Column |  Religion + Science = Art + Chemistry

Column | Religion + Science = Art + Chemistry

Scientists are moving creatures, just look at this fossil on display at the Catharijneconvent exhibition in Utrecht. It looks like a baby, and in 1726 a physicist decided that this was a victim of the biblical flood. In other words; This was an original witness to divine intervention. But… he overlooked the front legs. This wasn't a person, it was a giant salamander. Does this make the fossil less valuable? I do not find. It gave rise to great imagination (flood, man, God) and became a work of art in itself. I found art This brings to mind how people thought, hoped and believed three centuries ago.

Salamanders can be seen in the exhibit Creating science, where I eavesdrop on different duos of men trying to outdo each other with highly acquired knowledge. They already know everything, and I'm looking for the sum: science + religion = art. I see science explored with passion, and I see the church struggling with equal passion. They both end up in the arts. A 13th-century monk painted beautiful miniatures of Creation in seven days. A 16th century astronomer created an amazing astrolabe.

I see rooms focused on the universe, medical science, nature study, and paleontology. But where is the alchemy? Alchemists are artists of the church and science. Free thinkers who follow their imagination, search for answers about the making of gold, about the harmony of the universe, about the pure spirit.

“Flood Man” – giant salamander fossil.
Tyler Picture Museum

But whoever makes gold thinks he is God, and the universe and the soul also belong to God. The magic that the alchemist claims with dreams of the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life is reserved for God. He could do miracles, but not her. The Pope realized that the goal was to reveal the works of God. He banned alchemy in 1317.

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Three hundred years later, in 1632, the Vatican banned Galileo Galilei's research on the heretical belief that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo had no interest in the Church's fear of discoveries that would undermine the Bible and the faith. He completed. This exhibition includes a first edition of the book that resulted from his study. Banned by the Vatican, published in Leiden.

There is no trace of alchemists here. This is a shame, because they also did not allow themselves to be stopped by the Church, but they also chose their imagination. They were in the cradle of pharmacy and chemistry, with impressive bycatch, from gunpowder to phosphorus, and from ceramics to the development of stills. I know unsolicited advice is annoying. However, it must be done: PSST, Catharijneconvent, consider holding an exhibition for the future on the dangerous interrelations between chemistry and the Church. How wonderful that would be.

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