A Science Primer for the Faithful

by Robert J. Kurland

A Science Primer for the Faithful is a book that explains how science developed, demonstrating how the “truths” of science change as new data appears and new theories arise to explain that data. Unlike the truths of Catholic teaching, there is no eternal dogma for scientific theories, only a consistent methodology for the practice of science.

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REVIEWS

In his book A Science Primer for the Faithful, Robert Kurland firstly makes the point that the Catholic church has historically been a midwife and nursemaid to Science, thus facilitating its birth. So, in understanding science, the faithful Catholic is able to combat “Scientism”– the belief that science explains everything you need to know – as well as guard against science intersecting moral issues. Example: when does life begin? His book discusses creation – God and infinity – and affirms that the Church does not deny evolution as a scientific explanation for the diversity of species, although it does emphasize that Darwin’s model for how evolution occurs, namely through Survival of the Fittest, is not the only principle. In “Rational Inquiry” Kurland affirms that science is not an eternal truth, but a methodology. The truths it determines are subject to change as new data is uncovered. In that respect, he contends that science differs from the Catholic faith, which is not subject to change, founded as it is, on eternal truth. Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth. Physicists and cosmologists have, over the last forty years, been collecting examples of all-too-convenient “coincidences” in the underlying laws of nature that seem absolutely necessary for life to exist. This is the cornerstone of our belief in the supreme Creator. Kurland points to the “just right” weak and “just right” strong nuclear forces; the “just right” ratio of electrical and gravitational forces; the “just right” goldilocks zones for planetary systems, the control of radiation, the chemistry necessary for the earth to be hospitable to life. These are obviously no coincidences. As Sir Fred Hoyle, the British astronomer, is known to have pointed out: “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics as well as with chemistry and biology and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seems to me so overwhelming as to put this inclusion almost beyond question.” – Robin Arthur, author of Science and the God Elusion: A Reflection on the Conundrums of Life 

TESTIMONIALS

“Dr. Robert Kurland has truly brought the domains of Catholic faith and science together in an accessible way that respects the integrity of both areas…. This little volume gives an incisive, accurate, balanced overview of everything you need to know to encounter skeptics in the modern world. More than this, it opens upon a more comprehensive appreciation of the psalmist’s exclamation: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour fourth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. (Ps. 19:1-2).” Fr. Robert Spitzer, President of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith

“A great resource for students!” – Dr. Gerard Verschuuren, author of Can Science and Religion Live Together?: What Science Can and Cannot Do

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob Kurland is a retired, cranky, old physicist who converted to Catholicism in 1995. He is a Graduate of Caltech (BS, with honor, 1951), Harvard (M.S. 1953, Physics; Ph.D. 1956, Chemical Physics), academic career, Carnegie-Mellon, SUNY/AB, MRI (Geisinger), best scientific work: search Kurland-McGarvey equation. He also served as a volunteer to federal prison and hospital; lector, EOMHC, and is a sometime player of bass clarinet, alto clarinet, clarinet, bass, tenor bowed psaltery for parish instrumental group and local folk group. He has been married 54 years and has 5 children, 11 grandchildren (eldest to graduate from Penn State Schreyer’s Honor College (grandfathers are allowed to brag!). For the story of his conversion, click here. For other blog posts about his faith as a convert from Judaism and a scientist, see here, here and here. His current effort is to show that there is no contradiction between what science tells us about the world and our Catholic faith. Intermittent blogs and adult education classes to achieve this end are available at http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/ and http://home.ptd.net/~rkurland)

Bob’s motivation comes from St. Augustine of Hippo, who wrote in The Trinity, 1.8:

It is also necessary may God grant it that in providing others with books to read I myself should make progress, and that in trying to answer their questions I myself should find what I am seeking. Therefore at the command of God our Lord and with his help, I have undertaken not so much to discourse with authority on matters known to me as to know them better by discoursing devoutly of them.

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