Christianity invented science
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This is a new delusion creeping around the
This is a new delusion creeping around the Christian halls. This argument seems to have originated with CatholicFather Stanley Jaki, but nowadays perhaps its greatest representative is Christian sociologist Rodney Stark, and is slowly becoming a shared belief amongst fundamental and conservative Christians. They argue that modern day science formed in Christian-centered Europe, and thus [[Christianity]] was responsible for the development of science.
Revision as of 10:20, 18 October 2011
This is a new delusion creeping around the Conservative Christian halls. This argument seems to have originated with Roman Catholic Father Stanley Jaki, but nowadays perhaps its greatest representative is Christian sociologist Rodney Stark, and is slowly becoming a shared belief amongst fundamental and conservative Christians. They argue that modern day science formed in Christian-centered Europe, and thus Christianity was responsible for the development of science.
"As a new generation of historians, sociologists, and philosophers of science has proven, biblical religion was not the enemy of science but rather the intellectual matrix that made it possible in the first place. Without key insights that Christianity found celebrated in the Bible and spread throughout Europe, science would never have happened.... The evidence is incontrovertible: It was the rational theology of both the Catholic Middle Ages and the Protestant Reformation--inspired by the explicit and implicit truths revealed in the Jewish Bible--that led to the discoveries of modern science." - Robery Hutchinson, "The Biblical Origins of Modern Science" (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2007. pg. 139)
Rodney Stark, and other conservative Christians defend the above statement, arguing that since Christianity arose in Christian Western culture, that Christianity was therefore was not just the cause of modern science, but that Christianity was required for the origin of science.
First of all, the idea Christianity invented science is not only false in every conceivable detail but so egregiously false that anyone with even the slightest academic competence and responsibility should have known it was false. Which means its advocates must be either be embarrassingly incompetent, perversely dishonest, or wildly deluded. A big and obvious objection to this demonstrably false claim is that it violates one of the most basic principles of causality: when the cause is in place, its effect is seen. Christianity fully dominated the whole of the Western world from the fifth to the fifteenth century, and yet in all those thousand years there was no Scientific Revolution. A cause that fails to have its predicted effect despite being continually in action for a thousand years is usually considered refuted, not confirmed. No Scientific Revolution took place in the Eastern half of the Christian world either, which had none of the West's excuses. The East was not overrun by barbarians and remained prosperous and developed for five centuries. Why didn't any Scientific Revolution take place in the Byzantine Empire, despite being just as Christian, and in every respect more successful? Those caught be this question usually solve it by denigrating the Byzantines as somehow the "wrong kind" of Christians (Lynn White Jr. "What Accelerated Technological Progress in the Western Middle Ages?" in Scientific Change, ed. A. C. Crombie (New York: Basic Books, 1963(pg.272-91)) But once you start down that road, the notion that Christianity is the solution for a scientific revolution goes right out the window. The fact remains whether East or West, once Christians dominated the culture, no Scientific Revolution ensued. It took over a thousand more years.
Secondly, any historian will tell you that science did not arise in Medieval Europe as certain Christian fundamentalists claim. Rather, science goes back very far. The ancient Greeks were the first to use science, in fact they invented reason (in the very sense he means, developing the formal sciences of logic, philosophy, mathematics, and rhetoric). Christians who share this belief will be quick to point out that some of the earliest famous scientists were also Christian (Galileo, Newton, etc.) However, whoever makes this claim is committing a fallacy. Any motive in Europe at this time had to be agreeable with Christianity, otherwise dire consequences would be the ending result (often times being physical punishment). This was not the time when you could enjoy the liberty of being a heretic, atheist, pagan or infidel without facing repercussions that could put an end to your career, your freedom, or even your life. Such an atmosphere compelled everyone to find inventive ways to sell any new ideas as perfectly Christian, even biblical, regardless of their actual motives or inspiration. Hence finding in that period Christian or biblical arguments for embracing new ideas does not confirm Christianity or the Bible was the cause of those ideas, rather than just the marketing strategy required to sell them at the time. lets not also forget that whenever scientists made discoveries that contradicted Biblical text, Christians were quick to attempt to silence it or discredit it (such as Galileo, and in certain cases Charles Darwin). The Church frowned upon alchemy, and thus chemistry - without which the understanding of matter could not have happened. The Vatican Observatory didn't come into existence until 1891, and not for scientific inquiry but to establish a better calendar to determine the time to celebrate religious events.
Finally, another fallacy is the conflation of necessary, sufficient, and contributing causes. A good case can be made that scientific thinking was actually the byproduct of early pagan theology (Persuasively argued in David Sedley, Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007)). But even if so, no one would conclude from this that paganism was required. Many aspects of pagan religion could contribute to the rise of science, but it does not follow that only paganism can have these attributes. It is not even certain they are all required. It may have provided values that helped science develop, which science could still have developed without, or that other worldviews could have encouraged just as well.
Certain Christians, such as D'Souza in his book What is So Great About Christianity, claims before science came into the picture, the dominate held belief was animism: the idea that everything had a spirit. After that developed polytheistic beliefs, then eastern beliefs, until he first religion to be based on reason: Christianity. D'Souza says that Judaism and Islam were religions of law whereas Christianity is a religion of creed. Here, D'Souza claims that Christianity is the only religion built on reason and there are no theologians in the history of any other religion. But as just explained earlier, reason was invented by the ancient Greeks -who were pagans! So, D'souza is essentially arguing that Christianity is based on paganism. And any attentive reader of the Bible knows Christianity was from the beginning based on scripture, inspiration, and revelation, not "reason"(On the original epistemology of Christianity: Richard Carrier, Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed (Raleigh, NC: Lulu, 2009): pg. 329-68, 385-406). To see what a religion actually based on reason looks like, just look at the formal theologies of the Greco-Roman philosophers. Yes, the pagans invented theology too.(Theology as a rational science in antiquity: Aristotle, Metaphysics 6.1 1026a); Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 9.12-194 (= Against the Physicists 1.12-194 = Against the Dogmatists 3.12-194); and John Dillon, Alcinous: The Handbook of Platonism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993): pg. 57-60, 86-89.)
No Science in Antiquity!?
Rodney Stark does not stop there. "Greek learning stagnated of its own inner logic. After Plato and Aristotle, very little happened beyond some extensions of geometry." (Stark, Victory of Reason, pg. 20)
For the record, Rodney Stark is a sociologist, not a historian of any sort, and he makes a very lousy historian. Stark's entire argument rests on the above sentence. However, if he had done any scholarly work (as a scholar is obliged to do) he would quickly learn that his key premise is utter rubbish. The truth is that the Greeks and Romans achieved tremendous and continual advances in science and mathematics after Aristotle. Here are a few examples,
- Aristotle performed numerous dissection and vivisection experiments in animal anatomy and physiology - composing the most scientific range of zoological works then known.
- His successor, Theophrastus, extended this work to botany and plant physiology, and the first person to produce the first known works in pyrology, mineralogy, and other fields.
- His successor, Strato of Lamsacus, extended their experimental method to machines and physics - by which many of Aristotle's physical theories had been altered or abandoned.
- A research institute was built in Alexandria, Egypt in the third century BCE, in which Ctesibius and Philo completed the first known scientific works in experimental pneumatics.
- Eratosthenes invented the science of cartography and was one of the first scientist in history to measure the diameter of the earth (he was off by 15% - not bad), and he analyzed the effect of the moon on the tides.
(Tides come in, tides go out. You can't explain that. Quick, someone tell Bill O'Reilly this was explained in the third freakin' century BCE!!! Get up to date old man.)
- Herophilus became the first scientist to dissect human cadavers. Also, he and his pupil Erasistrus originated neurophysiology, establishing with detailed experiments that the mind is a function of the brain and the specific mental functions were controlled in specific areas of the brain, and they distinguished motor from sensory nerves and mapped them throughout the body. Altogether. their study of the human body and its bones, muscles, and organs, was so thorough that we still use much of their anatomical terminology.
- In Sicily, their colleague Archimedes was advancing sciences of mechanics and hydrostatics, and discovering, describing, or explaining the first mathematical laws of physics.
- Aristarchus began measuring the distances of the moon, sun and planets, and proposed the first heliocentric theory.
- In Rhodes, Hipparchus discovered and measured celestial precession, observed the first supernova, established the first detailed scientific star charts, made numerous advances in planetary theory, and developed the first scientific system for predicting lunar and solar eclipses.
- Seleucus of Babylon discovered the effect of the sun on the tides (not just the moon), developed the first mathematical lunisolar tide theory.
During the Roman Empire, science reached its pinnacle of achievement, producing works not exceeded until the Scientific Revolution. Just to name a few,
- Dioscorides in botany, mineralogy, and pharmacology
- Hero in mathematics, pneumatics, and theatrical robotics
- Ptolemy in astronomy, cartography, optics, and harmonics
- Galen in anatomy, physiology, and medicine
Many of the scientific discoveries refuted or replaced many of the Aristotle's ideas. Example, by the Roman period, Aristotle's conclusion that comets were an atmospheric phenomenon lost ground when Hipparchus developed an increasingly correct theory of projectile motion and refuted Aristotle's belief that the heavens never change. Also, Herophilus had refuted the Aristotelian theory that the soul resided in the heart, with precise experiments proving all thought and sensation occurred in the brain - a conclusion reinforced by Galen, who showed that the brain controlled human speech.
Christianity and Science go hand to hand
When the delusion that Christianity invented science, it is likely that the follow up argument is that Christianity and science are harmonious and complementary. This is often done by quoting a selected few verses from the Bible that seem scientific (and thus claiming that Christians knew of the scientific fact before it was discovered) or saying that religion and science are not in conflict with each other (while pointing out a few instances when religion promoted science advancement).
Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League, said "It was the Catholic Church that created the first universities, and it was the Catholic Church that played a central role in the Scientific Revolution."