Is the Church against science?
Today, I’d like to address a frequently believed myth and bias against members of the Catholic faith. Namely, there is an ungrounded prejudice that faithful Catholics are somehow opposed to sound scientific thought, research, and advancement. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
History provides a record of more than 1000 years of tremendous scientific advancement achieved only because of, not despite, the tireless work of Catholic men and women, many of them priests, religious brothers, and religious sisters. The amazing fruits of modern science and technology that we usually take for granted today would not exist if not for contribution of this hard work inspired by a love of God and humanity. To the extent our society returns to a suppression of Catholics and their work in the public square, we will be suppressing further advancement of authentic science and good technology Worse, such a course would set us back into a more barbaric and inhumane culture.
Since current events and interest involved the life sciences, I’ll give a few examples among the hundreds of devout Catholics who have greatly contributed to this field. Dr. George Agricola (d. 1555) is considered the father of mineral sciences and wrote extensively on geology, mining, and smelting. Closest to my specialty, Gabriello Fallopio (d. 1562) a medical doctor and Catholic priest whose anatomy research also included the head, ears, and sinuses, is most famous for describing the tube leading from the ovary to the uterus which still bears his name—the Fallopian tube, where conception occurs. I still remember my university studies about the fascinating work of the Augustinian friar named Gregor Mendel (d. 1884), whose clever experiments with pea plants established the foundation for our understanding of genetics and inheritance (commonly known as Mendelian inheritance or genetics). Interestingly, this humble priest is now considered the “Father of Genetics” even among the militant atheists who might object to this honourable title of “Father” if they knew that in his earthly life he was addressed as “Father” by the faithful to whom he administered the sacraments.
The Scottish biologist, Sir Alexander Flemming (d. 1955) whose discovery of penicillin in 1928 later helped him earn the Nobel Prize in Medicine, was also a devoted Catholic, member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and husband of Sarah Marion McElroy of Killala, Ireland. It has been estimated that well over 200 million lives have been saved with penicillin. To this day, we regularly use penicillin in during labor to prevent live-threatening infections in newborns. Finally, let us remember that great French chemist and microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, the “Father of Microbiology” whose name lives on in the “pasteurization” process to prolong the shelf-life of beverages. His epitaph reads “ Happy the man who bears within him a divinity, an ideal of beauty and obeys it; and ideal of art, and ideal of science, an ideal of country, and ideal of the virtues of the Gospel,” (translated from French).
“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2),” (Faith and Reason, B. John Paul II)
Additional information on Catholic scientists can be found at the following links: