Fr Stanley Jaki O.S.B. is the distinguished Professor of the History and Philosophy of Physics at Seton Hall University, New Jersey. He has doctorates in Systematic Theology and Nuclear Physics and is fluent in five languages. He has written over 30 books and hundreds of articles on religion and science. Last July he addressed the annual conference of the Confraternity of Australian Catholic Clergy and spoke at several Australian venues, including the 'AD2000' office.
Even the most advanced scientific discoveries in the fields of cosmology and nuclear physics cannot shed any light on what caused the creation of the Universe, Fr. Stanley Jaki, the eminent priest-physicist, said during his visit to Australia in July.
Discoveries in the field of nuclear physics and astronomy have given us an insight into what happened after the instant of creation. But what preceded that singularity, when matter was created from nothing, can never be known from scientific studies, he said.
Fr Jaki, a Benedictine priest who was awarded a doctorate in nuclear physics from Fordham University, spoke to audiences in Sydney, Canberra, Wagga Wagga and Melbourne on "Science and Religion on the Creation of the Universe."
He said, "It is a principle of science that a scientific proposition must be verified by quantitative analysis. When Stephen Hawking asserts that the origins of the Universe prove that God does not exist, that proposition cannot be proved scientifically.
"Just because you are a scientist does not mean that every statement you make is correct," he said. "What can science say about the Creation? The answer is nothing. Scientists cannot observe nothing."
Fr. Jaki said, however, that science and religion are consistent, and therefore scientific analysis can shed light on both scientific and theological propositions.
The discoveries of nuclear physics and astronomy have confirmed the essential order within the universe, even though our understanding of both fields is far from complete. From the Christian perspective, this is entirely consistent with the Biblical view of creation.
The processes of nuclear fusion, which produce the prodigious energy released from every star, enable us to understand the creation of our own sun, and ultimately the earth, from the debris of exploding stars, billions of years ago.
However, the scientific evidence does not prove the existence of Darwin's Theory of Evolution. "I firmly hold that evolution has not been proven as a scientific theory ought to be proven: by detailed observation or replication of the individual steps."
The great gap in evolutionary theory, he said, was the total absence of intermediate species between genera, families or phyla.
(Interestingly. Fr. Jaki said he believed in evolution for "essentially metaphysical and theological reasons", and particularly, his belief that the infinite wisdom and power of God would not have required him to constantly interfere in the processes he himself had created.)
He said, "Rabid evolutionists like Stephen Gould, T.H. Huxley, Sir Peter Medawar and others, are using the assertion that evolution has been proved scientifically, for other purposes: to deny the existence of God, and to assert that we are just the product of random processes."
He said, "Evolutionary theory also doesn't explain the purposeful behaviour of human beings. In fact, it says that everything is purposeless: this is the standard materialist evolutionary theory.
"However no scientific theory can include the notion of purpose: it can only study aspects which are measurable. Free will, understanding, and similar qualities cannot be measured scientifically." Some modern theories of the origin of the universe have been put forward to justify the materialist evolutionary view, he said.
Asked how he interpreted the Biblical account of creation, Fr. Jaki said that the essential consistency of science and religion required an explanation which accorded with proven scientific evidence.
So the question was: Is the Biblical account a theological proposition? Or a scientific proposition? The essence of the first Chapter of Genesis - the Biblical creation - was to convey religious truths:
- that God made everything, from the sun, stars and moon, to all plants, creatures and man; and secondly,
- that the Sabbath is sacred.
Attempts by Biblical exegetes to explain the literal truth of the seven days of creation had generally failed, he said.
In an interesting aside, Fr. Jaki said that two of the foundation stones of modern physics, Einstein's Theory of Relativity and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, had been misused by materialists for purposes which had nothing to do with physics.
Werner Heisenberg - himself an atheist - had explicitly encouraged that notion.
The theories had been used to buttress the materialist assertion that all things are relative, and that there are no moral absolutes.
(In fact, as every student of nuclear physics knows, Einstein's theory deals only with the inter-convertibility of mass and energy, and that time slows down as an object moves at speeds approaching that of light. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle relates to problems in the measurement of momentum and position of nuclear and sub-nuclear particles, and has no relevance outside nuclear physics.)
Fr Jaki said that as the material world was created by God who is both totally rational and infinitely superior to our way of thinking, even on scientific questions, science and religion offer complementary perspectives on the creation of the Universe.
While scientific discoveries have shown that the Universe was created at a particular moment, and give great insight into what happened afterwards, as St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, the Creation can only be understood from the perspective of God's revelation.