Bishop Robert Barron, one of the recently appointed auxiliary bishops in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, addresses the persistent notion that Christianity (and, in particular, Catholicism) is at war with science.
From his new op-ed in The Los Angeles Times:
As Polkinghorne and others have observed, the modern physical sciences were, in fact, made possible by the religious milieu out of which they emerged. It is no accident that modern science first appeared in Christian Europe, where a doctrine of creation held sway. To hold that the world is created is to accept, simultaneously, the two assumptions required for science: namely, that the universe is not divine and that it is intelligible.
If the world or nature were considered divine (as it is in many philosophies and mysticisms), then one would never allow oneself to analyze it, dissect it or perform experiments on it. But a created world, by definition, is other than God and, in that very otherness, open to inquiry.
Similarly, if the world were considered unintelligible, no science would get off the ground, because all science is based on the presumption that nature can be known. But the world, Christians agree, is thoroughly intelligible, and hence scientists have the confidence to seek, explore and experiment.
Click here to read the rest.
And Barron is not alone.
In a 2011 essay for Thomas Woods the author of “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization,” wrote for The (Fredericksburgh, Virginia) Free Lance-Star, reprinted in The Deseret News:
We all remember what we learned in fourth grade: While scientists were bravely trying to uncover truths about the universe and improve our quality of life, stupid churchmen who hated reason and simply wanted the faithful to shut up and obey placed a ceaseless stream of obstacles in their path.
That was where the conventional wisdom stood just over a century ago, with the publication of Andrew Dickson White’s book, “A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom,” in 1896. And that’s where most Americans (and Europeans, for that matter) believe it still stands.
But there is scarcely a historian of science in America who would endorse this comic-book version of events today. To the contrary, modern historians of science freely acknowledge the church’s contributions — both theoretical and material — to the Scientific Revolution. It was the church’s worldview that insisted the universe was orderly and operated according to certain fixed laws. Only buoyed with that confidence would it have made sense to bother investigating the physical world in the first place, or even to develop the scientific method (which can work only in an orderly world). It’s likewise a little tricky to claim the church has been an implacable foe of the sciences when so many priests were accomplished scientists.
Only God is the Uncaused Cause; everything else is cause and effect. It was the Judeo-Christian belief that the world could be understood, followed by the Church’s creation of the university system, and its role in educating Europe and much of the Near East, that led to the ability of Western civilization to become a powerhouse of scientific discovery and inquiry.
The Church didn’t do it alone, but credit where due — and truth above all.
Image: Courtesy Bishop Robert Barron