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The Influence Of Religion On Scientific Advancement

1776 words - 7 pages

Religion is an intricate part of society. It has existed since the beginning of civilization and continues expanding today. This physical organization of personal beliefs has created wars and revolutions; nations and constitutions. In a subject as controversial as that of faith, it is often difficult to discern if it has benefitted humanity. One especially relevant issue today is religion’s influence on science. Throughout history, it is evident that religious movements have occasionally impeded scientific discovery; however, there is also evidence that scientific progression has been aided by religious ideology. By examining both the negative and positive roles religion has played in history, modern times, and the overall area of morality, one can determine the true extent to which faith hinders scientific advancement.

The Catholic Inquisitions exemplify one area in which religion has impeded scientific advancement, particularly in reference to the trials of Galileo Galilei. During the 15th century, Galileo began proposing a heliocentric universe based on the Copernican model. He promoted this idea in his books Discourse of the Comets and On the Sunspots. Unfortunately (despite having no Biblical basis for this idea), the Catholic Church held strongly to the belief of a geocentric model, and therefore viewed Galileo’s ideas as heretical. In June of 1633, Galileo was given a Papal condemnation stating, “The proposition that the Earth is not the center of the world and immovable but that it moves, and also with a diurnal motion, is equally absurd and false philosophically and theologically considered at least erroneous in faith.” He was sentenced to house arrest, and several of his books were forbidden further publication. This is one example of how religiosity can delay advancement. By withholding Galileo’s books from society, people were deprived from the opportunity to learn new ideas. Science cannot advance if people cannot discover.

Conversely, one can infer from the perspective of Galileo that religion encourages science. Although it was a religious faction that prevented him from sharing his discoveries, it was curiosity driven from his own personal faith that encouraged him to study the cosmos. He is not the only scientist with this reasoning. Scientists like Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler and Max Planck all used religion as a basis to study the natural world. The “Father of Chemistry” Robert Boyle even wrote a book titled The Christian Virtuoso, advocating his belief that the universe was designed by a supreme creator. His thoughts can be summarized in this quote from his book: “And the more wonderful things he discovers in the Works of Nature, the more auxiliary Proofs he meets with to establish and enforce the Argument, drawn from the Universe and its Parts, to evince That there is a God…” This type of ideology indicates that religion as a whole does not discourage discovery, but actually encourages...

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