Certain historical incidents in which Church authorities and ecclesiastics assumed an attitude distinctly opposed to true scientific advance can be found. They are, however, ever so much rarer than is thought. Let those who accept unquestioningly the supposed opposition of Church to science, count over for themselves the definite cases of this in history which they know for certain, and they will be surprised, as a rule, on what slight grounds their persuasion in this matter is founded. We have detailed the policy of the Church with regard to education and science. Such incidents of opposition as can be gathered were breaks away from that policy. They were not due so much to faith or theology, though these were often made excuses for them, as to the natural opposition to novelty, so common in man…The ultra-conservatism which is the real factor at fault in these cases exists in all men beyond middle life. It is a wise provision of nature very probably to prevent the young and headstrong from running away with the race. We would be plunged into all sorts of curious experimental conditions only for the fact that those beyond middle life act as a brake on the initiative of their juniors. While it does some harm, there is no doubt of its supremely beneficial effects in the long run. For one announced great discovery that proves its actual right to the title, there are at least a hundred that are proclaimed with loud blare of trumpet, yet prove nonentities. This sometimes becomes a very troublesome brake on progress, however. Some three hundred years ago, Harvey said with regard to his epoch-making discovery of the circulation of the blood, that he did not expect any of his contemporaries who was over forty years of age to accept it. His premonition in this matter was fully confirmed by the event. Darwin, I believe, once remarked that he did not think that men of his own age in his own generation would accept his theory, and most of them did not.

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


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s