As American culture becomes more polarized, with various constituencies aligning themselves on left-right graphs, religious groups are not going to win with a subset of people, even among rational scientists who should be immune from motivated reasoning. If the Catholic church wants to hold a conference on stem cells but doesn't include the controversial and, to-date, wildly overhyped human embryonic stem cell research among its discussions of adult and induced pluripotent stem cell breakthroughs, it's all yelling about Galileo and bans and general political theater on blogs only read by people who need a new shot of confirmation bias.
With a new Pope coming soon, all those people who hate religion or aren't Catholics anyway are happy about the supposedly 'conservative' Pope Benedict XVI being gone. With their cultural blinders fully engaged, they refuse to see his positives; namely, his consistent support for science. Back to back, we have had the most pro-science Popes of the past hundred years and that is saying something; Catholics are generally pro-science. Werner Arber, a Nobel Prize-winning microbiologist, was named president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome in 2011 - an institution that has existed since 1603. You want non-geopolitical? Its scientists chosen from all over the world get to argue at the only Academy of Sciences that truly operates beyond national boundaries.
Pope Benedict also created The Science and Faith Foundation specifically to halt the growing schism brought on by the militant demographics whose voices are as over-represented in places like science academia as young earth creationists are in religion. Both sides use these tiny, loud minorities to paint stereotypes about the entire groups they oppose.
That the Pope or Catholics are (or even were) anti-science is a modern myth. A Catholic priest, Fr. Georges Lemaitre, came up with the Big Bang Theory. Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, was a monk, and 'time is relative' was in the Confessions of St. Augustine. The 'grand synthesis' that Catholics came up with to incorporate science was created by Thomas Aquinas, who saw the need in the 13th century to redo doctrine to accept Aristotle and Ibn Sina. Dr. Karl Gilberson at Huffington Post notes that Galileo, the man consistently trotted out to claim how anti-science religion is, was one of the first presidents of that first real academy of sciences ever created.
All those men existed in times when society was far more religious than today, so exaggerations that religion is suppressing science now are somewhat silly. Instead, the Internet has made it possible for both poles in the culture wars to demonize each other.
Just like environmental advocates can never find anything good about America today, cultural advocates will find something in religion to complain about. But it's a mistake to lump all religion in with anti-science evangelicals just like it is a mistake to assume that all scientists are anti-religious, immoral atheists worshiping the god of data.
Are there challenges? Sure. As physicist Dr. Stephen Barr phrases it, a little less Thomistic tradition and a little more ability to allow modern science to guide metaphysics is needed. The space-time manifold is a real thing, relativistic, and St. Augustine nailed it - but I bet both he and Aquinas would agree plenty of other concepts need an update.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- "It's excellent to know that a well researched article can be refuted by assertion, and personal..."
- "I'd say it's a form of natural selection, except it's the kids being affected, not their vaccinated..."
- "I remember at Uni in the 80s, a report was released by a scientific researcher claiming the ocean..."
- "What a load of rubbish, who is paying these idiots to write this garbage. Stop staring at your..."
- "I'm getting sick of this doomsday cult with this Global Warming rubbish you say this you say that..."