Sunday, September 26, 2010

A few reflections on prayer

Where does prayer come from? Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays. But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times). According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.

The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.
Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition, 2562-2564)
“Man is in search of God,” the Catechism reminds us. Many priests, pastoral theologians and religious folk speak of the “God-shaped hole in our souls”; friendships, loves, wealth, success, power and fame still leave us crying for more, dissatisfied without knowing why. Our spiritual lives begin when we finally acknowledge that “hole” for what it is, rather than attempt to fill it with material goods, desperate activity and frantic pleasure-seeking. In acknowledging his need for and dependence on God, Man does not surrender his own dignity or intrinsic worth. Instead, he finds them given new strength as a child of God, who says to him, “You are my beloved son.”

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The crucifixion of the Pope II

Terry Kohut, a victim of accused molester Fr. Lawrence C. Murphy, has filed suit against Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican. In reporting this story, Scott Bronstein, of CNN’s “Special Investigations Unit”, has chosen to limit his investigation to regurgitating the insane allegations and factual misrepresentations fabricated by Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times. He finds assistance in this reiteration from Jeff Anderson, Kohut’s lead attorney and one of Goodstein’s sources, as well as David Gibson, the author of The Rule of Benedict.

After much thinking, I decided not to waste time by reiterating the many flaws and factual twisting necessary to Goodstein’s accusations (really Anderson’s accusations through Goodstein, though she certainly didn’t exercise any resemblance of objectivity). You want to know what they are, read here. Rather, I wish to waste time wondering … what’s the point here?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Of robber barons and moral codes

Rewind a scant 600 years, and modern science doesn’t yet exist. Men and women live and die in squalor and filth, largely ignorant of the germs that ravage their bodies and of the natural laws that govern the universe, instead imploring an alleged supernatural force to help them navigate this vale of tears.
But thanks to minds such as Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur and Charles Darwin, this is not how we face the world today. They taught us our method of knowing: careful, mathematically precise observation, step-by-step inference and generalization, and systematic, evidence-based theory building.
They had the courage to challenge entrenched authority, toss aside superstition and defy popes. As others followed the trail the first scientists blazed, human knowledge advanced dramatically.

With these words, Yaron Brook and Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, arguing on CNN.com that our moral code needs modernization, reiterate the atheist myth of scientific development, playing very fast and very loose with the details. However, the point of the article isn’t merely to hoist the superiority of science over religion:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What's the difference between a monk and a friar?

The story goes that a monastery in England decided to open up a roadside fish-and-chips stand to help support themselves. One wag who approached the stand quipped to the religious manning it, "Are you the fish friar?"

"No," the brother replied straight-faced, "I'm the chip monk."

Okay, so the joke's not that funny. But it does bring forth a distinction that you may not be aware of if you're not Catholic … and, given recent history in religious formation, perhaps even if you are Catholic.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The contingency problem—UPDATED

 Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.


On rereading my discussion of Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design, I realize that not only did I not explain why “string theory” doesn’t address the problem of contingency, I didn’t even adequately define contingency, or why it constitutes a problem for atheists.  As it is, the conclusion appears to be a two-part exercise in begging an inarticulate question.

So let me make amends by supplying the deficiency:

Hawking's The Grand Design: an epic fail (Part II)

 When we left off, we were discussing "self-creation cosmology" (SCC), which seems to be the fundamental component of Stephen Hawking's argument against God from gravity.

Going a little deeper, one of the problems of physics as an empiriometric science is that it treats physical phenomena only so far as it can be reduced to numbers that can be manipulated by field equations. Matter isn't mass; rather, mass is one property of matter. This ontological distinction is not only critical to our understanding of SCC, it exposes a fatal flaw in Hawking's argument. Simply put, the gravitational and scalar fields may interact to push matter together into bodies of greater mass, but that's not the same thing as creating matter. Given the distinction, the term "self-creation" is misleading: the theory allows the rabbit to pull itself out of the hat, but the hat's existence still precedes the rabbit's. The universe "creates" itself … but not ex nihilo.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hawking's The Grand Design: an epic fail (Part I)—UPDATED

In his June 16, 2010 post on the website of the National Catholic Register, apologist Mark Shea began, “Stephen Hawking is a brilliant physicist … and an absolutely room temperature average member of the British intelligentsia when he stops talking about his field of expertise and starts talking philosophy and religion.”[1] Indeed, Hawking has already publicly revealed that in his forthcoming book, The Grand Design, he’s going to waste his formidable intelligence by trying to reheat the “self-explaining universe” omelet.

The CNN Online article gives us little of Hawking’s argument to work on; to give credit where credit is most likely due, Hawking has most likely striven to make the connections between string theory, multiple universes and the weak anthropic principle flow together. And doubtlessly he does so in prose that strives to be engaging even while his explanations remain just a bit over the layman’s head. (I read A Brief History of Time—twice—and must admit that, while I kept my head above water for three quarters of the book, I drowned well before I got to the last chapter.)

But when your conclusion is that a rabbit not only pulled itself out of the hat but pulled the hat out of thin air as well, it doesn’t take a physicist to realize that at least one error has been obscured by the technicality of the language.