Saint Luke the Physician, Archbishop of the Crimea
‘When we examine modern science, as this has been created by scientists such as Lamarque and Darwin, we see the contrast and, I would say, the absolute dissonance which exists between science and religion in matters pertaining to the most basic problems of existence and knowledge. This is why a rational and enlightened mind cannot accept both simultaneously and must choose between religion and science’.
These words were written by the well-known German zoologist, Ernst Haeckel, an ardent supporter of Darwin. They were well received and seemed to prove that faith is an absurdity. So, Haeckel says that anyone with an enlightened intelligence has to choose between science and religion and to follow one or the other. And he thinks it necessary that these people should shun religion, because rational people can’t deny science.
But is this really necessary? Not in fact, because we know that many great scientists were also people of great faith. One such, for example, was the Polish astronomer Copernicus who laid the foundations for the whole of modern astronomy. Copernicus wasn’t simply a believer he was actually a clergyman. Another great scientist, Newton, always raised his hat when he said the word ‘God’. He was a man of very great faith. The great bacteriologist, Pasteur, who lived not that long ago [† 1895] and who laid the foundations for modern bacteriology, began all his scientific efforts with a prayer to God. Ten years ago  a great scientist and fellow-countryman of ours, Pavlov, who was the creator of the new physiology of the brain, departed this life. He, too, was a man of great faith. Would Haeckel therefore dare to conclude that these people didn’t have enlightened intelligence because they believed in God?
So, what’s going on here? Because, even today, I personally know some scientist who are university professors who are people of great faith. Why is it that all scientists don’t rebuff religion, but only those who think along the lines of Haeckel? Because the latter believe only in matter and deny the spiritual world; they don’t believe in life after death; they don’t accept the immortality of the soul; and, of course, they don’t accept the resurrection of the dead. They say that science will achieve everything and that there’s not a secret in nature that science won’t reveal. What answer can we give to that?
We would answer as follows. You’re quite right. We can’t place restraints on the human intelligence which is investigating nature. We know that, today, science knows only a part of what we ought to know about nature. We also know that science has great potential. This is the case and we don’t doubt it. So what do we doubt? Why don’t we deny religion as they do and why don’t we consider it opposed to scientific knowledge?
Only because we believe with all our heart that there’s a spiritual world. We’re certain that, apart from the material world, there’s an infinite and incomparably more sublime spiritual world. We believe in the existence of spiritual beings who have intelligence far greater than that of us human beings. We believe, with all our heart, that, above these spiritual and material worlds, there is Great and Almighty God.
What we doubt is the right of science to use its methods to investigate the spiritual world. Because the spiritual world can’t be investigated with the same methods as those we use for the material world. These methods are entirely unsuitable for any investigation of the spiritual world.
How do we know that there’s a spiritual world? Who told us that this exists? If those people who don’t believe in the divine revelation ask us, we’ll say: ‘Our heart tells us so’. Because there are two ways for people to know things. The first is the way Haeckel talks about and which is used by scientists to investigate the material world. But there’s another way that science doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know. This is knowledge from the heart. Our heart isn’t merely the central organ of our circulatory system, it’s also the organ through which we become acquainted with the other world and acquire the most sublime knowledge. It’s the organ which gives us the potential to communicate with God and the world above. This is the only thing we disagree with science about.
When we assess the great achievements and successes of science, we don’t in the least call into question its great importance, nor do we limit scientific knowledge. All we say to scientists is: ‘With the methods at your disposal, you don’t have the ability to investigate the spiritual world, but we can do so with our heart’.
There are plenty of phenomena which seem to be inexplicable, but are, in fact, true (as true as any natural phenomenon) and these have to do with the spiritual world. So there are phenomena which science will never be able to explain, because it doesn’t use the appropriate methodology.
Let science explain to us how prophecies came about that refer to the coming of the Messiah- all of which were fulfilled. Can it explain how, 700 years before the birth of Christ, the great prophet, Isaiah, foretold the most important events of the Lord’s life, which is why he’s called the Evangelist of the Old Testament? Let it explain the gift of perception that the saints have and with what natural methods they acquired it so that, on meeting a person for the first time, the saints were able to understand the heart and read the thoughts of that person. Sometimes they met someone unknown to them and they called that person by their name. Or they provided an answer for what was troubling a visitor, before the latter even mentioned it.
If scientists can explain this, let them do so. Let them explain how the saints foretold historical events which, over time, took place exactly as they’d said they would. Let them explain visits from the other world, and how dead people have appeared to the living.
They’ll never explain to us because they’re so far from the basis of religion- from faith. If you read the books of those scientists who try to refute religion, you’ll see how superficially they see things. They don’t understand the substance of religion, but still they criticize it. Their critique doesn’t touch the essence of faith, since they aren’t able to understand it, but is restricted to the trappings, that is, the ways in which religious sentiment is expressed. They don’t understand the substance of religion and faith. But why? Because our Lord, Jesus Christ, says: ‘No-one can come to me unless my Father who sent me draws them’ (Jn. 6, 44).
So our heavenly Father has to draw us and the grace of the Holy Spirit has to illumine our heart and our mind. The Holy Spirit has to dwell in our heart and mind through this illumination, and those who’ve been granted this gift must earn the love of Christ by observing his commandments. The only ones who know the essence of faith are those who’ve acquired the Holy Spirit, those in whose heart Christ and his Father dwell. The others, people on the outside, don’t understand at all.
The French philosopher, Emile Boutroux, had this to say about Haeckel: ‘Haeckel’s critique has more to do with the trappings than the substance, and he regards the trappings with a view so materialistic and narrow that even the non-religious are unable to accept it. Haeckel’s critique of religion doesn’t address even one of the principles which religion advocates’.
So this is our view of the positions of Haeckel, whose word, to this day, is ‘gospel’ for all those who criticize religion, who renounce it and consider it opposed to science. Do you see how poor and devoid of weight are the arguments they use? Don’t be shocked when you hear what they say against religion, because those who are talking don’t understand its substance. Ordinary people who don’t have much to do with science and don’t know much about philosophy should always remember the basic principle which the early Christians were well aware of. They felt sorry for those who know all the sciences, but don’t know God. And, on the other hand, they considered those people blessed who know God, even if they know nothing at all about human concerns.
Guard this truth as your heart’s greatest treasure, make you way straight forward, looking neither to the left or the right. We mustn’t lose our sense of direction because of what we hear against religion. Let’s keep our faith, which is eternal and irrefutable truth. Amen.