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Jesuit astronomer warns against the temptation to believe that science is infallible

Jesuit astronomer warns against the temptation to believe that science is infallible

The Vatican, 17 January. 22 / 12:06 p.m. (ACI). – Guy Consolmagno, astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory, Guy Consolmagno, published an article in the Jesuit magazine catholic civilizationIn which he criticized the slogan “Follow the Science”, which became a slogan during the Covid-19 pandemic. Consolmagno says in his article “Covid, Faith and the Fallibility of Science” that vaccines against COVID-19 are not perfect and science is not infallible.

The Jesuit, who taught and taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, cautions against the temptation of “Gnosticism” involving the subject.

In the text, the director of the Vatican Observatory stated that “treating scholars as members of a kind of priesthood of truth is a debatable tactic, especially in a society where true priests are viewed with suspicion.”

“While I am totally in favor of vaccination, phrases like ‘follow the science’ leave me very perplexed. It expresses a common concept of science that is not only misleading, it makes science weak.”

“Following science does not simply suggest the idea that science is a reliable guide to the truth, but rather that it is the only reliable evidence. The expression itself seems to answer an implicit question: What or who should we trust?”.

In his view, this phrase “is somehow reminiscent of Peter’s statement to Jesus in John 6:68: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?'” And these echoes of the Bible may be understood by someone, as an evangelical Christian, who is familiar with this passage of the Bible, but perhaps not familiar with the sciences, and who then perceives these words to imply that ‘confidence in science’ means that it is an alternative .for faith in the Lord.”

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The scientist comments: “To such a person, such a slogan may subconsciously do more harm than good. Worse, the idea that science is the only reliable evidence suggests that its power is infallible. But anyone with real knowledge of science knows that this is not true “.

The Jesuit explains that “the vaccine prevents disease in the vast majority of those vaccinated and reduces the severity of cases in so-called ‘advanced infections’; but vaccines are not perfect. Fully vaccinated people can get sick with Covid-19.”

“For those who are against vaccines, the fact that such failures occur not only indicates that the vaccine is not perfect, but also confirms concerns that blindly relying on science can be dangerous,” he adds.

“I can cite a large number of scientific papers I have written which later turn out to be shamefully wrong. However, in addition to occasional errors, even the most notable scientific developments were accompanied by fundamental errors that eventually had to be corrected.”

Doubt, Faith, Doubt, and Science

“Science is built on doubt and error, on learning to analyze our mistakes and learn from them. For us, it is necessary to know that we do not know, because the fact of knowing our ignorance encourages us to make an effort to know better, without being satisfied with what we already know,” says the astronomer. “In science, failure is not an option but a requirement. Science is not only sometimes incomplete: it is always incomplete by nature.”

“If we had no doubts, we would have no need for faith, but, as in science, doubt is also the primary motivator that keeps us looking for God without content with accepting or rejecting what we learned as children.”

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Consolmagno points out that although “our science may be of excellent quality, it will always be subject not only to the methodological imprecision of instruments, but also to our human tendency to impose data on our preconceptions. Any compression is considered to be completely dead, and will not seek to understand anything else” .

In another paragraph of his article, the scientist talks about the Gnosticism surrounding the issue of vaccines against Covid, and warns against the fact that he “discovered” alone, on his computer or phone, some confidential or unknown information.

“It is a temptation that we should be able to recognize. It highlights that she has the charm of ‘Gnosticism’, and the desire to embrace ‘Secret knowledge’.”

“If we consider that scholars—or authors of ‘secret’ websites—are pursued because they are smarter than us, we implicitly equate ‘smarter’ with ‘better.’ This is the origin of the lure of Gnosticism, where a sense of self-worth comes from thinking that you are more alert than average. And that you are “the smartest person in the world”.

The astronomer says: “In this assessment there is nothing said to be taken into account: the idea of ​​being more intelligent is an indicator of individual excellence. This criterion is the antithesis of the Christian faith.”

Guy Consolmagno then asks: “How can we live with the uncertainty of disease, with the fallibility of science, and the fear of losing autonomy, associated with trust in the work of others? We respond as we always respond to the offer of love from our neighbour: cautiously and boldly.”

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When we have the opportunity to love, we know that love will inevitably meet with failure; Although we are also at the peak of our capacity for love, because we are all fragile human beings, but we also know how to take precautions,” he continues.

In this sense, he says, “we do not give complete and unconditional confidence to any part of ‘science’ per se (including those we find on the Internet or elsewhere). We accept the vaccine, yes, but we also keep a distance. Social and adequate hygiene and we wear the mask.”

“We are glad that God has given us the ability to understand and appreciate his creation through our knowledge, in ways that are deeper than ever before. And it stands out that every failure comes with an opportunity to learn.”

“And with every success comes the recognition that God can work through us, precisely because it is not a certain success, the more we can boast each time it happens.”

After all, the Jesuit astronomer concludes, “The only certainty in life is God’s love and mercy. And our need for that.”

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