31 March 2008

A Carapace Dissolved

"Batter my heart, three-person'd God," a poet once prayed,
For you
as yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me; and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I couldn't help but remember the opening lines to Donne's
Holy Sonnet XIV as I wrapped up Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych for a class on death and grieving here at the seminary. Back in college, we had an all-school seminar on this work of short fiction, and though I enjoyed it then, the intervening years have only enriched my experience of it. It is the ultimate drama: the inner dialogue of a dying man confronted with the possibility that his entire life was lived in the pursuit of vanity, and nothing less than eternity is at stake. Every other story derives its dramatic power from this possibility of salvation (or its loss). One moment stands out. Ivan lies in pain, waiting for death, yet unable to let go of life; as the truth of his situation slowly dawns upon him, all those who peopled his life and participated in the game of bourgeois society along with him are stripped of their charm. Only the duplicity and superficiality remain, and they are loathsome to him.
He lay on his back and began to pass his life in review in quite a new way. In the morning when he saw first his footman, then his wife, then his daughter, and then the doctor, their every word and movement confirmed to him the awful truth that had been revealed to him during the night. In them he saw himself—all that for which he had lived—and saw clearly that it was not real at all, but a terrible and huge deception which had hidden both life and death. This consciousness intensified his physical suffering tenfold. He groaned and tossed about, and pulled at his clothing which choked and stifled him. And he hated them on that account.

Consider the agony of this moment: the possibility that what by all accounts was a decorous, gentlemanly, and entirely correct life might have been spent "plowing the sand and sowing the ocean" is real; I have reason to believe that my life has been spent this way, and every relationship I examine in the light of this possibility,
even the most intimate, reinforces my conclusion that it is so. Now, at the end, I am forced to discard all my labors and sacrifices as so much smoke and wind. Had this knowledge come when I was in a position to do something about it, it might have served some purpose. All that is left to me now is to die in despair, rueing the day I ever asked the question "what was it all for?"

Anger is understandable in this situation. Augustine remarked in passing about this in his Confessions:

Why is it that 'truth engenders hatred'? Why does your man who preaches what is true become to them an enemy (Gal 4.16) when they love the happy life, which is simply joy grounded on truth? The answer must be this: their love for truth takes the form that they love something else and want this object of their love to be the truth; and because they do not wish to be deceived, they do not wish to be persuaded that they are mistaken. And so they hate the truth for the sake of the object which they love instead of the truth. They love truth for the light it sheds, but hate it when it shows them up as being wrong. Because they do not wish to be deceived but wish to deceive, they love truth when it shows itself to them but hate it when its evidence goes against them.

Yes: it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. For we provoke Him to wrath with our misdeeds; yet His wrath is nothing more than His steadfast resistance to the encroachment of the forces of sin and death upon His creatures. God's wrath is good news, as it's been said. It is the wrath of a protective Father. The discovery of an awful truth about oneself is a gift, never to be refused in order to return to manufactured illusions. In His mercy, a moment of clarity is offered. For those with eyes to see, it is presented through the ordinary things of life, standing behind them, knocking, breathing, shining, healing. Yet for those whose sight fails them, who render themselves incapable of apprehending reality as it is, other more forceful means are available to the physician. And it is here that we find ourselves confronting the reality of suffering.

What strikes me as wholly inadequate in most attempts at theodicy (the justification of God's ways to humanity, the presence of evil and suffering in the world, etc.) is that they are always directed outward. They are meant to explain the suffering of another
to the audience that observes it, and one that observes it from a distance, no matter how compassionately. Ivan Karamazov is not plagued with his own suffering, but that of the innocent five-year-old girl pounding her chest with her little fist and crying out to "dear God" to protect her from her cruel and hateful parents, or the infants skewered on the bayonets of pillaging soldiers. Yet it is precisely the meaning of her suffering that is inaccessible to him. What would lead us to believe that we have access to what transpires in the hidden and silent recesses of the person when the full weight of pain is laid upon him? It is incommunicable, for it is inexhaustible, unable to be labeled with neat classifications and placed in a scheme that somehow takes Everything into account. It is always more.

What these fail to take into account is the meaning of suffering for the one who suffers. This is not to glibly dismiss it in the way the genuinely compassionate find so repulsive; it is to ground it in the infinite dignity of each person in the sight of God.

Our own pain speaks plain words, though we may not have ears to hear them. What it has to say, it says to us and to us alone. To me. I alone am responsible for discerning its truth and learning its lessons. I cannot interpret the suffering of another, and so I cannot justify it or explain it away. Only I can discover the secret resistance to the love that draws me to itself, and so the messenger of that love
be it ever so kind or savage—is meant to overcome that resistance without force or compulsion.

If we truly understood what was at stake, the poet's prayer would ever be on our lips. The possibility of refusal is very real. We must cultivate a readiness to be o'erthrown:
That we might rise and stand.

20 March 2008

All the Facts, None of the Meaning

I’ve looked over my last post after doing some reading this past week, and I’m convinced I could be a bit more specific about what exactly is at stake with the “science and faith” controversy as it’s being presented in the public square. Specifically, towards the end of the post, I allude to the Regensburg address and Benedict’s insistence that the contemporary self-limitation of reason is a disastrous move. Allow me to quote briefly from the address to make clear the point to which I refer:
… [to the modern mind] only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity. A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.
In this post, I’d like to take a closer look at what this “reduction in radius” feels like in more specific terms. Over the last few days, I had a feeling that I should be able to explain just what Benedict (and countless other thinkers) mean by this self-limitation language. It was in this mindset that I came across an old favorite: Lewis’ essay on what he calls “transposition,” published in a collection of some of his best addresses entitled The Weight of Glory. Lewis managed to do in this essay exactly what I wanted to convey, so what follows is more or less a summary of this lucid little piece, with comments and reformulations of my own interspersed throughout. If what you read here is of the least interest to you, I advise you to run to the nearest bookstore and purchase a copy. It makes for fantastic (and quite relevant) reading.

The occasion of his remarks is Pentecost Sunday, and he chooses to highlight an odd theme to preach upon: the gift of speaking in tongues. It is a case that is quite difficult for the Christian to explain in supernatural terms, for while we must accept the miraculous nature of the apostles’ preaching in languages unknown to them on that day in Jerusalem so long ago, nevertheless most contemporary instances of this strike many of us as embarrassing and unrelated to the real substance of our faith. No doubt there are true movements of the Holy Spirit in this charismatic gift, but it is also likely that sometimes it is nothing more than a bad case of nervous energy being spontaneously discharged. 

At this point, the skeptic steps forward to invoke Occam’s razor. “Why,” he intones, “would it be reasonable to accept multiple explanations for one phenomenon—namely, the pronunciation of gibberish while in a state of ecstasy? Would it not be much more reasonable to say that a purely physical explanation which holds in most cases holds in all of them? Can we not dispense with the supernatural entirely?” Caught between the given of revelation and the plausible reductionism of the skeptic, the Christian may start to feel a little warm under the collar and start asking himself how important is this speaking in tongues stuff is, anyway.

Well, regardless of what you think about speaking in tongues, this difficulty can apply to any number of different things within the Christian worldview, for it is one case in a whole class of similar difficulties. Certainly the sacraments, being the use of natural signs to signify and effect supernatural realities, would be susceptible to this objection. Christian language about heaven is filled with references to purely natural, physical realities. The seven "infused" virtues have the same names and descriptions as their natural counterparts. We hear this language in other circles as well, such as among those who conjecture about the place of humanity in the cosmos: when all is said and done, isn’t human existence just a particularly refined and complex animal existence? Isn’t all this talk of a soul and of spiritual existence just a poetic and metaphorical way of describing our highly developed powers of tool making and communication, which we share with the animals?

Lewis summarizes,
Put in its most general terms, our problem is that of the obvious continuity between things which are admittedly natural and things which, it is claimed, are spiritual; the reappearance in what professes to be our supernatural life of all the same old elements which make up our natural life and (it would seem) of no others.
To refute the skeptic, Lewis seeks a case in which all would recognize that the simple explanation, which is plausible at first glance, is false. Lewis finds his case within the emotions and their physical manifestations, a realm common to the experience of all. Most would acknowledge that one and the same physical reaction may result from different emotional states: that unsettled feeling in the chest is present not only after successfully asking a girl out on a date but also after receiving a piece of horrible news about a loved one or getting caught in telling a boldfaced lie. The one physical reaction is both delightful and anguishing depending upon the emotional state that accompanies and gives rise to it.

Furthermore, the physical sensation is not merely a sign of the emotion, but is wrapped up in the emotion itself, truly becoming what it signifies. There is not only continuity between them but an overlap, a mingling. Here, then, we have a similar situation to our class of difficulties listed above in which the natural and (allegedly) supernatural are very closely tied, indeed so closely tied that it is quite reasonable to dismiss the supernatural as a figment. Yet in our present case, no one would deny that while emotional states are of a higher order than physical sensations (in the sense that the emotions are a more complex and richly varied phenomenon than the physical sensations that carry them), they are nonetheless real. What conclusions can we draw from this example?

In the emotional life, a more complex system (emotion) must be expressed through a less complex medium (the nervous system). Because there cannot be a one-to-one correspondence between elements of the two systems, linking every emotional state with its own peculiar nervous reaction in the body, multiple emotions must be associated with one and the same physical sensation. Hence, the same tight feeling in the chest I described above accompanies both delight and anguish. It is this “expression” of a more complex, “higher” system in a lower one that Lewis calls transposition.

A few examples might be of assistance here. When a language with 22 vowel sounds has only 5 vowel characters available to it, multiple sounds must be assigned to each character in order for the spoken language to be fully represented in writing. In an orchestral composition that is transposed for the piano, the notes originally played by flutes, violins, and oboes must be the notes of only one instrument in its transposed form. 

The example of drawing was especially helpful to me. In order to represent a three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional piece of paper, one must use what artists call “perspective,” which means that one and the same shape must be able to represent multiple realities; a triangle must be able to represent both a dunce cap and a straight road receding into the distance. 

What if you tried to explain to someone who had never heard English spoken that each written character a, e, i, o, and u could refer to multiple sounds? There’s no reason to think otherwise based on the characters on the page. What if someone listening to a piano piece originally composed for an orchestra had never heard an instrument other than the piano, and doubted the existence of other instruments? All the talk in the world would never convince her that the performance on piano was merely a hint of the symphony it imitated. And if one could imagine a creature that existed entirely in two dimensions examining the lines of a drawing (if you’re having trouble, it was wonderfully imagined by the author of Flatland, from which this blog takes its name), even an initial openness to the idea of third dimension would soon be deflated when all the evidence for it was just the same old lines and shapes. Lewis steps into this perspective for a moment and speaks convincingly from the skeptic’s corner:
You keep telling me of this other world and its unimaginable shapes which you call solid. But isn’t it very suspicious that all the shapes which you offer me as images or reflections of the solid ones turn out on inspection to be simply the old two-dimensional shapes of my own world as I have always known it? Is it not obvious that your vaunted other world, so far from being the archetype, is a dream which borrows all its elements from this one?
In short, one can never understand the higher system when one approaches it from below. It is only when one understands the higher system or medium that its expressions in the lower one make sense; it is a prior acquaintance with them from the inside that renders them intelligible in their less complex expressions. It is only because we live in a three-dimensional world that two-dimensional drawings make sense to us.

Hence, the skepticism we encountered with regard to speaking in tongues makes sense, and is exactly what one would expect when approaching a supernatural reality “from below.” For confining oneself to the lower system or medium prevents one from ever moving beyond the most simplistic, reductionistic explanations from the outset.

Of course, none of this is to argue for the existence of the supernatural; the point is merely that the sorts of objections we do get from contemporary materialists are just the sort we should expect to get, for by consciously limiting themselves to the material, materialists render themselves unable to move beyond the material. We should not be surprised, then, when we hear claims (such as the one above) which insisted that humans are nothing more than highly developed beasts. For, when considering the expression of a highly complex system (the mind) in its less complex physical substrate (the brain), it will always—ALWAYS—be possible to deny that there is any real difference between the two as long as a purely naturalistic explanation is the criterion for all truth.

It is as if a man falls in love with a woman and suffers terribly after a stormy breakup. In his grief, be begins to look over the relationship and start to pick it apart. Though the love was real enough while he was in the midst of it, his examination in hindsight started to reveal her flaws and selfishness as well as his own imperfect motives. These, too, were real; yet if in order to dull the pain of his loss he chooses to ignore what was good about their love and dwell only upon what was shameful, soon enough that’s all his memories will contain, no matter what the reality of the situation might have been. His mistake is to consider the results of his analysis as truer than his experience.

Here we have the crux of the “self-limitation of reason” of which Benedict speaks. In a conscious effort to understand the world, it is possible to temporarily bracket all cumulative knowledge and start afresh with the plan to consider only what can be verified by experiment—that is, to look at reality from below, from within the framework of material existence. This is a perfectly valid way to approach the world; it is the scientific method. If, in the course of a long process of discovery that illuminates a great deal about reality, one forgets that this method is only a tool and not an end in itself, and begins insisting that there is nothing more to understand than what this method reveals, well, there isn’t much that can be done, for to him it will always be perfectly reasonable. As Lewis notes, “It is no good browbeating the critic who approaches a Transposition from below. On the evidence available to him his conclusion is the only one possible.” He has locked himself in a prison of his own making and thrown away the key. 

I will leave you with the author’s final analogy. It is a powerful one, and accurately diagnoses the impasse at which we find ourselves in the current exchanges over science versus faith. Perhaps you have tried to point out to a dog a piece of food lying out of his sight. Instead of looking where you point, he sniffs your finger. The world of the dog is all fact and no meaning, and it is precisely this habit of mind that a significant and vocal portion of the world induces upon itself. What does this mean for our continuing dialogue between faith and reason?
As long as this deliberate refusal to understand things from above, even when such understanding is possible, continues, it is idle to talk of any final victory over materialism. The critique of every experience from below, the voluntary ignoring of meaning and concentration on fact, will always have the same plausibility. There will always be evidence, and every month fresh evidence, to show that religion is only psychological, justice only self-protection, politics only economics, love only lust, and thought itself only cerebral biochemistry.
Chesterton, too, was an articulate defender of the power of reason to plumb the depths of reality when set free from the restrictive boundaries set by modernity upon itself. Disgusted with the reductive and impoverished anthropology and cosmology that sprung from the loins of the scientific revolution, he sought to portray for the materialist the real mistakes he was making.
He understands everything, and everything does not seem worth understanding. His cosmos is smaller than our world. Somehow his scheme, like the lucid scheme of the madman, seems unconscious of the alien energies and the large indifference of the earth; it is not thinking of the real things of the earth, of fighting peoples or proud mothers, or first love, or fear upon the sea. (Orthodoxy)
We are very much accustomed to accepting explanations for things that are far removed from our experience. We all believe our planet is spinning at a high rate of speed and hurtling through space at tens of thousands of miles per hour despite having no perception of this motion whatsoever. Few of us understand the principles at work when we flip on a lightswitch or a computer. Daily we are offered the most preposterous and counterintuitive explanations for such ordinary, simple things as the colors in a sunset or the propulsion of a sailboat into the wind, and we swallow them whole … which is not to say that we should not. They are, after all, true, so far as they go. 

But if it is demanded that we ignore our spontaneous wonder at the beauty of the setting sun or our delight in mastering the wild air using the work of our hands, it is time to politely end the conversation and get back to placating proud mothers and savoring first love.

12 March 2008

Ben Stein's "Expelled" and the Reason I Don't Watch PBS

A passing comment from a certain learned Jesuit some months ago prompted me to dive into a subject of significant importance in the public square these days. After following through on his suggestion to pick up a copy of Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, the issues at stake were placed within the context of the larger debate over faith and reason within the long intellectual history that extends to the very roots of western civilization. This had the remarkable result of justifying my (vicious) inclination to buy books I have no immediate intention of reading, for when I came across a copy of Moral Darwinism sitting on my pile of untouched purchases, I experienced the temptation to read it, and gave in. It was written by Ben Wiker, a former professor of mine from Thomas Aquinas College, back when I didn’t have no clue ‘bout nothin’. He led me through 2400 years of intellectual history in a way that recast the way I discerned the principles (explicit or otherwise) that lay below the troubled waters of the “culture war.”

Following this, a thorough search through the First Things archive produced a 130-page collection of articles going back to the mid-nineties that I printed and read on an exercise bike during this ninth-circle-of-hell winter we’ve been having in Chicagoland. A recent exchange in that periodical between Cardinal Schönborn and Stephen Barr of the U. of Delaware has been particularly helpful. Other papers and theses by friends have made their way onto my desk since then, and it’s been a real joy to engage in the pressing philosophical issues of the day with the consciousness that a growth in competence will serve me very well in the mission to present the long tradition of the Church’s teaching on human reason to the faithful.

It’s certainly given me cause to approach the public dialogue with a heftier measure of cynicism than is my natural disposition; these are times that try men’s patience, after all. Without question it’s instilled in me a deference for minds far more capable than my own, on both sides of the issues. While I don’t feel my grasp of the questions would permit me to lay them out for others, I feel a greater confidence in filtering through the great deal of noise that various public figures continue to emit in one another’s general direction.

One thing in common among the authors that I found most compelling was their tendency to distance themselves from the parameters of the debate as it is presented in the media. It’s with this in mind that I’d like to weigh in with a few thoughts on Ben Stein’s new film “Expelled,” which will be released sometime next month, I believe.

I was given the chance to view a pre-production version of this film at the 2008 FOCUS National conference back in January. It is a film you must go watch on opening weekend (which, if the release date isn’t postponed again, happens to coincide with the papal visit). It is a well-done film that wins some points for the Intelligent Design movement, and clarifies some issues with the neo-Darwinian perspective that need to be clarified. It gets into some heavy matter when tracing out the potential consequences of rigorous Darwinism (eugenics, genocide) and its contemporary instantiation in organizations such as Planned Parenthood, while managing to not come across as wacky conspiracy theory. Stein, after all, in addition to being rather erudite, is Jewish, and while this doesn’t give him a license to brand his opponents an anti-Semite on a whim, it does allow the filmmakers to broach the subject convincingly. A visit to the Charles Darwin museum allows Ben to gaze upon a life-size statue of Darwin as if putting a question to him: “Did you see what we would do with your discoveries?” It is one of the most powerful moments of the film, all the more so for its subdued and earnest tone. There is some mockery of figures such as Dawkins in the film, which I could have done without, but overall the approach is civil and measured.

One exception to this is a conversation at the end of the film in which Richard Dawkins, with no real effort necessary on the producers, makes himself look like a deluded scientologist grasping at straws. I watched this conversation with great pleasure (and a new reluctance to acknowledge among the popular atheists even a thimbleful of good faith—which felt more like a wound than a victory). It would not be surprising if the popular scientific culture never takes him seriously again after his willingness to hypothesize that highly developed extraterrestrials are responsible for the beginning of life on earth.

At the very same conference, however, only a day or two before a talk was delivered to about eighty students by a certain Mark Ryland of the Institute for the Study of Nature, in which he laid out a critical perspective of the evolution / ID debate. Alluding to a number of different addresses and articles by Benedict XVI and Cardinal Schönborn, Ryland made it clear that both sides have succumbed to what is known formally as “scientism”: the refusal to acknowledge any form of knowing as valid other than the empirically verifiable. It can at times be referred to in terms of “materialism” or “positivism.” Whatever its specific form, its fundamental attitude is best summed up in the words of one of its foremost representatives, the geneticist Richard Lewontin:

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

This sort of talk simplifies things greatly, for it allows people of religious belief to take issue not with those who work within the reductive bounds of science but those who claim that knowledge so gained is exhaustive. With this distinction in hand, we can let the scientists do their work without feeling threatened by their explorations and conclusions, though always conscious that it will be necessary at times to make corrections.

What does this look like? Ideally, science and religion—reason and faith—work to mutually encourage and purify one another. John Paul the Great succinctly noted in his 1988 address to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences that “science can purify religion from error and superstition, [just as] religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes …” The operative word here is “ideally.” Stephen Jay Gould famously outlined this relationship as between “non-overlapping magisterial authorities,” in which reason and faith, science and religion, exercise sole authority over their respective domains. Only at the point of intersection will any wrist-slapping be necessary, with the net effect that by and large the two realms of science and religion can leave one another alone.

While this bifurcation seems reasonable, there is a catch. When science names itself the arbiter of what is empirical and verifiable, it is in effect denying any possibility for religion to make truth claims by confining the consideration of facts to science alone. What is left to religion (and other non-empirical disciplines, for that matter) are the fuzzy and ultimately unimportant questions of personal meaning, responsibility, and identity. Truth, then, is reduced to what can be verified by experiment—that is, by the scientific method.

This is the “self-limitation of reason” to which Benedict XVI referred so ominously in his highly misunderstood Regensburg address. The effect of this restriction is momentous. As he explains,

... if science as a whole is this and this alone, then it is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by ‘science’ so understood, and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective.

Since the secularist wonks were busy trying to pin the explosive backlash of Islamic jihadists on the passing remark of this theologian to a university faculty, very few of the pope’s substantial remarks were able to gain a hearing much beyond his immediate listeners present with him that day. This is very unfortunate, because what he had to say was crucial. With regard to what's been said above, it makes clear that the NOMA principle of Stephen Jay Gould (non-overlapping magisteria), one that has been thoroughly internalized by the West, is unsatisfactory.

What is unsatisfactory about it is that it is ultimately a compromise of the human. The secular paradigm of “rational” public debate devoid of any reference to what cannot be assented to by all “reasonable” persons is nothing less than a dehumanized society that is ignorant of where it is headed and which has forgotten where it’s come from.

Just what needs to be done in the face of this situation will be taken up in a later post—perhaps even my next one. (Hint: Benedict has some interesting suggestions.) What’s of interest to me now is what the Intelligent Design movement in general and Ben Stein’s movie in particular can mean for us. Critics of ID point out that agency is never invoked in scientific explanations; the goal of science is to provide explanations of phenomena solely with reference to natural causes. Intelligent design, they claim, is not science, but something else masking itself as science in order to find an audience within our scientifically-minded culture—a Trojan horse of sorts. This seems to be a valid criticism.

However, to accept this does not render ID useless: I believe a particular example of this is Expelled. While it was produced by advocates of ID, the movie prescinds from much explicit endorsement of ID beyond whatever is necessary to establish a basic rapport with the audience over its viewpoint. It consciously restricts itself to two goals: pointing out the holes in Darwinian theory as it now stands, and loosening the deathgrip Darwinists hold over the scientific community that stifles the principled exchange characteristic of good science. This bears a remarkable similarity to JPII’s clarification of religion’s competence to “purify science from idolatry and false absolutes” quoted above.

I am certainly not saying that Expelled is at heart a religious film, doing religious work. What I am saying—nothing more than an echo of Schönborn, Benedict, and others—is that it is neither a scientific nor religious issue, but a philosophical one. This is their critique of the debate: no one wants to acknowledge that it will continue to go nowhere as long as materialists are allowed to determine its parameters through a restriction of the object of reason to matter. Philosophy, and indeed the Church, finds it(her)self in the unique position of having to defend human reason from those who would deny its applicability to the realm of purpose, meaning, and all things human. Expelled does a fine job of raising the question in a compelling way, and in that sense, religion finds its philosophical perspective a welcome bedfellow.

If there’s some back and forth on these questions, so much the better. After all, if it’s a matter of survival of the fittest, we wouldn’t want those Darwinists getting fat and happy, would we?

(By the way, if you are interested in that compilation of articles from First Things, which includes the relevant correspondence generated after each article or series of articles was published, post a comment indicating your desire and I’ll send it to you via email. This does, of course, presume you are not posting anonymously.)

11 March 2008

After These Messages ...

Circumstances have conspired against my posting this last week and a half, which has frustrated me to no end as I have some thoughts cooking which are in desperate need of publication. Look for a post on faith, reason, science, and, yes, BENEDICT in the next couple of days. Be assured it will be droll and opaque to all but the most tenacious readers.

In the meanwhile, I highly encourage you to read Amy Welborn's thoughts on the upcoming papal visit and the media spinstorm that is brewing.

01 March 2008

The One Thing Necessary

When there's not much for me to say, I'll let others continue to speak.

‘It would strengthen my faith in the Holy Eucharist, if I could only watch the Holy Eucharist making a difference, from year to year, in my own life.’ For goodness’ sake don’t talk like that. I’m sure we aren’t meant to think of the grace of holy communion as something which can be gauged and weighed up in a balance and written down in the form of a debit and credit account. Do let us get it into our heads that holy communion is an intimacy with Jesus Christ, and that if we do our best to throw our hearts open to his Sacred Heart, there is bound to be an influence passing from him into us. It is the law of friendship.

Msgr. Ronald Knox