Catholicism and Science

Vatican Observatory

Vatican Observatory

In our mainstream culture, Catholicism and science are pitted against each other as inherently opposed to the other. It’s hate speech and this post is here to address it.

People quickly point out the confinement of Galileo Galilei by the Pope almost 400 years ago as proof of the Church’s supposed hatred for science. This needs to be righted and put into context of history and culture, not just religion.

  • First, let’s not forget most of Europe clung to the Greek belief in the Earth-centered astronomy. Francis Bacon and others refuted some of Galileo’s theories for lack of evidence.
  • Second, the Pope sponsored Galileo’s research. In fact the Church was seen as an authority on science and so scientists sought Church support.
  • Third, Galileo’s first publication purposely didn’t challenge the established science taught at universities, since without proof, theories were looked down upon as conjecture and he could lose face.
  • Fourth, it was when Galileo, in his second book, failed to give credit to the Pope’s patronage and did not attribute all truth to God that he found himself in trouble. This was Italy after all, where relationships and respect are important values.
  • Fifth, he did not reconcile his theories with scripture. This was probably the sticking point. He did not have the evidence to contradict scripture and failed to present an explanation to align both.
  • Finally, his 3-week confinement at the papacy was in a furnished apartment and subsequently in the area of Rome itself where he continued to write. This confinement was certainly not equivalent to prison.

This reveals more a challenge to society in general rather than the Church’s fear of science.

Below are a few contributions to science by devout Catholics to further demonstrate that the disdain of the Church as anti-science is false and calls into question those who spread such falsehoods.

Leonardo Fibonacci (1170-1250) layperson, Catholic. Introduced Arabic numerals for math in Europe

Christopher Clavius (1538-1612) Jesuit, Architect of Gregorian calendar. Protestant leaders, in there effort to fight anything Catholic, delayed adopting this calendar we use today. The English didn’t adopt it until 1754. Thus their new year was so off it eventually landed on April 1st. They were fools to keep using a calendar that did not coincide with the harvest or seasons. Hence April Fool’s Day.

Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) Augustinian, the scientific community acknowledges him as the father of genetics.

Georges LeMaître (1894-1966) Priest, father of the Big Bang Theory. Many people think Catholics do not believe in Evolution. You can review Vatican documents to know this isn’t true. The Church also says it is not impossible that alien life exists.

Karl Landsteiner (1868-1943) Convert to Catholicism. First identified blood types, Nobel Prize recipient

Guy Consolmagno (1952- ) Jesuit, Astronomer, currently at Vatican Observatory, This observatory was first established centuries ago to develop the more accurate Gregorian Calendar.


About Daniel Roddick

Daniel has a B.A. in American History with minors in both Ethnic Studies and Sociology. He also has an M.Ed. in College Administration and Counseling. Daniel has worked in the financial aid industry for over a decade. He has presented all over the country on financial aid issues related to equity, inclusion, and access to education. He is also a writer of poetry, fiction, and this blog, all of which touch on identity.
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One Response to Catholicism and Science

  1. Pingback: A Priest’s Article about Being Gay | Daniel Roddick

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