The Science and Religion Quiz!

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ongoing theme in Western culture since the Enlightenment has
been that religion
is the enemy of scientific progress. To test
your knowledge of how pervasive the problem has been, I've created
the following quiz. The answers are at the end, but try not to
look ahead.

1. When Galileo faced the Inquisition, he held that the Earth
moved around the Sun, while the Inquisition believed that the Sun
moved around the Earth. According to modern science:

a) the Inquisition was correct
b) Galileo was correct
c) neither was more or less correct than the other

2. Columbus had to fight the established Catholic doctrine that
the Earth was flat before he could persuade anyone to back his
attempt to reach the Indies in 1492:

a) true
b) false

3. The Catholic Church holds:

a) the teaching of evolution is a sin
b) the idea of evolution is perfectly compatible with Catholic doctrine

4. The geocentric model of the solar system was an important element
of Christian doctrine because it gave man importance by placing
him at the center of the universe:

a) true
b) false

5. Kepler was moved to endorse the heliocentric solar system based
on objective, scientific principles rather than religious belief:

a) true
b) false

6. Everyone knows that religion is the enemy of clear scientific
thinking, as evidenced by so many great scientists being atheists.
Identify the atheists in the following list:

a) Aristotle
b) Frances Bacon
c) Galileo
d) Descartes
e) Pascal
f) Newton
g) Robert Boyle
h) Michael Faraday
i) Joseph Clerk Maxwell
j) Gregor Mendel
k) Louis Pasteur
l) Max Planck
m) Albert Einstein

7. According to the Dalai Lama, when science contradicts Buddhism:

a) science must have made a mistake
b) the words of the Buddha should be amended

8. The scientific revolution replaced the worldview of the Middle
Ages, one based almost entirely on faith, with a worldview in which
faith plays little or no part:

a) true
b) false


c. As Alfred North Whitehead puts it: u201CGalileo said that the
earth moves and that the sun is fixed; the Inquisition said that
the earth
is fixed and the sun moves; and Newtonian astronomers… said that
both the sun and the earth move. But now we say that any one of
these three statements is equally true, provided that you have
fixed your sense of u2018rest' and u2018motion' in the way required by
the statement adoptedu201D (1967 [1925], Science
and the Modern World
, The Free Press: New York, pp. 183–184).

False. It was widely accepted in the Middle Ages that the Earth
was spherical. The idea that medieval man generally believed it
flat was invented in the 19th century:

also: Eco, U. (1998) Serendipities:
Language and Lunacy
Harcourt Brace & Company: San Diego, pp. 4–7.

3. b

False. The Church adopted this idea from Aristotle, who based
it on
his view of the natural world as an organism. Collingwood
says the notion that the importance of the Copernican revolution
consisted in diminishing the importance of man in the universe u201Cis
an idea both philosophically foolish and historically false.u201D He
points out that what was perhaps u201Cthe most widely read book of
the Middle Ages,u201D Boethius' De Consolatione Philosophiae,
contains a long passage on the u201Ctiny corneru201D of the universe occupied
by man, whose place u201Chardly even deserves the name infinitesimalu201D (1960
[1945], The Idea of Nature, Oxford University Press: London,
pp. 96–97).

5. False. Kepler was a Neoplatonist, and he favored the heliocentric
model because his religious beliefs made it seem fitting that a
divine white light be at the center of the world.

6. None of them were atheists.

7. b

8. False. Whitehead
points out that Scholastic philosophers were not content unless
they could offer rigorous proofs for God's existence
and other elements of Church doctrine. By way of contrast, when
Hume showed that the theory of induction was without logical grounds
in the metaphysics of his time, he was widely ignored and the general
faith in induction remained unabated. u201C[T]he clergy were in principle
rationalists, whereas the men of science were content with a simple
faith in the order of natureu201D (ibid., p. 51).

How did you do? I gave the quiz to a friend, a graduate of a top
American university with a social science degree, and he got 7
out of 8 wrong.

The fact that many
people u201Cknowu201D falsehoods about the history
of science and religion is not, of course, a proof of the correctness
of any particular religion, or even a defense of religion in general.
My point is narrower: Even non-believers cannot benefit from having
their heads filled with u201Chistoryu201D made up to support a particular
ideology. To know who we really are, we need an undistorted view
of what we've done. As Whitehead says: u201C[A]ll our ideas will be
in a wrong perspective if we think that… in these controversies
religion was always wrong, and that science was always right. The
true facts of the case are very much more complex, and refuse to
be summarized in these simple termsu201D (ibid., pp. 182–183).


Callahan [send him mail],
the author of Economics for Real People, is
an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
and a contributing columnist to

Callahan/Stu Morgenstern Archives


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