Science and Religion

by Hans Küng

Hans Küng thinks the Catholic Church was wrong and Galileo was right about the heliocentric theory. I think the Church showed better judgment than Galileo because the motion of stars as the Earth revolved around the Sun was not observed until the 18th century. Concerning the present day conflict between atheistic scientists and Catholic theologians, he is on the right side but he doesn’t understand the nature of the conflict. He thinks atheists have poor judgment, and doesn’t realize they fail at the level of intelligence because they have what psychoanalysts call blind spots. Atheists are inhibited from thinking rationally and intelligently and behaving honestly about religion. Consider the following quote from a famous atheist:

Among the traditional candidates for comprehensive understanding of the relation of mind to the physical world, I believe the weight of evidence favors some from of neutral monism over the traditional alternatives of materialism, idealism, and dualism. (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, location 69 of 1831)

I don’t know what Nagel means by “neutral monism,” but there is a fourth “traditional” solution to the mind-body problem. This is the solution judged to be true by Catholic philosophers: Humans are embodied spirits, which is another way of saying the human mind is a mystery. Many atheists will admit the human mind is a mystery, but they consider the Big Bang a mystery also. Atheists can’t grasp the difference between scientific questions (Why is the sky blue?) and metaphysical questions (What is knowing the sky is blue?).

The Big Bang theory is that 13.7 billion years ago hundreds of billions of galaxies each with hundreds of billions of stars was as small as a grain of sand, which is a gazillion times smaller than a single star. This theory was judged to be true by physicists when the radiation produced by hydrogen atoms 13.2 billion years ago was discovered. As I understand the cosmological argument for God’s existence, this is evidence that God does not exist because it is evidence the universe is not intelligible. Fr. Küng seems to think it is evidence of God’s existence, even though he has reservations about the “God of the gaps” arguments.

I was surprised to see a Catholic theologian saying you can’t prove God exists: “The proofs of God, including those Kant himself put forward in his pre-critical phase, have in fact come to grief; they are theoretically impossible." (location 605) Even the atheist Jean-Paul Sartre does not say that God does not exist:

Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)

The cosmological argument or proof is that an infinite being exists because finite beings need a cause. In Western religions, we call the infinite being God. A conversation with Sartre about God’s existence might be informative. However, if you are trying to decide whether there is life after death, what is more relevant and informative is that most atheists don’t understand the cosmological argument or pretend they don’t understand it. You can see this by reading the entries in Wikipedia and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for the cosmological argument. Agonizing about the persuasiveness of cosmological argument is casting your pears before swine or speculating about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Concerning evolutionary biology, Fr. Küng thinks Darwinism explains common descent. Common descent is the theory that whales evolved from microscopic organisms in a period of about 100 million decades. A decade is a better unit to use than a year or a second because it takes 20 years for a fertilized human egg to produce all of the cells of the human body. Evolutionary biologists always speak of “adaptive evolution” because Darwinism explains only adaptation. An old model for evolution is a tornado hitting a junkyard and producing a Boeing 747 in flight. A newer model is a computer generating a Shakespearean sonnet by randomly selecting letters of the alphabet. Advocates of intelligent design compare ID with Darwinism to make ID look more rational than it is. Atheists go along with the scam because they don’t want to admit ID is a better theory than Darwinism, in some sense. Fr. Küng, poor fellow, is a victim of this scam.