Evolve. the Search for Truth.
Theories of Origin
The Seen: Beyond Appearances
Moses’s first story is about the creation of the universe and culminates on the sixth day, when the creator creates mankind in his image and makes the famous statement regarding his work, “it is very good.” Next Moses shares the story of mankind and marriage. And it starts with Adam, the archetype, working in a garden of paradise and naming the animals.
Today, Adam’s work would fall under various job categories which are today classified as scientific disciplines. On simple terms, he was a gardner and zookeeper, but we could easily call him a biologist and a a zoologist. Whatever we call it, Adam studied nature and learned to take care of the created world. What’s interesting for us to note today, and which is still very applicable, Moses mentions how Adam’s work affects him and shapes the outcome of who he becomes — Adam’s study of nature and the animals created a deep longing for his own partner, helper, and lover. Adam’s work created a deep longing for his bride to be, the famous Eve, the mother of all living.
The work Adam did shaped who he became. Likewise, the work we do today shapes who we become. Work molds us, shaping our character and personality. The work of warriors and poets require different skills, of shepherds and bakers, of venture capitalists and factory workers; and the work of these various vocations shape how the workers interact with the world. And today, not unlike yesteryear, many of us might become specialized in a special type of work, but we still often remain a jack of all trades. We wear many hats. Moses, the story-teller, himself had a long career as a shepherd before he ever became a slave-liberator, law-giver, nation-builder, story-teller, and priest. Just like Adam’s work as biologist shaped his desires and who he became, Moses’s work shaped who he became. And in the end, Moses became a priest. It was as a priest that Moses made the famous proclamations we discussed earlier, confirmed by science more than 3,000 years later.
Today, in much of western society, the priesthood is lacking (or at least less visible and less understood). But in the ancient world, this was not so. Today, Jews no longer have priests, they have rabbis. It’s been that way for since their temple was destroyed two thousand years ago, changing their way of life to this very day. Hence, Jews no longer have priests but rabbis.
And while all of Christendom believes in the priesthood of all believers, only about half of Christendom — the apostolic church — believes in priests who work as priest. Only the apostolic church has a career path, a vocation, for priests. But in the ancient world, priests were abundant. The Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans all had priests, and the priests were a central role in each of those societies. Julius Caesar was betrayed during a celebration presided over by priests. Plato’s great masterpiece, The Republic, was set at a dialogue amongst philosophers and friends during feasts involved sacrifices presided over by priests. And the central book of Moses’s Pentateuch, Leviticus, is entirely centered on the role of priests (called Levites) in that ancient nation.
And yet, it’s necessary to touch briefly on the role of priests, especially as Moses would have understood it, for he not only gave the priesthood to the Jews, but also indirectly to the Christians. The Apostolic priests derive their understanding of the priesthood from Moses, beginning with the stories he wrote. We must understand the role of priests in society, even if that role is no longer as prominent as it was five hundred years ago, let alone three thousand years ago, simply because of the unique insight Moses planted in the human race long ago, carried on in the stories Jewish rabbis and Christian priests shared with the world. We have to scratch the surface and understand what may have been the insights Moses, or even Lemaître, made that would allow these priests to influence the scientific world, whether by making accurate predictions long ago (in the case of Moses) or proposing theories a hundred years ago (in the case of Lemaître) that seek to prove those predictions.
And so, it would behoove us for a moment to consider the role of priests in society, to understand the work they do. The main duties of a priest, according to Moses, was to guide people so that they would be in right relationship with their Creator. This included reading and interpreting the sacred writings for the people of God and performing the rituals necessary for the forgiveness of sins. In short, they were to know their Maker and make him known. And the role of priest is still the same today. Not unlike the role of the modern scientist.
The modern scientist studies not the Creator but the created in order to make it known. On the surface, scientist and priest seems so drastically different that it sounds like the opening to a joke, but as we scratch the surface they are remarkably similar and well aligned, and in fact maybe so similar in function as to be nearly interchangeable. Hence, the rich history of Catholic priests in science. There is Gregor Mendel (called the father of genetics not because as a catholic priest he’s often called “father” but because of his crucial role in creating the science of genetics). Also, Nicolaus Copernicus (the person who placed the sun at the center of the universe rather than the earth, leading to our understanding of sun-centered “solar” systems…as well as being influential in economics, giving us a theory of money, which are a unique and perplexing mixture of areas of expertise for a canon lawyer). But these innovative and influential scientists are only the tip of the iceberg, these heroic Priest-scientists are the cream of a rich crop of hundreds of lesser scientists who positively and forever shaped our life and understanding of our universe and life in their innovative influence on our society. This includes great minds like great great lay catholic scientists such as Galileo Galilee (astronomy), Louis Pasteur (biology and chemistry), Rene Descartes (philosophy and math), and Blaise Pascal (math and computers), to name a few.
In fact, as we study the religious faith of many great scientists, there are a surprising number of catholic priests and catholic laypeople with significant, influential and long-lasting contributions to great science, such a crucial influence that it begs for further review, much like the burning bush that would not burn up. For the sake of brevity, let’s focus simply on two great innovative scientists, Nicolaus Copernicus and Louis Pasteur, as their innovative insights are particularly pertinent to Moses’s writings and Lemaître’s Big Bang theory and are two great examples of going beyond appearances to see things as they truly are, not being fooled by what they appear to be.
Before we focus on Copernicus, let us note the absurd beliefs that all catholics must maintain to become catholic. My proposal is there are two items peculiar to the Catholic religion, confounding and absurd beliefs, yet, important for the foundation of modern science and important for the flourishing of great science. The first is the crucifix, and the second is the eucharist.
Now, it’s not my place here to discuss exactly how absurd these beliefs are, for I do not want to denigrate anyone’s religion, especially a religion which so positively influenced modern science by producing so many great scientists, my goal here is simply to notice how the Catholic religion has such a unique and positive influence on creating great and innovative scientists. Catholic scientists produced and proposed paradigm shifting insights into science with long-lasting and positive influence on how we know the world works. Even despite strong ridicule from the culture. Let us understand how. It starts with the basic and absurd claims that must be believed to be a faithful, practicing catholic. It starts with the crucifix, and the summit is the eucharist.
The crucifix is a peculiar sight in every Catholic church — unmistakable and open for all to see the moment they enter the church. For anyone who has ever entered a Catholic church, it’s a peculiar sight to see a man hanging dead on a tree, beaten and bruised, stabbed and nailed to two pieces of wood shaped like a T. It looks like a torturous execution of a criminal named Henry, or more precisely, “INRI” — an emblem of death and destruction that should be forgotten, not memorialized. And yet, everyone of the great catholic scientists mentioned would say that the peculiar sight we have described does not celebrate death but life.
Specifically, the catholic scientist would say that the man hanging dead on a tree was God, and he rose from the dead three days later to live and reign forever as “King of the Jews” and Lord of the universe. They would say that it is this God-man by whom the modern world marks the passage of time. Every important date, from the beginning of the universe to today is marked by it’s relationship when this suffering man hung dead on a tree was born. And so, the crucifix is not as it appears to be for a Catholic. In fact, the crucifix is deceiving, a piece of art that must be interpreted and explained by those who know the meaning, and even after being explained, still retains an air of mystery and remains hard to believe, even though the facts of life and humanity confirm the story.
The second item peculiar belief of Catholics which defies understanding is the bread and wine they drink while they gather to worship their Savior. They claim that is the body and blood of the bearded man pictured hanging beaten and dead on a tree. That it is his living flesh given for the life of the world that appears to be bread, and that it is his blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins that appears to be wine. And so, what appears as bread and wine during the liturgy of the mass, the Catholic church claims in fact becomes flesh and blood during their worship of their creator. Even the great Einstein was fascinated by this claim.
Again, this peculiar belief cannot be disproved. It can be disagreed with, but not disproved. It can be believed, or not believed, but it cannot be proved untrue. Yes, this claim cannot be proved or disproved by science. The tools of science cannot verify this anymore than it can verify infinity. In fact, what’s troubling about this claim is its beyond the realm of science. But, there are tremendously positive aspects for Catholic scientists. To understand this, we must first explain the claim that the eucharist cannot be disproved by science or any other means.
The eucharist cannot be disproved because it is a claim not about materials but about authority. Some say, of course you can disprove the claims that the bread and wine are not body and blood, they would say you simply need to test it, subject it to a chemical analysis. But you can’t. If you did, what you would find is it would appear to be bread and wine. But the claim is one of authority, not materials. Let us consider an example.
What would happen if we tested a piece of paper and ink with the sign “$100” and a portrait of Ben Franklin and a seal that confirms it is rightly issued by the government of the United States of America. Well, it would appear to be just that, a piece of paper and ink, and yet it is so much more. It holds a greater value in the world market than common paper and ink. The claim of it’s value as a $100 bill is a claim made by an authority. That’s the same issue as the church’s claim regarding the value of their bread and wine. The issue is, the Catholic church makes the claim by their authority, trusting in the words of their savior to “do this in memory of me.” It is a claim of authority, which is beyond the realm of scientific testing.
In the case of the Catholic church, this claim from a position of authority is within the realm of it’s tradition and teaching and rituals of remembrance. Just like the ability to issue money is within the realm of the authority of a government. And so, you can no more claim the eucharist is only bread and wine than you could claim a $100 bill is simply paper, ink and a portrait. In each case it’s both. And in fact, just because what it truly is is unappreciated or deceptive, it doesn’t negate it’s value in any way. So, people may devalue the $100 bill, but it still is a $100 bill by the authority of the U.S. government. It is more than the paper and ink it appears to be. So, we cannot verify whether the bread and wine is not what it is claimed to be, for it is claimed by an authority that is beyond scientific testing.
And so, since it cannot be disproved, it creates an interesting effect on the mind of a Catholic scientist. They are remarkably open minded to how things are, not limited by how they appear to be. For a Catholic scientist, their peculiar beliefs create a certain mindset which creates a practice in seeing beyond appearances. It opens their mind to consider things differently, and not be distracted by how things appear to be. And this leads to innovative approaches in solving complex issues of science. The freedom to see beyond appearances comes from practice in seeing reality not only on the eyes of faith, but supported by truth claims from an authoritative body which is not constrained by this universe but lives beyond it, on a higher plain of higher laws, beyond the limitations of this universe. And one example is Copernicus, who was both a ground-breaking economist and ground-breaking astronomer. Copernicus, a Catholic priest, created theories on money as well as proposed theories on the universe which still influence us today — hundreds of years later. Let’s consider Copernicus as an example of seeing beyond appearances.
Before Copernicus, everyone knew the sun revolved around the earth. It’s what we see everyday. It’s how things appear to be. The sun rises in the east each and every morning as it begins its journey across our sky and sets in the west. It’s simply common knowledge and it’s how it appears from our perspective. Copernicus changed that. He was able to go beyond appearances and see things know one else saw, and proposed a theory to make sense of all the evidence — the sun-centered solar system. In the time of Copernicus, many scientists knew the issues of perplexing orbits and had started noticing the flaws of how certain orbits appeared to “circle back around the earth” in a way that made it obvious they were not orbiting the earth, for they were not moving as predicted if that were the case.
In steps the great-minded Copernicus to explain that our universe is centered on the sun, not our earth, as previously thought. And in the last five hundred years since he made this insight, this revolutionary insight, it has become common knowledge that we teach all our school children. “Even though the sun appears to rise and set, it is only an illusion. What is really happening is the earth is turning.” And every child takes it on the faith of their parents and schoolteachers, and carries that tradition with them until they understand it for themselves, and can pass it onto others. And this is the way its been for the last 500 years, ever since a Catholic scientists explained to us that our world revolves around the sun, and we mark its journey by years which we count related to the Son.
The example of Copernicus reveals many parallels between scientist and priest, including how crucial and similar the role of Catholic priests is to that of modern scientists. Whereas Catholic priests are concerned with the mysteries of heaven, modern scientists are concerned with the mysteries of earth; whereas Catholic priests teach about the supernatural, modern scientists teach about the natural; and whereas Catholic priests contemplate and consider the infinite, modern scientists contemplate and consider the finite.
Moreover, the rituals of Catholic priests are similar to the experiments of modern scientists, performed with precision in order to understand something about life on earth. And while Catholic priests are concerned with the soul and spirit, modern scientists are concerned with the body and matter. Modern scientists compile their research and share these writings with the scientific world, Catholic priests compiled the sacred writings and shared these writings with the religious world. And while these parallels are quite simple, there are various similarities between Catholic priests and modern scientists, and in seeing these similarities we have to consider why ancient priests like Moses would be able to make such innovative claims that would be confirmed by modern scientists thousands of years later. For it seems, that the understanding of the supernatural was the very foundation for understanding the natural, that by contemplating the spiritual universe, we have greater insight in to the physical universe, and vice versa. Hence, an ancient Hebrews writer would write, “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested” and his kinsman would sing “great are the works of God, studied by all who delight in them.”
Now Pasteur. Pasteur is fascinating because during his lifetime there was a “theory of spontaneous generation” which Pasteur disproved. In essence, the theory accounted for things like milk curdling or iron rusting as “magic,” believing that things just randomly came into being from nothing, hence the theory of spontaneous generation. Pasteur thought the idea absurd. For he believed nothing happened without reason, that there was an underlying process yet to be understood, and the resulting work of his scientific experiments proved to the world that processes were occurring invisible to the eye. And we recognize the greatness of Pasteur’s work by naming the process of Pasteurization in honor of him. It’s interesting that this theory of spontaneous generation was so clearly and forcefully disproven in understanding small processes like rust and cheese and yet as a modern day atheist I would contort the Big Bang to be a type of rebirth of this disproved theory, believing that the big bang was a sort of magical explosion billions of years ago that created the most intricate and beautiful world and all its processes as a chaotic moment of complete randomness, with no design behind it. And yet for so many years I never saw the blatant illogic that I held to and was unaware of my blindness.
In fact, my personal presumption (or prejudice) before embarking on biological and chemical studies which included a study into Pasteurization was that a God-fearing man like Pasteur would be more likely to propose a theory like spontaneous generation because he could so easily rely on his “God’s mysterious ways.” And yet, instead, it was a fervent Catholic, Louis Pasteur, a supremely religious Catholic scientist dedicated to his prayers and the eucharist who is the person who disproves the theory of spontaneous generation. He believed it absurd because God’s mysterious ways were meant to be investigated and understood. “Great are the works of God, studied by all who delight in them.”
Pasteur teaches us the importance of studying the process. That just because we see the final product (whether rust or cheese or the universe), doesn’t mean there wasn’t an important process to get to our final product. And the warning is just because we know the process and can explain it, doesn’t diminish the fact that all processes on heaven and earth are designed. In fact, the more intricate the design, the more incredible the designer. The more beautiful the process, the practical conclusion is the more beautiful the creator of that process. Pasteur saw the importance of the designer as he researched the processes, and he squashed the theory of spontaneous generation forever. Unfortunately, the theory seems to have a rebirth as people use the big bang theory proposed by a Catholic priest by ripping that theory outside of the context from which it was created, a Catholic physicist’s insights into eternal truth. And as we noted earlier, the theory of the Big Bang squashes itself without God as it violates laws of science, like the law of entropy.
Again, it’s odd that the theory of spontaneous generation was disproved in particular things, like cheese in milk or rust on iron, and yet now atheists use it under the name of “big bang” as an explanation for everything. But this is ripping the Big Bang Theory out of the context by which it was proposed, as an explanation of how God created the universe. It is an explanation attempting to understand the processes behind the creation and sustaining of the whole universe. A universe that is greatly designed. All our scientific laws note that nature moves from design to chaos, not the other way around (the law of entropy). It is only by an outside influence exerting itself on a system that we can move to order, that’s what science states! Science over and over offers testimony to a created being necessary to create and sustain the universe, a being we call God. In fact, science does not believe that out of nothingness comes everything, but that “By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible,” the very same belief as ancient Hebrews writers. We no longer believe that cheese randomly appears, yet atheist scientists (of whom their are quite few) want to claim that everything randomly appears, that the whole of the universe randomly exists, with many laws, processes, and theories that we investigate to understand the order and design of the universe. The illogic is dizzying, and it seems everywhere I look for long-lasting influence, somehow people who are Jews or Catholics are involved.
As we scratch the surface and go deeper and deeper into science, many great and permanently influential scientists are God-fearing, if not even God’s priests. And even modern day great physicists like Albert Einstein was trained by Catholics and would often say “God does not play dice with the universe” as he furthered his imaginative and great investigations into the physical laws of our universe.
As we scratch the surface, in fact, we see many influential scientists to profess belief in God, and in fact, many innovative scientists to be of the Catholic religion. To the point that we must acknowledge that as absurd as Catholic beliefs maybe, they do a wonderful job in helping create an environment of innovative and great science based on facts and yet holding onto mysteries. That they are wonderfully focused on the tension between faith and reason, fact and mystery, truth and reality, and helped created a culture upon which modern science could not only be founded on but also flourish in. And so, many innovative scientists are catholic, priests and lay people alike, and unique and great contributions to science by Catholics included the sun centered theory of the universe, understanding of pasteurization that nothing spontaneously generates, and the big bang theory which explains in scientific terms how the words “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” just might be true. On the surface, it seems surprising that an ancient religion would be so influential on modern science, but we need to explore this particular religion a little further as we investigate it’s behaviors and processes so that we may more fully understand how exactly its many great scientists reconcile God and nature, the supernatural and the natural, faith and reason, logic and mystery, truth and reality.
The fact remains that the catholic religion, as absurd as its dogmas and claims are, is in fact great practice in seeing through the eyes of faith while yet holding onto truth, the importance of tradition, and the human need to pass knowledge to the next generation. The priesthood in particular, holds completely crazy divinely-revealed mysteries like the eucharist (the absurd belief that bread and wine could be the body and blood of their savior), and yet one could argue that the catholic religion best equips scientists (and people in general) to not judge based on surface appearances but to investigate and come and see reality (and also truth) from a unique perspective.
Whats even more fascinating is how this ancient slave-liberator, Moses, wrapped these ideas in timeless stories spread throughout the world. That Moses the Scientist chose to tell great stories and embed ideas in the details that would be spread throughout the world by later priests and rabbis. And so, when we consider Moses, the nation-builder, and his wisdom in planting ideas in great stories, we recognize that these stories existed long before modern science was developed and able to prove his stories true, which warrants us consider the use of stories as means of expressing truths and the vehicle for spreading these truths.