"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

B16 on Intelligent Design

Hardly anybody seems to have noticed that the Pope has said something intelligent about ID. It is not terribly original but it does cast a more interesting light on the topic than one usually finds. I quote in full before commenting further.

The great Galileo said that God wrote the book of nature in the form of mathematical language. He was convinced that God gave us two books: that of Sacred Scripture, and that of nature. And the language of nature – this was his conviction – is mathematics, which is therefore a language of God, of the Creator.

Let us reflect now on what mathematics is. In itself it is an abstract system, an invention of the human spirit, and as such in its purity it does not really exist. It is always realized approximately, but – as such – it is an intellectual system, a great, brilliant invention of the human spirit. The surprising thing is that this invention of our human mind is truly the key for understanding nature, that nature is really structured in a mathematical way, and that our mathematics, which our spirit invented, really is the instrument for being able to work with nature, to put it at our service through technology. It seems an almost incredible thing to me that an invention of the human intellect and the structure of the universe coincide: the mathematics we invented really gives us access to the nature of the universe and permits us to use it.

[...] I think that this intersection between what we have thought up and how nature unfolds and behaves is an enigma and a great challenge, because we see that, in the end, there is one logic that links these two: our reason could not discover the other if there were not an identical logic at the source of both. In this sense, it seems to me that mathematics – in which God as such does not appear – shows us the intelligent structure of the of the universe. Now there are also theories of chaos, but these are limited, because if chaos had the upper hand, all technology would become impossible. Technology is trustworthy only because our mathematics is trustworthy. Our science, which ultimately makes it possible to work with the energies of nature, presupposes the trustworthy, intelligent structure of matter, [...] the “design” of creation.

To come to the definitive question, I would say: either God exists or he doesn’t. There are only two options. Either one recognizes the priority of reason, of the creative Reason that stands at the beginning of everything and is the origin of everything – the priority of reason is also the priority of freedom – or one upholds the priority of the irrational, according to which everything in our world and in our lives is only an accident, marginal, an irrational product, and even reason would be a product of irrationality. In the end, one cannot “prove” either of these views, but Christianity’s great choice is the choice of reason and the priority of reason. This seems like an excellent choice to me, demonstrating how a great Intelligence, to which we can entrust ourselves, stands behind everything.

But to me, it seems that the real problem for the faith today is the evil in the world: one asks oneself how this is compatible with this rationality of the Creator. And here we really need that God who became flesh and who shows us how he is not only a mathematical logic, but that this primordial reason is also love. If we look at the great options, the Christian option is the more rational and human one even today. For this reason, we can confidently elaborate a philosophy, a vision of the world that is based on this priority of reason, on this trust that the creative Reason is love, and that this love is God.
Wow. These were off-the-cuff remarks at a Q&A session! An enormous amount of ground is covered here with the sure-footedness of an old professor who hasn't lost his edge. The reference to "the great Galileo" should tip one off that one is not dealing with a dogmatist, only with a defender of dogma. I don't have time to discuss particulars right now, but I do invite comment and will say more in subsequent posts.
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