What we would say then, is that the story of the supposed opposition of the Church and the Popes and the ecclesiastical authorities to science in any of its branches, is founded entirely on mistaken notions. Most of it is quite imaginary. Much of it is due to the exaggeration of the significance of the Galileo incident. Only those who know nothing about the history of medicine and of science continue to harbor it…

We would not leave the impression, moreover, that it was in medicine alone that the misunderstood Middle Ages made distinct progress in science. This is true in every department of what we now call natural science. The reason for the false impression that science was not studied in the Middle Ages at the universities, is that the supposed historians of education and of science who have made such declarations have never taken the trouble to look into the works of the great writers of this period…Those who so ignorantly but with a pretense of knowledge make little of the science of the Middle Ages, know nothing of the real accomplishments of such men as Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Arnold of Villanova, nor Vincent of Beauvais, the encyclopedist. As is always the case, however, the ignorance of supposed historians of science and education in this matter, has only served to emphasize the presumptuous assurance of their declarations as to the intolerance of the Middle Ages toward scientific progress. It is ever the ignorant man who has the least doubt about his opinions.

Unfortunately many students of science followed these writers apparently without a hint of the deception that was being practiced on them. Not infrequently the prestige or institutional position of the writers has been enough to carry their works into a vogue which has been heightened by the existence of religious prejudice and intolerance. Usually such motives are supposed to be far distant from the scientific mind. In this case they have been, to some degree at least, unconsciously present. There has unfortunately been a definite persuasion that there could be nothing good in the Middle Ages, and therefore there has been no surprise that evil should be found there. Perhaps there is nothing sadder in present day education, than the fact that serious students and professors of science should thus have been led astray. Nothing shows more clearly the superficiality of our education than the fact that these unfounded statements with regard to the greatest period of education in history have been so universally accepted with so little question.

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


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