Saturday, July 09, 2005

Thinking about science in America, and the Catholic Church

I've been thinking more about science in America, and Pope Benedict's fracture of an unofficial truce between the Church and Science: Gordon's Notes: Another victory for the Discovery Institute: The Catholic church church attacks the enlightenment.

Science in America is being strongly challenged and occasionally defeated. That may not be entirely bad for science. Scientists tend to be politically flacid; it's long past time they woke up. Even if rationalists really do lose in this country, moreover, it's unlikely India, China and Europe will join a flight to superstition. It might not be an entirely bad thing to have another nation (or nations) lead for a while. A bit of economic and political decline might temper American arrogance and add a bit of wisdom.

As for the Catholic church, on reflection the truce of Vatican II was a false pause in a long conflict with science. One of the strongest logical outcomes of natural selection and our emerging understanding of consciousness is that there's nothing inevitable about the emergence of humans, or about human nature, or even about sentience. (I've a hunch that sentience is an almost inevitable byproduct of a longlived complex ecosystem -- but that's only a guess, there's no way today to test that hypothesis.)

The evitability of Man is a hard pill for the church to swallow; a God that finds humans to be a delightful byproduct of His creation rather than the Purpose thereof is a bit off-putting for traditionalists. (Frankly I can't believe the "delightful" part myself, but I'm not God.)

With this announcement the Catholic church is shifting to a traditionalist position, reversing the post-Vatican II agenda and firmly aligning itself with American Protestant fundamentalists -- just as it did when Catholic bishops came out against John Kerry. This is a very big deal for the Church. There will be consequences within the church.

The Jesuits must quite miserable.

No comments: