Galileo Redux: Catholic Bishops call for urgent action against climate change

Sigh, once again into the breach.   I was first aroused by Pope Francis’s wrong statements about global warming in his encyclical Laudatio Si.  Now I read about Catholic bishops warning about the disastrous effect of climate change.  (Which change has always been with us and probably will continue to be, despite fear-mongers’ efforts, as witnessed by the Medieval Warm Period, among others.)

The Church has no business pronouncing what science is good and what science is bad.   The Church can certainly tell us what are morally acceptable ways to use science, as in its pronouncements on genetic modification of humans (see here and here).   But it should not repeat the mistake made with Galileo, of judging the “truth” of scientific propositions (corrected by Pope St. John Paul II),

Here are my thoughts on this, taken from ESSAY 8 of my web-book, “Does science tell us how to live?


In 1633 the Catholic Church made a big mistake: it convicted Galileo of heresy for advocating the Copernican theory, that the earth revolved around the sun.   That is a bald statement of a much more complicated situation, as I’ve said in ESSAY 1: The Catholic Church, Midwife and Nursemaid to Science, Section 4.1. Galileo was convicted not so much for advocating the Copernican hypothesis, but for saying that Bible erred in its picture of the world.   The Galileo affair has been used as a cudgel against the Catholic Church, as an argument that the Church opposes science.  But, as George Sim Johnston puts it:

“The Galileo affair is the one stock argument used to show that science and Catholic dogma are antagonistic. While Galileo’s eventual condemnation was certainly unjust, a close look at the facts puts to rout almost every aspect of the reigning Galileo legend.”
–George Sim Johnston, “The Galileo Affair

Summarizing Johnston’s arguments, one can say that both Galileo and some Church officials were at fault, that it was a different time with different concerns–high officials in the Church, initially sympathetic to Galileo, were defending orthodoxy against the onslaught of the Reformation.

Galileo was condemned not for his advocacy of the Copernican theory per se, but for his advocacy that Scripture was to be interpreted loosely (even though St. Augustine had also argued for a non-literal interpretation of Genesis). And Galileo’s science was not entirely correct: he proposed circular orbits for the planets and an incorrect theory of tides. All this is dealt with at greater length in the article linked above. Nevertheless, this one piece of history has been the cannon used in the war of materialists against the Church to support their perceived conflict between the Church and Science.

In 1979 Pope St. John Paul II asked the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to make an in-depth study of the affair. Commenting on their report in 1992, he said, as an apology, explaining what had happened:

“Thanks to his intuition as a brilliant physicist and by relying on different arguments, Galileo, who practically invented the experimental method, understood why only the sun could function as the centre of the world, as it was then known, that is to say, as a planetary system. The error of the theologians of the time, when they maintained the centrality of the Earth, was to think that our understanding of the physical world’s structure was, in some way, imposed by the literal sense of Sacred Scripture….”
–Pope St. John Paul II, “Address to Pontifical Academy of Sciences”, as quoted in L’Osservatore Romano N. 44 (1264) – November 4, 1992


Clearly the Church should not judge scientific matters when the science itself is not settled, Church dignitaries should carefully consider whether they should publically support one of several contending interpretations.  Cardinal Schonbrun caused much controversy by  publishing an essay in the New York Times, “Finding Design in Nature”, that seemed to support the theory of Intelligent Design as opposed to the neo-Darwinian mechanism of evolution.  The essay was criticized by a number of Catholic scientists, including the then director of the Vatican Observatory and by the physicist, Stephen Barr, in an article in First Things. Cardinal Schonbrun enlarged on his position in a later article in First Things and explained that he was not necessarily supporting Intelligent Design theory, but that God guided all events, including evolution, and that our universe is not the product of chance. I certainly agree with that opinion.


Pope Francis and many of the Catholic heirarchy have repeated the mistake made by Cardinal Schonbrun, by taking an official Church position on the truth and perils of Anthropic Global Warming. In his Encyclical  Laudato Si and in statements from the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science there are judgments and statements that are contentious, that are not held by all scientists.   For example, it is not the case that polar ice and Himalayan snow are decreasing (they continually melt, but the net amount is not decreasing due to global warming–see evidence from satellite images.)

I don’t propose here to debate extensively the merits of AGW.  (See “Scientific Integrity: Lessons from Climategate,” Laudato Si on the Science of Global Warming.“)  On the other hand, it is essential that two points be made:
  • First, it is not true that a “97% consensus” of scientists support the AGW / Climate Change proposition.   See, for example the 97% myth.   And in any case, scientific theories and propositions are not judged by majority vote, but by empirical confirmation.   Before the Michelson-Morley experiment a majority of scientists believed in the ether as the medium for propagation of electromagnetic waves;  afterwards, not many.
  • Second, the extent of data massaging (“fudging”) revealed in the Climategate excerpts and of fiddled temperature data from Paraguayan weather stations   should cause one to regard reported temperature increases with more than usual skepticism.
Accordingly, global warming caused by human production of CO2 is by no means a settled scientific issue.  For a fuller account see Andrew Montford’s “The Unintended Consequences of Climate Change Policy”.


Pope Pius XII wanted to use the Big Bang theory of Abbe LeMaitre as evidence in a proof for God, supported by the Church. (See here.) Abbe LeMaitre dissuaded him from doing so by arguing that scientific theories are tentative, subject to change, and that certainly isn’t a property one should expect of a religious truth.  After his conversation with Abbe LeMaitre, Pope Pius XII evidently agreed.  He made no further proposals about the Big Bang as part of Catholic theology.

The Dogma and Doctrine of the Church are handed down from God as eternal truths, whereas theories and fundamental principles of science can change, supplanted by new theories and new empirical evidence.  Accordingly, for Church officials to make a judgment about scientific matters—settled or unsettled—is to presume knowledge and authority for which they are not qualified.  And such judgments oppose the notion of Dogma and Doctrine justified by Revelation and Tradition, rather than by empirical validation.

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  1. Theology is the science of God. Philosophy is the science of man. Theology is the study of infinity. Philosophy is the study of finiteness.
    People as pollution to justify abortion, contraception and taxation without representation is the political agenda of Climate Change.
    Take away the political agenda to control the planet and the people of the planet will survive the worst that Mother Nature can do.

  2. If the church had only gone after “uncle ted” as vigorously as they went after Galileo the church would have credibility.
    Also the Scopes Monkey trial was really about who gets to teach what to minor children, as the teachers teach “in loco parentis” and can only teach what the parents of the children want their children to learn. If the parents want their children to wait to learn about transgenderism and alternate lifestyles, the public servant teachers may not teach that subject. The rest is taxation without representation.

  3. Shouldn’t we know what the climate should be like before we decide whether we need to try and change it? After all, Nebraska used to be subtropical savanna

    —12 million years ago

  4. Because the Salvation of Souls is so 20th century.

    Anthropomorphic Climate Change, like everything the liberals believe, is nonsense and a hoax.

    Climate has changed – cooling, warming, cooling, . . . – for millions of years.

    In the past million years, there have been four global glaciations interrupted by long periods of warming. About a million years ago was the Gunz/Nebraskan glaciation. About 700,000 years ago was the Mindel/Kansan glaciation. About 300,000 years ago was the Riss/Illinoisan. About 100,000 years ago was the Wurm/Wisconsin. Both the climate and the face of the Earth greatly changed during the four advances and retreats of glaciers. We are living in an interglacial period, with comparatively little change in the past 10,000 years.

    “Climate change, open borders, income inequality, LGBT privileges, the #me-too movement, toxic masculinity, anti-nationalism, white privilege, etc. are fueling what Anne Applebaum calls the “rejection of Democracy.”

  5. “Now I read about Catholic bishops warning about the disastrous effect of climate change.”

    What a farce.
    People were willing to die for the faith. In many cases people were put to death because they would not deny Christ even in the face of death. This is the role of the Bishops. To help people know, love and serve God. To help souls prepare for the final climate change.. death. To bring souls to Christ.
    Everything else is fluff.

    Why can’t they just explain the fact that man made CO2’s didn’t bring about the medieval climate change? Because it would ruin their paradigm. For Bishop’s to buy into this distraction and align themselves with distractions takes away from the importance of cultivating the faith. Man will not Save the Planet but he will help or hinder his neighbors soul.

    With the exception of good faithful Bishops, many Shepherds are lacking in the faith.
    Complacent and corrupt they occupy their time in romancing the opinions of influential humans while abandoning their office.
    Christ will reward both and each shall respectfully make their abode with those they served during their lifetime. Some with the poor who were filled with riches by the religious. Some with the rich who are now the poorest since they knew not Christ.
    Climate change? Yeah right.

  6. “…explained that he was not necessarily supporting Intelligent Design theory, but that God guided all events, including evolution…” God guided all events?!? How, by chance, or by design? If by chance, and Darwinist theory is founded on chance, how can it rightfully be said that God is guiding? “Guided chance” is an absurdity. If by design how is the design not then intelligent? Is there such a thing as unintelligent design? What does it mean to use the phrase “…God guiding all events…” if not to say the guidance constitutes intelligent design? You have me on that one.

  7. The difference, as I see it, is that the anti-Copernican theory was not an intentional hoax, as the AGW scam is.
    However, I did label LS as “Project Galileo” from the beginning.

  8. And how about that quote “…bishops call for urgent action…”
    Exactly what action would that be oh wise shepherds? Since even the warministas admit that there is no human action that can alter the Earth’s temperature by any measurable amount.

  9. The real crisis; millions of souls heading for Hades, led by Satan, and our spiritual shepherds are trying to save us from CO2?

  10. If you believe “climate change,” as promoted is true, then obviously you must believe God didn’t know what he was doing when He created the world and based all life, animal and plant, on the oxygen and carbon dioxide.

  11. Dan Gallup, speaking as a physicist, I’m not sure I agree with your statement “guided chance is an aburdity.” Consider this primitive example. Charged particles (ions) in solution do a random walk, back and forth such that the mean displacement they undergo is zero. If you put on an electic field (two electrodes), there’ll be a little push to the electrode of lower potential for the ion, so that on average the displacement is non-zero. There other similar examples. I can think of God setting up chemistry and molecular biology so that mutations would, on average, yield higher species.

  12. Stillbelieve wrote, “If you believe “climate change,” as promoted is true, then obviously you must believe God didn’t know what he was doing when He created the world and based all life, animal and plant, on the oxygen and carbon dioxide.”

    That does not follow.

    Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
    A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
    Atoms or systems into ruin hurl’d,
    And now a bubble burst, and now a world.

  13. Thank you Bob Kurland for lending some plausibility to counter what seems to me to be common sense; you are the scientist and I am not. Yet the movement of an ion induced by an electric field arguing for God stacking the deck so that random processes are really not random seems something of a stretch. Nevertheless your position seems necessary if one is to affirm both God’s creative design and the (apparent) randomness of the evolutionary process. If God sets up chemistry etc for a bias toward life as we know it, then presumably that is evidence of intelligent design. That is to say, if God did not lay down the rules so that “mutations would on average, yield higher species,” then the fact that history ended up with us would be pretty much an accident, and earth could have ended up with beings different from us. But then, why “us?” An inherent bias toward higher species doesn’t need to end in our direction; indeed, it doesn’t have to end at all, or so it seems. Well your comment has evoked good thought, and I am grateful, if not largely still confused. Thanks for replying.

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