Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Catholic Church and Space Exploration

Today we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing, when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first-ever human persons to set foot on the moon. But did you know that three months after that great achievement, as part of their world tour, all three of the Apollo 11 astronauts got to meet the Pope? That's right: On October 16, 1969, Armstrong, Aldrin, and command module pilot Michael Collins and their wives had an audience with Pope Paul VI in the Vatican. In a brief address, Pope Paul lauded them for their courage in breaking a new barrier, and for the spirit of service to humanity and the spirit of peace in which they accomplished their scientific mission. He congratulated them on behalf of the whole Church and praised the "genius, dedication and perseverance" that went into "this magnificent undertaking." He also thanked the president and people of the United States for making possible this feat of exploration, "with typical generosity of spirit, for the good of man and the world." He prayed that such exploration of God's creation would enable us to more clearly see God's power, His infinity, and his perfection, and that this knowledge would draw humanity--His children--closer together "in fraternal love, in peace and in prayer." Finally, Pope Paul thanked God for the successful achievement of this space mission and for the astronauts' safe return to Earth, and invoked God's blessings on them and their families.

Some 45 years later, these noble words of Venerable (soon to be Blessed) Paul VI remind us of what the manned missions to the moon were really all about. God has put within man a natural desire to explore and learn about His creation. That's the whole point of science--it's a search for the truth about the natural world around us. The Catholic Church gave the world the principles on which true science rests, and it was a Catholic who invented the scientific method. Thus it should be no surprise that the Catholic Church is and always has been supportive of genuine scientific investigation, including space exploration, so long as it is conducted in the proper spirit and oriented to the true good of the human person and society.

Sadly, the generosity of spirit, nobility of purpose, and sound scientific principles that marked the Apollo lunar explorations are largely missing in the United States today, as our country continues to drift further away from God and thus from reality, as selfishness replaces a spirit of service, and as corruption and pseudo-scientific attitudes have diverted much of science and astronomy away from the search for truth and into the sustained defense of increasingly problematic--and often untestable and illogical--hypotheses that violate the laws of physics yet are widely accepted as scientific fact, such as the Big Bang, the Standard Model, constantly accelerating expansion of the cosmos, dark matter and dark energy, black holes, the "multiverse theory," and the random evolution of the universe and of life on earth over billions of years. Generally speaking, we've abandoned the scientific method and are living in a self-constructed house of mirrors. Given the abysmal state of so much of modern science, is it any wonder we haven't returned to the moon to build on the foundation courageously laid by the Apollo astronaut pioneers (and have no plans to do so anytime soon)?

As a nation, we're dropping the ball on scientific exploration here in the twenty-first century because 1) we no longer believe in God the Creator, 2) we see the universe He created as merely a random product of meaningless evolutionary forces, 3) we doubt that there is any such thing as objective and absolute truth except as determined by the individual person, and 4) we no longer care about the common good. America needs conversion! We need to be shaken out of this radically secularist mentality and get back to the basics about God and science. We need to recover the spirit of service to the common good and the genuinely scientific approach that made the Apollo missions such a remarkable success. May our recollection of those outstanding achivements and the sacrifices that went into them inspire us as Catholics and as American citizens to work together to support and undertake genuine scientific exploration in the footsteps of the Apollo astronauts for the glory of God and the good of the human family.

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