Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Studying the Copernican Revolution at MAS with Dr. Duncan Parks

by Garrett McGowan

Many people believe that you must choose to be on the side of science or on the side of the Church.  This causes many conflicts and debates between the two sides.  As seminarians, we have to know what the arguments are, and at Mount Angel Seminary Dr. Duncan Parks helps to train seminarians to discuss these issues.

Dr. Parks teaches a course on the Copernican Revolution, and through this course he helps to bridge the gap that many people see and to prepare future priests to answer any questions that may come up.

Dr. Parks is a biologist, yet he has a background in the Copernican Revolution and has read much on about the subject.  He said it has become one of his favorite courses that he teaches.  One of the reasons he sees this class as important to seminarians is because priests need to have knowledge of the events of the Copernican Revolution.  Dr. Parks said, "An understanding of the historical, theological, and scientific context of those events will make seminarians better at reconciling their faith with the pastorally relevant findings of contemporary science."

With all of the new discoveries that science is encountering, many questions are sure to arise on the Catholic Church's position.  No priest can avoid these questions and must be ready to give an answer.  Dr. Parks looks to prepare his seminarians for their future ministries.

The Copernican Revolution is still relevant to the priesthood today.  Modern science started with the Copernican model and gave science a new way of looking at the cosmos.  Modern science keeps making new discoveries that priests in the Vatican are looking at.  The Catholic Church wants to keep up with all the newest discoveries.

Dr. Parks expects students to enter into the class with an open mind to what scientists have to say.  He wants seminarians to not be afraid to engage in science.  He said, "I remind my students of St. Thomas's assertion that there cannot be any true conflict between revelation and science."  With this approach, Dr. Parks can show why science matters to the priesthood.

Dr. Parks does not see any conflict between science and the Catholic Church; he sees them more as two sides of the same coin.  The job of science is to do research, not answer ethical questions.  Dr. Parks believes that this is where the Church comes in, to help answer these questions.  Dr. Parks said, "Science is great at figuring out what is going on objectively, but ethical decisions that apply scientific knowledge ("ought" questions) are not part of the domain of science.  When it's time to decide what to do with the results of scientific research, the Church has a role to play."

With this kind of mindset, we can see how the two sides work together and complement each other.  The Copernican Revolution is a class for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of the cosmos and to learn where the Catholic Church stands on issues of the past and today.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tackling Philosophy through Film

by Garrett McGowan

When seminarians come to Mount Angel Seminary at the college level, they work towards a Bachelor's degree in philosophy.  Most of the philosophy course are required, yet there are a few that are electives.  Art of Philosophy is one of those electives, and this year the class is taught by Mr. Mark Woolman.

The class is different from the other philosophy classes because it involves watching films and using chapters from a book to help uncover philosophical meanings within the films.  In the class, seminarians are learning to look beneath the surface of what is in front of them to gain knowledge to ask the bigger questions in life.

The book Woolman uses is Ten Philosophical Mistakes.  Questions that come up are varied from chapter to chapter in accordance with each film.  What is morality?  Do we really have freedom of choice?  Are we happy or just content?  These are questions everyone should ask themselves.  Woolman wants everyone in his class to walk away asking themselves about the possible answers to these questions.

The book and films for the Art of Philosophy

For example, the movie Crimes and Misdemeanors is used to help discuss the chapter on morality.  In the movie the characters are in conflict with their moral beliefs and what they feel they must do to protect themselves.  It takes a look at what happens when there are no clear answers to a situation and what may happen when people push their moral convictions aside to protect themselves or others.

The movie Gattaca is used with the book's chapter on human society.  The movie is about how a person's life is determined by society at the time of his or her birth and how society deems his or her worth, even if it is based on false information.  The chapter talks about human society and civilization and how we treat one another.  Another chapter in the book asks if we have any real freedom of choice.  The movie used for this chapter is The Truman Show.

Woolman challenges his students to watch a movie and then to see if there are any deeper meanings to the plot.  Because this class is designed to get students thinking, they are able to carry these ideas outside the classroom and into conversations with other people.  After taking the class, seminarians can go to a movie or read a book and ask themselves how it relates to life.  They can ask themselves what can be learned from what they viewed or read.  This class can make the experience of watching a movie or reading a book all the richer.