Class summaries


September 15, 2015 - Amy Burke


·         Info given regarding bursaries and awards in Catholic Studies.  September 30th 2015 dead line for application letter.  Be sure to include community works and why you are a suitable candidate.


·         Review of last class: What is Religion? What is Christianity?


·         How is Catholicism distinct?

·         Historically i.e.  Traditions and practices.

·         Central Authority.

·         The way scripture is interpreted *we the reader interpret the message.

·         Doctrinal matters.

·         Relationship of scripture and tradition.

·         Magisterium *not in any other religion.


·         Theory/ Dogma/Scripture

·         What is Dogma-truth about faith and morals (Catholic Encyclopedia).

·         True faith can never contradict true reason.

·         Science and Christianity both cannot be right with different beliefs ….so both must be in agreement.


·         What is the purpose of Scripture?

·         Written document- needs to be interpreted…..Need to ask:

§  Is there any literary device being used i.e. Poem?

§  What is the purpose of the text i.e. Arouse emotions or explanations?

§  What is the intention of the author and what does he want you to get out of it?

·         When we read we need to go through a process of interpretation HERMENEUICS.

·         Different denominations are not in agreement of # books in the Bible.


·         How do you approach the text?

·         Approach as a belier or disciple? Some say not to but as a neutral scholar.

·         Some claim you need to put yourself into action…be the text.


·         What do humans bring to the text?

·         Our own ideas, experiences, and understandings.  We have a unique perspective.

·         You do not have to believe to understand.


·         Metaphors

·         Scripture is filled with them Luke13:34, John 10:11, John 6:47-51.

·         Use of metaphors carries out a literal mean not to be taken literally.

·         Used to communicate truths.


·         Different Histories or Different Stories.

·         Two genesis authors/editors Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-3:24 (day 6).

·         Why the second story?

§  Hypothesis: 2 different stories because there are two different purposes:  Approach was taken by different authors for a different interpretation.

§  1st story – order and structure, matter, human flesh, good things, orders to “go forth and multiply”

§  2nd story – focus on individual part of the 6th day, specific mission for human.

§  These 2 stories do not contradict each other but have different perspectives of origin.



·         Summary

·         When we talk about Christianity we need to be precise.

§  What do people believe?

§  Teaching and Dogmas:

§  Scripture: literally, metaphorically, and purpose of text.


·         What is Science

·         Science as any systematic, rationally pursued investigation. SCIENTIA.

·         Scientist coined 1834.


·         Science Today

·         Subject matter: material things, observed and tested.


For next class…In what way is science different from world view of other disciplines?





September 17 - Cynthia Forgeron

Scientific Method

   -> Usually causal

    -> Usually empirical - observe and re-generalize

                                 - Biology professor - "His classroom is outside"

                                 -> They might generalize based on data they've picked up

   -> Testable (POPPER, 1932, Logic of Scientific Discovery)

            -> Can't verify but you can know what's wrong

                          -> Example of Pi and the repeating 7's

            -> Can it be replicated?

    -> Objective (but observer effect/ quantum theory)

           -> "This is the fact"

           -> An observer can affect the experiment

Probabilistic v Demonstrative

    -> Evolution = Highly Probable

     -> Criminal trial, can be found guilty, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, OJ Simpson example with the glove


World View

   -> Materialist v Naturalist

           -> Methodologically, science is materialist

 -> Nature as an object

            -> to be tested, examined, etc

             -> Nature isn't implied valuable

-> Value rooted in human ends

             -> Nature doesn't imply value

              -> "good for something"

-> Claims to be disengaged/ impartial

             -> People view your science as your science and nothing else

-> Instrumental model of reasoning

             -> Not because it can be intrinsically valuable, but because it is useful


What is to be learned from this?


What counts as science?

Astrology, alchemy, phrenology, necromancy were once sciences.


One method or many?


Science and Culture

-> Science as part of our culture

-> Science as shaping our culture

     -> Huxley - "Science should make culture rationalistic"

-> Universalitic

     -> Non-biased


Is science impartial, value-neutral, autonomous? Tuskagee case.

     -> some supported this study

      -> The end justifies the means

   -> Science presupposes value


An Ambiguous History



    -> Once you have faith, you don't need anything else


    -> We should know about the world, Infidels will mock us

    -> Believe so that you may understand


    -> Faith seeking understanding


     -> Credo ut intelligat



    -> Every monastery should have a school


Education in the middle ages

- Understanding scripture + nature

- Grossteste - empirical method

- Roger Bacon

- Nicolaus Copernicus


Aquinas -> "No 2 truths"


Jean Calvin - we see both approaches

  -> Genesis is not a scientific text


"Christianity made modern science possible"

-> Galileo

-> Darwin - agnostic


Sometimes sciences take priority and vice versa.


September 22, 2015 – Fr Andrew Gillies

Review of “An Ambiguous History”

An ambiguity has existed since the beginning of Christianity:

- Tertullian: once you’ve got faith, there’s no need for science

- Gandhi: people ought to tend to their souls; we’re all mortal; so all that matters is one’s soul (science is not inherently evil but is not necessary)

- Augustine: If Christians are ignorant of the world around them, why should people take anything they say seriously?; faith seeks understanding; we believe in order to understand

- Benedict XVI: can’t just believe blindly; there is a connection with understanding

- Importance of education: not just sacred but profane science; not just humanities but basics of science too

- Middle Ages: an understanding about nature is understanding something about God and faith

The biggest struggle between Christianity and Science comes when science is seen as challenging religion:

- Darwin: went to Cambridge to become an Anglican clergyman; evolution doesn’t prove the nonexistence of God but it does (at least) show that this is a big and difficult question

- Newman: doesn’t think evolution is a problem for religious belief; evolution is quite consistent with religious belief; divine design would posit that the given laws of matter from millions of years ago lead to the kind of development we happen to have; so Darwin’s theory need not be atheistic

- Struggle in the U.S.: illegal to teach evolution, even as a theory

- Intelligent Design

- Two separate worlds: world of faith and world of science


Gaudium et Spes, 1965”

GS, 7: the effects of the modern world (particularly of scientific issues) on faith:

- new conditions have an impact:

- on one hand, because of a more vivid sense of God, there is more critical ability to distinguish religion from a magical view of the world and superstitions (Jesus magically turning water to wine, the baseball player at the plate blessing himself);

- on the other hand, growing numbers, as a consequence of a focus on science and having their faith shaken, are abandoning religion in practice; what we used to depend on religion for has changed as we better understand the relationships between nature and science and nature and religion

- It is good to believe that nature has its own laws and values; science should be autonomous (from ideologies and non-scientific things); if the science is true, legitimate science, then religion has nothing to fear (they can’t contradict)

- There is a problem when science tries to replace religion; Christians should respect the rightful independence of science, if not, people are led to believe that they are opposed.

-Regarding moral norms, for example, there is a certain autonomy that science has to respect as well.

GS, 36: “But when God is forgotten, however, the creature itself grows unintelligible.”


Stephen Pinker would say: get ethicists off science councils, science will determine for itself what is within its limits.

So, who would decide? Any honest individual could determine when something is not what science can do.


“Summary; Key Questions”

There is a conflict when a fundamental incompatibility between religion and science is believed to exist.

So where exactly do they conflict and where are they compatible?

What does each assert?


A question for Richard Dawkins would be: What is it exactly that religion asserts which a reasonable person can’t accept?

Or, is it, rather, a problem with Religion as an institution? Is it that the way science see the world conflicts with the way science sees the world?

Is it political? Economic? Cultural? Sociological?


Why would people be worried about what Galileo said when Copernicus said the same thing a century before?

There were challenges to authority and not really a debate about science or religion; what was needed to calm things down at that time in history?


Catholic Church’s view on Freedom of Religion:

In the 19th Century war and political instability were problems; are there broader issues at stake?

If so, telling me more about science or religion isn’t going to help.


“Origins: Cosmology, Cosmogony and Creation”

1. a) Origin stories from religion vs. origin stories from science

From religion: come from a need for an explanation; wonder; coming into existence over 6, 24-hour periods is a rather strange scientific explanation; people have a curiosity about genealogy (famous and infamous ancestors); who we are has a relation to me today: my purpose, my background; my identity tells me something about the relationship of humans to God; God is a person who started it/us off and still intervenes today; this is not a scientific explanation but it is an explanation; just as the birth of Canada, its founding people, is important to its history and where my roots are; who I am is a reflection of who my parents and previous generations were.

b) People are causes of things; if I have free will I cause my actions (otherwise I am just a puppet); Is the universe a natural phenomenon or a product of things? Or a persona being?


“Origins”, “What is a cause?”

I hear a bomb – What caused the sound?



Imagine a Sculpture

- Bomb [material]



- stone


- Bomb maker (idea in her mind) [formal]



- image/form in mind


- The bomber [efficient]



- the sculpter


- Her goal: liberating her country [final]



- why do it at all?; the goal



Final Causes: goals agents is looking to achieve;

not juts God doing it but how God did it

‘Stuff’ makes a thing‘what it is’;

 the person’ who carries out ‘what he has in mind’ -- > Causes who or what can be – not just the ‘doer’ but the goal that is sought (the end, purpose)

“How does science approach origins?”

- Method: Naturalism

- Science focuses on what can be observed and tested, e.g., nature


Methodological naturalism:


a) Why did the light come on?

Switch – opens or closes circuit; Electricity – excites mercury; Light

                Naturalism within science says that all hypotheses and events are to be explained and tested.

This only applies to natural causes and events. To introduce a supernatural/transcendental

cause within science is to depart from science.


b) i. Nature is all there is

ii. nature (universe/cosmos) consists of natural elements that are somehow imminent in the  structure of the universe

iii. nature follows natural laws and all can be explained by science and philosophy

iv. the supernatural does not exist


Sept. 24/15 – Hannah Keller

Origins  - How does science approach origins?

·         Naturalism

o   Methodological naturalism

§  Refer to natural events alone to explain a hypothesis. Scientific truth is only interested in naturalism

o   Metaphysical naturalism

§  All that exists is natural

§  Everything – including mind, ideas, and values – has a scientific explanation. Nature consists only of natural elements

§  Nature works by natural processes that follow natural laws, and all can, in principle, be explained and understood by science and philosophy.

§  The supernatural does not exist, i.e., only nature is real, therefore supernature is non-real.

o   “Supernaturalism” maintains that:

§  There are supernatural beings who act in the world and have concerns with salvation, sanctification, sin, etc.

§  “Since everyone agrees that the natural exists, it is the responsibility of the supernaturalist to demonstrate the existence of the supernatural.”

§  If you think there is something supernatural, prove it.


Definition of Cosmology

·         Study of the structure and changes in the present universe

·         Cosmogony – concerned with the origin of the universe

·         The work of cosmologists and cosmogonists overlap


1.       Steady State Theory

a.       A steady state universe has no beginning or end in time.

                                                               i.      The universe is always expanding

                                                             ii.      But maintaining a constant everage density

                                                            iii.      Matter is continuously being created to form new stars and galaxies at the same rate that old ones become unobservable

                                                           iv.      On the grand scale, the average density and arrangement of galaxies is the same.

                                                             v.      Needs no first cause

b.      Criticisms of Steady State

                                                               i.      Edwin Hubble showed that the universe was expanding (general relativity theory excluded the possibility of a static universe)

                                                             ii.      Discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation (in 1965) thought to be left over from the Big Bang

                                                            iii.      Quasars and radio galaxies were found only at large distances (therefore exist only in the distant past, not in closer galaxies), whereas the Steady State Theory predicted they would be found everywhere, including close to our own galaxy.

                                                           iv.      The mechanism for the creation of “new matter” was never found

                                                             v.      But “quasi steady state theory” – the Big Bang Theory makes assumptions that we cannot check.

2.       The Big Bang Theory

a.       How old is the universe, and why does this matter? 9-18 billion year range; if we find quasars that are 10 billion years old, then the universe cannot be 9 billion years old.

b.      An infinitely dense, hot, and small “particle” explodes (why did it explode?)

c.       Only energy exists in radiation

d.      Cools down over years

e.      Protons and neutrons being to form elements

3.       Bang Bang Bang Theory

a.       A new string theory based cyclical model – expand and contract. There is no beginning to the universe; the big bang is one in a series. 

b.      “eternal inflation” theory

c.       Andre Linde and Alan Guth: Higgs field is the agent for cosmic inflation.

                                                               i.      “If it starts, this process can keep happening forever… it can happen now, in some part of the universe.”

                                                             ii.      So, eternal inflation = a greater universe = unimaginably large, chaotic, and diverse.

                                                            iii.      “Chaotic inflation allows us to explain our world without making such assumptions as the simultaneous creation of the whole universe from nothing.”