Friday, February 11, 2011

Aquinas's Razor.

As mentioned in the previous posts, the faith-sense faculty lacks acuity. We see "through a glass darkly" with it and are liable to mistake error as a truth. The task then is how to discern if the conviction is true or not? St Thomas gives the following advice:
The gifts of grace are added to nature in such a way that they do not destroy but rather perfect nature. Thus the light of faith which is infused to us by grace does not destroy the natural natural light of reason divinely given us. And although the natural light of the human mind is insufficient to manifest what is manifest through faith, nonetheless it is impossible that what has divinely given us by faith should be contrary to what is given us by nature. One or the other would have to be false, but, since both come from God, God would then be the author of falsehood, which is impossible. Rather because there is some semblance of the perfect in the imperfect, the things known by natural reason are likenesses of the things given in faith.

( Exposition of Boethius's On the Trinity, Question 2. Article 3)

What I think St Thomas is getting at here is that faith and empirical evidence cannot contradict. Either our understanding of one or the other is wrong. Reality is seamless fabric.

Now since our physical senses have the capacity to "sense more clearly" the reality about us, our physical senses can be used as a tool to prune away erroneous faith conceptions. So when the Catholic Church authorities tried to assert that Galileo was heretical in his astronomical claims, they were wrong, in that their assertion conflicted with Galileo's observed facts. In layman's terms, factual evidence trumps faith. In fact, faith which is contra to factual evidence is a wrong faith. In some instances, it doesn't necessarily mean that the faith-sense is wrong, rather our understanding of some matter of the faith may be.  The Bible is a guide to conduct, not an astronomy text.*

It follows then that science is not opposed to faith which reflects reality, but to erroneous conceptions of it. The battle is not between science and religion but science and bad religion. Faith must be coherent with observed reality.

*( It's funny that Fundamentalists bash the Church about this issue. Because here is a clear instance of the Church asserting sola scriptura on the issue and they got it wrong)