Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


The Sapiential Potentiality of Science

Enrico Cantore, Ph.D.
World Institute for Scientific Humanism
Fordham University
New York, NY 10023

From: PSCF 39 (December 1987): 250-251.

My praise to God and congratulations to Dr. Russell Maatman for his "Chemistry, a Gift of God" (JASA, December 1986, pp. 232-236). 1 felt moved by it because the author:

1.) Understands chemistry as a whole-and not only from the formal but also from the concrete point of view, as a researcher and a teacher in the field; a rare combination to judge from my experience among physicists!

2.) Loves chemistry as a life commitment, proving thereby that science truly deserves to be called "a vocation" according to the famous phrase by Max Weber.

3.) Makes chemistry understandable and attractive to all intellectually alert persons; in particular, he stimulates chemists to practice their discipline in a manner that fosters human dignity by its respect for reality, enthusiasm for the beauty of the same and discharge of the responsibilities that arise from scientific discoveries and applications.

4.) Unselfconsciously integrates chemistry into the Christian theology of creation.

Given this opportunity, I would like to stress that this article may serve as an example and encouragement for what I would call "the sapiential potentiality of science." In fact, the sapiential attitude is the stance by which a person recognizes and loves God through his consideration of observable reality, as the Book of Wisdom (13:1-9) and Paul (Romans 1:19-20) strongly recommend. (The Lutheran theologian Gerhard von Rad is the outstanding authority on this topic.)

It seems to me that Christian scientists like the members of ASA should not only recognize the sapiential potentiality of science, but also foster it in others as well as in themselves. For many among their colleagues, students and the public they encounter are called by God to recognize him not in spite of, but because of, science. Yet in various ways they feel hesitant or reluctant to assent to this call because of their lack of adequate religious upbringing, the overspecialization of their scientific training, the hostility against religion fostered by modern philosophy in the name of science, the lack of sympathy and even interest of theologians with regard to science, and the like.

The urgency of actualizing the sapiential potentiality of science in contemporary society becomes every day more evident. For contemporary public opinion-in direct contradiction to the Christic origination of science-takes more and more for granted that to be scientific means to postulate a complete irrelevance of God to human affairs. The result, as we all know, is a flood-like spreading of a radically dehumanizing mentality which threatens to destroy society as a whole, beginning with the young. As a recent example, the National Research Council- the most prestigious and official scientific body of this country-strongly recommended a massive distribution of condoms by public agencies as the decisive remedy against teen pregnancies-and it did so in the name of scientific realism and sophistication.

It is clearly up to Christian scientists to help turn this dehumanizing tide that attracts the wrath of God on our society (cf., Rom. 1: 18). To this end, it seems enough that they humbly pray to become generous and prudent instruments of God's Wisdom, then cordially share with their colleagues, students and public their own love of God and neighbor as fostered by science-by responding to questions, clarifying doubts, strengthening resolutions, exposing pretenses, and so forth.