Tag: science

Science Doubted

Science Doubted posted in Eleison Comments on March 6, 2021

Few people today still call in question the priority of science when it comes to providing us men with a happy world and the good life. Replace religion with science and materialism, said the Protocols of the Sages of Sion (EC 699), as though science and materialism solve all problems of life. The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) needed four causes to analyse reality: purpose, maker, form and material, but modern man has effectively rubbed out the final cause or purpose and the efficient cause or maker, no doubt because both of these lead in reality to God, who is not thus needed for a thing’s intrinsic form or matter. And from Galileo (1564–1642) onwards, “science” has been more and more godless.

However, the wisdom of Shakespeare (1564–1616) recognised that there was more in Heaven and earth than there was in Horatio’s philosophy (Hamlet I), and Germany’s greatest writer, Goethe (1749–1832), knew that there was a superior knowledge of Nature to that of science, a knowledge which seized Nature’s inner spirit. Another contemporary, the English poet William Wordsworth (1770–1850), was also aware at the turn from the 18th to the 19th centuries that mankind was taking with the industrial revolution and the promotion of the physical sciences, a direction which in some respects was not progressing but regressing: as the mastery of matter was advancing, so the mastery of spirit was receding. One of Wordsworth’s disciples was the famous Catholic convert and writer of popular spiritual books, Fr. William Faber (1814–1863). Wordsworth never converted himself, but he bore Catholic fruit. Here is a famous sonnet of his on the anti-spiritual modern world:—

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Modern shopping!

Little we see in Nature that is ours; What do suburbanites know of Nature?

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; Wordsworth himself spent a very happy

The winds that will be howling at all hours, childhood amid the delights of Nature in

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; the Lake District in North England.

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be He cries out that he would rather be a

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; pre-Christian than a post-Christian, for at

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, least his belief in pagan gods would give

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; him some sense of union with the glorious

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; spectacle of Nature in front of him.

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn. As it is, he feels only “forlorn” – burnt out.

As a rule, suburbanites do not like poetry and their vile media will write it out like prose if they can. To say what they have to say, poets as such take the extra trouble to say it with rhyme and rhythm, and that mere fact is enough to suggest that there is more to life than just materialistic suburbs. But most suburbanites are content with their materialism and prefer not to be reminded of its deficiency. And so love of Nature turns into skiing and speedboats, while poetry is discredited, discounted, waiting to be revived by a revaluing of things spiritual. That will come, but it depends on the Catholic Church. Man is enough to pull Nature and himself down, but only God can lift either of them back up. Fr. Faber showed the way. He at least did not end up forlorn.

Kyrie eleison.

Benedict’s Thinking – I

Benedict’s Thinking – I posted in Eleison Comments on July 9, 2011

The “Eleison Comments” of June 18 promised a series of four numbers which would show how “disoriented” is Pope Benedict XVI’s “way of believing.” They present in fact a summary of the precious tract on his thinking written a few years ago by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais, one of the four bishops of the Society of St Pius X. The Bishop’s tract, The Faith Imperilled by Reason, he calls “unpretentious,” but it does lay bare the Pope’s fundamental problem – how to believe in the Catholic Faith in such a way as not to exclude the values of the modern world. The tract shows that such a way of believing is necessarily disoriented, even if the Pope does still in some way believe.

It divides into four parts. After an important Introduction to Benedict XVI’s “Hermeneutic of Continuity,” Bishop Tissier looks briefly at the philosophical and theological roots of the Pope’s thinking. Thirdly he lays out its fruits for the Gospel, for dogma, for the Church and society, for the Kingship of Christ and for the Last Things. He concludes with a measured judgment upon the Pope’s Newfaith, highly critical but wholly respectful. Let us start with an overview of the Introduction:—

The basic problem for Benedict XVI, as for all of us, is the clash between the Catholic Faith and the modern world. For instance he sees that modern science is amoral, that modern society is secular and modern culture is multi-religious. He specifies the clash as being between Faith and Reason, between the Faith of the Church, and Reason as worked out by the 18th century Enlightenment. However, he is convinced that they can and must both be interpreted in such a way as to bring them into harmony with one another. Hence his close participation in Vatican II, a Council which attempted to reconcile the Faith with today’s world. But Traditionalists say that the Council failed, because its very principles are irreconcilable with the Faith. Hence Pope Benedict’s “Hermeneutic of Continuity,” or system of interpretation to show that there is no rupture between Catholic Tradition and Vatican II.

The principles for Benedict’s “hermeneutic” go back to a German historian of the 19th century, Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911). Dilthey maintained that as truths arise in history, so they can only be understood in their history, and human truths cannot be understood without the involvement of the human subject in that history. So to continue the core of past truths into the present, one needs to subtract all elements belonging to the past, now irrelevant, and replace them with elements important for the living present. Benedict applies to the Church this double process of purification and enrichment. On the one hand Reason must purify the Faith of its errors from the past, e.g. its absolutism, while on the other hand the Faith must get Reason to moderate its attacks on religion and to remember that its humanist values, liberty, equality and fraternity, all originated in the Church.

The great error here of the Pope is that the truths of the Catholic Faith on which Christian civilization was built and on which its feeble remains still rest, have their origin by no means in human history, but in the eternal bosom of the unchanging God. They are eternal truths, from eternity, for eternity. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” says Our Lord, (MtXXIV,35). Neither Dilthey nor, apparently, Benedict XVI can conceive of truths far above human history and above all its conditioning. If the Pope thinks that by making such concessions to faithless Reason, he will draw its adherents towards the Faith, let him think again. They merely despise Faith the more!

Next, the philosophical and theological roots of Benedict’s thinking.

Kyrie eleison.

Vocations – Wherefrom?

Vocations – Wherefrom? posted in Eleison Comments on October 2, 2010

After following over tens of years a variety of part-time and full-time courses in the Humanities at two universities in major cities of an “advanced” Western nation, Robert (as I will call him) finds himself in substantial agreement with the criticism of modern universities that appeared in a recent “Eleison Comments” (EC 158), but he has an interesting objection that goes one, or two, steps further. Let us begin with his live experience of today’s university “system.”

A few years ago, after seemingly endless years of study, Robert did finally obtain his Doctorate in history, but only just, and in such a way as to disqualify him from ever getting a job as a university professor. The politically correct system, he says, had successfully defended itself from his “extreme right” ideas. “The integrist had been muzzled, democracy had been saved. The imbecile had thrown himself in front of the steamroller, and he had been duly crushed, as easily as Winston in George Orwell’s famous novel, “1984.”

“Given my experience,” he writes, “I would recommend no youngster to study Humanities at any University, still less my own children. Let them rather choose some manual trade or advanced technical training, the ideal being to work for oneself, in the country or at most in a small town, so as to avoid today’s enslavement to salary.” Had he his life to live over again, he says, that is what he would do, because as a Catholic intellectual he feels that his action has been limited to giving witness.

However, Robert has a serious objection to this solution of preferring some manual trade or advanced technical training. In brief, engineers may be better paid than philosophers, but the clip-clear nature of their work – on-off, zero-one – will disincline them to take any interest in the human, all too human, complications of religion or politics. Ideally, one might be a technician by day and a poet by night, but in reality it is difficult to lead a life divided between such opposites, says Robert, and a man will normally lose interest in one or the other.

He observes the same tension within the Society of St Pius X school in his part of the world. In theory the Humanities there have pride of place, but in practice boys and staff tend to go for the Sciences because of the better job openings. The youngsters coming out of the school are correspondingly less well equipped to understand in depth the problems of the Conciliar Church or the modern world, as it seems to Robert. End of his testimony.

The problem is grave. For instance, the SSPX schools are under pressure to incline towards the sciences, but future priests surely need rather a good formation in the Humanities, because souls do not function on clip-clear one-zero, on-off. Yet if vocations do not come from the SSPX’s own schools, where will they come from? How are things spiritual to be protected in a whole world giving itself over to things material? How are boys’ souls to be oriented towards the priesthood? I have observed that what is decisive in many cases is their father taking his religion seriously. Read in the Old Testament the book of Tobias (neither long nor difficult to understand) to see how God rewards fathers through their sons.

Kyrie eleison.

“University” Wasteland

“University” Wasteland posted in Eleison Comments on July 24, 2010

Several years ago when I wrote that girls should not go to university, a number of readers were shocked. But when I listen today to a young Professor who recently spent six years teaching English Literature in an English “university” (not the same thing as a true university!), it seems I should add that boys should not go either. Or they should at least think very hard before going, and their parents should think very hard before shelling out the expensive fees. Here, in order, is what the Professor observed, what he sees as its causes, and what he sees as its remedies.

In the “university” where he taught, he observed no pursuit of truth nor education for truth. “Language is a game independent of reality, producing its own artefacts. The students are made to feel that everything is relative, there are no standards, values, nor moral framework nor moral reference. The sciences are infected with an evolutionism which opposes “science” to religion. The “Humanities” are degraded by a Freudian interpretation making everything centre on s-x. Professors tell students to have a s-x life because “it is good for them.” These “universities” advertize their night life, and almost praise the sin against nature. They are utterly s-xualized.

“As for the professors, many recognize that there is a deep-down problem, but many continue to play the game. They are all Marxizing, if not Marxists. They teach as though all authority is stifling, all tradition oppressive. Evolution rules. As for the students, many more of them than one would think are yearning for something, but they are no longer looking to their “university” for truth. If they want a “Degree,” it is only to get a job, and if they seek a good “Degree,” it is only to get a better-paying job. Rarely will they discuss ideas.”

So what are the CAUSES of the university being turned into such a purely utilitarian processor of information to serve the established system? The Professor says, “ The basic cause is the loss of God, resulting from several centuries of war on the Incarnation. Then education no longer means providing a truth or morality to live by, but rather developing one’s potential to be different and better than anyone else. Into the vacuum left by Truth moves pop culture and the Frankfurt School, with their liberation from all authority. Into the vacuum left by God moves the State, which sees “universities” as a source of technocrats and engineers. Absolutes are of no interest, except one: absolute skepticism.”

As for the REMEDIES the Professor says, “These “universities” can hardly get out of the trap they have fallen into. To learn something genuinely useful a boy is better off at home, or talking to priests or going on a Retreat. Faithful Catholics must do things for themselves, and band together to re-build institutions of their own, starting maybe with summer schools. The Humanities must be restored, because they deal with the basics of human existence, what is right, good and true. The natural sciences, specific and derivative, must remain secondary. They cannot take priority of the Humanities. Let parents send their boys to these “universities” to get a job, but not to learn anything truly useful.”

“The loss of God” – all is said.

Kyrie eleison.