I’m disconcerted to find that January’s not even over and I’ve already burned through most of my Christmas books. Haven’t hit upon anything great so far, but this one – Galileo Goes to Jail – was kind of cool. It’s from the Harvard University Press, a series of essays by scholars ranging from atheist to devout, exploring what they call “myths” about the relationship between science and religion.
So we learn that the Copernican revolution that put the sun at the center of the solar system did NOT, in fact, offend Christian authorities because they thought it demoted man from the glorious center of creation. Many approved of Copernicus and those who didn’t were irked that his theory raised mankind too high. They thought the disgraced and sinful earth belonged at the center of the solar system because that was furthest from God.
And what else? Galileo wasn’t tortured by the church, though he was put under house arrest; Newton’s Christianity was integral to his scientific thinking; Darwin didn’t convert on his death bed (he’d become agnostic not because of his theories but because of personal tragedy and his rejection of the doctrine of damnation); and Einstein never really bought into the idea of a personal God (he was wrong about quantum physics too).
Personally, I think the whole religion vs. science thing is overdone – mostly by those who are against religion. The truth is everybody messes with science, including scientists! Feminists don’t want biologists to explore the deep and unchanging differences between women and men; evidence that IQ scores differ among races is met with cries of condemnation from the liberal establishment; and whenever someone closes in on the causes of homosexuality, the New York Times immediately starts fretting about what it means - how the hell would they know what it means and what difference does it make anyway? And of course, climategate shows that even scientists themselves will cook the books to sell their anti-capitalist hysteria.
I myself believe the facts should be faced fearlessly, and that they can be faced fearlessly if we remember two simple rules: whatever the facts turn out to be, we must continue, as Galileo said, to love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves.
Or wait. Maybe that wasn’t Galileo.