A6 The supposed conflict between Science and Catholicism

Submitted by rjzaar on January 23, 2017 - 10:13am
summary: 

There is no conflict between science and religion. Historically this conflict really developed out of the Enlightenment which developed in the late 1600s and 1700s to emphasise the individual and reason against tradition. Many Enlightenment thinkers were anti-Catholic. Many writers were creating myths or at best twisting truths to make Christianity look bad.  The scientist John William Draper and the writer Andrew Dickson White were the most influential exponents of the conflict thesis between religion and science in the 1800s. Draper wrote a History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) and White wrote A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). Modern historians have discredited both books. In fact, Catholicism has encouraged science through the centuries. Fr Tomas William LC explains this well in Myth No.3: Religion Is Opposed to Science:

History shows that the natural sciences grew out of Christian culture. As the sociologist Rodney Stark has so convincingly shown (See especially For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery), science was "still-born" in the great civilizations of the ancient world, except in Christian civilization.

Far from being an obstacle to science, Christian soil was the necessary humus where science took root.

Examples of this fertile ground can be seen in the number of priest scientists such as Fr Georges Lemaitre.

There is no conflict between science and religion. Historically this conflict really developed out of the Enlightenment which developed in the late 1600s and 1700s to emphasise the individual and reason against tradition. Many Enlightenment thinkers were anti-Catholic. Many writers were creating myths or at best twisting truths to make Christianity look bad.  The scientist John William Draper and the writer Andrew Dickson White were the most influential exponents of the conflict thesis between religion and science in the 1800s. Draper wrote a History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) and White wrote A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). Modern historians have discredited both books. Wikipedia's article on the Conflict Thesis states: 

Biologist Stephen Jay Gould said: "White's and Draper's accounts of the actual interaction between science and religion in Western history do not differ greatly. Both tell a tale of bright progress continually sparked by science. And both develop and use the same myths to support their narrative, the flat-earth legend prominently among them". In a summary of the historiography of the conflict thesis, Colin A. Russell, the former President of Christians in Science, said that "Draper takes such liberty with history, perpetuating legends as fact that he is rightly avoided today in serious historical study. The same is nearly as true of White, though his prominent apparatus of prolific footnotes may create a misleading impression of meticulous scholarship".

There is no conflict between science and religion. In fact, Catholicism has encouraged science through the centuries. Fr Tomas William LC explains this well in Myth No.3: Religion Is Opposed to Science:

History shows that the natural sciences grew out of Christian culture. As the sociologist Rodney Stark has so convincingly shown (See especially For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery), science was "still-born" in the great civilizations of the ancient world, except in Christian civilization.

Far from being an obstacle to science, Christian soil was the necessary humus where science took root.

Christianity's unapologetic support of science is borne out by the immense direct contribution of the Church to science itself. To take but one area – that of astronomy – J.L. Heilbron of the University of California-Berkeley has written:

"The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial aid and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment, than any other, and, probably, all other, institutions."

With this in mind, Hitchens' claim that "the right to look through telescopes and speculate about the result was obstructed by the Church" seems especially disingenuous.

What can be said of astronomy can be said equally of medicine, physics, mathematics and chemistry.

Examples of this fertile ground can be seen in the number of priest scientists: Priest Scientists

Topic(s): 
science and religion
level: 
beginner