Category Archives: Fides et Ratio

Psychiatry & Catholicism: Part 1

depression

The term “psychiatry” was first coined by the German physician Johann Christian Reil in 1808 and literally means the ‘medical treatment of the soul’ (psych- “soul” from Ancient Greek psykhē “soul”; -iatry “medical treatment” from Gk. iātrikos “medical” from iāsthai “to heal”).

“But even today human reason and free will are often still denied by many neuroscientists or scientific popularizers. Their conclusions are in fact bad philosophy masquerading as science. The so-called New Atheist writers, including Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, try to convince us that all things distinctively human, including religious faith, can be (or someday will be) shown to be reducible to chemical discharges in the brain.

According to this ideology, all that we are, all that we think, and all that we do are completely determined by our biology. (We should note, however, that these writers implicitly appeal to our reason and free will in asking us to rationally consider and freely accept their arguments.) Today, brain science has made tremendous advances in exploring biological aspects of human behavior and mental illness. Yet for all this scientific progress, psychiatry still often misses what is highest and most noble in its human subject.

As one psychiatrist put it, “Today, psychiatry has rejoined mainstream medicine and holds empirical science sacred. Psychiatry focuses on the observable, and at least implicitly, debunks the mysterious. Therefore, psychiatry has lost depth even as it has gained precision.” 9

Is this trade-off necessary? I would suggest that the answer is no. We can gain precision and yet maintain a sense of mystery in the face of our subject — the human person — who, in the end, always remains beyond our complete grasp. The psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers wrote, “The object of psychiatry is man . . . When we know him, we know something about him, rather than himself. Any total knowledge of man will prove to be a delusion brought about by raising one point of view to the status of an only one, one method to the status of a universal method.” Jaspers reminds us that, “like every person, every patient is unfathomable.”10 As mentioned earlier, the word psychiatrist literally means “doctor of the soul.” But as you can see from this brief history, modern psychiatry and the other psychological sciences have in one fashion or another often lost sight of the human soul.

Psychiatry has often ignored man’s dignity, his freedom, his rationality, and his orientation toward God. Recent surveys show that among the various medical specialties, psychiatrists are the least religious physicians. Another study showed that Christian physicians are more likely than non-Christian physicians to refer patients with mental-health problems to a member of the clergy or a religious counselor, and less likely to refer them to a psychiatrist. The researcher Dr. Farr Curlin commented:

“Something about psychiatry, perhaps its historical ties to psychoanalysis and the anti-religious views of the early analysts such as Sigmund Freud, seems to dissuade religious medical students from choosing to specialize in this field. It also seems to discourage religious physicians from referring their patients to psychiatrists. Previous surveys have documented the unusual religious profile of psychiatry but this is the first study to suggest that that profile leads many physicians to look away from psychiatrists for help in responding to patients’ psychological and spiritual suffering. Because psychiatrists take care of patients struggling with emotional, personal and relational problems, the gap between the religiousness of the average psychiatrist and her average patient may make it difficult for them to connect on a human level. Patients probably seek out, to some extent, physicians who share their views on life’s big questions.“11

This book attempts to help close this gap by bringing good medical and psychological science into contact with sound philosophy and theology. It is my firm conviction that Catholics need not fear or be suspicious of sound science. (Fides et Ratio) For science is simply a set of methods for exploring and discovering truths about the natural world — the very world that God created. As St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, since God is one, all truth — whether natural or supernatural, whether scientific or religious — is also one. Where there appears to be a contradiction between a discovery of science and a truth of faith, this is only an apparent conflict, based either upon inaccurate science or upon a misapplication of religious truths. It is important to note in this context that much of what passes for “science” in the popular media, or even in some apparently scientific circles, is not science at all, but theory or ideology masquerading as science.

Many today would have you believe that there has been a long-standing war between science and religion. This is nonsense; it is a myth that has been mindlessly repeated since the Enlightenment with little evidence then or now to support it. Modern science itself developed only in the Christian West. Science as we understand it today emerged in human history within the cultural context of Christian faith. This is not surprising, since the very practice of scientific inquiry presupposes that the world is fundamentally lawful, rationally ordered, and therefore knowable by the human intellect. But this is precisely the sort of world that a God Who is logos — word, reason, truth, intelligence — would create. Modern science grew from the soil of a Christian culture and flourished among Christian believers. There is no war between science and religion — only misunderstandings, perhaps, or skirmishes among the ill-informed or overzealous on both sides. But these need not detain us. So also, the historical tensions between psychiatry and religion described earlier were ill conceived and unnecessary. It is time for theologians and scientists, priests and doctors, patients and physicians to learn from one another. It is my hope that by examining depression from a Catholic perspective, this book can make a contribution to that dialogue.”

9 Blazer, The Age of Melancholy, 143.
10 Karl Jaspers, Philosophy and the World: Selected Essays, trans. E. B. Ashton (Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1963), 213.
11 Quoted in University of Chicago Press Release, September 3, 2007: http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/2007/20070903-psychiatrists.html.

-Kheriaty, Aaron; Cihak, Fr. John (2012-10-23). Catholic Guide to Depression (Kindle Locations 399-481). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

Math, Reason, & Civilization

platonicElements
-Platonic elements

revstephenfreeman

-by Rev Stephen Freeman

“If math should suddenly disappear, it would set physics back – a week.”
Nobel Prize Winner – Richard Feynman

Mathematician’s response: But that week would be the one in which God created the universe.

Galileo is said to have remarked that the universe is a wonderful thing, written in the language of mathematics.

“There is a remarkable correlation between things as we see them and math. Particle physicists have managed, on occasion, to predict the existence of new particles purely on the basis of math – and later have their predictions upheld through experimentation.

The ancient Greeks marveled at the relationship between math and reality and even suggested a relationship between certain geometrical shapes and fundamental reality. Plato posited that the “four elements” each had a primary geometrical shape. Fire was a sharp-pointed tetrahedra; Air was a smooth-sliding octahedra; Water was a droplet-shaped icosahedra; Earth was an easily compactable cube. To this, Aristotle added a fifth element, the Quintessence [“fifth element”], which was the ether, the stuff that filled all of space, thought to be the breath of the gods. Indeed, it was posited that that universe itself had the shape of that element, a dodecahedra.

Modern physics has more detail and more math, but the same intuition about how things are. This system of elements believed by Greek philosophers, is repeated in the writings of the early Fathers. It was the common, educated understanding of the world at their time. And, as I have noted, though geometric shapes have given way to quarks and charms and gluons, the fundamental intuition has not changed.

It is appropriate to look towards math when considering creation. And this correlation between math and creation also gives rise to the use of reason. If mathematical rules accurately measure and predict the movements of the heavens, then the same principles apply to all things. Logic is simply the application of mathematical principles to ideas and words. This intuition has not changed over the course of the centuries. Just as our math is more sophisticated than the math of Euclid, so our logic is more sophisticated than that of Plato and Aristotle. But it is still the same math and the same logic.

What has changed over the centuries, however, is the relationship of all of this to culture itself. Modernity (a movement and set of concepts born in the late 18th century Enlightenment) extended reason in every direction. It was assumed that the power of math, demonstrated through repeated and successful experiments, could be directed towards everything with beneficial results. And so were born new “branches” of knowledge, such as Political Science (the application of rational logic to the problems of the State), Sociology (the application of rational logic to social behavior), etc. Every branch of science in the modern world shares the common assumptions of the Enlightenment. Reason and experiment will tell us everything.

There is, however, a limit to this wonderful correlation – and it is this limit which is often forgotten within Modernity. The Fathers recognized that God Himself is not subject to these rational, mathematical principles. This is not to say that God is irrational, but that He transcends the categories and principles of creation. In a similar manner, the soul itself cannot be subjected to these principles.

The soul is not “stuff.” Rather, it is regarded as the “life” of the body. Instead of being a data point of metaphysics, the affirmation that we have a soul is an affirmation that when all the math and rationality of our existence is finished, there remains something to be said. Regardless of our materiality, we are more than numbers and reason. The “life” of a man is, like God, not subject to measurement or definition.

A strength of the modern project has been its use of reason and math. With careful application we have seen amazing advances in science and technology. But the same strength has also been its greatest weakness. For we have tried to reduce everything to science and reason (with increasingly bogus versions of both). The more purely “reasonable” and “scientific” revolutions were all abject failures and the cause of untold misery (cf. France and Russia). Though democracy found its way across many other nations, most sought to balance pure reason with the wisdom of inherited tradition. It remains the case that solutions based on pure reason fail at the human level.

All of this is true because the soul (and thus human behavior itself) remains not subject to reason or math. It stands as a boundary to our arrogance and a point where trespass happens at our peril. That quality is present elsewhere as well. For though many aspects of human existence can be measured and quantified, they cannot be reduced to their quantification. There is always a remainder that cannot be accounted for, other than by a recognition that we are in the presence of life itself. Of course, much of modernity will often choose to ignore the remainders of our existence, seeking to force life into quantifiable boundaries. Such efforts must be cataloged as examples of arrogance and the danger of modern hubris.

A life rightly lived must be lived beyond measure. Beyond the math and reasons that predict the progress of economies and weigh benefits and boons, the soul yearns for what cannot be seen, measured or reasoned. And that yearning has drawn grace down from heaven through the ages and transfigured the merely mathematical.

The intuition of the early philosophers went beyond what they could measure and see. Earth, air, fire, water – theses are obvious elements to be measured and considered. But they understood that the fifth element was something apart. It was always the point where philosophy stumbled. For though it rightly recognized “something more,” it could not itself be successfully known. But at least they recognized that not everything can be known. In that sense, our modern world has forgotten the quintessence of created existence.

Of course, our struggles today are not with the rationalists of the late 18th or 19th centuries. For today, reason itself has become suspect. There has been a shift in popular consciousness in which the will has triumphed over reason (something that was inevitable). Today, what is true is what we want to be true. It is the final victory for consumers. Not only are we able to choose anything we want, but we are also able to will what is.

Justice Anthony Kennedy articulated this with great succinctness in 1992 in the opinion he wrote for Planned Parenthood vs. Casey:

“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

That “liberty” now justifies fundamental realities such as the relations between male and female to be subject to change, because some want it. Reality has become plastic and subject to redefinition. This is an anti-science and an anti-math, just as it is anti-reason.

The mathematical reasonableness of creation is an important feature of creation, recognized both by the fathers as well as modern science. In that sense, true science is in no way the enemy of the Christian faith. It has its limits, and must stand respectfully silent before the quintessence of existence. Reason and Math have classically been limited by reality itself. The will, however, seems to know no limit. With its triumphant rise, civilization has passed over into barbarism.”

Love,
Matthew

Fides et Ratio – begin with common truth

physics

Br_Thomas_Davenport_OP

-by Br Thomas Davenport, OP, prior to joining the Order, Br Thomas earned his PhD in Physics from Stanford.

“I figured it would come up eventually, but it took until the end of the very last class. I had wrapped things up, giving a few tips about the final and a reminder about the optional review session. As the students packed up to leave, I reminded them that I would be skipping town the day after the final exam, returning here to Washington, DC, and to my studies for the priesthood, but that I would still be accessible by email. Although I mentioned these details at the first class, five long weeks of three-hour physics sessions must have clouded their memories. The fact that I was not yet an ordained priest, and not a full-time member of the faculty at Providence College, where this summer course took place, seemed like brand new information to these students. As a result, they seemed more fascinated, and more willing (though still sheepish), to ask the question I get fairly often in one form or another: “How does a physicist find his way to the Dominicans?”

The combination of physics and faith is surprising to most people, and a Dominican who studies and teaches physics can seem incongruous. In fact, you could argue that it might have seemed incongruous to St. Dominic himself. In the earliest extant copy of our Constitutions, which date back to the 1220s when St. Dominic first organized the Order with his brethren, there is an explicit prohibition that students:

‘shall not study the books of pagans and philosophers, even for an hour. They shall not learn secular sciences or even the so-called liberal arts, unless the Master of the Order or the general chapter decides to provide otherwise in certain cases. But everyone, both the young and others, shall read only theological books.’

(Ed. I recall reading similar prohibitions against secular subjects when I was a novice.  I think, rather than a denial of secular subjects, this wisdom is best understood not to get one’s priorities mixed up, as perhaps Martha did, and Mary, her sister, didn’t.) This seems to place the Dominican physicist, as well as the Dominican economist, English professor, historian and even the Dominican philosopher, in a tough position. It almost appears that the very notion of an institution like Providence College, where Dominicans have taught almost every subject over its nearly century-long history, is an aberration in the designs of our founder.

In some ways, this prohibition on non-theological disciplines seems to fit with the character of St. Dominic, who, in a beloved phrase from the earliest brethren, “always spoke either to God or about God.” Blessed Jordan of Saxony even mentions favorably in his biography of the founder that early on Dominic was anxious to move beyond the liberal arts and into theology, “as if he were reluctant to waste his limited time in these less fruitful studies.” There always is, and should be, a primacy for the Divine in any Dominican, and no Dominican priest escapes formation without rigorous theological training. But it is hard to claim that we all live up to the lofty example set by our founder.

Thankfully, and perhaps mercifully, the ideal of Dominican life is rarely imagined as the close imitation of all aspects of St. Dominic’s life. Rather, the ideal is to follow the way of life he established in the organization and governance of the Order, including the wisdom to allow for dispensation and development over time. While much has remained the same over 800 years of Dominican life, a wide range of things have changed, and the prohibition on secular studies was one of the earliest to be debated and amended. Within a few years of those earliest Constitutions, the Order expanded exponentially, in large part by attracting students and masters of the very secular studies that were initially prohibited and by inspiring these men to devote their lives to theology and preaching. While they generally set aside their earlier pursuits, many saw the value that the secular knowledge they had gained could bring to their preaching and teaching.

The early prohibition reflected not only the temperament of St. Dominic but also the concerns of the Church, which was suffering because of inadequate theological formation among the clergy and a growing tension with those interested in the rediscovered works of ancient Greek authors like Aristotle, which were sometimes pitted against the authority of established doctrine. It would, in fact, take the next generation of Dominicans, especially St. Albert the Great and his student St. Thomas Aquinas, to show how these seemingly dangerous secular studies in logic, natural philosophy, ethics, and metaphysics could, when read in service of the Church and her teachings, bolster and strengthen the very theology that was the accepted “Queen of the Sciences.”

Although St. Dominic may not have explicitly envisioned Dominican physicists, economists, historians, or even Dominican philosophers, I would like to think it is a development he is happy to see. His very inspiration for founding the Order was to defend the goodness of the created order against the heresy of the Albigensians (who maintained that the physical world was evil). In a modern world that too often fails to see how God is connected to the many created things that fascinate us, be it nature, art, money, or any other pursuit, (Ed. and gets its priorities too easily mixed up between creature, which we can see, and Creator, which we can’t) there is a value in having a few Dominicans who can make the appropriate connections and reveal the Divine plan behind it all. Sometimes, to truly speak about God, you have to begin with whatever topic your listeners–whether they are parishioners, students, or strangers–are open to, (Ed. AMEN!!!!  Truth speaks to truth, cor ad cor loquitor!) a truth St. Dominic would clearly embrace.”

“Lord, what will become of sinners?” -St Dominic in prayer and tears

Love,
Matthew

Miracles

lourdes

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the firmament proclaims the works of His hands.” -Ps 19:2

A Medical Bureau was established in 1882 at Lourdes to test the authenticity of the cures. The doctors include unbelievers as well as believers and any doctor is welcome to take part in the examination of the alleged cures. As many as 500 medical men of all faiths or no faith have taken advantage of the invitation each year.

Br_Thomas_Davenport_OP

-by Br Thomas Davenport, OP

“On June 20th, 2013, Giovanni Giudici, the Bishop of Pavia, pronounced the cure of Danila Castelli to be miraculous, 24 years after her pilgrimage to Lourdes. Her cure, and the 68 other cures proclaimed miraculous, began as simply one more of the more than 7,000 cures that have been reported to the Medical Bureau of the Sanctuary at Lourdes. While all of the cases are marvelous in their own way, only this small fraction survived the many stages of extensive investigation, both medical and ecclesial, so as to eventually be considered “unexplained according to current scientific knowledge” by the Lourdes International Medical Committee and finally pronounced miraculous by the bishop of the cured pilgrim. It might seem incongruous to many common conceptions of the relationship of faith and science that a site of religious pilgrimage would have a dedicated medical bureau, with a procedure for the scientific study of purportedly miraculous cures, but really, it is perfectly reasonable.

The very idea of a miracle, an event that happens by divine power outside the normal ordering of nature, is absurd for some. Our ever growing understanding of the universe reveals a tightly woven network of scientific laws that govern all of reality, leaving no room for and no evidence of exceptions. The fear is that allowing even one true miracle would ruin the very order and structure that science is built upon. There is no room for the miraculous in this worldview, so many will not even consider the possibilities.

Some Christians, impressed and intimidated by the advances of science, take the exceptionless character of scientific explanation for granted, and they restrict the idea of miracles to personal transformation and conversion, or perhaps try to find some small space for physical miracles between the fuzzy lines of quantum mechanics. While it is certainly true that personal conversion is beyond any natural power, it is by God working through, not against, our natural free will. Further, God absolutely can work through the seeming confusion of quantum systems, but this is an action of his providence working through, not contrary to nature. These redefinitions in concession to science strip the very idea of the miraculous of its depth and power.

In truth, there need not be a conflict between the scientific order and the miraculous when both are properly understood. Moreover, when the possibility of both is affirmed, they provide a richer and more marvelous picture of reality. I would argue that the existence of miracles is a great benefit to the project of modern science and that the existence of modern science is a great benefit to our understanding of miracles as well.

Considering the relationship of miracles to scientific order, there is the obvious fact that we need to know something about what normally occurs in the world to recognize when something marvelous happens, so the better we understand the natural order, the easier it is to identify the truly miraculous. On the other hand, the existence of miracles, by definition, makes necessary a limit to the power of science to fully explain all of reality. But there is more to the relationship of science and the miraculous than defining mutual limits and cordoning off proper realms.

The order and structure that scientists find in nature does not simply prevent false positives in our search for miracles; it also opens us up to new levels of wonder in the miracles we are blessed to encounter and an even deeper appreciation of miracles of the past, most especially in the Scriptures. St. Thomas lays out a number of ways to classify miracles, based on their relationship to the natural order, and he does not hesitate to speculate on the process by which certain effects are brought about. The more we understand the natural order, the better we can understand the particular manifestation of divine power in each miracle, and probe the way God worked with, around, or in spite of nature. These efforts are not aimed at explaining—or worse, explaining away—every detail of the mystery of miracles, but at deepening our appreciation of the variety of ways God chooses to work in the world.

From the other perspective, the existence of miracles does not change the process by which scientists seek out particular natural truths, but it does safeguard the goal of that seeking and the truths that are attained by it. The possibility of real events beyond the power of scientific explanation ensures that scientists approach their subjects with a proper humility. It need not, and should not, change the fact that they expect to find a marvelous order and structure in nature, but it prevents them from falsely claiming too much. This is not a claim that they will find holes in their explanations, but that the very order they discover points beyond the purely physical and, eventually, to the God who created that order in the first place.”

Love,
Matthew

Obedience & Informed Conscience

petri sm

Rev. Thomas Petri, OP
Vice President and Academic Dean
Instructor of Moral Theology and Pastoral Studies
Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception
Dominican House of Studies, Wash, DC

from Interfaith Voices, 2/12/15

Listen here:

Moderator:   

“One of the oldest spiritual struggles experienced by serious Catholics is the struggle between following Church teaching and following one’s conscience when they’re in conflict. Earlier, we heard from Father Tony Flannery, an Irish priest who was recently silenced by the Vatican for openly questioning Church teachings on the origins of the priesthood, women’s ordination and homosexuality. The Irish hierarchy said he had broken his vow of obedience, but Father Flannery believed he had to follow a higher authority, his conscience.

For another view, we turned to another priest named Father Thomas Petri, OP. He’s an instructor in moral theology and pastoral studies at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. When we presented him with Father Flannery’s dilemma, he had a very different answer.”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Well, to put it very succinctly, priests take a vow of obedience or make a promise of obedience because they’re public representatives of the Church. They’re public persons. So when a man is ordained, he can no longer claim to be a private person. He may still have elements of his life that the faithful don’t see, but he still is in some ways representing the Church publicly.

So the vow of obedience and the promise of obedience to say Church teachings or to what the Church believes and teaches, helps him to live that way and to authentically then witness to what the Church puts forth as the Gospel and teaching of Jesus Christ.”

Moderator: 

“So if you were Tony Flannery and you disagreed on some of the things that he does, what would you do?”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Well, first of all, I wouldn’t broadcast it to begin with. I wouldn’t broadcast it. I would take it to prayer. I would take it to spiritual direction. I would take it to my superiors. I would want to study it. I know a very prominent, for example, sister who is now on the International Theological Commission who was once in favor of women’s ordination. She studied herself out of that position. She was, for the longest time, one of the few nuns in America who had a PhD in theology in the late 70s and early 80s, because her mind was open to looking this up and trying to figure out why the Church teaches what it does. That’s what I hope I would do if I ever were to come across this bridge.”

Moderator:

“And of course I don’t know who that nun is but I know an awful lot of people who work on that issue. I don’t know anybody that’s argued themselves out of it.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Well, Sister Sarah Butler would be the one you’d want to look up.”

Moderator: 

“Yes, okay. That’s a name that I’ve heard, I must admit. Now, as we mentioned in the introduction, there are many Catholics over many centuries who have come into conflict between this idea of obedience and the idea of conscience. The conscience tells them something other than what the Church teaching is. So how do they relate to each other in Catholic teaching? What’s the official word on that?”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Well, when we talk about conscience, so often it’s used as a substitute for personal opinion. It’s my personal opinion that this is true or that is true. So we have to mean something different about the word conscience than we do personal opinion, and the Church’s position, down through the century, has always been faithful living in conscience, that their conscience is formed by living the life of the faith, living life with Jesus Christ. Living life in worship of God day in and day out, Sunday after Sunday, going to Mass, preaching, studying the word, being docile to what the saints and the fathers have said, that this forms their conscience.

So that’s what we mean when we talk about conscience in a certain sense. When we talk about a priest’s obedience and his relationship to conscience, well, we’re talking about a priest who in good conscience made a public commitment to the Church and to be faithful to the Church. And certainly there can be times in a priest’s life when those do come into conflict in his own existential experience, his own living the life. Absolutely. But how do you handle that, that’s a different question.”

Moderator:

“And Father Tony Flannery did what – certainly he’s not the first, he went public –”

Father Thomas Petri:  “Sure.”

Moderator:                  “– with some of the struggles that he was having with various teachings of the Church, but a Catholic I believe is supposed to have something called an informed conscience, what does that mean?”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Well, it means just those things I was talking about. To have an informed conscience is simply to not walk around blindly. Well, whatever I think is right that must be right. That’s not an informed conscience. It doesn’t mean not questioning, it doesn’t mean being a robot and just taking everything in blindly and without question, but it does mean giving the Church the benefit of the doubt and allowing it to sink in so that it informs my life.”

Moderator:                  “So Church teaching and someone’s conscience might not always coincide or else conscience would be totally redundant, wouldn’t it?”

Father Thomas Petri:  “Well, that’s right. Also, a person’s conscience cannot simply be the blind guide either because culture –”

Moderator:                  “No, no, I’m talking about an informed conscience, somebody who knows what the Church teaches, has reflected on it, maybe prayed about it, all that sort of stuff. I know plenty of people who have done that and still have conflicts.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Well, still have conflicts. So the question would be when you have a conflict, how are you going about living your life within that conflict? Right. And the Church’s traditional teaching has always been that Catholics who have difficulty in conscience should be docile to the wisdom of the centuries and the wisdom of the Church, of the wisdom of the Church, and then to try to work through their difficulties with their pastors, with the Saints, with the (writings of the historical) Fathers of the Church.”

Moderator:      

“Let me quote you something from the official teaching of the Church. This is from the document on religious liberty at the Second Vatican Council and we all know that official councils of the Church are the highest teaching authority. It says, and I’m quoting, “The individual must not be forced to act against conscience nor be prevented from acting according to conscience, especially in religious matters.” And in another place, it says, “It is therefore fully in accordance with the nature of faith that in religious matters that every form of human coercion should be excluded.” So it seems to me that be excluded.”

Father Thomas Petri:  “Absolutely.”

Moderator:                  “So it seems to me that what I always learned as the primacy of conscience, is in fact primary if a person is informed and has reflected on it.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Well, I guess it goes to what we mean by informed here but I would say that the document, the Vatican II document on religious liberty is primary concerned with forcing conversions which you know in the Catholic tradition, as in other traditions, that was a sad part of our history. What we’re talking about is Catholics who are baptized and baptized into the faith of the Catholic Church and presumably baptized and have at some point in their life accepted the Catholic Church as the granter of truth as revealed by Jesus Christ.

Then having a difficulty or some sort of conflict and then following that, publically dissenting from the Catholic Church and what the Catholic Church teaches as you say. That’s a completely different question than coercion. Because then the question is, is this baptized person, has this baptized person really embraced and fully lived the teaching of Jesus Christ as it is communicated to us by the Church?”

Moderator:   

“I’m thinking in terms of Father Tony Flannery’s case, and he’s not alone on this. There are certainly a number of people in recent Church history who when they have expressed a view that is not a 100 percent in accord with the Church’s teaching, get faced with sign this statement of orthodoxy which is a direct opposition to what they believe.”

Father Thomas Petri:  “In conscience.”

Moderator:                  “Right. Or keep quiet and don’t say anything more about it. And it would be against their conscience to sign a statement that they don’t agree with. They would be lying essentially.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Right. So what I would want to go back to on that is my initial point that a priest is a public person. He is a public representative of the Church and I think any corporation. Even if we just take it away from the spiritual and bring it to the secular, any corporation, if you have a CEO of the corporation and saying no, you should be Microsoft and not Apple, can I say that on – we’re not getting paid for these endorsements, but you should buy Microsoft and not Apple, but I work for Apple. That’s a real problem for the corporation.

The same is true for the Church. If you have a priest who has been ordained to be faithful and has made a public commitment of fidelity, he’s given the oath of fidelity; he now then goes out as a priest that others can look at as a representative of the Church. He goes out and says things that are directly contrary because he’s having his own personal crisis or conflict. He in fact is leading people away from the Church.”

Moderator:

“But what would you say to a priest who makes a statement like that out of the deep concern for the Church because he’s out there with the faithful – this particular priest gave retreats and so forth all over the country of Ireland. So he knew a lot of people who were in conflict with the teaching of the Church. He was deeply concerned about the future of the Church and it’s direction. So he wasn’t trying to be obtuse. He was expressing this out of love for the Church. Most people that have been in this situation, that I know, did it for the same motive.”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“And I would not disagree with that. I think most people do this out of good intentions and good faith, but when a priest then sets himself up in opposition to the Church, he is claiming for himself a personal authority that he really doesn’t have. He has as an individual but he no longer speaks for the Church. You see? So when the Church says – when the congregation for the doctrine of faith says to Father Flannery, you cannot present yourself publicly as a priest, well, it’s because he really no longer has been. It’s an after the fact sort of thing.”

Moderator:

“Well, most of the priests that I’ve known that have expressed some dissenting view publicly have made it clear that the official teaching is this but these are the questions that I have and I’m concerned about the future of the Church whether it should let’s use some concrete examples. Whether ordained women or treat lesbian and gay people differently or whatever it is that they’re concerned about, it’s because they detect that there is a need for a more loving Church and they’re representing that Church. At least that’s how I’ve heard it.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Sure. And I would want to dispute the idea that the Church is not loving because it holds to what it believes to be the revealed word of Jesus Christ. So I would want to dispute that. But I would say that there is one thing for a priest to say. ‘Well, here’s what the Church has traditionally taught. I don’t quite understand it. I’m not sure I agree with it.’ There is quite another thing for a priest to publicly say the Church is wrong.”

Moderator:

“How in the world then does change take place in the Church? If you can’t have open discussion, and may I say Pope Francis at the recent Synod on the Family, invited all those present to say what they think, even if they thought he didn’t agree with them.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Right. That’s right. Look, there’s some things that simply cannot change. Some things that simply cannot change in the Church, and I realize that’s an unpopular position in today’s culture where we vote in and out politicians and people sometimes think well, the new pope is going to come in, he’s going to change this or – the pope does not have authority, nor do the bishops nor does the magisterium of the Church to change anything that has already been determined to have been revealed by Jesus Christ and his Apostles. Other areas, there can be development but nothing that contradicts what Christ Himself has done and said.”

Moderator:

“But you know and I know that there are Church teachings, and I suppose we could dispute about whether they go back to the apostles or not, but there are Church teachings on issues which were considered very sacred at one time which have changed. The position on usury. Charging interest on lending for example. Position on evolution. The ways in which it’s acceptable to interpret scripture; we used to do it literally. We no longer do it that way. Those are significant things which have changed over time.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Yeah, I’m not sure – I mean, they might be perceived as significant, but we never declared those to be divinely revealed, any of those teachings. They would’ve been sort of lower level outgrowths of what we do know to be divinely revealed and what we believe to be divinely revealed. That’s really what I want to say to that. Not all teachings have the same weight. Not all the teachings have the same levels of fidelity and obedience that are required.”

Moderator:

“But where conscience comes up today as we all know has a lot to do with issues of sexuality, and one of the most common – and if you read the polls, widely common, has to do with married couples and contraception. I’m sure you’ve known, too, and I certainly have, plenty of married couples who are much aware that the official teaching of the Church is opposed to the use of artificial contraception.

So they know what the Church teaches, they’re informed, but they don’t believe for reasons of health or finances or whatever, that they can risk having more children. And natural family planning doesn’t work for them let’s say. It doesn’t work for a number of people. So they use it in good conscience. And if you read the polls, it’s about a vast majority.”

Father Thomas Petri:  “Oh, it’s pretty high. I can see that.”

Moderator:                  “It’s a vast majority of Catholics. And plenty of priests assure them, at least privately, that this is okay. So how does that fit?”

Father Thomas Petri:  Well, I would say a couple of things about that. First of all, it goes back to what we were talking about, what constitutes a formed conscience? For a person to simply know that the Church teaches that you shouldn’t do it, that’s not really a formed conscience. That’s just knowledge. That’s just information. To have a formed conscience is to live day in and day out the life of the faith, the life of the Church.”

Moderator:                  “And a number of these people do. They’re regular communicants.”

Father Thomas Petri:             “Well, certainly they do but have they ever been exposed to a real rationale, like the real reasons why the Church teaches this? And I think you would agree with me, how many priests talk about this? A few. Very few.”

Moderator:                  “Almost none.”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Exactly. Have they ever been exposed to a dynamic priest who can explain why this is better than the other way? Have they been exposed to John Paul’s theology of the body for example which is what he was trying to do with that, trying to get people to see this is actually the more beautiful way to live. What you just said a minute ago. Just because they know the Church teaches against it, doesn’t seem to meet or constitute a formed conscience. How have they lived? Have they ever really studied it? Have they ever really tried to understand why the Church would say that? Most of them – they just know – well, I know the Church teaches against this but we do it anyway.”

Moderator:  

“Now, when I talked to Father Flannery, one of his main complaints was not that the Vatican said that his views were incorrect, but how they dealt with him. For example, his views had been public in Ireland for some time before they censured him. But they didn’t dialogue with him. They didn’t invite him to dialogue. They didn’t respond to him when he said he wanted to dialogue. They simply demanded that he sign this statement of orthodoxy and be silent. They never dealt with him face-to-face. So it raises the question, is this the way to deal with a man whose been a priest for 40 years?”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Sure. We have one side of the story; I don’t know the other side of the story. Sometimes there is dialogue and I trust what Father Flannery has said, that that’s his experience, and all I can say is if true, that’s how he experienced it, I think anybody would say that that’s not the appropriate way to deal with a priest or to deal with these issues. Now, from my own perspective, I do know theologians and priests who have gotten into this sort of conundrum with the Holy See and that wasn’t their experience at all. It was completely different.”

Moderator:

“It seems to me that there is however a huge disconnect between what the Church teaches, particularly on issues of sexuality, and what the laity actually do. All you’ve got to do is look at the polls to see that in both North America and Western Europe. So are, “Disobedient” priest like Tony Flannery a symptom of that or is he some kind of a wakeup call that maybe the hierarchy should pay more attention?”

Father Thomas Petri:

“No, I don’t think he’s a wake-up call because you refer to the polls and polling Catholics, there are a number of Catholics who are nominal Catholics. They self-identify as a Catholic but they’re not necessarily living the life of the Church. They’re not going to Mass but maybe twice a year, they’re not soaking in the preaching, they may not even have good preaching depending on who their pastor or priest is. But they don’t necessarily typify what we would call a true, dedicated, faithful Catholic. They may be baptized, they may be struggling, they may trying to live the faith as best they can but if they’re not engaging these issues from the life of faith, they’re not engaging them at all as far as we’re concerned.”

Moderator:                  “Thank you so much for joining us today.”

Father Thomas Petri:  “Thank you, Maryanne.”

Moderator:                  “Father Thomas Petri is an instructor in moral theology and pastoral studies at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. where he also serves as an academic dean and vice president.”

“Truth is not determined by a majority.” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Love,
Matthew

Jan 10 – Fr Nicholas Callan, (1799-1864), Inventor of the Induction Coil

Callan

Not a beatus, but it may, I say, I think, just a suspicion, just may, come as little surprise I have a THING for clerical scientists & engineers.  Just may.  🙂  AND, he’s Irish, so part of the tribe, which doesn’t hurt either, now does it?  🙂

You say “Fides et Ratio“; I blithely, coyly put my face in my hands, drum my fingers on my temples, smile, and respond, “I LOVE IT when you talk NERDY to me! 🙂

The Induction Coil

Callan's_first_induction_coil

induction coil

maynooth58a

Influenced by William Sturgeon and Michael Faraday, Callan began work on the idea of the induction coil in 1834. He invented the first induction coil in 1836.

An induction coil produces an intermittent high-voltage alternating current from a low-voltage direct current supply. It has a primary coil consisting of a few turns of thick wire wound around an iron core and subjected to a low voltage (usually from a battery). Wound on top of this is a secondary coil made up of many turns of thin wire. An iron armature and make-and-break mechanism repeatedly interrupts the current to the primary coil, producing a high-voltage, rapidly alternating current in the secondary circuit.

Induction coils were used by Hertz to demonstrate the existence of electromagnetic waves, as predicted by James Maxwell and by Lodge and Marconi in the first research into radio waves. THANK FR CALLAN FOR YOUR CELL PHONE!!!! Their largest industrial use was probably in early wireless telegraphy spark-gap radio transmitters and to power early cold cathode x-ray tubes from the 1890s to the 1920s, after which they were supplanted in both these applications by AC transformers and vacuum tubes. THANK FR CALLAN FOR YOUR COMPUTER, GPS, & VIDEO GAMES!!! However their largest use was as the ignition coil or spark coil in the ignition system of internal combustion engines, where they are still used, although the interrupter contacts are now replaced by solid state switches.   THANK FR CALLAN YOU CAN DRIVE A CAR!!!!  A smaller version is used to trigger the flash tubes used in cameras and strobe lights.

Callan invented the induction coil because he needed to generate a higher level of electricity than currently available. He took a bar of soft iron, about 2 feet (0.61 m) long, and wrapped it around with two lengths of copper wire, each about 200 feet (61 m) long.

Callan connected the beginning of the first coil to the beginning of the second. Finally, he connected a battery, much smaller than the enormous contrivance just described, to the beginning and end of winding one. He found that when the battery contact was broken, a shock could be felt between the first terminal of the first coil and the second terminal of the second coil.

Further experimentation showed how the coil device could bring the shock from a small battery up the strength level of a big battery. So, Callan tried making a bigger coil. With a battery of only 14 seven-inch (178 mm) plates, the device produced power enough for an electric shock “so strong that a person who took it felt the effects of it for several days.” NEXT!!!  “For your penance…!!!”  Yikes!!!!  Callan thought of his creation as a kind of electromagnet; but what he actually made was a primitive induction transformer.

Callan’s induction coil also used an interrupter that consisted of a rocking wire that repeatedly dipped into a small cup of mercury (similar to the interrupters used by Charles Page). Because of the action of the interrupter, which could make and break the current going into the coil, he called his device the “repeater.” Actually, this device was the world’s first transformer. Callan had induced a high voltage in the second wire, starting with a low voltage in the adjacent first wire. And the faster he interrupted the current, the bigger the spark. In 1837 he produced his giant induction machine: using a mechanism from a clock to interrupt the current 20 times a second, it generated 15-inch (380 mm) sparks, an estimated 60,000 volts and the largest artificial bolt of electricity then seen.

The ‘Maynooth Battery’ and other inventions

Callan experimented with designing batteries after he found the models available to him at the time to be insufficient for research in electromagnetism. The Year-book of Facts in Science and Art, published in 1849, has an article titled “The Maynooth Battery” which begins “We noticed this new and cheap Voltaic Battery in the Year-book of Facts, 1848, p. 14,5. The inventor, the Rev. D. Callan, Professor of Natural Philosophy in Maynooth College, has communicated to the Philosophical Magazine, No. 219, some additional experiments, comparing the power of a cast-iron (or Maynooth) battery with that of a Grove’s of equal size.” Some previous batteries had used rare metals such as platinum or unresponsive materials like carbon and zinc.

Callan found that he could use inexpensive cast-iron instead of platinum or carbon. For his Maynooth battery he used iron casting for the outer casing and placed a zinc plate was immersed in a porous pot (pot that had an inside and outside chamber for holding two different types of acid) in the centre. In the single fluid cell he disposed of the porous pot and two different fluids. He was able to build a battery with just a single solution.

While experimenting with batteries, Callan also built the world’s largest battery at that time. To construct this battery, he joined together 577 individual batteries (“cells”), which used over 30 gallons of acid.  Since instruments for measuring current or voltages had not yet been invented, Callan measured the strength of a battery by measuring how much weight his electromagnet could lift when powered by the battery. Using his giant battery, Callan’s electromagnet lifted 2 tons.   The Maynooth battery went into commercial production in London. Callan also discovered an early form of galvanisation to protect iron from rusting when he was experimenting on battery design, and he patented the idea.[9]

He died in 1864 and is buried in the cemetery in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

Honors

The Callan Building on the north campus of NUI Maynooth, a university which was part of St Patrick’s College until 1997, was named in his honour. In addition, Callan Hall in the south campus, was used through the 1990s for first year science lectures including experimental & mathematical physics, chemistry and biology. The Nicholas Callan Memorial Prize is an annual prize awarded to the best final year student in Experimental Physics.

Publications

Electricity and Galvanism (introductory textbook), 1832

IEEE

ieee-callan

Scientifically yours,
Matthew

A Little History of Thought: What Science Doesn’t Know

On Sep 12, 2006 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI addressed his old university in Regensburg, Germany.  He observed, truthfully, modern science presupposes the rational structure of nature.  True, and a glaring assumption for such a supposed rigorous discipline.  Glaring.  (Shhh…almost…(looking around)…like…faith?  Eeeegads!  IRRational, scientific heretics!  Hypocrites, we all!)  🙂  (Giggle!) 🙂  Stern looks of indignation, discomfortable fidgeting from the academy in the gallery!) 🙂  The Truth is almost always discomforting.  That is more about us,  dearest reader, than it ever was or will be about the Truth.

Science goes so far, based on its experience of discovering rational unity after rational unity in nature as to propose, yet only in theory, the existence, yet unproven, of what is know as The Grand Unifying Theory.  Simply put, that nature resolves itself, all of itself, into the simplest of mathematical expressions, such as E=mc^2, for the forces of Energy, Matter, and Light.  The recently released film “The Theory of Everything” is called that for a reason.

This is a profound statement, both in the minor and the major categories.  Energy and Matter are interchangeable, related, shockingly simply, stunningly, with the square of the speed limit of the universe, beyond which nothing, we currently know of, can exceed.  Not reams and reams of complex, inscrutable equations, no.  Three simple terms.  God is simple.

Science has no explanation for why the universe is so rational.  It knows not why the universe is so intelligible, so rational.  If you work mathematical problems some CAN really be complex.  What I have said is not to imply that all is child’s play in physics, hardly, but it does make the resolution into simplicity so shocking when it happens, it does take one’s nerdy breath away.

In fact, do enough math, and you begin to know, intuitively, when a problem explodes, based on the type of problem, that you’re wrong.  You have made a mistake, and must find it.  You just know, the solution must be simpler, regardless of how thorny the question.   Your current result is TOO complex!  You just know it.   Your experience tells you the solution must be simpler.  You just know it based on experience.  Find your error.

“Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.” – A. Einstein, 1/24/1936, to 6th grader Phyllis, of Miss Ellis’ class, Riverside Church, in response to Phyllis’ letter of inquiry as to whether scientists pray.

The Pope continued, “Yet this question, of why the universe is so rational, is a real question.  It must be addressed.

Science does not know why we sleep, let alone why we dream.  Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1.  We can get within fractions of a second of t=0, literally when time began, of the Big Bang, and our math breaks down.  We don’t understand.  We just don’t know.  Same with as when we theoretically enter a black hole, which even light cannot escape, the math we understand today breaks down.

          1. What is the universe made of?
            Astronomers face an embarrassing conundrum: they don’t know what 95% of the universe is made of. Atoms, which form everything we see around us, only account for a measly 5%. Over the past 80 years it has become clear that the substantial remainder is comprised of two shadowy entities – dark matter and dark energy. The former, first discovered in 1933, acts as an invisible glue, binding galaxies and galaxy clusters together. Unveiled in 1998, the latter is pushing the universe’s expansion to ever greater speeds. Astronomers are closing in on the true identities of these unseen interlopers.
          2. How did life begin?
            Four billion years ago, something started stirring in the primordial soup. A few simple chemicals got together and made biology – the first molecules capable of replicating themselves appeared. We humans are linked by evolution to those early biological molecules. But how did the basic chemicals present on early Earth spontaneously arrange themselves into something resembling life? How did we get DNA? What did the first cells look like? More than half a century after the chemist Stanley Miller proposed his “primordial soup” theory, we still can’t agree about what happened. Some say life began in hot pools near volcanoes, others that it was kick-started by meteorites hitting the sea.
          3. Are we alone in the universe?
            Perhaps not. Astronomers have been scouring the universe for places where water worlds might have given rise to life, from Europa and Mars in our solar system to planets many light years away. Radio telescopes have been eavesdropping on the heavens and in 1977 a signal bearing the potential hallmarks of an alien message was heard. Astronomers are now able to scan the atmospheres of alien worlds for oxygen and water. The next few decades will be an exciting time to be an alien hunter with up to 60bn potentially habitable planets in our Milky Way alone.
          4. What makes us human?
            Just looking at your DNA won’t tell you – the human genome is 99% identical to a chimpanzee’s and, for that matter, 50% to a banana’s. We do, however, have bigger brains than most animals – not the biggest, but packed with three times as many neurons as a gorilla (86bn to be exact). A lot of the things we once thought distinguishing about us – language, tool-use, recognising yourself in the mirror – are seen in other animals. Perhaps it’s our culture – and its subsequent effect on our genes (and vice versa) – that makes the difference. Scientists think that cooking and our mastery of fire may have helped us gain big brains. But it’s possible that our capacity for co-operation and skills trade is what really makes this a planet of humans and not apes.
          5. What is consciousness?
            We’re still not really sure. We do know that it’s to do with different brain regions networked together rather than a single part of the brain. The thinking goes that if we figure out which bits of the brain are involved and how the neural circuitry works, we’ll figure out how consciousness emerges, something that artificial intelligence and attempts to build a brain neuron by neuron may help with. The harder, more philosophical, question is why anything should be conscious in the first place. A good suggestion is that by integrating and processing lots of information, as well as focusing and blocking out rather than reacting to the sensory inputs bombarding us, we can distinguish between what’s real and what’s not and imagine multiple future scenarios that help us adapt and survive.
          6. Why do we dream?
            We spend around a third of our lives sleeping. Considering how much time we spend doing it, you might think we’d know everything about it. But scientists are still searching for a complete explanation of why we sleep and dream. Subscribers to Sigmund Freud’s views believed dreams were expressions of unfulfilled wishes – often sexual – while others wonder whether dreams are anything but the random firings of a sleeping brain. Animal studies and advances in brain imaging have led us to a more complex understanding that suggests dreaming could play a role in memory, learning and emotions. Rats, for example, have been shown to replay their waking experiences in dreams, apparently helping them to solve complex tasks such as navigating mazes.
          7. Why is there stuff?
            You really shouldn’t be here. The “stuff” you’re made of is matter, which has a counterpart called antimatter differing only in electrical charge. When they meet, both disappear in a flash of energy. Our best theories suggest that the big bang created equal amounts of the two, meaning all matter should have since encountered its antimatter counterpart, scuppering them both and leaving the universe awash with only energy. Clearly nature has a subtle bias for matter otherwise you wouldn’t exist. Researchers are sifting data from experiments like the Large Hadron Collider trying to understand why, with supersymmetry and neutrinos the two leading contenders.
          8. Are there other universes?
            Our universe is a very unlikely place. Alter some of its settings even slightly and life as we know it becomes impossible. In an attempt to unravel this “fine-tuning” problem, physicists are increasingly turning to the notion of other universes. If there is an infinite number of them in a “multiverse” then every combination of settings would be played out somewhere and, of course, you find yourself in the universe where you are able to exist. It may sound crazy, but evidence from cosmology and quantum physics is pointing in that direction.
          9. Where do we put all the carbon?
            For the past couple of hundred years, we’ve been filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide – unleashing it by burning fossil fuels that once locked away carbon below the Earth’s surface. Now we have to put all that carbon back, or risk the consequences of a warming climate. But how do we do it? One idea is to bury it in old oil and gas fields. Another is to hide it away at the bottom of the sea. But we don’t know how long it will stay there, or what the risks might be. Meanwhile, we have to protect natural, long-lasting stores of carbon, such as forests and peat bogs, and start making energy in a way that doesn’t belch out even more.
          10. How do we get more energy from the sun?
            Dwindling supplies of fossil fuels mean we’re in need of a new way to power our planet. Our nearest star offers more than one possible solution. We’re already harnessing the sun’s energy to produce solar power. Another idea is to use the energy in sunlight to split water into its component parts: oxygen, and hydrogen, which could provide a clean fuel for cars of the future. Scientists are also working on an energy solution that depends on recreating the processes going on inside stars themselves – they’re building a nuclear fusion machine. The hope is that these solutions can meet our energy needs.
          11. What’s so weird about prime numbers?
            The fact you can shop safely on the internet is thanks to prime numbers – those digits that can only be divided by themselves and one. Public key encryption – the heartbeat of internet commerce – uses prime numbers to fashion keys capable of locking away your sensitive information from prying eyes. And yet, despite their fundamental importance to our everyday lives, the primes remain an enigma. An apparent pattern within them – the Riemann hypothesis – has tantalised some of the brightest minds in mathematics for centuries. However, as yet, no one has been able to tame their weirdness. Doing so might just break the internet.
          12. How do we beat bacteria?
            Antibiotics are one of the miracles of modern medicine. Sir Alexander Fleming’s Nobel prize-winning discovery led to medicines that fought some of the deadliest diseases and made surgery, transplants and chemotherapy possible. Yet this legacy is in danger – in Europe around 25,000 people die each year of multidrug-resistant bacteria. Our drug pipeline has been sputtering for decades and we’ve been making the problem worse through overprescription and misuse of antibiotics – an estimated 80% of US antibiotics goes to boosting farm animal growth. Thankfully, the advent of DNA sequencing is helping us discover antibiotics we never knew bacteria could produce. Alongside innovative, if gross-sounding, methods such as transplanting “good” bacteria from fecal matter, and the search for new bacteria deep in the oceans, we may yet keep abreast in this arms race with organisms 3bn years our senior.
          13. Can computers keep getting faster?
            Our tablets and smartphones are mini-computers that contain more computing power than astronauts took to the moon in 1969. But if we want to keep on increasing the amount of computing power we carry around in our pockets, how are we going to do it? There are only so many components you can cram on to a computer chip. Has the limit been reached, or is there another way to make a computer? Scientists are considering new materials, such as atomically thin carbon – graphene – as well as new systems, such as quantum computing.
          14. Will we ever cure cancer?
            The short answer is no. Not a single disease, but a loose group of many hundreds of diseases, cancer has been around since the dinosaurs and, being caused by haywire genes, the risk is hardwired into all of us. The longer we live, the more likely something might go wrong, in any number of ways. For cancer is a living thing – ever-evolving to survive. Yet though incredibly complicated, through genetics we’re learning more and more about what causes it, how it spreads and getting better at treating and preventing it. And know this: up to half of all cancers – 3.7m a year – are preventable; quit smoking, drink and eat moderately, stay active, and avoid prolonged exposure to the midday sun.
          15. When can I have a robot butler?
            Robots can already serve drinks and carry suitcases. Modern robotics can offer us a “staff” of individually specialized robots: they ready your Amazon orders for delivery, milk your cows, sort your email and ferry you between airport terminals. But a truly “intelligent” robot requires us to crack artificial intelligence. The real question is whether you’d leave a robotic butler alone in the house with your granny. And with Japan aiming to have robotic aides caring for its elderly by 2025, we’re thinking hard about it now.
          16. What’s at the bottom of the ocean?
            Ninety-five per cent of the ocean is unexplored. What’s down there? In 1960, Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard travelled seven miles down, to the deepest part of the ocean, in search of answers. Their voyage pushed the boundaries of human endeavor but gave them only a glimpse of life on the seafloor. It’s so difficult getting to the bottom of the ocean that for the most part we have to resort to sending unmanned vehicles as scouts. The discoveries we’ve made so far – from bizarre fish such as the barreleye, with its transparent head, to a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s made by crustaceans – are a tiny fraction of the strange world hidden below the waves.
          17. What’s at the bottom of a black hole?
            It’s a question we don’t yet have the tools to answer. Einstein’s general relativity says that when a black hole is created by a dying, collapsing massive star, it continues caving in until it forms an infinitely small, infinitely dense point called a singularity. But on such scales quantum physics probably has something to say too. Except that general relativity and quantum physics have never been the happiest of bedfellows – for decades they have withstood all attempts to unify them. However, a recent idea – called M-Theory – may one day explain the unseen centre of one of the universe’s most extreme creations.
          18. Can we live for ever?
            We live in an amazing time: we’re starting to think of “aging” not as a fact of life, but a disease that can be treated and possibly prevented, or at least put off for a very long time. Our knowledge of what causes us to age – and what allows some animals to live longer than others – is expanding rapidly. And though we haven’t quite worked out all the details, the clues we are gathering about DNA damage, the balance of aging, metabolism and reproductive fitness, plus the genes that regulate this, are filling out a bigger picture, potentially leading to drug treatments. But the real question is not how we’re going to live longer but how we are going to live well longer. And since many diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, are diseases of aging, treating aging itself could be the key.
          19. How do we solve the population problem?
            The number of people on our planet has doubled to more than 7 billion since the 1960s and it is expected that by 2050 there will be at least 9 billion of us. Where are we all going to live and how are we going to make enough food and fuel for our ever-growing population? Maybe we can ship everyone off to Mars or start building apartment blocks underground. We could even start feeding ourselves with lab-grown meat. These may sound like sci-fi solutions, but we might have to start taking them more seriously.
          20. Time travelers already walk among us.?
            Thanks to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, astronauts orbiting on the International Space Station experience time ticking more slowly. At that speed the effect is minuscule, but ramp up the velocity and the effect means that one day humans might travel thousands of years into the future. Nature seems to be less fond of people going the other way and returning to the past, however some physicists have concocted an elaborate blueprint for a way to do it using wormholes and spaceships. It could even be used to hand yourself a present on Christmas Day, or answer some of the many questions that surround the universe’s great unknowns.
          21. Why do men lose hair on their head and grow more of it elsewhere as they age? They think it has something to do with changing hormones.
          22. Why are some people ambidextrous?
          23. What makes a bicycle work?
          24. How do we solve the population problem?
          25. So, what happens when you ask scientists exactly what makes a bicycle stable? Or, what keeps it going? Or, how people ride them?
          26. How to beat solitaire?
          27. How many species of animal exist?
          28. The length of a coastline? Fractals.
          29. How does gravity work?
            We all know that gravity from the moon causes tides, Earth’s gravity holds us to the surface, and the sun’s gravity keeps our planet in orbit, but how much do we really understand it? This powerful force is generated from matter, and more massive objects therefore have a greater ability to attract other objects. While scientists do understand a great deal about how gravity acts, they aren’t really sure why it exists. Why are atoms mostly empty space? Why is the force that holds atoms together different from gravity? Is gravity actually a particle? These are answers that we really just can’t answer with our current understand of physics.
          30. How do cats purr?
          31. Why is there a placebo effect?
          32. How do birds migrate?
          33. Why do tomatoes have more genes than humans?
          34. Why do we have ear wax?

        Etc., etc.

        Ps 146:3-4

        Love,
        Matthew

A Little History of Thought: I am a Thomist. What is a Thomist?

Thomas_Aquinas_in_Stained_Glass

A Universal Church founded by the Creator of the Universe, must be just that, universal.  Even, at least, entertaining various systems of thought.  1Thess 5:21.

There were many practical questions to be answered after our Lord’s Ascension.  Anyone attending a Bible study for even just the first time, realizes quickly the same passage of scripture means varying things to different people.  And, what about the gaps, where scripture says nothing?  🙁  And, the canon wasn’t defined, completely, until at least the 4th century, the Gospel of John and Revelation, so beloved today, being some of the last included texts.

Even the determination of the canon was from a practical reason.  There were various and sordid apocryphal scrolls floating around the Mediterranean.   Which were the authentic ones?  Which were frauds?  Which heretical?  Which were to be believed?  To be adhered to?  Which should we read at Mass?  The Church had to define.

It is the Church, from the beginning, under the guidance of the Holy Spirt, which has authority over scripture, and not the reverse.  It has always been so.  Many of those apocryphal texts can still be sourced today.  There is no serious proposal to revise the traditional canon, that I have heard?  Holy Spirit must have gotten it right?

Truth is not determined by a majority.  Lack of gravity/weightlessness is not achieved by 51% consensus.  The apple still falls to the ground, even when floating is popular. “Truth cannot contradict truth.” -Pope Leo XIII.

In the encyclical Doctoris Angelici Pope Pius X cautioned that the teachings of the Church cannot be understood without the basic philosophical underpinnings of St Thomas Aquinas‘, the Angelic Doctor’s, major theses:

“The capital theses in the philosophy of St. Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the whole science of natural and divine things is based; if such principles are once removed or in any way impaired, it must necessarily follow that students of the sacred sciences will ultimately fail to perceive so much as the meaning of the words in which the dogmas of divine revelation are proposed by the magistracy of the Church.”

The Second Vatican Council described Thomas’s system as the “Perennial Philosophy”.

“The fact that Thomism is the philosophy of common sense is itself a matter of common sense.” – GK Chesterton, 1933.

Thomism is a philosophical school of thought following the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, especially as contained in his most famous summary work, Summa Theologica, the importance of which the Roman Catholic Church arguably regards as second only to the Bible.  Aquinas, arguably, moved the philosophy of the Church from Plato to Aristotle.  Thomas Aquinas’ brilliant mind coincided with Europe rediscovering Aristotle, not from Latin, but from Arabic.  The work of the philosopher had been lost to Europe in the “Dark Ages”, preserved in Middle Eastern civilization and then returned to Europe in the 13th century, on the doorstep of the Renaissance.

It was Aquinas’ burning desire to integrate Aristotelian philosophy into Christian Revelation.  If the Truth is the Truth, there should be no contradiction.  Truth cannot contradict truth.  We may misunderstand Revelation, we may need to deepen/refine our understanding, we may need to revisit our interpretation, in the light of truth, but it never contradicts.  Apparent inconsistencies are divine calls to go deeper.  Truth cannot contradict truth.  The Catholic imagination is not afraid of truth, whencever it proceeds, as Truth Incarnate came to Earth, to dwell with, and teach, and save us.

I think that’s all for now.  As principles become important, I’ll tease out some more Thomism, but for now, work with me.  You always do, faithful reader.  Have a little faith, no?  🙂  It’s heady, and complicated, and big words give me a headache!  🙂

Love,
Matthew

A Little History of Thought: Nominalism, “Ideas have consequences.” They do.

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We are creatures of conditioning and history.  All human beings are and ever were…with the exception of One, through His Divine nature.  This former part of this proposition is the antithesis of popular American thought.  American thought implies all ideas, let alone people, are equal.  It’s easier, much easier to think THAT.  🙁  We know the latter is factually untrue, other than politically, and it DOES make for delicious political philosophy.  Thank you, TJ!!!!  🙂  What of the former?

Americans, like the empires before them, in the vacuum of their success, all believed they were right; morally, especially, but in all other ways, too, due to their success; a circular, self-affirming logic.  For immediate relief, I propose a trip outside the country.  There is another world.  Really.  Trust me.  And, (gasp), they don’t think like us.   And, they don’t see the world the way we do.  Also, while abroad, catch some news on the BBC/Al Jazeera, and see what it is like to have a WORLD view.

If we dare to adjudicate the, as we perceive/see them, errors of our time, intellectual integrity requires we first critique our own biases and context for making such judgments.  Otherwise, our conclusions bear no merit whatsoever.

First, some terms, gentle reader, to whet the appetite and salt the fare:

Can you smell the skepticism?  The relativism?  Can you taste it?  It is in the wind, in the very air, that we breathe.  A little sulfurous, no?  Acrid?  🙂

“What is this thing?  Called Love?

Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors that shaped Modernism were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by the horror of World War I. Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and many modernists rejected religious belief.

Modernism, in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy, social organization, activities of daily life, and even the sciences, were becoming ill-fitted to their tasks and outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging fully industrialized world. The poet Ezra Pound’s 1934 injunction to “Make it new!” was the touchstone of the movement’s approach towards what it saw as the now obsolete culture of the past. In this spirit, its innovations, like the stream-of-consciousness novel, atonal (or pantonal) and twelve-tone music, quantum physics, genetics, neuron networks, set theory, analytic philosophy, the moving-picture show, divisionist painting and abstract art, all had precursors in the 19th century.

A notable characteristic of Modernism is self-consciousness, which often led to experiments with form, along with the use of techniques that drew attention to the processes and materials used in creating a painting, poem, building, etc.  Modernism explicitly rejected the ideology of realism and makes use of the works of the past by the employment of reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody.

Some commentators define Modernism as a mode of thinking—one or more philosophically defined characteristics, like self-consciousness or self-reference, that run across all the novelties in the arts and the disciplines.  More common, especially in the West, are those who see it as a socially progressive trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve and reshape their environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge, or technology. From this perspective, Modernism encouraged the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was ‘holding back’ progress, and replacing it with new ways of reaching the same end. Others focus on Modernism as an aesthetic introspection. This facilitates consideration of specific reactions to the use of technology in the First World War, and anti-technological and nihilistic aspects of the works of diverse thinkers and artists spanning the period from Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) to Samuel Beckett (1906–1989).

Postmodernism is a late-20th-century movement in the arts, architecture, and criticism that was a departure from modernism.  Postmodernism includes skeptical interpretations of culture, religon, literature, art, philosophy, history, economics, architecture, fiction, and literary criticism.

from http://nominalismdenounced.blogspot.com/ (Disclaimer:  I DO NOT concur with the author’s overall positions, nor, hardly, conclusions, however, he makes SOME points well to support his arguments. Romans 5:20.  Which I, in turn, use to make my own.  I do accept responsibility, in general, for what I have quoted below from the author’s article.  God help me, always.)

-by Joseph Andrew Settanni

“The advance of postmodernity, into the 21st century, has seen the full fruits of the results of the rabid pursuit of what had been regarded as modernity, often called the modern project, which includes abortion, artificial contraception, infanticide, euthanasia, sexually transmitted diseases, homosexuality, pornography, etc., meaning the vindication of human hubris.

The postmodern thrust is most clearly seen, therefore, in the expanding and intensifying worship of death, usually called the culture of death; the human race, denying the rights and existence of God, actively seeks self-extermination with its normally decreasing birthrates and increased sterility observed around the world; it is, thus, a manifestly manmade demographic nightmare nihilistically engulfing a much too willing humanity.

Of course, the cancerous roots of this profoundly spiritual crisis, meaning the nihilistic choosing of a completely intramundane-immanentist eschatology, go deep. What started as an intellectual tendency much earlier in the history of Western thought became first “codified” in philosophical terms by an aberrant English Franciscan Scholastic, William of Ockham or Occam (c. 1287–1347), with his subjectivist and relativist advocacy of nominalism, which, later in time, was also fairly called (appropriately enough) Occamism. And, as Richard M. Weaver had noted long ago, ideas have consequences.  (Ed. Ask the victims of the Nazis, the Communists, the Khmer Rouge, if they do, fair reader?)

Admittedly, nominalism, which ultimately leads to nihilism, is very epistemologically seductive and even most of its adherents rarely, if ever, become conscious of its supremely thoroughgoing hold upon them.

For instance, the needed denunciation of the gigantic religious/theological heresy of Modernism, by Pope St. Pius X, would have been impossible to truly comprehend (as to the precise reason for the condemnation’s vital need) without the prior success of the development of the important intellectual error known as nominalism in cognition, for there is no greater deception than self-deception…(Ed. nor none more rampant, gentle reader.)

The Matter Itself Defined

But, what is nominalism? Simply put, it is the explicit denial of there being any universals; the doctrine that general ideas or abstract concepts, meaning as being mere necessities of thought or conveniences of language, are simply names without any true corresponding reality and that, in fact, only particular objects exist; there are, therefore, no universal essences whatsoever.

The nominalist contends, e. g., that one can see an individual man, a human being, but there can be no universal term that talks about man as an abstract category as if it possessed any reality. Thus, an individual person has a human nature qua real being; but, the universality of a human nature qua nature of humanity does not philosophically exist. There are, as other examples, individual dogs or cats; there is, however, no universal “thing” that can be specified as dog or cat. Words such as liberty, freedom, truth, beauty, justice, etc. are said to be mere abstractions qua semantic devices having no true substance whatsoever.

The inherent and integral and unavoidable contradictions and conundrums, involved in such a bold contention, get rudely pushed aside in the subjective-relativist rush toward upholding the nominalist asseveration, meaning totally regardless of the actuality of the matters discussed. Objectivity and subjectivity, among other basic noetic results, get necessarily reversed within the scope of human understanding and comprehension, not surprisingly. It is, in short, Occam’s Razor gone mad.

Thus, ultimately, it is the extremely anomalous positing that metaphysics can exist without any reference to a metaphysical order (as if a river could be composed without any water); a once truly radical or extremist point of view that, today, is held to be completely normal. It is, therefore, as to its logical consequences, a world seeking to be entirely bereft of God and, finally, of sanity itself in the cause of pursuing nominalism to its final epistemological conclusion.

One can see, as with, e. g., Communism, how an ersatz religion (or the oddity of a secularist religion) qua ideology can induce people to murder millions of their fellow human beings, though not ever thinking that such slaughter is clearly indicative of insanity. If this can be understood, however, then the true meaning, implications, and ramifications of modernity are then revealed.

Objective knowledge, unfortunately, becomes difficult to grasp whenever Occamism operates on the human brain. And, further, objectivity itself has its very existence questioned when this kind of “logic” gets worked upon over time; both philosophy and political philosophy, as consequences, have become progressively corrupted as the centuries have passed such that, for the vast majority of people, nominalism has simply become an unrecognized pandemic attitude and accepted orientation of thought within all of modern civilization.

But, there are continuing philosophical problems left unresolved. How can, in fact, the particularity of a particular being, said to be human, be then held to be possible or plausible without a prior paradigmatic conception of what it is that gets properly defined as human, especially a human nature? How could, by extension, someone be said to possess a human nature without there being the definition of a nature that is applicable, by definition, to a human being and, thus, to all human beings who have ever lived or, of course, are alive now?

The moderate realism approach of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, along with most of Platonic thought, gets weirdly turned upside down and inside out in the effort to create an Occamist worldview where there are no universals imaginable (read: permitted). There were, as to the reductionist mentality involved, many consequences, as could be guessed, in the field of intellectual or political-intellectual history.

For instance, the 18th century Enlightenment’s deification of Reason witnessed a modern form of (liberal) tyranny (or insanity) then known as enlightened despotism; this fitted in well, in turn, with Rousseau’s contention, e. g., that men had to be forced to be free, which logically originated, of course, the concept of democratic despotism as a means of (insane) progressive liberation, of creating the New Eden on earth, Utopianism. (The logical end results, in their turn, lead to both Nazi death camps and Communist gulags in the 20th century, for the road to Utopia always takes the path toward necessary dehumanization, due to the ideological rationalization of murder on a grand scale.)

By the early 19th century, Jeremy Bentham, the father of utilitarianism, could gratuitously, meaning just passingly, dismiss all of Natural Law as being only “Nonsense on Stilts” in his aggressive efforts at the totalist (insane) rationalization of human life, culture, law, civilization, and society. Modernity, thus, vigorously so spreads philosophical/metaphysical ignorance and, therefore, continuously incapacitates the human mind from reasoning correctly about fundamental matters concerning the human condition and the consequences of the thoughts and actions of fallen creatures living in a fallen world; sin itself gets ignored, of course; rationality qua right reason gets wrongly confused with Rationalism, a form of ideological insanity…

Thus, e. g., Martin Luther, educated primarily by nominalist-inspired teachers of theology, was then supplied with many currents of reasoning that conformed easily toward the creation of Protestantism, the truest theological expression of nominalism ever fashioned or conceived by mortal man: sola Scriptura and sola fide. Someone can actually think of himself as being a good Protestant who, in effect, constitutes his own church and acts as his own pope, in the spirit of individualism writ large.

The metaphysical order qua Supreme Being becomes flexible and adaptable to the variable and various (read: Protestant) belief needs or values of diverse kinds or types of Christians. From the Catholic point of view, however, it was obviously blasphemous to the nth degree for the so-called Reformers to, thus, reform God; Protestant converts to Catholicism get the point. But, one ought to be able to plainly see how Protestantism blends in quite well with the flow and logic of modernity.

The Protestant Revolt was and necessarily remains, therefore, the vainglorious and forever dubious theological effort at (supposedly) achieving the reformation of the Lord. This is easily proven empirically in how dozens of sects had expanded into, first, hundreds and now continuingly thousands upon thousands of sects that continue to multiply; the so-called Reformation is endless because God must be made to conform to the dictates of a multiplicity of divergent and disputational consciences, which process displays the forever inherent and integral irrationality of Protestantism, of course…

What is meant? All the ideologies of modernity, meaning inclusive of Conservatism, Communism, Nazism, Fascism, Liberalism, Anarchism, Libertarianism, Feminism, etc. can be then traced through many kinds of philosophical attitudes such as materialism, hedonism, secularism, humanism, subjectivism, pragmatism, positivism, nihilism, reductionism, etc. back to their root or fundamental cause: Nominalism.

Unsurprisingly, every heresy attacking Catholicism can be drawn, either directly or indirectly, to the same source or, rather, mental contagion; and, moreover, the desacralized and neopagan West, without a doubt, is now intellectually and morally disarmed in the face of an increasingly militant and aggressive Islam. In turn, postmodernism in thought (deconstructionism, etc.) would be inconceivable without a prior modernism in cognition; both modernism and postmodernism, as popularly understood, are ultimately traceable to the germinal nominalist point of view…

Br_Thomas_Davenport_OP
-by Br Thomas Davenport, OP

“At heart, Nominalism is an attempt to explain why we call a cat a cat. It’s not concerned with the etymology of the word “cat” but with why it is even possible to give a single name to all of these animals. The central claim of Nominalism is that only individual realities exist; there is only Fluffy and Garfield and Mittens, and each is completely singular and unique in its existence. Universals, like the word “cat,” are simply useful labels that we humans can apply to things that we perceive as being similar, but do not correspond to anything in reality. There is no such thing as cat nature that is really shared by each cat and gives a real basis for grouping them as a species. There is simply a name. Of course, this goes beyond felinology to all universals. Most troubling is that Nominalism claims there is no such thing as human nature, simply individual, unrelated human beings.

When considered from a theological perspective, Nominalism has a drastic effect on our relationship to God. Whatever order and structure we may observe in the world cannot be rooted in the real relationship between different types of things, because there are no types of things to relate.

Whatever order we find can only be rooted in God’s free choice. Thomists absolutely agree that God created and continues to maintain creation with absolute freedom, but they see the result of that freedom as an expression of God’s providential wisdom.

For the Nominalist, the majesty of the created order is not really a glimpse at God’s wisdom but simply of the way he wants things to be for the moment. In the moral order, if there is no such thing as human nature, there is no such thing as natural inclination towards happiness or natural law. There is no rational reason behind what makes a particular action good or bad; there is only God’s free choice.

William of Ockham, the founder of scholastic Nominalism, took this extreme Voluntarism, this overemphasis on God’s free will, so far as to claim, “God can command the created will to hate him,” and by that command, the hatred of God would be good. He saw this as possible not simply in this world. Rather, “just as hatred of God can be a good act in this world, so can it be in the next.”

Ockham never claimed that God had ever commanded this, and Ockham recognized a customary order in things. But he held on to the idea that there was no guarantee that this order would not completely change tomorrow.

As influential as Nominalism was in the 14th century and continues to be in various guises today, the phrase “anything can signify anything” isn’t really expressing medieval Nominalism. It is expressing a sort of New Nominalism* that we see in today’s culture, a sort of modern amalgamation of Nominalism and Voluntarism, but without even God as the ultimate arbiter.

There seems to be a growing trend that assumes not only that universals are merely names with no real significance, but even that the meaning of these names is entirely up to the free will of each individual. What it means to be a man or a woman is becoming something subjective and self-defined. Whether a slur is really a slur or a sign of affection is simply up to the one who uses it or who hears it.

Further, this personal Voluntarism ensures that no one need be bound by their past opinions on a word from one moment to the next. What was once, in the moment, a life-long vow “for better or for worse” might eventually become simply a nice turn of phrase, said on a day long ago but that never really meant anything…

While Nominalism tended to cut us off from God’s wisdom and the well-ordered plan of salvation, the New Nominalism introduces a sort of man-made Babel, cutting us off from one another and even from our very selves.

When words, including universals, lose their connection to an objective reality, we lose the ability to speak honestly about truth and goodness. While it may be true on some abstract level that “anything can signify anything,” only certain things actually signify the truth, only certain statements actually correspond to the reality they are conveying. Without trust in the reality underlying our words, the truth about ourselves and about God will always escape us, no matter how hard we will otherwise.”

Love,
Matthew

A Little History of Thought: What is Metaphysics?

Metaphysics

Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it, although the term is not easily, precisely defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:

  • What is ultimately there?
  • What is it like?

The metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, e.g., existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.

The purpose of this blog has always been to make some of the most important concepts in Christian thought as accessible as possible to as many English speakers as possible.  Therefore, the parsing further of this subject will prematurely end there, as far as delving further specifically into how Metaphysics goes.  You may, of course, indulge yourself into all that your whim and fancy desires.  Have fun!  Seriously, have a little fun, would ya?  (“Lord, spare me from somber saints!”-St Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church; 1 Tim 5:23) That is not to say there isn’t more to glean, but the goal is to keep it as simple as possible, and not get lost in the weeds.  That is all which is necessary for now.

I am an applied scientist.  Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as “natural philosophy”. It was not until the very recent 19th century when this categorization really began to change and the term “natural philosophy” gave way to “science”.  Hence, also why PhDs are Doctors of Philosophy on their subject matters, even though their area of focus is not philosophy and they may never, ever have gone near a philosophy course.  Get it?

Originally, the term “science” (Latin scientia) simply meant “knowledge”. The scientific method, however, transformed natural philosophy into an empirical activity deriving from experiment unlike the rest of philosophy.  The inventor of the scientific method was a 13th century English Catholic bishop.  By the end of the 18th century, it had begun to be called “science” to distinguish it from philosophy.

Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence.

Warm & fuzzy, right?  🙂

Love,
Matthew