Finding One’s Limits

Zenit reported earlier this week on Pope Benedict’s address at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Science, however, while giving generously, gives only what it is meant to give. (Humankind)  cannot place in science and technology so radical and unconditional a trust as to believe that scientific and technological progress can explain everything and completely fulfill all … existential and spiritual needs.

Science cannot replace philosophy and revelation by giving an exhaustive answer to (the) most radical questions: questions about the meaning of living and dying, about ultimate values, and about the nature of progress itself.

Sometimes I wonder if the problem isn’t so much the advancement of science, but the lagging abilities of philosophers and perhaps theologians in addressing these root questions. Scientists have embraced various modern media, and many of them are television and publishing personalities. I was watching Ball of Fire with my wife last night, deepply amused at the film’s portrayal of college professors. I wonder if most theologians aren’t the professors of the 21st century, hidebound to old ways of expressing inquiry into these “ultimate” values. Maybe they need some verve–and I don’t mean plying co-eds with alcohol and/or seducing them.

More people like the pope would do, because I wonder if the current state of affairs is less due to scientists overstepping their bounds than it is to theologians who shrink from theirs.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to Finding One’s Limits

  1. notapundit says:

    Pope Benedict makes an excellent point in the article:

    The Pope further observed: “The scientific method itself, in its gathering of data and in the processing and use of those data in projections, has inherent limitations that necessarily restrict scientific predictability to specific contexts and approaches.

    The Big Bang Theory is such an example of the inherent limitations of the scientific method and context. Astronomers and cosmologists of the early 20th century were able to determine that the universe is expanding. Well if it is expanding, it must have a starting point. Where and when did that starting point begin? Wow, now astrophysicists, astronomers, and cosmologists where on the verge of answering the age old questions, where did the universe come from? what is the origin of our universe? where did we come from?

    It seemed that men like Hubbell were on the verge of placing science and technology on a plateau above philosophy and theology. As they scaled this plateau to come to teach us all about the origin of our universe, they developed scientific methods, theories, formulas and technologies to test their theories. They believed they were on the verge of explaining fully the origin of the universe, the origin of our existence, the meaning of life. As they worked hard to climb that plateau and nearing the top they came to provide evidence for viability of the Big Bang Theory, that the universe was created at a single point in time, from a cosmic explosion of either a dense point of matter, or a point of no matter. Having reached the plateau, they found waiting at the top of the plateau a theologian ready to explain to them where the single point came from. What irony. The theologian explained the universe was created by God. The creator of the universe is God. Why?

    Because science hit its limit as Pope Benedict properly points out. Within the framework of its theory and scientific method it could prove its Big Bang Theory but it cannot explain the origin of the universe. Science may explain how it happened, but it cannot explain who made it happen. This is the realm of metaphysics and theology.

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