Science and Catholicism: a brief reflection


The natural sciences, and philosophical reflection upon them, have been an integral part of the Catholic intellectual tradition since the time of the Copernican revolution. Indeed, Catholic priests and clerics played a central role in the development of natural science. For example, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), the originator of the heliocentric universe and its mathematical justification, was a minor Catholic cleric. Nicolas Steno (1638-1686), a Catholic Danish bishop, is acknowledged to be one of the founders of modern stratigraphy and geology. The Augustinian monk and abbot Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) is recognized as the founder of modern genetics. Msgr. Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest and colleague of Albert Einstein, is acknowledged to be the founder of contemporary cosmology through his discovery of the Big Bang Theory in 1927.
(source CWR:

It’s become trendy in our televisual and internet age to mask the achievements of science in Catholicism. It’s also becoming a reflex to snigger and chide Catholics in public places. The record above shows that science has had some outstanding contributions from Catholicism.

I remember being in The Defectors Weld, Shepherd’s Bush about two years ago and chance-chatting with a couple of scientists. When I mentioned Christianity and the Bible one of the scientists started to snigger and treat me as an ignoramus. His girlfriend was more polite and less dismissive. I had to tell him that there wasn’t a problem with evolution per se.

What’s upsetting is that many scientists don’t read much and so believe the cliches they get fed about Christianity and science. The subtle aggression and hostility is shocking and should have no place in a democracy; there is no reflexivity partly because there is no questioning of deep human behaviour; they are biological animals: philosophical reflection, if it applies, only applies to questions of science not to questioning science or reflecting as Aristotle did on virtue, on what is good. Only one credo counts, one foundational assumption courtesy of Richard Dawkins: religion is bad – no further thought about it required.


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