The Downside Review 105

(October 1987)

pp. 260-276.







THIS year the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion was awarded to the Revd Professor Stanley L. Jaki, a Benedictine priest who has written extensively on the relations of science and theology. This prestigious award, which in previous years has gone to well-known figures like Mother Teresa and Cardinal Suenens, will bring into greater prominence the work of a man who has until now been scandalously neglected, particularly in Catholic circles.

Father Jaki was born in 1924 in Hungary, and entered the monastery of Pannonhalma in 1942. His studies in Hungary were continued at the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant'Anselmo in Rome and he was awarded his doctorate in systematic theology in 1950. Since at that time conditions in Hungary made his return unadvisable, he was sent by his superiors to the United States, where he still lives.[2] For three years he lectured in theology at St Vincent's Archabbey and Major Seminary[3] until a throat operation forced him to relinquish teaching. Having always been interested in the relation between theology and science, he resumed his undergraduate training in mathematics and physics and subsequently undertook research at Fordham University under the supervision of Professor Hess, a Nobel Laureate for his work on the cosmic radiation. A few years later Father Jaki was awarded his doctorate in nuclear physics for his studies of terrestrial radioactivity. By then it had become clear to him that the key to the relation between science and theology lies in the history and philosophy of science. His studies in these two fields began at Princeton University where he was a Visiting Fellow from 1960 to 1962. Three years later he was invited to join the nearby Seton Hall University, with minimal teaching duties, because of the partial improvement of his vocal chords. His scholarly publications in the history and philosophy of physics earned him rapid promotion, and in 1975 when he began his first series of Gifford lectures at Edinburgh University he was given the rank of Distinguished University Professor. By then his vocal chords had regained enough strength to enable him to accept invitations from all over the world to lecture on the results of his researches.

For all his painstaking scholarship in the history and philosophy of physics, and especially of cosmology, Father Jaki is essentially a teacher, a preacher with an urgent message for the world, a world pervasively influenced by his beloved science. He is a priest, a man of God devoted to his Incarnate Son and to his representative in Rome. Only the Church can bring salvation to mankind, and yet as he sees it the Church, despite much superficial evidence to the contrary, is deeply sick, racked by internal conflicts and threatened by grave dangers. Running through his works is a continuing concern at this situation, and nearly all of them are specifically directed to different aspects of the problem. He brings to his work a formidable grasp of theology and of science, a wide knowledge of philosophy, extensive reading of history, a mastery of half a dozen languages and awe-inspiring capacity for sustained scholarly work.

After his doctoral theses his first book was The Relevance of Physics (1966), which still remains the best introduction to his thought. In it he describes the three phases of the history of physics when the world was considered to be in turn an organism, a mechanism and a pattern of numbers. The first was the idea of Aristotle, and it dominated the scene for two millennia. Ultimately it was recognized to be a failure because of its generality and lack of precision. It was replaced by Newtonian physics which proved to be astonishingly successful and established physics as the model of all branches of science. In the nineteenth century it was thought that physics was essentially complete, but soon came the discoveries of radioactivity, the relativity of Einstein, and the quantum theory of Planck.

Relativity brought cosmology into the realm of physics, whereas quantum theory, as further developed by Schrödinger and Heisenberg, extended the range of physics into the realm of the atom and nucleus. Many physicists began to think that a definitive form of physics soon would be written with a complete account of all physical phenomena. While it soon became clear that quantum mechanics provided only statistical predictions, this incompleteness did not create much frustration. The latter should have come from the realization that Gödel's incompleteness theorems, first enunciated in 1930, make impossible the construction of a necessarily final form of physics. This highly original point made by Jaki, which is still to be widely accepted, brings to a close the first section, devoted to the incompleteness of physics in all its three main historic forms, organismic, mechanistic and mathematical.

The second section of the book is an account of research into the successive layers of matter, the molecular, atomic, nuclear and finally the sub-nuclear world of the elementary particles. At each stage new depths of complexity appear, and force us to realize the partial and, at times, superficial nature of our knowledge. A similar story is told of man's attempts to understand first the solar system and then our own galaxy and all the systems of galaxies. In these accounts of the advances of science Jaki shows his deep understanding of the way research in physics is actually carried out. He knows all the false starts, the tentative hypotheses and succession of failures that are the daily experience of the working scientist. He describes with many case-histories how scientists have groped their way through fogs of error to define their ideas with ever-increasing precision only to find that each step opens up new questions. Physics seems to be a never-ending quest, an edifice always to be completed.

In the third section of the book he describes the relations between physics and other disciplines, in particular its interaction with biology, metaphysics, ethics and theology. The success of physics led enthusiasts to extend its methods to practically every field of human thought and endeavour. In biology it led to taking living organisms for pure machines, but in addition to undeniable successes this also led to their most important specific characteristics, their unity of behaviour, their purposefulness and in the case of man their self-consciousness, being undervalued. Metaphysicians have not been slow to lay down the law about physics in a way that could not but evoke the contempt of physicists. Nevertheless, physics rests on metaphysical foundations, and it is vital for the physicist to clarify these as far as possible, rather than to allow them to remain a mixture of unconscious prejudices. Physics inevitably raise metaphysical questions, and while it takes a physicist to tackle them with adequate technical knowledge, he invariably exposes himself to justified criticism if he remains an amateur in handling the metaphysics.

In the seventeenth century there were several attempts, notably by Hobbes and Spinoza, to develop an ethics based on the models of Euclidean geometry and Newtonian mechanics. The rigid determinism of classical physics posed problems for believers in the freedom of the will, and these discussions were further influenced by the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics. On the whole the physicists, notably Kelvin and Planck, were not sympathetic to these applications of physical principles to ethical problems. Nearer to our own time, physicists have been forced by the sociological effects of their discoveries, notably in nuclear physics, to examine ethical questions.

The interaction of physics and theology is a particularly long and delicate one, and here Jaki shows a masterly balance in his historic survey. Theologians naturally think within the contemporary scientific view of the world, but do well not to become too committed to it, for it continually develops with the advance of science. On many theological questions, such as the creation, science has from time to time been thought to throw some light, but the provisional character of scientific conclusions concerning such remote epochs renders such arguments extremely uncertain.

The final section of the book is devoted to the interactions of physics and human society. The success of science has led some to propose it as the basis for the organization of human society, and Condorcet and Comte were among the first to elaborate definite proposals. Their knowledge, however, of science and of the way it develops was rather limited, and they ended by freezing scientific research so that it would not upset their sociological theorems. Thus the deification of science leads ultimately to its slavery. This is illustrated most vividly by the history of science in Soviet Russia where Lenin, building on the work of Engels, proclaimed science as the basis of dialectical materialism. Subsequently, scientific work on Soviet Russia was increasingly hindered by being forced into a conceptual straitjacket constructed by Lenin.

The events of the last few hundred years have shown that attempts to treat science as a god or as a slave end in disaster. The influence of science is all-pervasive, and yet very few understand the way scientists work and the status of their conclusions. Great harm is done by the current myths about science, assiduously spread by eager science-writers with no first-hand knowledge of research. This book has been summarized in some detail because it contains many of the themes that in his later works are developed in greater detail or from other points of view and with new material. It provides the detailed historical perspective of the development of physics that must be understood before the deeper questions that are his real concern can be tackled effectively.

The most central of these is the question of the origin of science. This is one of the most fundamental of all questions, and yet its central importance is rarely appreciated. The question is very simple: why did science first come to maturity in our own European civilization in the years following the seventeenth century? Science is so much a part of the modern world that we are apt to forget that it is a relative newcomer to the scene. The arts, music and painting, sculpture and woodwork, pottery and metalwork, drama and poetry, have been known to man for thousands of years and are found in most of the great civilizations of the past, sometimes developed to an extraordinary degree of perfection. Yet all these civilizations except our own lacked science. So why was science born in Europe a few hundred years ago? Why not in ancient Babylon, or Egypt, or India, or China? Why not among the Aztecs, the Mayas or the Incas? This is a crucial question because we can understand science properly or any subject for that matter only if we understand its origins. If we know why science was born we may also understand the reason for its vitality and its power to transcend barriers of religion, race and culture.

This question is tackled in Jaki's book Science and Religion (1974), which contains detailed studies of all the great civilizations of the past. He finds in each case that their main beliefs about the world were such as to prevent the emergence of science or to stifle at birth the occasional promising starts made by isolated men of genius. The necessary presuppositions of science are so much part of the air we breathe that we easily fail to notice their very special character. They are the beliefs in the order and rationality of the world, its openness to the human mind and a vigorous confidence that the task of discovering its secrets, though hard, is eminently worthwhile. These beliefs are not found in the ancient civilizations. Without exception, they were all obsessed by the idea of a cyclic universe in which after a fixed number of years all events are repeated exactly as before, and so on for ever. Such a view of the universe is immensely debilitating. If we are but cogs in a gigantic cosmic treadmill, if all we do has already been done before, then there is no incentive to do more than to allow oneself to be carried along, listless and supine, by the stream of cosmic time.

Into this world of cyclic despair the Judaeo-Christian revelation of the one omnipotent God, creator of heaven and earth, came like a thunderbolt to shatter the dreary enslaving mechanisms of cosmic pessimism. The Incarnation of Christ was a unique event, decisively dividing the past from the future. Through belief in the only-begotten Son, there developed a vivid consciousness that the universe could not be a begetting, that is, an eternal and necessary emanation from the 'divine' principle. Consequently, there emerged a broad cultural consciousness about a universe as a created entity with a clear beginning and a definite end, a world of purpose, of freedom, of decision, of achievement. The world is rational because it was made by a rational God. It is contingent because it is the result of a free choice which the Creator made among an infinite number of possibilities. Its workings are open to the human minds because these are also the work of God, who told us to master it and use it in his service. Thus we can see that science was born in Christian Europe because the Christian revelation prepared the way by saturating the European mind with just those specific beliefs that are essential to the very existence and flourishing of science.

This theme was further developed in his Gifford Lectures for 1975-76 on The Road of Science and the Ways to God (1978). In these lectures he further explored the intimate connection between scientific creativity and natural theology. His thesis is that the epistemology implicit in a rational belief in the existence of the Creator played a central role in the rise of science and in all its great creative advances. No less importantly he developed there at great length the reverse side of his thesis: discourse on science or metaphysical legislation about science ends in an actual or a potential disaster for science, whenever an epistemology incompatible with the cosmological argument is taken for a guide.

In doing this he takes up again many of the themes of his earlier books and examines them in a more philosophical perspective. He shows that time and again philosophical beliefs about the world have either prevented the birth of science or have hindered its growth. Often scientists have been gradually forced by their scientific creativity to relinquish philosophical beliefs inimical to science, and in other cases they have simply ignored the prevailing ideologies which, had they taken them seriously, would have made their work impossible.

The failure of the science of the Greeks is particularly instructive in view of their unsurpassed excellence in other fields. The origin of the Greek attitude to science lies in the struggle of Socrates to secure meaning for decisive human actions. He realized that his early enthusiasm for the mechanistic science of the pre-Socratic physikoi left no room for purpose and ethics. He therefore proposed a new physics which was not about how things happen but whether they happen for the best in the decidedly valuational sense. Now, we can, of course, see that physics is not and should not be about purpose, though it is the product of a most purposeful enterprise. The Greeks from Socrates onwards tried to save purpose for man as well as for the universe. The main aim of the Aristotelians, the Epicureans and the Stoics was to save purpose, and this put physics into a straitjacket for two thousand years.

Byzantium and Islam, as well as Christendom, had each to face the test posed by the claims of faith in face of the demands of reason. Byzantium largely avoided the issue by withdrawing into a rigid supernaturalism which left no room either for science or for natural theology. The followers of Islam either recognized that the absolute wilfulness of Allah is incompatible not only with Aristotelian necessitarianism but also with consistently valid physical laws, or like Averroes paid lip-service to the truths of the Koran while surrendering to Aristotle.

As Christendom developed its philosophical consciousness, the following points emerged as basic intellectual guideposts, most memorably articulated by Aquinas: the universe is the totality of contingent but rationally coherent and ordered beings. Its contingency excludes a priori discourse about it, while its rationality makes it accessible to empirical investigation. Ockham restricted reality to unique events, and within such an outlook there could remain no ontological content in the universals. Ultimately his logic rendered natural theology meaningless, as well as any natural discourse about the universe. Buridan and Oresme had to reject Ockham's nominalism if they were to carry out their scientific work along the lines that paved the way for Galileo. Most important in that respect was their formulation of the law of inertial motion and of the notion of a velocity that increased uniformly.

The Christian convictions of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler made an essential contribution to their scientific work. Their work prepared the way for Newton, who took the decisive step in setting science on the road of continuous development. Newton instinctively took the middle road between the empiricism of Bacon and the rationalism of Descartes, and was thus able to lay the foundations of modern science. His scientific creativity kept him instinctively in touch with external reality, and he saw the truth about reality as incarnate in the realm of matter as the mind is in the body. Within this vision of truth it was natural to leap forward beyond the range rigorously justified by the empirical data to his law of universal gravitation. Since this vision was rooted in the data provided by nature it could become a vigorous science, so mature and fruitful that it dominated the next two centuries. This middle road imposed on Newton by his scientific creativity was of a piece with his explicit conviction about going mentally from the realm of phenomena to the nature of God.

In the following centuries science went from strength to strength and many philosophers sought to extend Newton's methods to other fields without understanding either Newtonian science itself or its epistemological foundations. Hume's philosophy was founded on sensationalism, an extreme form of empiricism. The logic of his Dialogues shows that any systematic attack on metaphysics and natural theology is an attack on creative science. He wanted a universe of instincts, devoid of objective laws as well as of objective facts, and the result was the abolition of God as well as of science. Kant did not suspect the difficulty of fashioning philosophy after physics or the disastrous outcome for natural theology. He saw only the apparently definitive contours of Newtonian science, and thinking that it was so definitive as to constitute the only valid form of knowledge, he could only have a philosophy of mind conforming to the Euclidean categories of space and time. The logical end of the Kantian road is revealed in the antiscience of his Opus Postumum, an a priori re-casting, at times bordering on the ridiculous and the absurd, of physics in terms of the pseudo-metaphysics of the Critique.

The German Idealists, Fichte, Hegel and Schelling, wrote extensively about God, but the harm they did to natural theology was matched by the threat they posed to science. For them, only the will and/or the mind has true existence, and not the stubborn facts of nature, and so they were led to elaborate a priori systems at variance with experience. The systems of the early Positivists were equally disastrous for science. The radical exclusion by Comte of God the ultimate cause led through the exclusion of all causes to the exclusion of the study of a causally-connected cosmos. The strictly confined and limited God allowed by Mill in his natural theology was matched by his equally limited concept of science. Mach tried to reduce physics to the analysis of sensations and ended by opposing atoms and relativity.

All these post-Newtonian philosophers were so hostile to natural theology that they failed to realize that the blows they aimed at man's knowledge of God were as many blows at knowledge, at science, and at the rationality of the universe.

Einstein and Planck were together responsible for the great creative advances of science in the twentieth century, the development of quantum theory and of relativity. Initially they were influenced by Mach, but their creative insight forced them to reject his sensationalism. They both believed that physical laws describe a reality independent of ourselves, and that the theories of physics not only show how nature behaves, but why it behaves exactly as it does and not otherwise. The convictions of Einstein and Planck were not shared by most of the scientists who developed quantum mechanics, notably Bohr and Heisenberg. They preferred a positivistic interpretation but failed to see that this impales them on the horns of a dilemma: either we must say that nature is endowed with the ability to choose or that the physicist himself constitutes nature through his choice of observations. Einstein always insisted that God does not play dice with nature and so rejected the positivistic interpretation of quantum mechanics, with its denial of the possibility of hidden variables controlling the behaviour of the physical world in every detail. He knew that statistical probability served as a red herring along the way to objective reality. This point was later set forth in great detail in one of Jaki's most important articles, 'Chance or Reality: Interaction In Nature versus Measurement in Physics'.

The book concludes with chapters on more recent work by Koyré, Kuhn and Popper on the philosophy of science, on the philosophical implications of the specificity of the cosmos as revealed throughout the entire history of scientific cosmology (and especially by its twentieth-century phase) and on the philosophical Darwinists from Huxley to Monod.

This work has been summarized in some detail because it contains detailed expositions, together with monumental documentation, of many of the lines of thought that are central to Jaki's work. He is concerned to defend the fundamental importance for scientific method of an epistemology embodied in the classical proofs of the existence of God, the existence of mind as distinct from matter, and the crucial importance of Christian belief in creation for the unique rise of science.

These themes are taken up again and expanded in his later works. In his Fremantle lectures in the University of Oxford on The Origin of Science and the Science of its Origins (1977) he considered in more detail the theories that have been proposed to account for the rise of science from Bacon till today and found those theories most wanting in which the belief in Creation and Incarnation was most systematically ignored or opposed. In his Cosmos and Creator (1979) he analyses the bearing of modern cosmological research on the Christian dogma of creation. It is here that he provides a re-casting of the cosmological argument which was cited by the jury of the Templeton Prize as one of his chief contributions. A further indication of Jaki's mastery of natural theology is his history of the Gifford lectures, Lord Gifford and His Lectures: A Centenary Retrospect (1986), summarizing some hundred and fifty books published so far as 'Gifford Lectures'.

The theme of the uniqueness of man is elaborated in his Brain, Mind and Computers (1969), a critique of the notion of artificial intelligence, and later in his Angels, Apes and Men (1983) from the different angle of the influence of the rationalist and naturalist notions of man on the scientific enterprise. His trilogy of books on the history of astronomy relates to several of his themes. The Paradox of Olbers' Paradox (1969) deals with the lessons to be learned from the simple observation of the darkness of the night sky and the reluctance to draw the conclusion concerning the finiteness of the universe. The Milky Way: An Elusive Road For Science (1972) and Planets and Planetarians: A History of Theories of the Origin of Planetary Systems (1978) give the background to our lives here on earth and again point to the specificity of man and his cosmos. He does so by setting forth with full documentation, based on hitherto largely ignored original sources, the true story of those topics, with keen attention to the difference between scientific facts and theories, and between theories and mere speculations which time and again amounted to pseudo-metaphysics wrapped in scientific jargon. That is why Jaki, the historian of science, is viewed as a major threat by many of his colleagues who try to turn the study of the history of science into a chief support for agnosticism, rationalism and plain materialism. That is also why he is an embarrassment to the Catholic colleagues of those historians.

Several times he has translated or written an introduction to the translation of a book of importance either because it is unjustly neglected or because it shows up the inadequacies of a well-known philosopher. To the latter category belong his translations (with extensive commentaries) of Giordano Bruno's The Ash Wednesday Supper (1975) and Kant's Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (1981). Kant is one of Jaki's particular bêtes noires and here he exposes Kant's ineptness in science and his bizarre ideas about the inhabitants of other planets. Kant is responsible for the fatal error that places the essential reality in ideas perceived by the mind and not in the external objective world directly and immediately grasped by the mind. From this seminal error flow so many of the evils of our time. Their channel into the Church has been the so-called 'transcendental Thomism', which Jaki sees as a hybrid monster of subjectivism and for which he coined the name 'Aquikantism'.

He also translated the Cosmological Letters on the Arrangement of the World Edifice (1976) written by J. H. Lambert, a classic of the history of cosmology. His annotations to it prompted a reviewer to state that 'Jaki's research forces a complete re-writing of the eighteenth-century history of cosmology'. He has also provided introductory essays to translations of Gilson's From Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again (1984) and two books by Pierre Duhem, To Save the Phenomena (1969), a classic of the philosophy of science, and Medieval Cosmology (1985), a series of substantial extracts from his magisterial Système du Monde. Duhem is one of Jaki's few heroes, a brilliant scientist whose career was blighted by the French authorities, blinded by their hostility to the decisive role of Christianity in modern Western scientific culture. Working on his own, Duhem uncovered the evidence for the medieval origins of science, a work so uncongenial to the academic establishment that after his death his writings were ignored and the publication of the remaining volumes of his Système du Monde delayed for forty years. Yet despite this he is now recognized as the founder of the history of science, and the importance of his work is increasingly acknowledged. This is thoroughly documented in Jaki's detailed biography of Duhem entitled Uneasy Genius: The Life and Work of Pierre Duhem (1984).

Taken together, this work amounts to a radical re-interpretation of the history of science, so long considered by agnostics and atheists as an evolutionary development that provides the sole source of human values. They realize clearly that if science itself owes its origins to the Christian revelation, then the ground is cut from under their feet. Hence their unrelenting hostility towards Duhem, and to all those who like Father Jaki maintain the same thesis today.

Another and more recent of Jaki's heroes is our own G. K. Chesterton. Although he had no formal training as a scientist, Chesterton read widely and wrote extensively on the intellectual currents of his times and showed an astonishingly accurate grasp of the key concepts of the philosophy of science and the implications of science, especially of the notions of scientific law and of the universe. He was a trenchant critic of scientism and the associated debasement of man based on Darwinism. Jaki assembled and analysed the views of Chesterton on science and scientism in his Chesterton: A Seer of Science (1986).

Concern for the Church is never far below the surface of all Jaki's works. His standpoint is already firmly established in his doctoral thesis, published as Les Tendances Nouvelles de l'Ecclésiologie (1957) which, owing to great demand, was reprinted as Vatican II got under way. His thesis prepared him to make years later such statements as:


The present Church, resting on the rock which is Peter living in his successors, serves as the explanation of a theological past, however recent.


This standpoint is diametrically opposed to the view held for example by Hans Küng, in which


a diffusely living Christendom is measured against a rather abstract conceptual scheme. It is abstract in the sense that it fails to fit any concrete phase of the historic Church and leaves him in much the same quandary as the sixteenth-century reformers. The latter were at the mercy of the literal text of the New Testament as understood by their several minds under the illumination of the inner light, while Küng is at the mercy of contemporary biblical scholarship.


These quotations are from his book And on this Rock: The Witness of One Land and Two Covenants (1975). There Jaki goes on to remark that the 'lack of concern about the consequences of tampering with fundamental theological as well as philosophical tenets is the most dangerous phenomenon In the Church today'. Nowadays even the divinity of Christ is openly called into doubt, and


‘it takes no theological expertise to suspect that once Christ is reduced to the ranks of mere men, he will speak with no more authority than the illusion of authority which any man can claim himself'. The same logic 'connects one's attitude to Christ's authority to one's attitude to ecclesiastical authority'. Christ 'clearly established this authority when he decreed that faith, the road to salvation, ought to be a response to the words of those whom he had endowed with an appallingly large measure of authority'.


That authority was given to Peter in the neighbourhood of Caesarea Philippi against the background of a huge rock which contains an ancient cave wherein were celebrated the rites of Pan. Jaki unfolded the various reasons (neglected by professional exegetes, not only Protestant but also Catholic) why that place should be the one where Peter was called the rock and given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. In And on this Rock Jaki traces the importance of the word 'rock' from the Old Testament, where it is one of the names of God, to its application to a particular man in the New Testament.

Jaki's defence of papal primacy and infallibility is taken up again at still greater length in The Keys of the Kingdom (1986). He begins with a historico-technical discourse on the nature of keys and its consequences for understanding what Christ had in mind when he conferred the authority of the keys on Peter. It is of the very essence of a key that it is highly specific, that it cannot be altered in any way without destroying its one and only function, which is to open the door. It was thus a most appropriate metaphor to choose when conferring very specific authority on Peter. This is a central truth that is often forgotten today, with all the talk about an open church. Pope John indeed intended, by calling the Council, to open the windows of the Church. This was welcome and indeed necessary, but it has also led to developments equivalent to tearing down the walls, so that the 'open' Church now witnesses, in Jaki's words, 'the closing of seminaries, novitiates, and motherhouses by the hundreds if not thousands'. Underlying this sad process is a fundamental error in metaphysics that can be traced back to the works of Joseph Maréchal, who maintained that Thomism can be kept meaningful for modern times only by grafting Kant onto it. This is basically an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable. Thomism is 'a philosophy which wants to retain a meaningful tie with God's revealed name' (He who is, which is ontology incarnate) whereas 'the fundamental proposition of Kant's philosophy is a critical look not at existent things (which are noumena, that is, unknowable) but at one's notion of things, or at most at the phenomena which, as modified sense-impressions, are taken to have been indirectly produced by these unknowables'. 'One of these two philosophies begins with objectively existing things, which provoke knowledge in the knower, whereas the other begins with the subjective thinker in union with the mere phenomena of things. . . . The subjectivism of countless books written on philosophy, theology and ethics by Catholics in the wake of Vatican II is the fruit of that rather uninformed transcendental Thomism, a euphemism for what should have been named Aquikantism.'

The inner logic, Jaki never tires arguing, of one's philosophical starting-point leads inexorably to the final conclusions. If that


starting-point is located in the thinking subject's sensory impressions, which the same subject's mind infuses with intelligible content, the road to subjectivism becomes obvious. . . . Hence Kant's and the Aquikantists' hapless efforts to secure objective reality, including, in the latters' predicament, the flesh-and-blood reality of the Word Incarnate. The growing perplexity of an ever larger number of Aquikantists about the Incarnation should have seemed long ago a foregone conclusion.


The decade following Vatican II, in spite of much boasting of spiritual renewal, has been mostly decadence, and that decadence was 'caused by letting the claimants of "insight"[4] go unchecked in their studied oversight of original sin'. Did not, Jaki asks, 'that oversight call for a simultaneous slighting of the infallible Magisterium?' The logical connection between these two trends was already pointed out by Newman, who emphasized the disastrous effects of original sin on both the will and the intellect of man, and consequently the absolute need for the Magisterium, to which he gave his full and unconditional approval. Liberal theologians make ceaseless efforts to turn Newman 'into the inspiration of the "theological revolution" of Vatican II, as if he had not identified the scepticism and relativism of liberals as the chief evil to be relentlessly combated'. Newman indeed defended the absolute supremacy of conscience in particular cases, but also declared that the Catholic is 'not entitled to oppose his conscience to general declarations of the Pope in matters of faith and morals'. Newman was able


to transfer his full allegiance to that supreme papal forum precisely because his conscience was not tainted with subjectivism. . . . Not only is doctrinal coherence inconceivable without decisive doctrinal clarity, but the latter, in so far as it is Rome's possession, rests entirely with the Papacy. To think differently is to take lightly both logic and history. In the emancipation from ecclesiastical authority, which that intellect, as described by Newman, claimed to itself in the name of Vatican II, he would readily recognize the reason why the fruits of Vatican II are so different from its seeds.


The above brief summary should be sufficient to indicate the main lines of Jaki's thought, its internal coherence and the hold which it gives him over a wide range of historical documentation. In this age of science when the study of the history of science is supplanting the study of classical literature as the formative matrix of human values, he, more than any Catholic writer, provides safe perspectives and vast documentation for a truly Catholic view of science. The perspective is Catholic and universal because it includes the great theological facts of history, the very facts that the secularist historiographers of science try to ignore or minimize. It is this attention to true facts which provides the pretext for Jaki's secularist antagonists to dismiss his work as 'apologetics'. The charge will easily appear a boomerang to all those who have a genuine intellectual respect for all facts. For the central strand in Jaki's work is this respect for all facts, historical and physical, a respect for objective knowledge across its full spectrum, of the material world as known by scientists, of the God we know through that material world and through his revelation, of the teaching of his Incarnate Son, of the authority vested by Christ in Peter and his successors and of the teaching they give us in his name.

It is not surprising that Jaki's writings are uncongenial, to say the least, not only to the secularists and agnostics outside the Church, but also to the liberal theologians within the Church, so successful in spreading the illusion that they represent the majority of the faithful, who could do but one thing with Jaki's work: to damn it with the silent treatment. Owing to their vast ignorance in scientific matters, silence was also the only 'wise' policy of self-protection. How much easier it was to be overawed by the poetizing of Teilhard de Chardin which seemed to dispense from that hard work that alone gives access to 'hard' information. They would rather follow that most prominent philosopher of science who chose to recognize him as 'one of the greatest' only in private correspondence, without ever referring to him in print. All of them may ponder why it was not they but the Anglican Archbishop of York who found it important recently to correct in a letter to the Editor of The Times (30th May 1987) some hasty oversimplifications and implicit slighting of Jaki's work. Appreciation of Jaki's work will, of course, always demand intellectual sympathy for the fact that he has exposed with unsurpassed clarity and extensive documentation the underlying logic of 'liberal' thought, from the initial confusion to the final disastrous results. He has set his face against the forces that are undermining the Church, and in so doing has articulated the anguish of the People of God.




The major publications[5] of Father Jaki:


The Relevance of Physics (University of Chicago Press, 1966; 2nd printing 1970), pp. 604. A historical analysis of the limitations of the method of exact science within physics and within the interaction of physics with biology, philosophy, ethics, theology, and with culture in general. Spanish translation in preparation.


Brain, Mind and Computers (Herder & Herder, 1969), pp. 269. A critique of the notion of artificial intelligence within the context of computer theory, neurophysiology, psychology and logical positivism. Received the Lecomte du Nouy Prize for 1970. Paperback reprint edition with a new preface (Regnery/Gateway, 1978).


The Paradox of Olbers' Paradox (Herder & Herder, 1969), pp. 267. The first monograph on the history of a fundamental problem of scientific cosmology: the infinity or finiteness of the universe as posed by the darkness of the night sky. Second enlarged edition in preparation.


The Milky Way: An Elusive Road for Science (Science History Publications, 1972), pp. 352 with illustrations. The first monograph on the history of research on the Milky Way. Paperback reprint, 1975.


Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (Scottish Academic Press, 1974; Science History Publications, 1974), pp. 367. The first monograph on the invariable stillbirths of the scientific enterprise in all great ancient cultures and on its sole viable birth in Christian mediaeval Europe with special emphasis on the biblical doctrine of creation. Second, enlarged edition (paperback), 1976.


Planets and Planetarians: A History of Theories of the Origin of Planetary Systems (Scottish Academic Press, 1978; John Wiley, 1978), pp. 266, with illustrations. A meticulously documented survey which strongly suggests the extreme rarity of systems similar to our solar system and the fatuity of preoccupation with extraterrestrial intelligence.


The Road of Science and the Ways to God (The Gifford Lectures, University of Edinburgh, 1974-75 and 1975-76; University of Chicago Press, Scottish Academic Press, 1978), pp. 487. The text of twenty lectures, of which the last ten are devoted to science in the twentieth century. It is argued that the metaphysical realism embodied in the classical proofs of the existence of God is the only epistemology compatible with creative science. Paperback reprint edition, 1980; second (paperback) reprint 1986. Italian and French translations in preparation.


The Origin of Science and the Science of its Origin, Fremantle Lectures, Balliol College, Oxford, 1977 (Scottish Academic Press; Regnery/Gateway, 1978), pp. 160. The first monograph on theories proposed since Bacon to the present day on the rise of science in the seventeenth century.


Les Tendances Nouvelles de l'Ecclésiologie (Herder, Rome, 1957), pp. 274. A thematic analysis of recent trends in ecclesiology. Reprinted in 1963 owing to the great surge of interest in the topic during Vatican II.


And on this Rock: The Witness of One Land and Two Covenants (Ave Maria Press, 1978), pp. 125 with illustrations. An exegetical and archaeological evaluation of the notion of 'rock' in the Old and New Testaments. French translation Et sur ce Roc (Téqui, Paris, 1983). Second, enlarged edition (Trinity Communications, Manassah, VA, 1987).


Cosmos and Creator (Scottish Academic Press, 1979; Regnery/Gateway, 1980), pp. 168. An analysis of the bearing of modern cosmological theories on the Christian dogma of the creation of the universe, followed by the history of that dogma, its philosophical presuppositions, and its relation to evolutionary theories of man.


Angels, Apes and Men (Sherwood Sugden and Scottish Academic Press, 1983), pp. 129. A discussion of the influence which the rationalist and naturalist notions of man respectively had on the scientific enterprise together with the claim that the great breakthroughs of modern science imply a notion of man which represents a middle road between these two extremes.


Uneasy Genius: The Life and Work of Pierre Duhem (Martinus Nijhoff, Dordrecht, London, Boston, 1984), pp. xii + 476. The first monograph on the life and thought of Duhem, a pioneering and most seminal philosopher and historian of science, including a portrayal of the mental physiognomy of the Third Republic and the reaction to Duhem as a physicist, philosopher and historian of science during the last fifty years. Second (paperback) edition, 1987.


Chesterton: A Seer of Science (University of Illinois Press, 1986), pp. x + 165. The first discussion of Chesterton's attitude to and reflections on science and a detailed documentation of the claim that, as in other fields, here too he displayed remarkable originality and insight.


Lord Gifford and his Lectures: A Centenary Retrospect (Scottish Academic Press, 1986; Mercer University Press, Atlanta, 1986), pp. 138. An analysis of the more than a hundred and fifty volumes that represent almost as many Gifford Lectures since their inception in 1887 with a special reference to the justice they had done to Lord Gifford's bequest that made academic history.


Chance or Reality and Other Essays (University Press of America and Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1986), pp. viii + 249. A collection of thirteen essays relating to the cultural bearing of various aspects of the history and philosophy of science, old and new.


The Keys of the Kingdom: A Tool's Witness to Truth (Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1986), pp. 226. A monograph on the theological history of Peter's Keys with an emphasis on the bearing on that history by key-making, ancient and modern. With illustrations.


The Physicist as Artist: The Landscapes of Pierre Duhem (Scottish Academic Press, 1988), pp. 160 with 240 illustrations. In press.


The Absolute beneath the Relative and Other Essays (University Press of America and Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1988), c. pp. 250 in press.


The Saviour of Science. The text of six lectures given at the Wethersfield Institute Conference in August 1987, c. pp. 200 in preparation.


Edition with introduction in English of Pierre Duhem's early essays on the history and philosophy of physics under the title Prémices Philosophiques (E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1987).


Translations with introduction and notes:


The Ash Wednesday Supper (La cena de le ceneri, 1584) by Giordano Bruno. The first English translation of the first book on Copernicus (Mouton, 1975).


Cosmological Letters on the Arrangement of the World Edifice (Cosmologische Briefe über die Einrichtung des Weltbaues, 1761) by J. H. Lambert. (Science History Publications, Scottish Academic Press, 1976), pp. 245. First English translation of a classic of the history of cosmology.


Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels, 1775) by I. Kant. The first full translation of a classic which shows Kant's ineptness in science and his weird ideas of denizens on other planets. (Scottish Academic Press, 1981), pp. 302.


Introductory essays to:


The English translation of Duhem: To Save the Phenomena (University of Chicago Press, 1969).


The English translation of E. Gilson: From Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again (University of Notre Dame Press, 1984).


Pierre Duhem, Medieval Cosmology, edited and translated by R. Ariew (University of Chicago Press, 1985).

[1] Dr Peter E. Hodgson (1928-2008) was lecturer in Nuclear Physics and Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. A research physicist and Head of the Nuclear Physics Theoretical Group of the Nuclear Physics Laboratory at the University of Oxford, he was also a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Culture. All the notes have been added for clarification, they were not present in the original text published on the Downside Review.


[2] Stanley Jaki lived in Lawrenceville (NJ), near Princeton (NJ), for the rest of his life, but he happened to die in Madrid, on 7 April 2009.

[3] Latrobe (PA).

[4] The allusion here is presumably to Bernard Lonergan, S.J., author of Insight (1957) and Method in Theology (1972).

[5] A near-complete list of Fr. Jaki's publications can be found in print at the end of the second, enlarged edition of Paul Haffner's Creation and Scientific Creativity: a Study in the Thought of S.L. Jaki (Leominster, UK, 2009). An up-to-date publication list is maintained online in this site at The informations about Fr Jaki's books found here are the ones contained in the original article of P.E. Hodgson, so further reprinting, and publication dates of works marked as "in print" or "in preparation" should be checked in the online site quoted in this note.