Men of Faith, Men of Science and Medicine, Catholic Pioneers / Atlantis?

June 13 was the birthday of Jerome Lejeune (1926-1995), devout Catholic and geneticist who discovered the cause of Down Syndrome. On her blog yesterday, Rebecca Taylor posted her father’s recollections of the time he spent with Dr. Lejeune in 1978, and they were quite a tribute to this dedicated and brilliant man. You can read the tribute here.

Coincidentally, yesterday I was looking up information on the lost continent of Atlantis with the intention of posting whatever was credible regarding the existence of the continent and, quite by accident, I came across a listing on Wikipdeia of about 220 Catholic clerics who made tremendous contributions to every science, especially medicine. What led me there was a reference to a genius of many fields, Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit German priest, who lived between 1602-1680. He published Mundus Subterraneus, a book containing a map of Atlantis, which was based on ancient Egyptian maps. Not every one on the clerics’ list is praiseworthy (Teilhard de Chardin, Roger Bacon, and William of Occham, for example) but the others, as far as I know, are. This list was only of Catholic clerics. Noteworthy — not that I count this to the “credit” of the Jesuits of the past — but thirty-five craters of the moon are named after Jesuit astronomers, one of them even discovered the moons of Jupiter. When it comes to Catholic laymen who were pioneers in their respective scientific and medicinal fields they number in the hundreds. Check out Eleonore Villarrubia’s book review on our website of The Catholic Origins of Just About Everything, by Michael Foley, for a taste of what I mean.

Oh, yes, what about Atlantis? There was quite a bit of evidence favoring the historical reality of Atlantis, which was commonly thought to have been located — but, of course — in the Altantic Ocean between Africa and South America. I had known that Plato wrote about Atlantis in his Timeaus, but I did not know that two of the Church fathers (Tertullian and Arnobius) also mentioned its existence. So, too, did Philo, a Jewish philosopher of the first century who described the continent’s destruction in his work On the Eternity of the World. Plato wrote (360 B.C.) that he found the continent so situated in the mid-Atlantic on an ancient Egyptian map. A number of post Christian writers who tried to prove the existence of Atlantis identify the cataclysm which destroyed it with the universal flood, which, for those of us who believe the chronological dating, as well as the historicity, of the Bible, occurred around 3000 B.C.

After reading up on this subject I decided it was well out of my expertise, being merely a curious divergence. However, there was one fact that intrigued me. Scientist now know that the continent of Antartica once was home to a tropical climate. It is proven by the fossil record, well-preserved beneath the ice. In a documentary I saw on television about twenty years ago, I remember the host showing a picture of Antarctica’s land mass taken by satellite with infrared thermal imagery, if that is the correct terminology to explain the picture. Juxtaposing that photo onto an ancient cartographer’s drawing of the continent of Atlantis, which was copied from an even more ancient Egyptian map, the host demonstrated that Atlantis and Antarctica were a match. The explanation, however, how Atlantis ended up at the south pole in a seismic continental shelf shift was a self-serving stretch of the imagination. Since there is nothing in holy scripture about the “lost continent” or its inhabitants “Atlantaeans” we can only leave the plausibility of the continental shift theory to geologists.

I had to let it go. There is so much information on the internet, containing so many facts and theories about Atlantis, that if I pursued this subject I’d be wasting a lot of time and whomever else’s whose curiosity I perked.

By the way, if you want to know exactly what a knuckle ball is, and teach your son how to throw one, don’t listen to Tim Wakefield. Not until he retires and writes a book. Go Red Sox!