There is a story about Napoleon that I found to be a vivid example of our modern thinking about God. According to the story, he asked a famous physicist to create a model of the universe. When this physicist created it, Napoleon was impressed but also confused. He asked why God was nowhere to be seen in the model. The physicist replied, “We no longer need this hypothesis.”
Isn’t this a typical example of how many of us think today? With all the advances of modern science, it is easy to think that religion has already been replaced by science, or that being religious means not being scientific. I remember when I was in junior high school, my teacher began his lectures on evolution by saying that Christians should not believe what he was teaching because of the Bible. So, generally the impression I got was that to be a Christian is to ignore science. Now, if he had said that many modern scientists even question evolution based on scientific evidence, I would have come away with a different message. But instead he said it contradicted the Bible, therefore it could be ignored.
Studies show that the main reason people give up belief in God, especially young people, is precisely this: they think it is unscientific and therefore not credible.
But is this true? No!
Most of the key scientists in history believed in God. Newton, Galileo, Copernicus and Einstein believed in God. I would even suggest that it is extremely difficult to have science without belief in God. How else can we explain the laws of science? Why isn’t everything random? Some historians of science actually argue that the main reason why science has advanced so much in Western civilization is precisely because of the Christian belief that God created and designed the various structures and laws of the universe.
What’s even cooler, I think as a Catholic, is how influential the Catholic Church in particular has been in the advancement of science. For example, a Catholic monk invented the scientific method. The Catholic Church produced so many influential scholars – many of them were even priests. For example, did you know that Einstein’s collaborator who first formulated the Big Bang theory was a Catholic priest? Did you know that 34 craters on the moon are named after Catholic priests who were astronomers? Just google “Catholic Scholars” and you’ll be amazed – at least I was when I first did this.
But what about Galileo? Didn’t the Catholic Church condemn him for his scientific discoveries? Although this is often said, it is simply not true. Galileo’s discoveries were welcomed by the church. In truth, the Pope who censored his work was actually the one who funded most of his research. The reason Galileo was censored is because the heliocentric model was not yet proven by his research. There are many aspects of his theory that are actually considered ridiculous by modern astronomers (ie the movement of the tides). Astronomers were already interested in the heliocentric model before Galileo. It’s just that no one has been able to present enough evidence to prove that it is more satisfactory than the geocentric model of the solar system. And if you doubt that, just listen to the famous atheist scientist himself, Stephen Hawking, “Which is true, the geocentric or the heliocentric model? It is common for people to say that Copernicus [or Galileo] proved the geocentric model wrong. But this is not true. For our observations of the heavens can be explained by supposing the earth or the sun to be at rest.” (See Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design, 2010). Galileo’s work was censored because he overstated his case by trying to claim that the geocentric model had been officially disproved by his findings. But it was not. In other words, the Church censored his work because Galileo himself was not learned about his discoveries.
Father Michael Bauer is pastor of St. Bernard Catholic Church, 1306 E. Main St., Crawfordsville. Contact him by email at [email protected] or by contacting the parish office at 765-362-6121.