Did Christianity (and other religions) promote the rise of science?

Of course most of you will answer “No way!”, and I do, too, but accommodationists and science-friendly believers make this argument often. Here are a few specimens:

“. . . the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships.”—Paul Davies, “Taking Science on Faith“, New York Times.

“Moral laws are promulgated by God for free creatures, who have it in their power to obey or disobey. The laws of nature, on the other hand, are promulgated for the inanimate world of matter; physical objects don’t get to decide to obey, say, Newton’s law of gravity. In each case, however, we have the setting forth or promulgation of divine rule for a certain domain of application. It is important to see that our notion of the laws of nature, crucial for contemporary science, has this origin in Christian theism.”  —Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies, p. 276

“Indeed, a distinctive feature of the Scientific Revolution is that, unlike other scientific programmes and cultures, it is driven, often explicitly, by religious considerations: Christianity set the agenda for natural philosophy in many respects and projected it forward in a way quite different from that of any scientific culture. Moreover, when the standing of religion as a source of knowledge about the world, and cognitive values generally, came to be threatened, it was not science that posed the threat but history.” —S. Graukoger, The Emergence of a Modern Scientific Culture, p. 3

“faith in the possibility of science, generated antecdently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology.” —Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p. 19.

“Recent scholarship, most of it conducted by secular academics, has established that religious belief was entirely compatible with scientific progress, even encouraging it in many cases.”—K. Giberson and F. Collins, The Language of Science and Faith

Inevitably accompanying these claims is the assertion that because many early scientists (e.g., Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, and Maxwell) were Christians, Christianity must claim some credit for science. Other faiths too take credit; it’s common for accommodationist Muslims to point out that the real scientific achievements of Islam, coupled with bogus exegesis of the Qur’an, show that Islam was important in encouraging science.

The claims are diverse, but all give religion—especially Christianity—credit for science.  Religion is said to either encourage thinking (read Aquinas), impel people to do science as a way of unravelling God’s plan, lead to the idea of scientific laws (viz. Davies and Plantinga, above), or “encourage” science in some nebulous ways (this “encouragement” often seems to mean only “did not impede science.”)

Now these claims are bogus, but if you read various histories of science, you’ll see conflict on this issue.  I’ll put my own objections below, but you should also read Richard Carrier’s 2010 article, “Christianity was not responsible for modern science.” Pp. 396-419 in J. W. Loftus, ed. The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails. Prometheus Books (that’s a book well worth reading, by the way.)

Here are some of my responses to the “science came from Christianity” canard

1. Even were it true, it doesn’t in any way support the truth claims of Christianity or any other religion.

2. Christianity was around for a millennium without much science being done; “modern” science really started as a going concern in the 17th century. Why did that take so long if Christianity was so important in fostering science?

3. If you think of science as rational and empirical investigation of the natural world, it originated not with Christianity but with the ancient Greeks, and was also promulgated for a while by Islam.

3. Carrier makes the point that there was no scientific revolution in the eastern half of the Christian world. Why was that?

4. Another Carrier point: geometry was invented by polytheists (ancient Greeks); do we give polytheism credit for geometry, then?

5. Religion has of course also repressed the search for knowledge. Not only do we have the cases of Galileo and Bruno, but also the active discouragement of the use of reason by many church fathers, especially Martin Luther, who made statements like this: “Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.” And freethinkers like Spinoza were regularly persecuted by religion (Judaism in his case.)

6. There was and still is, of course, opposition to science by Christians. The greatest opponent of biology’s greatest theory—evolution—has always been Christianity.

7. If religion promulgated the search for knowledge, it also gave rise to erroneous, revelation-based “scientific” conclusions that surely impeded progress. Those include creation ex nihilo, the Great Flood, a geocentric universe, and so on.

8.  Early scientists were Christians, at least in the west, because everyone was a Christian then.  You would have been an apostate, or burnt at the stake, had you denied that faith.  If you’re going to give Christianity credit for science, you have to give it credit for nearly everything, including art, architecture, music, and so on.

9.  Islam began as a science-supportive regime, but lost its impetus when the faith around the 16th century when religious authorities began repressing a “western” mode of inquiry. This anti-Western attitude may explain the minimal achievements of science in modern Islamic nations.

10. At present nearly half of science are atheists, and the argument that religion motivates science can no longer stand. The major achievements of science, including relativity, evolution, and modern molecular biology, were achieved by non-theists. Indeed, Jim Watson told me that his and Crick’s drive to find the structure of DNA was largely motivated by a desire to show that the “secret of life”—the replicating molecule that serves as a recipe for bodies—was pure chemistry, with not a trace of the divine in it.

11. All progress in science, whether ancient or modern, came from ignoring or rejecting the idea of divine intervention. Even if theories were inspired by thoughts of God, they were substantiated or disproven by tacitly assuming a godless universe—that is, by employing methodological naturalism. Religion has only impeded that kind of investigation and, in fact, has never come up with a theory on its own that had scientific credibility.  Newton, for instance, couldn’t explain regular planetary motion, and had to invoke divine intervention (so much for God helping science!) until Laplace came along and showed that orbital irregularities could be explained in a purely naturalistic way. (As Laplace supposedly replied to Napoleon, who had read Kepler’s book on celestial mechanics and inquired about the absence of God in that tome, “I have no need of that hypothesis.”)

And of course there’s a contradiction, too: if religion and science are separate magisteria, as Gould maintained, then the are completely separate and can only harm each other by overstepping their bounds.  But if you claim that religion inspired scientific theories and scientific progress, that’s a NOMA boundary violation.

In the end, it’s a useless argument, for there is no rapprochement between the religious and nonreligious historians of science. I’m willing to grant that some scientists were prompted by their faith to study nature. But what we do know is that all the achievements of both ancient and modern science have been made by explicitly rejecting the theistic view that God has a hand in the universe, and that religion, if it ever did inspire scientific research, doesn’t do so any longer.  I maintain, though I can’t prove this, that had there been no Christianity, if after the fall of Rome atheism had pervaded the Western world, science would have developed earlier and be far more advanced than it is now. All religion has done was inspire a few famous scientists to do their work. Its inimical effects on science were far more serious.

I know many of my readers know far more than I about the history of science and its interaction with religion. Do weigh in below with your opinions.

254 Comments

  1. Don Strong
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Jerry:
    Get deeper into this literature,
    The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West [Paperback]
    Toby E. Huff
    Don

    • Posted October 20, 2013 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      I read that over the last three days. Its main thesis is that social “corporations” like universities were the main impetus for the rise of science, which Huff claims really began in the 12th and 13th centuries. He also argues that religion was an impediment to scientific advance.

  2. Don Strong
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Here’s another one fer ya,

    Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (New in Paper) Paperback
    by Steven Shapin

    • Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget co-author Simon Shaffer – always a good contributor to popular programmes on the history of science.

    • Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Warning: Discredited postmodernism subjectivism alert!

      • Kurt Helf
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        +1

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        Oh, so that’s why Don Strong only gave references, not the ideas they purportedly point to: there aren’t any. =D

  3. Marcus
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Jerry,

    Where did the Laws of Logic stem from? Are these a human-invention or did the universe just “birth” these non-material truths by accident like the laws of gravity and motion?

    • Greg Esres
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      “did the universe just “birth” these non-material truths by accident like the laws of gravity and motion?”

      Yes.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      The laws of logic are necessarily true because they describe an analytical system with no ambiguities and eventually reduce to tautologies. Of course, it took humans to formulate them verbally — and when we apply them to an ambiguous world we can make mistakes.

      • Marcus
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

        Sastra,

        Is your statement “necessarily true”?

        • Sastra
          Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

          My complex “statement” can be reduced down to A = A: a thing is, what it is. And yes, that is necessarily true. Tautologies are necessarily true.

          Problems come about when we aren’t sure about what a thing is.

          (If you are going to argue against the acceptance of the laws of logic in general, though, be sure you don’t accidentally use any of them, since you’re putting them under dispute.)

          • Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

            Even simpler: anybody who rejects logic is, by definition, illogical, and may be summarily dismissed as such without further consideration.

            There’re lots of reasons why “illogical” and “irrational” and the like are derogatory labels, and those reasons are overwhelmingly familiar to those who embrace reason. There’s no need to dignify those who brag about their love of fantasy over reality with the pretense of taking the seriously.

            b&

          • paulwrightnoctua
            Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

            If you are going to argue against the acceptance of the laws of logic in general, though, be sure you don’t accidentally use any of them, since you’re putting them under dispute.

            Marcus isn’t going to argue against them, he’s going to argue that *you* don’t have warrant to use them, because he thinks they can only exist if God exists (not just any God either, but the Christian God, if my experience of people that start their apologetic the way he just did is anything to go by) and you don’t think God does exist (at least, I assume so from your icon). He presumably does think that such a god exists, so by his lights, he’s fine.

            • Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

              And, you know what?

              Philosophically, he’s on perfectly solid ground. Empirically, of course, he’s trying to walk on quicksand.

              Yet another reason why I consider philosophy to be atheistic theology. Both are nothing but long-winded opaque arguments from authority and tradition, even if they eventually gave birth to more useful fields.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

                As long as they are not atheist theology, which is simply Ø (an empty set).

              • Boris Molotov
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

                Hear, hear

              • Diane G.
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

                Brilliant.

              • Vaal
                Posted October 19, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

                “Philosophically, he’s on perfectly solid ground. “

                No he’s not on solid ground.

                But you can’t show why he’s not on solid ground by presuming science as a standard, otherwise you are begging the question (providing bad reasons for your position).

                This is one reason why philosophy, at least the species concerned with examining assumptions and arguments, is a useful thing.

                Vaal

              • Posted October 19, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

                Again again, using empirical observations to determine the utility of empiricism is entirely justified and not at all fallacious in any sense.

                If you disagree, you’re welcome to make your own empirical observations, such as with the proverbial long walk off a short pier.

                It’s only the philosophers who’re so disconnected from reality that they think that there’s something horridly dirty about actually observing it.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Vaal
                Posted October 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

                But Ben…

                You said that Marcus is on philosophically solid ground in arguing that if logic exists God must exist.

                Since examining the basis and soundness of arguments is part of philosophy, you’ve just conceded that he has a sound argument and that therefore your accepting of logic entails implicitly that God exists.

                Surely you don’t really want to grant this as sound reasoning, right?

                After all, you can’t use “empiricism” without the aid of logic. You assume it in empiricism. And in doing so you’ve offered no rebuttal at all to Marcus’ argument.

                There are perfectly fine responses to Marcus’ argument, e.g. similar to the problem with positing God as a necessary foundation for morality: for us to make sense of a God using logic, He’d have to necessarily take on the very traits we find in ourselves, making God a gratuitous entity, shaved away by parsimony.

                And you’ve actually already presented one argument against Marcus that is not strictly empirical but is a priori:

                “Even simpler: anybody who rejects logic is, by definition, illogical, and may be summarily dismissed as such without further consideration. ”

                This is simply looking at “what we mean by X” and looking to see if we are being consistent. Standard philosophy.
                But it’s not “scientific” or “doing empiricism.” You are doing philosophy; analyzing the structure and assumptions in your opponents view.

                It seems you are happy to slip into philosophy when handy, to show the assumptions of someone else to be ill founded, contradictory or inconsistent, but recoil at the idea of turning this type of inquiry into your own view. “That’s doing philosophy. Yuck. That’s dumb.”

                Vaal

              • Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

                Vaal, when I observed that Marcus is on philosophically sound ground, I thought it was obvious that I was simultaneously observing that philosophical ground is itself unsound. I wasn’t elevating his arguments to the level of philosophy; I was observing that philosophy and theology are two sides of the same bullshit coin.

                And using logic is no more “doing philosophy” than traveling to the Grand Canyon to photograph an eclipse is “doing astrology.” Sure, astrology gave birth to astronomy, but astrology itself is trapped in the bad old pre-empirical days. Same thing with philosophy and logic.

                The dividing line between reality and woo is crystal clear: empiricism. Those who fail to embrace empiricism are, empirically, universally pedaling some form of woo. And not only is philosophy happy to build towering sky-castles free from the burdens of empirical observation, the woo that philosophers peddle from those castles is some of the most heady woo there is.

                It should also be obvious, though it probably isn’t, that there are philosophers who, from time to time, get their hands dirty with empiricism and actually do useful stuff. But the same could be said of alchemists, too — and even chiropractors. Such examples no more validate the woo or the woo fields than Newton’s Arianism validates Christianity.

                Cheers,

                b&

      • Posted October 19, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

        Seems to me the “laws” of logic were originally the result of the human mind trying to model structures that we can observe in nature.

        • Sastra
          Posted October 19, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

          Yes, and looking for what fits into defined (and thus ‘necessary’) regularities. It all depends on whether we’re talking about the “laws” … or what the laws are describing.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      I wish we could refrain from talking about ‘laws of nature’ because too many people assume that ‘laws’ flow from a ‘law giver’.

      As far as we can tell ‘laws’ are merely ‘observed regularities’. It would be a stretch to claim a god as a ‘regulator’ – most religious dogma asserts that god is the biggest special boss, not a ubiquitous caretaker.

      • Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        Or better, they are the regularities. Nothing “more” than that. Unfortunately the name is stuck. And is sometimes also used for the reconstruction in thought: law statements are a better (though not optimal) version for this meaning.

      • foggybottom
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        Or ‘observations interpreted as regularities, so far’

    • paulwrightnoctua
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Oh goody, presuppositionalism.

      Do you think it is a law that God cannot change his own nature? What accounts for this law?

      • gbjames
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

        I don’t know. Do you think that the Lord Voldemort can change his own nature?

        • Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

          I don’t see why not. Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader switched back and forth between the Dark Meat and the White Meat at least a few times, so why not Voldemort?

          b&

        • Paul Wright
          Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

          Well, I don’t think either of them can, given that neither of them exist. But Marcus probably disagrees.

          • gbjames
            Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

            Precisely. Which is why your question to Marcus makes little sense.

            • Posted October 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

              No, I can show someone else’s view is incoherent without myself believing in the stuff they believe in, in effect saying “if what you say is true, look what follows” (look up reductio ad absurdum). Here, I’m assuming Marcus is a theist of a particular sort, hence my question to him.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

          Not without “divine intervention” ; in his case,from JK Rowling.

    • eric
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      There are many systems of logic, and some are contradictory.

      Once one realizes that, it becomes apparent that logics are pretty much just another example of an hypothesis becoming a theory. We invent many hypotheses, and keep the ones that seem to work the best.

      The match of logic to the world is exactly what we would expect to see after several thousands of years of logical system trial and error. No miracle needed. Now, that match might appear surprising to someone who was ignorant of the existence of multiple logics. But thankfully, neither you nor I are one of those ignorami, are we?

      • foggybottom
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        Ignoramuses, I think. But, then, we do not know.

    • moarscienceplz
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      “The Laws of Logic” as humans understand them are simply a result of our innate pattern-recognizing abilities, as all natural laws are. We are good at recognizing patterns because such an ability is necessary to our survival. The fact that the universe contains patterns that we can recognize is simply the weak Anthropic Principle. If the universe were not largely predictable and recognizable we could not exist in it.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      “did the universe just “birth” these non-material truths by accident”.

      Yes. We now know that, from cosmology.

      – Structure formation is seeded by quantum fluctuations in the inflaton field.

      Only that way could the system observed in the cosmic microwave background result in the observed acoustic peaks. Density and velocity fluctuations in the particles were released by the potential energy of the gravity fluctuations as spacetime smoothed again.

      – The local spacetime is seeded by quantum fluctuations in spacetime as it traverses the inflaton potential. Baring new physics this process results in multiverses with different local laws (say, slightly different curvature).

      If these universes have no life, they have no life recording “laws”. If they have life, they will invent useful (most likely) “laws”.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        Short, corrected version:

        The universe, and all its structure, is solely originated in quantum fluctuations.

        And as eric notes, logic is then a set of more or less useful, conflicting inventions that eventual life _may_ (not “will”) do.

    • Sines
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      The Laws of Logic are necessarily true.

      How do I know this? Well, put simply, they can be either necessarily true, or not necessarily true.

      If they are not necessarily true, I merely need wait for a time when the laws of logic do not apply, then tango walrus mazeltoff, therefore the laws of logic have always been necessarily true.

      For a more serious take, let us assume that at some point the laws of logic did not exist. At this point, A could equal not A. Therefore, the laws of logic could both exist and not exist. Therefore the laws of logic exist. No matter how much they don’t exist, that doesn’t stop them from existing.

      • Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        As you demonstrate, the “What if there wasn’t any logic?” question is as incoherent as the “What if there wasn’t anything at all / What is ‘nothing’? / What was there before there was something?” line of questions. It makes as much sense as asking what’s north of the North Pole. The “nothing” that philosophers like to struggle with so mightily is really “nothing” more than a married bachelor.

        Once one can let go of the childishly Platonic notion that anything you can think of must have an actual counterpart in the real world, these problems suddenly aren’t nearly so vexing.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Sines
          Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

          Now, I fail to see how ‘true’ nothing is a nonsensical concept. Obviously, it doesn’t exist, as “I think, therefore I am” is sufficient to dispell it, but I don’t see why it couldn’t exist.

          No matter, no energy, no spirits, no space, no time, etc…

          There could not be a time before time, therefore time always existed. But what was to prevent existence from being 100% empty in the first place? Such a universe could truly generate nothing, but the fact that it never existed doesn’t make it an incoherent concept.

          • Posted October 19, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

            The empty set is still a set.

            b&

      • Posted October 21, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

        Which logical laws are necessarily true? What sort of necessity is being appealled to here? Keep in mind there are logical systems “modifying” every single one of the laws of (say) clasical propositional logic. Yes, Virginia, there really are non-adjunctive logics.

  4. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    sub

  5. gbjames
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    sub

  6. Don Strong
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Here’s another one for your project,
    Hitchens recommended it highly,

    The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain [Paperback]
    Maria Rosa Menocal (Author)

    • hankstar
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Are you going to venture an opinion or just continue to spam book titles?

  7. rodgerma
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I wish god would have given gravity free will.

    Nonsense of course, but just imagine for a second or two….

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      You can get “mods” for many “first person shooter” games that change the “Physics engine” so the player can vicariousl experience such things. As game / virtual reality technology improves, I predict accidental and or malicious deaths due to such changes, and probably not far in the future. Human beings having such susceptibility to visual cues, it is conceivable to attempt murder by heart attack by such a route.

    • Sines
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      Ironically, gravity is the closest I get to feelings of animism. When I knock over a drink, for example, especially if it falls on something particularly prone to damage from liquids, I get angry. At gravity.

      Honest to goodness, I am really pissed off at gravity, on a personal level. I feel it has wronged me, and that I want to punch it in whatever functions as it’s face.

      Now, as a reasonable man, I ignore these feelings, acknowledge that it was probably my fault to put the drink there anyway, and clean it up. I can’t stop being angry, but I can acknowledge my emotions are not a good guide in this case.

      Alternatively, I could be Plantinga, and assume this is my Sensus Gravitas and that Gravity is an actual malevolent intelligence out to get me.

  8. Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    As usual, Betteridge strikes again.

    Cheers,

    b&

  9. John Laughlin
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Jerry, on number 5 in your list: did you mean “science” or “religion”?

  10. moleatthecounter
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    11. “I have no need of that hypothesis.”

    Was it not Laplace’s own book that prompted Napoleon to ask the ‘god’ question?

    • John Blase
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      There is a very informative discussion of the encounter between Napoleon and Laplace on Wikipedia at the following link:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laplace

      To me the explanation by Hawking noted in this reference makes the most sense. Apparently even at the time of Laplace’s death there was some uncertainty as to the exact nature of the encounter. I have read elsewhere that Napoleon did indeed like putting people “on the spot” with embarrassing or insensitive questions just to see how they would react. This is also mentioned along with a couple of anecdotes in the Wikipedia piece.

  11. Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I often wonder whether the debate is a little problematic at the outset. You did raise all this in your comments, but I will repeat in my way. For a start, many early scientists themselves were quite religious and in many ways (not all Christian, Catholic, Protestant and so on). But maybe you are referring to those in official church or religious positions – those who could (and did) assign resources as well as policing dogma. And even here I understand that there was quite a mixture. Charles Taylor puts it well at the start of his first chapter in “A Secular Age”. “Why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable?” The shift didn’t happen overnight so I expect the generalisations you quote from apologists are as bad as generalising the other way. To me, whether science or scientist have been or are Christian (or other religious affiliation) is beside the point in terms of whether science itself does or does not support religion or visa versa. But what to me is clear, the shift mentioned by Taylor by large part has been possible because of science (and associated social changes that allow us to be atheists without punishment) and even fundamentalist Christians I know who may be motivated by their faith to do science certainly don’t bring religion into their work and their work really doesn’t say anything to their religion thus making science completely atheistic (without god).

  12. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    You’ve made all the points (and more) that I would, especially the part about scientists being Christian in the 17thC etc. as everyone else was as well. Those same scientists were probably misogynists by today’s standards as well – does that mean that misogyny is good for science too?

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      They probably had long hair and beards and didn’t bathe as well …

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        Well, that could lead to chemistry to invent something to match the stench. :)

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 21, 2013 at 2:12 am | Permalink

          According to the Madison Avenue geniuses who penned the mid-80s tag-line for Massengill, half the population was busy obsessing over that “not so fresh feeling … “

    • Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Given the gender distributions in many STEM fields, one may well think that that’s the conclusion that has been drawn….

      b&

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 21, 2013 at 2:20 am | Permalink

        Sounds like the comment that fell out of Larry Summers’ mouth while he was changing feet during his last economic conference at Harvard.

    • Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Appallingly, this argument has actually been made – in reverse – by Sandra Harding and others. These unfortunate folks claim (or did, iniitally) that the initial misogyny vitates science as a whole and that it ought to be replaced.

    • Thanny
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      No, but clearly being a man is. All the major scientific achievements over the past 400 years or so have been made by men. Clearly that means that Y chromosomes promoted the rise of science.

      It would, of course, be ludicrous to suggest that the correlation is due in any part to the fact that virtually all scientists were men.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      (I don’t like this mobile interface ; hard to quote,or navigate. So I’ll be abrupt.)
      [17C scientists] all the people WHO THEY KNEW were Xtians (+/~/-) ;
      As for misogynists, I refer the honourable lady (in name, at least) to the oft-repeated Johnsonism concerning dancing dogs and female preachers.

  13. NewEnglandBob
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    II love reading quotes from Plantinga. They are always so wrong and childish.

    Science existed on the Ancient world with the Egyptians and especially the Greeks. Christianity suppressed science for 1600 years in Europe and Islam suppressed science for the last 100 years in the Middle East.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      1000, not 100.

      • lkr
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        Split the difference for Islam — maybe first 500 years of off and on allowance of natural science, last 500 out and out suppression.

    • Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      Can I get a shout-out for Democritus? Atomic theory, the vacuum, accurate measurements of the geometry of the Earth – Moon – Sun system?

      If Democritus, rather than Plato, had been the most influential ancient philosopher, we likely would have reached our current level of understanding of the universe a millennium ago.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        The presocratics were pretty awesome.

      • eric
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Or how about the Chinese? Imagine what Plantinga would say if you proposed to him that Confucianism was necessary for the invention of compasses and gunpowder.

        • Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

          …or the Egyptians and beer….

          b&

          • JBlilie
            Posted October 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

            Yay gypsies!

        • Posted October 21, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

          That’s not science but it’s technology. It’s actually technology that the West put to good used and the Chinese, didn’t.

          • Posted October 21, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

            Don’t know ’bout you, but I think making pretty lights in the sky is a much better use of gunpowder than killing people.

            b&

            • Posted October 22, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

              Not if the people you are trying to steal from you, rape your wife, mom, and daughters, and trying to kill and enslave you and everyone you care about.

              Also, your naive comment only addresses one of the technologies. It didn’t address technology in general or any of the other specific technologies. Nice, attempt a straw man. Making the argument about one particular technology instead of technology in general.

              • Posted October 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

                I’m so sorry that you live in such desperate fear that you think that the only reason people don’t seal your possessions, especially including your women, is that you have big scary noisy guns to keep them away.

                Most of the rest of the world has evolved past that, and realizes that the truly best way to not have bad things done unto you is to not do bad things unto others, and to band together to deal with the occasional sociopath who doesn’t get this very simple-to-understand principle. Strength comes from numbers, not from guns, as history has repeatedly demonstrated. Dr. King had no guns, only numbers; his oppressors had all the guns. The US has multiple nuclear arsenals, each capable of incomprehensible devastation, and yet we’ve had our asses handed to us in most of the military campaigns we’ve engaged in since we developed those weapons — and the worst defeats have come from “enemies” with the least sophisticated weapons. Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea….

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted October 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

                So, you’re saying we lost Vietnam because we had nuclear weapons? I’d argue it was because we didn’t have the will to win and Giap did. “Asses handed to us” is pretty hyperbolic don’t you think? Afganistan isn’t over, we met most of our objectives, and Vietnam was very close to being a victory for us. Most wars through out history don’t end in one side totally conquering the other. And, yes. I believe if we totatlly disarmed, today that Mexican drug cartails or someone else, would probably take over. Military vacuums have always been filled up, through out history. Some small countries can survive with no military becasue their are bigger coutntries protecting them. What do you think is keeping Arab countries from pushing all the Jews out of Israel? I propose it is the IDF. Do you think it is something different? Besides, we are not talking about, today. My contention was that using gunpowder for self defense is of better use than a light show. We still have technology for a light show. What would you rather have, just one technology or both?

              • Posted October 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

                So, youre saying we lost Vietnam because we had nuclear weapons?

                Obviously not. My point is that even nuclear weapons weren’t enough for us to win in Vietnam.

                And my new point would be that it’s pretty obvious that you’re arguing in bad faith, constructing hyperbolic strawmen from my words.

                My contention was that using gunpowder for self defense is of better use than a light show.

                If you think that any of the American wars since WWII have been acts of self defense, I’ve got some prime Arizona oceanfront property to sell you.

                And I really, really hope that you wouldn’t prefer lethal to non-lethal means of self defense.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted October 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

                “I’ve got some prime Arizona oceanfront property to sell you.”

                Who are you? Lex Luthor?

                /@

              • Posted October 22, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

                Curses! Foiled again!

                b&

            • gbjames
              Posted October 22, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

              I’m detecting the aroma of a commenter who has been strangely absent for a while. A new nym? Could it be?

              • Posted October 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

                Could be. Too soon to tell.

                b&

              • Posted October 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

                Re: “My point is that even nuclear weapons weren’t enough for us to win in Vietnam.”
                We didn’t even use nuclear weapons in Vietnam so how would you know? The one time we did use nuclear weapons most people would agree (I happen not to be convinced of this but, that’s for another historical discussion) help bring a quicker end to the war they were used in.
                Also, what the heck does Vietnam have to do with my contention which you tried to counter that, the West made better use of the Chinese Technologies that, you brought forth as an example of non-western “science”?
                Re: “If you think that any of the American wars since WWII have been acts of self-defense, I’ve got some prime Arizona oceanfront property to sell you.”
                What does whether or not any of our wars since World War II have been in self-defense or not has to do with the contention that the weapons technology of gunpowder is more useful that the entertainment value of gunpowder? Talk about setting up straw man arguments. I never even brought up the subject of Post-World War II wars. You did. You are the one the wants to narrow the field of historical examples to post World War II wars. By the way, gun powder was used in warfare long before World War II! It was the use of gunpowder is more useful that you were disputing. So, why do you want to limit the discussion to post World War II? Really, the article thread is a response to is about is about the era between around 1450 to 1750 with some relevant comments about the world before 1450.
                You are also arguing against a contention no one has made on this thread: that any of our wars since World War II were in self-defense. I could argue that but that has nothing to do with my original contention that the west put the technology of the Chinese to better use of which you tried to counter without about three straw man arguments so far.

  14. Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I think the whole debate is a canard, partly because of your point 1: whether Christianity (or Islam, or any religion for that matter) fostered science for some or all of its history is irrelevant both to the truth claims of science or of the religions involved. I also think that there is a no-brainer here to a certain extent: science did progress both within the Islamic world and then the Christian world, and not always in secret. Therefore, there were, at least at times, elements of those cultures that were not inimical to empirical enquiry. Some of your points (such as point 2) seem to bundle together two thousand years of Christian history into one, monolithical culture, which is quite a misrepresentation. Certain Christian cultures at certain times have promoted free enquiry, others not; your point five (which I think you mean to start with “Christianity” not “Science”) is simply cherry-picking a few famous examples of repression and projecting them to a vast array of times and cultures. Whether actual specific scientific ideas or methods of inquiry”originated” in Christianity is an impossible question to unpick, as we have no control version of history to test against, and we will always simply favour those arguments which back up our biases.
    None of this is to defend Christianity, especially not the majority of modern (especially US) varieties, which absolutely are anti-science. But existing Christian cultures and their compatibility or not with science is an entirely different debate to one of historical origins. To look at historical origins of the scientific world-view and try to locate its relationship with Christianity as a single entity on some scale from repressive through compatible to necessary is not only a canard, but it actually detracts attention from far more important questions. If we stop trying to constuct claims of some kind of inner anti-scienceness fundamental to Christianty, and if we drop this unhelpful historicist analysis, we can start to look at existing problems and fears of Christian cultures, and try to see why they lead to the wholesale rejection of science (often declared in big typed letters on Internet pages only possible through astonishing levels of scientific progress, but there you go).

    • Posted October 21, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      Brilliantly written. I especially like “as we have no control version of history to test against”.

      • Posted October 21, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        Thanks! Though I’m all for a critical stance towards the influence of religion, I always find these attempts to claim, in a historical context, that X caused Y, to be resoundingly unscientific, and a little embarrassing when wielded by scientists. No scientist worth their salt would set up an experiment with hundreds or even thousands of independent variables, many of them conflating, run the experiment once, and then proudly declare that from this they now know that variable Y stands (or does not stand) in a causal relationship to the dependent variable. Yet that is effectively what is being done by some of the claims above… Criticise religion by all means, but to pretend that you can unpick its influence from all the other myriad things going on in the last two and a half millennia is, to me, letting anti-religious zeal override your rationality. Which isn’t, really, very scientific.

        • Posted October 21, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

          The question is what does it even mean for a religion to promote science? Aside from a deity communicating the discoveries with a person, I can’t for the life of me think of how religion could possibly contribute more to scientific discovery than taste in any other type of literature.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted October 22, 2013 at 4:07 am | Permalink

            Well, I think you are making the error that (amongst others) Francis Spufford has reasonably levelled against Dawkins (and others): the presumption that to be a member of a religion is no more than to have a set of purported factual claims (derived from certain literature) to which one assents. Membership of a religion is far more of a cultural and social activity than simply saying credo in unum deum; and indeed many religious believers are uncertain about specific propositions of their religion — how many Anglicans know, care about, or even understand the arcana of whether or not the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, or the Father and the Son equally (cursed filioque heresy!). To take the case of extremist Islamic violence, to suggest that its perpetrators are inspired purely by assent to certain claims in the Qur’an concerning heaven and virgins and martyrs rather than being immersed in a subculture of anti-Western resentment, over-egged masculinity, and violence would be, it seems to me, faintly ludicrous, and insultingly simplistic of the psychology involved. Clearly there are also devout, believing Muslims, for whom the Qur’an is the literal word of God, yet who would never countenance this violence.
            To claim that the entirety of someone’s world-view and societal norms derive entirely from the “literature” of their religion is unnecessarily insulting, and also blindy fails to note that, if this was the case, then WHY have there been such divergent cultures associated with a single religion — for instance from the tolerant, enlightened, scientifically inclined (and also Islamic) culture of Andalucia to the violent, repressive, hate-filled (and also Islamic) culture of Wahhabist Saudis?
            This is not to say that I don’t think that, taken overall, religion has a negative effect on progress, but to reduce religious belief to simply assenting to a certain body of literature doesn’t help matters: indeed to a certain extent it is a counsel of despair, as it places the solution to the problem in the domain of refuting certain propositions which, by their very nature, fall outside that which can be empirically refuted (though they can certain be shown to be ludicrous and redundant!), instead of addressing wider social and cultural issues which may well be rectifiable independently of the truth claims in the various books favoured by members of that culture.

            • Posted October 22, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

              I think you miss my point, and supply evidence to make it stronger to boot.

              If what is ostensibly the same religion — Catholicism, for example — can both persecute Galileo and sponsor Lematre, of what sense does it make to claim that the religion had anything to do with their work? If Christianity was a driving force behind the rise of science, how does one explain the Amish, Christian Scientists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses? Are they not true Christians?

              Again, the only hypothetical manner in which a religion could be responsible for scientific innovation would be through the intervention of one of its deities. Lacking that, the religion is just another cultural phenomenon, a peculiar type of book club or historical reenactment society or the like whose members are more than a bit deluded about the actual nature, relevance, and significance of their favored topic. You could make a far stronger case that Star Trek has had a significant influence on the development of science than any religion in the entire course of history.

              Cheers,

              b&

  15. Max
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    What’s funny is that if you take their claims at face value regarding Newton, Galileo, Copernicus etc., Christianity has generated about one scientist every hundred or so years. That’s not exactly a statistic they should be proud of, nor one that would lead to the conclusion that Christianity is pro-science.

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Excellent point.

    • colnago80
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:22 am | Permalink

      Labeling Newton a Christian is something of a stretch as he was actually an Arian.

    • Posted October 22, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Where did you get or how did you calculate yourself that, ” Christianity has generated about one scientist every hundred or so years.” Are you basing you calculation on the false presumption that Newton, Galileo, and Copernicus were the only scientist produced by Europe between 1450 and 1750? I have a hunch there were a lot more scientist than that. They me be the most famous ones and the only ones you know about however, that does not mean there were not more. That’s tanamount to claiming that Steven Hawkings and Einstein were the only two scieintist of the 20th century.

      • Max
        Posted October 22, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        Those are the scientists who are brought up by Christians. As if naming three or four people over a period of about 1800 years proves their point that Christianity is pro-science.

        • Posted October 22, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

          But the Christians and others*did not claim these were the only Christian scientist of the era. Usually, the term “example” implies there are more. You are the one that implied they were the only Christian scientists of the error by your comment, “if you take their claims at face value regarding Newton, Galileo, Copernicus etc., and Christianity has generated about one scientist every hundred or so years.”
          Really, bringing up Christian Scientist really misses the point. The argument is not, “these scientists were Christians therefore Christianity brought forth science.” The argument is more complicated than that. The argument is that the emphasis on “logos” and the individual along with what differentiates Christianity form other World Religions (the separation between the temporal world and the spiritual world without viewing the temporal as some kind of deception keeping us from spiritual knowledge, i.e. Hinduism) brought about the intellectual frame work that made it possible for these scientists to even consider attempting to find general laws that governed the physical universe. S
          Something similar happened in Classical Greece and the Church did help preserve the legacy of Classical Greece (that would be very hard to dispute.)
          One could reasonably argue that atheism is an even better intellectual frame work for science than Christianity while acknowledging that, Christianity was a lot better than what came before it and the other world views that dominated the earth until very recently.
          Some historians believe that atheism is the end result of an intellectual/religious evolution: We started out with animism where everything is spiritual (a lot of very primitive tribes believed this), then we went to polytheism, then to mono-theism (Diest argue that Christianity was sort of a detour because the trinity can be seen as polytheistic), then to Unitarianism, then to Deism, and then finally, to Atheism. Some argue that Zen Buddhism is an alternate religious/intellectual frame work that makes room for science. That’s why a lot of scientist and other academics are intrigued by it. I frankly don’t understand Buddhism that well, but I do find it interesting that when the Moslems conquered India, they left the Hindus alone but persecuted that Buddhist because the Moslems felt the Buddhist were in fact Atheists. That’s why there are few Buddhist in the land of its origin compare to all the lands east of it and, now, in the rest of the world.
          *You don’t have to be a Christian to realize that Christianity helped bring about science. I had a Buddhist history professor who argued that Christianity helped bring on the scientific revolution.

          • Posted October 22, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

            Something similar happened in Classical Greece and the Church did help preserve the legacy of Classical Greece (that would be very hard to dispute.)

            If by, “very hard,” you mean, “trivial,” I’ll agree with you.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypatia

            In general, the Christians only preserved the Classics whom they favored. Plato was front and center; Epicurus and Democritus and the like…not so much.

            Cheers,

            b&

  16. Ian Belson
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Probably the kindest thing that could be said is that science came through religion but not from religion because for a millennium religion was the only intellectual game in town.

  17. Matthew
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Yes, and alchemy was enormously influential in the formation of modern chemistry. If Christians want to put themselves in the same category as alchemists, who can blame them?

    • Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      In fact, the most orthodox of many of the greats of modern science is Boyle, and he’s terrified that science will be regarded as heretical. Part of this (though not all) is because he want the natural philosophers and the (al)chemists to learn from each other – as he had from both. (In this case, knowledge of his own ignorance, in large part.)

  18. Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    What’s the Internet rule about articles with questions in their titles?

    The answer is always, “No.”

    So: No.

    /@

  19. Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    “antecdently”? Antecedently?

    /@

  20. Dominic
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    We got Science (capital S) DESPITE religion, because incrementally people showed that the claims of religion(s) were erroneous.

    Just read Bretrand Russell’s “Religion and Science” & thoroughly reccomment it. There is a modern edition with an intro by Ruse.

  21. Dominic
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Comment lost in ether – just read Bertrand Russell’s “Religion and Science”. There is also a modern edition with an intro by Ruse. Thoroughly reccommend this book.

    • Dominic
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      …or not! Sorry…

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

        That sort of thing is happening here today. It pays to refresh your page before reposting.

  22. kevinj
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    In England the parson-naturalist certainly helped develop the knowledge of natural history.
    However how much of it was down to religion and how much to having a fair amount of free time is another matter. Also how religious some of them would be is questionable since there was the tradition of first son inherits, second military and third clergy.
    For some it would be exploring gods world but others I dont think so clear cut.

  23. Stephen P
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    For me the key point, further to your point 2, is that “modern” science really started as a going concern in the 17th century just as the church was losing its absolute grip on society. I really don’t think it a coincidence that science bloomed in the century after the burning of heretics stopped.

    • Posted October 22, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      The Church never had an absolute grip on society with the exception of a few scattered very small colonies like the puritins in New England. And that didn’t even last long.

      • Posted October 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        Squeeze me? The Inquisition? The Conquistadors? For that matter, Vatican City today? Or the ongoing AIDS holocaust in Africa?

        Or, what — because a few isolated people here or there figured out how to fly under the radar the centuries of terror the Church perpetrated somehow don’t count?

        b&

  24. Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Religion is a dangerous enemy to science because it emphasises ‘authority’ over observation. And only now do we recognise that! It is as if the religionist worldview has been the only worldview for so long that it has taken us 150 years to replace it. After Darwin we have had to invent non-theological explanations, almost from scratch. Sounds easy, but it is not. Even today so many areas of human study use the old theological foundations.

    Americans are living through great times, akin to the overthrow of McCarthyism in the fifties, the reintroduction of science in the classroom in the sixties (along with the diminution of the powers of the commercial/advertising world in their ability to dictate lifestyles –all hail the hippies!), or the curbing of the powers of the FBI in the seventies. Perhaps this ‘adjustment’ of the intrusions of religion into civil life is the greatest of them all.
    It seems to me that slowly, the powers of education, and the rising confidence of the educated are helping them oppose the mad preachers’ control over society. It can be seen in tiny things; the aging preacher on YouTube admitting that those dinosaur fossils dug-up in the badlands suggest a much older earth! Theology books now taken off science shelves and placed among the drivel on those groaning shelves of theology. Pastors privately admitting that their congregation is leaking away. Finger by finger the religious charlatans are forced to release their grip on the throats of a nation. Their lies are being exposed, sometimes (but rarely) by American newspapers! The slumbering giant of rationalism; – of people who live in reality, – is beginning to overcome the forces of mysticism and the supernatural. Great times!

    But look at our weaknesses. We have no coherent explanation for the ubiquity of religions. The idea of ‘indoctrination’ just doesn’t wash. And where there are rich clues as to the causes of religion, few dare assemble the evidence or even register that the evidence exists.

    The first clue is that all religions are only part of a larger Brain Operating System that is common to about a third of any society anywhere. The third of society that carry that Brain Operating System are called Drones, since they seek-out a hierarchy of authority in which to live and operate. Drones live within the great hierarchies upon a ‘Clerical-Admin-Professional-Educational’ plane. Most working in those fields, such as lawyers, teachers, administrators and the clergy have received their understanding of the world from those higher in the hierarchy; from books of Law, or the study curriculum, or procedural guidelines, or the scriptures. You never get lawyers or administrators, or even teachers, who derive their daily thoughts from first principles. Of course a very few who occupy the universities are original thinkers, but most serve sadly simply to justify and rationalise the great beliefs of their day. (Tania Luhrman, anyone?)

    So, religion has compelling parallels. Those parallels are to be found wherever groups of people conspire to make their Brain Operating System (or, their assumptions concerning the nature of reality) into a viable working philosophy of comprehension. Parallels to religion are to be found in the Social Sciences; in psychology, sociology, anthropology and so forth. They all share the same formula; the assembly of a hierarchy of authority; the endless attempt to turn wild and improbable assumptions about the nature of reality into a full working philosophy; and the evolution of a cult whereby dissent is shafted, and the overpraised founding fathers are worshipped. In religions it is by gods, the son, saints, angels; whereas in the social sciences it is by qualification and position within the academic hierarchy perusing the great books of nonsense by Freud, Talcott Parsons, Durkheim. And here’s the thing; those working in the social sciences have no possible understanding that their life’s work is built upon rubbish core beliefs. And that those core beliefs are shockingly like religious beliefs.

    And so the triumph of reason over superstition may entail far more that putting religion back into churches; it may involve a revolution on campus, as it is realised that religion has other, deadlier heads, running whole faculties of contemporary superstition.
    Time to dismantle the Social Sciences.

    The book is called ‘Origins of Belief and Behaviour’ 2000 pages.

  25. Kevin
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Today, practicing scientists who are religious are never free of the agenda to promote the numinous to their supernatural fetish.

    I cannot speak of the historical origin of science as coming form Xianity, but religion was our first attempt to explain it all (go Hitch!). Science, today, is a playground for scientifically well-intentioned religious people who want to play ball (i.e., not creationists IDiots). These scientists contribute as much as most other scientists, but their motivation tends to pained by the inveterate need to confirm their private faith.

    I see only waning evidence today of religion creating motivation for science to be done. It used to be first, and now art, music, fiction, movies, and virtually anything on the internet, you name it, is stepping ahead of religion in providing anyone motivation to do science. We do science because we have imagination and the secret is out: religion has no imagination, just mushy dogma.

    • Carlo
      Posted October 20, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      Religion provides motivation to do science to the extent that it supports the notion that the world is meaningful and interesting. If I were convinced that “life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” I would have no desire to do science.

      • Posted October 20, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        Funny. The religious tell me that we’re all puppets on a stage dancing to the whims of their gods, which seems to me the ultimate in futility. I’d much rather be — as I actually am and everybody else really is — master of my own destiny, the only one responsible for deciding what does and doesn’t matter to me.

        There’s more than enough out there that’s interesting and meaningful to hold my attention for far more years than I’ll ever have here. What more could anybody possibly ask for?

        I mean, do you really need an imaginary friend to dictate to you what you should be doing because it’s what he wants you to do?

        Cheers,

        b&

  26. ladyatheist
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Until the 19th-20th century, the only place a person could learn anything was at a school supported by religion. The earliest universities were connected with the church: University of Paris, Oxford, Bologna. Before that, almost all learning took place in monasteries and perhaps some cathedrals. Meanwhile, if you disagreed with dogma, you could be killed. So there would naturally be no record of early scientists expressing doubts about a deity.

    At the risk of invoking Godwin’s law, the Nazis believed in a healthy lifestyle, so does that mean we should become Nazis to get in shape?

    • derekw
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      The earliest universities were connected with the church: University of Paris, Oxford, Bologna. Same in the States..pretty much every college/university (1650-1850) was founded by the Christian faith. So does that say something about religion and the pursuit of education?

      • gbjames
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        It says more about power and influence in societies at the time.

    • Stephen P
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Surely not Bologna? Not originally, anyway. It was founded by independent groups of students.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        Good to know!

    • colnago80
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:27 am | Permalink

      Frankenberger also believed in reducing unemployment so does that mean that we should believe in increasing unemployment?

  27. Sastra
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    My understanding is that the Christian religion did contain some elements in it which were more conducive to the development of science than, say, Hinduism or Buddhism. The most important element was that it formed from a typical egocentric, holistic, mysticism-based religion by incorporating Greek ideas — and some theological interpretations of this philosophy allowed Christianity to make a distinction early on between the World of God and the World of Man. The material world was corrupt … but it wasn’t an illusion one needs to transcend. God made it for a purpose. We were to learn from it.

    Dualism had its obvious flaws, but it contained a hidden advantage. If the ‘worlds’ were separate — but God wanted and created the material world — then it was okay to study it objectively. You didn’t need to blend it together in one big subjective egocentric occult mess. Just give praise to God and God’s “work” every few sentences and you were doing fine. The world reveals God. It doesn’t conceal Him.

    In other words, you could take Christianity and interpret it in a way that allowed God and divinity to take a functional back seat — all while shouting loud about how He was front and center, the whole and main purpose of your studies. It all pointed to God: nature could only reflect Him.

    According to Alan Cromer’s Uncommon Sense: the heretical nature of science, the greatest contribution Christian theology made to the advancement of science then was its rather unique capacity to get the hell out of the way.

    That allowed many other factors (such as more frequent travel, an emphasis on debate, no central authority, the rise of the middle class, and the printing press) to nudge science forward without as much interference as it might have made.

    The point I always like to make though is that technically speaking the question is moot. Even if we grant for the sake of argument that science was a Christian invention, it has turned on its inventor.

    Early science was called “natural theology” because it was just assumed that the discoveries were all going to reflect a God-made world — and yes, there were predictions involved in that. The soul. Miracles. Magic. The paranormal. A young earth. Human significance and exceptionalism. God was a hypothesis and there was a lot of confidence that an objective, rational scrutiny would not and could not undermine divine Truth.

    The implication of today’s apologists is that if Christian thought and the Catholic Church created science, then the relationship with their baby is obviously a safe one.

    Well, good evening, Dr. Frankenstein.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Quite ironic, since it is arguable that science has now undermined Christianity more than other religions.

      Of world religions, only Christianity believes in a primordial Fall of Man that still affects us due to descent from Adam. This is heavily undercut by Darwinism.
      Likewise, archaeology has pretty much discredited the Moses story. And if Jesus existed, he almost surely was a mistaken apocalypticist who expected an end-time cataclysm in his own lifetime, and felt abandoned by God at the end of his life.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        The evangelicals seem to ignore the Fall business and focus on actual sin, at least around here, where the Holiness movement has infected many of them

      • Posted October 21, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        “Likewise, archaeology has pretty much discredited the Moses story. ” There’s actually a debate about this in the archaelogy world. In my “Orgins of Great Traditions” class, the proffessor assigned us competing articles from respected academic archaelogy journals on this.

  28. Ali Minai
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I agree with your broad argument, but wanted to correct one assertion. Islam may have had science-supportive regimes at some points in history and in some places, but it is hard to say that Islam overall was science-supportive even at the outset. It can be said that Islam, perhaps unlike Christianity, was more pragmatic and less doctrinaire in its early centuries, so that scientific inquiry was given somewhat greater latitude because of its utility for the functions of war, commerce, administration, etc. And the turning away from Reason in Islam came long before the 16th century. Such things cannot, of course, be laid at the doorstep of one or two individuals, but the most influential figures in moving Islam towards a more theological and less rational framework were Al-Ghazali (11th century) and Ibn Taimiyya (14th century). Even before that, scientists and philosophers were often persecuted, crucified, beheaded, etc., at the whim of rulers and religious authorities. That some genuine scientists like Ibn Sina and Omar Khayyam managed to thrive was just their luck in having enlightened patrons. Of course, on average, the situation in the Islamicate world was better than in Europe through the Middle Ages, but not uniformly so.

  29. staffordgordon
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Opinions aren’t good enough, it’s knowledge that’s required.

    From what little I know it seems that organized religion has hindered scientific progress: witness Galileo Galilei, and the Catholic Church’s tardy acceptance of evolution.

    • colnago80
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:29 am | Permalink

      Hey, the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, only accepted heliocentrism in 1925 and the Wisconsin Synod still hasn’t.

  30. staffordgordon
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Further to my last, Islam is currently hindering the teaching of natural selection.

  31. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I think Jerry’s second to last paragraph is a good summation, though the heavyweight of the pro-Christian quotes on the top is Alfred North Whitehead. He would be a better opponent to debate than Plantinga by far.

    You get a so-so case (but not definitive) for Christianity helping science if one focuses on the rise of scientific !*method*!, re the contribution of Newton, Locke, and Bacon, all on the outer fringe margins of Christian thinking, but two of them also Christian apologists. In particular, Francis Bacon’s “Novum Organum” is considered a definitive first formulation of scientific method.
    More broadly, both Jefferson and Voltaire attributed Bacon Locke and Newton with formulating scientific method. Later, we got LaPlace who seems to be more agnostic than atheist, veering between deism and atheism.

    [ Digression with quotes: Thomas Jefferson wrote "Bacon, Locke and Newton. I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences". (Letter to Richard Price)

    Voltaire was of a similar sentiment "Since, therefore, you desire me to give you an account of the famous personages whom England has given birth to, I shall begin with Lord Bacon, Mr. Locke, Sir Isaac Newton," (Letter XII: On The Lord Bacon)) ]

    Now Newton and Locke were both non-Trinitarian Christians and Bacon was semi-occultist, so all three on the outer margins of Christianity, but two of them were also Christian apologists.

    Bacon seemed to have leaned towards Rosicrucianism. His Utopian novel “The New Atlantis” celebrates a society with full religious freedom though it is also very much what Jerry C would call “accomodationist”. His book on scientific method “Novum Organum” was the 2nd of 6 books in his sextet “The Great Instauration”. There are six books to imitate…the six days of creation. The preceding (first) book in the series contains a lot of arguments against atheism.

    Locke is likewise the author of a lot of works on the theory of knowledge, empiricism, and the philosophy of science mainly “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” Locke was a major champion of religious freedom though NOT of tolerance of atheism(!!) and also the author of a rather modernistic apologetic entitled “On the Reasonableness of Christianity”. He questioned both the divinity of Jesus and the notion of original sin.

    Newton talked about scientific method in his “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica “, but in the very same book talks about God as a master creator whose existence is self-evident from creation’s grandeur.

    Many historians argue LaPlace was more agnostic than atheist, although he certainly showed Newton was wrong about needing God to account for the stability of the solar system!! LaPlace evidently expressed atheist views to some friends, and deistic views to others at different times.

    This is where I think Whitehead’s thesis cited by Jerry C comes from.

    Nonetheless it is still arguable that (fairly progressive) religious sensibilities acted in these men as a “booster rocket” (I have posted here before with this metaphor) to scientific method. After one is in orbit, the booster rocket falls away. All of these men seem to have implicitly accepted God from what is called “the argument from design”. Locke went for the “cosmological argument”.

    Richard Dawkins has pointed out many times that evolution heavily weakens the argument from design, which seems to have been the mainstay of theism for all of these gentlemen.

    Whew! My longest post here ever!!

    • Sastra
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      But a good one. +1

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 12:06 am | Permalink

      Most interesting and informative. Thank you!

  32. Charles Jones
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I could see where on the one hand a religious scientist of old would find his investigation of the ‘divine order’ deeply satisfying since this would be the only case in which god would seem scrutable. Otherwise innocents swept away by disease and unanswered prayers would all fall under ‘god’s mysterious ways’ and ‘we cannot know the mind of go–it is all part of his greater plan’.

    On the other hand, as Jerry says, if they had assumed a physical world in which god regularly intervened, they never would have been motivated to work hard enough for many difficult problems to discover the underlying laws of nature. It would be easier to just assume, in analogy with natural disasters causing the unnecessary suffering of children, that it must just be the mysterious will of god.

  33. Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    As usual, religion supports science up to the point where it threatens religious beliefs, then they dropped it and the scientist like a hot potato. A good example was St. George J. Milvart who at first supported Darwin’s evolution. After he was honored by the church he gradually backed away from evolution because he could not accept the possibility that the soul evolved along with the brain. Nevertheless, The church excommunicated him on his deathbed because he refused to totally deny physical evolution. It’s an old story for the church; accept science up to the point it conflicts with religious doctrine. It still is true.

  34. Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Davies and Plantinga: equivocation with the word “law”.

    Graukoger: lying, or at least “citation needed”. Xtianity set the agenda for scientific discoveries?

    Whitehead: no, confidence in scientific conclusions is generated when those conclusions arr demonstrated to be accurate; ie, science works.

    Etc.

    • Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Apparently my phone was set to “pirate-speak” when I typed that.

  35. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Of course science is successful because it rejects various ideas of magic action, including religious. Abrahamists (and I see only those here) are getting it backwards.

    That is because abrahamists fake history are based on mythical texts that were born out of the context of older cultures, who well know the regularity of astronomy. See for example Sagan’s Cosmos. He describes how these religions were influenced by the ideas of the first science workshops in the Library of Alexandria.

    The same Alexandria that likely birthed these religions, as the first archaeological record (the Dead Sea scrolls) surfaces right after the hellenistic conquest.

    The reason abrahamists hold to this fake history is because the victors (re)write the history. When hellenism was falling apart, these barbarians burned the last version of the Library and danced on its ashes. Instead of honoring the legacy that it brought them, such as the idea of natural order and laws.

    Moral laws

    This is stupid to belief. (Nothing is stupid beyond belief, we can observe today that it is the ultimate limit of stupidity.) =D

    Since species evolve, we know there are no such laws.

    faith in the possibility of science

    Meaningless. Science is a tool, and you have no trust in a tool until it is developed and tested.

    Before that you may have ideas, inspiration and hope, but again the source was independent of knowledge and decisively pre-medieval.

    • mf
      Posted October 20, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      you have great deal of faith in your superiority as a rational thinker as opposed to these backward religionists.

      And yet, in your earlier post you said that the structure of the universe is a result of quantum fluctuations in the inflation field, sprinkled with some other things about acoustic waves in early universe as reflected in microwave background radiation …

      And you would prove this how exactly? Empirically? Got a time machine that nobody knows about?

      The entirety of modern cosmology is a clear proof of how universal the need for religion is. A brand new religion that emerged out of the desire to abolish all religion.

      The most sensible interpretation of a relationship between rational thinking and the scientific method is that rational thinking is a a tool to separate the mundane from the divine. To do that, one needs to have clear understanding of both the power and limitations of the scientific method.

      • mf
        Posted October 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        I meant relationship between religion and rational thinking or the scientific method …

      • Posted October 20, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        Torbjörn mentioned the inflaton field, not the inflation field.

        Perhaps if you demonstrated more awareness of at least the vocabulary of modern cosmology we’d be inclined to take your criticism of it a little more seriously. (But only a little.)

        /@

    • Posted October 21, 2013 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      RE: “The reason abrahamists hold to this fake history is because the victors (re)write the history” Really? Ever heard of Thucydides? He was Athenian. He wrote about the Peloponnesian War. Guess which city state lost that war? You guessed it! Athens.
      I only had to go to what is considered the second history ever written (some put the “in the West” Qualifyer. It depends how you define history vs. chronicling.) I’ve read a lot of books about the American Civil War written by Southerners. I’ve read books about World War II written by Germans. Except for Giap’s, I believe every book I have read about Vietnam was written by an American. And, yes, we did lose Vietnam. The NVA did wind up controlling South Vietnam which was the opposite of our war goals.

  36. Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t much matter what modern science’s origins were, but rather, to what extent does it get thing right (see the logicians’ genetic fallacy); and that extent is impressively large. But if you are nonetheless interested in origins, then attend to Plato, Aristotle, and some friendly medieval Moslems in Cordoba who provided visiting Christian monk-scholars with the works of Aristotle, who subsequently was “Christianized” by the likes of Albertus Magnus and Aquinas. Aristotle and especially his Christian interpreters reached a lot of wrong conclusions, but his methods (emphasis on reason, argument, and empirical evidence – it’s not for nothing that he’s called the father of biology) eventually (after a couple of centuries) led to, eg., Galileo’s Dialogues that rejected Aristotelian conclusions but used Aristotelian argumentative methods. Plato’s works (rediscovered in Renaissance Europe) inspired Copernicus et al.

  37. Posted October 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Of course, religions are irrelevant in modern times.
    However, I am not entirely certain that they were not once important for civilization.Religious superstition could have allowed for the growth of large social structures, and therefore civilizations. Religion is certainly no longer necessary, but it may have played an important role in the growth of early societies. In that sense, then, religion would be indirectly responsible for modern science.
    This is not to say that religion is true, or that it is important for contemporary society. It may have been a temporary factor that ensured social cohesion and allowed for the formation of the first civilizations.

    • Posted October 18, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      Yeah…I’ve heard that one before. I don’t buy it.

      It’s basically a variation on the quote often attributed to Seneca: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

      Maybe I’m just overly naïeve or optimistic, but I’d at least like to think that you’re going to have a better time over the long haul if you don’t lie to people when you want to persuade them that you’ve got the high moral ground. If nothing else, it tends to minimize blowback.

      You even make the case for it in your own argument — that religion is more of a millstone now than any sort of a benefit. Add in all the wars and hinderances of scientific exploration over the past couple millennia, and that point becomes damned obvious. I mean, Democritus had already accurately measured the geometry of the Solar System centuries before the Caesars, and he had a damned good head start on atomic theory and the vacuum as well. I think we can safely lay the blame for all the ills of Platonism at the feet of the Christians, who embraced him whole-heartedly. Especially for his notions that it’s good to tell lies to the little people if it rallies them to your flag.

      See, for example, Eusebius in his Praeparatio Evangelica, chapter XXXI.

      Cheers,

      b&

      P.S. Eusebius also “just happens” to be the first person to “discover” the infamous Testamonium Flavanium that he interpolated into Josephus’s Antiquities that has since been a favorite of Christians to “prove” the historicity of the Gospels. b&

    • Posted October 19, 2013 at 12:53 am | Permalink

      ‘Religion is important for civilisation ?’

      From my studies of the subject this is an easy mistake to make. It is NOT religion that is, and was, important for civilisation; it is the circumstance in which religion arises. Religion is a bye-product of a much larger movement; the evolved ability for about 30% of any society anywhere to construct ‘hierarchies of authority’ in which to participate. Those hierarchies slowly developed into our present institutions, – The Law, democracy, commercial administration, educational establishments, health service, local and national governments, etc. All sprung from the unusual ability of some people to forgo their own selfish and greedy needs to participate in a wider, more inclusive group of people, all of whom vote for group interests rather than selfish interests.

      But, it seems, the instinctive regard for the power of the hierarchy became overwhelming. It led to ‘courtier’ societies, which is what we see through the dictatorships of the world, whereby a powerful family is sustained, not by popular accord, but by a clique of friends and trusted advisors, all of whom enjoy huge privileges by keeping the cruel family in power. See it in Syria, Russia, Egypt, Libya.

      Young people growing up in ‘courtier’ societies come to believe that their future is in recognising the hierarchy of authority, and in finding a place within that hierarchy. That 30% are servants in search of a master. That explains the ubiquity of religion, and its persistence. It fulfils the needs of 30% of any human society anywhere.

      Therefore the same evolution of a 30% of any society anywhere who are able to submit themselves to the rules, traditions, rituals and power-structure of a hierarchy of authority, served to lay the foundations of civilisation, but also served to provide a philosophy underpinning that worldview. Religions are the rationalisation of the instinctive belief that there is a hierarchy of authority in which one can best self-actualise by joining it.

      At the same time that the historic roots of civilisation’s great institutions were layed down, so the crackpot philosophy called religion came into being to harass and undermine the progress of that civilisation.

      So, religions were never important to the foundations of civilisation; they (the religions) were just the philosophies developed by history’s 30% to justify them working and voting for group interests rather than self-interest. They felt that they had to identify who was at the top of the hierarchy. All religions stress the need for submission to the hierarchy. Didn’t Pastor Rick Warren even write books about the need to submit, for a happy life? And submission is also the foundation of Islam.

      The hypothesis is called ‘Human Sub-Set Theory’ and this is an attempt to squeeze two thousand pages of evidence into a few paragraphs.

  38. Richard Olson
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    .

  39. krzysztof1
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    This caught my attention because my mother (who died in 1956) used to say “science and religion will someday be one.” So it’s something I’ve thought about for a long time. My view is that the sense of wonder is responsible for both science and religion. Both start from a position of ignorance. But how ignorance turns into knowledge is completely different in the two cases. As long as science did not call religious explanations into question, they could coexist. But as the method of science began to tell a different story of our history as a species, the image of humans as the crown of creation began to crumble. Even though the fact that we exist at all is one of the great success stories of the universe, that is not enough for those religionists who think that the PURPOSE of the universe is to produce us. They hang on to a peculiarly myopic view of our relation to the rest of life on Earth. Since science can have nothing to do with teleology, religionists think it is of limited value to explain the universe and our place in it. This in itself shows a deep misunderstanding of science–that it is somehow incapable of addressing the really important questions. The other possibility–that religion is based on superstition and ignorance–is unacceptable. Why? Two reasons come to mind: first, that our egocentric nature refuses to accept our lowly origins; and second, the persistence of religious and superstitious beliefs over time and distance gives an unwarranted illusion of truth. After all, why would millions of persons believe something that wasn’t true?

    • dcr1959
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Indoctrination. Cultural pressure. Brain washing. That’s why they believe (treatment of those who question or leave deters waverers)

      • krzysztof1
        Posted October 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        I see these things working in those who do not have a clear idea of why they believe something to be true. Hence all the logical hoops they jump through, like Plantinga’s “warranted belief.” I see that as just a version of the coherence theory of knowledge–if something is part of a coherent set of beliefs (i.e., a set of non-contradictory beliefs), it constitutes knowledge.

  40. ttaerum
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    No doubt there was a collective sigh of relief when the author of this treatise came to the correct conclusion, although there were many “hints” along the way that he would. Strangely, when I clicked on “About the Author” an error appeared but when I clicked on the Amazon link, the offering plate was there ready to accept any alms I might have for these struggling students of life. Religion does not promote science but only inquiring minds unrepressed by the notion of a god with a hand – an interesting anthromophism which binds the debate. It is, as the author points out, “an useless argument” but it ultimately allows one to add one’s own unprovable view of the “history of science” and pass the offering plate. No alms today my good friend.

  41. Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    See Jum Al-Khalili’s Islam and Science. Interesting how they were behind science then, now anti especially evolution. Wonder what Jim thinks is behind the change?

  42. Posted October 19, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I think religion, philosophy, and science were all institutionalized as ways to understand, and eventually control.

    Religion came first (think animism, polytheism, etc).

    Philosophy came second (the recognition of organization of the universe that didn’t require agency), and addressed shortcomings of religion.

    Science is the most recent step, using the notion of structure and systematic reasoning from philosophy, plus experimentation/repeatability and falsification.

    I see it as a rather natural evolution, where religion is rather like a coelacanth or some such critter.

  43. dcr1959
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Without Xtianity – we would be 1000 years more advanced

  44. johnwerneken
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Nonesense.

    Confucianism gave us meritocracy and for millennia the best technology on Earth. From contemplating what the good should do: help others as best they can, be truthful etc.

    Hinduism gave us the zero. From contemplation of infinity and it’s opposite.

    Paganism attributed a sort of life force to most everything, impelling examination of the pieces of reality. Geometry.

    Islam gave us Algebra. Learn the will of God.

    Christianity gave us science in the sense of starting from the premise of a supreme cause issuing supreme laws and finding more or less universally applicable theories.

    NO RELIGION has ANY claim to truth, only a claim to being extremely useful and helpful to maintain a society of large numbers of people.

    • Posted October 19, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Okay, which pagan god, exactly, was it who told Pythagoras about the relationship between the squares of the sides of a right triangle? Which Egyptian — not Hindu — god is responsible for the nfr symbol? In what way was Muhammad responsible for the quadratic equation or Jesus the laws of gravitation or mechanics?

      Sure, certain individuals who happened to be members of those various cults made those discoveries. But the religions themselves had nothing whatsoever to do with them. And, much more often than not, the discoveries have been made despite opposition before or after the fact from the religious institutions.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • johnwerneken
        Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        Nonesense. It is the world view, that stuff is discoverable in the first place, worth knowing (probably stabile) in the second place, with differences as to themes and methods

        • Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps you really should offer up an example, because I know I’m not alone here in having no clue how any religion could even theoretically actually be responsible for any scientific example.

          Pick your favorite example from the list you gave in your first post, and walk us through it, if you will…? First there was [insert religion here], which caused [whatever], and that led to [discovery].

          b&

    • gbjames
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      I think it rather confused to attribute these concepts (zero, geometry, etc.) to religions. These ideas originated in cultures that included religious beliefs. They also included a variety of recipes for making fine food for social elites. One might just as well attribute the zero to the use of peeled fresh ginger or cardamom oil.

      • johnwerneken
        Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        The relion CAUSES the culture.

        Dumbkopf!

        • gbjames
          Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          To quote a fellow upstream… “nonsense”. That statement (“religion causes the culture”) is incoherent. Religion is part of culture.
          Anthropology 101, johnwerneken.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

            Did johnwerneken just call you dumb in German AND spell it wrong or am I missing something?

            • Diane G.
              Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

              I’m making popcorn…

            • gbjames
              Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

              I think so, but I’m letting it pass.

        • Posted October 20, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

          It’s Dummkopf, and you owe someone an apology. The Roolz forbid you from calling another commenter names on this site.

      • Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        Or, much more likely, some Egyptians figured out zero when they ran out of beer….

        b&

      • Piyush
        Posted October 19, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

        I think the case of zero is a nice example of what you say. We do not know who was the first person to discover the place value notation for numbers (although we have a terribly precise estimate for the date), but one of the first well known mathematicians to use it extensively was the astronomer Aryabhata. One among several of Aryabhata’s major contributions to mathematics and astronomy was a correct description of the mechanism of eclipses, which, not surprisingly, went against traditional Indian mythology (his other contributions included defining the trigonometric functions—the name sine for the function so named arises from a Latin mistranslation of an Arabic translation of his term for it—and their use is making an estimate of pi that remained the record for over a thousand years, along with several results in the then fledgling field of algebra).

        Unfortunately, his successors such as Bhaskara (by all accounts more mathematically accomplished than Aryabhata) too to criticizing him for going against the holy books while still using his models when they had to do their astronomical calculations. In a supreme twist of what now appears to be historical irony, they were soundly criticized for being so attached to religious dogmatism by none other than the Muslim Persian polymath Al-Biruni (who was, by the way, also responsible for much of the transmission of Indian science to the Islamic world).

  45. krzysztof1
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I just had the thought: Is this in any way similar to saying that Christianity made the music of Bach possible? After all, he was a devout Christian, as far as we know. And he wrote a great deal of religious music–cantatas, passions, and a Mass.

    Did Christianity give us great art and architecture? I think the most that can be said is that the Church gave artists employment. I am convinced that they spent more time figuring out what would work aesthetically and structurally in their compositions than they did feeling that God guided their pens, chisels, etc.

  46. jasonski
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    While Christianity did not “create” science, I have read credible theories about how it did encourage a rational mind set. The idea that the laws of nature are in God’s hands, and cannot be influenced by shamanistic magic, etc. I don’t know if I agree. I do agree with the idea that Christianity influenced political science, helping create a more individualistic mind set, i.e. each individual is responsible for his own self, which was one factor in the development of western political thought. It might be argued that this political thinking allowed for the eventual creation of a political system that allowed freer scientific thinking, although this ignores the obvious contributions of the pagan Classical Era. And of course, Confucius political systems have a robust scientific history as well.
    Also, during the medieval period, almost all scientific study in the West was conducted by the church, often with the express intention of proving that the observable laws of nature supported the Church’s teachings.

  47. ttaerum
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    What seems to be missing is a discussion of the fundamental independence of religion and science. In classic western religion, what is known must, by definition, be “fixed” since what is known is revealed by an omnipotent and omniscient god. Certainly there is room for misunderstanding god’s revelation but it must be, at some level, invariant and perhaps supernatural.

    By contrast, science is natural and fixed by the nature of nature. Certainly there are laws of nature but nature is near infinite so the number of laws are unknown but ever increasing.

    Science and religion are not so much different from one another as completely orthogonal. Problems arise when attempts are made to frame religious concepts as scientific concepts or scientific as religious. The classic example of this is “day”, a religious concept necessary to create a religious calendar which explains religious events. By contrast there are scientific periods of time, a “day” being much too variable to have a great deal of scientific value but sufficiently precise when discussing billions of years. It is a mistake to confuse the religious with the scientific even if they might occasionally overlap in what they observe. By definition, what they observe will be different.

    • Posted October 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Close, but not exactly.

      First, in one very real sense, religion is science. It’s just that it’s very bad science. That is, religions make very specific testable claims about real things, such as the history and origins of life on Earth or even certain human tribes. It’s just that, almost invariably, those claims are, today, trivially demonstrated laughably incorrect.

      And that points to the real difference between the two: empiricism. The whole point of science is to let reality be the judge. The whole point of religion is to be an authority that dictates one’s perception of reality, or, at least, how one behaves.

      Any intellectual endeavor that’s missing the closing of the loop with reality by way of a rational analysis of empirical observation is doomed to failure.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • ttaerum
        Posted October 19, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        Unfortunately, you’re applying science to religion… To test religion you must use the empiricism of religion. Please do so and let me know your results.

        • gbjames
          Posted October 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

          “empiricism of religion”

          Who knew you could make word salad with only three ingredients?

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 19, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

          Uh…could you first give us a few examples of the empiricism of religion?

        • Posted October 19, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

          What “empiricism of religion”? Mumbling into my shirt and waiting for the ecstasy of sensory deprivation to kick in?

          Science builds skyscrapers and airliners. Religion brings the one down with the other.

          Or, more succinctly:

          Science. It works, bitches.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • ttaerum
            Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

            LOL… you do have a sense of humor. Okay, religions make “prophesies”. True? They are religious predictions based on what a religion considers to be religiously empirical. How about the number of descendants of Abraham?

            • Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

              Erm…you do know that there’s as much significance to the prophecies in the Bible as there are in the ones in Conan the Barbarian, don’t you? Authors throughout the millennia have long had fun with that literary device.

              For something contemporary with — nay, significantly predating — the Bible, just have a look, for example, at Perseus. There was a prophecy that King Acrisius’s virginal daughter, Danae, would bear a son who would take the throne from Acrisius. In an attempt to foil the prophecy, Acrisius had his daughter locked in an underground dungeon. But Zeus, the Heavenly Father of the gods, took pity on the poor girl and appeared unto her in his Holy Spiritual form of a shower of golden light. Through the power of Love, the girl came to be with child though still remaining a virgin, and the Mother gave birth to a Son, Perseus. King Herod — erm, sorry — Queen Hera flew into a great rage when she heard of the newborn King-to-be and indiscriminately tried to have the baby killed. But the Holy Family safely escaped to a distant land over the sea where nothing was heard from them until the boy had grown into a man, at which point he performed many wondrous deeds. He not only claimed his rightful throne as King of the Land, but he even Death could not defeat him, for he Ascended unto the Heavens on the back of Pegasus.

              Sound at all familiar?

              And…remind us. Why should we give any more consideration to Perseus’s fulfillment of the Delphic Oracle’s prophecy than we should to Abraham’s fulfillment of YHWH’s prophecies?

              Cheers,

              b&

              • ttaerum
                Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

                Gosh… it took you forever to make a point having nothing to do with the number of Abraham’s descendants. I think there’s general agreement in science that if you haul in stuff about grasshoppers and mRNA while trying to make a point about neutrinos then you’re (how shall we put it) lost. So I realize you have issues but let’s try to stick to the prophesy – to the “religious empiricism”. So… I answered your question. You may not like the answer but it is religious empiricism.

              • Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

                I think you must be very, very confused.

                You offered an example of religious prophecy, implying that it’s a valid way of gaining understanding of the world.

                I offered another example of religious philosophy, and you’ve apparently agreed with me that it’s not a valid way of understanding the world.

                You’re now clearly indicating that religion per se has little or nothing to do with the matter, and that only Christian prophecy is of any concern.

                The answer to that is trivial, though you’re really not going to like it.

                The Bible is bullshit. And anybody who’s old enough to know the truth about Santa and has read the Bible should know.

                The Bible, after all, opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard. It prominently features a talking plant — on fire, no less! — that gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero. And it ends with this utterly bizarre zombie snuff pr0n fantasy where the antihero gets his guts groped through his gaping chest wound by one of his thralls.

                Your vaunted prophecies are nothing more than plain-as-day plot devices in a fifth-rate anthology of really bad ancient faery tales.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Diane G.
                Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

                How is prophecy empiricism?

              • ttaerum
                Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

                Wow… I detect some strong emotions. In answer to the question about empiricism and prophesy (prediction), it’s not possible to separate the two even (or particularly) in science. For instance, I make what I believe is an empirical statement about the “effects” of gravity on light. This prediction is empty without an agreement about speed, detection, the nature of light and gravity, and how one might test the effects.

              • Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

                Religious prophesy has as much to do with scientific predictions as the horoscopes do with astronomy. Or, for that matter, as homeopathy or prayer or acupuncture or other forms of witch doctoring have to do with modern medicine.

                If you can offer any examples of actual prophesy that’s detailed, specific, objectively verifiable, and not contained in a children’s fantasy storybook with both prophesy and observation within the covers of the same book, we might have something to discuss. But we both know that you haven’t, so why are you bothering? Because you want to reassure your own insecurities about having fallen for such nonsense by convincing others that it’s not quite as nonsensical?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • ttaerum
                Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

                It seems that a “time out” period has resulted in a slightly calmer discussion. Apparently you wish me to give something which is “that’s detailed, specific, objectively verifiable, and not contained in a children’s fantasy storybook with both prophesy and observation within the covers of the same book”… I take it then that you apply the same criteria to the scientific journals that you read – “the prediction and the observation cannot be in the same covers”. I have to say you’re cutting out a lot of science when you do that since most of the journals I read have both together. It’s kind of convenient I suppose.

                I should also note, given your continuous reference to the Bible (a word I have not used so far) is a compendium of many different scrolls. The notion of things being “between the covers” is a relatively recent notion, mostly post-Guttenburg although there was some papyrus like that. Perhaps you could help by identfying which scrolls you’d like to use for proof.

              • Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

                Oh, for —

                Okay, since you’re obviously a bit rusty in the science department, credibility comes from repeatability. If you really expect the rest of the world to believe that prognostication of the type you’re discussing is real, it’s something that has to be independently verifiable. That’s why the journals — the reputable ones, at least — include all the instructions for how to re-do the experiment yourself, and why they’re reviewed by teams of people skilled in the same field who check the work for any errors they can spot.

                So, if you would, outline for us a protocol whereby one might forsooth foresee future facts.

                And, sorry, but you’re quite confused about the Bible as well — and, yes, you were the first one to refer to it with that Abraham nonsense, even if you didn’t formally cite the title of the work. First, most of the oldest copies are found on vellum; papyrus was a later invention, and it’s generally only New Testament nonsense that were written on papyrus. And, second, the Pentateuch, where the story of Abraham was found, has remained in its present form for at least 2300 years, and the Christian Bible was canonized about 1600 years ago — a full millennium before Gutenberg.

                But, as I noted, that’s all irrelevant, as even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals it to be purest bullshit, what with all the social shrubbery and the sea monsters and the zombie hordes and what-not. I mean, really? You expect us to take seriously haruspex from a book where asses talk? — and I don’t mean the ones in Congress!

                b&

              • ttaerum
                Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

                Wow… my reference to papyrus came from your argument about things being “between the covers”… you’re the person who keeps talking about “the Bible”. There are places outside of “the Bible” where Abraham is discussed. Besides which papyrus goes back to about 2550 BCE (an Egyptian invention which they monopolized). Perhaps this confusion can be traced to our declining standards of education.

                Anyways, it’s apparent my attempt to describe religious empiricism has created a lot of emotional unrest for you. I’m guessing when you have a chance to sleep on it, you’ll be able to present some more precise arguments.

              • Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

                Dude, I ain’t upset. I’m laughing my ass off.

                You claimed Bible Babble about how the author of one of the stories wrote up front about how he was going to end the story with is a good example of “religious empiricism.” I’ll agree with you insofar as that sort of incoherent nonsense really is as good as it gets. But it’s the sort of childish incoherent nonsense that you yourself would laugh at in any other context.

                What sort of prognostication did it take Shakespeare to prophesize that Macbeth would die at the hand of a man not born of a woman, or for J.K. Rowling to prophesize that the boy who lived would be the undoing of He Who Must Not Be Named?

                I mean, seriously? You’re presenting literary fiction — and really, really bad literary fiction, to boot, in the case of the Bible — as something akin to General Relativity or the Theory of Evolution?

                And you expect other people to take you seriously, too?

                Whatever.

                b&

  48. jodai
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I am not a believer, but the Enlightenment was a direct consequence of the reformation. It is no coincidence that the rejection of Roman theological authority was so quickly followed by the empiricism and rationalism of the scientific revolution, that just happened to be inordinately focused in Protestant nations.

    Our society owes much to the cultural Protestant heritage, though that does not necessitate belief in the dogmatic traditions.

  49. Paul Molineaux
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Jodai — Pardon the Aristotelian logic, but your historical argument is POST HOC ERGO PROPTER HOC. Your belief (faith?) in the relationship between the Reformation and the Enlightenment can only be validated by demonstrating a causal link. In your view, what elements of the Reformation fostered empiricism? In your view, how did the Reformation influence decidedly non-protestant Enlightenment thinkers such as Galileo, Descartes or Voltaire?

  50. John
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Interesting. Isaac Newton was brilliant, but the one thing (besides the alchemy experience) he got wrong was the “absolutes” like universal time. The author actually uses that mistake as his central argument for Christianity producing “science”.

    Oops.

  51. Richard Olson
    Posted October 20, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    From today’s FFRF birthdate acknowledgement:

    ” . . . have not some religions, including the most influential forms of Christianity, taught that the heart of man is totally corrupt? How could the course of religion in its entire sweep not be marked by practices that are shameful in their cruelty and lustfulness, and by beliefs that are degraded and intellectually incredible? What else than what we can find could be expected, in the case of people having little knowledge and no secure method of knowing; with primitive institutions, and with so little control of natural forces that they lived in a constant state of fear?”

    —— John Dewey in “The Religious in Experience,” chapter 20 of Intelligence in the Modern World; John Dewey’s Philosophy (1939)

  52. freethinkinfranklin
    Posted October 20, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    A bit off topic perhaps, but I just have to comment on a TV show called “Zombie Apocalypse” on the Discovery channel of all places. It highlights “zombie preppers” that wholeheartedly belive that Zombies exist and are coming for them/us. Delving into aspects of a zombie attack, including how to kill them properly and why they have “come into being”. Questioning if its perhaps an “act of god” ! I busted out laughing, an imaginary god turning the zombie minions loose of us, just hit my funny bone hard, what’s next the Unicorns and Leprechauns releasing the Kracken?? Lol.
    I feel sorry for these people and their kids/families, the amount of wasted time and resources preparing for something that has zero chance of ever happening is very reminiscent of other groups, those that follow the mythical “Zombie Jew”.

  53. AttyFAM
    Posted October 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Algebra, Azimuth, Zenith. The concept of zero itself. The Arab numbering system – you know, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 . . . . All this came from Arab science, and were adopted by the Christians of Europe. There would be no modern science at all without zero or Arabic numbers or without algebra.

    In astronomy, Al-Biruni discussed the rotation of the earth on its axis 600 years before Galileo. Avicenna was the greatest writer on medicine in the middle ages.

    And that is just a few highlights of the Arab contribution. And we have not yet discussed the Chinese, who, don’t forget gave us gunpowder, paper, the compass, etc. etc.

    • Posted October 20, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Those religions had nothing to do with those contributions. Sure, members of those religions came up with the ideas, but the religions themselves were irrelevant. We might as well attribute culinary preferences or political party affiliation to those discoveries as religion.

      …unless, of course, you can identify which gods revealed the information in which way to which people…?

      b&

    • Posted October 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Actually, the Arabs got this information form the Indians (Hindus). We just call them arabic numerals because when they were introduced to us, it was the Arabs who showed them to us. Just to correct the record. Some speculate that the Indians had to invent zeros because some of the number in their Holy Texts are huge. They talk about events that supposedly happened Billions of years ago. I could be wrong.. could just be millions.

  54. Posted October 21, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Sarvodaya and commented:
    What are your thoughts folks?

  55. Bob
    Posted October 21, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Martin Luther is not a Church Father: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Church_Fathers

    Also, Luther’s view of reason is also not indicative of Medieval theology.

  56. interested reader
    Posted October 21, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I may have missed it if others already mentioned him, but historian Ronald Numbers (agnostic) has written about the myths of the historical science/religion wars in Galileo Goes to Jail and other works.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Numbers

  57. David
    Posted October 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    A microbiologist and a historian (of science) have an interesting response to this article: http://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2013/10/21/twisted_history_jerry_coyne_on_science__religion_106729.html

    I fall into the ‘this whole debate is a bit of a canard’ camp, but i’m thankful for the 20 minute diversion.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 22, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      From that article…”…excommunicated Halley’s Comet.” WTH?

  58. Richard Olson
    Posted October 22, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

  59. Posted October 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Really, bringing up Christian Scientist really misses the point. The argument is not, “these scientists were Christians therefore Christianity brought forth science.” The argument is more complicated than that. The argument is that the emphasis on “logos” and the individual along with what differentiates Christianity form other World Religions (the separation between the temporal world and the spiritual world without viewing the temporal as some kind of deception keeping us from spiritual knowledge, i.e. Hinduism) brought about the intellectual frame work that made it possible for these scientists to even consider attempting to find general laws that governed the physical universe. S
    Something similar happened in Classical Greece and the Church did help preserve the legacy of Classical Greece (that would be very hard to dispute.)
    One could reasonably argue that atheism is an even better intellectual frame work for science than Christianity while acknowledging that, Christianity was a lot better than what came before it and the other world views that dominated the earth until very recently.
    Some historians believe that atheism is the end result of an intellectual/religious evolution: We started out with animism where everything is spiritual (a lot of very primitive tribes believed this), then we went to polytheism, then to mono-theism (Diest argue that Christianity was sort of a detour because the trinity can be seen as polytheistic), then to Unitarianism, then to Deism, and then finally, to Atheism. Some argue that Zen Buddhism is an alternate religious/intellectual frame work that makes room for science. That’s why a lot of scientist and other academics are intrigued by it. I frankly don’t understand Buddhism that well, but I do find it interesting that when the Moslems conquered India, they left the Hindus alone but persecuted that Buddhist because the Moslems felt the Buddhist were in fact Atheists. That’s why there are few Buddhist in the land of its origin compare to all the lands east of it and, now, in the rest of the world.
    *You don’t have to be a Christian to realize that Christianity helped bring about science. I had a Buddhist history professor who argued that Christianity helped bring on the scientific revolution.

  60. Posted October 24, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Wow – all this speculation and rationalization, and all you have to do is look at history for the answer.

    For over 2000 years, less than 20% of the world was non-Christian:
    Africa: non-Christian
    Americas: non-Christian
    Asia: non-Christian
    Middle East: mixed
    Eastern Europe: mixed
    Western Europe: Christian
    Simple question: Where did modern science develop to its fullest?
    Answer: Western Europe. End of debate.

    Need something more recent? How about the last 100 years?
    USSR: Atheist
    China: Atheist
    Western Europe/US: Christian (okay, nominally so, but still a Judeo-Christian morality/ethic/environment)
    Simple Question #2: Where did modern science develop to its fullest?
    Answer: Western Europe/US.

    Post Hoc rationalizations cannot change the fact that modern science DID NOT develop in the non-Christian world.

    • Posted October 24, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Nobody is disputing that science (and the Enlightenment, for that matter) grew out of cultures that were predominantly Christian at the time.

      The question is whether Christianity itself had anything to do with the transition to a (somewhat) rational society.

      And, unless you can point to examples where Jesus revealed some information to a scientist, I can’t imagine what it could possibly mean for Christianity to have promoted the rise of science.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted October 24, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        So you are basically advocating that the fact that modern science arose in the Christian world alone is pure coincidence, and that Christianity had nothing to do with “promot(ing) the rise of science”. Wow.

        Coyne himself provides references to various historians and scientists explanations of how Christianity promotes a rational “designed” view of the universe. Not to mention the Christian roots of the vast majority of centers of learning and science in the Western world. University was practically synonymous with Seminary. Any attempt to deny a link between Christianity and modern science is pure sophistry.

        • Posted October 24, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

          Erm…you are aware, are you not, that correlation is not causation and, at best, only implies causation? After all, the early scientists were also much more likely to eat leaven bread loaves than flatbread. Does that mean that bread yeast also played a factor in the scientific revolution?

          Unless you can, at a bare minimum, offer a plausible causative hypothesis for the role that Christianity played in the advancement of science, there isn’t even a reason to seriously entertain the proposition.

          I offered one example: Do you think that Jesus whisper orbital mechanics in Kepler’s ear?

          If not, then what, exactly, was it that Christianity did that promoted the rise of science?

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted October 24, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

            So that would be a “yes, I think it is pure coincidence.” Your credulity does you credit. As for your “plausible causative hypothesis”, I would refer you back to the first several paragraphs of Coyne’s article.

            I’ll offer an analogy as my final point: While the rest of the world was mired in tractless swamps, Christianity provided a paved road for modern science to develop. Coyne has, at best, identified some potholes in the road.

            • Posted October 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

              Then we must have read entirely different essays by entirely different people, because the Jerry Coyne who wrote the essay at the top of the page I’m reading most assuredly did not offer a plausible causative mechanism by which Christianity could have promoted the rise of science, and he came — as I have — to the exact opposite conclusion: that Christianity played no role in the promotion of science.

              Note again: Christianity. Not individuals who happened to be Christians, but the religion itself.

              Cheers,

              b&

            • Sastra
              Posted October 24, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

              You’re forgetting that Christianity was simply one thread in European culture. There is no reason to assume it was the most significant aspect of scientific evolution — and many reasons to think it was either tangential or actually a bit of a drag.

              Which do you think would have been more disastrous for science: eliminating a mystical revealed religion or eliminating Greek philosophy?

    • freethinkinfranklin
      Posted October 24, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      however it was and is developed by the hands and minds of non-christians. end of debate…

      • Posted October 24, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Rather than devolve into a “yes they were”, “no they weren’t” pointless back-and-forth, I will simply suggest you perform the following experiment:
        1) list the major scientific contributors to modern science. e.g. newton, maxwell, mendel, galileo, etc.
        2) Where did they study?
        3) Were they Christians? Atheists? Other?
        4) How often did they reference God in their writings?
        5) How many come from non-Christian cultures?

        Suffice it to say that I disagree with your assessment of the major contributors to modern scientific thought and foundations.

        • Posted October 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

          In the future, I do believe Professor Ceiling Cat would appreciate if you would not do a massive copy / paste from a rather lengthy Wikipedia article, and simply supply the link. Like thus:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_atheists_in_science_and_technology

          Back to the subject matter…it’s also worth noting that scientists are far less religious than the general population, and outright theists are almost (but not entirely) absent from the most prestigious scientific organizations, such as the National Academy of Science or Nobel laureates. Of those vanishingly few scientists who are religious, almost all subscribe to some vague form of deism.

          Again, there are notable exceptions, such as Francis Collins. But they’re outnumbered, generally by factors of at least ten to one, often much more.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted October 24, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

            Yea, however, was that true at the start of the Scientific Revolution? Also, the debate is not about whether or not most scientists are Christians. One can be influenced by the Judeo-Christian Culture without believing in God.

            The debate is about the intellectual climate that Christianity helped foster. Which I and others already touched on in the comments above.

            To Ben Goren’s “And, unless you can point to examples where Jesus revealed some information to a scientist . . . ” So, you want to remove the contributions of St. Augustine, Thomas Aquainis and other contributions to Chirstian Thought from the debate? Is your contention that Jesus was the only person who influenced the thought process of the Church and how the Church influenced the intellectuals of Western Europe?

            • Posted October 24, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

              I admit that this debate can not be resolved to a level of scientific certainity. How ever, one can’t just reject the hypothesis out of hand. Hardly any professional historians do. The jewish idea of an orderly God which created an orderly universe was adopted by the Church.

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

                Eh, the Jews were hardly the first ones to credit order in the universe to divine intervention. Where do you think the terms, chaos and logos come from?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

                I also want to remind Ben of the questions I aksed: To Ben Goren’s “And, unless you can point to examples where Jesus revealed some information to a scientist . . . ” So, you want to remove the contributions of St. Augustine, Thomas Aquainis and other contributions to Chirstian Thought from the debate? Is your contention that Jesus was the only person who influenced the thought process of the Church and how the Church influenced the intellectuals of Western Europe?

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

                It’s as if you all believe the Scientific method was conceived in an intellectual vacuum. You seem to think it is more likely that some genius was born who would have developed the scientific method no matter what cultural he was born into than, that such a person would have built upon the ideas of his culture: especially if it was a Judeo-Christian culture.
                Do you think Socrates would have grown up to be Socrates if he was born in Sparta instead of Athens? Do you think Thomas Jefferson would have grown up to be a classical liberal if he was born in 8th centenary China? Do you think John Lock would have written about rights endowed by the Creator (a.k.a. natural rights) if he was the grandson of Gengis Khan?
                Almost any true genius (I’m not talking high IQ. I’m talking innovating a transformative idea) would tell you their idea was built upon the ideas of others.

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

                Again, that’s not what I’m doing at all.

                Christianity is a very specific religious entity, with a very specific set of creeds and holy texts and divine authority figures and what-not.

                Christianity is not a culture. You can find Christians in any and every culture on the planet. What they share as Christians is not their culture, not their politics, not anything save for their faith in salvation through the risen Christ.

                So, again: what has the risen Christ got to do with science? What’s unique enough about Christianity to be able to identify its contributions as distinct from, say, those of people who speak languages that trace their roots back to ancient Greece, Rome, and Germany?

                What Christian deity or doctrine or dogma is it that is responsible for the rise of the scientific method?

                What was the specifically, identifiably, uniquely Christian influence?

                That’s the question I keep asking you, and you keep answering with irrelevancies like so-and-so was influential and happened to be a Christian. So what? So-and-so also probably happened to have brown hair and a Y chromosome.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

                Re: “You also contradict yourself. You credit Augustine with bringing Platonism into Christianity, and then credit Christianity with introducing Platonism to Europe. But Plato was there all along.” I was very careful to be specific and say WESTERN Europe. Plato wasn’t from Western Europe. He was from Greece which is Eastern Europe. I was very deliberate in specifying “Western Europe” where the Scientific Revolution started.

                Plato wasn’t in Western Europe. He was from Greece. So, no Greek philosophy was mot “there all the time.” Greek philosophy was brought to the peoples who later became Western Europeans (The Germanic barbarians and the remnant of the Celts that survived their onslaught). It was the Church who preserved those ideas.

                You keep on wanting to narrow Christianity down to the writings of the first two or three generations of Christians (the 66 books of the Protestant Bible). There is so much more to the Judeo-Christian culture than that.
                I could make a cheap shot and say the word “Logos” was used in the Gospel of John however; the word was used in a much different way than how Plato or St Augustine used it.

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

                There is so much more to the Judeo-Christian culture than that.

                So, let’s turn it around.

                What contribution did an European Christian make that could just have easily been made by an Ethiopian Jew?

                If it’s the religion / religious foundation to credit, you should have no trouble coming up with example after example.

                But if the religion itself is irrelevant, you won’t be able to come up with even a single example.

                My money’s on the latter.

                Cheers,

                b&

                P.S. Your characterization of Eastern v Western Europe and the history of that part of the world “isn’t even worng,” but we can ignore that for the moment. b&

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

                I’m not wrong about my portrayal of the general history of Europe. It was the Western Roman Catholic Church that introduced Greek Philosophy to the barbarians that immigrated into Western Europe during and after the fall of the Roman Empire. It was decendents of these barbarians and probably intermixed with inginious peopels who became the scientists of the Scientific Revolution.

                RE: “What contribution did an European Christian make that could just have easily been made by an Ethiopian Jew?” Theoretically, every contribution made by a Western Europea could have been made by an Ethiopian Jew. That was a very vauge question. Could have under what circumstances. Now, beyond the hypothetical: Ethiopian Jews did not contribute to the Scientific Revolution on the same scale that Western Europeans did.

                Guess who controlled Ethiopia during this period? It wasn’t Christians. It was Moslems. I don’t see who that question makes you point. It kind of makes mind. Can you tell me the point you were trying to make with that question. Are you now trying to further narrow down Judio-Christian culture to the culture of Ethiopian Jews?

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

                I hope you can get passed my horrible punctuation in my hurried response. Using periods istead of question marks and spelling like a dyslexic who didn’t to a quick proof read. (i am a dyslexic who didn’t do a quick proof read.)

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

                So, just to be clear: we are in agreement that European Christians and Ethiopian Jews have the same religious foundation, and yet the one developed the scientific method and the other did not.

                If you were at all vaguely familiar with the way that science works, you would recognize that religion cannot therefore possibly be the determining factor in this discussion. Clearly, something other than religion is to credit.

                You’re welcome to argue this further if you like; I cede the podium to you. I’ve made all the points that need be made.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

                Re: “So, just to be clear: we are in agreement that European Christians and Ethiopian Jews have the same religious foundation.”

                No. The Ethiopian Jews of the 15th Century did not have all of the same religious foundations as the Western Christians of the 15th century.
                No. 1. The Ethiopian Jews were living in an Islamic Land not a Christian one. So, even if they had the same philosophy regarding the physical world as Western Christians, they would not have had the same opportunity to pursue scientific experiment. They were living under Islamic Rule and Islamic Civilization (not the spread of the faith) but Islamic power and cultural were on the Decline after the battle of Lepanto. Also, I do not know how much free time these Ethiopian Jews had to do science under Islamic rule.
                Also, The Ethiopian Jews of the 16th century (or any time for that matter) were not influenced by St. Augustine. There were influences on the Western Church that were not influenced on Ethiopian Jews (especially by the 16th century)

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

                Re: “So, just to be clear: we are in agreement that European Christians and Ethiopian Jews have the same religious foundation.”

                No. The Ethiopian Jews of the 15th Century did not have all of the same religious foundations as the Western Christians of the 15th century.
                No. 1. The Ethiopian Jews were living in an Islamic Land not a Christian one. So, even if they had the same philosophy regarding the physical world as Western Christians, they would not have had the same opportunity to pursue scientific experiment. They were living under Islamic Rule and Islamic Civilization (not the spread of the faith) but Islamic power and cultural were on the Decline after the battle of Lepanto. Also, I do not know how much free time these Ethiopian Jews had to do science under Islamic rule.
                Also, The Ethiopian Jews of the 16th century (or any time for that matter) were not influenced by St. Augustine. There were influences on the Western Church that were not influenced on Ethiopian Jews (especially by the 16th century)

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

                RE: “If you were at all vaguely familiar with the way that science works, you would recognize that religion cannot therefore possibly be the determining factor in this discussion.”
                Again this is a derivative of the arrogant, “I’m smarter than you so you should listen to me argument.” Alex B Berezow is more than “vaguely familiar with how science” works he believes Christianity help foster science. James Hannam is more than “vaguely familiar with how science works” and he acknowledges Christian thought’s importance to the scientific revolution. Dr. Thomas H. Keene is personally taught me about how Christianity thought helped develop science and he is more than “vaguely familiar with how science works.”
                Dr. Alex Berzow holds a PhD in microbiology from the University of Washington.
                Dr. James Hannam holds a PhD in the history and philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge.
                Dr. Thomas H. Keene just retired from teaching at Kennesaw State Univirsity. He for year taught a class on the history of science and taught a class called “Orgins of Great Traditions” which touched on how the early religions that led to world religions helped shape civilization and brought us to the world views we hold, today.
                All three of these gentlemen have forgotten more about historiography works than me or you have or probably will ever learn.
                Re: “I’ve made all the points that need be made.” That’s pretty arrogant of you to think you have already made every point worthy to make on this subject. Dare I say, it is rather unscientific?

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

                For the views of the people I reverenced to counter to counter Ben Goren’s point that anyone “vaguely familiar with the way that science works” would agree with Ben Goren on this topic see http://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2013/10/21/twisted_history_jerry_coyne_on_science__religion_106729.html

              • Posted October 25, 2013 at 1:01 am | Permalink

                Excuse us if we remain sceptical about what James Hannam has to say on this topic… see Why God’s Philosophers did not deserve to be shortlisted for the Royal Society prize and Science, God’s Philosophers and the Dark Ages.

                /@

              • Posted October 25, 2013 at 1:02 am | Permalink

                * in reply to #87

              • Posted October 25, 2013 at 1:03 am | Permalink

                ** more coffee needed!

              • Posted October 25, 2013 at 1:04 am | Permalink

                OK, it’s not me… something’s gone screwy with the reply threading…

                /@

              • Posted October 25, 2013 at 2:40 am | Permalink

                Yea. I was having the same problem, also. It seems to have been corrected. I read the first few paragraphs of the first link you posted. I can attest to one exceprt form it.

                ” One supporter of Hannam, a medievalist who clearly knows more about the literature on medieval science than I do, states that “his work is simply popularising several decades of research by leading historians of early science like [Ronald] Numbers, [David] Lindberg and [Edward] Grant””

                I nothing in James Hannan’s article in Realclear politics seemed original to me. I didn’t read his book. But, I had to read a lot of reviews of history books in a historiography class I took. Most published history books have some negitive reviews of this intensity. I really don’t understand critiicing his work because he is a converted Catholic. Actually, it would be eaten up for making that a point in his work in history departemtns. If I wrote any kind of paper, i’d be expecting to back up my thesis with arguments and data: not by stating what my persoanl background. For some reason, that is fround upon in history departments. But it was an interesting read… I didn’t finish because my eyes are getting sleepy.

              • Posted October 25, 2013 at 3:52 am | Permalink

                @ #90

                As I said, I was replying only to the article you linked to.

                /@

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 25, 2013 at 5:17 am | Permalink

                Yes, it isn’t you. I noticed this last night.

              • gbjames
                Posted October 25, 2013 at 5:19 am | Permalink

                Thread decoupling/disruption seems to happen when a comment midstream in the list gets evaporated. My guess is that some linked list isn’t updated correctly and everything thereafter is hosed. I wonder where this comment will land.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 25, 2013 at 5:28 am | Permalink

                :) I think it may be fixed.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 25, 2013 at 5:28 am | Permalink

                D’oh!

              • Posted October 25, 2013 at 2:18 am | Permalink

                Ant, I didn’t list only James Hannam. I listed three people. The reason I referenced them was to counter Ben Goren’s claim that, ““If you [meaning me] were at all vaguely familiar with the way that science works, you would recognize that religion cannot therefore possibly be the determining factor in this discussion.”
                I cited people who obviously are more than “vaguely familiar with the way that science works” and who do think that Christianity had a role in the scientific revolution.
                I wasn’t citing James Hannam and two others as the absolute finale authorities on the subject. I was giving Ben Goren examples that contradicted his claim. Since, he chose to use the “I’m smarter than you argument so, you should just accept what I say argument”, I relished in doing it.
                Say what you will, but I would be shocked if someone could honestly claim one could get a PhD in micro-biology from the University of Washington without being “vaguely familiar with the way sconce works.” It would also be very hard to convince me that one could get a PhD from the University of Cambridge in history and philosophy of science without being “vaguely familiar with the way science works. Although, I try to give credit to where I get my ideas and knowledge, I hardly ever use what Carl Sagan called “the appeal to authority” debating tactic. That would be very un-logos of me.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 24, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

                Let’s not forget that while the Church preserved a lot from antiquity, it also destroyed or let fall to ruin those things that it didn’t see value in – for example, look at the state of the Roman Colosseum (as it came to be known in the Middle ages, it was originally the Flavian Amphitheatre) vs. the state of the Pantheon. The Pantheon was used by the Church when emperor Phocas donated it to Pope Boniface III and Boniface consecrated it as the church of St. Mary and the Martyrs.

                What else have we lost?

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

                To answer your question: The terms come from Classical Greece. Who do you think introduced those ideas to Western European thought? St. Augustine, who was influenced by Plato, brought the terms into Christian and Western European thought. It’s common knowledge that Judeo-Christian culture owes a lot to the Greeks.. Why do you think Western Historians call Plato’s particular era of history, “The Classical Period.” Christianity introduced the concept of logos to Western Europe and preserved the idea in Western Europe. Really, St. Austine argued Saint Paul introduced the concept of logos. Paul knew Greek and was a Roman Citizen so, he was probably very familiar with Greek philosophy.
                From Wikipedia “Under Hellenistic Judaism, Philo (ca. 20 BC – AD 50) adopted the term into Jewish philosophy.” So, yes. Just because the Greeks may have used the term Logos before the Jews, that does not mean that the Judeo-Christian culture did not adopt it.

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

                So, the Greeks invented it, a Jew thought it was a neat idea…and the Christians get credit for it. After they perverted it beyond all recognition.

                Sorry, but it don’t work that way.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

                The Judeo Christian Culture (as are most cultures) a blend of other cultures. And, yes. I do give credit to the Church for preserving those ideas and expanding upon those ideas. Like it or not, those concepts would have not been prevalent in Western Europe had it not been for the Christian Church. The Western Europeans did not get their idea of an orderly universe with governed by laws that could be discovered from their pagan ancestors. They got it from the Church. No one is arguing that the Church did not get these from Jews and Greeks. It’s a red herring to suggest otherwise. However, it wasn’t Greek or Jewish institutions that introduced these concepts to the barbarians who’s decedents became the Scientist of the Scientific Revolution: It was the Christian Church that did this. Again, the ideas of the Scientific Revolution were not developed in a vacuum. Just the motivation to investigate the physical world and the idea that there may be universal laws didn’t develop in a vacuum.

            • Posted October 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

              I should think it obvious that the whole point of Christianity is some sort of a relationship between humans and the divine, even if nobody within the Christian community can agree upon the slightest details past that. For Christianity to substantively claim credit for the scientific revolution, it would have to be as a result of some sort of interaction with one or more of the Christian deities. Otherwise…well, it’d be like claiming that Indian fondness for flatbread (naan) was the driving force behind Ghandi’s non-violence movement, since all the major actors ate naan.

              So, if all that Christianity did is have some people who lived thoroughly mundane, normal, uninspired lives entirely free from divine intervention, and others built upon some of the intellectual work that those people did…well, yeah. Christianity had diddly-squat to do with it, any more than those people’s taste in clothes or music.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

                You keep on wanting to narrow the pool of possible evidence, “it would have to be as a result of some sort of interaction with one or more of the Christian deities.

                Re: So, if all that Christianity did is have some people who lived thoroughly mundane, normal, uninspired lives entirely free from divine intervention, and others built upon some of the intellectual work that those people did…” It wasn’t “others” that built up that intellectual framework. It was people like St. Agustine who brought in Platonic ideas to Christain thought and the monks who preserved the Greek Classics. Christainity introduced the idea to Western Europe that the physical world is orderly and governed by laws. The Scientific Method is a tool to discover those laws. Before, that. people did not view the physical world was orderly so they did not try to find universal laws that governed the physical world.

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

                Again, you keep crediting Christianity with the deeds of Christian individuals.

                What specific property of Christianity is responsible for inspiring Augustine to draw inspiration from Plato? What Bible verse, for example, quotes Jesus as saying, “And do thou remember to read thy Plato, for that righteous dude was seriously smrt!”?

                You also contradict yourself. You credit Augustine with bringing Platonism into Christianity, and then credit Christianity with introducing Platonism to Europe. But Plato was there all along. Is Christianity’s contribution therefore simply deciding to keep Plato’s books on the shelf? If so, do they not also deserve blame for all the non-Platonic ancient scholars whose works were far more useful that Christianity failed to promote? After all, had the popularity of Democritus and Plato been swapped, we would have already had atomic theory and an accurate map of the Solar System millennia ago — and Democritus was on the right track with respect to the vacuum, as well. Plato mostly gave us poetic but very, very worng and impractical bullshit.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted October 24, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

                I talked about Plato because you asked me about Logos. I never implied I thought Plato deserved more credit for the Scientific Revolution than Democritus. Talking about setting up a straw man. You ask me about Logos and I explain how Logos got to Western again WESTERN Europe via Christainity. Then you critize me for not bringing up Democritus.

                By the way, how do you think we know about Democritus? The Church preserved the documents if if they were unsuccessful, that translated Arab documents into Latin making these works available to the first generation of WESTERN European scientists.

        • gbjames
          Posted October 24, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

          That was unneccessary.

      • Posted October 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        No, no one claimed every great scientist was a Christian. Nice, attempt at a stawman, however.

  61. Posted October 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Hate to break it to you, but the seven-day week is much, much older than Judaism, though, granted, we trace the roots of the modern seven-day week through the Jewish as opposed to the earlier Babylonian version. And counting itself is much, much older still.

    And you might not have noticed, but our calendar is as multitheistic as they come. The names of the days come from the names of Teutonic gods, though the particular gods are the Teutonic versions of corresponding Pagan gods. Most of the months are named after Pagan gods. The yearly cycle is pegged to a particular Christian demigod. And that’s just English…even other European languages have different (though similar) etymologies….

    Cheers,

    b&

  62. Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Oh, yes. The, “I am smarter (and in this case) more diligent than you so, you should just listen to me argument.” By the way: Didn’t a full time professor of biology start this thread? He evidently has time to discuss such matters. And you evidently have enough time to analyze the amount of time each poster spent on here and then to extrapolate how much of the rest of their time they spent on endeavors you judge as worthy.

  63. Posted October 25, 2013 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    Following on from #88, I’d commend Charles Freeman’s The Closing of the Western Mind :

    The conversion of the emperor Constantine to Christianity in 368 AD brought a transformation to Christianity and to western civilization, the effects of which we still feel today. Previously, the Roman empire had absorbed and sustained the Greek intellectual tradition which, in the astronomy of Ptolemy, the medicine of Galen and the philosophy of Plotinus, reached new heights. Constantine turned Rome from the relatively open, tolerant and pluralistic civilisation of the Hellenistic world, towards a culture that was based on the rule of fixed authority. The century after Constantine’s conversion saw the development of an alliance between church and state which stifled freedom of thought and the tradition of Greek rationalism which was intrinsic to it. The churches enjoyed enormous patronage and exemptions from tax, and in return allowed the emperors to take on the definition and enforcement of an increasingly narrow religious orthodoxy.

    This book explores how the European mind was closed by the revolution of the fourth century. It looks at the rise of the ‘divine’ monarch, the struggle as Christianity painfully separated itself from Judaism, the conflict between faith and reason, and the problems in finding any kind of rational basis for Christian theology. In these centuries, a turning-point for Western civilisation, we see the development of Christian anti-Semitism, the origins of the opposition of religion and science and the roots of Christianity’s discomfort with sex, issues which haunt the Christian churches to this day.

    /@

  64. Posted October 25, 2013 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    OK, now things are getting really weird … my comments are being posted earlier in the thread, messing with the comment numbering…

    /@

  65. Posted October 26, 2013 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    aristotelian30066 wrote to Ben Goren…
    Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:44 pm
    “ It’s as if you all believe the Scientific method was conceived in an intellectual vacuum. You seem to think it is more likely that some genius was born who would have developed the scientific method no matter what cultural he was born into than, that such a person would have built upon the ideas of his culture: especially if it was a Judeo-Christian culture….”
    George writes…
    My, my, here’s trouble! My researches, contained in a 2000 page book called ‘Origins of Belief and Behaviour’ concludes just such a thing; that science grew out of dissent, not out of hierarchies of authority such as the religions. Who are those dissenters? Intellectual dissenters such as scientists are intolerant of the social glue of systems of mass deception such as the religions. There seem to me some ornery buggers on this earth who cannot stomach the teaching by authority, and set out to find things for themselves. That process is called ‘Pursuing ‘truth’ as a strategy’ In effect some people, – a very few people –eschew the usual system of gathering information from authority (books and people higher in the authority-structure, or, what is called a university education!) – and go to undermine authority by seeking information from elsewhere. The motivations for seeking truth outside authority are strange and a little perverse. Usually that habit of dissent can be seen in childhood. The habit of dissent begins when the child is first taught unacceptable propositions. Jewish children in particular often feel the sharp cognitive dissonance in family rituals, demands of the synagogue, – and the cool indifference of the world to such imaginary self-protective behaviour. There are many Jewish Nobel Prize-winners.
    We are all familiar with that strategy since it has often played such a big part in intellectual dissent. In ‘truth as a strategy’ the awkward dissenter seeks answers, not because the truth is wonderful, or anything like that, -but because the truth seems to vault over unacceptable and childish conclusions, such as goddidit. Clever people seek the truth because of the shame of organised falsehood. It is a deliberate act of rebellion. But that is exactly how religious people see atheism; as a deliberate and perverse rebellion!
    It is a human perversity to research the truth in things in a world by which the human brain is dedicated to rationalise the assumptions of our forefathers.
    We all know of Newton who tried alchemy and biblical prophesy in order to reconcile an awful inner conflict between his intense Arian Christian beliefs, and the indifference of the world around him. He alighted upon a strategy that gave him the truth about the movement of planets and the forces involved, and the truth about ‘pure’ white light, and many other things that caught his interest. Despite his religious beliefs that tended to draw him towards the normal religious clap-trap concerning the mysterious ways of his gods. In other words he saw through the falsity of religious explanations, while deeply committed to the proposition that the world originated in the mind of gods. His ‘truth as a strategy’ was toward a replacement explanation of how his gods made the world, its objects and its processes. Incidentally, his date for Jesus coming back and killing everyone of earth is 2060.
    Most people love the warm fuzzies of interlocking false explanations such as those of the bible. Only exceptional circumstances make the human brain draw back from authority to strike out in whatever direction his researches take. But armed with the processes (a gift for mathematics, in the case of Newton) that lead to discovering the truth of the world, its objects and its processes, that sense of shame felt by clever people in living with with organised lies, is somewhat assuaged.
    Nobody pursues the truth of the world, unless… Unless it is a strategy to move away from the ordure of traditional beliefs. Strange to realise that our greatest scientists are not motivated by a love of truth, but by a the shame of organised lies. That is why science and religion must be seen as two different categories. And the dissenting scientific mind can do wonders when it dedicates itself to move the poor wretch of a scientist far away from the filth of traditional beliefs upon which human history is based.
    And now we have a new theological movement that attempts to deny the rebellious nature of science. It is called ‘Clergy in Lab-Coats’ They tried ID, but it has failed. The latest wheeze (English word) is to conflate science and religion; to insists that science and religion are compatible, and that science grew out of religion! Preposterous and arrogant notion. The scientific brain and the religious brain are two polar opposites of human Brain Operating Systems. The religious Brain Operating System is dedicated to forming a complete and authoritarian system of explanation. You can see it at work in religion and the Social Sciences. And all such systems are subject to ‘Exponential Error Dispersion’ in that the bulkier the mass of false explanation the more perverse and bizarre it becomes. Eventually the propositions of the Social Sciences or religion make an intelligent person gasp out loud. And for us to ask, how could they possible believe such stuff??!! And theology dances upon some of the greatest fantasy inventions of the human brain! The scientific Brain Operating System has very little loyalty to past knowledge. It can change with every fresh observation.
    I don’t usually read theology books, but what with ‘Darwin’s Doubt’ and Hannam’s appalling ‘God’s Philosophers…’ I find myself appraising the work of ‘Clergy who Wear Lab-Coats’ What embarrassing and gut-wrenching deception!! They, the Clergy in Lab-Coats must know deep down that they are traducing reality to make cover for their holy books. I am presently reading the Hannam book, and it is a classical example of ‘Exponential Error Dispersion’ in that the need to keep invisible gods alive, the whole of historical reality is sacrificed; it has been distorted and reworked by a collection of tricks of rhetoric, of half-truths, of quote-mining, of false implication, and of outright deception. It is another bible, stuffed with pseudoscience, and redolent of a hidden agenda; Catholic in this case. But look to Amazon and see the usual suspects reviewing that book. So many clergy, who, somehow, forget to admit of their religious bias. Is there a collective word for Christian Apologists? ‘A Conspiracy of Clerics,’

    • Posted October 26, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      The historiography that you are labeling “Clergy in Lab-Coats” isn’t new. It’s about 100 years old and it was to counter some pseudo-history promulgated in the 19th century. The history you’re criticizing wasn’t written by clergy.
      You are labeling scientist as dissenters. I always thought the idea of science was to have a neutral agenda while learning about nature via experimentation. Calling them dissenters implies the scientists are just contrarians whose goals are not to learn the truth but instead, to attack conventional wisdom (in other word: upset the apple cart.) The ideal scientist will follow where the science leads whether it debunks or confirms conventional wisdom.
      Again, the idea that there just happened to be ingenious dissenters in Western Europe in the 15th century and that these same geniuses would have been just as successful if they were born in 8th century China seems implausible. Just looking at it statistically.
      The idea that any scientific discovery or successful theory could have been made by a scientist/dissener who no prior knowledge to build upon is absurd. I doubt Einstein would agree that he could have come up with the Theory of Relativity without knowing something of Isaac Newton. Where did he learn about Newton? Rom the institutions you prejoratively called “the usual system of gathering information from authority (books and people higher in the authority-structure, or, what is called a university education!)”
      The argument is that the Judeo-Christian culture (which admittedly owes a lot to the Greeks) was more conducive to individual thought than any other cultures at the time or existed before.

  66. Posted October 26, 2013 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Damn! I just posted a long letter in response to Aristotelian 30066, and my letter is up above his, at 65. I also slammed Hannam, and the habit of the clergy of hiding their affiliation when reviewing books. but more importantly I outlined how science and religion have no possible connection, except this new movement called ‘Clergy in Lab-Coats’ whereby they claim science as their own. I wonder where this missive will land.


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