I came across an article by Fr Stanley Jaki on the history and underlying philosophy of science today and it brought to mind the Christian basis - the belief that God has created a rational order of physical laws in creation that can be observed as the basis for the development of science in Christian countries.
Fr Seamus Murphy also takes this thought up in a letter to The Irish Times some months ago:
Science and the Catholic Church
Madam, - Martin Kinsella's claim that the Galileo case proves Church hostility to science won't stand up and ignores too much (September 23rd 2008).
First, it assumes that Galileo and his opponents understood their clash as religion versus science. But that interpretation dates only from the late 19th century in J.W. Draper's History of the Conflict between Religion and Science(1875) and A.D. White's History of the Warfare of Science with Theology(1895).
Galileo, who died a Catholic, didn't see it that way. Nor could the institution that, 40 years earlier, produced the Gregorian calendar we still use be described as "anti-science".
Second, while Newton's work in the late 17th century vindicated Galileo decisively, it was not obvious in the early 17th century that Galileo was correct. One could reasonably think differently, as did the Danish scientist Tycho Brahe.
Mr Kinsella ignores the long list of Christian scientists, and nobody has ever demonstrated that their faith obstructed their scientific achievements or that they were viewed by their church as "bad" Christians.
Johannes Kepler in astronomy, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell in physics, and Asa Gray and Theodosius Dobzhansky in evolutionary biology are obvious examples.
As for clergy, Fr Georges Lemaître was one of the first to develop the Big Bang theory in the early 20th century, and the 19th-century "father" of genetics was the Augustinian Gregor Mendel. There are also some 30 craters on the moon named after Jesuit astronomers.
Finally, the Judaeo-Christian view of the world as (a) real, (b) not evil, and (c) not divine indirectly facilitated the emergence of science. Further, it held that the physical world is the product of a rational mind, thus supporting the faith of the scientist that the universe is intelligible and that the sciences can yield knowledge. - Yours, etc,
Dr SEAMUS MURPHY SJ,
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy,