Class summaries


September 10 - Tanner Braschuk

What is Christianity?

-          A Religion



What is the difference?

-          Christ is God

-          Scriptures (Sacred Texts) (Hebrew Scriptures)

-          Old Testament – Hebrew Scriptures prior to Christ

-          New Testament –Scriptures that go back 3000 years ago

-          Practice - worship

-          Jesus is God, part of the Holy Trinity

o   He is both human & God

-          Afterlife


-          Central authority, The pope ( no other Christians have this )

-          Differs from Roman Catholicism

-          Different amount of sacraments

-          Doctrines

-          The Holy spirit

o   Where it comes from

o   Trinity viewed differently

-          Eucharist is different

-          Scripture & Tradition are equally important (unlike protestant who only use scripture)

-          If there is no scripture left on the earth, Catholics could rely only on tradition alone and get enough salvation.

-          Magisterium, different levels. Believers have to believe.

o   You have to believe what the pope says.

o   Pope is pastor and teacher to all.

o   Bishops can also create rule in line with pope.

o   No other Religion has this

§  Pope write encyclicals (Definitive statements not infallible)

§  Theologians, help Bishops. Explains the teachings to the Church

§  Priests have no magisterial authority

-          Dogma

o   “A truth appertaining to faith or morals that are revealed by God and transmitted through the apostles in scripture or by tradition” – Catholic Encyclopedia


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 blast – What caused it?



Similarly, imagine a Sculpture

- Bomb [material]


Material cause

- stone


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


Formal cause

- image/form in mind


- The bomber [efficient]


Efficient cause

- the sculpter


- Her goal: liberating her country [final]


Final cause

- 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

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.”


September 29


October 1 - Alex Van Den Bosch


What is the importance of talking about “creation”? 1) It is connected with our notion of ‘purpose’ 2) It is essentially connected to our understanding of ‘meaning’ 3) important to humanity knowing God’s existence 4) creation is a mystery (out of nothing) 5) the universe is something active/ ongoing/ imperfect 6) perhaps part of a larger story
-The idea of God as a sustaining being is important (like idea of Occasionalism, although it is not a predominant theory)
-We can question humanity's role in origins/creation: past, present & future (still creating)
Catholic Catechism (CC) 302- speaks of universe creation as a “journey”; didn’t spring forth from hands of a creator
  CC306- speaks of us as co-creators/ in co-operation in perfecting the universe/ carrying out journey
  CC307- Nature has immense value as out responsibility to enjoy/perfect. We are “stewards” of the Earth; Nature has no value outside of ethical context.
  CC310- Creation is not perfect and there is evil because in ultimate wisdom & goodness God created universe in a “journeying” sate. Without death, life has no role in creation
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955): Paleontologist/ Philosopher/ Theologist. Wrote: “Phenomenon of Man" (1955, Engl. trans. 1959) & “Christianity and Evolution” (1971) but he couldn’t get any of these published during his lifetime due to discordance with church and parishioners. He suggested that creation and evolution unfold in the material cosmos and we are in union with God.
Stephen Hawking, on the other hand, says “for me, [the Higgs-Boson particle] means there is no divine creator of God since there was no time within for him to have existed.
Hawking assumes that a) cause temporally precedes effect
     b) creation is in time
     c) causes are physical
     d) naturalism
Aquinas in Summa Theologica 1.46.2 says that claims of the universe being “created” is a matter of faith, not science that it came into “existence in time.” He claims as far as we know, something always, scientifically.
- So why does the universe keep on existing? Well, it sustains itself.
- Is there a contradiction or is there supports between creation and the big bang? (faith and science?)
Leo XIII warns thats there is a realm of faith/theology separate from the sciences.
- Orthodox/Lutheran/Anglican/Catholic/Islam… etc. Most religions do not subscribe to a literal reading of scriptural creation stories in their theological teachings and beliefs.

October 6, 2015 - Fr Andrew Gillies

Development: Evolution, Matter and the Immaterial


Ideas of Evolutionary Theory  in Chemistry & Biology are not new:

v  Lucretius (99-55 BC) “On the nature of things”

Ø  Explaining Epicurean Philosophy (307 BCE): Pleasure is the greatest good

§  Its important that the simple things in life be pleasurable

Ø  General account of astronomy, natural history and development

Ø  Universe operates according to physical principles (atomism) and chance

and not by the gods or final cause

Ø  Since all is natural (due to natural causes), there is no need to be afraid of the gods

Ø  Still room for freedom; atoms “swerve” (clinamen)


v  George Leclerc (1707-1788) “Histoire Nauurelle”

Ø  Species can improve or degenerate overtime; not fixed

Ø  How does this change happen? There was no knowledge of genetics yet.


v  Lamarck (1744-1829)

Ø  Inheritance of acquired characteristics (change in response to environment)     


v  Lyell (1797-1875)

Ø  Principles of Geology

§  Deposits: slow progressive change

§  Uniformitarian Theory (but not necessarily Evolution until later in his life)

§  Darwin studied him


v  Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

Ø  “Principles of Biology”, 1864

§  A move from homogeneity to heterogeneity, yet also integration of the parts (Organicism)

§  Lemarcian Evolution

§  Coined: “Survival of the fittest”


v  Darwin (1809-1882) [and Alfred Russell (1823-1913)]

Ø  Enjoyed Paley at Cambridge (1828-1831); adaptations as example of God acting in nature

Ø  Five-year voyage (1831-1836); he joins as a ‘self-funded naturalist’

Ø  ‘On the Origin of the Species’; species develop in different ways in different environment

Ø  “Natural Selection”; nature just “selects” the most suitable from less suitable ones; he borrows “survival of the fittest”; not conscious but blind operation; not about you but about how you fit in the environment.

v  Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)

Ø  Priest and scientist

Ø  Founder of genetics: term coined by Bateson (1861-1926)

Ø  Mendelian inheritance (traits in pea plant patterns) vs. blending inheritance

Ø  His work was not widely accepted until after he died (circa 1900); three separate projects replicated what he had done

Evolution is a story that is not given all at once:

v  There are three key questions:

Ø  What’s life?

§  Oxford dictionary: distinguishes us from non-living

§  Capacity to grow, metabolize, react to stimuli, reproduce, and change preceding death

Ø  How do we get it?

§  Two stories

·         earth is 4.5 billion years old

·         earliest known life (3.5-4 billion years ago)

Ø  How does it develop?

§  Aristotle, “History of Animals”, 350 BC

·         Based on observation (empirical): Plants from plants, animals from animals

·         Animals develop spontaneously

·         Living things from non-living

·         Dominant view for 1500 years

§  Metabolism first

·         Beginning of organic life: things can metabolize, develop

·         mechanisms such as lighting and radiation act as catalysts


v  Alexander Oparin (1894-1980)

Ø  Biogeneticist

Ø  “Origin of Life”, 1924

Ø  No fundamental difference between living organisms and nonliving organisms

Ø  Possibility of life arose directly from the evolution of lifeless matter

Ø  “spontaneous generation of life” found when early earth changed and which is now impossible

Ø  So a “primordial soup” of organic molecules could be created in an oxygen-less atmosphere through the action of sunlight




October 8

October 13


October 15, 2015 - Hannah Keller


Scientific perspective:

-          Big Bang – uncaused?

-          First Law of Thermodynamics (energy is neither created nor destroyed in a closed system)

-          Natural selection

o   There is no ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ in life; there is no end or final cause to evolution.

o   Richard Dawkins: the universe has only “pitiless indifference”, no foresight; it is blind and random. (The Blind Watchmaker)


Is there really no value in nature according to naturalism/physicalism?


-          There may be a kind of “species altruism” which explains morality

o   Ex. Injured dolphins helping each other

o   A purely evolutionary trait

-          Patricia Churchland: the evolution of oxycontin (enhances trust, calmness, attachment) may have been one of the mechanisms by which organisms take care of others.

-          No objective right/wrong


What does Christianity add?

-          Matter is good, not just instrumentally, but intrinsically.

-          Nature is not “complete”

o   Miracles

o   Is this creating new energy? (Recall: in a closed system – is the universe a closed system?)

-          Things have purpose (telos)

o   Nature has a value (St. Francis of Assisi

-          Human beings are the summit of creation – and have purpose/end as well. There is a “higher” and “lower” in nature.

o   CCC 358: “God created everything for man”

o   CCC 343: “Man is the summit of creation’s work…”

-          Natural selection does not give us this account.


Why is humanity special?

-          Created in God’s image and likeness

o   Source of dignity (CCC 356, 357, 369)

-          Endowed with unique powers – freedom, reason, will

-          The human race forms a unity (co-creation with God)

-          Humans have a supernatural destiny

-          Humans have a spiritual component 

-          Humans are capable of value/morality

-          Does this contradict science? (Evolutionary Theory)


Why take Christianity seriously on this issue?

-          2 Methodological perspectives on the same thing:

o   How do you “prove” anything? (Different ways of proving things in different fields – mat vs. biology vs. theology vs. ethics, etc.)

o   What is the right method? (What end are you trying to achieve?)

§  Maritain: the method is determined by the object

o   Example of the rainbow, seen by a physicist or by and artist

§  Both are dealing with reality, but from different perspectives/different ends

o   2 perspectives on the same thing:

§  From the point of view of science (natural causes), what can be known empirically?

§  From POV of philosophy/theology/scripture

·         What is known from the POV of ontological dependence?

·         What can be known philosophically/theologically?

·         Why things are, and continue to be

o   These things don’t conflict! They can both be true at the same time.


An account of human nature and human being

-          Preliminary – what is it to be a human person?

-          Science/Naturalism (metaphysical) or physicalism

o   We are like our primate cousins, and should show the latter similar respect (or else be guilty of speciesism)

o   Consciousness is a product/state of matter, just as biological life is.



December 1, 2015 - Alison Blanchard



-        3 parts

1st- Terms: Cause, Humani Generis, Abiogenesis, Naturalism, Cosmogony, Dogma, Natural Selection, and Hermeneutics

Description and how relates to class

       2nd –Detailed questions from each section

       3rd – Broad questions covering all sections



1)    Ecologism does not provide a clear positive argument for why things have value “Inherent value appears as a mysterious non-natural property which we must take on faith”

2)    The conception of nature is reductionistic

3)    Ecoglogism is based on an intuition/assumption: That everything has value & equal value

4)    The consequences of ecologism are not humanist

5)    Problems in applying ecologism

3) Catholic Christianity Today

1) The environment is not just nature; “It is creation”

               ->”Our common home” p. 76,33,140

               -> Radical distinction between religious & radical approach

                              -Religious -> they have value in themselves, valuable

               -> Creation includes natural & material (as physis) but also the so called “nature” is linked to the notion of physis or “growth”

                              -What an individual thing- its nature is intelligible only in terms of what normally becomes p. 43, 48

               -> There is an environmental crisis today

                              i) Pollution & climate change; pollution, waste & the throw away culture climate as a common good.

                              ii) Water & the depiction of other natural resources p. 28, 30

                              iii) Loss of biodiversity

                              iv) Decline in the quality of human life & breakdown of society

                              v) Global inequality

               -> But it is not just a crisis in “nature”; it is a “cultural &ecological crisis” p. 60, 9 BUT> p. 14(lack of interest), STILL> p. 201(common good)

2) Role of Humanity

               -> Major industrialized countries have major responsibilities p.170

               -> We need tot find our “moral compass” & identity, a common good p. 200,224

               Why? Because humanity has a distinctive place in creation, a human being

-        Has the ability to make a plan of life and follow it

-        Has a concept of the good

-        Has a capacity to make moral judgments

-        Exists in a “community” of such beings over generations, that reflects a trans-historical shared good

-        Capable of recognizing & assigning value

-        Is capable of being a “steward” of nature

è Therefore humanity has a distinctive value and not simple equal value- there is a hierarchy in nature, lk 12:67, 112:24, Mt 12:11-12, p118,119

è Some implications, p 78,146- is part of “meaning of life” p,160

è Technology will solve out problems- myths

è Cant ignore indigenous communities & their cultural traditions

è What kind of world do we want to leave to those after? Not just matter of future but our own duty.

è Does this view fit with empirical science?

è Does this view conflict with empirical science?