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Intellect Worship vs. Intellect Use

04/21/2013 Comments (58)

Pope Francis has a Master's Degree in Chemistry....

When somebody babbles about the Church's "War on Science and Reason" and prates about the persecution of Galileo, ask, "And what other scientists were persecuted?" It's fun to watch their mouths open and close while nothing comes out. Sometimes, if they are half-educated they might manage to scrape up something about Hypatia and the Library of Alexandria. If they do, here is how to make them fully educated about how ignorant they are. If they are really super half-educated, they might be familiar with the name of Giordano Bruno. The main problem is that Bruno, though burned for heresy, was not burned because of his scientific views, because he wasn't a scientist but...

a mystic of the Pythagorean sort. The translator of his Ash Wednesday Supper commented wryly that, if they had ever bothered to read it, the Copernicans would have burned Bruno. Time and again he shows that he did not understand astronomy, but rather tried to fit it into his wacky worldview. Even so, keep in mind that for seven years the inquisitors and his brother Dominicans argued and debated with him to get him to change his mind. He was the L.Ron Hubbard of his day.

And if they are the sort total ignoramus who gets all their knowledge of the Catholic War on Science[TM] from Dan Brown, they might hold forth on the condemnation and murder of Copernicus by the Evil Church.   The reply to this is that devotees of reason should really exercise a bit of that "critical intellect" they pride themselves on and stop getting their historical knowledge from books drafted in crayon.  Turns out Copernicus-- a priest--died of natural causes with honors heaped on his work by Popes and bishops and was buried with honors beneath the floor of a Church.

And that is pretty much all she wrote for the myth of the Catholic Church's Centuries-Long War on Science[TM]. Myth is, by the way, the exact term for this. Indeed, the War on Science[TM] and the lonely contribution of Galileo to it is a Creation Myth of the Enlightenment, invented to justify the Enlightenment's loathing of the Church and believed by suckers, liars, and bigots ever since. It's right up there with the ignorant claim that everybody thought the world was flat in the Middle Ages (hint: read the Divine Comedy by the greatest poet of the High Middle Ages, Dante--it's the original Journey to the Center of the Earth).

Here's reality: if any age deserves to be called the Age of Reason it's the High Middle Ages. The greatest philosopher of that time, St. Thomas Aquinas, is so rational that most post-moderns--who live in the Age of Credulity--have almost no ability to read him. They prefer Jersey Shore, The View, Talk Radio, Ancient Aliens on the History Channel and Something I Heard on the Web for their mental formation.

Meanwhile as Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur and Fr. George Lemaitre, attest along with St. Thomas, the Church is actually the patron of the sciences and of reason. Faith does not contradict but completes human reason.  It was they who gave us (respectively) genetics, huge advances in medicine, and the Big Bang theory.  And they weren't alone.  Here's Mike Flynn again, responding to the ignorant claim that, "When Christianity took over Europe, scientific and engineering advancement virtually stopped."

In no particular order: watermills, windmills, camshafts, toothed wheels, transmission shafts, mechanical clocks, pendant clocks, eye glasses, four-wheeled wagons, wheeled moldboard plows with shares and coulters, three-field crop rotation, blast furnaces, laws of magnetism, steam blowers, treadles, stirrups, armored cavalry, the elliptical arch, the fraction and arithmetic of fractions, the plus sign, preservation of antiquity, “Gresham’s” law, the mean speed theorem, “Newton’s” first law, distilled liquor, use of letters to indicate quantities in al jabr, discovery of the Canary Islands, the Vivaldi expedition, cranks, overhead springs, latitudo et longitudo, coiled springs, laws of war and non-combatants, modal logic, capital letters and punctuation marks, hydraulic hammers, definition of uniform motion, of uniformly accelerated motion, of instantaneous motion, explanation of the rainbow, counterpoint and harmony, screw-jacks, screw-presses, horse collars, gunpowder and pots de fer, that there may be a vacuum, that there may be other Worlds, that the earth may turn in a diurnal motion, that to overthrow a tyrant is the right of the multitude, the two-masted cog, infinitesimals, open and closed sets, verge-and-foliot escapements, magnetic compasses, portolan charts, the true keel, natural law, human rights, international law, universities, corporations, freedom of inquiry, separation of church and state, “Smith’s” law of marketplaces, fossilization, geological erosion and uplift, anaerobic salting of fatty fish (“pickled herring”), double entry bookkeeping, and... the printing press.  (Yeah, some of the innovations are political and economic.)  

Sin darkens the intellect and the sin of pride particularly does this.  The doom of the prideful intellect worshiper is that he appears drawn like a moth to flame in his eager urgent need to abandon the use of his intellect in his rush to believe the content-free myth of the Church's War on Science[TM].

Filed under intellect worship vs. intellect use

About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.