Protestant churches seem to be exceptionally afraid and bitter toward science whereas the Catholic church takes a relatively enlightened view of it; almost reminiscent of Stephen J. Gould’s non-overlapping magesteria.
Conservative Protestant churches tend to take that attitude, though the liberal churches are more likely to follow something like the Catholic line.
What is your theory on why the Catholic church is able to address and deal with science in a more educated manner than their Protestant cohorts?
The Catholic Church has always recognised that there are valid non-Biblical sources of knowledge: tradition and so forth. Conservative Protestants seem to be stuck in sola scriptura. When the Catholic Church finds a discrepancy between science and the Bible, she is inclined to allow the science (or other external knowledge) to influence her interpretation of the Bible. This lesson was learned a long time ago, from the time of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas:“In discussing questions of this kind two rules are to be observed, as Augustine teaches. The first is, to hold to the truth of Scripture without wavering. The second is that since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular explanation only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it be proved with certainty to be false, lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing.”
The classic example of where the Church got it wrong is Galileo. The church may not be perfect, but it generally learns from its mistakes. It has certainly learned from this one.
For a conservative Protestant there is no tradition of using outside sources to interpret the Bible. Hence when their interpretation of the Bible says that the earth is 6.000 years old and science says that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, they are in a dilemma. Some resolve it by ignoring the parts of science they disagree with, others resolve it by taking a different interpretation of the Bible. It is the first type that are most noticeable because they make the most noise. A classic example of their attitude to science is from Answers in Genesis:D 6. No apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.
Source: AiG Statement of Faith
In effect, this says that if any scientific result disagrees with their interpretation of the Bible then the science must be invalid.
In the long term this is not a good position to take because when it comes to material things science will normally win out in the long term.
Perhaps it is because the Catholic Church has learned different lessons from its history, while the Protestant churches have not had the same history to learn from.