From “Science and Faith in the Search for Truth”

[John Paul II to teachers and university students in Cologne Cathedral, Saturday, November 15, 1980.]

The claim to truth of a science based on rationality is recognized; in fact, it is accepted in its contents, completed, corrected and developed in its independent rationality.

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Science alone is not able to give a complete answer to the question of meanings

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There is no reason not to take up a position in favor of truth or to be afraid of it.

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In the past, precursors of modern science fought against the Church with the slogans: reason, freedom and progress. Today, in view of the crisis with regard to the meaning of science, the multiple threats to its freedom and the doubt about progress, the battle fronts have been inverted. Today it is the Church that takes up the defense: – for reason and science, which she recognizes as having the ability to attain truth, which legitimizes it as a human realization; – for the freedom of science, through which the latter possesses its dignity as a human and personal good; – for progress in the service of a humanity which needs it to safeguard its life and its dignity.

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An adequate solution of the pressing questions about the meaning of human existence, norms of action, and the prospects of a more far-reaching hope, is possible only in the renewed connection between scientific thought and the power of faith in man in search of truth.

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I appeal to the scientists, students, and all of you gathered here today, and ask you always to keep before your eyes, in your striving for scientific knowledge, the ultimate aim of your work and of your whole life. For this purpose I recommend to you particularly the virtues of courage, which defends science in a world marked by doubt, alienated from truth, and in need of meaning; and humility, through which we recognize the finiteness of reason before Truth which transcends it…

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For the full text, go here:  http://www.its.caltech.edu/~nmcenter/sci-cp/sci80111.html

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5 thoughts on “From “Science and Faith in the Search for Truth”

  1. It’ll be nearly impossible to find a connection between scientific thought and the power of faith since they are diametrically opposed to one another. Science is the search for answers to the question of meanings. Faith insists you accept the answers to meanings without any verifiable proof. It’s enough to give me a friggin’ headache.

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  2. You know, I think most people tend to jump onto the “science can’t explain the meaning…” type idea, but really the issue is that “science can’t originate meaning.” Why we attribute value to various what-nots can be traced back to an evolutionary this or that eventually, but as ascribed value is inherently illogical, science can’t originate it. It might help us narrow, focus, or choose between different values, but we have to at least do the initial picking (for instance, that we value life). It’s a tricky thing because I’d imagine even my favoring for Zelda games could be explained by scientific phenomena, but actually possessing and using a purely logical mind would probably make you end up not liking it anymore.

    Anyways, I couldn’t really tell what you were pulling from the article, but it’s obviously my fetish so I had to drop in.

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    1. I was hoping you’d jump in at this one, ha! 😉

      Let’s say science can’t originate meaning. Even if that’s the case, we still cannot deny that humans do search for meaning (for lack of a better word). And we try to satisfy this inclination with scientific knowledge and approach but it has never been enough. For me, it hasn’t. And what if we don’t really have to choose between them? What if there is a link to the T-ruth that exists via fusion of the two and we just have to find it?

      Are meanings really just subjective? If it is then all this is just a lost cause, isn’t it?

      I still have my faith even though it was never as solid as it was when I was a young child. But it’s still there. And I love and respect science as well. I really can’t choose between the two. So recently I’ve been reading articles about the science and faith connection and I discovered I really like John Paul II’s notions about it. (Yes, this post was truly for my own whims and disposal haha) But it’s not enough.

      Maybe I’ve been searching in the wrong places? Maybe I have to reconcile my questions not with the articles and science of the external world but the world within me? I’ve never been really able to enter that zone where I can completely empty my mind of all thoughts. I gotta try harder at meditation–it’s neeevvver easy for me! Gotta admire those buddhist monks, you know.

      Aaaannd…the more I read, the more questions I’m having. Damned if that’s not true.

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  3. Oh, I definitely didn’t mean science alone can sustain us. For instance, let’s just say it self-perpetuates it’s sense of acquiring knowledge. That’s a long road and can sure extend some sense of “meaning” (but again, we’d have to chose to “value” knowledge first), but eventually it’ll hit its upper-bound, and we have to ask what to do with that knowledge, and we have to step outside that self-perpetuating system to come up with something then. Our ability to originate meaning and attach importance and emotion to it, despite it’s inherent likely lack of objective logic, might be one of the things we should be most grateful for.

    But just because it’s existential doesn’t mean there’s no worth (and I don’t see how it wouldn’t be unless there’s some big G-man sitting outside defining it for us). Now I’ve got my hopes on a universe that can continue in some way to combat the scientific sense of nihilism possible, but either way anything other than attaching importance to even our self-contrived meanings is immensely impractical hah. The feelings and effects of whatever we perceive as things that are meaningful are freaking real enough. And I could club a baby seal in a room full of women to prove that pretty easily (no I wouldn’t….)

    Faith… I’m actually very against “faith,” I’m afraid, at least classically. It’s ability to end a conversation in an effective “because” tends to leave one open to world-views that can be unhelpful, and at worst harmful and unethical. It’s kind of like being able to stay in an abusive relationship just because at one point you said “I do.” I’ll buy faith more as a trust thing though. You can’t form relationships without it, and it has to be sturdier than the bumps along the way that might argue against it, but it does require initial earning and it can, after enough to the contrary, be broken.

    I never did get the meditation thing either. I always felt like I learned because of analyzing my thoughts rather than emptying them. Maybe (snicker) that’s why these new-agey people’s arguments always seem like “feelings” they own rather than rationalizations they’ve come to (no offense to them of course). I still respect the Buddhists though, if even in the least for their freaking gorgeous temples.

    Not sure what you’re searching for… the god of your youth or just what’s out there? I definitely miss the former of mine some days, and I’ll still pray to old Jehovah as more an old friend of my heart rather than a real entity-god (call me crazy) because of it. Oh well. And I still leave the door open there just in case. As for what’s actually out there…

    foooooook. hah. you know I probably feel like I’ve looked everywhere. I don’t think the answer can be “found,” but I did learn so much looking that perhaps it can be “found if/and lived.”

    Or maybe Stephen Hawking and Sean Caroll can tell us. Mr. Hawking sure thinks he already has at least.

    (btw, good book on all this, “Angels and Demons.” really, you need to read it if you haven’t already)

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