The “debate” between religion and science is not new. It’s been alive and well in the world for centuries, and even a topic that I have written about before. For Catholics, it’s a tired argument, one that has no place for us because we don’t see science as the enemy of religion. Science is yet another way, along with divine revelation in Scripture, Tradition, and magisterial teaching, that we can learn about God. As Pope John Paul II said when he gave a speech to Vatican scientists, “Truth cannot contradict truth,” and so we are called to use the intellect and ability God gave us in every way we can.
In the back of our minds, though, we often wonder how true this has been in our history. “Sure, we believe that now, but what about Galileo?” This was a thought of mine even when I wrote the post about science two years ago. “At least we got it right in the end, but we were kind of in the “Dark Ages” for a while.
That was until I learned about Galileo in one of my seminary courses this fall. (As some of you may know from this article, the Catholic University of America received a grant some years ago to incorporate scientific study into seminary courses.) While Galileo was in fact condemned for holding a belief that we know to be true today, what I learned was that he was not condemned on the basis of contradicting Scripture and that Church did not condemn him because it did not like science. No, he was actually condemned because he failed to produce enough proof for his claim prior to teaching, broke his own oath, and then to top things off, led a smear campaign against those who funded him and his fellow scientists. (The last bit is not illegal but it certainly didn’t help his sentencing!)
Check out the video above or click here to learn about what actually happened to Galileo, where the myth came from, and how the Church has viewed science for centuries.