The following comes from an interview by Jim Graves published Nov. 4 on Catholic World Report.
Father Robert Spitzer, SJ, Ph.D., 62, is president of the Magis Center (www.magiscenter.com), headquartered in the new chancery office of the diocese of Orange, California. The center’s goal is to demonstrate that faith and reason and science are compatible, and to combat the increasing secularization of society, particularly among young people.
Father Spitzer was born and reared in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father was an attorney and businessman; he was one of five children. His father was Lutheran; his mother a Catholic and daily communicant. He attended college at Jesuit-run Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, initially pursuing a career in public accounting and finance.
He went on a retreat led by Father Gerard Steckler, a former chaplain for Thomas Aquinas College, and “he got me very interested in theology and the Church.” He began attending daily Mass and taking classes in theology and Scripture. He bought a copy of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica from a used book store and began reading it. “I saw the solidity of faith in the light of reason,” he said, “and once that happened, I was ready to go.”
He joined the Society of Jesus in 1974, and was ordained a priest in 1983.
Father Spitzer is the author of several books, including Healing the Culture (Ignatius Press, 2000), Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life (Ignatius Press, 2008), New Proofs for the Existence of God (Eerdmans, 2010), and Ten Universal Principles (Ignatius Press, 2010), as well as numerous articles for scholarly journals, and has delivered hundreds of lectures. He is a teacher, and served as president of Gonzaga University from 1998 to 2009. He continues to produce an enormous volume of work despite suffering from poor eyesight throughout his adult life (he has not, for example, been able to drive a car for 30 years), which has gotten worse in recent years.
Father Spitzer recently spoke with CWR.
CWR: Prominent atheists often frame the debate between themselves and religious people by saying you either believe in “science”—however they may define it—or what they call the fairy tales of the Bible. What response would you offer such a viewpoint?
Father Spitzer: To start, I wouldn’t let them get away with saying faith and science contradict one another. We’re privileged to live in a time when there is more evidence from physics for a beginning of the universe than ever before. I made this point to [atheist scientist] Stephen Hawking in 2010, when I appeared along with him on Larry King Live. Stephen knows this. (Watch the discussion online.)
The debate centered on what was before the beginning of the universe. If you say “nothing”, then there has to be a God. You can’t move from nothing to something. Even Larry King got that. He asked another physicist on the program, Leonard Mlodinow, “How about that Leonard, how can you make something from nothing?” All Leonard could do was to equivocate on the term “nothing.”
CWR: Speaking of Stephen Hawking, he made the news recently when he officially declared himself to be an atheist. Do you find atheism widespread among the scientific community, or do a handful of atheist scientists receive a lot of publicity?
Father Spitzer: About 45% of working scientists are declared theists. Another vocal group, let’s say 20%, describe themselves as atheists. A third group is the agnostic naturalists. They’re not sure whether or not God exists, but they don’t what to compromise the naturalistic method by believing in God. I wouldn’t describe them as atheists.
CWR: Scientists often marvel at the intricacies of what Christians call Creation, but seem to suggest that these things developed on their own without a Designer outside the system to create them. Do many scientists have blinders on when it comes to God?
Father Spitzer: I’m the executive producer of Cosmic Origins, a film which features eight physicists talking about their faith. Owen Gingerich, a well-known astronomer at Harvard University, for example, says, “I can’t prove to you that mathematical intelligibility comes from God, but I’m psychologically incapable of believing otherwise. So, I call it God’s universe.”
Scientific atheists view it differently, but it has nothing to do with science. It never did. Science can’t disprove God. Scientific evidence has to come from observation of things within the universe, and God is outside the universe. How can you use evidence from within the universe to disprove a Being that is outside it? It doesn’t work. It’s impossible, any more than a cartoon character within a cartoon can disprove the existence of a cartoonist outside the cartoon who created him.
No scientist can know the universe so sufficiently to know it doesn’t need a Creator. What Hawking says is pure hogwash. Science must remain open to new discovery. It’s an inductive discipline. It works from particular observations, and we unify those observations with our theories. But we don’t know if our theories have enough data to be complete. Why is that? Scientists don’t know until they have discovered it….
To read the entire interview, click here.