Thursday, August 26, 2010

Albert Einstein's "Cosmic Religion"

By Dave Armstrong (originally uploaded on 17 February 2003. Expanded greatly on 26 August 2010.)

This constitutes Chapter Ten of my book, Science and Christianity: Close Partners or Mortal Enemies? (2010, 301 pages).

Philosophically, God's existence is something that is reasoned to (as with all other propositions whatever, as well). In a larger epistemology, including religious faith, it is not. I would argue that man is inherently religious (anthropology easily bears this out), so that the religious impulse must be stifled in an atheist. It is already there.

If even rigorous philosophical and scientific minds like David Hume and Einstein look at the universe and immediately sees some sort of Intelligence behind it (though not the Christian God), surely there is something to even Paul's assertion of the "plainness" of God's existence, in Romans 1. Hume even stated that "no rational enquirer can, after serious reflection, suspend his belief a moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism and Religion . . ." Einstein made a number of such statements:
My comprehension of God comes from the deeply felt conviction of a superior intelligence that reveals itself in the knowable world. In common terms, one can describe it as 'pantheistic' (Spinoza). 

(Answer to the question, "What is your understanding of God?" Kaizo, 5, no. 2, 1923, 197; in Alice Calaprice, editor, The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, 2000, 203)

Now, I would ask an atheist: whence comes Einstein's "deeply felt conviction"? Is it a philosophical reason or the end result of a syllogism? He simply has it. It is an intuitive or instinctive feeling or "knowledge" or "sense of wonder at the incredible, mind-boggling marvels of the universe". Atheists don't possess this intuition, but my point is that it is not utterly implausible or unable to be held by even the most rigorous, "non-dogmatic" intellects, such as Einstein and Hume. And the atheist has to account for that fact somehow, it seems to me.

My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we can comprehend about the knowable world. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God. 

(Calaprice, ibid., 204 / To a banker in Colorado, 1927. Einstein Archive 48-380; also quoted in Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann, Albert Einstein, the Human Side [Princeton Univ. Press, 1981], 66, and in the New York Times obituary, April 19, 1955)
I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of human beings.
(Ibid., 204 / Telegram to a Jewish newspaper, 1929; to Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein of the Institutional Synagogue in New York . Einstein Archive 33-272)

What do atheists think Einstein meant here when he used the word "believe"? Do they think he had an elaborate argument that ended in his conclusion: "I believe in Spinoza's God"?

I am of the opinion that all the finer speculations in the realm of science spring from a deep religious feeling. 
(Calaprice, ibid., 206 / Forum and Century 83, 1930, 373)

What does Einstein mean by "deep religious feeling"? Is this a philosophical and/or demonstrable or provable concept? Or is it more like an intuition? How can it be epistemically justified? How can a man like Einstein hold such a view in the first place, according to the atheist? Perhaps he himself provides an answer of sorts:

It is very difficult to elucidate this [cosmic religious] feeling to anyone who is entirely without it . . . In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it. 

(Calaprice, ibid., 207 / Cosmic Religion, 1931, 48-49)

In what way would an atheist think Einstein would say such people are "deficient"? He denies that a personal God put this knowledge in people, yet on the other hand he clearly assumes it is innate, normal, and self-evident. How can he do that?

[T]he belief in the existence of basic all-embracing laws in Nature also rests on a sort of faith. All the same this faith has been largely justified so far by the success of scientific research. But, on the other hand, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe -- a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive. 

(To student Phyllis Right, who asked if scientists pray, January 24, 1936. Einstein Archive 42-601, 52-337; from Dukas and Hoffman, ibid., pp. 32-33) 

At first, then, instead of asking what religion is I should prefer to ask what characterizes the aspirations of a person who gives me the impression of being religious: a person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings and aspirations to which he clings because of their super-personal value . . . Accordingly a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance of those super-personal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation . . . If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary. . . . Now, even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies . . . science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. . . . a legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist. . . . But whoever has undergone the intense experience of successful advances made in this domain is moved by profound reverence for the rationality made manifest in existence. By way of the understanding he achieves a far-reaching emancipation from the shackles of personal hopes and desires, and thereby attains that humble attitude of mind toward the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence, and which, in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man. This attitude, however, appears to me to be religious, in the highest sense of the word. 

("Science and Religion": Address at the Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, New York, 1940; in Ideas and Opinions [Crown: New York, 1954, 1982], p. 46; also published in Nature, 146: 605-607 [1940] ) 

In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views. 

(Ibid., 214 / reply to German anti-Nazi diplomat and author Hubertus zu Lowenstein around 1941. Quoted in the latter's book, Towards the Further Shore, London, 1968, 156) 

Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is the same as that of the religious fanatics, and it springs from the same source . . . They are creatures who can't hear the music of the spheres. 

(Ibid., 214 / 7 August 1941. Einstein Archive 54-297) 

I have found no better expression than 'religious' for confidence in the rational nature of reality, insofar as it is accessible to human reason. Whenever this feeling is absent, science degenerates into uninspired empiricism. 

(Ibid., 216 / To Maurice Solovine, 1 January 1951. Einstein Archive 21-474; published in Letters to Solovine, 119) 
The bigotry of the nonbeliever is for me nearly as funny as the bigotry of the believer.

(quoted in Robert N. Goldman, Einstein's God: Albert Einstein's Quest as a Scientist and as a Jew to Replace a Forsaken God [Jason Aronson: 1997] )

Many similar utterances of Einstein can be found:

I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

(Letter to an atheist [24 March 1954] as quoted in Albert Einstein: The Human Side [Princeton University Press: 1981], edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, p. 43)
I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.

(From an interview, quoted in Glimpses of the Great by G. S. Viereck [Macauley, New York, 1930], cited in Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology [Princeton University Press, 1999], p. 48)

I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

(Letter to Guy H. Raner Jr., 28 September 1949, quoted by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic, Vol. 5, No. 2)

Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious.

(Response to atheist, Alfred Kerr [Winter 1927] who after deriding ideas of God and religion at a dinner party in the home of the publisher Samuel Fischer, had queried him "I hear that you are supposed to be deeply religious" -- as quoted in Diaries of a Cosmopolitan: Count Harry Kessler, 1918-1937, by H. G. Kessler, [Littlehampton Book Services Ltd, 1971 edition] )

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms -- it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and this sense alone, I am a deeply religious man. . . . Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.

(in The World As I See It [1949], reprinted in 2007 [Filiquarian Publishing], pp. 14-15; originally from What I Believe, 1930; different translation cited in Jammer, ibid., p. 73)

[C]osmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion which pioneer work in theoretical science demands, can grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe, and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler [Lutheran] and Newton [Arian theist] must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labour in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics! . . . Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man strength of this sort. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.

You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a peculiar religious feeling of his own.

(Ibid., p. 37; from his essay, "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine, Fall 1930, section 5, pages 1-2)

The men who have laid the foundations of physics on which I have been able to construct my theory are Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, and Lorentz.

(Interview with The New York Times, 2 April 1921; cited in Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology [Princeton University Press, 1999], p. 35)

Speaking of the spirit that informs modern scientific investigations, I am of the opinion that all the finer speculations in the realm of science spring from a deep religious feeling, and that without such feeling they would not be fruitful.

(conversation with J. Murray, early in 1930 in Berlin, in Jammer, ibid., pp. 68-69)

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

("What Life Means to Einstein": Interview with George Sylvester Viereck, The Saturday Evening Post [26 October 1929, p. 17] )

As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene. . . . Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot. . . . No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. How different, for instance, is the impression which we receive from an account of legendary heroes of antiquity like Theseus. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus. . . . No man can deny the fact that Jesus existed, nor that his sayings are beautiful. Even if some them have been said before, no one has expressed them so divinely as he.

(Interview with George Sylvester Viereck, 26 October 1929; see also Denis Brian, Einstein — A Life [John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1996], pp. 277-278)

What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.

("Einstein and Faith," Time Magazine, 5 April 2007) 
The fanatical atheists are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who--in their grudge against traditional religion as the "opium of the masses"-- cannot hear the music of the spheres. 
("Einstein and Faith," Time Magazine, 5 April 2007) 
It is true that convictions can best be supported with experience and clear thinking. On this point one must agree unreservedly with the extreme rationalist. The weak point of his conception is, however, this, that those convictions which are necessary and determinant for our conduct and judgments cannot be found solely along this solid scientific way. 

For the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capable, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet it is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is, and yet not be able to deduct from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations. Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source. And it is hardly necessary to argue for the view that our existence and our activity acquire meaning only by the setting up of such a goal and of corresponding values. The knowledge of truth as such is wonderful, but it is so little capable of acting as a guide that it cannot prove even the justification and the value of the aspiration toward that very knowledge of truth. Here we face, therefore, the limits of the purely rational conception of our existence.. . . 
The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations. . . . 
("Science and Religion," cited in Einstein's Ideas and Opinions, pp. 41-49; from an address at Princeton Theological Seminary, 19 May 1939. It was also published in Out of My Later Years [New York: Philosophical Library, 1950] ) 
Does there truly exist an insuperable contradiction between religion and science? Can religion be superseded by science? The answers to these questions have, for centuries, given rise to considerable dispute and, indeed, bitter fighting. Yet, in my own mind there can be no doubt that in both cases a dispassionate consideration can only lead to a negative answer. 
. . . the function of setting up goals and passing statements of value transcends its domain. While it is true that science, to the extent of its grasp of causative connections, may reach important conclusions as to the compatibility and incompatibility of goals and evaluations, the independent and fundamental definitions regarding goals and values remain beyond science's reach.. . . 
There are many such questions which, from a rational vantage point, cannot easily be answered or cannot be answered at all. Yet, I do not think that the so-called "relativistic" viewpoint is correct, not even when dealing with the more subtle moral decisions.. . .
The interpretation of religion, as here advanced, implies a dependence of science on the religious attitude, a relation which, in our predominantly materialistic age, is only too easily overlooked. While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to whom we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge. If this conviction had not been a strongly emotional one and if those searching for knowledge had not been inspired by Spinoza's Amor Dei Intellectualis, they would hardly have been capable of that untiring devotion which alone enables man to attain his greatest achievements. 

("Religion and Science: Irreconcilable?": response to a greeting sent by the Liberal Ministers' Club of New York City. Published in The Christian Register, June, 1948. Published in Ideas and Opinions [Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1954])

GUEST: I have a letter that Albert Einstein wrote to my father in 1943. In 1940, my father read a “Time Magazine” article that stated that Einstein was quoted as saying that the only social institution that stood up to Nazism was the Christian Church. My father is a Presbyterian minister in a little northern Michigan town called Harbor Springs. And he quoted Einstein in a sermon, and a member of the congregation wrote my father a letter saying, "Where did you get your information?" So my father wrote “Time Magazine” and “Time Magazine” wrote him back, and I have that letter, too, but they didn't give the source, so my father wrote Einstein and he wrote back, saying, yes, he did say that the Christian Church was standing up to Hitler and Nazism. 
[ . . . ] 
APPRAISER: The second reason I really like this story is that your dad kept all the supporting material behind the letter that he eventually got from Einstein confirming, "Yes, I did say this about the Christian Church. It is the only social institution that could stand up to the Nazi regime." . . . If you had brought this letter in without the supporting documents, I would have looked at it, and it says, "It's true that I made a statement which corresponds approximately with the text you quoted. I made this statement during the first years of the Nazi regime-- much earlier than 1940-- and my expressions were a little more moderate." And I would say, "Well, that's a nice typed letter from Einstein, says something about Nazis," but I wouldn't really know what he was talking about if your father had not saved all the material that is appropriate to it. 
("1943 Albert Einstein Letter," Antiques Roadshow [PBS], 19 May 2008; the letter was appraised at $5000) 

Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind.

What these blessed men have given us we must guard and try to keep alive with all our strength if humanity is not to lose its dignity, the security of its existence, and its joy in living. 
(From a written statement [September 1937] as quoted in Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, editors, Albert Einstein: The Human Side [Princeton University Press: 1981] ) 
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. It is no mere chance that our older universities developed from clerical schools. Both churches and universities — insofar as they live up to their true function — serve the ennoblement of the individual. They seek to fulfill this great task by spreading moral and cultural understanding, renouncing the use of brute force.

(In "Moral Decay" [1937], also published in Out of My Later Years [1950] ) 
The longing to behold this pre-established harmony is the source of the inexhaustible patience and perseverance with which Planck has devoted himself, as we see, to the most general problems of our science, refusing to let himself be diverted to more grateful and more easily attained ends. I have often heard colleagues try to attribute this attitude of his to extraordinary will-power and discipline -- wrongly, in my opinion. The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind is akin to that of the religious worshiper or the lover; the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart. 
("Principles of Research": address by Albert Einstein in 1918 for the Physical Society, Berlin, on the occasion of Max Planck's sixtieth birthday) 
One may say "the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility." 
("Physics and Reality" in Journal of the Franklin Institute [March 1936]; reprinted in Out of My Later Years [1956] ) 
I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today — and even professional scientists — seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is — in my opinion — the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth. 
(Letter to Robert A. Thorton, Physics Professor at University of Puerto Rico: 7 December 1944; EA-674, Einstein Archive, Hebrew University, Jerusalem) 
What I am really interested in is knowing whether God could have created the world in a different way; in other words, whether the requirement of logical simplicity admits a margin of freedom. 
(in Jammer, ibid., p. 124) 

I want to know how God created this world. I'm not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details. 
(E. Salaman, "A Talk with Einstein," The Listener 54 [1955]: 370-371) 
I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of "humility." This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism. 
(Reply to a letter: 1954 or 1955; from Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann, Albert Einstein, the Human Side [Princeton Univ. Press, 1981], p. 39) 
You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or an eternal mystery. Well a priori one should expect a chaotic world which cannot be grasped by the mind in anyway. One could (yes one should) expect the world to be subjected to law only to the extent that we order it through our intelligence. Ordering of this kind would be like the alphabetical ordering of the words of a language. By contrast, the kind of order created by Newton's theory of gravitation, for instance, is wholly different. Even if the axioms of the theory are proposed by man, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the "miracle" which is being constantly re-enforced as our knowledge expands.
There lies the weaknesss of positivists and professional atheists who are elated because they feel that they have not only successfully rid the world of gods but "bared the miracles." Oddly enough, we must be satisfied to acknowledge the "miracle" without there being any legitimate way for us to approach it. 
The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive. However, I am also not a "Freethinker" in the usual sense of the word because I find that this is in the main an attitude nourished exclusively by an opposition against naive superstition. My feeling is insofar religious as I am imbued with the consciousness of the insufficiency of the human mind to understand deeply the harmony of the Universe which we try to formulate as "laws of nature." It is this consciousness and humility I miss in the Freethinker mentality. Sincerely yours, Albert Einstein. 
(Letter to A. Chapple, Australia, 23 February 1954; Einstein Archive 59-405; also quoted in Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden, Einstein on Peace, [Random House Value Publishing; Avenel 1981 edition], p. 510)

* * * * *

Friday, August 20, 2010

Extraterrestrial Life and the Catholic Church: Collection of Links

By Dave Armstrong (8-20-10)

Speculation on such things is nothing new in Catholic circles (lest anyone think that). Prominent clerics of the Middle Ages, including John Buridan (14th c.), Bishop Nicholas Oresme (d. 1382), and Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (d. 1464), had already seriously discussed the possibility of other worlds.

Nor was Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) condemned and executed because he believed in the possibility of other worlds, as some misinformed secular articles about this topic (e.g., in The Washington Post) have asserted. His heresies were as follows, according to the article about him in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved, etc. . . .

    . . . his system of thought is an incoherent materialistic pantheism. God and the world are one; matter and spirit, body and soul, are two phases of the same substance; the universe is infinite; beyond the visible world there is an infinity of other worlds, each of which is inhabited; this terrestrial globe has a soul; in fact, each and every part of it, mineral as well as plant and animal, is animated; all matter is made up of the same elements (no distinction between terrestrial and celestial matter); all souls are akin (transmigration is, therefore, not impossible).

To find scientists who were executed (unlike Galileo, who endured a "house arrest" in velvety palaces) simply because of scientific speculation, one has to look elsewhere: to the "reasoned" and "enlightened" anti-Catholic French Revolutionaries of the late 18th century, who did away with, e.g., Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794): the "father of modern chemistry", as well as chemist and metallurgist Philippe-Frédéric de Dietrich (guillotined on 19 November 1793), astronomer and mathematician Jean Baptiste Gaspard Bochart de Saron (guillotined on 20 April 1794), and botanist and statesman Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes (guillotined on 23 April 1794). The famous French philosopher and mathematician Nicolas de Condorcet died in an "Enlightenment" prison under mysterious circumstances, on 28 March 1794.

For an explosion of the ludicrous myth that the Catholic Church was historically and is presently opposed to scientific advance, see my ten-part, copiously-documented study, Christianity's Central Role in the Conception and Development of Modern Science: Hundreds of Historical Facts Documented.

* * * * *

Alien Life Out There (

Catholic Belief And Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life (

Vatican-sponsored meeting discusses chances of extraterrestrial life (Carol Glatz; Catholic News Service)

Catholic church: Faith in God, alien life OK (Brian Bethel; Abilene Reporter-News)

Vatican Holds Conference on Extraterrestrial Life (Universe Today)

Believing in aliens not opposed to Christianity, Vatican’s top astronomer says (Catholic News Agency)

Extra-terrestrial life is possible, Vatican astronomer says (Catholic

Aliens need Christ’s redemption, too (The Catholic Herald)

Christ and Extraterrestrial Life (Ilia Delio, O. S. F., Theology and Science, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2007; PDF file)

Vatican astronomer: E.T. could be our 'extraterrestrial brother'

Do space aliens have souls? Inquiring minds can check Jesuit's book (Carol Glatz; Catholic News Service)

Vatican Observatory examines theological implications of finding alien life (Catholic News Agency)

Belief in aliens not necessarily against the faith, Vatican official says (Catholic News Agency)

Most religious believers don’t think discovery of alien life would threaten their faith (Catholic News Agency)

Ignorant Armies Clash By Night (Mark Shea; National Catholic Register)

Vatican: It's OK for Catholics to Believe in Aliens (Fox

E.T. Stay Home (Charles Colson; Catholic Exchange)

‘Is there other intelligent life in our universe?’ (Catholic Star Herald)

115 Scientific Fields Founded or Dominated by Christian or Theistic Scientists / 34 Prominent Catholic Priest-Scientists

By Dave Armstrong (8-20-10)

This constitutes Chapter Nine of my book, Science and Christianity: Close Partners or Mortal Enemies? (2010, 301 pages).

* * * * *

[asterisk after dates signifies a Catholic priest]

Joseph Henry (1797-1878)
Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919)

Aerodynamics / Aeronautics
Francesco Lana de Terzi (c. 1631-1687*)
George Cayley (1773-1857)

Analysis Leonhard Euler (1707-1783)
Augustin-Louis Cauchy (1789-1857)
Karl Weierstrass (1815-1897)

Anatomy Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564)

Anatomy, Comparative
Georges Cuvier (1769-1832)

Anesthesiology James Simpson (1811-1870)

Antiseptic Surgery Joseph Lister (1827-1912)

Applied Science Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716)

Astronautics Robert Goddard (1882-1945)
Hermann Oberth (1894-1989)

Astronomy, Big Bang Cosmology Georges Lemaître (1894-1966*)

Astronomy, Galactic
William Herschel (1738-1822)

Astronomy, Heliocentric Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543)

Astronomy, Physical
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)

Astronomy, Solar Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944)

Atomic Theory Roger Boscovich (1711-1787*)
John Dalton (1766-1844)

Bacteriology Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)

Biochemistry Franciscus Sylvius (1614-1672)
Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794)

Biogeography Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859)

Biology / Natural History John Ray (1627-1705)

Biology, Molecular Oswald Avery (1877-1955)
George Wells Beadle (1903-1989)

Botany Otto Brunfels (1488–1534)
Carolus Clusius (1526-1609)
Carol Linnaeus (1707-1778)

Calculus Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Calculus, Infinitesimal Pierre de Fermat (c. 1607-1665)
Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716)

Cardiology William Harvey (1578-1657)

Chemistry Robert Boyle (1627-1691)

Chemistry, Agricultural Joseph Henry Gilbert (1817-1901)

Chemistry, Isotopic William Ramsay (1852-1916)

Chemistry, Nuclear Otto Hahn (1879-1968)

Chemistry, Organic Thomas Anderson (1819-1874)

Chemistry, Physical Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-1903)

Computer Science Charles Babbage (1792-1871)
George Boole (1815-1864)

Cryology Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)

Cytology Robert Hooke (1635-1703)
Jean Baptiste Carnoy (1836–1899)

Dimensional Analysis Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919)

Dynamics Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Ecology Carol Linnaeus (1707-1778)

Electrical Engineering William Gilbert (1544-1603)
Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
Thomas Edison (1847-1931)

Electrochemistry Alessandro Volta (1745-1827)
Humphrey Davy (1778-1829)
Michael Faraday (1791-1867)

Electrodynamics André-Marie Ampère (1775-1836)
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)

Electromagnetics André-Marie Ampère (1775-1836)
Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
Joseph Henry (1797-1878)
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)

Electronics Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
John Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945)

Electrophysiology John Eccles (1903-1997)

Embryology Julius Caesar Aranzi (1529-1589)
William Harvey (1578-1657)
Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694)

Energetics Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)
Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-1903)

Entomology William Kirby (1759-1850)

Entomology, of Living Insects Henri Fabre (1823-1915)

Epidemiology Girolamo Fracastoro (1478-1553)

Evolution / Natural Selection Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Field Theory Michael Faraday (1791-1867)

Fluid Mechanics George Stokes (1819-1903)

Gas Dynamics Robert Boyle (1627-1691)

Genetics Gregor Mendel (1822-1884*)

Genetics, Clinical Medical Victor A. McKusick (1921-2008)

Genetics, Population Ronald Fisher (1890-1962)

Geology Blessed Nicolas Steno (1638-1686*)
James Hutton (1726-1797)

Geometry, Analytical René Descartes (1596-1650)
Pierre de Fermat (c. 1607-1665)

Geometry, Differential Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855)

Geometry, Non-Euclidean Bernhard Riemann (1826-1866)

Geophysics Jose de Acosta (1540-1600*)

Glaciology Louis Agassiz (1807-1873)
Arnold Henry Guyot (1807-1884)

Gynecology James Simpson (1811-1870)

Histology Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694)
Marie François Xavier Bichat (1771-1802)

Hydraulics Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Hydrodynamics Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Hydrography Matthew Maury (1806-1873)

Hydrology Edme Mariotte (c. 1620-1684*)

Hydrostatics Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Ichthyology Louis Aggasiz (1807-1873)

Immunology Edward Anthony Jenner (1749-1823)
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)

Laser Science Charles Hard Townes (b. 1915)
Arthur Schawlow (1921-1999)

Mathematical Analysis Leonhard Euler (1707-1783)

Mechanics, Celestial Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)

Mechanics, Classical Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Mechanics, Quantum Max Planck (1858-1947)
Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976)

Mechanics, Wave Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961)

Medicine, Modern William Harvey (1578-1657)

Meteorology Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647)
Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799*)
Matthew Maury (1806-1873)

Microbiology Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680*)
Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694)
Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)

Mineralogy Georgius Agricola (1494-1555)

Mineralogy, Optical David Brewster (1781-1868)

Model Analysis Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919)

Morphology Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Nanotechnology Richard Smalley (1943-2005)

Neurology Charles Bell (1774-1842)

Number Theory Leonhard Euler (1707-1783)
Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855)

Obstetrics William Smellie (1697-1763)

Oceanography Matthew Maury (1806-1873)

Optics Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Francesco Maria Grimaldi (1618-1663*)
James Gregory (1638-1675)
Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Ornithology John Ray (1627-1705)

Paleontology John Woodward (1665-1728)

Paleontology, Vertebrate Georges Cuvier (1769-1832)

Pathology Marie François Xavier Bichat (1771-1802)
Thomas Hodgkin (1798-1866)
Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902)

Physics, Atomic Joseph J. Thomson (1856-1940)

Physics, Classical Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Physics, Experimental Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Physics, Mathematical Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695)
Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Physics, Nuclear Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)

Physics, Particle John Dalton (1766-1844)

Physiology William Harvey (1578-1657)

Probability Theory Pierre de Fermat (c. 1607-1665)
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695)

Scientific Method Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655*)

Seismology John Michell (1724-1793)

Stellar Spectroscopy Pietro Angelo Secchi (1818-1878*)
Sir William Huggins (1824-1910)

Stratigraphy Blessed Nicolas Steno (1638-1686*)

Surgery Ambroise Paré (c. 1510-1590)

Taxonomy Carol Linnaeus (1707-1778)

Thermochemistry Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794)

Thermodynamics James Joule (1818-1889)
Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)

Thermodynamics, Chemical Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-1903)

Thermodynamics, Statistical James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)

Thermokinetics Humphrey Davy (1778-1829)

Transfinite Mathematics Bernard Bolzano (1781-1848*)
Augustin-Louis Cauchy (1789-1857)
Karl Weierstrass (1815-1897)
Georg Cantor (1845-1918)

Transplantology Alexis Carrel (1873-1944)
Joseph Murray (b. 1919)

Volcanology Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680*)
Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799*)
James Dwight Dana (1813-1895)

Zoology Conrad Gessner (1516-1565)

* * *

[for further reference, see: Wikipedia: "List of persons considered father or mother of a scientific field"]

34 Prominent Catholic Priest-Scientists and Mathematicians: 1500-1950

Francesco Maurolico (1494-1575; Benedictine abbot) Mathematician, astronomer.
Christopher Clavius (1538-1612; Jesuit priest) Mathematician, astronomer.
Jose de Acosta (1540-1600; Jesuit priest) Geophysicist, meteorologist.
Christopher Scheiner (1575-1650; Jesuit priest) Astronomer, optician.
Benedetto Castelli (1577-1644; Benedictine abbot) Mathematician; hydraulics.
Nicolas Zucchi (1586-1670; Jesuit priest) Optician.
Johann Baptist Cysat (c. 1587-1657; Jesuit priest) Astronomer (expert on comets).
Giovanni Battista Zupi (c. 1590-1650; Jesuit priest) Astronomer.
Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655; priest) Astronomer.
Giovanni Battista Riccioli (1598-1671; Jesuit priest) Physicist.
Jacques de Billy (1602-1679; Jesuit priest) Mathematician, critic of astrology.
Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680; Jesuit priest) Geologist, microbiologist, inventor, Egyptologist, medical theorist (infectious disease).
Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz (1606-1682; Cistercian and archbishop) Mathematics, astronomy, physics, and probability theory.
André Tacquet (1612-1660; Jesuit priest) Mathematician.
Francesco Maria Grimaldi (1618-1663; Jesuit priest) Optician.
Jean-Felix Picard (1620-1682; Jesuit priest) Geologist (size of the earth), astronomer, inventor.
Edme Mariotte (c. 1620-1684; priest) Physicist, chemist, optician, hydrology.
Francesco Lana de Terzi (c. 1631-1687; Jesuit priest) Aeronautics.
Blessed Nicolas Steno (1638-1686; bishop) Geology (particularly stratigraphy), mineralogist.
Pierre Varignon (1654-1722; Jesuit priest) Statics and mechanics.
Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri (1667-1733; Jesuit priest) Mathematician.
Jean-Antoine Nollet (1700-1770; priest) Electricity, osmosis.
Vincent Riccati (1707-1775; Jesuit priest) Mathematician.
Roger Joseph Boscovich (1711-1787; Jesuit priest) Physicist (atomic theory), astronomer, field theory.
Christian Mayer (1719-1783; Jesuit priest) Astronomer.
Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799; priest) Microbiologist, volcanologist, meteorologist, biologist.
Juan Molina (1740-1829; Jesuit priest) Biochemist; anticipator of evolution.
Giuseppe Piazzi (1746-1826; priest) Astronomer.
Bernard Bolzano (1781-1848; priest) Mathematician and philosopher of science.
Pietro Angelo Secchi (1818-1878; Jesuit priest) Astronomer (especially spectroscopy and the sun).
Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884; Augustinian priest) Father of genetics.
Blessed Francesco Faà di Bruno (1825-1888) Mathematician.
Armand David (1826-1900; Lazarist missionary priest) Zoologist and a botanist in China.
Monsignor Georges Lemaître (1894-1966; priest) Astronomer and mathematician; first developed the Big Bang Theory in cosmology.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Antoine Lavoisier, the Catholic "Father of Chemistry" was Executed by "Enlightened" French Revolutionaries

By Dave Armstrong (8-13-10)

This constitutes Chapter Fourteen (slightly modified) from my book, Science and Christianity: Close Partners or Mortal Enemies? (2010, 301 pages).

* * * * *

Why is it that we always hear, ad nauseum, about Galileo and how he was persecuted by the Catholic Church for saying that the earth went around the sun? Well, there are two reasons: it makes for great copy, because it was a whopper of a scientific error, for a tribunal of the Church to defend geocentrism, and because it is fodder for anti-Catholicism and contra-Catholicism, and even a broader anti-Christianity (and sometimes anti-theism and anti-religion, period). When we Catholics make mistakes, they are never forgotten, and milked (in distorted, half-baked form) for all they are worth, for literally hundreds of years.

Atheists, agnostics, secularists, and many of those on the political left (who have a tendency to replace Christianity with scientism, as their new "religion" and worldview) absolutely love the Galileo story. It's been wonderful propaganda for them for almost 500 years; that is, in its usual modified, revisionist, one-sided presentation, designed to make the Catholic Church look as bad as it can possibly look, in order to foster the myth that it is somehow "anti-science." It is somewhat analogous to the way that Martin Luther is used by many Protestants (especially anti-Catholic ones), in the attempt to make the Catholic Church look as unreasonable, improperly dogmatic, and (supposedly) "anti-Bible" as possible.

The fantasy of thinking that Catholicism and larger Christianity are "anti-science" is one of the more outrageous and ridiculous whoppers in the canon of atheist / agnostic polemics. It's not only untrue; it is about as untrue to the facts of history as anything can imaginably be. To demonstrate this, I have written a massive, eight-part study, documenting the overwhelming Christian influence on the history of science.

I've treated the topic of Galileo in particular, many times, contending that the full story is a lot more interesting and complex than the common myth about the whole affair (truth is invariably stranger than fiction).

Now, with that background in mind, consider another case of a very renowned, skilled, important scientist being "persecuted" and wrongly treated. To give some biographical background, Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) is considered the "father of modern chemistry". He stated the first version of the law of conservation of mass, helped construct the metric system, wrote the first extensive list of elements, and helped to reform chemical nomenclature. He discovered that, although matter may change its form or shape, its mass always remains the same. He determined that the components of water were oxygen and hydrogen, and that air was a mixture of gases, primarily nitrogen and oxygen. His Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elementary Treatise on Chemistry, 1789) is considered to be the first modern chemistry textbook. This text clarified the concept of an element as a substance that could not be broken down by any known method of chemical analysis, and presented a theory of the formation of chemical compounds from elements. Lavoisier introduced the possibility of allotropy in chemical elements when he discovered that diamond is a crystalline form of carbon. [source: Wikipedia biography]

Unfortunately, Lavoisier died prematurely at age 50. Do you know how he died (I just learned this last night)? He was beheaded by a guillotine: killed by the folks in France who prided themselves (and are widely known, for some bizarre reason, to this day), as proponents of "enlightened" reason: freed (so they viewed themselves) from the shackles of centuries of Christian "Dark Ages" intellectual slavery and mindless dogmatism (as the stereotype goes). These were allegedly the "smart" people; the "liberated and free" people; the "liberals" with all the noble ideas. You know: "liberty, equality, and fraternity," and all that. Even Thomas Jefferson admired them -- but at length he had to admit that his friend John Adams had the superior (opposed) view as to the French Revolution.

I find it extremely interesting, myself, that we rarely hear of this. Most people, I suspect, are like myself. I had at least heard of the man's name, and knew he had a significant place in the history of scientific pioneers and great minds, but I didn't know he died in this fashion. And that is because the powers that be: the secularists and far-left radicals who run large portions of our educational system, and those who dominate academia and our colleges, have a vested interest in downplaying and obscuring inconvenient facts such as these.

Their goal is to pit religion against science, so Galileo fits right in with that. They're not so keen on letting it be made known that Lavoisier, the father of chemistry, was murdered by a band of "enlightened" French revolutionaries: intent on tearing down tradition and especially the Church, and replacing Christianity with the "goddess of reason." That doesn't fit with the plan! So few know about it.

But we sure have heard about Galileo, haven't we?! It's supposed to always be "Christianity against science" and never "radical secularism and atheism against science." That won't do. It doesn't fit in with the prevalent mythology and legend-building. The Church vs. Galileo the great Catholic scientist is great copy and trumpeted from the rooftops. But the atheist French revolutionaries against Lavoisier the great Catholic scientist is a tidbit of history that is ignored, suppressed and hushed up. It's an absolutely classic case of cynical, deliberate historical and academic bias. We are taught what our secular overlords want us to be taught. Stuff that goes against their agenda ("religion vs. science" being very high on the list) falls by the wayside.

What do we know about what happened to Lavoisier? What is his story (that deserves to be told and learned about)? First of all, he died a Catholic. Grimaux, the first biographer to have access to his personal papers, wrote:

Raised in a pious family which had given many priests to the Church, he had held to his beliefs. To Edward King, an English author who had sent him a controversial work, he wrote, 'You have done a noble thing in upholding revelation and the authenticity of the Holy Scripture, and it is remarkable that you are using for the defence precisely the same weapons which were once used for the attack.' [Catholic Encyclopedia: "Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier"]

Lucien Scheler and W. A. Smeaton wrote a paper entitled, "An account of Lavoisier's reconciliation with the church a short time before his death," published in Annals of Science, Volume 14, Issue 2, June 1958, pp. 148-153. He received Holy Communion [source].

How was he treated at his trial? What was the basis of his "guilt"? Galileo spent his last several years under a very mild "house arrest" in comfortable environs, including palaces, and wasn't forbidden from carrying on his scientific experiments. Lavoisier was not quite so graciously treated:

Early in his career he felt the need of increasing his resources to meet the necessities caused by his scientific experiments. With this in view he became a deputy fermier-général, whereby his income was much increased. But joining this association of State-protected tax-collectors only prepared the way for many years of bitter attack and a share of the public odium attaching to their privilege. He headed many public commissions requiring scientific investigation, he aimed at bringing France to such a state of agricultural and industrial expansion that the peasant and the working-man would have profitable employment and the small landed proprietor relief from the burdensome taxes hitherto purposely increased to make grants to corrupt favourites of the Court. Having incurred the hatred of Marat he found himself, together with his fellow fermiers-général, growing more and more unpopular during the terrible days of the Revolution. Finally in 1794 he was imprisoned with twenty-seven others. A farcical trial speedily followed, in which he was charged with "incivism" in that he had damaged public health by adding water to tobacco. He and his companions, amongst them Jacques Alexis Paulze, his father-in-law, were condemned to death.

[Catholic Encyclopedia: "Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier"]

Jean-Paul Marat, who made himself Lavoisier's enemy: one of the three leading figures of the French Revolution (along with Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre), was a failed scientist, and his motivations were clearly petty jealousy, and a wounded pride, fed by paranoia. And so he wrote:

This persecution began at the moment the Academy realized that my discoveries about the nature of light upset its own work. . . . Since the d'Alamberts, the Condorcets, the Moniers, Monges, Lavoisiers and all the other charlatans of that scientific body wanted to hog the limelight for themselves . . . it isn't difficult to understand why they disparaged my discoveries throughout Europe, turned every learned society against me and had all learned publications closed to me.

(cited by Joe Jackson, A World on Fire: A Heretic, an Aristocrat, and the Race to Discover Oxygen [Penguin, 2007], p. 268)

For much more on Marat and his charades and shenanigans, see Jackson, ibid., pp. 267 ff. (accessible on Google Reader). But Marat was actually already dead by the time Lavoisier was executed: having been stabbed to death in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday: a woman from a rival faction. He wound up like Jim Morrison (in a bathtub in Paris): except that his heart gave out due to a knife, rather than drugs and alcohol. Marat himself was not, however, an atheist. He was, according to biographer Ernest Belefort Bay, a proponent of "Rousseauite Deism" and "vague Deism" (Jean-Paul Marat - The People's Friend [Vogt Press, 2008], pp. 84-85). He actually persecuted atheists:

As long as the atheist only reasons, let him live in peace; but when, instead of keeping himself to the sceptical attitude, he declaims, when he dogmatises, when he seeks to obtain proselytes, becoming from that moment sectarian, he makes a dangerous use of his liberty, and he ought to lose it. Let him then be shut up for a limited time in a humane gaol.

(Bay, ibid., p. 85)

As usual, one whom atheists claim as one of their own was not (like Hume, Einstein, and many others) actually an atheist. What else is new? Historical revisionism abounds. But Marat received the royal treatment when he died:

Jacques-Louis David took up the task of immortalizing Marat in the painting The Death of Marat, . . . His heart was embalmed separately and placed in an urn in an altar erected to his memory . . . On 19 November, the port city of Le Havre-de-Grâce changed its name to Le Havre-de-Marat and then Le Havre-Marat. When the Jacobins started their dechristianisation campaign to set up the Cult of Reason of Hébert and Chaumette and Cult of the Supreme Being of Robespierre, Marat was made a quasi-saint, and his bust often replaced crucifixes in the former churches of Paris. [Wikipedia, "Jean-Paul Marat"]

Joe Jackson described Lavoisier's witnessing of the pathetic hysterics and hero-worship at Marat's funeral:

Lavoisier . . . must have sighed in relief, thinking that his foe could not persecute him any longer. But then, as a member of the National Guard, he was obliged to stand at attention during Marat's funeral . . . the painter David, the ceremony's organizer, clad Marat in a toga and crowned him with laurels. His body rested on a raised couch, drawn by twelve men; young girls surrounded the couch, all dressed in white and carrying wands and branches of cypress. The grief for the "martyr Marat" was as violent as the jeers for his murderess. "Oh heart of Jesus!" people sobbed along the route, some falling to their knees. "Oh sacred heart of Marat!"

(Jackson, ibid., p. 287)

Lavoisier was one of the estimated 16-17,000 people (Jackson, p., 288) who were guillotined in the "enlightened" Reign of Terror, from October 1793 to July 1794. Here we have an atheist / deist / secularist / anti-Catholic Inquisition. We all know how incredibly tolerant the French Revolutionaries were (just as the far left so obviously is today!). They harbored a special and tender love for the Catholic Church:

Another anti-clerical uprising was made possible by the installment of the Revolutionary Calendar on 24 October. Hébert's and Chaumette's atheist movement initiated a religious campaign in order to dechristianize society. The program of dechristianization waged against Catholicism, and eventually against all forms of Christianity, included the deportation or execution of clergy; the closing of churches; the rise of cults and the institution of a civic religion; the large scale destruction of religious monuments; the outlawing of public and private worship and religious education; the forced abjurement of priests of their vows and forced marriages of the clergy; the word "saint" being removed from street names; and the War in the Vendée. The enactment of a law on 21 October 1793 made all suspected priests and all persons who harbored them liable to death on sight. The climax was reached with the celebration of the goddess "Reason" in Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 November. Because dissent was now regarded as counterrevolutionary, extremist enragés such as Hébert and moderate Montagnard indulgents such as Danton were guillotined in the Spring of 1794. On 7 June Robespierre, who favoured deism over Hébert's atheism and had previously condemned the Cult of Reason, advocated a new state religion and recommended that the Convention acknowledge the existence of God. On the next day, the worship of the deistic Supreme Being was inaugurated as an official aspect of the Revolution. Compared with Hébert's somewhat popular festivals, this austere new religion of Virtue was received with signs of hostility by the Parisian public.

(Wikipedia, "Reign of Terror")

This was the lunacy that Lavoisier (a real man of reason) found himself tragically caught up in. It is estimated that some 70-72% of the victims were from the peasant working class, while 8% were nobles, 6% clergy, and 14% bourgeoisie (how ironic, huh?). There can be no anti-Catholic revolution without extreme hypocrisy involved (the butcher Henry VIII's so-called "reformation" in England being the most obvious precedent). Here is how the great man of science was treated by the "enlightened" ones:
One of twenty-eight French tax collectors and a powerful figure in the deeply unpopular Ferme Générale, Lavoisier was branded a traitor during the Reign of Terror by French Revolutionists in 1794. Lavoisier had also intervened on behalf of a number of foreign-born scientists including mathematician Joseph Louis Lagrange, granting them exception to a mandate stripping all foreigners of possessions and freedom. . . . 
An appeal to spare his life so that he could continue his experiments was cut short by the judge . . . 
Lavoisier's importance to science was expressed by Lagrange who lamented the beheading by saying: "Cela leur a pris seulement un instant pour lui couper la tête, mais la France pourrait ne pas en produire une autre pareille en un siècle." ("It took them only an instant to cut off his head, but France may not produce another such head in a century.") 
One and a half years following his death [on 8 May 1794], Lavoisier was exonerated by the French government. When his private belongings were delivered to his widow, a brief note was included reading "To the widow of Lavoisier, who was falsely convicted." 
(Wikipedia, "Antoine Lavoisier")

The judge was Jean-Baptiste Coffinhal, who met his own death in the same fashion just three months later (on 6 August 1794). This seems to have been the end of so many of these fanatics, including Robespierre (28 July 1794) and Danton (5 April 1794). He who lives by the sword will die by the sword (someone said). Lavoisier had refused poison in prison, saying:

I set no more value on life than you do; and why seek death before its time? It will have no shame for us. Our true judges are neither the tribunal that will condemn us nor the populace that will insult us. We are stricken down by the plague that is ravaging France." [source]

Biographer Arthur Donovan observed:

Two centuries of additional investigation have still not turned up any evidence that Lavoisier was guilty of misconduct in the discharge of his many public duties.

(Antoine Lavoisier: Science, Administration, and Revolution [Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996], p. 296)

Philippe-Frédéric de Dietrich, fellow chemist, metallurgist, and associate member of the Academy of Science, was also killed in the Terror, on 19 November 1793. The famous French philosopher and mathematician Nicolas de Condorcet died in an "Enlightenment" prison under mysterious circumstances, on 28 March 1794. Jean Baptiste Gaspard Bochart de Saron, an astronomer and mathematician, fell prey to the terror on 20 April 1794. Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, a botanist and statesman, met his end in the usual fashion, on 23 April 1794.

Félix Vicq d'Azyr, a French physician and anatomist, originator of comparative anatomy and discoverer of the theory of homology in biology, died on 20 June 1794. His death may have had some relation to the Terror as well.

1793-1794 was a real banner period for French science and learning.