WE’VE written a few times before about the Catholic Church’s current attitude toward science. They’re generally not antagonistic — especially compared to the attitude of some other denominations, and also compared their own behavior in the past, typified by the Galileo affair.
This is a sampling of our earlier posts on this subject: Pope Benedict’s 2007 Statement on Evolution, and then Vatican Congress on Evolution to Exclude Creationism, and then Vatican Approves Galileo, Darwin, Wilde, & Marx, and then Beyond Darwin: Vatican Conference on Aliens. Also, although not a contemporary source, we’d be negligent if we omitted St. Augustine on Creationism.
Today we have more news regarding the Church’s current attitude toward science. At the website of New Scientist magazine we read Pope’s astronomer: ‘Science helps me be a priest’. It’s an interview with José G. Funes, the current director of the Vatican Observatory. The article is written as a series of questions and answers. Here are some excerpts, with bolded questions as in the original:
Why does the Vatican need an observatory?
The Catholic church has long had an interest in astronomy. We can trace the beginning of this to 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII wanted to reform the calendar to settle the date of Easter.
Uh … hold on there. Something seems to be missing. Oh, here it comes:
What role did Galileo play in the history of the observatory?
Put briefly, I’m here thanks to Galileo. Because Galileo suffered, there was a need to do something to show that the church is not against science. It was in large part to change the image of the church – to show the world that it is not against science but encourages and promotes it – that Pope Leo XIII refounded the observatory in 1891.
There was, of course, a slight delay of 258 years after Galileo’s heresy trial in 1633, but that’s okay — it’s not easy for a big old institution to change its ways. We continue:
What would be the religious implications of the discovery of extraterrestrial life?
I don’t see any serious difficulty for Catholic theology if – “IF” with capital letters – we find life elsewhere in the universe.
It’s not as if they’ll have much choice. Here’s one more excerpt, and this is about The Controversy:
Is the conflict between intelligent design and evolution an example of an “apparent” conflict between science and religion?
No, that is a real conflict. The problem is when religion enters the world of science, the scientific method; that could be the problem with intelligent design. On the other side there is a danger when scientists use science outside of the scientific method, to make philosophical and religious statements – using science for a goal that science is not meant for. So, for example, you cannot use science to deny the existence of God. You can believe whatever you want but you cannot use science to prove that God does not exist.
Make of that what you will, dear reader. The way we see it, science is continuing on its path. That’s our future. If the Vatican wants to come along, they’re more than welcome. But we hope they remember who’s running this show.
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