Monday, July 28, 2014

“Science Proves Natural Law”, II: What’s the REASON?

Does science prove natural law? Yes — but unfortunately last week we came across an article in which the author included supernatural law (faith, hope, and charity) under natural law — and that cannot be proved by science.  So, last week we left you with a cliff hanger: Why is basing our understanding of the natural law on faith instead of reason such a dangerous error?  Isn’t everyone entitled to his or her opinion?  What the heck difference does it make?  Who really cares?

Well, you do — or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.  That lets us cut directly to the chase.

Trying to put the matter most simply, there is knowledge.  Knowledge is proved certainly true by reason.  Reason applies to that which is manifestly true, that is, subject to empirical evidence and logical argument.  We know that something is true because we can prove it.

Then there is opinion.  Opinion may or may not be true, because it cannot be proved.  Opinion is, by its nature, not subject to empirical evidence or logical argument.  Opinion is accepted on faith.  It is not known by reason.

Here’s the crux of the issue.  Where reason applies to that which is manifestly true, faith applies to that which is not manifestly true.  When it comes to opinion, we accept something as certainly true not because we can prove it by reason and therefore know it, but because we have faith in whatever or whoever has given that thing to us and therefore accept it.

To say that “we know this by faith,” or “we prove this by faith,” is, therefore, to make contradictory statements that violate the first principle of reason.  The first principle of reason is that nothing can both “be” and “not be” at the same time under the same conditions.

Thus, we know by reason, but we accept by faith.  If we could prove something, then it would not be accepted by faith, but proved by reason.  If we cannot prove something, then we cannot apply reason, but only accept by faith.

As we pointed out in the previous posting on this subject, this confusion has caused massive problems in both Church and State, and has undermined Family as well.  For example, some people declare that we must do something or not do something because that is God’s law, and therefore the laws of man must conform to that.

How do we know it is God’s law, however?  The answer is, we don’t.  To know requires proof.  It is otherwise opinion — and whether something is or is not God’s law is an opinion based on faith, not knowledge based on reason.  You cannot justly enact laws based on opinion.  Just laws require facts, not suspicion, not supposition, not anything other than evidence and logic.

Taking it a step further, how do we know that someone has broken God’s law?  Again, we don’t.  We may suppose, we may presume, we may do many other things, but until we have hard evidence that someone has broken God’s law, we don’t know — and both God’s law and man’s law require that until and unless someone is proven guilty by the facts, not suspicion, not surmise, not supposition, he is to be presumed innocent.  (G.K. Chesterton had an interesting series of stories about people whom everyone condemned as criminals for what turned out to be supremely virtuous acts — Four Faultless Felons (1925).)

Let’s take it a final step.  Even if we can prove with absolute certainty by reason that we have knowledge and not opinion of God’s law, and even if we can prove with hard evidence that someone is morally guilty of breaking God’s law, by what authority do we usurp the judgment of God and take His law into our own hands?

We don’t need all the warnings in the Bible against doing this very thing.  Common sense tells us that a Divine Authority Who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-everything-else, is going to be a trifle peeved with anyone who takes matters into his or her own hands and acts as judge, jury, and executioner of his or her fellow man in matters pertaining to God’s law.  It’s basically setting yourself up as a god, and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is, by all reports, a “jealous God” Who does not take such things lightly or kindly.

Frankly, such articles as "Science Proves Natural Law" do far more harm than good.  They reinforce, even confirm some very sincere yet mistaken people in an untenable position, and confirm in the minds of opponents that religious believers and natural law supporters are mentally ill or simply don't know how to think.  There is no other way to explain the massive inconsistencies.

The fact that many people who take the opposite view are themselves doing precisely the same thing is irrelevant — to them.  The only thing that matters is who has the power to force others to do their will — might makes right.  This is why the Catholic Church has condemned this sort of thing, that is, modernism and positivism in all its forms, claiming it is the principal danger to Catholic doctrine, to civilization itself, and, of course, individual souls in the modern world.


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