So… The Catholic Church – what does it say about science? Well, first I’ll share one of my favorite quotes from Blessed Pope John Paul II:
“Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”
Essentially, a good religion will not dismiss science and will acknowledge its claims, but will also not make science into an end in and of itself.
Pope Pius IX stated the following: “Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they mutually support each other, for on the one hand right reason established the foundations of the faith and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of divine things”
So the Catholic Church IS ok with science, and also supports it. Here are some more examples…
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences – Obviously the Pope and the magisterium (teaching authority of the Church), who are perfectly open and accepting of science, usually aren’t practicing scientists. To combat this problem, Pope Pius XI established the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which is comprised of various scientists from all over the world (Christian or not) to inform the magisterium on the current progress of science in the world. You may be familiar with one of its members, Stephen Hawking.
No, the Church hasn’t always been so cool about science. For Instance, if you saw Google a few weeks ago you may have seen the Google Doodle in honor of Nicholas Copernicus, who discovered heliocentricism. Copernicus actually received a doctorate in canon law during his lifetime. Upon making his discovery, he wrote a book about it and dedicated his book to Pope Paul III. The Church thanked him by flipping out, and arguments ensued among the ranks of the church – similar to the Galileo affair. The important thing to remember with these incidents, however, is that these positions held by some of the Church were not held by everybody. In fact, with both the Galileo and Copernicus affair, many Cardinals continuously voiced to those opposed to these new theories that they simply could not continue to defend themselves without harming the integrity of the Church. The other important thing to remember is that eventually the Church did say “oops, sorry”. In fact, Copernicus’s tomb stone identifies him as founder of the heliocentric theory and also a church canon. Galileo was referred to by Pope Pius XII as the “most audacious heroes of research… not afraid of the stumbling blocks and the risks on the way, nor fearful of the funereal monuments.”
Speaking of Catholic Scientists…. Were there any more?
I’ll mention a few of my favorites here:
Fr. Georges Lemaitre – Discovered a little something called THE BIG BANG. Lemaitre was the first person to propose the Big Bang as the origin of the universe. The guy also hung out with Einstein frequently.