Tag Archives: Roman Empire

Clarifying some myths in the history of science

I want to deal here with some myths about religion and science. Specifically the religious apologetics claim that Christianity was a requirement for the scientific revolution. And the more widespread popular belief that blames early Christianity for the “dark ages.”

I have been reading about that early period lately. A couple of historical novels on the philosopher and mathematician Hypatia‘s murder by a Christian mob in 415 CE were interesting. These were Hypatia’s Feud by Nicholas Fourikis and Selene of Alexandria by Faith L. Justice. I recommend both, but especially Selene of Alexandria. Both authors have taken care with  known historical facts.

The religious mysticism of that early period is undeniable. But the causes may not be as  the popular concepts imply. Reality is, after all, never simple.

So I was pleased to read Richard Carrier’s comments on these myths. The science of the ancient Greeks and Romans is a research speciality of his.

Continue reading

Early history of science

Richard Carrier

Historians of science tend to neglect the ancient period. There is an attitude that science really didn’t happen before four centuries ago. And promoted by others. Christian apologists promote that attitude claiming, for example, that the Christian religion was a necessary requirement for the scientific revolution.

This chauvinistic claim is easily discounted by the real history of science during the times of the ancient Greeks and the Roman empire. And also by the fact that Christianity existed for a millennium before the scientific revolution without any clear attempt on its part to revive the science of the ancients.

Historian and philosopher Richard Carrier has specialised in the history of science during the ancient period. he has also studied the attitude of early Christianity towards science. He is a very clear writer and speaker.

Recently videos of two of his lectures have become available. I have watched them and recommend them to anyone with an interest in the history of science and the region/science conflict. These are:

From Robots to the Moon which describes ancient science and technology, and

Ancient Christian Hostility to Science which describes how the church fathers of the first three centuries reacted to all that science and technology.

I have embedded the first parts of these videos below together with links to the complete playlists.

Complete playlist for Richard Carrier on Ancient Science

Richard Carrier on Early Christian Hostility to Science

Complete playlist for Richard Carrier on Early Christian Hostility to Science.

via Richard Carrier Blogs: New Podcast & Vids.

Carrier is working on a book about the science of the ancients and I am sure it will go a long way to fill this gap in history. Some idea of his findings were presented in his chapter of the book The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Failsedited by John Loftus and Dan Barker. The Chapter is appropriately titled “Christianity Was Not Responsible for Modern Science.” I commented on this chapter in my review of the book (see Some pesky delusions).

Similar articles

Some pesky delusions

Book review: The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, editors John W. Loftus and Dan Barker

US$14.28; NZ$44.97

Paperback: 422 pages
Prometheus Books (March 31, 2010)

As the title indicates this book is about delusions often promoted by Christians. These are many and varied. The show up in areas such as the history of science, cosmology, morality/ethics, history, culture and anthropology, the nature of the mind and consciousness, ideas of gods, the Christian bible and the historically authenticity of biblical history. Religious leaders and theologians promote them and congregations uncritically accept them. That is the nature of faith and is Why Faith Fails, as the book’s subtitle says.

It is a collection of articles by nine different authors. The advantage – most readers will find some articles which specifically interest them. The disadvantage – few readers will have the same interest in all the articles.

Another advantage of different authors is that they are all experts in their own fields and write authoritatively on the subjects of their articles.

So I should declare my interests.  Part I: Why Faith Fails and Part 5: Why Society Does not depend on Christian Faith specifically interested me. Part 3: Why the Christian God is not Perfectly Good and Part 4: Why Jesus is not the Risen Son of God would interest those with a background or interest in theology. Readers interested in biblical history and analysis might prefer Part 2: Why the Bible is not God’s Word.

Continue reading