Benedictus Scientiarum

Whenever I think of the Roman university of La Sapienzia, and their bold claims against the Holy Father and the Vatican, I can't help but laugh a little. Especially in light of this:

The president of the Pontifical Council for Culture has said that evolutionary theory is “not incompatible” with the teachings of the Catholic Church, insisting that the theory of biological change over time was never condemned by the Church.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi made such remarks while presenting the new interdisciplinary conference to mark the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species. The conference, which is a Vatican initiative to promote dialogue between scientists and theologians, is scheduled to take place in Rome in March 2009. (CNA)

Now, its already quite clear that the Church has nothing against scientific progress; and I've already written quite enough on that topic for the time being. What really strikes me about this little news clip is the next paragraph (specifically the last line):
[Ravasi] said the theologians, philosophers and scientists are attending the conference not necessarily for the purpose of coming to an agreement, but rather hoping to confirm “the possibility of dialogue and a common desire to interpret reality, albeit from different points of view.”

This statement—as seemingly insignificant as it might be at first glance—provides us a window into some very big issues. First, it shows us precisely the point of all philosophic inquiry. It outlines the basis of philosophical reasoning and methodology: namely, that philosophy is concerned not with some universal method of understanding the truth, but with the truth itself—a truth which alone is universal. In other words, varied approaches to truth are (philosophically) equally acceptable, so long as ultimate and real truth is the goal.

Second, it calls to mind the task of theology, which is quite converse to that of philosophy. In theology, the 'object' or 'aim' of study is God himself. Therefore, the truth being considered is a divine one. Moreover, since theology concerns itself with the knowledge of God directly, something understood only by way of revelation (and particularly in the person of Jesus Christ), it is therefore inherently concerned with the truth of revelation in se. Perhaps more clearly, proper theology places an importance upon the understanding of revelation just as much as it does upon the understanding of God himself. The theological 'study of God' is equally the 'study of God revealed.'

Third, Ravasi's remarks call to our attention the place of science. The word, "science," comes from a Latin word for "knowledge," "scientia." This form of knowing is concerned not only with the ultimate truth, as is philosophy, or the means of knowing, as is theology, but rather both the means and the truth. Science is the understanding of reality based on empirical and experiential observations. One cannot believe that gravity exists and cite the color blue in proof of that claim; nor can one observe an apple fall from a tree and subsequently claim that the theory of gravity has been debunked. For science, the end and the means are equally integral constituents. They must cohere with one another.

The ultimate conclusion is that each of the three—philosophy, theology and science—are inquests toward the truth. In terms of method, philosophy is highest. In terms of object, theology is highest. In terms of utility, science is highest. The real goal is to understand which truth is accessible by which method.