Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Science: a Subset of Rationality

This is from a review by Michael Potemra (see NRO, "The Corner", April 28,2012) about a new book by a noted paleontologist, Michael Asher: Evolution and Belief:Confessions of a Religious Paleontologist.   Potemra has written an excellent review, to which I can't add anything, but I'd like to quote his quote from the book, because it expresses my attitude about science and religion to a T:
“The absence of a scientific proof for God is more indicative of the limits of science than the lack of a deity. . . . Evolutionary biology is not about the origin of life or the existence of God. It is about how living things are interconnected through a specific, natural mechanism, one which we can understand through the fossil record, individual development, and molecular biology.”
“it is rational to believe that an entity beyond our comprehension was the agency by which something was derived from nothing at the beginning of time. . . . Although I acknowledge my belief to be non-scientific, it is entirely rational. Science is a subset of rationality; the former has a narrower scope than the latter. To ignore rationality when it does fall beyond the scientific enterprise would be an injustice to both reason and humanity.”
Most people aren't aware of the distinction between science and other rational enterprises--science requires theory (usually mathematical and linked to other theories, more basic and fundamental), confirmed or falsified by observation/reproducible experiment.
More of this later.
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About Me

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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.

And, finally, my motivation:
“It is also necessary—may God grant it!—that in providing others with books to read I myself should make progress, and that in trying to answer their questions I myself should find what I am seeking.
Therefore at the command of God our Lord and with his help, I have undertaken not so much to discourse with authority on matters known to me as to know them better by discoursing devoutly of them.”
St. Augustine of Hippo, The Trinity I,8.