Found: Christmas Star

24 comments

Here’s a really cool story I picked up from the American Papist blog the other day.  It has to do with a really neat, scientific explanation for the appearance of the ‘star’ that led the three wise men to Jesus 2000 years ago.

Maybe this is what happened. Maybe it’s not.  But it’s interesting either way.  And it reminds us of how many of the things that seem unreasonable or impossible to us at first often end up having perfectly reasonable explanations.  In other words, it turns out it wasn’t unreasonable afterall.  It was just beyond our reason at the time.  Just like many of the things about God.

Excerpt from the story:

They found that a bright star which appeared over Bethlehem 2,000 years ago pinpointed the date of Christ’s birth as June 17 rather than December 25.

The researchers claim the ‘Christmas star’ was most likely a magnificent conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter, which were so close together they would have shone unusually brightly as a single “beacon of light” which appeared suddenly.

If the team is correct, it would mean Jesus was a Gemini, not a Capricorn as previously believed.

Australian astronomer Dave Reneke used complex computer software to chart the exact positions of all celestial bodies and map the night sky as it would have appeared over the Holy Land more than 2,000 years ago.

It revealed a spectacular astronomical event around the time of Jesus’s birth.

Mr Reneke says the wise men probably interpreted it as the sign they had been waiting for, and they followed the ‘star’ to Christ’s birthplace in a stable in Bethlehem, as described in the Bible.

24 comments Add comment

Phil December 11, 2008 at 9:09 pm

“Christians generally regard the star as a miraculous sign given by God to mark the birth of the Christ (or Messiah).”

Is the act of Venus and Jupiter coming together a ‘miraculous’ event that validates God?

Or was it just beyond our ability to understand the meaning of Venus and Jupiter coming together at that time?

If so, do we now need to change Christmas to June?

Phil December 11, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Furthermore, this seems like a case where God-like supernatural events, or so they seemed at the time, are shown to be nothing more than astronomical alignments.

Phil December 11, 2008 at 9:34 pm

Disclaimer: I am agnostic but always searching for truth. Pencil me in the catagroy of “open to accepting a faith in God but still searching for answers”.

I am also a Gemini like Jesus! So go easy on me board!

:)

Joe Jordan December 11, 2008 at 10:25 pm

First of all, planets don’t “appear suddenly” to converge. Their relative motions cause them to slowly approach each other night after night and then slowly move back apart. Even if they did appear just on top of each other it would have been very obvious to the stargazers of the time that they were moving closer together. The ancients, having very little to do once the sun went down, were expert sky watchers and they knew that there were some “stars” that moved across the background of “fixed” stars for thousands of years before Jesus’ time. Two of these lining up for a few days and then slowly moving back apart would have been interesting, but hardly a “sudden” miracle. Besides, since the journey from wherever in the “east” the wise men came from, it would have taken them many weeks to get to Jerusalem – much more time than it would have taken two planets to converge and then move back apart. A “single star” would only last a night or two at the most – not weeks.

If you need to find a “natural” explanation for the star of Bethlehem, a more probable event would be a comet which would appear rather suddenly, would be visible for weeks or months and probably even have a nice “tail” to make it even more impressive.

Personally, I find it interesting that people think it’s any more or less a “miracle” that God could create a very bright star to guide three wise men to where his Son was being born than it was for Him to create the trillions of stars, galaxies and planets that He obviously did. Science is a gift God gave us to help understand His creation and thereby come to know Him more closely. It’s not a tool that can explain Him away. Attempts to try and “explain” away all God’s miracles by some “natural” occurrence simply ignore the miracle of creation itself.

Matthew Warner December 11, 2008 at 10:52 pm

All great questions, Phil. And thanks for sharing your thoughts. Here are mine:

Miracles can occur both naturally and supernaturally. So the fact that we can naturally explain how something happened does not make it no longer a miracle. The fact that this “miraculous star” appeared and led people to the birthplace of Jesus – God made man – still seems pretty miraculous in itself – even if the bright light could be explained naturally.

But before we go too far down that road, in this case, I’m not sure it’s important whether the star appeared “miraculously” or not. And is certainly not needed or depended upon (although it could be evidential) to “validate” the existence of God. And Joe just made some really excellent points regarding attempting to use this as such.

If this WAS the bright star, is it not just as “miraculous” that somehow God may have created a universe that would billions of years later, in appearance to us, align two planets perfectly, just at the right time, so that we could find his birthplace? To me, that seems far cooler than just making a bright spot appear in the sky whenever he wanted it to. But again, that’s probably not the “take-away” from this.

But what this does is, perhaps, further validate the historical accuracy of the Bible. The fact that it looks like we can perhaps verify the actual existence of such an anomaly of a ‘star’ (actually planets) appearing brightly in the sky around the time of the birth of Christ that would be able to guide somebody to Bethlehem is significant. And pretty neat, too.

But, Joe, you make some really excellent points about how the people at that time would have probably understood and saw this alignment coming together for days or weeks before hand. I hadn’t thought of that! So perhaps this theory is wrong. Or perhaps such commentary was lost over time or not important to the story so it was not included. I don’t know.

And no, Christmas doesn’t need to change its date. As far as I know, the date chosen was not believed to be the actual date of birth anyway. What’s important is what is celebrated and that we do celebrate it.

And again, in regard to Phil saying that these are “nothing more than astronomical alignments” – simply because we come to a natural understanding of how some event happened does not undermine God’s hand in it. If anything, to me anyway, it makes it that much more awesome.

A similar analogy could be made for evolution. The discovery of the theory of evolution (biological anyway) does not undermine God’s creative power. It does quite the opposite…it makes it something that much more amazing but yet still reasonable. So reasonable that we have eventually come to grasp and understand and admire creation more because of it. That’s one of the ways we come to know God.

Same thing with the Big Bang theory and you can go down the list of other discoveries. It was actually a Catholic priest that came up with the Big Bang theory. Not only did it not undermine the creation story of the universe…but it helps prove it! It points to a specific instance in time when it appears that the universe was indeed BORN (created) – as opposed to a steady state universe largely believed at the time. And what an AWE-some site it would have been. And just look at what this “bang” created? Pretty amazing. Call it miraculous or not.

Good convo!

Phil December 11, 2008 at 11:23 pm

Science, ah yes. Millions of man-lives, over the last few centuries, have been devoted to building up an all-encompassing picture of the universe. This has been done by applying the disciplines of anthropology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, microscopy, mathematics, physics,and a many others. As a result, this picture is so transparent and self-consistent, down to the minutest details, that only very minor adjustments should be expected in the future.

If the above disciplines were created by God, and if the laws governing them were created by God, then the application of these laws should point to the existence of their creator. But in fact, they do not.

Sure, there’s lots we still don’t know. Just a century ago we had no idea where the sun got its energy. We have yet to uncover some concepts and relationships concerning space, time, life, and many lesser problems. Most of our knowledge was acquired in just the last half dozen decades or so. We have a long time to answer such questions. And answered they’ll be, soon, in the next 10, 100, or 1000 years. On the other hand, the logic that supports the existence of God appears so inconsistent, and based on hearsay and miraculous events, that it is almost counterproductive in the proof of God and lends more in support to the non-existence of God, life after death, souls, miracles, and so on.

I know that actual proof as to whether or not God exists isn’t possible, but the circumstantial evidence against his existence is more convincing than the alternative. Furthermore, science is the search for truth. To say that sceince is a gift from God to be used to help understand God is illogical – if God can not be explained then why would he choose science (truth seeking) as his tool of choice?

The usual pro-God argument is based on what can not be proven. The burden of proof is on science to prove otherwise, not on God to show himself. But this is a work in progress. Slowly as more and more is discovered, explained, & defined, the list of what can not be proven gets smaller and smaller – for example, random, celestial events that were deemed to be miricles.

I’ll leave you with my favorite anti-agnostic, pro-God science question: If matter is never createed nor destroyed, then how did it get here?

The abovve is a perfect example of how illogical it is that God would provide us with science as a way to better understand him. It’s only the unproven, or the anti-science that makes God’s existence more plausable…such as my favorite science question above!

Matthew Warner December 12, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Phil – I have issues with a lot of the statements you are making.

“If the above disciplines were created by God, and if the laws governing them were created by God, then the application of these laws should point to the existence of their creator. But in fact, they do not.”

How do you figure?

And it seems that you are saying that discovering how cool our universe is and that there is indeed some type of reason or “truth” to be found in the first place…some how success in this points to there NOT being a creator? I’m confused how this does this?

To me every aspect of that points to there being some type source of all of this? In fact, and this goes to your later “favorite” question, just the fact there there IS creation – presumes a CREATOR. That, to me, seems the most obvious and logical proof of God. I believe Aquinas called it the “first mover” or the first cause. This is God.

“I know that actual proof as to whether or not God exists isn’t possible”

How do you know it isn’t possible? Saying we don’t know if it is possible is fine; and quite scientific – if we’re being scientific about it. But saying you KNOW that it isn’t possible?

“but the circumstantial evidence against his existence is more convincing than the alternative. “

Can you provide some of this circumstancial evidence?

Further, you keep speaking of science as if it is, by definition, contradictory to God. That they are at odds. This is a false premise.

It seems you keep inferring that if we can somehow explain something scientifically that somehow it discounts a need for God? I’m not sure how we get to that conclusion?

You also seem to be saying that these great advancements we’ve made in science in the last few centuries has brought us so much more clarity as to our existence. I’m not so sure about that. I’d be willing to say that for every question we’ve answered we’ve created 10 more that we can’t – at least not yet.

Humans have been seeking truth in many forms from the beginning. Yes, we’ve made a lot of natural scientific advancements in the past few hundred years, but I’m not sure if any of them have helped us to figure out our purpose. Or tell us why we’re here? These are questions that science itself can not prove. And not only can science not prove them, it can’t disprove them either. That’s because, by the very definition of science, they are outside of its realm and capability.

Even science appeals to this search for “truth.” Well what is Truth? Science can not answer this itself. This is a philosophical question. In our modern age we are very quick to depend entirely on science. That’s a mistake. It’s just one of the tools.

Phil December 12, 2008 at 10:40 pm

Each discipline can dispell the notion of God by refuting the Bible. The sciences of Biology, Chemistry and Anthropology have all proven through evolution that human beings originated from tiny microscopic organisms, not Adam and Eve. And Physics and Astronomy can debunk that the world was created in 7 days. And there are others. In fact, the ONLY empirical evidence that exists today would seem to disprove God so why would God give us science to help explain him when all he has provided is evidence against his existence?

And what’s wrong with scientific statements such as “I know that actual proof as to whether or not God exists isn’t possible”? Is this statement false?

What about this statement “I know that actual proof as to whether or not vampires and leprechauns exist isn’t possible”. Is that statement not scientific?

I listed some circumstantial evidence in my first paragraph. Can you provide some evidence that supports the alternative? Keep in mind that God has never left any physical evidence of his existence on earth. None of Jesus’ “miracles” left any physical evidence either. God has never spoken to modern man, for example by taking over all the television stations and broadcasting a rational message to everyone. The resurrected Jesus has never appeared to anyone.

I would argue ALL DAY with your statement that somehow with all these great advancements we now know LESS about our existence than before these advancements in science. This is absolutley not true. Pick up a science book from 1908 and compare it to one in 2008 and tell me if you still feel that way.

“Humans have been seeking truth in many forms from the beginning. Yes, we’ve made a lot of natural scientific advancements in the past few hundred years, but I’m not sure if any of them have helped us to figure out our purpose. Or tell us why we’re here?”

If we had ‘scientific’ proof of God’s existence, we would talk about the “science of God” rather than “faith in God”. Furthermore, if we had ‘scientific’ proof of God’s existence, the study of God would be a scientific endeavor rather than a theological one. You are comparing theology to the physical sciences. Apples to oranges.

That is an interesting point. God exists in theory. So why would God give us science to help understand him? God can not be proven by science (or so it seems)! Wouldn’t God WANT to be proven? And if science could not, why would he give it to us? He certainly demands to be admired and worshiped – one would presume that he would want science to prove him also.

Of course God gave us science – to reject science would be catastrophic for religion. Duh.

Matthew Warner December 13, 2008 at 11:39 am

I think we have a lot of confusion here. I don’t even know if we can get past your first sentence.

“Each discipline can dispell the notion of God by refuting the Bible.”

This is totally and utterly false in every possible way. What you are saying is that because some book appears to be wrong, therefore God can’t exist? How so?

I asked for evidence against the existence of God. You gave me reasons that some interpretations of a book are not consistent with scientific discovery. There is a huge disconnect here.

We are not talking about whether the Bible is true or not. That’s a totally different conversation. We are talking about whether or not there is a being that created all of this…the “first mover”, the “uncaused” cause, some type of absolute standard we appeal to for truth, right and wrong, etc., a creator our founding fathers of this country saw as “self-evident” and obvious.

This is “natural theology” – Theology we can deduce from natural reason alone. Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Kant, C.s. Lewis and many others have all had proofs of God in this fashion.

Further, the natural sciences apply to the physical world. So I’m not sure how you’re saying that science can prove that a non-physical dimension to our existence does not exist? Please explain?

And I have no idea how you KNOW that a proof of God doesn’t exist. The reason I say this is unscientific is because you can not assume the negative just because you personally haven’t proven the positive. This is basic logic and also goes against all scientific principles of having conclusions based on empirical, observable evidence.

Just because you have found no evidence of God does not allow you to then conclude that God does not exist. You can say you aren’t sure. But to say you KNOW there is no proof of him is quite a leap of FAITH in itself.

And as far as evidence of God – I would point to all of creation. Look in the mirror. Look out your window. Look at CREATION. It is all evidence that a CREATOR exists. This creator is another word for God.

And as far as your proof of the Bible being inconsistent with science – this stems from a total misunderstanding of scripture. And I don’t fault you mostly for that because I’m sure many Christians in our society have given you these misinterpretations of scripture because they have misinterpreted these themselves. But I would challenge you to have a little more open mind about how religion and natural science can be totally compatible.

You talked about religion or evidence of God being “inconsistent.” I feel a huge double standard there. I think what you mean to say is that PEOPLE are inconsistent. People, in their search for truth, have proposed many things in the past and been wrong about them. Many of them were religious. And many of them were scientists. Many of them were actually both.

To present different religious beliefs as being “inconsistent” as if they’ve changed or contradicted and then pretend that the same does not apply to scientists is inconsistent itself.

Further, I would challenge that many of the things you may be considering inconsistent in terms of religion were actually scientific inconsistencies. i.e. they were examples of PEOPLE overstepping their bounds in religion and speaking scientifically.

The Catholic Church has been entirely consistent in its dogmatic teaching from the beginning and has never contradicted old dogma with new dogma. And any “new” dogma is actually only a recognition of something that has always been believed – i.e. it’s not actually new at all. The field of science doesn’t even hold a candle to it in terms of consistency or non-contradiction.

Matthew Warner December 13, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Also, you claim that I said that “somehow with all these great advancements we now know LESS about our existence than before”. I did no such thing.

I simply suggested that they’ve led to even more questions – which they have. And I also suggested that they have not been able to answer more fundamental questions like WHY we’re here or what our purpose is – or IF we even have a purpose. These are things that science, by its very nature, is unable to answer. It is beyond the realm of science and a study of the physical universe.

So let’s not forget that, while science is very powerful and helpful, it does have its limitations. And by limitations I don’t mean simply that it can’t answer some questions now that it will learn to answer in the future – I mean that there are some questions that, by its very nature, it is impossible for science to answer (what is truth? Why are we here? Do we have a purpose? Is there such a thing as right and wrong? etc.).

Phil December 13, 2008 at 4:08 pm

So are you saying you do not believe in the writings of the Bible?

You are taking the argument that the Bible can be refuted – and you say so what. That does not disprove God.

So if the Bible is not accurate, what is your thesis on the creation of life? Was God the lightning striking the micro-organism leading to cretion of life? Or are you saying God himself created the universe and carefully planned this creation of the micro-organism?

Like I said, I can’t prove that vampires, leprachauns, and the tooth fairy don’t exist either. I’d say the burden of proof is on those pesky vampires and until there is scientific evidence of their existance, science tells us we should believe otherwise. We believed the world was flat until scientific proof taught us otherwise. Was it logical to assume that the earth was flat in the first place?

And I also can’t prove that tomorrow the sun won’t rise in the North and set in the South. But I do have a fair amount of data against that possiblility. But can I predict the future? No. I can certainly predict with a high probability that it will not based on scientific evidence.

When I look out the window, I also see creation – creation that can be explained by science not by some mystical God who’s very existence has yet to be proven.

If God is creation, do you believe that God knows the past, present and future in every detail?

And to address you second note, you said “You also seem to be saying that these great advancements we’ve made in science in the last few centuries has brought us so much more clarity as to our existence. I’m not so sure about that.”

This statement is false. Scientific advancements HAVE brought us much more clarity as to HOW we got here. We evolved from tiny micro organisms that were created by ideal conditions that were ripe to begin supporting life. You can certainly argue the unprovable, i.e. that God created those conditions but to say we have less clarity as to how our existence came about is false.

As to WHY we are here or what is our purpose here – that’s a phlosophical question that advancments in science have nothing to do with so I am not sure what you are trying to say then.

Matthew Warner December 13, 2008 at 7:26 pm

Ha, what I’m TRYING to say is that the existence of God is largely a philosophical question – outside the realm of science. So scientific advancements do not discount a need for God, nor do they disprove him in anyway.

All I did was ask you to provide the evidence you claimed to have against the existence of God and I’ve yet to see it.

You seem to think God is there to just explain the unexplainable. So when the sun rises and we don’t understand it we say…”oh, it’s God.” And then when we later find out that there is a reason the Sun rises…then we say, “oh, we have no need of God anymore.”

This is a total misunderstanding of God and religion.

And if you are going to keep ignoring the original questions or conversation and accusing me of claiming or saying things that I don’t and changing subjects then this is pointless.

I never once said I don’t believe the Bible. And I certainly never said “so what.” What I DID say was that you are misinterpreting the Bible – you don’t understand what it is saying. THAT is why you believe you are refuting its truth.

I don’t wanna turn this into an even longer and longer set of responses that gets difficult to follow, converse, or learn from. So I will do a post soon on this topic and we can discuss there.

But to summarize for now – If you understand the Bible in the context with which it was written and the intent of the writers, it does not contradict science at all. For example, the creation story in the Bible tells us about the Creator and THAT God created everything. It is teaching us a more fundamental point than the specific scientific way that the Earth came into existence. What we take away – among many other theological points – is that God created everything. That is what we believe in Christianity.

The view that we have biologically evolved over time is not contradictory to this and is held as entirely plausible by the Catholic Church. Believing this is not contradictory to our faith at all.

Phil December 13, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Ok. End the convo, sounds good.

I have no empirical evidence against the existence of God. How do you prove something does not exist? The burden of proof of a God should be left to those who belive he exists.

I also have no empirical evidence against the existence of the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. Nor do I have any empirical evidence against ghosts or zombies. Aside from the fact that they up until now have never existed. Is it logical to believe in the tooth fairy and ghosts? You can;t disprove they exist so we must believe in them I suppose. Why believe in God and not the Easter Bunny? Cause there’s a book about him?

There is no evidence of any of them existing, so why even try to make a case for them?

What if I told you that tomorrow gravity would cease to exist and you would wake up on the ceiling. There is no evidnce of this, in fact there is much evidence against this, but that is what I believe. How would I prove this? Would you believe me?

Phil December 13, 2008 at 7:49 pm

And as far as the Bible is concerned, I guess created in 7 days thing is a metaphor for a much longer timeframe? And Adam was really a Microorgainsim? I love when the symbolism and metaphor argument is tossed in the arena!

Phil December 13, 2008 at 7:55 pm

And I was commenting on what you say here:

“This is totally and utterly false in every possible way. What you are saying is that because some book appears to be wrong, therefore God can’t exist? How so?”

That is exactly what I am saying. What are you saying? Are you saying you agree with the Bible’s version of how the universe, life, and the human race were created?

Matthew Warner December 13, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Dude, this is exactly the silly stuff I’m talking about. You are now going on about the tooth fairy and implying that I’ve said we should believe in God simply because we can not prove he doesn’t exist. You know darn well I never claimed that or suggested such a preposterous thing. But yet you are honestly making an argument out of it now?

This tangent started because you said this:

I know that actual proof as to whether or not God exists isn’t possible, but the circumstantial evidence against his existence is more convincing than the alternative.

I just asked how you KNEW it wasn’t possible and if you could provide the evidence you were talking about. (I never once claimed we should believe in God because of lack of evidence against him)

Then your response started like this:

Each discipline can dispell the notion of God by refuting the Bible.

I simply noted that I don’t understand how refuting a book refutes the existence of a God? That seems illogical to me. Even if you did refute a book..in what way does that refute the existence of God? That’s all I said.

Then from that you say:

So are you saying you do not believe in the writings of the Bible?

You are taking the argument that the Bible can be refuted – and you say so what. That does not disprove God.

And of course – I never said those things or suggested such a thing. In fact, I suggested the opposite – that it is a misinterpretation of the Bible that leads to you thinking there is a contradiction here. But here you are accusing me of such.

And then you respond with the tooth fairy.

Are we seeing a pattern here?

In the midst of this I’ve tried to show that a number of proofs exist for the existence of a God – a creator – a first cause – a first mover. These are philosophical arguments…not scientific. They have nothing to do with a book. And I’ve also tried to get across that the Christian understanding of our existence is based largely on this natural law and natural theology – not a book(the bible).

This book (the Bible) does indeed give us insights and understanding of God – but they are not largely scientific ones. You scoff and say things like “I love when the symbolism and metaphor argument is tossed in the arena!” And you seem to discount any such a view without really considering it. Or that it’s a lame excuse (I think you’d find very differently if you actually opened your mind to it and learned about it).

But that’s fine. And I understand your skepticism. But on the flip side you’ve put an awful lot of “faith” in science as well – putting a lot of confidence behind a lot of scientific theory that has not been proven at all. I’m not saying that those theories are wrong. In fact, I believe a lot of them are most likely right and they enrich our lives and our understanding of creation in many wonderful ways. But let’s not forget to be skeptical of them as well. And let’s not get so overconfident that we forget the very real limitations of science. Science itself does not answer how science got here in the first place.

Personally, I’ve found that the Catholic teaching on God and its fusing of science, revelation, philosophy, and all forms of truth come together to make a very comprehensive and reasonable world view.

And if/when you present arguments suggesting a bit of evidence that adds on to that or seems to discount some of it, I’m very open to trying to understand your point of view. Truth is truth. And truth can not contradict truth. So somehow all of this comes together to make more and more sense.

So far, the Catholic Faith has had no trouble at all including all truth in its beliefs. In fact, it invites them. As I’ve also mentioned, many of the greatest scientific advancements in human history have come because of the Catholic Church. It makes our faith that much more rich and knowing more about creation ultimately and always tells us more about the creator.

In fact, before Christianity, it was more difficult to study creation in a scientific way. Humans made different parts of creation into gods themselves. It was only once Christianity set them straight and said no…these are not gods, that is creation. There is only one God and he is the creator. This set us free to then study creation for what it was – something that made sense, not a magical unexplainable mesh of gods.

Unfortunately, many people view Christianity as this faith entirely based on a book. This is not true. But I don’t blame them entirely for thinking that because, unfortunately, many Christians have separated from the Church and turned it into a religion based on their interpretations of a book.

Christianity is a faith based on a person – Jesus. But Jesus started a Church. Not a book. This Church has sought truth in every form possible systematically for 2000 years. It is not scared of scientific advancement – it loves it. It loves philosophy. It loves and embraces all truth. And when people can put aside their biases and misunderstandings to see it for what it is…they can do nothing but admire it.

If for some reason you believe the true Christian faith in the Catholic Church to be unreasonable in any way, it’s because you have not yet known it. It has been the most reasoned thing in the history of human kind…and done so by many of the greatest minds who have ever lived. I would just invite anyone who does not understand it to first learn about it before making too many assumptions about how wrong it must be.

Andy December 14, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Wow….some deep discussion going on here !
An interesting topic for sure…one that we won’t solve scientifically, at least not this week. I’ve found it interesting, though, that many prominent modern scientists, who are much smarter than I, (Stephen Hawking for one), seem to have arrived at a place that suggests the more we learn about physics and the universe, the more complex and “impossible” our existence really is. The notion of an “intelligent (very!) creator” is becoming more accepted by scientists as the most likely scenario. Thus the current search for the “god-particle” as will be facilitated by the Giant Hadron Collider in Europe and other studies are hot topics. Our quest to find a scientific model that lines up with our spiritual beliefs of God/no-god continues. Meanwhile, as the scientists continue their search for concrete affirmation, I, as a human being, can only use the tools I have (ah..IMO, that God gave me) to attempt to come to know Him as only a limited being can. By choice, I will continue to do that in the spiritual ways that have been established long ago by Jesus Christ and Others (who are also much smarter than I) It’s a great way to live, really….to love your ultimate creator, to love and respect your neighbor as yourself, it makes for a very positive and rewarding life while adding to the fullness and rewards of others around us. The Mystery of our Christian Faith will be revealed one day, but I doubt it will be by the scientists.

Phil December 14, 2008 at 11:56 pm

First of all, DON’T imply that any of my arguements are silly, who do you think you are to be so arrogant DUDE. You can have a conversation without berading someone’s opinions. My use of the Tooth Fairy was as an analogy and should not be taken out of context. I have never belittled any of your POINTS or called ANY of them silly and I expect the same respect in return.

With that being said, this whole thread began with my response to what Joe said in that I believe it is illogical to say that God gave us science to help understand him.

Joe said “Science is a gift God gave us to help understand His creation and thereby come to know Him more closely.”

THAT was the topic of our discussion (please go back and read my reply to Joe).

I then said “If the above disciplines were created by God, and if the laws governing them were created by God, then the application of these laws should point to the existence of their creator. But in fact, they do not.”

Which you, of course, took issue with.

It’s true, they absolutely do not. Not one bit of scientific evidence that has been discovered via the scientific advancements in the last 100 years have pointed to the existance of God. Creation is not scientific evidence, it’s theoritcal.

If you disagree, please provide proof of them (other then looking out the window. That is not proof). No need for further discussion.

And then I said “proof of God is not possible”. I don’t know why you would argue that – is it possible? Is proof of God possible today, December 14th 2008? Not a philosiphical question, just a yes no question. If it’s not possible then it’s impossible.

If I ask you if “Matt, do you think it’s possible that tomorrow you will grow wings and fly?”, I am not asking you philosophically whether or not you may have the ability to fly tomorrow. I am asking you if, with what we know today, you will grow wings and fly. With what we no today the scientific answer would be no.

Perhaps we should visit the definition of ‘possible’. Possible means what can be conceived, be done, or occur according to nature. The oppsite of this would be known as ‘impossible’.

Is it possible to prove God? If so, please provide proof. If you have no proof then it is therefore impossible to prove God. No need for further discussion. Black and white.

The possible you speak of is therotical – not the same scientific ‘possible’ that I speak of. Tomorrow, it may be possible that you grow wings and fly. But today it is impossible. Tomorrow God may show himself and it may be possible to then prove him. Today it is impossible to prove God.

So, with that being said, again I reiterate, it is impossible to prove God. The only way for you to refute that statement is to provide prove of God’s existence.

I don’t see why the whole possible/impossible thing has you so caught up. Of course someday we MAY be able to say it’s possible to prove God – and possible to breath underwater, fly, all sorts of stuff. But those are not scientific statements. Philosophical maybe. Until proof of the possibility of any of them exist, it’s impossible to prove them.

Which takes me back to point one. Science has nothing to do with helping understand God, who exists only in philosophy and not in science. So it is illogical to think that God “gave us” science to help folks understand him. Arguably, science has only pushed God’s existence further and further into speculation. God is explained by theory not be science. So what good does science do God?

Heck you even said it yourself below.

“Ha, what I’m TRYING to say is that the existence of God is largely a philosophical question – outside the realm of science.”

“These are philosophical arguments…not scientific.”

If the existance of God is outside the realm of science then what sense does it make that he gave us science to understand him? That was my problem with Joe’s statement.

END OF CONVERSATION GOOD NIGHT

Phil December 15, 2008 at 12:43 am

Matt, here is a good analogy for you. I just thought of it watching a murder case.

This was my statment: “I know that actual proof as to whether or not God exists isn’t possible…”

Back in 1972, a man committed a murder. At the time it was NOT POSSIBLE to prove that he committed this murder. He walked.

Years later DNA evidence became useful and applicable. Where as years ago it was NOT POSSIBLE to prove that he was guilty, it was now POSSIBLE to prove his wrong doing. Years later he was convicted of murder.

In 1972 it was acceptable to say that his guilt was NOT POSSIBLE to prove because no proof was known. Just as one can say that God’s existence is NOT POSSIBLE to prove because no proof is known.

Maybe someday that will change and the impossible will become possible, just as in my example above.

Matthew Warner December 15, 2008 at 10:35 am

Phil – i didn’t mean to say that your arguments are silly. I was talking about the tangents and false steps in logic and claiming I said things I did not say. It is far more disrespectful to accuse me of saying things that I did not say. That is what I was calling silly. And it seems that you do it every round we go. And that’s counterproductive.

If I start claiming you said things you did not say or implying that you made a point that which it was obvious you did not make – I’ll appreciate it if you call it silly instead of the many harsher things it could be called.

For the record this is the statement I objected to:

If the above disciplines were created by God, and if the laws governing them were created by God, then the application of these laws should point to the existence of their creator.

Logically, I don’t see how this holds true. Just because God created something does not necessarily mean that they MUST or SHOULD point to his existence. I, personally, believe that they do. You can believe they do not. But to say that simply because somebody made them then the application of them should point to their existence is fallacious.

Further, creation IS evidence of a creator – call it scientific or not. Just as finding a pencil on a table is evidence that something had to have put that pencil on the table in the first place.

You are using the word “possible” like it is the word “able”. That may work in casual conversation and we all understand what it means. But when speaking logically in terms of proofs, here’s how terms like “possible” and “impossible” should be used.

2+2=5 is IMPOSSIBLE. And it is not simply impossible because nobody has shown evidence YET that 2+2 can equal 5. It is impossible because by the very definition of 2+2 it CAN ONLY equal 4 which we know to be entirely exclusive of 5. This is something we know to be impossible.

In the case of your murder trial, it would not be appropriate in this context to say that it was IMPOSSIBLE to prove his guilt. In fact, anyone who said such a thing in 1972 was actually wrong. It WAS indeed possible to prove his guilt, we were just not able to do it yet. That may seem like splitting hairs in this case because using the word POSSIBLE in the context of the murder case and everyday things that we do it carries the implication that it means “ABLE”. But it’s a significant distinction when talking about actual proofs or truth.

And if you are talking about a proof – you are incorrect to say this:

Is it possible to prove God? If so, please provide proof. If you have no proof then it is therefore impossible to prove God. No need for further discussion. Black and white.

To say that because somebody has no proof that it is therefore impossible is a huge fallacy of logic.

It took thousands of years for Einstein to develop special relativity. Does that mean that it was IMPOSSIBLE to develop prior to that? Since we could show no proof of it? No, of course not. Somebody COULD have done it (POSSIBLE) but nobody was apparently able to.

That’s why I took issue with your statement. When, from your perspective, you don’t believe anyone has provided scientific proof of God – the most you can say is that nobody has provided proof. It is an illogical jump to say – “Oh, well it IS IMPOSSIBLE to do then.” You could even say it SEEMS impossible. Or that you SUSPECT it is impossible. But, logically, you can not say it IS impossible…not simply based on a lack of evidence.

If I misunderstood you then I’m sorry.

Anyway, as far as science not helping us understand God. See this post here: http://www.fallibleblogma.com/index.php/2008/12/12/quote-of-the-day-believing-to-understand/

I certainly understand from your point of view that it would seem strange that science helps us understand God. But once we are able to step back and see that all of this MUST have been created by something, then we see the Creator. And I would think that ANY creation always tells us at least a little something about the Creator – God.

Further, if there is a Creator that created everything (which is an entirely logical position) – then it is not illogical at all to believe that this creator gave us science as well – since science is a part of creation.

Phil December 15, 2008 at 11:43 am

Point 1. Agree to disagree.

Point 2. I will ask you again (all silliness aside) Please provide proof of God. If you can not provide ANY proof then it must not be possible. Prove me wrong here. Show me that it is possible to prove God. In fact, while you are at it, why don’t you fly across the room and show me that is possible also. Can’t do it huh. I know, you will still promise me that it is possible. It’s silly time.

Point 3. Agree to disagree. Science and theory are opposites in my opinion. One is based on proof, the other on the anti-proof (the unproven). Man, there are SO many inconsistencies here! God can not be explained by science, he is above the realm of science! But God gave us science – to understand him? Huh?

God did not give us science. Science is just the study that helps us understand how we got here, without God (in my opinion). I hope that someday scientific proof leads me to believe otherwise but one would think 1000 years or so would be enough time to gather some evidence of God’s existence, so I am not banking on it.

Andrea Fernandez December 16, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Sweetest Mother, thank You for uniting us together in conversation. We entrust these words to You. May You bless our words and actions with Your grace…

Hi Phil,

I read your latest post regarding your conclusion of God’s non-existence, according to science. Phil, I genuinely mean the words I type, with no intentions of demeaning your position. I offered the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass for your spiritual and temporal needs and desires, as well as each of your loved ones. Your intentions have been and will continue to be remembered within our daily holy rosary. As a scientist and pre-medical student, I wanted to partake in your discussion with Matthew. I do not know which division of science you personally have devoted your study to mastering, but I am in pursuit of medicine, which as you know includes a vast array of the realms of science. It is my hope to bring forth some of the knowledge I have encountered to alleviate the mounting situation, for I too am a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread, specifically the “bread of life.”

I want to firstly commend you for your wholehearted openness in seeking Truth. Your willingness to partake within the forums of a Catholic blog as an agnostic may be narcissistic, but to give you the benefit of the doubt, it is truly altruistic…I would say the open dialogue within a faithful, Catholic forum is of sheer grace.

You are absolutely right Phil with regards to the “Intelligent Design Theory”; we should not classify an event as miraculous merely due to our lacking of scientific knowledge of how a particular event is feasible, for one’s faith would therefore be reasoned away with each new-found discovery scientists unveil. Science can never “prove” or “disprove” the spiritual realm of God and angels due to the inability of both being humanly measured. Therefore, to study God, we as humans must use a different tool within our logic and reasoning, namely theology—the study of God. And yes, all of creation–which encompasses the study of science–ultimately leads us to the Divine Creator.

Continue to ask questions! Seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you. It is this decisive yearning to pursue the exact reasoning, the ultimate “why” and “how” and “where” and “when” and “what if” that enraptures the heart, mind, and soul of a scientist to subject one’s body to seemingly tortuous conditions of endless hours of study and research, all performed in the name of “science”…and in my particular life and the lives of many other scientists, we do so also in the name of our Creator, the Divine Scientist. He, Himself, who subjected His body to true torture, the ultimate price of agonizing death by crucifixion, in the name of love…love for you, personally, Phil.

Our Lord encouraged the doubting St. Thomas to probe and investigate His Sacred wounds. It was only after placing his fingers within Christ’s wounds St. Thomas believed. Phil, have you heard of the Shroud of Turin or the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe? As a Catholic scientist, I challenge you to actively investigate both these scientific and religious marvels. I also challenge you to study the crucifixion. As long as you separate yourself from scientifically studying the man mocked and condemned as the King of the Jews, Jesus Christ, you will never come to scientifically know God, the Father. And as long as you neglect to scientifically study the Blessed Virgin Mary, you–or any other–will not come to scientifically know Her Son.

To come to intimately know Him by name, boldly and humbly ask Him to reveal Himself to you. God is love. To go about the soft science of psychology of investigating love, one is dependent on the tangible expressions of love, such as words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Now apply these expressions of love you encounter on a daily basis to discover God’s working throughout your life.

As far as hardcore science, are you familiar with Dr. Francis Collins, thee head scientist of the human genome project? Dr. Collins led the international team of scientists who made history in June of 2000 by decoding the entire human genome! He recently spoke on campus at Stanford University answering the exact questioning of how science reveals God’s existence. Dr. Collins also recently authored, “The Language of God” with regards to science and faith. Following Dr. Collins’ presentation, Professor William Newsome, Chair of Stanford’s Department of Neurobiology, facilitated the relentless questioning poised by the Stanford faculty and students and–once again–Dr. Collins’ outstanding answer session. Have a listen: http://franciscollinstalk.stanford.edu/video

Saints and angels of Paradise, on behalf of all souls for all time, we beseech your ardent prayers. Within the depths of our beings, may we each become the true Saints of the new millennium. St. Thomas, the Apostle, we entrust specifically Phil’s and each of our pursuit of science to you. Clear our paths of all hindrances to reaching the very throne of Christ our King. Mary, our Mother, inebriate our every word and action with Your heroic virtues.

~To contemplate the Passion and Death of Christ would cause the entire world to weep.~

Elliot Cramer December 17, 2008 at 11:48 pm

The Christmas story is obviously a fairy tale. How could any intelligent person believe it. It’s only in Matthew and Luke and they probably got it from the same source. If it were so, then Jesus should have been a rich man but it seems that he was only a carpenter

Catholic debating pro-life April 28, 2010 at 7:13 pm

That’s ridiculous. Yes, I believe all children born in stable mangers becuase the inn was too full are obviously rich.

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