Over on his Why Evolution Is True Website, Professor Jerry Coyne has posted a short passage on the papal condemnation of Galileo, excerpted from Andrew Dickson White’s A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company, 1896). However, all the passage proves is that neither White nor Coyne understand the theological doctrine which they are attacking: they are all at sea about the dogma at which they are aiming their barbs.
The Conflict Thesis
The reason why Professor Coyne quoted from the work of Andrew Dickson White at some length was that White was a zealous proponent of what historians of science refer to as the conflict thesis – the view that the claims of religion and science are bound to clash with one another, as each declares itself to be “the truth.” Wikipedia’s article on the conflict thesis notes that an English-American scientist named John William Draper was another prominent exponent of this view:
The scientist John William Draper and the writer Andrew Dickson White were the most influential exponents of the Conflict Thesis between religion and science… Draper’s preface summarises the conflict thesis:
“The history of Science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests on the other.”
(John William Draper, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company, 1875, p. vi.)
In 1874 White published his thesis in Popular Science Monthly and in book form as The Warfare of Science:
“In all modern history, interference with science in the supposed interest of religion, no matter how conscientious such interference may have been, has resulted in the direst evils both to religion and to science — and invariably. And, on the other hand, all untrammeled scientific investigation, no matter how dangerous to religion some of its stages may have seemed, for the time, to be, has invariably resulted in the highest good of religion and of science.”
(Andrew Dickson White, The Warfare of Science, New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company, 1888, p. 8.)
I’ll say more about the conflict thesis below. For now, I would like to note that a man of the stature of Andrew Dickson White (who was the first president of Cornell University) should have taken the trouble to make sure that he at least understood the religious dogmas which he attacked. As we’ll see, however, all the evidence suggests that he made no serious effort to understand these teachings.
White on the Catholic Church’s condemnation of Galileo
The passage from Andrew Dickson White (pictured above, image courtesy of Wikipedia) which was quoted by Professor Jerry Coyne in his post, which I shall quote in its full context, is taken from Chapter 3, Section 6 of White’s 1896 work, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. The section reproduced on Coyne’s Website has been highlighted in green:
In 1615 Galileo was summoned before the Inquisition at Rome, and the mine which had been so long preparing was sprung. Sundry theologians of the Inquisition having been ordered to examine two propositions which had been extracted from Galileo’s letters on the solar spots, solemnly considered these points during about a month and rendered their unanimous decision as follows: “The first proposition, that the sun is the centre and does not revolve about the earth, is foolish, absurd, false in theology, and heretical, because expressly contrary to Holy Scripture”; and “the second proposition, that the earth is not the centre but revolves about the sun, is absurd, false in philosophy, and, from a theological point of view at least, opposed to the true faith.”
The Pope himself, Paul V, now intervened again: he ordered that Galileo be brought before the Inquisition. Then the greatest man of science in that age was brought face to face with the greatest theologian – Galileo was confronted by Bellarmin. Bellarmin shows Galileo the error of his opinion and orders him to renounce it. De Lauda, fortified by a letter from the Pope, gives orders that the astronomer be placed in the dungeons of the Inquisition should he refuse to yield. Bellarmin now commands Galileo, “in the name of His Holiness the Pope and the whole Congregation of the Holy Office, to relinquish altogether the opinion that the sun is the centre of the world and immovable, and that the earth moves, nor henceforth to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatsoever, verbally or in writing.” This injunction Galileo acquiesces in and promises to obey.
This was on the 26th of February, 1616. About a fortnight later the Congregation of the Index, moved thereto, as the letters and documents now brought to light show, by Pope Paul V, solemnly rendered a decree that “the doctrine of the double motion of the earth about its axis and about the sun is false, and entirely contrary to Holy Scripture“; and that this opinion must neither be taught nor advocated. The same decree condemned all writings of Copernicus and “all writings which affirm the motion of the earth.” The great work of Copernicus was interdicted until corrected in accordance with the views of the Inquisition; and the works of Galileo and Kepler, though not mentioned by name at that time, were included among those implicitly condemned as “affirming the motion of the earth.”
The condemnations were inscribed upon the Index; and, finally,
the papacy committed itself as an infallible judge and teacher to the world by prefixing to the Index the usual papal bull giving its monitions the most solemn papal sanction.
To teach or even read the works denounced or passages condemned was to risk persecution in this world and damnation in the next. Science had apparently lost the decisive battle.
The dogma that White misunderstood
The Catholic dogma White is ridiculing here is that of papal infallibility, which was defined at the First Vatican Council in 1870, and which states that “when the Pope (1) intends to teach (2) by virtue of his supreme authority (3) on a matter of faith and morals (4) to the whole Church, he is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error.” (I’m quoting here from an article by the Catholic apologist Dr. Jeffrey Mirus, a co-founder of Christendom College.) Catholics regard this dogma as binding Church teaching (see here and here). The Eastern Orthodox Church, on the other hand, rejects this doctrine (see here and here), as do Protestants (see here).
The passage quoted above shows how poor White’s grasp of this doctrine was: he writes that “the papacy committed itself as an infallible judge and teacher to the world by prefixing to the Index the usual papal bull giving its monitions the most solemn papal sanction.” An infallible ex cathedra papal pronouncement, which the Pope makes by virtue of his supreme authority, is by definition an extraordinary act of the papacy. It is therefore very different from “the usual papal bull.” A papal bull, while issued only on solemn occasions, is by no means limited to dogmatic pronouncements: indeed, it need not contain any teaching on faith or morals at all. Wikipedia itemizes over 170 papal bulls in a list which it declares to be “very incomplete.” By contrast, papal dogmas on faith and morals are far fewer in number. While Catholic theologians have differing opinions as to how many papal pronouncements over the past 2,000 years would technically qualify as “infallible dogmas,” all would agree that there are no less than two and no more than fifteen (the number listed in the Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique‘s article, Infaillibilité du Pape), with seven being a number favored in recent years by some authorities.
Galileo before the Holy Office, a 19th century painting by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
So, which Pope was White talking about when he asserted that “the papacy committed itself as an infallible judge and teacher to the world”? Apparently, not Paul V (who approved an anti-Copernican edict in 1616), nor Urban VIII (who ratified the Inquisition’s condemnation of Galileo in 1633 – for a good account of the trial see here and for a Catholic perspective see here), but Pope Alexander VII, who signed a papal bull (Speculatores domus Israel – scroll to the bottom to read) which was subsequently attached to the Index of Prohibited Books, stating that he condemned “all books which affirm the motion of the earth”:
In 1664 Alexander VII prefixed to the Index containing the condemnations of the works of Copernicus and Galileo and “all books which affirm the motion of the earth” a papal bull signed by himself, binding the contents of the Index upon the consciences of the faithful. This bull confirmed and approved in express terms, finally, decisively, and infallibly, the condemnation of “all books teaching the movement of the earth and the stability of the sun.”
But was Pope Alexander VII’s papal bull Speculatores domus Israel ever intended to be an infallible papal pronouncement on faith and morals? And what about the earlier condemnations of Galileo by Popes Paul V and Urban VIII?
What White got wrong
It is impossible for any scholar to seriously maintain that the condemnations of Galileo approved by Popes Paul V and Urban VIII qualify as ex cathedra papal pronouncements. Dava Sobel (pictured above, courtesy of Wikipedia) explains why in her best-selling book, Galileo’s Daughter (New York, NY: Penguin, 2000), pp. 285-286:
In framing Galileo’s trial as a simplistic case of science versus religion, anti-Catholic critics have claimed that the Church opposed a scientific theory on biblical grounds and that the outcome mocked the infallibility of the pope. Technically, however, the anti-Copernican Edict of 1616 was issued by the Congregation of the Index, not by the Church. Similarly, in 1633, Galileo was tried and sentenced by the Holy Office of the Inquisition, not by the Church. And even though Pope Paul V approved the Edict of 1616, just as Pope Urban VIII condoned Galileo’s conviction, neither pontiff invoked papal infallibility in either situation… What’s more, the right of infallibility was never formally defined in Galileo’s time, but issued two centuries later from Vatican Council I…
A Pope cannot delegate his infallibility to a Congregation or a committee. He must, himself, personally address the Universal Church, and require that his teaching be accepted by all its members with absolute assent. None of these conditions for an infallible teaching were present in the Galileo case.
And as Pope John Paul II noted in a 1992 address, titled, Faith can never conflict with reason (L’Osservatore Romano N. 44 (1264) – 4 November 1992):
Cardinal Poupard has also reminded us that the sentence of 1633 was not irreformable, and that the debate which had not ceased to evolve thereafter, was closed in 1820 with the imprimatur given to the work of Canon Settele.
What about the condemnation issued by Pope Alexander VII, then? The relevant passage reads as follows:
… We, by Our apostolic authority, and by means of this present Bull, confirm and approve the said general Index, with each and every thing contained in it…
Consequently, We command each and every one of our venerable brethren, the patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and other Ordinaries of places, as well as those beloved sons who are their vicars and officials, the inquisitors of heretical depravity, the superiors of every kind of religious Order, congregation, society, or institute, and all others who are, or will be in future, in any way concerned, to do all in their power to see that this general Index is made widely available and observed.
It can be readily seen that the pope did not issue a teaching on a matter of faith and morals here; rather, he issued a command to bishops everywhere, requesting them to enforce the observance of the newly updated Index of Prohibited Books, which of course included Galileo’s works. However, the Catholic Church does not teach, and never has taught, that the pope’s commands are infallible. In claiming infallibility for such a document, White is making a category mistake: he is confusing a command with a definition.
White’s assertion that Pope Alexander VII “confirmed and approved in express terms, finally, decisively, and infallibly, the condemnation of ‘all books teaching the movement of the earth and the stability of the sun,'” can now be seen for what it is: pure hogwash. Nothing in his declaration suggests that he wished to make a final declaration that would bind the Church for all time.
What about the Catholic Church’s ordinary magisterium?
Most religiously informed people are aware that Catholics regard ex cathedra papal pronouncements as infallible, as well as dogmatic decrees by ecumenical councils of the Catholic Church. These pronouncements belong to the Church’s extraordinary teaching authority, or magisterium. However, there are other teachings which have never been dogmatically defined, but which are nevertheless taught by the bishops, in communion with the pope, as doctrines which Catholics are bound to believe. These doctrines comprise what is called the ordinary magisterium (or day-to-day teaching authority) of the Catholic Church. Three examples given by Cardinal Ratzinger (before he was elected Pope Benedict XVI) are the Church’s teachings on the illicitness of euthanasia, prostitution and fornication: the Church has always taught that these are wrong, and that Catholics are bound to believe as much. Catholics believe that the Church’s infallibility extends to these doctrines too.
The question we therefore need to address is: does geocentrism (the view that the Earth is the center of the universe) qualify as an infallible teaching of the ordinary magisterium? That is, did the pope and bishops of the Catholic Church, at any point in time in the past, ever teach that Catholics were bound to believe that the Earth is the center of the universe, and that it does not move from place to place, as Galileo held that it did?
Dr. Jeffrey Mirus, in an article titled, Galileo and the Magisterium: a Second Look, addresses the question of whether the Catholic Church, which condemned Galileo in the 17th century, was already irrevocably committed to geocentrism. If the Catholic bishops, teaching in unity with the Pope, had previously taught this doctrine as something which Catholics were bound to believe, then the Church would be unable to change it, and no papal condemnation would have been required to condemn Galileo: he would already be convicted by the weight of the Church’s teaching tradition.
After carefully investigating the matter, Dr. Mirus concludes that the Church’s ordinary magisterium was in no way compromised by the Galileo episode:
First, the declaration that Galileo’s propositions were heretical was never published as a teaching of the Church, and it was never intended to be such. It was intended and taken as the advice of certain theological experts who worked in the Holy Office, of value in a legal case, but hardly a norm of faith for the Church as a whole. Second, as noted earlier, Pope Paul V did not endorse this theological opinion, but rather ordered in an in-house directive only that Galileo be commanded to stop holding and advancing his own opinion. This action, then, stemmed from a judgment of prudence about the promotion of ideas which could not be easily reconciled with Scripture. Even as a private document, therefore, the declaration of heresy received no formal papal approval. Third, there is no evidence that Pope Urban VIII ever endorsed any public document which included the declaration of heresy, especially the sentence at Galileo’s trial. That no pope ever promulgated any condemnation of Galileo’s ideas removes the Galileo case entirely from discussions on the historical character of the Church’s teaching authority.
It is clear, then, that not even the ordinary Magisterium has ever taught or promulgated the idea that the propositions of Copernican-Galilean astronomy are heretical or errors in faith. Thus it can in no way be claimed that “the Church” has taught that such views are heretical.
White’s claim that the Catholic Church’s infallibility – whether ordinary or extraordinary – was compromised by the Galileo episode, is therefore mistaken, on rests upon shoddy scholarship.
More shoddy scholarship from Andrew Dickson White
But there’s more. As Wikipedia points out in its article on the Conflict Thesis, White’s scholarship was soundly discredited a mere dozen years after the publication of his 1896 work, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom:
James Joseph Walsh, M.D., criticized White’s scientific perspective as anti-historical in The Popes and Science; the History of the Papal Relations to Science During the Middle Ages and Down to Our Own Time (1908), a book dedicated to Pope Pius X, the historian of medicine:
…the story of the supposed opposition of the Church and the Popes and the ecclesiastical authorities to science in any of its branches, is founded entirely on mistaken notions. Most of it is quite imaginary. Much of it is due to the exaggeration of the significance of the Galileo incident. Only those who know nothing about the history of medicine and of science continue to harbor it. That Dr. White’s book, contradicted as it is so directly by all serious histories of medicine and of science, should have been read by so many thousands in this country, and should have been taken seriously by educated men, physicians, teachers, and even professors of science who want to know the history of their own sciences, only shows how easily even supposedly educated men may be led to follow their prejudices rather than their mental faculties, and emphasizes the fact that the tradition that there is no good that can possibly come out of the Nazareth of the times before the reformation, still dominates the intellects of many educated people who think that they are far from prejudice and have minds perfectly open to conviction…
(New York, NY: Fordam University Press, 1908, p. 19.)
I have seen many refutations in my time, but I have to say that Walsh’s refutation of White is especially devastating.
Readers may also be interested in perusing Professor Walsh’s best-selling book, The Thirteenth Greatest of Centuries. It will definitely change your perspective on the Middle Ages.
Stephen Jay Gould on White’s conflict thesis
The late Stephen Jay Gould (pictured above, image courtesy of Wikipedia) was also dismissive of White’s conflict thesis, and of White’s role in promoting this thesis by resorting to poor scholarship. He goes on to add that the Darwinist controversy, which was raging in White’s day, may have severely colored his views:
“White’s and Draper’s accounts of the actual interaction between science and religion in Western history do not differ greatly. Both tell a tale of bright progress continually sparked by science. And both develop and use the same myths to support their narrative, the flat-earth legend prominently among them.…
“As another interesting similarity, both men developed their basic model of science vs. theology in the context of a seminal and contemporary struggle all too easily viewed in this light — the battle for evolution, speciﬁcally for Darwin’s secular version based on natural selection. No issue, certainly since Galileo, had so challenged traditional views of the deepest meaning of human life, and therefore so contacted a domain of religious inquiry as well. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Darwinian revolution directly triggered this inﬂuential nineteenth-century conceptualization of Western history as a war between two taxonomic categories labeled science and religion. White made an explicit connection in his statement about Agassiz (the founder of the museum where I now work, and a visiting lecturer at Cornell). Moreover, the ﬁrst chapter of his book treats the battle over evolution, while the second begins with the ﬂat-earth myth.”
(Gould, S.J. “The late birth of a flat earth”. Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History. New York, NY: Crown, 1996, pp. 38–52.)
As is well-known, Gould himself proposed a counter-thesis: that of Non-Overlapping Magisteria, or NOMA. While Gould is to be commended for his attempt to heal the breach between science and religion, his own solution is highly problematic, and will not hold water (see here, here, here and here for a discussion of why).
The myth that will not die
So why does the conflict thesis persist in the popular consciousness? The Wikipedia article on the conflict thesis quotes science historian Ronald Numbers (pictured above, image courtesy of Wikipedia) as suggesting that myths recycled by the mass media may be largely to blame:
Science historian Ronald Numbers suggests the conflict theory lingers in a popular belief, inclusive of scientists and clerics alike, that history reflects an intrinsic and inevitable anti-intellectual conflict between (Judeo-Christian) religion and science, a misconception perpetuated by the polemics surrounding controversies like creation–evolution, stem cells, and birth control. Some scholars, such as Brian Stanley and Denis Alexander propose that mass media is partly responsible for popularizing conflict theory, most notably the Flat-earth myth that prior to Columbus people believed the Earth was flat. David C. Lindberg and Numbers point out that “there was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge Earth’s sphericity and even know its approximate circumference”. Numbers gives the following as mistakes arising from conflict theory that have gained widespread currency: “the Church prohibited autopsies and dissections during the Middle Ages”, “the rise of Christianity killed off ancient science”, and “the medieval Christian church suppressed the growth of the natural sciences.”
A more balanced view: religion as a springboard for scientific discovery, down the ages
In any case, many scholars now believe that religion provided the impetus for many scientific discoveries, as the article notes:
Some contemporary historians of science, such as Peter Barker, Bernard R. Goldstein, and Crosbie Smith propose that scientific discoveries, such as Kepler’s laws of planetary motion in the 17th century, and the reformulation of physics in terms of energy, in the 19th century, were driven by religion. Religious organizations and clerics figure prominently in the broad histories of science, until the professionalization of the scientific enterprise, in the 19th century, led to tensions between scholars taking religious and secular approaches to nature.
Let me conclude by quoting from a 1992 address given by Pope John Paul II, titled, Faith can never conflict with reason (L’Osservatore Romano N. 44 (1264) – 4 November 1992):
From the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment down to our own day, the Galileo case has been a sort of “myth”, in which the image fabricated out of the events was quite far removed from reality. In this perspective, the Galileo case was the symbol of the Church’s supposed rejection of scientific progress, or of “dogmatic” obscurantism opposed to the free search for truth. This myth has played a considerable cultural role. It has helped to anchor a number of scientists of good faith in the idea that there was an incompatibility between the spirit of science and its rules of research on the one hand and the Christian faith on the other. A tragic mutual incomprehension has been interpreted as the reflection of a fundamental opposition between science and faith. The clarifications furnished by recent historical studies enable us to state that this sad misunderstanding now belongs to the past.
Also well worth reading is Could there be another Galileo case? Galileo, Augustine and Vatican II by Dr. Gregory W. Dawes, in Journal of Religion and Society 4, 2002. I’d like to quote from the abstract and from the concluding paragraph:
In his 1615 letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Lorraine, Galileo argues for a “principle of limitation”: the authority of Scripture should not be invoked in scientific matters. In doing so, he claims to be following the example of St Augustine. But Augustine’s position would be better described as a “principle of differing purpose”: although the Scriptures were not written in order to reveal scientific truths, such matters may still be covered by biblical authority. The Roman Catholic Church has rejected Galileo’s principle, opting rather for Augustine’s, leaving open the possibility of future conflicts between scientists and Church authority….
…In this context Cardinal Baronio’s remark [i.e. that the Bible was meant to tell us how to get to Heaven, not how the heavens go – VJT] can be interpreted to mean no more than that Scripture and science have different purposes, a point made by Augustine in the fifth century and by Vatican II in the twentieth. It does not exclude the possibility that, in pursuing these differing goals, the two fields of knowledge may overlap. Indeed the Pope’s address implicitly acknowledges this fact when it speaks of the problem faced by the Church at the time of the Galileo affair. That problem, the Pope writes, was that of “knowing how to judge a new scientific datum when it seems to contradict the truths of faith.” In the end, of course, the Pope believes that such contradiction can be only apparent, but this is not because religion and science represent “non-overlapping magisteria.” On the contrary, if there were no overlap in what religion and science teach, there would be no possibility of even the apparent conflict of which he speaks. It follows that — in the Pope’s own words — “it is therefore not to be excluded that one day we shall find ourselves in a similar situation” to that which prevailed in Galileo’s day. It seems that Stephen Jay Gould is too quick to conclude that the Catholic Church embraces his NOMA principle (Gould 1999: 70–82). Despite some apparent indications to the contrary, and despite the fact that its impact on the sciences today would be relatively insignificant, the possibility of another Galileo case cannot be excluded.
It has been argued that science has ruled out the possibility of monogenesis (see Dennis Venema’s article, Does Genetics Point to a Single Primal Couple? for a non-technical summary of the evidence); for a response, see Dr. Ann Gauger’s chapter,”The Science of Adam and Eve,” in Science and Human Origins, by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin (Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute Press, 2012), pp. 105-122, and see also Dr. Robert Carter’s online article, Does Genetics Point to a Single Primal Couple? A response to claims to the contrary from BioLogos. For an online response to Francisco J. Ayala’s 1995 article, The Myth of Eve: Molecular Biology and Human Origins (Science 270: 1930–6), see here, here and here, and also here. For a response to Li and Durbin’s 2011 paper, Inference of human population history from individual whole-genome sequences (Nature 475, 493–496 (28 July 2011), doi:10.1038/nature10231), see here. For a response to Blum and Jakobsson’s paper, Deep Divergences of Human Gene Trees and Models of Human Origins (Molecular Biology and Evolution (2011) 28(2): 889-898, doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq265), see here.
For a more balanced perspective on the relationship between the Judeo-Christian world-view and the rise of science, I would recommend the following three articles to readers:
(1) Christianity and the Birth of Science by Michael Bumbulis, Ph.D.
The author holds an M.S. degree in Zoology from Ohio State University and a Ph.D in Genetics from Case Western Reserve University. Here, he argues that the Judeo-Christian world view played a crucial role in this birth. Bumbulis cites four lines of evidence to support this hypothesis and responds to objections at the appropriate places. The four lines of evidence he adduces are as follows:
a. Science was born in a Christian culture;
b. Science was not born in any non-Christian culture;
c. Biblical beliefs provided fertile ground for the birth of science; and
d. Christian philosophers paved the way for science.
This is an especially useful article, as it demonstrates convincingly that Chinese astronomy (which is sometimes held up as a counter-instance to the claim that science could only be born in a Christian culture) was not in any sense scientific. Science in ancient Greece is also discussed: unlike Chinese astronomy, it assumed that the cosmos was a manifestation of the Mind of God. This explains why the Greeks were able to find evidence of genuine lawfulness in nature. However, some of the built-in philosophical assumptions of ancient Greek science (e.g. that the world was eternal) proved to be fatally stultifying; only Christianity (in the 13th century) was able to break this gridlock by questioning these assumptions, while retaining the core insights of the Greeks.
(2) Christianity: A Cause of Modern Science? by Eric Snow.
In this article, Snow explains how Christianity, and in particular Puritanism, made Modern Science possible. When we think of Christianity’s role in the rise of science, we tend to think of the conflict between Galileo (1564-1642) and the Inquisition in the seventeenth century, or, perhaps, Thomas Huxley debating evolution with Bishop Wilberforce in the nineteenth century. However, the remarkable truth is that the world view of Christianity was absolutely necessary for the rise of modern science. While the Greeks, Chinese, Indians, and Islam all had what can be fairly called “science,” their science lacked a systematized collection of knowledge about nature, obtained through the use of reason and sense experience alone, in order to discover the underlying laws of nature, which explain how nature is organized and which allow future accurate predictions about nature’s processes or objects to be made.
(3) How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
The author makes a powerful case that Western civilization is deeply indebted to the Catholic Church, especially in the fields of science, art and architecture, law and economics. An excerpt:
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. It turns out, for instance, that the first person to measure the rate of acceleration of a freely falling body was Fr. Giambattista Riccioli. The man who has been called the father of Egyptology was Fr. Athanasius Kircher (also called “master of a hundred arts” for the breadth of his knowledge). Fr. Roger Boscovich, who has been described as “the greatest genius that Yugoslavia ever produced,” has often been called the father of modern atomic theory.
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…
The Galileo case is often cited as evidence of Catholic hostility toward science, and How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization accordingly takes a closer look at the Galileo matter. For now, just one little-known fact: Catholic cathedrals in Bologna, Florence, Paris, and Rome were constructed to function as solar observatories. No more precise instruments for observing the sun’s apparent motion could be found anywhere in the world. When Johannes Kepler posited that planetary orbits were elliptical rather than circular, Catholic astronomer Giovanni Cassini verified Kepler’s position through observations he made in the Basilica of San Petronio in the heart of the Papal States. Cassini, incidentally, was a student of Fr. Riccioli and Fr. Francesco Grimaldi, the great astronomer who also discovered the diffraction of light, and even gave the phenomenon its name.
Read and enjoy!