An increasing number of people believe Galileo to be the father, Darwin (whose Origin of the Species is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year) the son, and Albert Einstein the holy spirit of a new materialistic religion. This will be a banner year for proponents of the triune god of science.
In the eyes of its worshippers, this deification of science has freed it of moral responsibility or accountability, which necessarily results in tensions with the Church. The devotees of the god of science often view Christians as superstitious simpletons at best, and, at worst, virulent heretics to be stamped out.
Trinity? Galileo was a long time ago. Darwin, too. It’s a long time for organized religion to hold a grudge.
For the record, most scientists have been more or less pleased to stay in the realm of academics. While it’s true that such science eventually trickles down to adolescents and children, rarely do you find scientists, especially their textbooks, prognosticating on religion. The reverse has not been true. Religion of many brands has intruded into the realm of science and attempt to pass theology through as authentic natural science.
From the beginning Galileo was seen by some as a threat to faith, even though he was mostly cooperative with church officials and was more concerned with the aspect of discovery. Bottom line: people looked through his telescope and they saw four moons in Jupiter orbit. Clearly not everything revolves around the Earth. Or even the sun.
The thought that looking through the telescope could be a Deception is irrelevant. A deceptive situation can happen just as easily without a tube full of glass lenses. History has shown that human beings conjure up sufficient evil in their own minds. Blaming telescopes or Galapagos animals or relativity is just a convenient scapegoat.
I don’t think this is about a deification of science as it is two things: a conflict between heroes and the trespass of religion into affairs it refuses to understand.
Scientists will acclaim Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein. But they generally will withhold the mantle of infallibility from their heroes. These scientists all had flaws in their science and their approach to science. Einstein fudged his equations; Galileo overreached on interpretation, as did Darwin. Successors in astronomy, biology, and physics have built on the foundations of Lev’s “trinity” and expanded a good bit beyond the original “canon.”
In science, heroes are as heroes do. But in the Western culture, it has become the fashion to attack the heroes of one’s adversaries. Take the SSPX situation for example. The SSPX’ers are wrong not because their leaders make foolish statements, but because they lack a grasp on Catholic theology as articulated by Vatican II. Darwin and Galileo are convenient targets for the Religious Right. But it’s just taking potshots at “saints,” hardly a religious effort.
In attempting to place non-scientific ideas into science education, scientists and teachers have every right to be upset. If creationists wish to propose their ideas in a philosophy or history or religion class, that would be appropriate. But it is true that a simpleton might mistake religion for science, math for history, social studies for music.
Now, given all that, I do think that science fails to provide a context for the application of knowledge in the realm of morality and the common good. Many scientists would suggest such applications are beyond their expertise. I might suggest this is where a diplomacy between science and religion may help. As individual human beings, scientists are only as good or bad as their own moral formation. Some scientists, like some people, are highly principled.
I would also suggest that the application of science for the common good is something that must involve people not only of science and of religion, but other representatives of human disciplines.
Science without conscience is certainly a problem, but it’s one more often caused by those in real power: political leaders. It has always been so, from way before the time of gunpowder to way past the atomic bomb. The god involved here is not one of science, but of human pride and greed. And the worshippers are not so much the scientists but the idolaters outside the discipline.
M100 from the Hubble Space Telescope at the top, by the way.