Dear Internet Atheists: A Breakup Letter

einstein

 

Dear Internet Atheists,

We’ve seen you all over the comm boxes of various skeptical and science-oriented pages.  Denigrating the Church as anti-science, mocking people of faith as ignorant throwbacks to the Dark Ages, and insisting that there’s no way to reconcile faith and science.  “Pick a side!” you demand.  While your Dawkins-esque screeds might sound good in an echo chamber, what they actually reveal is a staggering ignorance of the significant scientific contributions that the Catholic Church and her members have made.  While we acknowledge and regret that darker moments in our history, it’s patently unfair and illogical to discount and deny all that we have contributed, and continue to contribute, to science.

But let’s just pretend for a moment that you get your way; we’ll take our ball and go home.  Here’s the catch, though:  let’s imagine that we also take our scientific contributions, and any ensuing discoveries, advancements, etc.  along with us.  After all, surely our knuckle-dragging Church and brethren couldn’t possibly have contributed anything that actually matters, right?

Here’s a just a sampling of some of what we’ll be taking with us:

The Big Bang Theory:  First posited by Belgian priest and cosmologist Monsignor Georges Lemaitre (who, by the way, was also a friend of Albert Einstein.  Maybe you’ve heard of him?).

Universities:  Instituted and nurtured by the Catholic Church, beginning as early as some time in the High Middle Ages.

The Scientific Method: Although not “invented” exclusively by the Church, Catholics did play a significant role in the development of the scientific method as we know it today.  Most notable of these are Friar Roger Bacon, who received a papal commission for his work on the scientific method, and of course, St. Thomas Aquinas.  And let’s not overlook Bacon’s mentor, Bishop Robert Grosseteste, one of the most enlightened men of the 13th century, who made significant contributions to mathematics, optics, and science.

Modern Genetics:  A field indebted to Fr. Gregor Mendel, also known as “the father of modern genetics.”  His Laws of Inheritance and other contributions brought the study of genetics into the modern era.

The Gregorian Calendar:  Although the modern calendar officially came in under Pope Gregory XIII, the Church had long recognized and sought to rectify the errors of the Julian calendar.

Modern astronomy:  French Jesuit Jean-Felipe Picard, considered the “father of modern astronomy,” was a contemporary of Galileo and the first person to provide an accurate measurement of the earth’s size.  (Geeky readers will of course note that the captain from Star Trek: The Next Generation, was named after Jean-Felipe Picard!)

Acetylene and derivatives (including rubber):  Fr. Julius Nieulawnd, botanist and chemist, took a deep interest in the practical applications of chemistry.  Through his work he ultimately develop the first synthetic rubber, and was award the Morehead Medal, American Institute Medal, and the Nichols Medal (the highest honor bestowed by the American Chemical Society).

And let’s not forget some significant contributions from non-Catholic Christians.  How about the Human Genome Project, which was lead by Dr. Francis Collins, medical geneticist and evangelical Christian? Or Robert Boyle, a devout Anglican and one of the founders of modern chemistry?  Or maybe Richard Lower, another Anglican, and pioneer of blood transfusions?

This list goes on and on.  There is virtually no field of scientific study that has not been touched in some way by the Catholic Church and/or Christian scientists.  We’ve only scratched the surface, and this isn’t even taking into account the contributions of non-Christian people of faith.

So fine.  If you really insist this relationship is over, we’ll go.  But we’re taking all of this, and more, with us.  I think you’ll find your world is much smaller with us, and all we’ve given to science, in it.

Sincerely,

Your Rational Catholic Friends

P.S.  No, we don’t want Kirk Cameron.

 

St. Albert the Great: Patron of Scientists and Defender of Faith and Reason

127-St-Albert-the-Great

Born circa 1193, St. Albert the Great was one of the greatest intellectuals of the Catholic Church; in fact, he’s one of only 35 Saints honored with the title of “Doctor” of the Church.  A German Dominican friar and later a bishop, in his early life he studied at the University of Padua.  By some accounts, a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary prompted him to take Holy Orders sometime around 1223. He then began to study theology at Bologna, and later to serve as a lecturer at Cologne, Regensburg, Freiburg, Strasbourg, and Hildesheim.

In 1245 he became the first German Dominican to become a master of theology, studying and lecturing under Gueric of Saint-Quentin, successor of St. John Giles.  In his earlier years at the University of Padua Read More »