FALL RIVER — Bishop Connolly High School hosted this much anticipated event on November 18, and the attendee turn out did not disappoint. Approximately 600 people responded to the opportunity to see Father Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., in person, as he is well-known from TV appearances on EWTN’s “Father Spitzer’s Universe,” The History Channel’s “God and The Universe,” a multiple part PBS series “Closer to the Truth,” and the “Hugh Hewitt Show.”
Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., opened the event welcoming all to the Diocese of Fall River, and reminded everyone that the Liturgical calendar would soon be changing to the season of Advent, a time of expectation, a time of hope, and a time for the preparation of the coming of Our Lord Jesus. Moreover, Bishop da Cunha succinctly described current secular views that assume there is nothing after this life, we do not have a soul, nor is there even the existence of God, all of which affect the younger generation’s decision to leave religion at the alarming young age of 13 years old — confirmed by recent PEW surveys. But even with these challenges, Bishop da Cunha acknowledged the hope that was shown by the large crowd, hope that there is a desire to learn the truth and understand why the secular world tries to cover up the truth and hope that there is a trusted resource to reference for other questions about our souls, true happiness, and the purpose of suffering.
Daniel S. Roy, superintendent of Catholic Schools, introduced Father Robert J. Spitzer, to a resounding applause.
Opening with some statistics about scientists in general, Father Spitzer reported that 51 percent of scientists believe in God, 88 percent of medical doctors are religious, and 73 percent of medical doctors believe in miracles. Most surprising, the trend is that almost 66 percent of younger medical doctors believe in God or a Spiritual being, contrary to popular belief that the scientific community is heading in the direction of atheism. The purpose of these metrics was to “debunk” the belief that scientists are not religious and that science and religion are not compatible.
Father Spitzer transitioned to the changes in theories about the universe as a result of the work done by Father George Lemaître in 1929, which opened the door for the concept of the universe “having a beginning”. His theory is that the universe likely started off as a small entity and continued to expand to what it is today — and continues to expand. Father Lemaître’s work was transformational, and today, is widely accepted across the scientific community. Eventually, even Einstein agreed that Lemaître’s theory was the “most creative and satisfying explanation of universal Creation that I have heard.”
Moving onto the scientific process, Father Spitzer clearly articulated two cautions in using the scientific process in an attempt to disprove God. First, God is beyond our universe, and therefore, cannot be disproved using the scientific method — which analyzes data from only within our universe. Two, science is an inductive discipline where generalizations are made. This means that scientific knowledge is conditional and therefore, subject to change, and it is reasonable to believe that a new discovery always has the potential to change what is thought to be scientific fact.
Father Spitzer then took the audience through a journey of differing speculations of how the universe may have been created, and the common theme among these theories is that they all require a beginning.
One of the most captivating topics that points to the existence of God is the “fine-tuning” that is required for life to exist — one such condition being the low entropy state of our universe at the Big Bang. Roger Penrose calculated that the odds against having just that one necessary condition to support life are one in 10 to the 10 to the 123rd power — in essence, a number so big that “if it were written out in 10-point font, the solar system could not hold the paper it was written on.” Or as Father Spitzer pointed out, “It’s the same odds as a monkey typing the entire corpus of Shakespeare by random tapping in a single try.” In other words, the fact that life exists is not an accident and is as though the creation of the universe was specific for the creation of life.
The question and answer session was very well received by all in attendance and likely could have continued for another hour. After grouping questions by topic, Father Spitzer provided explanations to questions such as, “When I was 12, I nearly drowned and heard a voice calling to me. Who was the voice?” The ability for Father Spitzer to address questions in a very detailed way contributed to the overall success of this event.
Attendees had an opportunity to provide feedback about the event via a card or an online survey. Adults as well as students were able to rate Father Spitzer’s presentation as well as provide comments about how the topic matter may or may not have influenced their opinions about God and faith. One middle school student indicated, “[Father Spitzer] brought up many good examples of how incredible the formation of life is, and it has changed and explained some of my thoughts.” A high school student commented, “I realized how God created this Universe suitable for us to live in. Science can’t just be science (somebody had to have created it). That is God!”
Positive feedback was not only from students in the audience, but from adults as well. “His talk, especially the information on ‘fine tuning,’ provided more strength to my belief and the ability to talk to others about evidence for a Divine Creator.” Overall, Father Spitzer continues to draw a broad audience of supporters, and with the success of the November 18 event, there may be future opportunities to bring Father Spitzer back to the Diocese of Fall River.
To watch a recording of Father Spitzer’s November 18th presentation, please go to www.catholicschoolsalliance.org/father-spitzer.
There are seven Essential Modules Father Spitzer has prepared for middle and high school classrooms. A beta test survey at a California high school (2017) showed 97 percent of the students stated, the seven Essential Modules improved, or greatly improved, their faith. A 2020 beta test showed the same statistics. His modules can be found at www.CredibleCatholic.com and are freely available for download.