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How science enriches theology

by Benedict M Ashley; John N Deely

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Fruitful Symbiosis of Modern Science, Philosophy, & Theology   (2012-05-21)


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by Geremia10

This is a very good, concise, updated version of Benedict Ashley's The Way toward Wisdom (2006), which itself drew its inspiration from John Deely's Four Ages of Understanding. Ashley and Deely are certainly a symbiotic duo, as Deely's semiotics plus Ashley's Thomism and extensive wisdom certainly bear excellent intellectual fruit, like How Science Enriches Theology, which appears to be inspired primarily by Deely's 2010 update to his 2001 Four Ages of Understanding, Medieval Philosophy Redefined.

On the philosophical side:
One of Ashley & Deely main theses, in accordance with the River Forest School, is that modern science cannot be a stand-alone philosophy. In other words, there cannot be a Wolffian distinction between "science" and "philosophy," the latter of which Kant's disciple Wolff identifies with metaphysics/ontology.

In the section "Is there a 'philosophy of science'?" (pg. 8), we read a quote from Deely's "Realism & Epistemology" article of The Routledge Companion to Semiotics:
"Epistemology and ontology, but especially epistemology, is 'an offspring of philosophical modernity' in ... the sense in which philosophical modernity goes the Kantian route of severing 'things' (what exists often prior to, but always independently of, our mental representations, whether self-representations or other-representations, from 'knowability'."

In the section "How is the Son of God truth itself?" (pg. 92), we see in a reference to Purely Objective Reality how Deely's semiotics has inspired Ashley:
"A statement that I repeat can be true or false, but only if I know its relation to the facts in the difference of that relation from the facts I can meaningfully assert that it is true or false; and this relation of the conformity of the statement to the facts is a syntactical relation that exists purely objectively, that is, only in the consciousness of the one making the statement and the consciousness of his intelligent hearer who also knows the language in which he makes it."

Ch. 2 gives a good, short overview of quantum mechanics (the Standard Model of particle physics) and ?CDM cosmology.

On the theological side:
Ashley & Deely begin with a provocative quote from Karl Rahner, in which he laments how his lack of modern scientific knowledge has prevented him from understanding theology fully. According to Ashley & Deely, one must begin with the natural sciences to prove the existence of an immaterial being such as the universe's First Cause and from there work toward natural theology, supplementing it with the data of revealed theology, which is unreachable by pure human reason.

In "Can natural science logically be atheistic?" (pg. 15 ff.), we see an engagement of atheist physicists Hawking, Weinberg, et al., to prove Cornelio Fabro's claim that "Cartesian idealism became the source of modern science's excessive reliance on mathematics that has led, contrary to Descartes' own intention, to modern atheism" (pg. 26). The existence of a Final Theory of physics is discussed in relation to St. Thomas's proofs of the existence of a First Mover.

Ch. 4 discusses eschatology in theology and how modern science's prediction that the universe will end in an entropic "heat death" enriches the theological understanding of the end of the world. Ashley & Deely, on pg. 156--when discussing the possibility of non-human, intelligent, spiritual extraterrestrial beings--quote an interesting passage from St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica (III q. 3 a. 7, "Whether one Divine Person can assume two human natures?") on how the Second Person of the Trinity, because not limited by creatures, "may have been incarnated in different bodies on different worlds."

What I've mentioned above is only a small sampling of the immense ground Ashley & Deely cover in a mere 164 pages.

God bless Fr. Ashley, who is almost 100 years old, for still publishing and desiring to pass on his wisdom to the younger intellectuals. How Science Enriches Theology has an very thorough bibliography of up-to-date sources and index for their further research.

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