Tag Archives: Pope Pius XII

Bad science, bad theology

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Einstein & Lemaître

Back in 1951  Georges Lemaître warned Pope Pius XII about the opportunist use of science to support religious beliefs. Lemaître, a Catholic priest and astronomer, was responsible for the initial formulation of a “big bang” theory for the origin of the universe. He was reacting to the Pope’s claim that the new theory was a scientific validation of the Catholic faith.  In his statement Lemaître said:

“As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being… For the believer, it removes any attempt at familiarity with God… It is consonant with Isaiah speaking of the hidden God, hidden even in the beginning of the universe.”

Implicit in his statement was the idea that such opportunist use of science misrepresents science. It is also bad theology. This view was also articulated by Father George Coyne another Catholic priest and former Vatican astronomer (see “Scientism” in the eyes of the beholder).

Coyne points out that scientific knowledge is relative. Conclusions will alter as more evidence produces better knowledge of reality. Therefore a theology which justifies itself in scientific terms lays itself open to being proven wrong.

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