Fr Paul Robinson of Holy Cross has published a book on realist philosophy with Gracewing Publishers in the UK.
Just released is a new book entitled The Realist Guide to Religion and Science. Written at Holy Cross by Fr Paul Robinson, the book takes a thesis of the late, great Fr Stanley Jaki, and tries to provide it a philosophical foundation. His idea was that epistemological realism is a necessary mental precondition for anyone wanting to do science or religion reasonably. Fr Jaki buttressed his argument with many historical examples in his Gifford Lectures, but oftentimes his points are lost in his elevated and complex style. Moreover, he wrote more as an historian than a philosopher, yet his thesis is essentially philosophical.
Thus, Fr Robinson saw an opening for a contribution to be made to the general conversation about the relation between religion and science. His book argues that epistemological realism is absolutely necessary to broker any peaceful co-existence of religion and science. The reason is that only realism is reasonable. And disagreements come when people are unreasonable. To be more specific, people and cultures of religion or science become unreasonable and come into conflict when they adopt non-realist worldviews.
Typically, religions have tended toward an idealism that devalues the material world and the empirical data that it provides, trumping that data by some a priori construct deriving from a false notion of God or a literalist reading of a sacred text. Typically, scientists have tended toward an empiricism that denies the existence or at least the intellectual worth of what is beyond the senses, thereby relegating religion to the realms of illusion or uselessness. If believers and scientists are realist, these unfortunate conflicts do not happen. On the contrary, by definition, they cannot happen.
The book is broken up into three sections, the first considering realist principles and the realist view of reality, the second considering religions going wrong without realism, and the third considering science going wrong without realism.
Fr Daniel Themann, rector of Holy Cross Seminary, read and censored the entire manuscript. He warmly recommends the book in the following words:
The Realist Guide goes beyond the normal Catholic apologetic which usually limits itself to showing that there is no contradiction between genuine religion and genuine science. Fr Robinson takes the broader view and demonstrates that, throughout history, the perennial conflict which has bloodied the intellectual landscape has rather been the struggle between rationality and irrationality – science and religion being, not the antagonists, but rather the battlefields. The attentive reader must come ready to think and ready to learn. Whether or not you will agree with all of his conclusions, do not cheat yourself out of the insights which this book provides in abundance.
Fr Robinson would like to express his profound gratitude to Rev Dr Paul Haffner for publishing The Realist Guide to Religion and Science through Gracewing Publishers, of which he is the theological and editorial director. Fr Robinson is also grateful to Father Haffner for writing the foreword to his book. Father Haffner, in addition to being a professor at the Gregorian University in Rome for the past 30 years, is a specialist on the work of the late Father Stanley Jaki and The Realist Guide attempts to provide a philosophical backbone to the thesis of Fr Jaki’s Gifford Lectures of 1974–1975 and 1975–1976 (published as The Road of Science and the Ways to God). Thus, it was most appropriate for Father Haffner to compose the foreword for The Realist Guide, and Fr Robinson is pleased of Fr Haffner’s approval of his attempt to popularize Fr Jaki’s work.
In the foreword, Fr Haffner makes reference to the support of the Conciliar Popes for realism. In doing so, he assigns to Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II the titles of ‘Blessed’ and ‘Saint’ respectively. As Fr Robinson was not provided an opportunity to read the foreword before the publication of his book, he was not able to express his adherence to the position of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) on the doubtful nature of the canonizations, because of the many changes in the canonization process. In addition, he was not able to reiterate the particular concerns about the canonization of Pope John Paul II that he expressed in his Nov./Dec. 2013 Angelus article ‘The Difference between a “Saint” and a “Saint”’.
Thus, the appearance of ‘Blessed’ and ‘Saint’ beside Paul VI and John Paul II in the foreword of The Realist Guide should in no way be construed as an acceptance by Fr Robinson of the modern canonizations or a deviation from his publicly expressed opinions on that subject or the position of the SSPX. Nor should the foreword be construed as implying that Fr Robinson believes that the Conciliar Popes have been realist in their philosophical outlook.