Monday, October 24, 2011

Those Ignorant Churchmen

Hardly a week goes by that you can't find an article somewhere on the web, the gist of which is how fortunate moderns are to be free of the superstition and ignorance of religion, especially Christian religion and Catholicism in particular. The only thing worse than Bible-thumping Fundamentalists is the Catholic Church.

Anyone reading the comments following an article on the teaching of evolution or almost any other topic centering or bordering on science will notice lots of idiotic comments about how science has disproved religion or how religion persecuted scientists, with the obligatory comment(s) about Galileo by someone who knows nothing about the actual Galileo case. Many times there are comments by people who think the "Big Bang" theory disproves religion.

I read an interview a year or so ago with a scientist who thought that Galileo was arguing that the earth is round and the churchmen were arguing that it is flat. There is an interview of David Koch here, in which he tells Suzan Mazur that "Galileo was imprisoned for years for saying the world was round. " He would be hard pressed to find any pronouncements by the church or anybody else that the earth is flat. This is a myth that was concocted by Washington Irving for his biography of Christopher Columbus.

Prior to Galileo, the German Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa had a heliocentric theory as did - as everybody knows - Copernicus, who was a cleric and a canon lawyer, which most people don't know.

If the Church is as hostile to science as it is believed to be, one would expect to find no serious scientists anywhere near it, but is that the case? If you know who Georges Lemaitre is and what he is known for raise your hand. Don't know? Monsignor Lemaitre is the Belgian priest who formulated the theory that came to be   called - pejoratively - The Big Bang. His own term for the theory was "Primeval Atom" or Day without a yesterday.

Msgr. Georges Lemaitre
Gregor Mendel, another ignoramus who was an Augustinian friar founded the science of genetics, and the Austrian Meteorological Society; the laws of Mendelian inheritance get their name from him.

The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) has long been involved in seismology and astronomy, so much so that seismology is called "The Jesuit Science."

Giovanni Battista Riccioli S.J. was the first person to accurately measure the rate of acceleration of a free falling body. He also developed extremely accurate pendulums with which to time his experiments. His mammoth book, the Almagestum Novum took up 1500 folio pages and was still being cited over 100 years after publication. In it, he discusses among other things, 126 arguments concerning the motion - or lack thereof - of the earth; 49 for motion, 77 against. A few hundred years before him, the Franciscan Roger Bacon was fooling around with philosophy, optics, gunpowder, and criticizing the Julian calendar.

If you drive a car or ride the bus, you might be indebted to Fr. Eugenio Barsanti, the probable inventor of the internal combustion engine. If you use a refrigerator, you can thank G.E. and Abbe Marcel Audiffren, a French Cistercian monk from whom G.E. bought the license to manufacture the first home refrigerator in either 1905 or 1911; that date is disputed.

In their book Hurricane Watch: Forecasting the Deadliest Storms on Earth, Bob Sheets and Jack Williams tell of Fr. Benito Viñes, S.J. and his development of hurricane forecasting.

"The [Jesuit] order's long tradition of scientific education and research had made seismology something of a specialty, but Cuba's problem was hurricanes, not earthquakes. It and all the other islands of the Caribbean and the eastern Atlantic Ocean had been periodically, tragically devastated by the great storms arriving almost unannounced on their shorelines. Within just a few years, Viñes more or less singlehandedly evened the playing field, and by the end of the [19th] century he and his fellow Jesuit Fr. Fedorico Faura, who was based in Manila, the Philippines, were the most proficient and best-known cyclone forecasters in the world."

Considering that they did this by observation, without radio reports from ships at sea, airplanes or satellites their accomplishments are astounding.

It is not just the physical sciences that the churchmen have shown an interest in. Raymond de Roover, Joseph Schumpeter, Murray Rothbard, Tom Woods, et al. have written about the school of Salamanca and the Late Scholastics, who were way ahead of Adam Smith in their economic ideas. Many of these men were moral or dogmatic theologians who had an interest in economic questions.

Luis de Molina, 1535 - 1600, One of the Late Scholastics
It was the school of Salamanca that Samuel Johnson said:

“I love the University of Salamanca, for when the Spaniards were in doubt as to the lawfulness of their conquering America, the University of Salamanca gave it as their opinion that it was not lawful.”

One of the reasons that people believe such nonsense about a supposed conflict between science and religion is because of the government school system. If you attended the government schools like I mostly did, the rest of your life is spent in an effort to overcome the induced blindness that is brought about - purposely, I think - by a constant exposure to error. The private schools are subject to the same danger through their use of the same textbooks.

In the United States we supposedly have a separation of church and state, but actually the state is the church.
Private religion is fine as long as its doctrines are not put before those of the state; the state will have no strange gods before it, hence it is necessary to denigrate those who believe in an eternal God who is greater than the state - the true Law Giver instead of a legislator.

There are plenty of Protestants who were religious men and scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton who wrote more on religion than on science, and Wernher von Braun who saw no conflict between science and religion, but Protestantism doesn't attract as great enmity as Catholicism. Protestantism also does not provide its detractors with a large single target of great antiquity, but thousands of different groups which are not hurt collectively through the injury of one or a few.  For a fairly long list of scientists who were Christian, go here, here and  here


  1. Wow. Another article full of facts and put together beautifully. How did you learn to write so eloquently. I would be up for some lessons!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    With much appreciation,
    Tom Dierl

  2. Thanks for the compliment and thanks for looking. I always have my sisters look at my writing because they know grammar and I don't.

    Don't you remember how the girls could always diagram sentences better than the boys?