Friday, September 24, 2010

A reminder of hope

Benedict XVI reminded us of the necessary connection of faith and reason.

Joseph Ratzinger is today Pope because appointed by his fellow cardinals – should I add by inspiration of the Holy Spirit? – to defend the cause of Christian religion, as the coming together of faith and reason.

This joining of the two is for him – and for every true Christian – the sign of the truth of Christianity.

Their being so joined, though, doesn't make only the true religion, but also true science.

If you have doubts about it, please check with an interesting figure of scientist, epistemologist and social thinker died in 1976, the kind of which we wish we had more: Michael Polanyi.

He was a scientist (in the "hard sciences": physics and chemistry) who knew how to reflect on what he did, reaching conclusions different from the ones spread by philosophers fond of science, who spend their lives extolling it without ever engaging in it.

Science, he remarked, always develops out of a "tacit dimension", a prereflexive capacity of observation and understanding that guides the scientist in his research – like the language we speak without thinking about it, because we only pay attention to the things to say. It's a capacity unconceivable outside of the personal relationship between a disciple and a teacher: call it the faith prompted in the one by other, by which he is led to the use of his own reason.

Such is science, and I cannot deny that we have aplenty. Leaving out of recognition, though, the tacit dimension and the faith that goes with it, science turns against itself.

We are thus left with very little true science, capable of bringing people to agree in a common understanding of things. And with little true religion. Society turns then against itself in a creeping civil war. Like the one opposing the self-declared intellectual elite surrounding POTUS and the Tea Parties.

And yet, Benedict stays there as a reminder of hope.


1 comment:

Andrea said...

The "faith" between disciple and teacher has nothing to do with religious faith. It should be called trust instead. The teacher gives the disciples the means to learn and walk by themselves, and this requires that the disciples trust the teacher initially. It is like that in any discipline, this is how we (and other animals ) learn. The scientific method is a framework to select ideas, once you learn it, by initially trusting that it works, you are free to apply it to any idea. The fact that the framework is, itself, and idea which survived a relatively long selection, to become the most trusted approach to formulate theories that describe (or better that model) reality, validates the initial trust, taking away the need to have "faith in the system". It might not be the definitive way to look at reality, better methods may show up in the future, if so, they will be evaluated accordingly and accepted, but so far the scientific method is unsurpassed.
Is the Pope trying to prove that the scientific method is a gift of a "teacher-God"? I hope not because that is a dangerous path to follow…
Paradoxically, applying the same logic I wouldn't be able to prove that atheism isn't.
Religion is an idea, reason a way to select ideas, science is a framework produced by reason, therefore comparing faith and reason is like comparing apples and wheels.