing it.

This case doesn’t show that glossolalia in general has anything to do with electrical abnormalities. It doesn’t even show that this woman’s speaking in tongues was caused by a neurological lesion. Ms A had been glossolating (?) for years before the arm movements started, after all, and it’s quite likely that there was no EEG abnormality before then either. Even once the unusual activity started, it was only triggered when she chose to enter into a glossolalia state.

So it seems likely that it just happens to be glossolalia that sets off the abnormality, whatever it is. Maybe, if she’d been an atheist, it would have happened when she was reading Richard Dawkins…

Source: Reeves, R., Kose, S., & Abubakr, A. (2013). Temporal lobe discharges and glossolalia Neurocase, 1-5; discovermagazine.com