Renowned Physicist Concurs that Catholicism Played a Key Role in the Progress of Science

In a recent airing of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, famed physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson agreed that the Catholic Church played a significant role in encouraging scientific thinking and understanding.

Tyson, who also hosts Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a show that explores the origins of the universe and various scientific concepts, offered examples of the Catholic Church’s contributions to science.

He pointed to the creation of the Gregorian calendar, which is the standard calendar followed today. The Gregorian calendar replaced the older Julian calendar, which was said to be off by more than a week.

Tyson also mentioned the Vatican had its own observatory and spoke of Jesuit priests who tried to understand the shifts in the Julian calendar.

The physicist, as a reply to one of Colbert’s questions, also pointed out that it was a Catholic priest named Georges Lemaitre who first suggested that the universe might have originated with a bang.

Tyson’s praise of the church comes as a refreshing surprise in a time where new atheism and religion have been at loggerheads. Today’s younger generation, which mostly adheres to atheism, believes that the incompatibility between religion and science is self-evident.

Scientists like Tyson are now replacing the older generation of new atheists and focusing more on spreading knowledge rather than devaluing religion. This has led to a more positive dialogue taking place between members on both sides.

But, Tyson hasn’t bridged the gap completely. There are several areas where the physicist has attracted criticism. Recently, Tyson advocated for the creation of a utopia where scientific evidence would determine public policy. However, the idea came under fire especially from religious experts who pointed out that society could not survive just on facts alone and that values were just as important.

Tyson has also been criticized in the past, ironically, for presenting the Catholic Church as being anti-science. In one of the episodes from Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Tyson propagates the general belief that Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for his heretic beliefs in heliocentrism or the scientific method.

However, as one expert pointed out, Bruno was not burned for his scientific beliefs. Rather, he was tried for his outright denial of the Trinity, the denial of the Virgin Birth, the denial of Christ’s divinity, denial of transubstantiation, and practice of pantheism.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter