Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Angels & Directors

Since the movie "Angels and Demons" has opened, I thought I would make some comments about it.

I have not read the book by Dan Brown or seen the movie directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, nor do I have intentions of doing so. But I have read reviews and seen the History Channel's "Angels and Demons Decoded," which spent two hours describing the novel's claims and supposedly secret codes.

The main theme is that the Church has been (and still is) in conflict with modern science. The presumption is that science threatens the message of the Church: that God made heaven and Earth and the creatures therein.

The history of Galileo and Copernicus are supposed to be our basis for learning about past mistakes. Both scientists claimed the sun to be the center of our solar system (called heliocentrism, he-lee-oh-CEN-trism). The Church at the time did not accept this scenario. But those who would point that out in support of the present-day equivalent of the problem, the Theory of Evolution, are missing the greater lesson. The Church at the time was following what most scientists believed. Copernicus and Galileo were among a minority of scientists coming to this conclusion, building on increasing evidence. These two scientists were overturning the theories held by those of the Greek Aristotle and Roman Ptolemy who both had their own logical reasons for thinking the Earth was at the center. The majority of scientists believed these old theories. Then came the telescope, an instrument with which Galileo could be much more sure of Copernicus' idea of heliocentrism.

So, the scientists of today who recognize the legitimacy of Intelligent Design Theory are actually much more similar to Galileo and Copernicus than the ones who stubbornly hold onto Darwin's theory no matter what new experiments reveal. The IDists are in the minority, but that doesn't mean they are wrong.

Church authority are not scientists. They weren't then and they aren't now. Neither are movie directors or fiction authors (at least most of them). Brown doesn't even care that his "anti-matter" bomb is totally bogus scientifically (a comment about it here at CERN). Why should we expect expert statements about the scientific status of evolution from the Pope? Actually, I think Pope Benedict has handled the situation pretty well. He has sponsored intellectual inquiry into the subject in one of his annual meetings with former students. A book about that event, Creation and Evolution, (Ignatius Press, 2008) compiled by Stephen Horn, was reviewed by me here. As I said in the last of 4 posts about it,

The Pope thinks that although science has discovered great things, its "findings lead to questions that reach beyond its methodological principles and cannot be answered within science itself" (163).

Directors such as Howard have great influence on our culture. He is probably sure he is promoting the cause of true science. How ironic that he follows the crowd whose faith in "old" science actually impedes the correct analysis of new discoveries.

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