Francis: Pope, Chemist
    By Hank Campbell | March 13th 2013 02:48 PM | 43 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been chosen as Pope Francis, leader of the Holy See in Rome. That's all well and good, it's nice that heavily-Catholic South America is getting its due and I found it interesting that a Jesuit chose to name himself after a Franciscan.

    While many inside the Catholic church (and always those outside) will find plenty to criticize - he is against both abortion and euthanasia and preaches tolerance for homosexuality but does not endorse it - we have one of the most cosmopolitan Pope's ever. He's the son of immigrants and became a Cardinal in Argentina and now runs a multinational church, its own nation, situated inside Italy. He rode public transportation, lived in a small apartment heated by a small stove rather than the ornate quarters provided to Cardinals and he cooked his own meals. He does a lot for the poor and, importantly for the 21st century, he has a master's degree in chemistry.

    As I have noted before, we have had back-to-back Popes with solid support for science. It isn't going to satisfy every militant who thinks every form of biology should be embraced (yet don't complain at all that the Obama administration bans somatic cell nuclear transfer) but the Catholics have the oldest science institute in the world, Galileo was one of its first presidents, and this carries on a long tradition of advancement of science among Catholics.

    Pope Francis is a humble man and that's good, because 21st century science is humbling. The world is going to change pretty fast.


    Good idea to bring up Galileo in an article on how open-minded the church is when it comes to scientific discovery.

    Not sure of your point, but fellow scientists were harder on him than priests were - the Pope loved his idea and picked the name of his book - at least until he started being insulting and weird.  Scientists were hard on him because he had a conclusion (that turned out to be right) but got there all wrong.  Or do you calculate that tides should only happen once a day too? 
    No, hehe, I'm of course referring to his trial and sentencing in 1633 by the roman inquisition which sentenced him to life imprisonment (or something close to it, lasted his life the way I recall). But, yeah, I'm sure other scientists were harsher on him.

    Did you actually think my point was about criticism leveled during a scientific debate? Really, tides? It's about lust for power, about punishing challenges to authority based in military and financial might.

    And now also about the desire even 400 years later to make excuses for it.

    Actually, that's not really fair. You did not make any excuses for their actions. It's this aspect of Galileo and the church that I happen to think of the salient one, and perhaps you don't. That's fine.

    Have a great day!

    Thanks. Any time the Catholics want to put me up in an Italian villa, all expenses paid, and tell me I can't go to Mass, I'll take it! :)
    Gerhard Adam
    ...sentenced him to life imprisonment (or something close to it, lasted his life the way I recall).
    Yes, but let's be clear that this was house arrest, and he was already about 70 years old.  As a result, his "confinement" still allowed him to travel for medical purposes, so it wasn't quite as onerous as often portrayed.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "I found it interesting that a Jesuit chose to name himself after a Franciscan"
    While most people think immediately of St Francis of Assisi, the new pope might just as well have been thinking of St Francis Xavier.

    Yes, but that is rather obscure, don't you think?  Well, maybe not for him it isn't - to the bulk of the world, Ignatius was the driving force behind the Jesuits and not the younger group who joined with him.

    Like with Benedict, I expect he will say 'both' when asked.
    Who do you think St. Francis Xavier was named after? Francis of Assisi of course!

    It's a non-issue, he didn't say both as I predicted, he said Francis of Assisi as I thought; not the missionary but the guy who 'rebuilt his church'.
    Able Lawrence
    For one I was not surprised considering his work with the poor. Pope Francis has since clarified that he was indeed thinking of St Francis Assisi. It may not be correct to call him a Franciscan since he founded the Franciscan order. It is like saying "Jesus, that Christian preacher"
    Dr Able Lawrence MD, DM Additional Prof. Clinical Immunology SGPGIMS, Lucknow - India
    So we have a pope who did a master's* in chemistry and then went into the priesthood. An acquaintance of mine did the reverse: he left the priesthood to further pursue chemistry.... each a neat defiance of a stereotype.
    A reader below pointed out that he may not hold a master's* degree.  
    Galileo wasn't condemned for his science, he was condemned for his theology. Fellow priest Nicolaus Copernicus had already figured out the science. Catholic clerics were the scientists for most of the past 2000 years. I always find it odd when people say they are against science, it just is not factual. They invented the scientific method and I could not list all the cleric scientists and what hey discovered because they are too numerous, feel free to google Catholic Cleric scientists.

    Well, he was condemned by Pope Urban VIII for being a jerk - he was condemned by scientists for being wrong and then insulting everyone when they showed him he where he was wrong. It was only later that he was glorified as some sort of martyr for science, mostly by people who hate religion and never actually read his book.  He denied both Kepler and math and his calculations concluded that if tides happened at all, they happened once a day - and at the same time each day. This was probably the first instance of working people (in this case, sailors) invoking 'ivory tower cluelessness' about a theoretician.

    Some scientists in Italy who failed to predict an earthquake were recently persecuted a lot more, and with a lot less science validity, than Galileo ever dreamed about, but it wasn't a church doing it to them.

    I agree about religious scientists; this notion that they are somehow not compatible is created by modern scientists and atheists who are cursed with deficit thinking - but the Pope would not agree. Catholics don't believe in curses.
    You seem to know a lot about the relationship between Galileo and the Church. I would like to hear more. I'm a scientist...a chemist with a PhD. But my academic colleagues always cite Galileo as the rebel standing against the Church. I heard bits and pieces of the fact we wasn't respected by colleagues at the time, but most textbooks have him as a crusader. Can you point me to some references or give me some insights. I don't argue much but for my own knowledge.

    I know, right? The "Theology" of heliocentrism, how weird is that?

    What's really weird to me is that you guys see nothing wrong whatsoever with punishing someone for the rest of his life for his science. Really? That's just great with you? And why? Because "clerics were the scientists for most of the past 2000 years". ?! Even were that true, what bearing would that have here? How is that even an argument? (While we're on that side track, why do you think they "chose" to be catholic? Why are american scientists capitalists, and russian scientists socialist? That is the reason they were catholic: the power game in town. Which brings us right back to Galileo. I mean, come on....)

    Now, if Galileo's treatment was so fantastically awesome - I mean, who wouldn't want to live out his days in an Italian villa! (sounds like you guys think he was served by 70 virgins) - then why did the pope apologize for the actions of the church?

    Good PR, I guess. Galileo never apologized for modeling Simplicio on the Pope so clearly he was not the bigger man in that squabble.  Doctors also do not apologize today for drilling holes in heads to cure headaches in the 17th century. Yet you seem to think a Pope formally saying Galileo was right 170 years after they had said he was right too many times to count means it was especially wrong.  It wasn't.  Okay, you hate religion, that's cool. But talk about Bruno - not Galileo, the guy whose data was wrong but who happens to be someone you heard of.  Or at least read a book on the topic.
    What does Galileo apologizing or not have to do with anything? What does lobotomizing have to do with anything? It seems you believe that if you can point out some random person who behaves in a way equivalent to something the church did, then it either didn't happen, or it was just fine and dandy? What kind of standards are those?

    Well, there we go. Suddenly I too then am an ignoramus by your words. And a hater of religion. Funny, that's exactly what I predicted in the post leading up to this. Do you not hear yourself?

    Never mind that I have been a devout Christian my entire life, born to missionary parents, lived a considerable portion of my life more simply apparently than Galileo in his lavish villa. What does all this ad hominem venom get you, I wonder?

    You're the one on the rant. You keep harping on a misguided belief about what did and did not happen to Galileo and don't even have the basic information correct. What would anyone conclude, when you refuse to even read a book or do anything but misstate facts, except that you happen to hate religion? I don't care, it's cool with me, I got no dog in that fight - maybe you only hate Catholics, I have no idea.  But read your comments and see what you would think if someone else wrote them? 
    Umm, what fact did I misstate? Was Galileo imprisoned because of his beliefs or not? The answer is yes. Was the church wrong in doing so? The answer is yes. What is there to argue about?

    All you have done is make excuses for that fact, changing the topic, attacks on persons. On top of it you accuse me, in the most vile fashion imaginable, to be a hater of religion! You have no idea what you're talking about. I made no such attack on you, and I wouldn't. Dripping condescension about refusing to read books, and then you back off and say I'm "on a rant". What if someone calls you an asshole, then gets all "oooo, why are you so upset?"
    Who runs this site anyhow? Why is it impossible to engage on substance? I'm looking for sites where discussion can be just that, instead of instant name-calling.

    Hank Campbell owns and runs the site and he is the pope here ;)

    I don't speak ex cathedra, though people sometimes insist I do. Telling scientists what to believe or do is like herding butterflies so it would be a negative to try and do so.
    Galileo was put in jail by the church because he conducted scientific researches that could've proven that God wasn't real.

    Francis is not Francis of assisi but st Francis Xavier

    As I said, I suspect he will say 'both', just like Benedict said about why he chose his name.  Francis Xavier is the more obscure one, Ignatius was the driving force behind Jesuits, but he was certainly popular - a whole lot of kids got named Francis Xavier at one time and a double origin sounds like the kind of thing a literate theologian would like.
    The Pope seems to hold some kind of diploma as a "chemical technician," from an "escuela secundaria industrial," but I don't think that's quite the same as a Master's degree. And the Jesuits have certainly long been friendly to science, though they were in conflict with Galileo, back in the day.

    His bio said Master's degree but how things work in Argentina - and in individual schools of the 1960s - is variable.  Even a BS in chemistry is good enough; Thatcher had one and Bill Nye gets trotted out to represent all of science weekly but has a BS in mechanical engineering.  There wasn't as much 'there is no point unless you get a PhD' thinking about science education then.

    Everyone was in conflict with Galileo, not on heliocentricity, that had been under attack for a while and even the Pope wanted a strong argument, but the statements by the church later were much different than what they said at the time. He got a lot wrong so they were attacking his data, only later was this transformed into an 'us or them' thing about religion and science.
    There are different versions of the Pope's bio: the ones in Spanish and the ones on the Vatican web site are probably more reliable, and don't mention a Master's degree. In any case, he graduated fairly young -- before becoming a Jesuit at age 21. An accurate translation of his qualifications would probably require an understanding of the 1950s educational system in Argentina.

    As to Galileo (who is a hero of mine), he had a number of conflicts with Jesuits like Christoph Scheiner, and not just on heliocentricity, as you point out. He had a lot of friends too, of course.

    Indeed, I wrote this a few minutes after the announcement and when I was fact checking I even looked on Wikipedia and it said all kinds of super crazy stuff -it had more wrong than even their Science 2.0 entry. They locked it shortly thereafter. 

    Someone is going to parse out what he does and does not have - a BS or MS (or whatever his certifications mean) in chemistry is not as important as that he embraces science. Thanks for noting the error.
    I am a chemist and my Catholic faith is central to my life. It seems to me that it is only natural for a chemist to be spiritual, they believe in things that they cannot see.

    I don't know that Pew or anyone has done this topic specifically but I have found that the 'harder' the science, the more willing researchers are to embrace the unknown.  Chemists, physicists, engineers seem to have a 'well, maybe' approach (and engineers seem to have no qualms creating their own theory of everything once a week, judging by registrations here) while the life sciences tend to be more atheists and then in the social sciences it is basically a free-for-all, no one believes in anything, including science.
    I wonder if Pope Francis is named after Francis of Assisi (the Franciscan) or Francis Xavier (the Jesuit) or both?

    We'll never know but I am betting when he answers he will say 'both'.
    Good piece by farmer John Rigolizzo in USA Today:
    Many of us are still trying to learn about the new pontiff. We know a few things already. He is not only a man of faith, but also science -- a chemist, by training. He's from Argentina, whose farmers rely heavily on GM crops. And he professes a concern for the poor, who have the most to gain from 21st-century food production.
    Farmers of all religious persuasions should take comfort from those views. 
    ok he's a chemist... How does it matter? Will the scientific community benefit from it?

    well we may expect that the church will not send another Galileo in prison.
    He wasn't in prison, he was under house arrest - more for being insulting than for his science, which the Pope encouraged him to write about.
    Dear Mr. Campbell,
    While Saint Francis of Assis is the founder of the Franciscan order, and no doubt an inspiration to Bergoglio, his choosing of Papal name as Francis I (Francisco I) is mainly a tribute to his fellow Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier (Francisco Javier), co-founder of the Company of Jesus (or Jesuit Order) with Saint Ignace of Loyola (Ignacio de Loyola). That for centuries the head of the Jesuit Order has been nicknamed "the Black Pope" because of the influence of the Order on Vatican affairs, adds interest to the result of this Conclave.
    As a chemist myself, I am glad to see a Pope who has been in touch with science some time in his life. Not that I care about religious matters, but in any case, the Vatican affairs since the Renaissance are also a political issue.

    Choosing Francis Xavier alone would be in defiance of this new Pope's character. Ignatius founded the order and Ignatius said he wanted to be like Francis of Assisi - who rebuilt his church. Francis X. was more of a firebrand - nothing about the new Pope speaks 'firebrand'. So I believe that when he is asked about the origin of the name, he will cite both, but inside he wants to rebuild his church, not be a missionary.
    On the name, he told the media:
    "Right away, with regard to the poor, I thought of St. Francis of Assisi, then I thought of war," he told the assembled journalists. "Francis loved peace and that is how the name came to me."

    He had also thought of St. Francis of Assisi's concern for the natural environment, he said, and how he was a "poor man, a simple man, as we would like a poor church, for the poor."
    When Progressive Writers attack:

    Well, that didn't take long....


    At least they didn't claim Colonel Sanders is secretly running things still.
    Pope Francis speaking in Italian to a crowded audience: his choosing of papal name was due to humble Francis Assissi, as a sort of revelation, as he pointed out. My previous information (Francis Xavier) was wrong.