Catholicism and science
#1
‘The Atheists [and others] accuse Christianity of blocking the free development of scientific thought for a thousand years. It is only polite to say this accusation is greatly unfounded. If the slightest truth is in this statement, the science would be most developed outside of the Christian world, for example in the Arabic world or in India, China or Japan, and Christianity would be the last stronghold of “darkness,” to be conquered by the shining light of science. But the development of science outside Christianity was modest indeed. Why? Because science was born as the daughter of theology and philosophy, nourished and cared for in its infancy by Christianity. Science dealt with the material world, theology dealt with the supernatural world, and philosophy existed in between the two as a balance of absolute truth. Should we forget the first temples of learning and research, the first universities, were established by the Church in those very “dark Middle Ages?” Without this tender care, science would have died. The separation of science from its mother is artificial. It is the result of the clever manipulations of the enemies of God. Science and knowledge in general will always only be a part of the greater knowledge of God or, in other words, theology. Everything is the handiwork of the Creator, even if we no longer take this statement literally. When we recognise a law of nature, we do not invent it. It was there before men were created by God, because God wisely placed it there. We have filched all we know from God. We should be humble students of nature, the created work, but we are short-sighted or blind, because we no longer want to recognise the teacher, the Creator; we want to believe that we never had a teacher or Creator at all.’[1]


[1] Stephen Foglein: The war that gave Birth to Science, Reflections, 1998, p.27.
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#2
I would highly recommend reading Bearing False Witness, by Rodney Stark (Templeton Press, 2016).  In it, he dedicates two chapters to (1) the false imposition of the 'dark ages', and (2) debunking the myths that the Church has been against science.  He's a non-Catholic writer, and he presents quite an objective take on the lies thrown at the Catholic church over the last 500 years, primarily by protestants.
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#3
Dante Alighieri, famous for his The Divine Comedy, a poem divided into a journey of three parts of a geocentric world, Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Heaven), reflects medieval Catholicism when the Catholic faith had reached it peak of blessed understanding.
 
‘Dante was a great verbal musician and his poetry reflects that. As you read it you will get a sense of the truth the man is telling. His vision is extraordinary. It is thoroughly Catholic. And that is why it is gone. That is why you have not read it. It is unequivocally Catholic and loaded with Catholic theology. The Modern world hates all things Catholic, so the modern world secretly despises Dante. They will praise him but go out of their way to insure that few ever read him. I can think of few better ways to introduce intelligent young people to the Faith than to sit them down with Dante and go through it, canto by canto. The awe and wonder of what is being explained, and the vision of Dante are powerful things. Reading the poem is a personal journey…. Art has always existed as a manifestation of the human spirit. As Catholics, however, we also know that art has also served as an extension of the glories of the Faith. I insist on reminding you that those beautiful creations that we know as the glories of Western art grow out of the Mass. This is as true of the architecture of the great cathedrals as it is of the great paintings. When western art dawns after the classical age, it dawns with magnificent paintings. Music takes on a life of its own after it begins to grow out of the Gregorian chant. Even drama itself, after the Greeks, grows largely out of the liturgy….
     ‘Dante comes from a specific and well-constituted worldview. It is important to understand that modern man, educated in modern schools, goes out at night, looks at the night sky, and defines his world differently than the medievals. They are looking at the same stars, but not the same “thing.” Modern man first sees a scientific universe; he sees named stars at such-and-such light-years away in specific galaxies or solar systems. There is a feeling of understanding due to modern science. And I think it’s fair to say that, for many moderns, there is a feeling of insignificance; what are we compared to the universe? It is all big, dark, and empty; there’s nothing out there but matter, gasses, rocks, planets. All seems accidental. So the average modern man goes inside to drink, watch TV, and eat junk food to escape the harsh reality.
    ‘Medieval man, looking at the same night sky, would first see complete order. This is not from the viewpoint of science, but that of God. There were the nine spheres which made music as they moved, but they were all created by a Creator with a specific order. It was full and rich, not empty. Medieval man knew his place; he did not consider himself insignificant since he was a son of God, created for a specific purpose, playing an integral part in the created order. As a result, he would go to Mass and raise his family, and concern himself with whether there would be enough potatoes or whether the plague would come around that year. He had real fears, but not the empty angst of modern man. As Dante wrote: “The glory of the One Who moves all things penetrates the entire universe, reflecting in one part more and in another less.” As we soar upwards, we eventually reach the Empyrean where the Trinity dwells. First we move through the nine spheres. At the top, the ninth sphere, or ninth heaven, we find the Primum Mobile, that which moves all things, that perfect sphere which causes the other inferior spheres to move. Notice that Dante, in devising the entire Divine Comedy, took that which was known in his own time. There is a sense in the Inferno that we are delving into the bowels of the Earth. Think of the fire, the stone, the dangerous sense of climbing downwards into the Earth until we reach the core of ice. Then we climb Mount Purgatory, on an island in the Southern Hemisphere. When we get to the Paradiso, we soar upwards through the heavens as they were known to the medieval mind. What Dante used as his model of the heavens was the known astronomical model of his day. We begin with the Earth and soar outward from there. What is moving all these heavens is [God]…
     ‘If you are going to study cosmology, not modern astronomy but the medieval idea of order of the spheres, this study of cosmic order will move you to God, Who is perfection. The vision will be complete and perfect if you can grasp it. But if you are going to look at Earth, where we live, you are going to see inadequacy, the failures of fallen man, and hence, earthly disorder….
     ‘Remember Dante lived in an age of Faith. He still felt he had trouble expressing it. The best the modern Catholic artist can do is to give a little hint of the Purgatorio vision; that is how far gone we are. For most of us even to attempt to grasp the notion of Paradise seems impossible; it lies outside our age that we are forced to feel frustration.’[1]--- Professor David Allen White: Dante, The Angelus, May 2010.


[1] Professor David Allen White: Dante, The Angelus, June 2010 – January 2011.
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