This article is a follow up to the one I wrote last month about Faith and Science.
As I wrote there, while modern people have a strange notion that scientific truth and religious truth are in conflict, the reality is that they are not. However, this cultural perception is so strong that it leads some young people to leave the Church. In his article “Young People Leaving the Church Because of ‘Science’ “ Christopher M Grany points out a 2017 study from St. Mary’s Press of Minnesota and Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate that a number of younger Catholics are leaving the Church. While this is not necessarily new information, what was fascinating was the significant percentage of respondents who pointed to science as a reason for their loss of faith.
There could be a great many factors to this. I suspect also that for many that using “science” as a reason for leaving is a fig leaf for other more personal and moral reasons. But leaving that aside, let us take this at face value.
One thing that I have noted as a teacher is a very strange notion that science will eventually overcome faith and make it obsolete. As Scott Neidich wrote in his article “Denying the Resurrection: An Atheist’s deconstruction of Historical Arguments for Jesus,” the author claims “ Science explains that which is previously unexplained, and one day will answer questions we don’t have an answer to.“ In other words, take anything that we can only possibly attributed to God, like miracles. The modern notion is that a miracle has a scientific explanation, but we have not reached the level of sophistication yet to explain it. A similar line is said in the first Thor movie where they say magic is just science we don’t yet understand. However, the modern notion holds that one day we science will peel back the curtain and remove all superstition and religion.
When St. Thomas Aquinas wrote his Summa Theologiae, he tried to answer every possible question about the faith. When doing so, he would always come up with at least 3 of the best arguments for his beliefs and refute them. Even non-believers tend to agree that St. Thomas did not give “straw-men” or weak versions of his opponents arguments, but only gave the opposing side the strongest arguments possible. And as I wrote, he always have at least 3 objections to his own position.
Except for one place: the question of God.
On the question on whether or not God exists, St. Thomas only gives 2 objections. This is not because he is afraid of the other arguments. It is because he can only find two arguments against God’s existence that are worth considering. You may believe that he is wrong about this. But St. Thomas was not inclined to side-step difficult arguments.
The reason why I am bringing this up is that one of those objections touches on this modern misconception that science. St. Thomas says that one of the only strong arguments against the existence of God is the belief that science will one day explain away those things that can only currently be explained by religious faith. St. Thomas writes:
“For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God’s existence.” (Summa Theologiae I.2. q2 a3 obj. 2)
In other words all that is miraculous could eventually find a cause in the natural world, thus making God an unnecessary hypothesis to explain anything. And from this point of view it is thought that scientific fact will one day overcome and eliminate faith and belief.
However, there is an enormous logical flaw with this way of thinking.
The idea that science will one day overcome belief is itself a belief.