Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The irrationality of the rationalists

This rather bizarre story from Catholic World News:

Angry scientists protest Pope's visit to Roman university

Vatican, Jan. 14, 2008 (CWNews.com) - A group of Italian academics have protested plans for a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to a leading university in Rome, charging that the Pope should not be honored in an academic setting because he has shown hostility toward scientific advance.

Some 67 professors signed a protest statement calling for cancellation of a visit by the Holy Father to La Sapienza university on January 17. Led by Andrea Frova, a physics professor at La Sapienza, the protesters said it would be "inappropriate" for an institution committed to scientific progress to honor the Pope, arguing that the Church has worked to suppress science.

To bolster their position, the 67 protesters cite a 1990 speech in which then-Cardinal Ratzinger defended the Church's disciplinary action against Galileo in 1633. In that talk, the future Pope cited the verdict of the agnostic scholar Paul Feyerabend, who said: "The Church in the age of Galileo clung to reason more than Galileo himself did." He found that the heresy verdict against Galileo was, by the standards of the times, "rational and just."

Although he did not endorse Feyerabend's conclusion -- Pope John Paul II had already acknowledged that the Church erred in condemning Galileo -- Cardinal Ratzinger did stress that the Church was not hostile to science, and in fact Galileo continued his investigations, with support from the hierarchy, even after his trial.

The thrust of Cardinal Ratzinger's speech in 1990 was to show how the Enlightenment era had created an artificial rift between faith and reason. He argued that the Galileo trial, "which was little considered in the 18th century, was elevated to a myth of the Enlightenment in the century that followed."

The protests against the Pope's visit to La Sapienza have echoed that hostility toward religious faith, claiming that the Church today still suppresses scientific progress. Ironically, to protest that alleged restraint on free inquiry, the group asked university officials to prevent a speech by the Roman Pontiff. Vatican Radio, describing the protests as unworthy of academic life, questioned whether the professors were displaying the "tolerance" that they proclaimed.

The dean of the university has said that he will not cancel the Pope's visit. But protests at the school are planned throughout the week, with critics posting anti-clerical slogans around the campus and organizing a "homo-cession" -- a parade of homosexuals and lesbians -- to protest Church teachings.

Yes, indeed! Academic life in a nutshell. Melancholicus can testify to this since he works in a university, rubbing shoulders all the time with academics. Without meaning to criticize his colleagues (many of whom have been most kind and beneficent to him, for which he is profoundly grateful) he must in all honesty state that he has found academia to be a veritable repository of everything that is small, mean, petty and narrow in human nature. The constant infighting, the rivalries, the petty jealousies, the endless slanders and libels, the mercenary politicking, not to mention the institutionalized leftism... it is all most unedifying, and this more than anything else has contributed to Melancholicus’ earnest desire to seek his living elsewhere, well away from faculty and classroom. He is aware that there is no escape from such things—they are endemic to human nature, and consequently may be found everywhere—but they seem truly to be writ large in the university.

Melancholicus was reminded of this fact upon seeing this reaction of the learned professors of La Sapienza to the proposed visit to their institute of our Holy Father, Benedict XVI. Here’s a little syllogism:

Major: Science will, in time, answer every question.
Minor: The Church is opposed to scientific progress.
Conclusion: Therefore the Church is opposed to truth, knowledge, reality, etc.

This, apparently, is how the good professors would seem view the matter. The conclusion follows logically from the premises, and so our professorial friends are quite confident in their stance. However, they have failed to notice (or perhaps have conveniently overlooked) that there are serious flaws in both premises which render the conclusion unsound.

Furthermore, if these good people were indeed truly enlightened, would they not welcome this opportunity to play host to such a significant leader of the benighted forces of superstition and obscurantism, in order that they might show him his errors before the whole world, and so correct him and all his followers, thereby leading them to the truth?

Instead they have chosen to respond with a petty and spiteful display of juvenility which does nothing to persuade this reviewer of the supposed ‘enlightened’ or ‘rational’ nature of this atheistic scientism. On the contrary, these gentlefolk seem to be just as superstitious and unquestioning as the most unthinking adherent of the most absurd religious cult.

The notion that the Church is somehow ‘opposed’ to scientific progress dies hard, but it owes more to the propaganda of the eighteenth-century ‘Age of Enlightenment’ than to real history. Scientists, it appears, make poor historians. Furthermore, what does the bizarre appearance of this proposed “homo-cession” have to do with science and the Church? The Church, at least, has from the beginning upheld a consistent attitude to homosexuality. Until recently, scientists were of the view, common to most members of society, that homosexuality was a disorder; today, influenced by the propaganda and the pressure of homosexual lobbyists, they have reversed their position. Now that they have succumbed to such activism, the findings of their science is dictated by their ideology. So what, in the end, is true? So much for objectivity. So much for the scientific method.

In any case, science as such does not enter the equation; it is all to do with a socio-political agenda and an opposition to the moral teachings of the Church, as well as the claims of the latter to be the custodian of divine revelation.

In any case, Melancholicus hopes that the Holy Father will not persevere with his intention to visit this impious university, for it seems that little good can come from it.

UPDATE: Melancholicus is relieved to note that the Holy Father has since cancelled his proposed visit to this seat of unwisdom. Deo gratias. Read about it here.

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