Saturday, September 09, 2006

Newman on science and religion

The 150-year-old essays collected in The Idea of a University by Cardinal Newman are a very important source of insight into "higher education", into human intelligence in general, and (as I will show in a forthcoming book) into Subsidiarity. Here's one of the pivotal arguments, not only important for what it says about theology, but for its corresponding truth in reference to every field of knowledge! (Readers of The Phantom Tollbooth will readily perceive the parallels with Milo's arguments with King Azaz and with the Mathemagician.)
--Dr. Thursday
The human mind cannot keep from speculating and systematizing; and if Theology is not allowed to occupy its own territory, adjacent sciences, nay, sciences which are quite foreign to Theology, will take possession of it. And this occupation is proved to be a usurpation by this circumstance, that these foreign sciences will assume certain principles as true, and act upon them, which they neither have authority to lay down themselves, nor appeal to any other higher science to lay down for them. For example, it is a mere unwarranted assumption if the Antiquarian says,"Nothing has ever taken place but is to be found in historical documents;" or if the Philosophic Historian says,"There is nothing in Judaism different from other political institutions;" or if the Anatomist,"There is no soul beyond the brain;" or if the Political Economist, "Easy circumstances make men virtuous. " These are enunciations, not of Science, but of Private Judgment; and it is Private Judgment that infects every science which it touches with a hostility to Theology, a hostility which properly attaches to no science in itself whatever.
If then, Gentlemen, I now resist such a course of acting as unphilosophical, what is this but to do as men of Science do when the interests of their own respective pursuits are at stake? If they certainly would resist the divine who determined the orbit of Jupiter by the Pentateuch, why am I to be accused of cowardice or illiberality, because I will not tolerate their attempt in turn to theologize by means of astronomy? And if experimentalists would be sure to cry out, did I attempt to install the Thomist philosophy in the schools of astronomy and medicine, why may not I, when Divine Science is ostracized, and La Place, or Buffon, or Humboldt, sits down in its chair, why may not I fairly protest against their exclusiveness, and demand the emancipation of Theology?

[From "Discourse IV. Bearing of Other Knowledge on Theology"]


At 11 September, 2006 08:03, Blogger rhapsody said...


Did you say, ""

At 12 September, 2006 21:20, Blogger Kevin O'Brien said...

Fr. Jaki must refer to this passage at some point in his argument against Intelligent Design as a scientific theory, don't you think?

And I also ask, ""

A thrilling prospect, doctor!

At 14 September, 2006 08:43, Blogger rhapsody said...


Can you answer this question:


At 14 September, 2006 08:43, Blogger rhapsody said...


Thank you!


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