There is a very generally accepted false impression with regard to the attitude maintained by the Church during the Middle Ages, especially toward what is known as the experimental method in the gaining of knowledge, or as we would now say, in the study of science. It is commonly supposed that at least before the sixteenth century, though of course in modern times it has had to change its attitude to accord with the advances of modern science, the Church was decidedly opposed to the experimental method, and that the great ecclesiastical scholars of the wonderful period of the rise of the universities were all absolute in their confidence in authority and their dependence on the deductive method as the only means of arriving at truth. This widespread false impression owes its existence and persistence to many causes.

It is supposed by many of those outside the Church that there is a distinct incompatibility between the state of mind which accepts things on faith and that other intellectual attitude which leads man to doubt about his knowledge and consequently to inquire…It is almost needless to say to anyone who knows anything about the history of modern science–even nineteenth century science, that there is absolutely no foundation for this prejudice. Most of our greatest investigators even in nineteenth century science have been faithful believers not only in the ordinary religious truths, in a Providence, in a hereafter, and in this life as a preparation for another, but also in the great mysteries of revelation…Most of the men who did the great original work in last century medicine were Catholics. The same thing is true for electricity, for example. All the men after whom modes and units of electricity are named–Galvani, Volta, Coulomb, Ampere, Ohm–were not only members of the Church, but what would be even called devout Catholics.

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)


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