Talk:Catholic Church and science

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Was this article written by a Vatican PR Group?[edit]

Yes, the Catholic Church have a LONG history. And that history includes scientific studies. But really... the Church also has a LONG history of Inquisition, sanctioned murders, and enforced silence of scientific views that were termed 'heresy, vile, and filthy'. This article does a lot 'hand waving'. What we really meant, the Church says, was that the these people were right, but neglected to take into account many legalistic, pedantic, and other non-negotiable views... until they too were over turned by scientific studies. Really? This article, while mainly true in words, is not true in spirit (Galileo is touted as Catholic Scientist). Does Wikipedia really need an article on the Catholics and Science? How about an article on Islamists and Women's Rights? Please turn your flame throwers, insults, and phasers to 'less than stun' when replying to this Catholic. Calixte 03:33, 19 June 2015 (UTC) Calixte — Preceding unsigned comment added by Calixte (talkcontribs)

Schools and evolution[edit]

I just read this statement in the article

"Catholic schools do not teach theistic evolution as part of their science curriculum. They teach the facts of evolution and the scientific theory of its mechanisms. This is essentially the same biological curriculum taught in public schools and secular universities." (emph mine)

My personal experience and just plain common sense tell me that indeed such schools do teach a form of theistic evolution: nontheistic forms of Darwinism are exactly what the Church has been railing against for decades. I would be bold and just remove the highlighted words, but then the rest of the paragraph is quite poorly written. Comments? Baccyak4H (Yak!) 17:29, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

Good catch. As documented in the edit summaries, this article was cobbled together by copying from other Wikipedia articles. The paragraph in question was copied from here. Since there is no citation, I suspect that it is original research although it may be true. I have removed it from this article and will remove it from Theistic evolution as well. --Richard S (talk) 18:01, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Actually on reflection, there is an apparent discrepancy between Evolution and the Catholic Church and Theistic evolution. Evolution and the Catholic Church says that Church doctrine is a non-specific type of Theistic evolution but Theistic evolution says that Catholic schools don't teach theistic evolution. What is not said is that Catholic parochial schools are not required to teach all the nuances of Church doctrine in their science classes. Since evolution as taught at the high school level is not incompatible with Church teaching, Catholic schools are free to teach it. As you commented, the problem that the Church has is not so much with evolution as with the conclusion that God was completely absent from the creation process. However, Catholic schools tend to separate religious instruction from instruction in other subjects such as science. This is why many non-Catholics choose to attend Catholic schools for their superior instruction even if they have different religious beliefs.
The finer nuances of reconciling evolution to Church doctrine is probably left to courses taught at the college and seminary level.
--Richard S (talk) 18:56, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
That interpretation does have merit, but it underscores how poorly written the original prose was. It sounded like the language of an evolutionist using the Church then as an appeal to authority. "See even the Catholics are on our side". Your solution to delete until sourced was a good one. Once that happens it can be written better. Baccyak4H (Yak!) 19:15, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Both of you are missing the qualification "as part of their science curriculum". I don't see anything wrong with the passage, and your objections are clearly purest OR. Johnbod (talk) 20:31, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Johnbod, I think you misread what I wrote. I did understand that we are talking about the "science curriculum" which, as I wrote, is probably taught in Catholic schools independent of religious belief. I'm not familiar with the religious instruction in Catholic schools but I would expect a somewhat more nuanced discussion of Scripture and science in those classes.
My problem is not with the text in question per se but rather its failure to integrate with the rest of the text. If we are going to talk about how evolution is taught in the science curriculum of Catholic schools, we need to explain the principles that are used to separate religious instruction from science instruction. After all, evolution is not the only issue. Creation of the universe is another related issue. So too, is the entire question of the existence of a soul and its independence from the body.
In addition, we need to source all of that because, as written, the text reads like OR. Something can be OR even if it is true. For example, if a Wikipedia editor has a son who goes to a Catholic high school and that son studies evolution in his Biology class, that Wikipedian might conclude that this is how all Catholic schools operate and insert text similar to the passage in question. However, it is still OR because it is just anecdotal evidence based on one person's personal observation. What we need is to put these ideas into the mouth of a reliable source. Presumably the reliable source will be one who understands how Catholic schools deal with these kinds of issues and can opine knowledgeably on the topic.
--Richard S (talk) 18:17, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
I added the sourced passage from the main article yesterday Johnbod (talk) 20:11, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Oh sorry, I missed that. What you added is great. That's just what I was looking for. --Richard S (talk) 20:37, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

Ummm... I went to catholic schools all my life, from grade school, to high school, and the science curriculum did not include any "theistic" anything. Not in biology, nor in math, nor in chemistry, physics, math... I took all those and went on to study chemical engineering at a public university. There were religion classes in catholic school, there were science classes. In science there was not a single mention of God or anything "religious", not even when a priest gave the class... If you guys are going to talk about what curriculum is being used on catholic institutions on Wikipedia you guys should get samples of those curricula and quote from them, I guess... -- (talk) 06:51, 30 March 2013 (UTC)

Ummmm ... have you seen what the article has actually said for the last 3 years? Unless I'm missing something. Johnbod (talk) 16:31, 16 April 2013 (UTC)


I know there wasn't one before, but it is ridiculous to start this "Thomas E. Woods, Jr. asserts...." especially when Woods is hardly a figure to conjure with. Johnbod (talk) 20:46, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

So fix it. I hate writing lead sections. That's where the power of collaboration comes in. If someone can write a better lead, please do so. --Richard S (talk) 09:06, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
I agree it is complete rubbish. One obscure guy writes a book and hundreds of years of persecution are ignored. How much did the RCC pay to get that in? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:23, 31 May 2010 (UTC)
I agree too, but I conspiratorically think it should be reworded to
have changed its notorious habit of forcing, condemning and threatening, to most friendly poking its nose into what it has no authority to deal with
... or forget it, it would be not be WP:NPOV, but the historical attitute change have been to try to control, over to accepting science as an independent culture outside of church control, except now and then the popes cannot refrain from babbling blunders, such as speaking to physicists about leaving the Big Bang alone (JP2 to Hawkins), sarcastically misinterpreting Feyerabend (B16) a.s.o.. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 14:29, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

Applications of science and technology[edit]

I was going to insert a section on Dignitas Personae and then decided to hold back because this topic gets away from "pure science" and into the morality and ethics of applications of science and technology. Should bioethics and other science-related ethical issues be included in this article or somewhere else? --Richard S (talk) 18:06, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

I'd add it. Also something on the opening towards environmental concerns, and birth control. This sort of issue is where the interaction between the church and science mainly is these days. Johnbod (talk) 20:14, 4 February 2010 (UTC)


This edit, however, leaves something to be desired. First of all, it is unsourced and so it sounds like OR. Also, it seems to be a bit of partisan sniping. Is it really crucual to the topic? --Richard S (talk) 20:40, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

Since you have failed otherwise to cover him, yes. It is Subject-specific common knowledge and anti-sniping, surely? The claim that it is ironic is indeed partisan POV. Johnbod (talk) 20:47, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
The "is remarked upon by many and considered ironic by some" is unsourced. The building of modern evolutionary synthesis on Darwin and Mendel is OK as it further shows how Catholics (and Catholic priests) have contributed to science. Please find a more encyclopedic way to present this information. --Richard S (talk) 20:57, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Given the state of this article it is hardly a pressing issue. Johnbod (talk) 22:34, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
Johnbod, please provide a real citation to your paragraph (please read the links you provided: at least the first three aren't even talking about this!), or leave the paragraph out. Skytherin (talk) 20:59, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

This Section lacks relevance to the topic at hand. There are no links provided between Mendel and the Catholic Church. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:59, 20 October 2011 (UTC)


Should the introduction really be about an assertion by Thomas E. Woods, Jr? Also, what is with the statement that follows in the second paragraph? Most research has been conducted in Catholic universities? That doesn't seem particularly true, unless, maybe, it was specifically historically, and even then.... most research? What? I'm assuming this part was just phrased badly.

I just can't see why Woods would even be notable enough to warrant that. Half of the section about his reception in academia on his article on here is about the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which is far from being a mainstream institution. (talk) 23:01, 31 July 2010 (UTC)

I think the lead should be quite different than it is now, trying to glorify an imaginary "Catholic nation". Anyone feeling the fingers itching can try improving it, it will certainly succeed, however the lead will change. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 16:19, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
I've rewritten it some, by adding a general characteristics and development of the mutual relationship, and thereby downplayed Woods somewhat. The source is acceptable, and actually reflecting the modern history science that have left the very antagonistic description of religion as the general evil enemy of science. More sources would be profitable however.
I wish someone could add a sentence in the intro about the heavy clashes, foremost Galileo and Bruno. They were characteristic of the relationship between RCC and science during say 1600-1700, maybe some such. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 09:55, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
Reevaluating Thomas Woods, I get the impression that he is not neutral in this matter, since he is a convert to Catholicism. I believe his history writing is essentially correct, but that there's a risk of ignoring the low level conflicts between modern science and religion. Using him as a source must be balanced by more sceptical views.
Furthermore, examining his biography I regard him as having a notorious tendency to diverge from objectivity to idiotic arm-waving provocativity (which is in discord with the Wikipedia policies promoting a dry neutrality), especially in American politics. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 12:11, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

I'd have to say that I think the intro should be more clear in the stances of the Church today. I think that it should be clear in stating that the Church fully supports the discoveries and theories of science, as it believes that all can be seen to be the work of God. Maybe even throw in a mention of how the Church accepts the Big Bang Theory as well as evolution. I feel that too many people instantly assume Catholics are the 'craziest' of Christians, and having the Church's stance on science explained in a clear and concise sentence in the introduction would help alleviate these public misunderstandings. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:44, 13 April 2011 (UTC)

The state of the article[edit]

The article is so-so. The true truth is that the Catholic Church have both stimulated science and made some very grave maldecisions undermining its own authority, most notably the Bruno and Galileo affairs. The article contains most of this, but the intro is misleading: the introduction of cathedral schools and academia was due to the need of priestly education – it was inspired by the similar islamic educational institutes – but the intro gives the impression that the Catholic Church brought forth almost all science, which is a deeply anachronistical misinterpretation, most science emerges today on secular universities. The article needs however less fixing than the first ridiculous impression: a WP:NPOV discourse explaining the development, clashes and science promotions from RCC to modern science. A few impressive astronomy examples are Piazzi, Lacaille and Angelo Secchi. A little but influential minority in astronomy science. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 16:45, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

I reordered the intro and added one initial para that I believe is a crude sketch of the history of Catholic science, which I believe is:
1100-1600: Catholic Church brought forth the education institutes and promoted science under controlled conditions,
1600-1700: the Catholic Church lost its controlling grip on science almost entirely, in some pretty grave clashes,
1700-2100: the Catholic Church adapted to reality and returned to its supporting stance, while also being somewhat paralleled by Lutheran, Calvinist and Anglican denominations, however some literalist believers of mostly protestant character partook in (futile) confrontations against science
Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 09:27, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
And I forgot: in the 19th and 20th centuries, the new idiosyncratic religion (or cult) of Human-ethicism (a.k.a. Positivism) emerged to erect mandatory atheism as the state religion of West. They perused obsoleted history writings, some morals of "mandatory" thinking from Logical Positivism, i.e. anti-metaphysics, anti-obscurantism and the concept of "demarcation border" to create an aggressive culture of we-and-them-thinking. This religion heavily used the Galileo and Bruno affairs to declare religion evil, and this religion had some moderate influence amongst scientists, mostly physicists. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 09:44, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
This line seems exceedingly odd "Originally most research took place in Roman Catholic universities that were staffed by members of religious orders." Most research? Where? On the European mainland in a very narrow timeframe? Seems to entirely ignore the contributions from Asian and Middle Eastern scholars, many of which were a) earlier (technology, astronomy, mathematics) or b) instrumental to aiding Western thought (in particular the contributions of ME scholars translating the classics. There is also a category error made in the assumption that because research was conducted in Catholic institutions that this necessarily has anything to do with Catholic support for science. Academic work in general (in this narrow timeframe on the European mainland and in certain countries) was de facto conducted by people who professed the Catholic faith. Since to do otherwise would have been "career suicide" for the personages involved. Nrubdarb (talk) 06:59, 7 April 2011 (UTC)

Should there be some reference to the Church stance on the science surrounding environmental issues?[edit]

I just came across the announcement [1] and came to wikipedia to see what the history of the church was on environmental issues. I also recall something about the "10 commandments of the environment" or some such a few years back. [2] --Jake (talk) 02:00, 18 May 2011 (UTC)

There is a section stub at Christianity_and_environmentalism#Roman_Catholic_Church_and_environmentalism -- Jake (talk)

Kidney transplant guy[edit]

He was catholic.

--Earthbatslast (talk) 04:05, 27 November 2012 (UTC)


Today a section I removed was restored. First, Christianity did not bring "literacy" to Germanic Europe. The Germanic peoples had an indigenous alphabets of their own: the runic alphabets. In some cases (for example, the Bryggen inscriptions) they were used very extensively for everyday writing. Elsewhere it's unclear as the vast majority of the texts have since biodegraded. Additionally, Cahill's terrible How the Irish Saved Civilization is by no means an acceptable source. We can and should discuss how the church decided to retain some texts, but attempting to spin Christianization as having "saved civilization" while everyone else out there was just mucking around in some kind of "darkness" of stupidity—even just waiting to get Christianized—won't get us any closer to a decent article. In reality things were a little more complicated. :bloodofox: (talk) 00:21, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

Hi. The original section and rewrite do/did not claim to have brought "literacy" to Germans (that is not the argument of Cahill either). It is all very well to have knowledge of a localized alphabet, but it won't be of much use to you in deciphering Euclids Elements or a Roman engineering text. The point being made is that church institutions preserved links to the classical learning of Greece and Rome and did it systematically in monastic institutions and the foundation of libraries etc (from which universities etc later sprang). This does not deny other traditions of learning at all - Germanic or otherwise. That knowledge of Greek and Latin maintained a link to around a millennium of Greek and Roman sciences is THE point. Cahill is no longer sourced, and doesn't have to be - that monasteries were important centres of scholarship after the Fall of Rome can be sourced to a thousand places.Ozhistory (talk) 01:51, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
This article, prior to my removing it, made frequent claims like "Western civilization suffered a collapse of literacy and organization following the fall of Rome around 476AD" and "practically nobody in western Europe outside of monastic settlements had the ability to read or write" (which are indeed in the edit diff above). And to be clear, we're also not talking about "Germans" here, but specifically "Germanic peoples". It's all too common for non-specialists to get the idea that prior to Christianization the peoples of Europe were running around hitting each other with clubs. Obviously, the church did hold on to an amount of texts, but that is entirely beside the point of my edits here. Instead, nonsense like Cahill's book was presented as authoritative and apologetic puffery was rampant. You've done a fine job of assisting in cleaning up this article, but please be careful with words like "literacy" in this context. :bloodofox: (talk) 02:35, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
I just came across this article and can see that the history section is in definite need of work. The sources cited on the history of medieval science are decidedly lightweight – Kenneth Clarke was a distinguished art historian, but his romantic view of the transmission of ideas in the Early Middle Ages left much to be desired. (Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization has thankfully been removed.)
The presentation here totally ignores the range of scientific activity of monks such as Bede of Jarrow, Alcuin of York, Ælfric of Eynsham, Rabanus Maurus, Abbo of Fleury, Byrhtferth of Ramsey, and others. Perhaps a safe starting point would be to say that from the time of Cassiodorus to the rise of universities, virtually all the scientific activity in Western Europe was carried out by churchmen, chiefly by monks and to a lesser extent by bishops and others associated with cathedrals. To present this would require examination and citation of more serious scholarly works.
If we want to discuss the scientific knowledge of the indigenous peoples of north west Europe, we will need reliable sources to support such claims. I've done more than a little reading seeking such material, and have found very little. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 02:57, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
There's no shortage of material on this topic—science and technology in pre-Christianization northwest Europe—that can be brought up but it's would generally be outside of the scope of this article. I am simply cautioning against making sweeping claims regarding the topic. :bloodofox: (talk) 03:11, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
Just removing a whole section covering a period of 1000 years is not a very helpful move & I'm not surprized it was reverted. The section is not exactly nuanced or well-referenced, but a better treatment might not be colossally different. We know next to nothing about pre-Christian scientific knowlege in northern Europe, as opposed to technological obviously, outside areas like astronomy where knowlege can be deduced from artefacts. Johnbod (talk) 16:42, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
No offense, but horror vacui much? I guess I have to say it: wrong text is worse than no text at all. Please don't waste the time of others editors by complaining about it. Only the unaware or the propagandist would dare to beat the old "we brought culture to the heathens" drum today. A decent section on the topic wouldn't resemble what was removed at all. And you complain about its removal? Please. :bloodofox: (talk) 16:51, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
I'd have to correct Johnbod's claim that we know a lot about pre-Christian astronomy in northern Europe. My own research has focused on the astronomies of indigenous peoples and of early medieval Europe. I've read much of the archaeoastronomical literature, and I can only say that there is a great difference between the simple observational astronomy indicated by the artifacts of pre-Christian Europe and the mathematical and cosmological models that Christian Europe developed based on earlier Roman (and to a lesser extent, Greek) concepts. I'm not trying to insult the intellectual capabilities of Germanic and Celtic peoples; its just that they hadn't acquired the mathematical and geometrical techniques that were available in the Mediterranean world and the Greek/Roman/Christian idea of an orderly cosmos found in writers like Boethius. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 19:08, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
This also relates to Bloodofox's comments about the bringing of literate culture to Northern Europe. Without denying that there were cultures among the peoples of Northern Europe, it is fair to say that that culture took new forms with the transformation of an oral culture (with occasional uses of literate monuments) to a full-blown bookish culture. This new access to the scholarly tools of the Mediterranean world provides a more nuanced version of the claim of "bringing culture to the heathens." SteveMcCluskey (talk) 19:32, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
I made no such claim. Johnbod (talk) 01:53, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
Literacy was not restricted to "occasional uses of literate monuments". Runic inscriptions were clearly used for all sorts of purposes, basic communication not being the least notable among them. While no evidence of books among the Germanic peoples existed and our knowledge of science and technology among the Northern Europeans is limited to what has survived (and some of it indeed proved devastating to those who were on the receiving end of it prior to Christianization—one need only look at Rome's experience with these northern "barbarian" peoples and Viking Age triumphs), we cannot assume this or that where a question mark exists; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The solution is to simply be very specific. :bloodofox: (talk) 19:47, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
Absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence, but since historians and encyclopedia editors can only make statements on the basis of verifiable evidence, absence of evidence is a reason for omitting claims from the scholarly literature and especially from Wikipedia.
Secondly, if you want to look at the recent literature on the development of the barbarian peoples under the influence of Rome, a good place to start is Francis Geary's Before France and Germany: The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian World. His book defends the thesis that "The Germanic world was perhaps the greatest and most enduring creation of Roman political and military genius." He further elaborates on this theme in his The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe. His bottom line is that the idea of a coherent Germanic culture is, in several senses, a product of their contact with Rome and that the old notion of the barbarians overrunning the Roman empire is at best an oversimplification and at worst, flat out wrong.
Your final recommendation -- to be very specific -- is a good one that this article sorely needs. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 21:24, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

Greek Learning[edit]

Recent edits have dealt with the knowledge of Greek in the Early Middle Ages. I thought it might be useful to provide the comments of Max Laistner. (They are admittedly somewhat dated, but Laistner's point seems generally sound):

"If by that phrase [a knowledge of Greek] is meant the ability correctly to understand a Greek author theological or secular, or the Greek Bible, then assuredly competent Hellenists of the eighth and ninth centuries can be counted on one hand. If, on the other hand, it merely implies acquaintance with the Greek alphabet, or with a few isolated Greek words or phrases, generally from the Old and New Testament, then the sum of the accomplished will be somewhat greater, though still small in proportion to the total number of literate men." (Laistner, M.L.W. (1976) [1931]. Thought & Letters in Western Europe: A.D. 500 to 900 (Second ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. pp. 238–9. ISBN 0-8014-9037-5. )

In the light of Laistner's comments, I'd be cautious about attributing knowledge of Greek to early medieval scholars. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:05, 18 April 2013 (UTC)

Good work on your edits. I have qualified the Greek comment. Blainey (the cited text) also noted Greek as a rarity - but did so as a point of distinction between the continental and Irish monasteries of the period, noting that the Irish monastic culture (or at least its most learned monks) preserved this knowledge, when it had fallen away elsewhere: "in the Vosges Ranges, Columbanus founded a monastery that puzzled neighbouring abbotts, who followed Benedictine monastic rules and Roman ecclesiastical practices... [the] most learned [Irish] monks maintained a knowledge of the Greek language long after the Latin liturgy became supreme in the lands of west and north of Rome" Ozhistory (talk) 04:43, 19 April 2013 (UTC)
It depends where you are talking about - Greek (or Greek dialect anyway) was still the language of the street in Naples & much of Italy & Sicily to the south of there at that period, & I doubt Rome, with various Greek churches in situ, ever lacked Greek speakers. The history of the Libri Carolini is suggestive. Johnbod (talk) 10:43, 19 April 2013 (UTC)