Catholicism and Science

Catholicism and Science

Catholicism and Science

Catholicism and Science


When most people think about Catholicism and science, they will automatically think of one of the famous events in the history of science - the condemnation of Galileo by the Roman Catholic Church. But the interaction of Catholics with science has been - and is - far more complex and positive than that depicted in the legend of the Galileo affair. Understanding the natural world has always been a strength of Catholic thought and research - from the great theologians of the Middle Ages to the present day - and science has been a hallmark of Catholic education for centuries.

"Catholicism and Science," a volume in the Greenwood Guides to Science and Religion series, covers all aspects of the relationship of science and the Church: How Catholics interacted with the profound changes in the physical sciences (natural philosophy) and biological sciences (natural history) during the Scientific Revolution; how Catholic scientists reacted to the theory of evolution and their attempts to make evolution compatible with Catholic theology; and the implications of Roman Catholic doctrinal and moral teachings for neuroscientific research, and for investigation into genetics and cloning.

The volume includes primary source documents, a glossary and timeline of important events, and an annotated bibliography of the most useful works for further research


For nearly 2,500 years, some conservative members of societies have expressed concern about the activities of those who sought to find a naturalistic explanation for natural phenomena. in 429 B.C.E., for example, the comic playwright, Aristophanes, parodied Socrates as someone who studied the phenomena of the atmosphere, turning the awe-inspiring thunder which had seemed to express the wrath of Zeus into nothing but the farting of the clouds. Such actions, Aristophanes argued, were blasphemous and would undermine all tradition, law, and custom. Among early Christian spokespersons there were some, such as Tertullian, who also criticized those who sought to understand the natural world on the grounds that they “persist in applying their studies to a vain purpose, since they indulge their curiosity on natural objects, which they ought rather [direct] to their Creator and Governor.”

In the twentieth century, though a general distrust of science persisted among some conservative groups, the most intense opposition was reserved for the theory of evolution by natural selection. Typical of extreme antievolution comments is the following opinion offered by Judge Braswell Dean of the Georgia Court of Appeals: “This monkey mythology of Darwin is the cause of permissiveness, promiscuity, pills, prophylactics, perversions, pregnancies, abortions, pornography, pollution, poisoning, and proliferation of crimes of all types.”

It can hardly be surprising that those committed to the study of natural phenomena responded to their denigrators in kind, accusing them of willful ignorance and of repressive behavior. Thus, when Galileo Galilei was warned against holding and teaching the Copernican system of astronomy as true, he wielded his brilliantly ironic pen and threw down a . . .

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