The Pope Prays for Science

Pope Francis recently addressed the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (here), a branch of the Vatican I was not familiar with. Its primary goal, according to its web site, is “promoting the progress of the mathematical, physical and natural sciences, and the study of related epistemological questions and issues.” Suppressing science was one of the primary goals of the Index of Forbidden Books and the Vatican’s Office of the Holy Inquisition. Has the eternal Catholic Church really reversed itself?

The pope complained that people think “we are the owners and masters of nature, authorized to plunder it.” He neglected to mention that they got that idea from the Bible. In the first chapter of Genesis, after God creates man, he orders him to “fill the earth and subdue it, have dominion over … every living thing” (v. 28). That is why many evangelicals call themselves Dominionists. People outside the Judeo-Christian tradition rarely have this attitude toward the environment.

The pope complained that science was “disregarded” in favor of politics, technology, and finance. He neglected to mention religion, especially his own. Not only does the Church disregard scientific advice concerning the use of condoms in the midst of an AIDS epidemic, it insists that the only morally legitimate method of birth control is the rhythm method. It even claims the rhythm method is effective. It asserts that the day-after pill is a form of murder. The Church has always felt free to reject inconvenient evidence from science or any other source.

Pope Francis said it was up to scientists to "build a cultural model to tackle the crisis of climate change and its social consequences.” What is a cultural model of climate change? This is a contradiction in terms. Solving the “crisis” of climate change requires much more than a model.

The pope seemed to realize this, as he called on scientists to create “a regulatory system that includes inviolable limits and guarantees the protection of ecosystems before new forms of power derived from the technological-economic paradigm produce irreversible damage not just to the environment but also to coexistence, democracy, justice and freedom.” Does he really think that scientists have the power to regulate the world? I find it hard to believe that he is so disconnected from reality.

What happened to God?

Pope Francis made no mention of God. Why no prayers? Surely he believes God can help. Lowering the temperature by a couple of degrees should be much easier than flooding the earth for 40 days, or making the sun stand still while Joshua and his boys wipe out everyone in town. Diverting some of that heat to hell would be a good deal all around.

Does the pope really worship science? Does he want scientists to confirm his claim that every Sunday, the physical body of Christ miraculously appears hundreds of millions of times whenever his flock ingests communion wafers? And equally miraculously disappears prior to defecation? Does he want science to investigate the nature of the Trinity? Or evaluate the authenticity and the effects of the Church’s vast collection of relics, including the throne of St. Peter? Why doesn’t he have an independent group of scientists investigate the miracles of putative saints?

Does the pope really believe that science is so much more powerful than prayer? Talk is cheap. It’s far more useful to look at revealed preferences. For example, the Church allocates far more resources to exorcism than it does to medical or scientific research (here). What’s more, it avoids scientific evaluation of the effectiveness of the thousands of exorcisms it performs every year.

Science versus Religion

The essence of science is reason and rationality. The essence of Catholicism involves miracles. The pope treats science as if it were just a different type of religion. After many centuries, the Catholic Church has learned to avoid Holy Wars of religion. It is not profitable. The Church now adopts a policy of ‘ecumenism.’ That is why the pope has so many photo-ops with leaders of other religions. But the faithful know that the Roman Catholic Church is the only path to salvation. The pope never contradicts this. He just smiles, knowing the competition faces damnation.

The Church takes the same approach with science and rationality. It even created a Vatican office as a sign of good will. Pope Francis smiles and produces meaningless platitudes at scientific photo-ops, knowing no one will question it or hold him accountable. But revealed preferences reveal his hypocrisy. If only he funded science like he funds exorcism and other bullshit.

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