Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Catholicism, science, and Western civilization

In July of 2004, we posted a piece entitled "Catholic sources of modern science," in which we mentioned an article by historian Tom Woods about the role of Jesuit scientists in the nascence of modern European science. We also referred our readers to a longer review of Woods' article over at "Scripture and Catholic Tradition." Woods has finally come out with a book that includes full-blown chapters on these contributions of Catholic scientists widely-overlooked in standard textbook histories. His book, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, promises to be as controversial as it is informative, and has already drawn the vituperative ire of professor in France who has posted a vitriolic review on Amazon.com (in French). Whether or not one likes the way Woods manages to side-step some of the more ignonimous aspects of Church history (one thinks here of the typical knee-jerk reactions to "the Crusades" and "the [sic] Inquisition"), these are clearly peripheral if not irrelevant to the subject of his study. This is an undeniably well-researched volume, not to be overlooked by friend or foe. The mine of information Woods has managed to assimilate is simply staggering. Anyone wishing for the data to combat the pervasive ignorance that takes the Catholic Church for an enemy of open-minded learning, or takes the Middle Ages for a preserve of benighted supersition and knuckle-dragging mouth breathers, will be grateful that Woods has done this yeoman's job of research. As one reviewer put it, Woods has just upped the price of being anti-Catholic. Tolle, lege!