Curious Presbyterian has a charming story, which I reproduce below.
A story is told of a young businessman sharing a compartment on a train with an elderly gentleman. When he noticed that the old fellow was quietly and intently praying with his rosary, the young man chided him for his ‘superstition’ and told him that science had rendered the beliefs of religion irrelevant.
“How did you come to discover that?” the old gentleman asked.
His companion didn’t really know how to answer the question fully right then and there, so he offered to send him a few texts and public lecture notes on the subject for his enlightenment. “What’s your address?’ he asked, “I’ll send you the material via the Post Office.” The old man rummaged in his coat pocket and produced a tattered business card that read, Louis Pasteur, Paris Institute of Scientific Research.
Louis Pasteur was the 19th century giant of microbiology who proved the germ-theory of disease and invented the rabies vaccine. His humility certainly didn’t hinder his greatness and his commitment to science did not preclude his belief in God.
I hope this is true. It is a very nice story.
I don’t want to be a party-pooper, and I would very much like to believe this story. But before I give my assent, I would like to know that it is actually true. I have grown into the habit of questioning things which I find convenient, in case they are “too good to be true.” And the story comes with no reference, which should always make us wary. I wonder what a search would find…
The story comes, so Curious Presbyterian tells us, to him from Father Tim Moyle, who uses it as an introduction to an excellent article here. There can be no question but that both repeat it in good faith. But … is it true? How do we know? It does not take long to find an atheist site which claims Pasteur as an atheist.
This link takes us to a preview of Maurice Crosland, Science Under Control: The French Academy of Sciences 1795-1914, p.199 which identifies Pasteur as a Catholic, and references an anti-atheist position to Pasteur, Oeuvres, vol. 6, part 1, pp.56-7, in a discussion of fermentation at the academy of medicine, and another as Correspondance, vol.2, p.151, 154.
I have no more time to search now, but I think we must be wary.