Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Science, Intelligibility, Creation: How the Doctrine of Creation Unites, Delineates, and Ennobles Modern Science

Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Science, Intelligibility, Creation: How the Doctrine of Creation Unites, Delineates, and Ennobles Modern Science

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

IF THE PROVINCE OF MODERN SCIENCE seems today to be all encompassing, a quick survey of the situation will prove otherwise. Science can often seem to have no room for philosophy, no time for the immaterial, and no patience with God. Through all of these factors it seems we are left with no hope for reconciliation between science and philosophy, science and theology, and ultimately, science and ordinary life. (1)

If a "theological doctrine" were to come to the rescue and serve to make sense of the divide between ancient and modern science that would indeed be something. (2) This is precisely what I would like to suggest. I hope to show that the doctrine of creation best accounts for and makes sense of the situation found today between departments of science and departments of philosophy and theology: a historically diverging but essentially complementary relationship between ancient and modern science. This assertion can either be viewed philosophically, or it can be assessed, to a certain extent, empirically. That is to say, for the scientist, I propose it as a hypothesis that, as I hope to indicate, accounts for a number of things in a remarkably sensible and convincing way.

In this article I will briefly trace the development of modern science in relation to ancient science, focusing on the evident rift that has formed between the two. But then I will show that such a division is in no way essential but rather an accidental occurrence. This is to say, it need not be so. Indeed, in cannot be so, which will become clear as I turn to creation and its accounting for the intelligibility of the objects of both philosophy and science. Finally, I hope to show that creation accounts for the possibility of any empirical inquiry in the first place, its hypothetical and seemingly unending quest for knowledge, and its dignity and nobility.

I begin with the first part: a consideration of the growing rift.

II. The Growing Rift

The science of today is not the same as that of yesterday, and only by way of contrast can the novelty of modern scientific inquiry be brought to light. The ancient view of science finds representative expression in Aristotle, who describes science in the following terms: "We think ourselves to possess science simply, and not in the manner of the Sophists, i.e., accidentally, when we think we know the causes through which something is, that it is the cause of this [something], and further, that it is impossible that the thing be otherwise." (3)

Aristotle, the first to formulate it with precision, is not however the first to identify the mode of certainty that is characteristic of science. Rather it is Plato who is the first to express, albeit somewhat metaphorically, the constitutive element of true science. Through the words of Socrates, this specific character emerges in the dialogue Meno:

  True opinions, as long as they remain, are a fine thing and all
  they do is good, but they are not willing to remain long and they
  escape from a man's soul, so that they are not worth much until
  one ties them down by [giving] an account of the cause. ... After
  they are tied down in the first place they become science, and
  then they remain in place. That is why knowledge is prized more
  highly than correct opinion, and knowledge differs from correct
  opinion in being tied down. (4)

Here, Plato describes the certainty of science metaphorically as "being tied down." This descriptive turn of phrase implies that a particular bit of knowledge, some conclusion, becomes science when rooted in or reduced to principles more certain and more known, which are of their nature more general than the knowledge tied down to them. Despite the figurative language, clear precursors to Aristotle's more precise formulation are found in the terms "cause" and "science," terms inherited verbatim by Plato's most famous pupil.

Thus formulated by Plato and Aristotle, the ancient "scientia or episteme meant a very perfect knowledge, a certainty of something obtained by seeing the reasons why it is so. …

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