Note: this post first appeared on Reflections of a Catholic Scientist.
“People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but the sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, not the earth.” –Martin Luther, Table Talk of Martin Luther
“The plain and obvious sense of these verses [Gen 1:14-19] is that God created the celestial bodies immediately and instantly, solely by His own omnipotent power and without support from natural processes over long ages of time as the idea of cosmic evolution suggests. That this is indeed the way the Lord created the universe is confirmed by the commentaries of the church fathers like St. Ephrem the Syrian…”–Dr. Thomas Seiler, Cosmology, Thermodynamics and the Christian Doctrine of Creation (KolbeCenter.org)
Last night I dreamt that I was judge, prosecutor, defense attorney and defendant in a trial in which I was accused of heresy, because I believed in the scientific evidence for cosmology and evolution, rather than the literal truth of Genesis: my conversion to the Catholic faith was, therefore, a fraud. Here, as best as I can recall (having fudged the details) is an account of that trial. (I’m not learned in the law, and it was a dream, so …legal beagles, please excuse the deviations from procedure.)
PROSECUTOR, GEOCENTRIST [Opening Case]: The defendant has foresworn the baptismal vows he made on conversion to the Catholic faith; he has traduced the role of Scripture in the Dogma and Doctrine of the Church by proposing allegorical interpretations consistent with unproved scientific theories–the Big Bang, evolution. The defendant, Mr. Kurland, has attempted to hoodwink faithful Catholics by presenting nonsensical arguments of scientists who refuse to accept the limits of science and the reality of the single universe that God created for us, created at a single time, to adore as part of His overall creation.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY, JESUIT SCIENTIST: Objection, m’Lord, Judge Kurland! Please ask the prosecution to refer to the defendant by his proper title, “Dr. Kurland”.
JUDGE: Prosecutor Kurland, please refer to the defendant by his proper title, Dr. Kurland.
PROSECUTOR: To continue after this untimely interruption! Further, he has falsely declared that our Holy Mother Church approves of these heresies, by taking arguments from recent Encyclicals out of context and ignoring edicts of Church Councils from Medieval times. He has tried to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic Church with fallacious modern scientific theories, particularly those of quantum mechanics (1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6).
For these offenses and others too unspeakable to mention, we demand that the defendant be banned from blogging and writing, and sentenced to hard time in a room where he will encounter his secret fear.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY, JESUIT SCIENTIST: Cross-examination of Prosecutor [Question (defense attorney)]: My learned geocentrist—what would you say about this comment by a fourth century sage:
Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,… and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.
Response (prosecutor): I would say that “sage” was probably a pagan, and knew nothing about Christianity.
Response (defense attorney): Then you would be surprised to learn that the sage was St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the great theologians and interpreters of our faith. The quote was taken from “De Genesi Litteram (The Literal Meaning of Genesis)”.
Question (defense attorney): You said the defendant
falsely declared that our Holy Mother Church approves of these heresies, by taking arguments from recent Encyclicals out of context and ignoring edicts of Church Councils from Medieval times. He has tried to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic Church with fallacious modern scientific theories.
How do reconcile that comment with following quotes from Pope St. John Paul II?
[T]here is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points.
Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.
nterjection (judge): You’re getting off-track, Defense Attorney Kurland. Get to the point!
Reply (defense attorney): My apologies, M’Lord, Judge Kurland. I was trying to show that the prosecutor’s statement is not correct if he means to imply that the Church does not approve of scientific discoveries. May I continue?
Reply (judge): Proceed, but keep it relevant.
Question (defense attorney): According to posts on the web site of a group you represent, both evolution and the Big Bang cosmology are false, heresies that contradict scripture. Is that correct?
Response (prosecutor): It is indeed. Unscientific, false, heretical.
Question (defense attorney): What do you say then to the fact that cornerstone, ground-breaking theories underlying evolution and the Big Bang cosmology were produced by Catholic religious: genetics by Br. Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian Friar, and the Big Bang hypothesis by Abbe Fr. Georg LeMaitre (which he called “The Primeval Atom”).
Response (prosecutor): I’d say that religious can commit heresies too. Look at Giordano Bruno.
Interjection (judge): That is quite enough.
Interjection (defendant): The prosecutor is showing a bias and a disregard of reality.
Interjection (judge): Mr. Kurland, that last comment was entirely out of order (although I agree with it). Be careful or I’ll eject you from the court.
Objection (defense attorney): M,Lord, Judge Kurland, again, just to keep the record straight, the defendant’s title is Dr. Kurland.
Reply (judge): duly noted.
Question (defense attorney): You said the defendant has attempted to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic Church with contemporary science, including quantum mechanics. Can you point out any errors in theology he has discussed?
Response (prosecutor): No I can’t, but I bet there are some.
Question (defense attorney): Are there any parts of modern science you think are valid representations of how the world works? And following that, if some parts are valid, why are others not?
Response (prosecutor): I can’t in a limited space answer that question.
Comment (defense attorney): In other words, you can’t answer the question and the charge is not justified.
Interjection (judge): This farce has gone on long enough.
At this point the dream ended, as the Judge was pronouncing the verdict “I find the defendant ——” (Dear reader, you fill in the blank.) And I never did get around to finding out whether I was guilty of heresy, but I hope and pray that I am not, asking God for guidance.