Philosophizing Science, Promises, Perils and Possibilities

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Philosophy has been a friend of theology for a long time in the Catholic Church. We can also notice a growing friendship with Science in recent days. One can notice a strong relation between philosophy, Science and the Catholic faith. I am extremely happy that this august meeting of the Christian Philosophers of India in Goa is going to delve on the intimate relation of Philosophy and Science. I welcome all our esteemed Christian philosophers to Goa and wish you a fruitful philosophical reflection on philosophy and science. We can trace the origin of philosophy and science in the human experience of wonder. All wonder is triggered by the call of the other. It is experienced as an external imperative. Martin Heidegger succinctly calls the question why there is something rather than nothing as the wonder of wonder. This human yearning unravels in the experience of wonder. Wonder being a dynamic act becomes a primordial act of philosophizing. Thus it is in the act of wonder that both Philosophy and Science belong together. Although both of them have their origin in human experience of wonder or ability to philosophize, as they grew up the distance between the two went on increasing. The stupendous growth of science and technology makes it mandatory for us to bring about an encounter between science, philosophy and faith. This encounter is the need of the hour so that the blessings of Science and technology are equitably and democratically distributed to all humans across the globe. I see that this conference takes the first step two this encounter by philosophizing science and technology. I am confident that this vital reflection will go on a long way to the road that will harmonize philosophy, science and faith. To me, this event is like the St. Pauls at the Areopagus as your philosophical labour is the building block for the encounter of faith, science and philosophy.

While not forgetting the great benevolence of Science and technology, I am happy that this august body of intellectuals will also discuss the perils posed by them to humanity. I congratulate you for bringing the sharpness of reason to bear on science and technology. By philosophizing Science and technology you offer the service of healthy critique to it that will enable us to inscribe values of the gospel into the culture of science that is spreading fast everywhere. Science and technology is a double edged sword. It has brought lots of good things to humanity yet there are still several dark areas that need the illumination of the Gospel. In several quarters, the culture of science has become a culture of death and it has become difficult to teach that what is technically possible is not always morally permissible. Science and Technology are in need of light from our faith and morals. This is why I think that this unique event in Goa is a way to prepare us to plunge into the mission of bringing about a Gospel-culture encounter. When we philosophize science, we will arrive at a deep understanding of it. But it cannot stop here. We have to work to bring about a fusion of horizon between philosophy, science and our faith. I am aware that being Christian Philosophers your philosophizing is already imbued into our faith and therefore philosophizing that you’ll be doing here is already in many ways promoting the fusion of horizons or mutual dialogue of Faith and Science.

Science is always thought of as a noun and is rendered static. This approach forgets that it is primarily praxis and requires a profoundly critical philosophical approach. This is because it is both a structured structure as well as structuring structure. As a structured structure, science has its own unique form. Anything cannot be considered as science. There is a proper scientific method that produces science. Philosophizing of science will enable us to discern science from non-science. Today we need this deep reflection because there are several voices in our country that claim that vedic science is superior as well as prior to modern science. They claim that we had aeroplanes, internet, cloning, and plastic surgery in the ancient past. Hence, a profound reflection on the nature of science is the urgent need of the hour. Thus what is essentially ignorance is posing as knowledge. This does not mean that there is no spiritual, rational and wisdom wealth in our ancient traditions. We can find traditions of deep Sraddha (faith), tarka (reason) and Prajna (wisdom). There is also equalling profound values, wisdom and philosophies inscribed into our tribal traditions, myths, and rituals. It is the important task of philosophy to draw this wealth in the task to bring together Faith, Philosophy and Science. Besides, being a structured structure, science also is a structuring structure in as much as it shapes our society. We as Catholics cannot passively watch the march of science and technology. We have the imperative and challenge of our faith to engage and dialogue with science so that we can arrive at a deeper understanding of God, our human nature and the cosmos.

We can trace several instances of positive engagement of our Church with the world of science. Post Conciliar Church is profoundly appreciative of Science and its tremendous achievements. Mother Church has always promoted judicious engagement with science and has remained aware that science can elevate humans to higher moral and intellectual standards. The Church also views science and technology as a means to bring about integral human development. But often science and technology are being used to destroy our common home in lust for the resources of the earth and idolatry of money. Hence, philosophizing science will assist us to listen to the cry of the earth and move us to wipe the tears of the poor. Science in the dynamism of philosophy can become the science for the poor. To bring into existence science for the poor, we have the task of critically assessing the public policy decisions of our Government and keeping a vigilant watch over the type of science founded and the kind of public money spent on it. We need philosophy to do this important task because both science and technology has by and large felt the poor behind and moved ahead. This is why philosophizing science is deeply emancipating. We have a profound mission to channel the benefits of science to all humans, especially the poor. For this and many other reasons doing philosophy is a noble task in the Church. It is a special call to holiness. It is imperative to becoming a living mission of our Lord.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao