When I watch our children play sometimes I think of Aristotle. Aristotle’s approach to discovery was based primarily on observation and sensory experience. Only after substances are observed and tested, are logical explanations of relationships between them constructed. That’s the natural order, that’s how children explore their world. Our 12 month old will take a drinking cup, for instance, and pass it back and forth in his hands, turn it upside down and back again, hold it up to examine it and then throw it to see what happens, chew it from every angle. He’ll push it on the floor to study the arch that it rolls, and then compare that to other cylindrical objects to see how they roll in tighter or loser circles. That’s how science is supposed to begin. No preconceptions, let it roll, see what happens.
Then the observations are explained as theories. Whether scientists admit it or not, metaphysics necessarily guides this process. Evolution is really a metaphysical concept in the mind’s eye. Guided by the assumption that species do evolve one from another, scientists interpret data accordingly. The idea that human life has inherent dignity and worth is a metaphysical idea revealed by God, but many scientists do not follow this principle. Instead they follow a utilitarian principle that life is worth its usefulness. Modern cosmologists assume the principle that the universe is homogeneous and Earth is another unimportant speck, leaving atheists to conclude that life is meaningless and the future is miserable. The conclusions are legitimate within those admitted metaphysical bounds; but do you ever wonder what might be discovered if scientists were freed from those preconceptions? Modern science seems so bounded by ego and power.
My son plays with the drinking cup open-mindedly, without preconceptions; but I use it as if its purpose is settled, blind to it’s other potential uses. He sees an object and explores it purely; he plays with it, enjoys it in ways I’ve long forgotten. What if scientists, freed from modern notions, instead operated under the assumption that God did create all living things? Might they discover mysteries of nature never imagined? What if biologists primarily assumed that all human life is precious? What mysteries of the human person might be uncovered? What if cosmologists actually regarded the planet as a special gift, the place where God became man? What mysteries of time and space might be solved? Might it be wondrous indeed if future scientists, daringly, assumed a childlike faith.
*Many thanks to Mr. Rick DeLano for insightful discussions about the relationship of science and faith, and to my husband for pointing out to me in our kitchen that our son does in fact study the rolling arches of cups. Future scientist?
Category: Catholic Free Press