Catholic Anti-science:
Hypocrisy or Truth?

The featured image above (from Wikimedia Commons) depicts the satellite constellation that enables GPS, presumably used by anti-science bloggers.  It requires corrections based on special and general relativity theory if positions are to be accurate (i.e. not be in error by several miles—see this fine Youtube video).

“Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.”
Pope St. John Paul II, Letter to Rev. George Coyne,S.J., Director of the Vatican Observatory.
“‘Science’, as a human endeavor, is never just about objective truth, and that its pursuit inherently involves perversions of the intellect and will which alter not only man’s relationship with God, but also human psychology and spirituality itself.” Admin, Science, Original and Final Sin, Rosary to the Interior

I need to vent my spleen.  Why?  I’ve been reading anti-science articles in a number of blogs and web postings.   Were these written by those who had engaged in science, done research, or at the very least been knowledgeable in the history and philosophy of science, I could regard them with more respect.  The articles maintain to one degree or another, as the quote above suggests, that the scientific enterprise is incompatible with Catholic teaching.

I will grant that there are scientists (and most of these are also ignorant of the history and philosophy of science) who advocate “scientism,” the doctrine that science explains everything one needs to know about the world.  As I’ve explained in many articles, I do NOT subscribe to this view. (See these essays in my web-book, “Truth Cannot Contradict Truth:” “How We Believe; How Science Works;”Does Science Tell Us How to Live?”; “Miracles.”  Also see these articles: “Faith as a Scientist, Faith as a Catholic;”“Why? Questions God can answer but science can’t;”God, Beauty and Symmetry in Science;”Which is real—science or God?”amongst others.

Now I haven’t meant this post to be a shameless exercise in self-promotion,  although it seems to have turned out that way.  :>(     What I want to emphasize is that there are many scientists who are faithful Catholics and many famous scientists who believe in God.   Indeed, if you look at eminent scientists who were priests, for example,  LeMaitre and Mendel, you’ll see that Catholic doctrine is not an obstacle to doing great science.


When I first thought about this article, I was tempted to call anti-science Catholics Luddites.  The original Luddites were British weavers who, in the early 19th century, destroyed machinery that was taking their livelihood away.  Nowadays the term refers to those against new technology.   Accordingly, it would probably be a misnomer to apply the term to these anti-science Catholic bloggers.   Clearly they use computers and, I would guess, smartphones with GPS, amongst other technological goodies.  And, God forbid, should any of them fall prey to cancer, I would imagine that they would be willing to use the tools of modern medicine, which involve scanners, genetic analysis and immunotherapy.

So, as the old lady in the commercial says, “where’s the beef?”    The problem is that these writers don’t know what science is all about.   This is a failing common to the general public.  However, the public puts its faith in science because it acknowledges the utility of the technology based on science.  It listens to public preachers of scientism, Bill Nye and the like, who have not been practicing scientists, and because the public has not been educated to know what science is about, they believe these advocates.


The problem is that the public (including Catholics) doesn’t know what science is all about.  The solution then, is to educate people in science.   And I don’t mean by that, teaching how to calculate the trajectory of a cannon ball or how to balance chemical equations.  I mean to let people understand the limits of science.  And this is done by teaching the history of science, to show that science demands experimental confirmation of theories, that science is mutable (unlike Catholic dogma and doctrine):  theories like the caloric theory of heatl or the ether as the medium for the propagation of light, or Newtonian mechanics have been superseded by new theories and these new theories are supported by new empirical evidence, experiments or observations.

And, alas, here’s another shameless plug to explain this in more detail: “Why Catholics Should Learn about Science.”    But if you’re on a crusade I guess it’s ok to be shameless.  Will this crusade be successful?  I’m not sure. I’ve been at it for several years, and my 10th decade will soon be here., although I hope  psalm 92 (KJV) applies: “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.”


More to explorer


  1. My suspicion is that most people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, are functionally Averroist. Maybe that’s overly broad.

    A couple of worthwhile essays on the subject by Jacques Barzun, are: “On the Two Ways of Knowing: History and Science” and “Science and Scientism” which can both be found in A Jacques Barzun Reader.

    Sadly, I haven’t the faintest idea where my copy is, since my wife and daughters (God bless ’em) decided to rearrange all are furniture, move all my (overloaded) bookshelves, and fail to reshelve MY BOOKS in their proper order.

    [sigh] These are the things that happen when you go camping with the boys for a week.

  2. I am a science teacher and I scratch my head over fellow Catholics who think they have to fight Darwin and defend a “young earth”, even though theologians for 100 years have said that biological evolution is not a real problem for the Faith, in part because the Church has never insisted on literalism to interpret the entire Bible.
    “Evolution”, by the way, was pressed on Darwin by Herbert Spencer (for the scientist preferred the term “natural selection”), and no matter what his followers claim, “survival of the fittest” meant to Darwin “survival of those whose traits best fit the demands of the environment”, which did not necessarily mean the smartest or strongest or most aggressive, as the imperialists and later fascists insisted. H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” (which I read with my seventh graders) showed that evolution could lead to Eloi and Morlocks and not Supermen.
    Yet I can have some sympathy with Christian “fundies”, over whom atheists wave science (often mere scientism) as a sort of philosophical gun. It’s a human failing to blame the weapon for the shooter.

  3. God bless you for writing this post. I was quite flummoxed while reading the exact blog post you quote at the top. I have never seen such ignorance cloaked in such erudite prose. And so many strawmen! I thought I was losing my mind! Thank you thank you!

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