How many people believe the myth that science and religion are enemies? They imagine a corrupt organization who has kept the human race in darkness and superstition for centuries until science came about and threatened its power. Science uses proof as a weapon rather than mere superstitious faith, and a battle has ensued ever since.
Of course, this is purely a myth that has been repeated over and over without evidence or foundation. In fact, the actual facts tell a completely opposite story. Contrary to popular belief, the Catholic Church has been the great champion and lover of science who had progressed science down through the ages.
While some would scoff at this, it is true nonetheless. Most people don’t know that the Vatican has one of the oldest and largest scientific observatories in the world. One wonders why if they are against science. Also, some of the greatest scientists in history have been Catholics who possessed the full support of the Church. One only needs to look at Nicholas Copernicus, Albertus Magnus, Louis Pasture, Stanley Jaki, Father Roger Bacon, Father Nicholas Steno, Galileo, Father Roger Boscovich George Mendel, Blaise Pascal, Jean-Felix Picard, Father George Lamaitre, and many, many more.
If the Catholic Church were against science, then why did countless Catholic priests and laymen practice it over the centuries? Why are there 36 craters on the moon named after Catholic priests due to their major scientific breakthroughs made in astronomy? Why did the Church invent universities and promote the study of science in each university? Why did the Catholic Church give large amounts of money to the progression and study of science? The book “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization,” by Thomas E. Woods quotes J. L. Heilbron of the University of California at Berkeley, who states :
'"The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial aid and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from the recovery of the ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment, than any other, and, probably, all other institutions’” (Pg. 5).
So please, let’s bury the myth that the Catholic Church and science are enemies, and that the Church has waged war on anything “that disagrees with her.” It is a matter of fact that the Catholic Church has never opposed the study of science but esteemed it in the highest. Not even Galileo was persecuted for scientific reasons. For people who disagree, then one question needs to be answered. Why was Galileo condemned while Copernicus who taught the exact same thing was not? The reason is that Galileo was not condemned for theological reasons. He ended up dying in good standing with the Church and both his daughters became nuns. But, more on that in a future blog post.
Science and religion both seek truth but do so in different ways. Religion seeks to answer spiritual questions, while science seeks to prove natural things of this world through empirical observation and repeated experimentation. Religion seeks to answer the questions Who [made us] and why. Science seeks to answer the question how. So, was it evolution or wasn’t it? Was it the Big Bang or was it something else? The Church does not have the final say on that. It’s up to science.
Many people might be surprised to know that the Catholic Church is not against evolution, so long as it’s not seen as a purely naturalistic process (i.e. done without any help from God as if God doesn’t exist and everything just came about by accident). In fact, the last 4-5 popes have suggested that evolution is probably true based on the evidence, and the Church doesn’t have a problem with that. Moreover, the Church is perfectly OK with the Big Bang, a multi-verse, or any other proven discovery. The Church is not threatened by science as many some Protestant denominations and religions are.
In fact, most people also don’t realize that the Big Bang theory was originally hypothesized by the aforementioned Catholic Priest Father George Lemaitre in 1927. Even though Einstein called him crazy, Edwin Hubble would later confirm his discoveries and Father Lemaitre would receive major recognition from Einstein. How could he do this if the Church was against science? Answer: The Church was never against science.
Richard Dawkins and other atheists who tout this claim have forgotten to do one important thing… real research. Atheist claims that the Church is against science are baseless and naïve. If this is all news to you, check out the books; “The Catholic Church and Science,” by Benjamin Wiker, and “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization,” by Thomas E. Woods.
Mercier is a blogger for CatholicMatch.com. For more of his writings visit www.CatholicBryan.org/Blog.