Christianity gave birth to science – a myth?

Ibn al-Haytham - a pioneer of the scientific method

This theological myth seems to surface in any debate about the relationship between religion and science. It is the claim that Christianity gave birth to science. That modern science was not possible anywhere but in the European Christian culture.

The myth is actively promoted by some Christian scholars – theologians and philosophers of religion. And sometimes it even appears that less critical non-religious philosophers who are largely ignorant of the history of science accept the myth.

Perhaps we should expect a bit of Christian chauvinism. After all, nationalists claim all sorts of things originated in their own country (People of my generation may remember when the Russians were claiming all sorts of technologies were invented by their countrymen – I fondly remember their claim for lampposts!). And Christian chauvinism is alive and well in areas like human rights and morality.

An offensive myth

But this myth is offensive. It’s insulting to medieval Islam. To the scientists and philosophers of the Roman Empire and classical Greece. To the civilisations of ancient Egypt, Babylonia, China and India and beyond.

There is a useful chapter on this myth in a book recently edited by Ronald Numbers – “Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion.” It’s “Myth 9: That Christianity gave birth to modern science” written by Noah J. Efron. He is President of the Society for Israeli History and Philosophy of Science.

No one denies that many scientists were, and are, Christian – or that Christian philosophers were involved in developing ideas about nature. But there is simply far more to the story of modern science than that. Efron points out that “the imprint of Greek and Roman ideas on Christian intellectuals remained vivid; they provided the starting point for nearly all inquiries into nature until the start of the modern era. For many centuries, Aristotle’s philosophy was knit most tightly into the woof and warp of Christian theology.”

And “excluding the place of classical philosophers from an account of the history of modern science is an act of intellectual appropriation of breathtaking arrogance. . . .Christian astronomers (and other students of nature) owe a great debt to their Greek forebears.”

Importance of Islamic science

Christian philosophers also took from Muslim. “It was in Muslim lands that natural philosophy received the most careful and creative attention from the seventh to the twelfth centuries. . . .By virtue of its geography alone, Islam became “the meeting point for Greek, Egyptian, Indian and Persian traditions of thought, as well as the technology of China.” This was an asset of incalculable value.”

Muslim scholars translated “great numbers of Greek, Indian, and Persian books of philosophy and natural philosophy into Arabic.” Muslim scholars added to the original texts and wrote original material “that advanced every major field of inquiry. . .They developed intricate instruments of observation.” These translations and new work were of immense worth. They were later translated into Latin and became available to Christian scholars.

“Many of these Muslim achievements were, in time, eagerly adopted by Christian philosophers of nature.” Efron stresses that “this grand body of new materials forever changed the course of Christian philosophy of nature.”

Dialogue of civilisations

Scientists are used to proper attribution. To acknowledging that we all stand on the shoulders of giants – and it’s a bit like “turtles all the way down.”  Efron writes: “Modern science rests (somewhat, anyway) on early modern, renaissance, and medieval philosophies of nature, and these rested (somewhat, anyway) on Arabic natural philosophy, which rested (somewhat, anyway) on Greek, Egyptian, Indian, Persian, and Chinese texts, and these rested, in turn, on the wisdom generated by other, still earlier cultures. .  .  . “This has been called ‘the dialogue of civilisations in the birth of modern science’ [by Arun Bala in his book The Dialogue of Civilizations in the Birth of Modern Science]”

Other European sources

Even going no further than Europe at the time of the scientific revolution we can see other sources of modern science besides, or as well as, religious scholarship. Commerce and trade: “the values inherent in the world of commerce were explicitly and self-consciously recognised to be at the root of the new science by contemporaries.” The early-modern voyages of discovery also contributed. There were invention and importation of important technologies (eg. clocks, printing press) which boosted inquiry. “Europe’s legal systems influenced the development of both scientific theory and practice.” And: “Early modern Europe also saw the emergence of other secular institutions that came to play an important role in the growth of modern science. Scientific societies, for example, were established across the continent beginning in the seventeenth century.”

Science a human endeavour

This history and the current situation where a large percentage of scientists are not Christian, many not even religious, show an important fact about modern science. “The rich diversity of the cultural and intellectual soil deep into which its roots extend.” And: “With the passage of time, the ethos of science came to stand at odds with the particularist claims of any religion or ethnic group.” Science is a non-sectarian, democratic and inclusive enterprise.

The chauvinistic approach of the myth that Christianity gave birth to science opposes this scientific ethos. It is denigrating to non-Christians and immature. As Efron points out assigning credit is not a zero-sum game. “It does not diminish Christianity to recognise that non-Christians, too, have a proud place in the history of science.”

Efron concludes his chapter with: “For better or worse, science is a human endeavour, and it always has been.”

Amen to that.

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66 responses to “Christianity gave birth to science – a myth?

  1. I had a dialogue with philosopher Dr Glenn Peoples along the same lines on the Premier Christian Radio forums.

    It was a brief exchange – link below.

    http://www.premiercommunity.org.uk/xn/detail/2060181:Comment:693319

    I still think that the effect of the Christian Theistic worldview was overplayed in theory and detrimental in practice, but then I don’t had a Phd so what do I know. ;-)

  2. Its being overplayed at the moment, Paul, by those wishing to rewrite the history of science. Particularly with respect to Galileo (Glenn goes so far as to claim Galileo was wrong and claims Einstein in support!).

  3. What I love is that you quote from the book ““Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion.” and yet elsewhere you continue to perpetuate the myth this that forms this books title! You should read this book as it addresses many of the myths that appear on this blog.

  4. Looks like we have another myth in the process of formation. Max, you claim that I ” continue to perpetuate the myth this that forms this books title!”

    Simple request: please provide evidence that I encourage that belief.

    It’s not something I have even believed myself. I have always known about the Inquisition’s sentence to imprisonment being amended later to house arrest.

    However perhaps we can seen the mechanism of formation of these myths in your response. At least you may learn a bit about comprehension and careful reading.

  5. Denial! That’s OK. As long as you know it is a myth now.

  6. Denial -? You can’t find the evidence – can you? Because that has never been my position.

    However, if you do eventually get to read that book (The chapter is “Myth 8: That Galileo was imprisoned and tortured for advocating Copernicism” by Maurice A. Finocchiaro) you will see this isn’t so much a myth but inadequate history. Because people didn’t have access to full documents for many years.

    Finocchiaro concludes his chapter:

    “We should keep in mind, however, that for 150 years after the trial the publicly available evidence indicated that Galileo had been imprisoned, and for 250 years the evidence indicated that he had been tortured. The myths of Galileo’s torture and imprisonment are thus genuine myths: ideas that are in fact false but once seemed true—and continue to be accepted as true by poorly educated persons and careless scholars.”

    I am certainly not aware of anyone currently promoting this particular myth – although I imagine those unfamiliar with any of the recent books could well be.

    But its the old Matryoska doll again (see Myths within a myth). Creating straw men as a myth within a myth.

    Your mate Glenn, for example, promotes the idea that Galileo was wrong and that one cannot identify any difference between a heliocentric and geocentric solar system!

    There are certainly some myths around about the Galileo affair but the real myths are coming from Christian apologists – not scientists (as far as I know but I am open to any evidence you can produce).

  7. I have one strong objection to your previous post that I would like you to retract immediately Ken. Glenn is NOT my mate. ;)

  8. Sorry, Max. it was a dig, but below the belt?

  9. Ken I think you’ll find that historians give due credit to the contributions of the other great civilisations, but it is a fact that science flourished uniquely in Christian Europe. No reason to act offended. Unfortunately you seem to be repeating the propaganda of Thomas Henry Huxley, John William Draper, and Andrew Dickson White, who tried to paint religion as the enemy of science. That contention is false, but clearly you have personal reasons for finding history ‘offensive’.

  10. … but it is a fact that science flourished uniquely in Christian Europe.

    Why “Christian” Europe?
    Why not just say …Europe?

    “… but it is a fact that science flourished uniquely in aristocratic Europe.”

    “… but it is a fact that science flourished uniquely in patriachial Europe.”

    “… but it is a fact that science flourished uniquely in white-dominated Europe.”

    …religion as the enemy of science.

    Religion uses revelation. Science uses investigation.
    Mathematics is the work of the Devil.

    The Effect of Islam on Science in the Middle East – 9th-12th Century

  11. I think the point that some are missing, which I tried to discuss with Glenn, was that if Christianity was the beneficial force that supported science in the way that some are positing then what happened to science between AD400 and AD1200 when Christianity was on the march across Europe and particularly Britain, France and Italy ?

    Were there other influences at work after that period that had a greater effect and which led to the Enlightenment ?

  12. Agreed, Paul. Richard Carrier makes exactly that point. While he doesn’t necessarily attribute that stagnation to Christianity he does see it as a beneficiary of that period of mysticism after the decline of the Roman Empire.

    Richard has a book on this coming out “any time soon.”

    This is a big problem with the cherry picking that people like Glenn are doing. It ignores all the other possible contributors to the revival of an evidence based science in Europe. Such as travel, commerce and trade. As well as the launching of scientific societies througout Europe. Factors which also may have influenced Chritian philosophy itself.

  13. This theological myth seems to surface in any debate about the relationship between religion and science. It is the claim that Christianity gave birth to science. That modern science was not possible anywhere but in the European Christian culture.

    Your writing needs to be much more careful. (1) If its a myth at all, its a historical myth, not a theological one. Reasons: (a) Just because a myth is perpetuated by theologians (or is sustained by some nefarious theological agenda), does not make it theological. (b) Plenty of secular historians accept the hypothesis you claim is mythological.

    (2) No one claims that Christianity gave birth to science. The claim is rather that modern science was birthed in a Christianized intellectual environment. MODERN science – not any science at all.

    (3) Again, the claim is not that “modern science was not possible anywhere [other than] in the European Christian culture. The claim is that one of the reasons (not the only reason by any means, but an important one that should not be overlooked is) that modern science developed in Europe at the time it did, and continued to flourish in the West, was because Christian theology had grown pervasive in the culture and it provided a foundation for its motivation, method and rationality.

    These three mistakes in the first introductory paragraph didn’t bode well for the rest of the article. The forth mistake builds on the first three. It is another strawman fallacy, namely, that other cultures and religious perspectives did not contribute to the flourishing of modern science in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, nor that there was no science prior to that period.

    When you read real historians you’ll find they’re a lot more careful than your average person with apologetic motivations, whether they are Christian or not.

  14. Ropata – this is very imprecise and misleading: “science flourished uniquely in Christian Europe.”

    In fact the real flourishing of science came when it was placed on a good empirical basis. When it accepted completely the interaction with reality as our souce of, and validation of, knowledge.

    This actually required a break with religious philosophy and theology.

    So science may have started to flourish in an area called “Christian Europe” but it required a fundamental break with the Christian philosophy and theology. Even if those doing the breaking were Christians themselves – as were Galileo and Newton. Effectively they converted their god into a retired engineer.

  15. Richard Christie

    Much ado is made my apologists that many great scientists were christian.
    Well, ho hum, so, at least is name, were the vast majority of European population over past 1,500 years.
    A more telling question would be how many great historical scientists were also clergymen? If christianity boosted scientific inquiry the list should be long.

  16. Stuart – my dictionary defines theological ass related to the study of god and religion. Its a relatively vague and general term so I will treat your criticism 1 as a red herring and give it the attention it deserves.

    All sorts of claims are made by the theologically inclined about the origins of science. (Your postulate of “no one claims” is clearly too dogmatic).

    In the book chapter I reference Efrom provides a few quotes where the myth is perpetrated. For example – Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God(2003):
    “[T]heological assumptions unique to Christianity explain why science was born only in Christian Eu rope. Contrary to the received wisdom, religion and science not only were compatible; they were inseparable… Christian theology was essential for the rise of science.”

    As Efron wrote:
    “Modern science rests (somewhat, anyway) on early modern, renaissance, and medieval philosophies of nature, and these rested (somewhat, anyway) on Arabic natural philosophy, which rested (somewhat, anyway) on Greek, Egyptian, Indian, Persian, and Chinese texts, and these rested, in turn, on the wisdom generated by other, still earlier cultures. . . . “This has been called ‘the dialogue of civilisations in the birth of modern science’ [by Arun Bala in his book The Dialogue of Civilizations in the Birth of Modern Science]”

    And:
    ““excluding the place of classical philosophers from an account of the history of modern science is an act of intellectual appropriation of breathtaking arrogance. . . .Christian astronomers (and other students of nature) owe a great debt to their Greek forebears.””

    James Hannam effectively does this in his book out soon called The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolutionand in his recently published God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science.

    This myth commonly claimed by the theologically inclined of course does not always completely ignore the contributions of other cultures – but it downplays them. It gives Christianity a necessary role, above other cultures. Ignoring that much of Chrsitian philosophy was indeed built from and captured from preceding cultures anyway.

    Turtles all the way down for the less arrogant.

    You yourself claim the science flourished “in the west .. because Chrsitian theology had grown pervasive..” That “because” implies necessity and separates it from its cultural heritage(s). (As does Starks “essential” and “inseparable”).

    It is also simply shown false by Paul’s point which you guys always ignore or fudge: “what happened to science between AD400 and AD1200 when Christianity was on the march across Europe and particularly Britain, France and Italy ?”

    Good history, as for any discipline, is not based on cherry picking.

  17. Ken do you deny that the Scientific Revolution took place in the philosophical and cultural matrix of late medieval, Christian Europe? Or are you content to accuse everybody else of bias while denying history?

    . . . the story of the supposed opposition of the Church and the Popes and the ecclesiastical authorities to science in any of its branches, is founded entirely on mistaken notions. Most of it is quite imaginary. Much of it is due to the exaggeration of the significance of the Galileo incident. Only those who know nothing about the history of medicine and of science continue to harbor it. That Dr. White’s book, contradicted as it is so directly by all serious histories of medicine and of science, should have been read by so many thousands in this country, and should have been taken seriously by educated men, physicians, teachers, and even professors of science who want to know the history of their own sciences, only shows how easily even supposedly educated men may be led to follow their prejudices rather than their mental faculties, and emphasizes the fact that the tradition that there is no good that can possibly come out of the Nazareth of the times before the reformation, still dominates the intellects of many educated people who think that they are far from prejudice and have minds perfectly open to conviction. . .

  18. Ropata, well I guess you guys are working hard to overcome the “exaggeration of the significance of the Galileo incident.” Actually to rewrite the whole incident. Your mates Matt and Glen have been desperately attempting this for a while.

    The Church-Galileo affair represented a conflict between science based on reality and revelation based on scriptural authority . The scientific revolution required the challenge. I think it is very hard to exaggerate the significance of the Galileo affair. But there is certainly an attempt by militant theists to rewrite and distort it.

  19. there is certainly an attempt by militant Atheists to rewrite and distort it.
    Fixed that for ya.
    Are you sure you read the book: “Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion.”?

  20. Ropata, the chapter in the book describing the Galileo issue is by Maurice A. Finocchiaro. Perhaps you should read it to assess the degree to which anyone is perpetrating the “myth” he refers to now (See my comments above replying to Max’s simmilar attempt to creat a myth within a myth.

    Interesting Maurice A. Finocchiaro has also written the book Retrying Galileo, 1633-1992 in which he analyses documents over the period from the Galileo trial to the Catholic Church’s “apology.” He makes an argument that there may well be a new myth about this “apology.” Interesting?

    Now tell me – in what way are atheists distorting the history of the Galileo affair? Specifics and references please.

  21. I have no desire to go back down that rabbit-hole Ken, but your debates with Matt and Glenn are still online if you want to pat yourself on the back for “winning” (i.e. sticking to the same erroneous claims despite repeatedly being exposed as anti-Catholic distortions).

  22. So, ropata, you are unable to say in what way atheists distort the history of the Galileo affair or give any specific and references.?

    Why am I not suprised. A myth built on air. Hot air. Or piss and wind?

  23. Nice post,if religion gave birth to science,then it is not religion.

  24. Galileo goes to Jail
    Galileo forced to recant
    Galileo tortured by the Inquistion
    “The Church-Galileo affair represented a conflict between science based on reality and revelation based on scriptural authority”

    Really simplistic thinking, the subtleties of the story are lost in your steamroller approach.

  25. Richard Christie good point, here is a brief overview

    St. Bede, the Venerable (d. 735) An Anglo-Saxon priest, historian, biblical scholar, and one of the greatest of all chroniclers of the Middle Ages. Aside from his historical writings, he was the author of On Time and On the Reckoning of Time.

    Pope Sylvester II (d. 1003) A pontiff and scientist who promoted mathematics and astronomy in the Church’s schools.

    Hermannus Contractus (d. 1054) A monk and author of works on geometry, mathematics, and the astrolabe.

    Pope John XXI (d. 1277) A pontiff and author of an influential work on medicine prior to his election.

    St. Albertus Magnus (d. 1280) One of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church and the patron saint of scientists. He is called Universal Doctor.

    Roger Bacon (d. 1294) An English Franciscan who helped to establish the laws of nature and wrote on geography, mechanics, and optics. He is honored as the “Amazing Doctor”.

    Theodoric of Freiberg (d. c. 1310) A member of the Dominicans best known for explaining the rainbow in On the Rainbow.

    Thomas Bradwardine (d. 1349) English archbishop who helped advance the principles of mechanics. He is honored as the Profound Doctor.

    Nicole Oresme (d. 1382) French philosopher, bishop of Lisieux, and mathematician. He wrote on economics, mathematics, and the natural sciences, and his studies with Jean Buridan of moving bodies foreshadowed the work of Leonardo da Vinci and Copernicus.

    Nicholas of Cusa (d. 1464) A German theologian, humanist, mystic, expert in canon law, and a cardinal, he also made contributions to the field of mathematics by developing the concepts of the infinitesimal and of relative motion. His philosophical speculations also anticipated Copernicus’ heliocentric worldview.

    Bl. Nicolas Steno (d. 1686) A convert from Lutheranism, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987. He brought advances in the areas of anatomy, geology, and paleontology.

    Bl. Francesco Faà di Bruno (d. 1888) An Italian priest and spiritual writer who made immense contributions to mathematics, including a famous formula. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

    Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175-1253) master of mathematics, optics, and science, foreshadowing the experimental methods of his pupil Roger Bacon. Founder of the scientific movement at Oxford University. Treatises on Aristotle, the Julian calendar, optics, music, and mathematics.

    Ignazio Danti (1536-1586) astronomy, mathematics, optics, architecture, civil engineering, hydraulics, and cartography. Wall sized maps in buildings in Florence and the Vatican. Perfected the rado latino, a surveying instrument and designed a canal linking the Adriatic and Mediterranean.

    Marin Mersenne (1588-1648) renowned for his work in mathematics, especially the so-called Mersenne primes. In La vérité des sciences (Truth of the Sciences), he argued for the value of human reason. He corresponded with the foremost figures of his age, including Pierre Gassendi, René Descartes, Pierre de Fermat, Thomas Hobbes, and Blaise Pascal. He organized colloquia of scientists from around Europe to read their papers and exchange ideas; the number of scientists whose careers were given direction by the colloquia is hard to overstate.

    Jean-Felix Picard (1620-1682) earned the title of founder of modern astronomy in France even as he labored as a priest. Picard introduced new methods for watching the stars and improved and developed new scientific instruments. Honored in 1935 by having a moon crater named after him. Inspiration for character ‘Captain Picard’ in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’

    Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) Far better known than Picard, of course, is the Augustinian abbot Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics.

    Armand David (1826-1900) Numerous discoveries in zoology, botany, geology, and paleontology. Documented more than 60 species of animals and more than 60 species of birds, all of which had been previously unknown.

    Julius Nieuwland (1878-1936) successfully polymerized acetylene into divinylacetylene, leading to the development of neoprene rubber. Received the Morehead Medal, the American Institute Medal, and the Nichols Medal, the highest honor of the American Chemical Society.

    Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) Fr. Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest, physicist, and mathematician, first proposed the Big Bang Theory for the birth of the universe.

    Stanley Jaki (1924-2009)
    Fathers Nieuwland and Lemaître made manifest that faith and science are not incompatible. The Benedictine priest Stanley Jaki has argued with great eloquence that science itself could develop only in a Christian culture. For his work, he earned the Templeton Prize and in 1990 was named to the Pontifical Academy of Science by Pope John Paul II. Born in Hungary, he earned doctorates in Systematic Theology and Nuclear Physics, is fluent in five languages, and has authored 30 books. A Distinguished Professor at Seton Hall University, Jaki’s work in the history and philosophy of science has brought him a wide audience around the world. In a modern scientific world so steeped in Enlightenment philosophy and so opposed to a relationship with religion, Fr. Jaki’s assertion that science and religion are consistent and that scientific analysis can shed light on both scientific and theological propositions is a bold one.

    As Jaki contends, discoveries of nuclear physics and astronomy have given confirmation of an essential order within the universe. While it is true that our understanding of both fields is incomplete, the Christian perspective demonstrates that the order of the cosmos is entirely consistent with the biblical view of Creation.

    Traveling in the footsteps of Lemaître, Jaki has tackled one of the greatest questions in science, cosmology, and has concluded that science permits us to gain insights into the events that followed the instant of creation but offers nothing about what happened before it, when matter itself was created from nothing. He thus boldly challenges the assertions of cosmologists and astrophysicists such as Stephen Hawking that the origins of the universe offer proof for the non-existence of God; rather, the very proposition cannot be proved scientifically because there is nothing to observe. At the same time, God’s created order reflects a Creator who is totally rational and infinitely superior to our own way of thinking. Little wonder, then, that such a balanced and positive approach to the natural world that is found in authentic Christian teaching and culture permitted science to flourish.

  26. @ Ropata – serious bit of copy and paste there :-)

    I can see the point that both you and Glen have tried to make on this issue and using my own conversation with Glenn as an example I can see here the differing views arise.

    Yes, there is a case to be made that the church did some nice things for science and that some men of science were also, if not first and foremost, theologians. The church was able to provide the facilities, a certain amount of security, tenure and the time.

    However, that does not negate the practices of the church in suppressing scientific progress if it suited it’s political purposes at any given moment, in particular if it presented a challenge to the social status quo or questioned the established otherhodox view.

    Once you hit the Enlightenment then the question becomes moot in that whether a scientist is also a theologian is neither here nor there, there are other scientists in the various fields and the dual influences of the church (overt encouragement and covert suppression) are reduced in importance. The juggernaut is rolling.

    Would there be any benefit in drawing up a list of the top one million scientists today and asking how many were Theists and drawing any conclusion from that ?

  27. Richard Christie

    That’s a couple of dozen, I would expect many more if christian doctrine really encouraged scientific inquiry.
    One inescapable fact is that the monasteries and later, the general clergy had a monopoly on literacy for centuries. That fostered intellectual and academic activity, although it is very dicey to conclude from this that the church encouraged scientific endeavour. And it is risible to claim, as does 2nd link in Ropata’s 4.39pm comment, that christianity, and only christianity, enabled science to flourish.

  28. Ropata – a bit silly to come out with a list like that. Its a bit like quoting a list of Soviet scientists responsible for great progress in science and pointing out they were communists. Claiming that communism was repsonsible for their scientific acheivements – all scientific acheievements.

    Ignoring the fact ithat in that place and time it was normal to belong to what was the only legitimate political party. So for those living in societies dominated by the Chrsitian Church or Islam – or any relgion.

    The irony I like to think about. Because the Soviet Communist Party was the leading organisation of that time and was integrated with the state and culture in so many ways it was the place where many ideological and political thinkers advanced new and challenging ideas that eventually lead to the removal of the communist party from power.

    So the reivatilasation of emprirical science that started 400 years ago lead to many Chrsitian thinkers of the time advancing ideas which eventually depicted their god as a retired engineer – and further laid the bais for the complete removal of theological influence in sciuence.

  29. Ropata – you refusal to answer is very demeaning for your postion. It is just silly to come out with:
    “Galileo goes to Jail
    Galileo forced to recant
    Galileo tortured by the Inquistion”

    And ignore the obvious. Who is actually perpetuating the myths that Galileo was jailed and tortured?

    You are not able to quote a single person, let alone a “militant atheist”. No-one. How embarrasing for you position.

    You are simply trying to create a new myth by simple recantation. Pathetic.

    As for glaileo forced to recant? Do you think his recanting was honest?

  30. Ken both of my comments were in response to questions from you or others. Of course neither of them were deemed good enough, aren’t you tired of shifting the goalposts?

    My list of Christian progenitors of modern science is by no means exhaustive, but it does reflect a culture in which “natural philosophy” was popular among clergy keen to explore the wonders of Creation as its vast order, beauty and life, as reflecting the character of its Maker. Your spectre of an oppressive regime crushing scientific knowledge is only a paranoid atheist delusion.

    The artefacts produced by a civilization reflect its beliefs. Christian Europe produced an amazing array of inventions and discoveries. The USA put a man on the moon and invented whole new industries; cars, telephones, computers. Russia made concrete bunkers and tons of nukes. Atheist Russia seems closer to your position than mine, but really it’s a clumsy comparison which I would be embarrassed to make.

  31. Ropata, “natural philosophy” was popular among Christian clergy”, communists, Islamists, classic Greeks, Romans, Indians, Chinese, etc.

    Science is a human enterprise. It is arrogant and chauvinist for one ideology or another to claim it in the way you do.

    And you still refuse to provide any support for your claims of atheists creating myths around the Galileo affair.

    Nothing.

    Your are trying to create myths based only a vacuum.

  32. The Genesis of Science may seem “arrogant and chauvinist” to you but it is also a matter of historic record. No matter how much you may wish it was forged in the cold flames of epicurean logic, science is indeed a human enterprise just as much as religion and they have long been tangled together.

    Ken the obvious example of distortion is your own mythology of the Galileo affair… always casting it as a clash between science and religion, even though such categories were hardly distinct at the time, and there was much more to the incident than the common stereotypes.

  33. Ropata – what are you smoking?

    Again you make a childish attack on me – ” the obvious example of distortion is your own mythology of the Galileo affair.”

    Well come on – what specific myth am I advancing? Be a man and answer. You continue to refuse to provide examples or specifics.

    In fact it seems to me that you and your militant Christian mates are the one’s inventing myths. The unwarranted, and unsubstantiated claims, that we horrible atheists have claimed Galileo was jailed and tortured and that the Church taught the earth was flat.!

    But no examples, no specifics, no evidence.

    I guess that’s theology for you.

    But how immoral to tell lies like that – even if it us for Jesus.

  34. Unbelievable: the complaint that the “theologically inclined” minimize the importance of the contributions to the rise of modern science by emphasizing the importance of the Christian theological assumptions as a necessary condition. One could readily turn the objection on its head against those here advocating the Conflict thesis.

  35. Stuart, you have done absolutely nothing to justify your claim that Christian theology is essential, a necessary condition, for modern science. As my post points out that is an arrogant claim and chauvinistic because it puts your religion above all others with no justification. None at all.

    There is a far better argument for the case that an essential condition for the rise of modern science was its break with theology of all brands, and with religious philosophy. It is a position which in my reading is supported by many current books on the history of science.

    Eckland’s survey showed that even religious scientists do not reject the modern scientific methods. The have no conflict with them. They in fact reject intelligent design and the Wedge Strategy which aims to replace modern science with a “theistic science.”

    Could you be specific about “those here advocating the Conflict thesis.”? Who is doing so and what is the detail of this “thesis” you claim they advocate?

    It seems to me that those currently trying to rewrite the history of the Galileo affair and the history of science itself for their own dogmatic ideological ends are the one’s promoting conflict.

  36. Ken I’m glad you deny some of the myths about Galileo but it’s a step into silliness to further deny that atheists have been spreading them gleefully ever since the Enlightenment, as the link in my first comment already showed.

    There is a far better argument for the case that an essential condition for the rise of modern science was its break with theology of all brands, and with religious philosophy.
    Yet its decisive break into methodological naturalism independent of religious considerations (“natural philosophy”) only occurred in a Christian culture. Before that “science” did not exist as a specialised discipline, even the usage of the word is quite recent.

  37. Ropata, this break with philosophical idealism and theology was necessary in all cultures. Hindu and Islamic scientists today use the same materialist methodology as scientists in the west.

    but it is this break which enables modern science to really take off. Becuase it reinforce the role of empirical evidence and validation agaisnt reality.

    But you are asking me to accept something for which you have no evidence or are unprepared to share. I repeat:

    “Could you be specific about “those here advocating the Conflict thesis.”? Who is doing so and what is the detail of this “thesis” you claim they advocate? “

    As Max says – Yawn. Can’t seem to get anywhere with you.

  38. God loves a trier. And you can be trying indeed!

    If you don’t want to visit the link I gave, wikipedia also has a good summary of the conflict thesis.

  39. Ropata – you have no credibility at all. You make slanderous charges, refuse to back them up, and don’t apologise.

  40. Strange, I don’t recall any slanderous charges, all I have done is remind you of some of the silly accusations offered by your mates in anti-religion camp. And comment on your peculiar interpretation of history. Terms such as slander, militant, arrogant, chauvinistic are of course transparent rhetorical devices (appeal to emotion) rather than holding any logical value. Also you seem to be confused, the question regarding the conflict thesis should have been directed to Stuart not me.

  41. Ken,

    The Conflict Thesis is the thesis that the relationship between science and religion (not limited to the Christian religion, but usually with particular emphasis on the Christian religion) is best described with terms of warfare. Anyone who claims to have done substantive reading in the history or philosophy of science should be aware of this.

    The idea was birthed propagated by atheists in the nineteenth century. The Conflict Thesis remained popular in the first half of the 20th Century, though not unchallenged. When scientific historiography matured in the 50’s new scholarship produced a barrage of research on the topic. The conflict thesis was utterly refuted and dead in academia by the 70’s. Though the Conflict Thesis is popular today in the media (probably because sensationalism sells), and remains in the minds of pop scholarship, today it is widely rejected among the educated. Only fools wishing to distance themselves from their scholarly compatriots advocate it.

    As my post points out that is an arrogant claim and chauvinistic because it [the claim that Christian theology is a necessary condition] puts your religion above all others with no justification. None at all.

    I don’t think that Christianity is superior to other religions because it led to the development of modern science. I think Christianity is superior because its TRUE, and one of the evidences of this that the assumptions provided by Christian theology led to and maintain the success of the scientific endeavor. If advocating what is TRUE is what you call “arrogant” and “chauvinistic” then so be it, but in that case I don’t know why you write at all.

    On the contrary, the justification for this is clear and threefold. (1) At no other place in the world or time in history has modern science arisen independently of the influence of Christian thinking or the tradition birthed in Europe. (2) No other worldview provides the combination of beliefs that form the foundation of modern science, namely that nature is rational, the mind is rational and capable of comprehending that innate rationality, and that nature is worthy of investigation. (3) A great many of the founders of the sciences themselves attribute their curiosity of nature to their love of God: they give reasons for them becoming involved in the scientific endeavor: in their writings they muse on their presuppositions about nature and science; and these reasons are all theological and in the Christian tradition.

    Call is an arrogant claim and chauvinistic if you like, but these are the facts and they are facts. Pointing these facts out doesn’t diminish the contributions of other worldviews. (I would expect Islaam to have made contributions since they share a great deal of the Judeo-Christian mono-theistic Creator and creation theology – Islam stole it.) But you can’t ignore (and shouldn’t underemphasize) these facts because they don’t fit your picture of how the world is.

  42. Stuart – it’s very noticeable that you completely ignore my specific request of you:

    “Could you be specific about “those here advocating the Conflict thesis.”? Who is doing so and what is the detail of this “thesis” you claim they advocate?”

    Which gives a lot of substance to my assertion:

    “It seems to me that those currently trying to rewrite the history of the Galileo affair and the history of science itself for their own dogmatic ideological ends are the one’s promoting conflict.”

  43. Richard Christie

    Speaking for myself, I see nothing remotely wrong with the Conflict Thesis.
    Nothing at at all wrong with recognising a conflict between enlightenment and dogma, between evidence and superstition.
    If the idea was “birthed propagated by atheists in the nineteenth century it was simply in recognition of the obvious.

  44. Richard, this “Conflict Thesis” is very popular with Christian apologists at the moment. It enables them to throw around accusations without any evidence (as you can see from Stuart’s behaviors). And they rely in referring to authors of over a hundred years ago – books no one normally can check (and they probably haven’t either).

    Here is my take on the religion science conflict:

    1: in one sense it’s just silly. Religion and science are completely different things. It’s like talking about the apple-cat conflict.

    2: in practice we all know there are a number of scientists who are religious (probably more Hindus than Christians, though). But they don’t do religion when they do science. They would be unemployable if they did. Ecklund’s study showed that these people don’t do science any different to non religious scientists.

    So no conflict on that sense. And it is silly to try and promote that sort of conflict in the way that the intelligent design and creationist people do.

    3: there is a basic conflict though. And that is in the epistemology. Christianity relies on authority and revelation. Science on evidence and interaction with reality. Testing and validating against reality.

    Completely different epistemology.

    4: Stuart himself provides a clear example of this different epistemology and a source of this conflict. When he says “Christianity is superior because its TRUE” he is saying a thing which scientists would never say. It’s completely outside the ethos of science simply to declare something true because you wish it to be. It’s a completely different epistemology.

    And that is why the scientific revolution was not based on Christian theology. It actually required an escape from such theology and religious philosophy.

    And that is why science is do successful today and religion is in retreat. Every one of it’s fact claims is shown to be wrong when tested against reality.

  45. Stuart, you’re back!
    Wonderful.

    How old do you think the Earth is, Stuart?
    Give us a answer.
    Reach deep down into your character where you keep the last tatters of honesty and unwillingness to endlessly weasel and evade.

    Reach down deep…and cough up a number.

    How old is the Earth? Engage a little with reality as the rest of humanity understands it.
    How old is the Earth?
    6000 years old? 10,000 years old? 20,000 years old? Older?
    How old do you, Stuart (in your heart of hearts) honestly think the Earth is?

  46. @ Cadric Katesby, In this discussion my view of the age of the earth is irrelevant. Why do you bring it up? Do you think it clever? Does it somehow prove a point your trying to make? – it doesn’t. I remember you bringing this up before, but I never remember it being relevant – ever. EVER. I’ve never had anything to hide with respect to my view of the age of the earth. I think its old. I don’t know how old exactly – somewhere around 60 billion years. Not sure. I’m open to exploring the young earth hypothesis. As a Christian I am completely open to the possibility, but ultimately I don’t think it’ll work scientifically. I’ve believed this for a long, long time. Is this direct enough for you? Am I engaged enough for you? Has this proven the point you were trying to make? This game you play has never been complimentary to your character.

    @Ken, You ask me to point out to you which specific part of the conflict thesis you advocate, and then advocate the whole it. Many of your past blogs advocate it, and you know it. Its idiotic and childish.

    Here is one example, just from the last post:

    It [the scientific revolution] actually required an escape from such theology and religious philosophy.

    You say “escape”, as if there were some sort of conflict between the two [theology/religious philosophy with modern science]. Like religion were holding back the progress of science. As if science was a hostage to the church or something. This is the Conflict Thesis!

    A quibble:

    And that is why the scientific revolution was not based on Christian theology.

    I outlined the assumptions gifted by Christian theology in three points – presuppositions that undergirded the scientific revolution. Namely; (1) Rational universe, (2) Rational mind to comprehend it, (3) Worthy of investigation. Are you saying none of these were actually present, and that these assumptions are not required for sciences continuing success?

    An incoherence:

    When he says “Christianity is superior because its TRUE” he is saying a thing which scientists would never say.

    You mean to say, I presume, that a scientist would never say anything is definitely true, am I right? Ken, you are scientist, are you not? Is what you have written above TRUE?

    It sure is idiotic.

    there is a basic conflict though. And that is in the epistemology. Christianity relies on authority and revelation. Science on evidence and interaction with reality. Testing and validating against reality. Completely different epistemology.

    You say that religion and science are completely different things [point 1.], and they use a completely different epistemology [point 3.]. First of all, science doesn’t have an epistemology. Science is a subject. You might say its a project of discovery and investigation about nature/reality. Its not a person – it can’t have an epistemology. The same goes for religion. What you probably mean is “method.”

    Either way, its misleading in at least two ways. (1) Science and religion both make claims about the way the world is, some of which are differing. There are not many, but there are some. Cedric, for example, thinks that one view of the age of the earth differs from another (Christian? Biblical?) view of the age of the earth. (If he were to then research the age of the earth with a view to confirming or disconfirming a particular biblical understanding he would be doing Theistic Science by the way.) (2) Presumably what you mean to do is characterize a religious person’s epistemology as being completely different to the epistemology used by scientists. However, a theist is just as likely to consult evidence and interaction with nature/reality as he is to consult authority and revelation. A Christian thinks both pictures received from both methods must be congruent. It’s one of the aims of a person doing theistic science to integrate the two disciplines.

  47. Stuart – it’s strange to provide capital letters (Conflict Thesis), pronounce it as a dogma, learn about it at Bible College and then accuse others of it. All based on simple little words like “escape”!

    This is simply another one of those Christian apologist myths which don’t stand up to investigation (see for example The Galileo myths).

    And picking on words like “escape” is a typical theological trick to attempt diversion of discussion.

    Did they bother teaching you at Bible College about the language in the Wedge strategy as part of the Conflict Thesis? For example:

    “Governing Goals
    • To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
    • To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”
    “This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art”

    ‘Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies.”

    “Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

    “we will move toward direct confrontation with the advocates of materialist science”

    Come on Stuart. Get stuck into “infected”, “destructive” “overthrow” “stifling” “confrontation”.

    Tell us who is really promoting this Conflict Thesis. Who is really attacking science?

    Stuart’s credibility wrt to science:

    Cedric may be acting a bit like a dog sniffing another dog’s bum with his perennial question about the age of the earth. I think you have indicated in your own writing sufficiently where you stand on science:

    In your article From The Broader Task of Apologetics you state “theology—the queen of the sciences” and in The Broader Task of Apologetics you write:

    “ Notable Christian scientists today, such as William Dembski,10 Philip Johnson,11 Hugh Ross, and Russell Humphreys are all apologists making waves in the scientific community.”

    You are advocating an apologetic ghetto position that intelligent design is science and that people like Johnson, Dembski, Ross, etc., are doing science. Even that they are impressing the scientific community. What a load of crap.

    Also:

    “Apologetics is the art and science of Christian persuasion.”

    “[apologetics] employs logic, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, and the study of ethics and how we justify ethical beliefs”.


    Scientific epistemology:

    I did not say “a religious person’s epistemology as being completely different to the epistemology used by scientists.” Far from it. There are plenty of religious people doing science, as scientists. I have worked with many. Just as there are scientists who hold all sorts of ideological views. Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, Muslims, communists. Bloody hell, I even knew one who was a member of the ACT Party.

    But when they are doing science they are not doing religion. How could they. The epistemologies are completely different.

    The modern scientific revolution did require a break with theology and religious philosophy – and not just religious philosophy. It required restoration and expansion of an epistemology based on evidence, reality and validating against reality. It required escape from the stifling concept of “theology—the queen of the sciences” or that one could describe reality without interacting with it.

    Your naïve claims that Christianity “gifted” rationality etc to humanity are just silly. Humans had that long before Christianity. And it is lazy of you to ignore pails question about why Christianity didn’t promote science in the millennia before Galileo – When the Islamic world was doing so. When prominent scientists of the seventeenth century talked about a rational world etc., they were unwittingly converting their god into a retired engineer – just one step in the process of eradicating any requirement for gods in our understanding of reality.

    Age of the earth
    Very open minded, Stuart to give a range for the age of the earth of 6000 to 60 billion years. So open minded it reminded me of the saying one can be so open minded your brains fall out. Come on – anay familiarity with, or interest in, science would have given you a better concept than that. Then again, I suppose you don’t consider cosmology the queen of sciences. But really, such an opinion certainly discredits any pronouncement you like to make about the nature of, and history of, science.

  48. Why do you bring it up? Do you think it clever?

    The question goes to the heart of your grip on reality.
    That’s why you have repeatedly dodged and evaded and squirmed again and again and again and again over the last few years.
    Which of course just feeds my delight as I ask you again and again and again.

    The Age of the Earth.
    Bit difficult to spin the idea that there’s much controversy in scientific circles about that one.
    Preach the “controversy” on that whopper all you like but it just won’t sit well with ordinary people.
    Spout all kinds of idle nonsense about biology and you will probably get a sympathetic ear from quite a few religious types who see no harm in it and have no problem with telling sweet, little lies for Jesus. Yet toying with the idea that the Earth is 6000 years or so will quickly separate the sheep from the goats.
    Nothing says “batshit crazy Kristian nutter” faster than musings about Noah herding dinosaurs onto the Ark.
    Other Christians who pride themselves on being of the more sane, publically acceptable variety start squirming at such talk.
    Scientists are about as sure as they are ever likely to be about the age of the Earth.

    Yet I have no wish to paraphrase you or build a strawman.
    I prefer to let your own words speak for themselves.

    Does this ring a bell at all?

    It is clear from the narrative that the Bible describes things as if it were giving an account of actual circumstances, objects and characters, and that these were expected to be taken literally. To take the Biblical account as literal is also the only option available if we are to have any hope of salvation.
    (…)
    The Bibles narrative allows for approximately 6000 years from creation to now. With only 6000 years, to remain true to a literal interpretation of the Bible requires a belief in a young earth. An old earth scientist will find evidence that he interprets to mean that the earth is millions of years old. A young earth scientist will find evidence that he interprets to mean the earth is not millions or billions of years old. He will also reinterpret the old earth scientist and try to correct any faulty assumptions.
    (…)
    Evolutionists always use methodologies that give incredible amounts of time, because these huge numbers are required for evolution to hold water.

    Read the link. PLEASE read the link. It’s SO worth it!

    I don’t know how old exactly – somewhere around 60 billion years. Not sure. I’m open to exploring the young earth hypothesis.

    Brain dead.
    Do everyone a favour and never talk about science-ever!
    If you ever have children, do the right thing and keep your insane loopiness to yourself.
    Should they ever tell their friends at school exactly what their father sincerely believes about certain basic questions about reality, the result will be endless ridicule.

    What is the relationship between science and religion?
    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Exhibit A: Stuart McEwing

  49. @ Cedric, You have quoted me. But that material is very old (I didn’t realize it was even on the internet. Indeed the only link to it I know of is what you have given above.) I’ve since changed my view. Now I think the earth is very old.

    @ Ken, Not that its relevant to the discussion, but I don’t think the earth is somewhere between 6000 and 60 billion. I really had no idea, but I thought at least should be measured in the billions. I’ve since looked at wikipedia, and I’m think their 4.5 billion is probably more like what it actually is.

    You say “but when they [religious folk] are doing science, they are not doing religion.” This is incorrect. Scientific investigation of nature and reality is embraced and encouraged by the Christian religion and its attendant theology. When a Christian is doing science and operating with responsible scientific methodologies (such as embracing methodological naturalism), s/he is working out his religion.

  50. Pity, Stuart, you didn’t take up the opportunity to defend or criticize the Wedge Strategy. Have you changed your opinion on that too? Becuase you are defending the very “methodological materialism” (whatever that means) your heroes are viciously condemning and wishing to overthrow. Even calling it “working out his religion.”

    Does it not worry you that Dembski was forced to back down by his employers when he appeared to move away from the creationist young earth, and Adam and Eve silliness?

    And whatever happened to revelation, authority and biblical “TRUTH”? They are not part of the science your Christian does when he is “working out his religion.”

    I am afraid you are into the old theological bafflegab.

  51. Regarding theology being the queen of the sciences, the idea there that theology was (WAS, not any longer) the most honored among the knowledge fields on enquiry and investigation. Thats because while every other discipline could give you information about the natural world, theology could give give you information about God – AMAZING, and about that which God has revealed. Theology was called the queen because this was the discipline that was for the most accomplished of scholars, only to be entered into after completing degrees in another discipline, say natural science (what we’d just call science). Theology was the discipline that was the centerpiece of the university, and interacted with every other discipline maintaining an flourishing dialogue between it and among the others. It was the ONE in the MANY: the one unifying discipline of the diversity of disciplines. John Ralston Saul refers to the university in todays world as the multiversity, since there is no dialogue between increasingly polarized faculties that are ever being separated into more narrowly focused specialized fields.

    The idea is not that theology was superior to natural science because it could describe reality more accurately than any other. Science and Theology were always, but especially since the Reformation, regarded as two different ways to describe the same reality we all indwell.

    And this idea about Christianity not contributing to scientific advance in the millennia preceding Galileo (such as did Islam for instance) is just hogwash. James Hannam has recently written a book on this misconception, called “The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution,”

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/03/20/10-questions-with-the-genesis-of-science-author-james-hannam/#ixzz1I9c3SFPp.

  52. I don’t have a considered opinion on the so-called wedge strategy, so why would I criticize or defend it.

    You don’t know what methodological naturalism/materialism is. Get a clue!

  53. But that material is very old (I didn’t realize it was even on the internet. Indeed the only link to it I know of is what you have given above.) I’ve since changed my view. Now I think the earth is very old.

    Ok.
    That’s good.
    That’s very fair and reasonable. You have changed your mind on an issue that you clearly felt was important enought to write about in the past.

    I don’t think the earth is somewhere between 6000 and 60 billion.

    Good.
    However, you can see how one could get that impression directly from your own previous comment, right?
    After all, you did say…”…somewhere around 60 billion years. Not sure. I’m open to exploring the young earth hypothesis.

    The YEC position starts out at 6000 years to about (maybe) 20,000 years.
    So that leaves us with the clear impression that you have this wildly divergent idea about something so basic as the Age of the Earth.
    Something so wild as to be totally useless and a mockery of good reason and a genuine interest in science.

    I don’t think the earth is somewhere between 6000 and 60 billion.

    Good. Glad to hear it. Thank you.

    I really had no idea…

    No offence or sarcasm intended but…how could you not?
    I don’t understand it.
    (No, I’m not saying this to make you upset or angry. I’m being very honest with you when I say I don’t understand.)

    If you felt comfortable in the past with the YEC numbers then surely you must have had at least a rough number in your head about what scientists actually discovered? You did not accept those numbers, but surely you must have at least known about them?

    … but I thought at least should be measured in the billions. I’ve since looked at wikipedia, and I’m think their 4.5 billion is probably more like what it actually is.

    Ok but I am incredulous that you never, ever did anything like this before.
    Fifteen seconds on wikipedia and you have all the basic info you need.
    Job done.

    (Again, I say this with a genuine desire to understand. I am not making a dig at you.)

    Not that its relevant to the discussion…

    Wait!
    Stop for a moment and think about it from our side of things.
    There’s this fact.
    A basic scientific fact that is a very famous and very old bone of contention between YEC types vs the rest of the Christian community and world of science at large.
    The Age of the Earth.

    You had the wrong idea before about that very, very famous thing.
    See it as a basic acid test on how you get your scientific information and what you are prepared to accept or not accept.

    If you can get that thing so horribly, badly wrong (and, strangely, not seem to be to worried about being so badly wrong about it like it’s no big deal) then that raises serious questions about your credibility about anything you have to say on any subject in science.
    To us, it’s a big deal.
    It’s gigantic.
    It’s the 700kg gorilla in the room armed with a meat axe.

    Scientific investigation of nature and reality is embraced and encouraged by the Christian religion and its attendant theology.

    Then how do you explain your own personal history?
    How do you explain the awful stuff pumped out by Henry Morris for so many decades and blindly accepted by millions of home schoolers? Assuming that you are deeply embedded within your own community of Christians, how come nobody put a science book in your hand and steered you straight long ago?

    How do you get from being a devotee of Morris to someone who will accept 4.5 billion years because they found it on Wikipedia?
    You have a story about your transition and I’m willing to bet that it could be a very interesting one.
    Please tell us. I’d really like to know.

    Evolution vs. Creationism: The Age of the Earth

  54. Yes, Stuart, Hannam has written this new book – not yet out so why mention it? He might actually undermine your whole argument!

    However he is a well known catholic apologist and his previous book shows this inadequacy. (Of course that is why he is an authority to you and you approve his book unseen. Me, I will wait till I read it and meanwhile I read other material that’s available). His promotion of the new book actually plays down the Islamic contribution which is going to piss some people off. Let’s see what actual credit he dies give to the rest of humanity.

    Theology may well have once held an exalted status. It doesn’t now and the world is better for that.

    As I said, the modern scientific revolution required a break with theology, religious philosophy and other philosophies not based on evidence and interaction with reality.

    Science has consequently rapidly progressed to all out advantages. Theology has decayed. It has largely been discredited.

  55. Does it not worry you that Dembski was forced to back down by his employers when he appeared to move away from the creationist young earth, and Adam and Eve silliness?

    Indeed he was.
    It was a very public humiliation.

    I don’t have a considered opinion on the so-called wedge strategy, so why would I criticize or defend it.

    Perhaps because you have a stake in defending truth and integrity?
    Intelligent Design is all about lies and deciet.

    When a Christian is doing science and operating with responsible scientific methodologies (such as embracing methodological naturalism), s/he is working out his religion.

    Then positively embrace it.
    Don’t just offer lip service.
    Walk the walk.
    If this is really you turning over a new science-friendly leaf then there’s a lot of spurious nonsense that has to be addressed and there’s no good reason why you shouldn’t feel comfortable investigating and confronting them.

    The Collapse of Intelligent Design:Kenneth R. Miller Lecture

  56. Stuart, this is rather incredible to say: “I don’t have a considered opinion on the so-called wedge strategy, so why would I criticize or defend it. ”

    After all you are in print praising people like Johnson. Behe, Ross and Dembski. Even claiming they had a high standing in the science community. How could you not therefore have considered their strategy document? How?

    I am not asking you to support it. (Oeople do change thrir minds). Just to comment on it. After all it was using the conflict language you are going on about. Having been criticized for using the word “escape” I expected a bit more backbone from you.

  57. Stuart, I said ” “methodological materialism” (whatever that means).” That is pointing out that it means different things to different people. You can address that if you wish but it is just diversion to pretend I haven’t my own understanding.

    I have found that when comes to words like “matter, ” “materialism” and “naturalism” people are often singing from different song (or in your case hymn) sheets. I certainly don’t accept the common apologist use of these words.

  58. If thats the case Ken, then communication with you is pointless. Are you so incapable of condescending to take on (at least temporarily) the understanding of how others use the term.

    I have written what I wanted to, and got my points down. This “wedge” idea you want to saddle me with is irrelevant to those points.

  59. Stuart – why so sensitive. I can hardly “take on” or appreciate what you mean by words like “materialism ” and “naturalism ” if you don’t communicate the meanings. I am sure our definitions differ and I am happy to discuss them.

    But why the cowardice over the Wedge Strategy? You are the one that raised the Conflict Thesis. You criticize me for the “military” word “escape”. Surely the Strategy document is an ideal example of the Conflict Thesis. Words like “overthrow” etc.

    The wedge Document is also relevant to the Christian Apologist movement in NZ to which you belong. It promotes the wedge organistions. You yourself have described the wedge personalities as great scientists impressing the science community.

    Why run away from that issue? It is sure central to your Conflict Thesis?

  60. “The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a “wedge” that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the “thin edge of the wedge,” was Phillip ]ohnson’s critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeatng Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe’s highly successful Darwin’s Black Box followed Johnson’s work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

    When a Christian is doing science and operating with responsible scientific methodologies (such as embracing methodological naturalism), s/he is working out his religion.
    (…)
    “I don’t have a considered opinion on the so-called wedge strategy, so why would I criticize or defend it.
    You don’t know what methodological naturalism/materialism is. Get a clue!”

    Hmm.

    NOVA | Intelligent design on trial 1 – 12

  61. I think it’s clear that Ken and Cedric can’t hold a rational, topical discussion instead diverting with all sorts of random speculations about wedges and ancient time estimations and the evils of theology. There’s no defense of their unsustainable conflict hypothesis, and no possible way to deny the great tradition of Christian scholarship and scientific genius throughout history.

  62. Richard Christie

    I think it’s clear that Ken and Cedric can’t hold a rational, topical discussion instead diverting with all sorts of random speculations about wedges and ancient time estimations and the evils of theology.

    Um, the wedge strategy seems pretty relevant to me, modern attitudes of some christians toward science might be considered as indicative of past attitudes.

    Did you watch all twelve parts on the Dover trial? Duplicity exposed.

  63. The author’s prejudice and apparent atheistic belief system is evidenced in their vocabulary choice to rephrase the fact that modern science began in Christian Europe roughly three centuries ago in an intellectual climate decisively shaped by a Judeo-Christian worldview as “myth.” in my opinion, this article is nothing more than atheistic propaganda that does a disservice to the truth and history.

    There are many points it should have included such as the vast majority of the founding fathers of science were devout Christians and/or held a Christian worldview including Copernicus, Newton, Boyle, etc…

    Others include the Christian worldview enabled modern science by imparting that the physical/material world exists as an objective reality, the world had a beginning with a linear progression of history, the material earth was a rational system, etc…

    The author omits the obvious observation that modern science did not arise in much older worldviews that had far more time for it to arise nor addresses the impediments to it arising in those worldviews such as cyclical (Hindu) view of history hindering progress, promoting complacency, and providing no basis for a cause and effect view of history; pseudo-scientific explanations for natural phenomena like astrology that stunted the development of modern science in cultures that incorporated it; the deification of nature; the denial of the existence or orderliness of the world; and in Islam specifically the arbitrary & capricious nature
    of Allah.

    Examples of what we do find are:

    • Mesopotamia – math, astronomy, mixed with astrology
    • India – development of Arabic numbers – problem of maya and a
    cyclical view of history
    • China – astronomy, medicine, invention of paper, earthquake
    prediction – yin/yang
    • Egypt – math, astronomy – deified nature
    • Greece – math, logic – Plato’s denial of matter
    • Islam – math, universe had a beginning – arbitrary & capricious nature
    of Allah

    But not the necessary preconditions for modern science to arise as it did in modern Christianized Western Civilization.

  64. @ Ageofknowledge

    Yes, let’s have a good think about that list shall we ?

    Christianity was around in Western Europe for how long after the Western Roman Empire fell ?
    The Enlightenment started when ?
    Why did the Enlightenment start ?
    Hoisted by your own petard methinks.

  65. @Age
    You probably have been fully immunized (as suggested by your comment abgout “author’s prejudice and apparent atheistic belief system” based on the fact that the word “myth” was used. As it was in all chapters of this book.

    1: The author I quoted is Noah J. Efron. He is President of the Society for Israeli History and Philosophy of Science. I guess he has expertise in the area. However, it strikes me he has done more consultation of the evidence than you have. And it is consultation of evidence, rather than ideological prejudice, which makes a researcher’s religion irrelevant.

    2:The religion of great scientist says nothing about ideological origins of science. You of course want to remove all scientists who aren’t Christians from your list.

    It is only natural that most of the scientists in the 17th century were Christian. It was the time and the place. Many were also astrologers (eg Kepler), alchemists (eg, Newton), etc. Which also puts to bed your arguments against other periods.

    3: A significant feature of these scientists contribution – to science – was not their religion but their epistemological approach. Sure some of them tried to base this on their religion but the inevitable result of arguing for a rational objective reality was to first convert their god into a retired engineer and then remove any need for her at all. The inevitable result of the scientific revoilution has been that science has broken away from relgious pohilsophy. It is no longer religion’s handmaiden. And this is why it has been so successful. No scientists today attriubes anything to gods in their work – they would be laughed at if they did. In contrast some (not all) Christian gorups, like the Discovery insitute, are attempting to reverse the scientific revolution.

    4: I restate my point that the chauvinistic claim of Christians to have invented science (and morality, etc.,) is both immature and offensive.

    5: Finally I will quote here from Richard Carrier about the over-all evolution of science. He is an expert on the early science of the ancient Greeks and Romans. This papagraphs are taken from the summary of his chapter in the book TThe Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails edited by John Loftus and Dan Barker. The title of the chapter is “Christianity Was Not Responsible for Modern Science.” I commented on this chapter in my review of the book (see Some pesky delusions).

    “Pagans did set the stage for the end of ancient science—just not for any of the reasons Christians now claim. By failing to develop a stable and effective constitutional government, the Roman Empire was doomed to collapse under the weight of constant civil war and disastrous economical policy; and in the third century BCE that’s exactly what it did – society responded to this collapse by retreating from the scientific values of its past and fleeing to increasingly mystical and fantastical ways of viewing the world and its wonders. Christianity was already one such worldview, and thus became increasingly popular at just that time. But as one could predict, when Christianity came to power it did not restore those scientific values, but instead sealed the fate of science by putting an end to all significant scientific progress for almost a thousand years. It did not do this by oppressing, or persecuting science, but simply by not promoting its progress and by promoting instead a deep and enduring suspicion against the very values necessary to produce it.
    Likewise, modern science did develop in a Christian milieu, in the hands of scientists who were indeed Christians, and Christianity can be made compatible with science and scientific values. Christianity only had to adapt to embrace those old pagan values that once drove scientific progress. And it was Christians who adapted it, craftily inventing Christian arguments in favor of the change because only arguments in accord with Christian theology and the Bible would have succeeded in persuading their peers. But this was a development in spite of Christianity’s original values and ideals, returning the world back to where pagans, not Christians, had left it a thousand years before at the dawn of the third century. Only then did the Christian world take up that old pagan science and its core values once again. And only then did further progress ensue.”

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