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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Just released!: How the Catholic Church Built Science

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods, Jr., may be a revelation to many:
By far the book's longest chapter is "The Church and Science." We have all heard a great deal about the Church's alleged hostility toward science. What most people fail to realize is that historians of science have spent the past half-century drastically revising this conventional wisdom, arguing that the Church's role in the development of Western science was far more salutary than previously thought. I am speaking not about Catholic apologists but about serious and important scholars of the history of science such as J.L. Heilbron, A.C. Crombie, David Lindberg, Edward Grant, and Thomas Goldstein.

It is all very well to point out that important scientists, like Louis Pasteur, have been Catholic. More revealing is how many priests have distinguished themselves in the sciences.

[ ... ]

In the sciences it was the Jesuits in particular who distinguished themselves; some 35 craters on the moon, in fact, are named after Jesuit scientists and mathematicians.

Actually, I can see where priests and brothers who wouldn't necessarily be suited to parish life might get on well in astronomy, actually.

It's also worth mentioning 19th century Austrian monk Gregor Mendel, whose laws of inheritance are considered standard today, Fr. Georges Lemaitre, the Belgian priest who developed the Big Bang theory and the somewhat more controversial Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

There was a most interesting discussion Teilhard's theories at the Post-Darwinist recently. I am glad that it is becoming "mainstream" to acknowledge the Catholic Church's role. Maybe we can start getting more correct histories of science for once.

Note: Lots of myths about Christians in science are debunked here.

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