We have had numerous discussions here on the blog on the interrelationship of faith and the physical sciences. We live in a time of reductionist thinking wherein many reduce reality to the physically measurable. Theology and other disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, even history according to some, cannot be a part of what we know. Some go even further to deny absolutely the existence of anything beyond matter. Here are things emblematic of our times: reductionist, materialist, and a kind of idolatry of the merely physical sciences.

Indeed the very word “science” has come to mean for many, merely the physical sciences. But, traditionally, theology and philosophy were (and still are, according to many) considered to be sciences. They are sciences for they follow a method, or methods, they include peer review and are subjected to the laboratory of human experience and tested by  time. Of their nature they do not usually include physical measurements, for they engage what is largely beyond the physically measurable. But until recently they were included among the sciences and had a pride of place in university settings.

And while many derisively dismiss philosophy and theology as sciences, the fact is they they do deal with what we all experience on a daily basis. For there are many non material things that humans beings actually and really experience that require study and explanation, synthesis, and discernment.

I was recently given a link to an article by my brother, John, which describes our modern tendencies and problems with reductionism, materialism and scientism. It is by Dr. Jeff Mirus over at Catholicculture.org. I want to present excerpts of a much longer article he wrote and make some comments of my own. Dr. Mirus’ original text is in black, bold, italic. My comments are in red, plain text. The full article is here: The Hammer and the Nail

[O]ne of the great problems we face in understanding human dignity is that by the materialistic, empirical or purely scientific account, both our self-understanding and our freedom are illusions. These terms require some explanation, and the explanation will reveal a tremendous blind spot in our culture’s view of knowledge.

The term materialistic is plain enough. If we insist that there is nothing in the wide world but matter, then we have to admit something that will risk our sanity, namely that it is only an illusion that we can somehow stand outside ourselves and reflect on our being (intellect) or that we can direct our lives according to freely made choices (will). These things [according to materialism] must be illusions because they are abilities which transcend what matter can produce. But to accept this is to deny our own perception of ourselves.

In other words, it is our experience, that we have a spiritual aspect about ourselves. We can consider things which are non-material and concepts such as  justice, love, mercy, sincerity, beauty, moral rectitude, and so forth. Further we have a sense of “I,” that “I” exist, a capacity of introspection and a well defined understanding that I am distinct from things and others around me. Yet again, there are longings for things beyond the physical world such as unity, acceptance, transcendence,  fulfillment, and that ultimate sense of meaning beyond who we simply are, here and now. Clearly, as a theologian I attribute these human longings as pointing to the ultimate longing for God. But, even to the unbeliever, the spiritual insights and thoughts of the human person are empirically evident. These insights are “empirical” in the sense that they rooted in real and actual experience, what we truly experience within our very self. They are also things we are able to verify as existing in other human beings.

For the materialist, these sorts of experiences, these empirical data, must be treated either as an illusion (as our author suggests) or as emanations of brain chemistry not yet fully understood. There is the modern reductionist tendency to explain everything based on physical causation. I remember years ago an a secular and materialist attempt to explain the rather peculiar human experience of consciousness. The author titled his work: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind [1] A reductionist and materialist theory, to be sure!

But the point is that we all experience these sorts of non physical things in our psyche and, as our author goes on to develop, there is a rather twisted and contorted attempt to either dismiss such experiences as of any account or to redefine “empirical” are referring only to physical matter.

In our culture, empiricism is closely tied to what is physically measurable. But spiritual things are, by definition, immeasurable. Therefore, a [modern] empirical account of reality omits the spiritual, and a culture which comes to believe that the only possible solid knowledge is empirical knowledge necessarily either ignores the spiritual or denies it altogether.

Again, it is the MODERN notion that empirical equals physically measurable. For it is clear that very real things are not always physically measurable. For example, we cannot physically measure the degree to which we love someone, long for something, experience sorrow over some situation etc. Yet, these are real, and in a very real way, they are empirical, for they are observable, or shall we say, something we all clearly experience.

Some may argue for brain mapping etc. but here too is a reductionist attempt to reduce non-physical things to the purely physical. For even if there is an aspect of the brain, or central nervous system that is engaged by these human experiences, the answer as to why these non-material aspects are experienced by us, remains something that science is ill-equipped to explain. Justice is not a material thing, it does not go out for a walk or sit down to breakfast. Neither do longing, acceptance, serenity or humor go out to beach together for vacation. These things are real, but they are not material.

This brings us to the idea of a purely scientific account of man, in the modern sense of science, meaning not simply a branch of knowledge, but knowledge acquired by an experimental or empirical method. The scientific approach to knowledge is not wrong in itself, but it is only one approach, and it is necessarily partial. [Exactly, we are not anti-science, to be so would be foolish. But we do accept that science has limits].

Sadly, the modern world suffers from a dearth of other approaches. In particular, it suffers from the absence of a different sort of science, a different approach to knowledge, the approach of theology. Because of the materialistic and empirical biases of our culture, theology is no longer taken seriously as a branch of human knowledge. What was once considered the queen of the sciences, has been gradually eliminated from higher education. This gives rise to a very curious phenomenon: Whenever one branch of study is consistently absent, other branches of study will encroach upon its territory. [Pay attention, what follows is very important].

In his brilliant work The Idea of a University, Cardinal Blessed John Henry Newman argues that, as a university is by definition devoted to the full range of disciplines or branches of knowledge, it is a mistake and a distortion to exclude theology. Every branch of knowledge, Newman rightly notes, is tempered and improved by all the other branches, [YES!] as each branch has its own tools and methods, and each learns a certain care and modesty in its conclusions, [YES!] more accurately discerning their application and scope, in relation to what is discovered by other tools and instruments in other regions of investigation. Thus, when one branch of knowledge is left out or, worse, barred from the university or from “sophisticated” discourse generally, others encroach upon its domain, reaching conclusions which are unwarranted and, indeed, unattainable by their own proper methods.

And herein lie a lot of modern problems and distortions. We have become well aware of how science encroaches on faith in recent years. Science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God per se, that is not its field. And yet, in our times scientists make claims that God does not exist. But their statements are not scientific statements when they speak like this. They are making theological and philosophical claims, for physical science, by definition cannot measure the non-physical or render scientifically based conclusion on the existence or non-existence of the spiritual. Most scientists are not trained in the disciplines of theology and philosophy and are are no more qualified to opine on such matters than “some dude” at the local bar. Yet, as our author goes on to observe:

Thus, on every side, we find well-known scientists, lionized by our cultural elites, writing briefs for atheism, pronouncing that evolutionary biology proves the non-existence of God. [Exactly. But of course biology cannot prove the non-existence of a spiritual being].

And to be fair, some on the religious side have tried to exclude too many aspects of physical science, which has a legitimate and necessary role in human knowledge. In the last century, an often fundamentalist hostility to science has been evident among some Christians who see the Scriptures especially, as a scientific account of creation, rather than a theological account which, while having scientific aspects, also uses analogy, metaphor, poetry and speaks in a general, rather than a consistently specific manner. Further, they see Scripture as a “sole source” of revealed truth. From the Catholic point of view, God’s “Book of Scripture” does not contradict His “Book of Creation.” Both are revelation, and both speak truth to us, and the truth does not ultimately contradict itself.  While there are certain scientific theories that at times come into apparent conflict with Scripture or dogmatic theology, and must be rejected or distinguished, this does not mean that science itself is wrong as a discipline. Neither does it mean that on-going discussions cannot help both disciplines (theology and physical science) to come to a deeper understanding of the one truth. The fact is, I generally find that a lot of scientific discoveries confirm my faith and encourage a sense of wonder and awe. If grace builds on nature, as we teach, then understanding nature is of benefit to us spiritually.

Physical Science too benefits from theology and philosophy by acknowledging that many of its processes of deduction and method are descended from theological and philosophical methodology. Philosophy especially is able to help science reveal possible flaws in reasoning, and also help science to stay within its own defined scope. And that scope is the material, the physical world. But physical science does well to maintain humility and to accept that that there may be things beyond its scope which it is not able to render an account of, one way or the other. If not, the physical sciences fall into the error of scientism. Scientism is the error which reduces everything to matter and insists that nothing exists outside the system which physical science can measure, a conclusion that can, in no way, be proved, scientifically.

In the end, perhaps the problem is best expressed in a very popular aphorism: When your only tool is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. The only trouble is, everything is not a nail. The human person perceives that instinctively, but in our culture we lack the tools to explicate the momentous truths which follow from such an irreducible fact.

Yes, I am convinced that this is going to have to be our way back. Basic human experience. And that experience, if we are honest, shouts to us the existence of the spiritual and the transcendent.

Even physical science rests on the mystic and metaphysical notion that reality is “intelligible.” For intelligibility bespeaks meaning and asks questions about purpose, direction and points, ultimately outside the physical (to the metaphysical) to the question, why? Intelligibility presumes also the great mystery of a  questioning soul. For why do we seek to understand at all? The animals, who are physically very like us, do not seem to ask such questions or probe deeper relations. Intelligibility also presumes that there is actual meaning and purpose to be found. Still further it presumes that “I” exist at all, to discern it, and that my mind is not engaged by illusions and shadows. Why does anything exist at all and what does it mean to exist? How do we define it and by what means do we discover it?

These are deeper questions than they may seem. Reality has a mystical dimension that artists, poetics, writers, philosophers and theologians have pondered for centuries, long before there ever was a scientific method, (developed, by the way, in the largely Catholic and Christian universities of the West, and respectful of the Judeo-Christian insights of natural law and the Wisdom tradition).

We have to continue to engage the modern world in the understanding that things run deeper and more wonderfully than we can physically describe. Deep down most people know and experience this truth. Life has more meaning than just the physical. A beloved spouse is not just another body, they are a person with all the mystery that entails. A kiss is not just two lips meeting, it is two souls sharing the breath of mystical life. A house is not just a physical structure, it is a home with all the non-material meaning that includes. My longings are not just the firing of brain synapses and serotonin, but the sigh of my soul for completion and fulfillment, for something infinite, for something (some ONE) other, for God.

Dr. Mirus is right, life is more than a nail and we need more than a hammer to understand it. Deep down we know this, and this is where we must engage the modern person. We ought to remain respectful of physical science and the wonders it has offered us, yet we must also demand more: a deeper vision that respects the full human experience. There’s more to life.

Photo credit Sodahead via Creative Commons

Please pardon a little science humor and accept my full admission that we also have some real geeks in theology too!

21 Responses

  1. Brian says:

    Msgr., Dr, Mirus’ article and your commentary are excellent refutations of reductionist and modernist errors. In my time as a theologian, I have found that scientism and modernism are often red herrings masking the unerlying motives of many self-described atheists. Modernism, after all, is derived from the Enlightenment’s deification of reason, and nearly every nonbeliever I’ve discussed theology with eventually reveals a strong anti-rational streak.

    I generally encounter two types of self-proclaimed atheists: those who maintain fidelity to truth but are currently satisfied with purely materialistic explanations for existence, and the invincibly ignorant who reject faith based on personal issues and feign scientism as ex post facto justification for their rebellion. The former usually open up to the idea of transcendent reality once it’s pointed out how materialism leads to chemical determinism and a self-contradictory paradox. These cases are sadly rare. Far more common are deeply entrenched ideologues who are more than willing to jettison the principal of intelligibility the instant its reliance on faith in the transcendent becomes undeniable.

    The truly bizarre situation fostered by our culture is the schizophrenic postmodernism that allows someone to reject God on the basis of scientific rigor then turn around and casually undermine all knowledge by effectively advocating intellectual nihilism, all the while considering himself a perfectly rational person. This baffling phenomenon is certain proof of physical science’s detachment from philosophy. Those who accuse believers of being benighted sheep demonstrate even greater blind faith in a method whose underpinnings they can’t coherently explain or even acknowledge. Yet, nothing is perceived to be wrong with this sort of intellectual hypocrisy.

    I think that your hope in the catechetical applicability of shared human experience is well-founded. Most people hold to materialist reductionism only insofar as it allows them to practice their favorite vices without guilt. Luckily, few materialists take their chosen ethos to its logical conclusion. Only sociopaths eschew any notion of human life’s inherent value. Everyone has felt love, longing, and the desire for justice. Convincing others that these natural human desires have a final fulfillment in God is a powerful evangelizing approach.

    • All you have written is very well put. Do you think you could elaborate a little on how materialism leads to chemical determinism and a self-contradictory paradox? I’d be interested in hearing more of what you think on this.

      • Brian says:

        Msgr. Pope;

        Thank you for your approval of my comment. Give the glory to God.
        I’ll happily elaborate on the inevitable self-contradiction inherent in hard materialism. I’m ashamed to say I can’t recall the exact source, but I first saw the argument used in opposition to the new foreword of Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

        The paradox is as follows: if one admits only to the existence of matter, then by definition any reality transcending material properties is excluded. (You and Dr. Mirus make a similar point). If only matter exists, it must follow that all occurrences in the universe, including the workings of the human mind, are simply epiphenomena of material interactions.

        It is a basic principle of reason that whatever can rightly judge something must be higher in order than what is judged. If human reason is merely the product of matter, then it cannot reliably judge matter, either. You can see the looming problem created by this principle in a materialistic universe.

        More simply, if human consciousness is dictated by chemical reactions in the nervous system, then we have no guarantee that any of our senses or experiences are accurate. Intellect and free will become illusions. This is chemical determinism, which completely undermines the reliability of empirical data, and by extension human reason and all human knowledge.

        Hawking’s contributors acknowledged this dilemma and proposed evolutionary principles as guarantors that human senses accurately perceive the world. This rather feeble approach is blatant circular logic, since our knowledge of evolution depends on the same potentialy faulty consciousness!

        James Kalb has observed that any claim to knowledge must ultimately appeal to faith, for only a truly transcendent reality can guarantee the truth of human reason. In the final analysis, even the most hardened reductionist materialist unwittingly appeals to man’s creation in the imago Dei in Genesis 1:26.

        Let me point out that I am not advocating fideism, which approaches epistemology from the opposite direction of materialism yet arrives at the same intellectual nihilism. Rather, I hold with Augustine, Anselm, et al. that man’s rational soul empowers us to accurately perceive and know (potentially great but still limited) truth about material and spiritual realities, guaranteed by our creation in God’s image and likeness.

        If anything I have written contradicts the faith of the Church, I gladly submit to her magisterial authority.

  2. Nick says:

    This is often seen in materialistic scientists, who propose stupid remedies for illnesses and beliefs about life outside their competence. In place of God, they say all man needs is happiness. In place of longing for God, they say all man needs is to meditate each day. In place of praying, they say all man needs is self-confidence. In place of Heaven, they say all man needs is a better life now. But God foreknows all this, and so uses it to His greater glory and for our salvation: He makes the happy man grope for Him, He makes the meditating man hear Him, He makes the self-confident man humble, and He makes the man who improves his life see a reflection of Him in nature.

  3. Dismas says:

    Wow, I’m only on day four but already powerful examples of the Gifts of Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel and Wisdom. Come Holy Spirit, come by the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved Spouse.

  4. Warren Allen says:

    I’m a geology student at a major American university. I recently gave a presentation about science and religion and my experiences were quite eye opening! I attempted to round out my ideas by invoking a discussion about evolution on physicsforums.com (supported by Scientific American). I was met by a high degree of insults and eventually bigotry by a forum “mentor” when attempting to refute claims I am not a “young earth creationist” but a Catholic. I was attacked from the get go and was unable to convey the fact I was simply asking questions.

    Unfortunately a large percentage of the scientific community is loaded for bear and labeling any spiritual discussion as “crack pot creationism”. In many science circles I have experienced the discussion is completely off the table.
    I am under the impression many of the younger students are not aware of just what they are being indoctrinated as. Many of the students I spoke with considered themselves “secular humanists” but were surprised to learn PZ Myer’s bigoted Eucharist desecration in 2008 was rewarded with being named Humanist of the Year in 2009!

    As communism and socialism were the “coffee house philosophers” topic de jour for the 60′s and 70′s secular humanism ie; atheism is the modern de facto world view.

    W

    • Thanks for writing about your experience and thoughts. I too have had to endure quite a lot of over the top and personal attacks. It seems that many want to live in an all or nothing world so that, if you are religious or have any questions at all about evolution, even from a scientific point of view, you are just some religious, fundamentalist “crack-pot.” There is no middle ground, nor do many appreciate any nuance among Christians. Never mind that the Catholic approach is not fundamentalist and that our stance is carefully distinguished and permits a lot of latitude in the discussion. The fact is we almost never get past the opening sentence or two before being called a “young earth creationist.” Many in the science world (not all, even most) seem to have no scientific instinct to get the actual facts before rushing to a conclusion. This gives the impression that evolution is as much a religious dogma to some of them as it is a scientific theory. I for one would appreciate a little more acceptance by others that Christians are not in lockstep about this matter and that there are legitimate questions and concerns about the details of evolutionary theory that do not amount to me being a creationist, nor do they mean that I reject every aspect of evolutionary theory and science in general.

      Thanks Warren for wading into these troubled waters. Be of good cheer.

  5. t k says:

    Fabulous article.

    It reflects, too, much of what has been a years-long, ongoing discussion in our own family. My sister and brother-in-law are archeologist/anthropologists, and I was a research assistant for nearly a decade for an historian/retired university president, and I have a degree in theology/philosophy as well.

    Over the years, on campus and off, it has become increasingly apparent scientists of every stripe desperately need a sound education in philosophy as a required part of getting even the most basic degree in any field of science, “hard” or “soft”. Certainly it would be an improvement if people like Dawkins knew at least enough philosophy to maintain self-consistency in ideas or to be able to tell when they have left the field of material science and wandered onto the philosophical or theological “plantation.” It is sad to see such brilliant people wander back and forth between one and the other and not even realize it. You and your brother outline the problem in exemplary fashion, and it feels great to be reminded that we are not alone in our little discussions over coffee or a great beer.

    Now, the fun part: what would the ideal curriculum look like for a great science student, both at the basic 4-year college level and at the post-graduate level? Ideas, anyone?

    Pax Christi

    • You’re right on target here. Even basic and simple courses on philosophy would be of great help to the thinking process. I would surely highlight the branches of philosophy known as epistemology and logic for any major in the physical sciences. Also helpful would be to study the history of philosophy so that scientists can better appreciate the foundation that philosophy and Natural Law have played in the development of the scientific method.

  6. Cynthia BC says:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-is-a-college-education-really-worth/2011/06/02/AGzIO4HH_story.html

    The author of this article, published in yesterday’s Post, is that what one is paying for is a credential, not an education.

  7. Michael DePietro says:

    Brian comments “The former usually open up to the idea of transcendent reality once it’s pointed out how materialism leads to chemical determinism and a self-contradictory paradox.”

    I am a physician with some expertise in the neurosciences and want to comment on this, as its a very good point.

    If you are a materialist all subjective experieriences are the product of brain physiology. At an even more reductionist level all physiology is really biochemistry. For example when we look at brain activity what we are really “seeing” is the sum total of the change in electric potential on the inside and outside the of neuron ( or nerve cell) These electrical changes are caused by complicated chemical reactions that invovle the change in structure of proteins embedded in the cell membrane ( chemistry ) and flow of charged particles like sodium, potassium, and calcium ions across the membrane. ( more chemistry )

    Given the billions of brain cells and enormous number of interconnections in the brain, one might imagine there is an extremely complicated set of electrical signals being generated. This is true, but at the end of the day what we really have is just.. … lots an lots of chemistry (complex chemistry, but chemistry nonetheless)

    Obviously if this is all there is, then like all chemical reactions, they do not “will” themselves, they occur because given a set of external conditions ( molecules in a given proximity to each other, at a certain temperature and pressure etc..) the laws of chemistry and physics take over and they happen of necessity. Hence determinism, no free will. In fact not only no free will, each and every thought, conclusion, sensation is predetermined chemistry. Experience is a meaningless epiphenomena. When you are dead.. well no more chemistry. This is nothing if not depressing, life is meaningless and short…

    One might ask of a materialist exactly why or how lots and lots of chemical reactions becomes self aware and you get no good answer. In fact this question can have no answer. At the end of the day no matter how closely I probe your brain with MRI’s, and EEGs I may find signals ( metabolic activity, electrical activity) that occur with certain thoughts, but I never actually “see” the tree or the bird you imagine in your mind in the way that you see it. There is obviously then a non material component that is bound up with our brain and functions using it. ( Aquinas would probably call this the soul)

    At the end of the day science and logic leads away from materialism. Materialism is a choice. People are not materialists because of science, they are materialist because they do not care for the 10 commandments.

    • Thanks for this information, about half of which I understand :-)

      Interesting, as I was reading your comment my cat jumped up on my lap and I thought that much of the neurology you described must apply to his brain as well, though on a smaller scale. As a mammal, he is very much like me in so many ways. Yet, as far as I can tell he and other mammals do not seem self aware, they do not write poems, ponder justice, build cities, organize legislatures, agonize over death, or ponder what it means to exist or how existence is difference from essence and mere “being.” Things like beauty and even rhythm in a great song, seem to escape him, he never laughs at my jokes either or appreciates irony. Indeed, so many of the things we attribute to our more spiritual and creative side seem lacking in mammals whose brain structure and central nervous system do not seem that fundamentally different. Though I may be wrong about this last physical observation, it is still puzzling that there is not at least some rudimentary evidence of some of the things I mentioned above in the more primitive brains of other mammals. I am left to conclude that the soul in us makes a big difference.

  8. TeaPot562 says:

    Pure materialism as a philosophy leads to (among other things) the emergence of a Hitler. If there are no absolute moral standards of “right” and “wrong”, who are you to tell me that it is wrong to murder one person or a million people? Who are you to tell me it is wrong to murder all who disagree with me?
    Some who have studied the matter claim that Lenin & Stalin are responsible for more deaths than Hitler; and that Mao Tse Tung ordered the death of more people than Pol Pot.
    In the New Testament, the criterion offered is “By their fruits you shall know them.” A culture may be able to survive the existence of a few atheists in its midst; but if the entire nation is set on atheistic principles the result seems to be Nazi Germany or Communist Russia. Not a place where most would want to live.
    TeaPot562

  9. Michael DePietro says:

    tk asks:
    “Now, the fun part: what would the ideal curriculum look like for a great science student, both at the basic 4-year college level and at the post-graduate level? Ideas, anyone?”

    When I was in college at an allegedly Catholic institution run by the Society of Jesus I was subjected to 18 credits of “philosophy and theology”. Somehow I managed to remain a Catholic in spite of this. What I actually found was not that the science majors were ignorant of the necessary philosophy and such, but that the philosophers were 100% abysmally ignorant of even the most basic science and even worse, had no idea when an arguement needed something like “evidence” to sustain it. The atheism is arising not from the science but from the mindless stuff coming from the humanities department.

    What I remember of my college philosophy classes is that they were in essence mostly ridiculous. I will never forget being assigned one of Teilhard de Chardins books, in Philosphy 101, and being told how “deep he was” What I found was not that he was “deep”, but rather that he was non sensical. Most of what he wrote read like gobblydegook. Since I was able to plod through stuff like Organic Chemistry and Calculus I thought the “depth” of his thought was probably not the issue, but perhaps his incoherence and penchant for words like “noosphere” was the problem. In theology 101 I recall my lefty Catholic nun being horrified when I made the point that God could obviously not change ( how does an all powerful, all knowing, all perfect being change? Does he become more perfect? ) I saw my grade dropping, and like most of us grade grubbing pre med students I did what I needed to do to secure my “A” and wrote a paper about God’s feelings and emotions and how he can change his mind about us and “learn” etc… I managed to hand it in with a straight face ( barely) and my Freshman GPA was secured. And so it went… If I really thought that this was the stuff that you needed to buy into the be a Christian I would have been done with it.

    Currently most people who major in the sciences are not atheists because of the science! They are materialists because you spend lots of time in school marinating in the secular humanistic philosophy that is spewed out in the non science courses. As it turns out most physicians are not materialists ( a recent PEW survey showed about 3/4 believe in God) probably because we are, as a group very practical and did our best to avoid the non science courses and minimize the time they took away from our “real” subjects or college football games. The PHD types being smarter than we were, and liking school a whole lot more imbided a lot more of the toxin being handed out in the humanities departments.

    Ok.. Sorry for being so fascetious. In reality the answer to your question of what a good “non science curriculum for the science major would be: a history of philosophy class, a comparitive religion class, a european history and history of the Reformation class, some rigorous theology using all text books from before Vatican II, maybe relying on the doctors of the Church, a course in logic, no make that a couple of courses in logic, including mathematical logic, would be a good start. Top it off with some Aquinas and Some readings from Augustine and you would be in ok shape.

    • Reading your remark on Chardin, I am mindful of a remark by Bishop Sheen who said, “Some people get credit for being learned when they are simply opaque.” Chardin was rather opaque.

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