A peeved believer argues that science arose from Christianity

April 30, 2014 • 8:31 am

Yesterday reader “Py” wrote in trying to add a comment to an old post, “Did Christianity (and other religions) promote the rise of science?” Here’s the comment:

I say without Christianity, there’ll be no modern science. An incomplete list of Christian Scientists (i’ve got a link to 80+ more, all YECs) vs. An incomplete list of atheist scientists.

The atheist front is quite lacking.

I wonder if this’ll get posted or strangely moderated away like my other posts. So much for truth huh?

Curiously, checking back through comments using “Py”‘s email address and IP number, I find no comment that he/she has tried to make before. But the sheer ignorance of the comment above mandates that this will be the last one. I’d administer a swift corrective to Py, but I’m way too busy today and thought that the readers might be able to help. Check out those lists.

By the way, the notion that modern science arose in the West beginning in late medieval times (a dubious claim anyway) is made for both empirical and emotional reasons. The empirical claim is that the Church promoted reason (though founding universities, encouraging people to find the hand of God in Nature) in a way that helped give birth to science. The emotional reason is because religious people, seeing how fast science has outstripped religion in understanding the universe, want to claim some credit for science. The emotional reason is clearly true, but I won’t adjudicate the first claim, for I’m not an expert in the history of science. Let me just say that the arguments of people like Rodney Stark (and other theists) that Christianity was pivotal in the rise of modern science have been contested by other scholars.

What is indubitably true is that the proportion of atheist scientists is ten times higher than the proportion of atheist nonscientists, at least in America. And the great majority of accomplished scientists in the U.S. are now atheists: only 7% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences, for instance, accept a personal God–while the proportion of the American public that does so is 80% or higher. I believe the figures are similar for members of Britain’s Royal Society.  So whatever held true in the past, when everyone was religious, holds no longer.

Christianity can claim credit for science if they want, but it’s not much to brag about. Certainly science would have arisen without that faith.



170 thoughts on “A peeved believer argues that science arose from Christianity

  1. Sigh. Here we go again with this false claim that Christianity gave us science. Sure, there were schools founded by the Church but what was taught there was censored to comport with church doctrine.

    The first thing to understand is the monks of the Dark Ages, drew on pagan concepts of naturalism; specifically Aristotle. There weren’t any new ideas put forth here. Moreover, during this hey day of Christian rule, monks may have worked to preserve some Greek and Roman artifacts, but they destroyed countless historical sites if they deemed them to be idolatrous or just plain unChristian or let fall to ruin things they didn’t think mattered (e.g.: the Flavian Amphitheatre also renamed to The Colosseum in the Middle Ages – they couldn’t even get the name right). If things seemed to have value to the Church, they were preserved – like the Pantheon where they jammed their saints, and various basilica (once used by Romans as legal buildings). I wouldn’t be surprised if works of literature were likewise thrown away.

    It appears that mediaeval Christian theology certainly was the enemy of science and medicine as well. The works of Galen evaporated from the West and were reintroduced via the Islamic world. The Greeks and Romans may have been steeped in Religion (there was no such thing as separation of church and state), but their odd superstitiousness (augury, haruspices mingled in with civic life) didn’t seem to hold back their ability to engineer (look at all those aqueducts, the Pantheon – if you were to take the Pantheon and turn it on its side, it would fit into itself!) and I doubt it would have held back their abilities to figure out more science if they didn’t off themselves as a culture. Romans tended to absorb new religions and there wasn’t much conflict between religions – you could collect them like hockey cards. They frowned on Mithraism at one point because the men were castrating themselves and Romans – you know how they like family. It’s notable that the religions that they came into conflict were the Abrahamic ones because their god demanded that they only worship him (he’s so fussy). Further, the Greeks fostered the growth of minds that questioned tradition and may be even atheistic (Epicurus), philosophical minds that had scientific results (the pre-socratics) and philosophy that encouraged rational thinking – Socrates. All this going on in a rather superstitious culture.

    It wasn’t until much later, around the time of Shakespeare that things started looking up for science.

    1. Also the usual trope that Rome fell because of paganism and immoral behavior, when in fact it didn’t truly decline until after it went Christian. It doesn’t necessarily follow that religion caused the downfall, but it certainly didn’t stop it.

      1. You will also hear the incorrect assertion that there was no dark age and it was just a continuation of the Roman period.

      2. Well, it declined pretty severely in the crisis of the 3rd century, though it recovered somewhat before Constantine imposed Xianity.

        Of course, Han China had a similar 3rd century crisis, but didn’t survive it.

    2. Similarly it always bugs me when people claim that the church helped preserve ancient knowledge, conveniently ignoring that the main thing it needed protecting from was the church itself.

      Or when people go on about how great mediaeval islamic science was, conveniently ignoring that the areas conquered by the arabs had for many millenia been the most advanced and civilised places on earth. The fact that they maintained this status for a handful more centuries reflects only a little credit on the conquerors and their ideology. (Insert “outside China” anywhere in the above paragraph according to taste).

    3. “Romans tended to absorb new religions and there wasn’t much conflict between religions – you could collect them like hockey cards.”

      +1 Diana.
      Both true and hilarious!

          1. I think that there are two “g”s in “Biggus”…

            (Do I get a prize for least necessary comment of the year?)

            1. As if my Biggus Dickus comment was enlightening. :). I actually pondered the spelling and originally had two g’s bit thought one g was more Latin-y.

              1. There are two Gs (just checked), and he’s our vewy gweat fwiend in Wome

          2. “Biggus Dickus” isn’t a joke name. He and his wife, Incontinentia Buttocks, were good friends of Pontius Pilate — and we’ve got the documentary evidence to demonstrate it.

            …or do you think “Pontius Pilate” is a joke name, too?


          3. The early “official” history of Rome is generally reckoned to be a mish-mash of some vaguely historical material and a lot of mythology.

    4. “They frowned on Mithraism at one point because the men were castrating themselves”

      I don’t think this is true of Mithraism, but it is true of the cult of Attis.

        1. Not true for Mithraism. From all the evidence known the bull is sacrificed not castrated.

          I use ‘known’ because we frankly don’t know much about Mithraism.

          1. I think bulls just being sacrificed could stand in for castration but as you say, we don’t exactly know since they were called mystery cults for a reason. I’ve been impressed with how mum these adherents were. You’d think someone would’ve squawked more often.

            1. I think people squawked just as much then as today; Justin Martyr was clearly quite familiar with the Mithraic Eucharist, and implied that it wasn’t especially hard to find out.

              It’s just that either nobody bothered to write it down, or Christians destroyed (or selectively failed to preserve) the records where people did. Probably a mix of both. Even today, I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to learn the secrets of the Masons or the Shriners or various college fraternities whatever modern secret society if you really wanted to, but it’d take at least a little bit of doing, and there just isn’t enough interest in the general public for any real exposé to become widespread. Usually, if you’re actually that interested, you’ll want to learn by the usual method of joining the organization.

              (There’s a notable exception in the case of Scientology, but a lot of that can be attributed to blowback for their incredibly abusive and hostile tactics.)



              1. Of course, people like me aren’t allowed to join said secret societies being all female and such.

          2. Well, we know that Paul stole their eucharist, but used wine rather than water in the Christian version. See Justin Martyr’s First Apology, and compare it with the earliest mention of the Last Supper.



    5. As you point out, the big issue here is the status given to the concept of debate. Whatever dissention was encouraged or tolerated within the Christian religion was strictly held within the bounds of accepted dogma. You were proving the validity of your beliefs to the satisfaction of yourself and other believers — not to the satisfaction of genuine skeptics. Such skeptics were anathema, blighted souls on the outside of acceptable discourse. The basic spiritual truths were to be treated as self-evident and not up for dispute.

      That is not how science works. It’s the opposite of how science works.

  2. I think most historians of science credit the Ionian Greeks of the 5th Century B.C.E. as the founders of Western science and the entire western tradition of empirical inquiry. The pre-Socratic Greek philosophers were not religious.
    They explicitly rejected mythical explanations for events. Cf. Bertrand Russell’s _A History of Western Philosophy_. Chinese science also developed outside of a theistic approach.

      1. Then again, Christianity has managed to co-opt much of early Greek science and philosophy for itself. Many of the sophisticated arguments still depend on Aristotelian metaphysics (making the line of reasoning about scientists who are Christians all the more absurd for reasons I don’t think I need to spell out).

        1. Yes, but this is yet more evidence of Mediaeval Christians cherry picking the ancients that they decided fit their doctrines best. Aristotle was passé among the ancients in Late Antiquity but Mediaeval Church authorities thought he was the bee’s knees!

          1. Couldn’t resist (and didn’t try very hard): “This man is the bee’s knees, Arthur, he is the wasp’s nipples. He is, I would go so far as to say, the entire set of erogenous zones of every major flying insect of the Western world.” Douglas Adams (you thought maybe it was Søren Kierkegaard?), in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.

  3. Lists like these are irrelevant; they reflect the selection biases of the people assembling the lists. I suspect that in modern work-a-day science (i.e., those of us who are not NAS members) the percentage of atheists is substantially higher than their prevalence in the US population at large, but not quite so high as among the elite NAS scientists. My best inference from my own department of about a dozen PIs at a Big 10 university (so small sample size) is that there are one or two obvious atheists, one or two regular church-goers, and the remainder are either atheists who don’t say much about their beliefs or lack thereof (I am in this group) or at most nominal believers. Certainly there seems to be no ken given to creationism or its bastard cousin intelligent design; those views, when discussed, are rightly lumped with homeopathy, astrology, etc. I suspect this distribution of beliefs is pretty typical.

    1. People need to look at what science is now and what it will be tomorrow. It is just done. I work with plenty of scientists who are Christians and they do not pray for an electron to be in the right place or an X-ray to go the way they want or funding to follow their innovative ideas. No one uses religion to do science. They work hard, make observations, and take great care to get answers.

      This is not a demographic argument. It is sort of like saying, “I think Skittles are better than Starbursts or I like blue more than red.” and that affects how science gives us predictive knowledge about nature?? It does not.

    2. When I was a grad student, Will Provine visited the University of Chicago and, among other things, ate pizza with students in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology. Provine polled the assembled students on their religious beliefs and as I remember it of the 20 or so present, only one would admit to even the vaguest notions of a higher power. So by rough estimate, 95% atheists, approximately the NAS proportion. Still a small sample, size, of course.

      Are biologists more atheistic than scientists as a whole? Are evolutionary biologists more atheistic than other biologists? Is U of C an atypical place? No idea.

  4. So…since astronomy grew out of astrology and chemistry from alchemy, we shouldn’t laugh as people who actually believe in horoscopes and are searching for the Philosopher’s Stone?

    Even if you actually think that you can get from an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard to cutting-edge genomic research, that’s more of an argument in favor of the modern over the ancient than the other way ’round. We also made it from Gregor Mendel to Craig Venter…and, while Mendel had some important insights that remain useful to this day, his notion of genetics was so fuzzy as to be largely irrelevant in actual practice any more (even if modern genetics is “merely” a refinement of Mendelian genetics). I mean, who would even think of doing work in genetics today without a thorough understanding of DNA, something not even discovered until a couple centuries after Mendel?


    1. Don’t you love the people that claim something was known for years and science finally caught up? No, it was suspected for years; science has validates it. One example is the positive benefit of meditation.

    2. To me, the entire subject is a big “so what?” Christianity came from previous belief systems too. Yeah, ideas and practices evolve over time. Shocking.

      Certainly, modern science was influenced by the previous cultural systems and religions were a big part of those. So was fire, agriculture, war, disease, travel, trade, etc. big whup.

    3. Uh, Ben, less than a century. 1866 to 1953.

      Which proves your point about the modern as better (for science) than the ancient. Scientific knowledge (and its handmaiden, technology), is exponential; its rate of increase is proportional to its quantity at any given moment.

    1. That’s right, there was Christian writing all over Archimedes manuscripts on which he was working out the beginning of calculus almost 2000 years before Newton and Liebniz. So obviously, Archimedes was a Christian.

      Oh, wait … you some say some ignorant monk used Archimedes manuscripts as if it was just so much blank paper to write his holy drivel? … Never mind.

  5. There is a decent case to be made for Galileo Galilei as the father of modern science, specifically the scientific method. “Christianity” (whatever brand is convenient at the time I suppose) was not exactly helpful in his efforts of discovery.

    Modern science has grown in spite of religion, not because of it, and it continues to be so even today.

    1. And the question to ask for the founders is not are they atheists, but are they *heretics* and why? And Galileo certainly was, and recent scholarship (e.g. _Galileo, Watcher of the Skies_) is clear about it – he was, and I don’t mean about Copernicanism. For so long there’s been *bad* history this way.

      When even deism (Galileo, Descartes, Newton – after a fashion, Locke, Hobbes (who is also a materialist), etc.) is regarded as too much, once has to be aware of the times.

      That said, most of the folks claiming Christianity -> science do not explain science: for if they did it would be clear that there is at least a case to be made for science in antiquity: the astronomical and harmonical traditions meet most of our contemporary criteria. This is why Bunge and others insist that the philosophy of science is in a way a corequisite to the history of science. Moreover, scientificity changes over time; Ptolemiac astronomy and harmony are no longer sciences (well, the former at least – maybe the latter is or could be) – but they were at the time, almost certainly.

      1. Galileo was considered a heretic because he dared challenge church doctrine based on revelation. There was no such thing as evidence based on experiment but rather dogma selected by church officials that “evidence” must fit.

      2. Quite a lot of Christians in the sciences are eccentrics/heretics who aren’t particularly conventional in their theology. This includes the three classic figures held to have formulated what constitutes scientific method, Isaac Newton, John Locke and Bacon.

  6. So what?

    – Even if true, was it possible to label yourself as anything other than a Christian at the time (without being executed)?

    – Even if true, it doesn’t make the Christian worldview true.

    – Even if true, contemporary science has conclusively demonstrated that religious/supernatural worldviews are without merit.

    1. It’s even worse. You end up being a certain kind of Christian because your king up and decides it. Them other kinds of Christians try to kill you.

      Of course you could be a Jew of you wanted to be on the business end of a pogrom.

  7. Its hard to explain Chinese science (past or present) if you say you can’t do it without Christians.

    As for lists of people, that’s silly to do when we have statistics. Here is the PEW results on belief by scientists. The last pie chart is particularly telling: only 30% of surveyed scientists identified as Christian.

    1. Indeed, Francis Bacon wrote in 1620 that three great inventions changed the face of the world – printing, gunpowder, and the nautical compass (and we could add paper to those) – all Chinese in origin. Just to make it clear, Jesus wasn’t involved.

  8. I say without Christianity, there’ll be no modern science.

    The playful answer to this is: “sounds like you just proposed an experiment. Let’s try it!”

  9. I heard a lecture here at William & Mary by the Isaac Newton scholar Mordechai Feingold on Newton’s “Chronologies.” Newton apparently believed that the ancients held all knowledge (including the concept of universal gravitation) and that this knowledge was lost in the course of time. He also thought that the pagan myths were decadent versions of biblical stories and came up with cognates. Saturn, for example, is the same as Noah. Why? Each had three sons and was identified with wine. Newton spent a lot of time on this stuff, too. I think it’s fair to say that Newton was a conventionally observant Christian of his day and I wonder how much further along we might if he had been a thoroughgoing skeptic and devoted more time to calculus, say, and less to the Bishop Ussher goofiness. I wish I had recorded the talk because I was in an audience of mostly physicists and there was a collective WTF hovering over the lecture hall from about five minutes in. (NEWTON believed this stuff? On what basis, someone asked. Feingold’s answer: His basis was scripture, which was an unimpeachable database.)

    1. Actually, Newton was an Arian which was considered heresy in his day. He considered the Trinity, which he rejected, to be an invention of the Roman Catholic Church which he loathed. His religious views were hidden and did not become known until the late 19th Century. Had it become known at the time, he might well have lost his head. He certainly would have lost his job.

        1. Conventionally observant? An individual who rejects the Trinity is conventionally observant? Certainly not a conventionally observant Christian, then or now.

          1. He *observed* the religious *conventions* of his day. Right? Besides, the discussion of Newton’s approach to the trinity does not alter my point.

    2. I’m surprised that you say the scientists in the audience were surprised. I thought it was fairly common knowledge that Newton spent a lot of time on alchemy, angelology, and similar stuff.

      1. I would like to rise in defense of Newton’s alchemy experiments. Given the state of knowledge at the time, the notion that lead could be transmuted into gold via chemical processes was not unreasonable. For instance, the periodic table wasn’t known until 125 years after his death.

        1. That’s the way I feel about it. At the time, legitimate chemistry and alchemy were just starting to untwine.

          1. This speaks to a larger point as well. We were not culturally much like these historical figures. Most probably held values we find repugnant: sexism, racism, a cruel perspective on animals. Should we then say that if scientists of that time held these values, these values were good ones? This is the same with Christianity; many scientists in Europe may have been Christian but so what? So was all other Europeans.

            1. Newton was perfectly happy to send people to the gallows – which he did with William Chaloner who was a forger and counterfeiter. Newton took a special interest in Chaloner who had rung rings around the authorities beforehand. Eventually, Newton amassed enough evidence for Chaloner to be convicted and executed.

        2. I didn’t intend to start a sidetrack on the legitimacy of Newton’s alchemical interests. Just pointing out that his wide and somewhat strange set of interests is pretty commonly known; I am surprised that other highly educated people (the group here was ‘professors’) would be surprised to learn this.

      2. Well, I’m trying to distill an hour’s lecture into a comment box. The incredulity seemed to be based on the apparent extent of Newton’s willingness to accept written testimony from ancient documents at the same level as observed phenomena. I talked with Feingold afterwards and I asked him if Newton had any evidence that the ancients understood universal gravitation. It is certainly possible that Egyptians or Babylonians or Greeks etc. understood it. But Newton cited no such evidence, just thought it must be so.

      3. There is a large overlap between the skeptic community and the science community, but it’s certainly not complete. There are scientists out there who are so focused on doing science that the popular misconceptions of the past and present just aren’t on their radar.

  10. To me this question is just a matter of historical interest but it does highlight many of the points of conflict that science has with religion, and that the two are incompatible – different beasts entirely. One is about the entire observable universe from Big Bang to Heat Death, the other is some stuff outside that definition based on exactly no evidence whatsoever.
    I suspect most religious types secretly know there is a big problem with their belief and are jealous that we can call upon empirical evidence and they can’t. It will be our trump card until the last Gap has been filled that it is possible to fill with facts and evidence.
    Jerry gets it right with his final statement that the scientific method would has arisen without religion anyway. I think it is just a function of an evolving brain that develops self-awareness and awareness and curiosity of the world around it.

  11. The atheist list is almost (except for about 16 names) from late 19th century to today. The list of Christian thinkers in science from the same period is quite short in comparison (290/109 that I counted, but because I counted by hand this will not be perfect. Anyway the list is way past double for atheists).

    The claim that early European scientists where Christian is a nice claim to make if you lived 300 years ago, it is a poor claim to make today as it is more in favour of atheism. Religious people often ignore other religions when making their excuses for belief. They conveniently ignore that the same claim could be made for Hindu, Muslim and Ancient Greek beliefs.

    It is always fun when Creationists try to cite reliable sources, they are poor readers.

    1. Py claims “The atheist front is quite lacking.” Did he [or folks here] look past the pictures? I did not count, but there are at least 300 more names, and the accomplishments of this group makes vastly exceeds that of the Xian group.

      1. We need to be careful not to get too caught up in his game. While claiming that a worldview contributes to something and then listing adherents to that worldview who are supportive of that something is grounds for further investigation, it by no means supports that the worldview is the cause. If tomorrow a group of Mormon scientists proves that Nietchze’s concept of eternal return is likely, but all other Christians reject it, it will say nothing about Joseph Smith and his influence on Physics.

          1. Yes, in that regard you’re absolutely right. He isn’t even winning his own game and isn’t educated enough to even realize the problems with partial lists. The statistic about the beliefs of members of the National Academy of Sciences is evidence enough to put these silly claims to rest.

  12. It’s commonly claimed that the Church nurtured science in its Western beginnings. Whether true or not, it conveniently leaves out Arabic, Greek, and Chinese science. The rationale there is that there’s no direct line of descent. I can sort of see that with Chinese science, and if you stretch it a bit, ancient Greek science, since so much was lost in the Dark Ages. But to ignore the contributions of Arab science and mathematics (think of algebra) is bad.

    My second observation is that people who make the above argument may completely ignore the influence of Greek philosophy on Christian theology. That’s just a guess, but it could well be true.

    Further, I’m not sure what the point of the argument is. Even if science’s early development was under the support and encouragement of the Church, should that mean that science today must be forever thankful for the Church, and more than that acknowledge its superiority in the really important things–like the saving of souls? Should science serve the Church’s interests because of this debt? That’s analogous to the son who feels obliged to honor his father by going into the latter’s profession even though he’d rather be doing something else.

    Finally, one has to ask, is it really true? I think there are arguments for both sides, and I’m not prepared to analyze them. What’s more important to me is the question of the Church’s motivation in promoting learning and knowledge of the natural world. Suppose that science had early on begun finding out things that went against the most basic tenets of the faith (which it certainly has these days). How long would it have been before the Church clamped down on those discoverers? In fact we have the evidence of Bruno, Galileo, and others to show that whatever encouragement it gave to inquiry, it kept scientists on a short leash.

    1. Yes, even if one were to grant that yes indeed, science rose directly out of the dogma of the Catholic Church — the proper response to that is “Greetings, Dr. Frankenstein.”

    2. “The rationale there is that there’s no direct line of descent. I can sort of see that with Chinese science, and if you stretch it a bit, ancient Greek science, since so much was lost in the Dark Ages.”

      But the rediscovery of all of this lost Greek stuff was a big part of the process of leaving the Dark Ages, was it not?

  13. I would also add another motive – racism.

    Proclaiming science Christian also aligns it with white westerners while ignoring the contributions of just about everyone else.

    And the inconvenient fact that the age of science essentially started with the age of exploration and colonialism – in other words, ages when Europeans were stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down, and then stealing the stuff people nailed things to including the very ground.

    They didn’t stop at stealing things, they stole ideas too.

  14. Is there a list of Christian thinkers who actively oppose(d) science and a list of atheist thinkers who oppose(d) science? Those lists would be fun to compare.

  15. If agnostics were lumped in with the atheists, the list would certainly include Darwin and Einstein, 2 of the 3 most important scientists who ever lived, IMHO. I would also include Murray GellMann amongst the atheists.

  16. Many scientists in centuries past were Christian. John Nash thought he was receiving coded messages from the Government. Should we now give some credit to schizophrenia for being useful in discovering reality?

    These lists always conflate religious people making discoveries with religious ideology being useful in said discoveries. Where in Christine doctrine is science promoted as a useful means to discovery? And no, pointing to modern revisions of the Catechism touting faith and reason leading to the same conclusion won’t cut it. First, where were these ideas in the Middle Ages? Second, just saying science is useful does nothing to show that religion had a hand in developing the methods.

    1. I concur. Furthermore I don’t see why it’s so hard for people to understand that if a person holds some beliefs that are true and others which are false, the false beliefs do not gain any modicum of truth or prestige from their proximity to true beliefs.

      Does anyone think that Francis Collins consults his Bible in the lab? Of course not.

    2. Yes. I wonder if the people making this argument would be as willing to credit every discovery made by a Mormon as support for the Church of Latter Day Saints.

  17. I think the appropriate response to this complaint is “so what”?

    If, in fact, modern science (let’s not call it “western”, please — science is science the world over) was generated from Christianity…so what? What’s the point?

    Does that make the fact claims of Christianity true? No. It doesn’t. There is still no evidence that any god exists; no evidence that there was even a “real” person named Jesus living in 1st C Judea, and on and on.

    It’s a red herring. “You ought to be grateful that we were the authors of our own demise.”

    Sorry, Py. Your claim (demonstrably false, btw; see above with regard to the ancient Greeks and Chinese) is completely and totally irrelevant to the discussion as to whether religion is either useful or true.

  18. Whoever compiled the list was rather rude. Everyone else gets their complete names listed, poor old Richard Dawkins just gets his surname.

  19. One sentence….

    “If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.” R. Feynman

    If the bible had that in it Christians would have something to show that their God is not a repulsive maniac.

    1. The bible was reportedly written by an all knowing, all loving god. Fine.

      Given our incomplete 21st century scientific knowledge, and assuming we are compassionate, if someone could go back in time what three sentences should be added to the 70,000 words in the bible to help the generations over the last 3000 years or so? Some options include:

      – Disease is caused by tiny invisible germs. Wash your hands and keep wounds clean.
      – Bleeding people with leeches doesn’t help.
      – Selling your daughters into slavery to pay your debts isn’t nice.
      – Making rape victims marry their rapist isn’t nice.
      – Dudes – the father not the mother determines the sex of a child, so don’t beat your wife for having daughters.
      – Cats aren’t evil or satanic. The plague is spread by fleas carried by rats. Killing all the cats during the black death is an incredibly stupid move.

      These are just the ones I can think of quickly.

      So why didn’t the all-knowing all-loving god mention anything outside the moral and scientific understanding of middle eastern goat herders?

      1. I would be happy if the Bible had given clear instructions on how to set a broken arm, at least then it’d be of some use, but mentioning the great red spot on Jupiter would be cool too.

      1. Given the virgin mary story, shouldn’t that be “long before christianity was an itch in God’s ****”

        1. Yeah, Democritus surmised that if you divided chunks of stuff into smaller chunks of stuff you’d eventually get down to chunks of stuff you could no longer divide. 🙂 A bit different than today’s atomic theory.

          1. Not to mention that, thanks to Quantum Field Theory, we now know that there aren’t any particles; only waves in the various fields. As such, atomic theory is worng, but still an amazingly useful abstraction.


  20. It’s kind of like the joke that I first heard about Jimmy Carter (dating me a tad):

    Q. What do George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and have in common?
    A. None of them have done anything recently.

    The idiocy of the lists is self evident, but also irrelevant. Even if every scientist who ever lived in the past was a christian, so what? What matters is now.

    Currently, christians are determined to trash science education in America. Using the deny and confuse model created by the tobacco industry, christians and big business have formed an unholy alliance and are manufacturing confusion about science. This is a serious threat. Thanks to scientific illiteracy, climate change is ignored and big business can continue to trash the planet for short term profit. By preventing sound science education, religion can perpetuate their myths and continue to collect their weekly tithes and keep hold of their power.

    So Py, forget your silly, incorrect and misleading lists. What have christians done for science lately? How many vaccines were discovered by blaming disease on gob’s wrath? How much did we learn about the earth by blaming earthquakes on gob’s wrath? How many cancers have been cured by slut shaming? How many communities have received early warnings of tornadoes as a result of constitutional amendments against gay marriage?

    1. a phrase got deleted – word press didn’t like my brackets. It should be:

      Q. What do George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and “any current disliked politician” have in common?

  21. “What is indubitably true is that the proportion of atheist scientists is ten times higher than the proportion of atheist nonscientists”…

    Jerry, I believe you must mean ten times higher than nonatheist scientists, unless you are trying to say that most atheists are scientists…

    1. Nope. He means what he said. And most atheists would be scientists only if scientists were a high proportion of the general population, which they are not.

      Let me make up some numbers, since I don’t have the real ones handy. Suppose there are a million people. One thousand of them are scientists, 999,000 of them non-scientists. Suppose that 50% of the scientists are atheists, or 500 people. Suppose that 5% of the non-scientists are atheists, or 49,900. The proportion of scientists who are atheists is ten times the proportion of non-scientists who are, but scientists are only 1% of atheists.

  22. We can profitably run the same analysis Jerry do on religion vs theology – what do the religious really do – on this argument.

    What did the religious really do with scientific finds?

    – Did religious sects incorporate scientific finds in their myths?


    – Did religious sects value science at all?


    1. They likely burned the Library of the Greek world (in Alexandria).

    First christianists: “According to Socrates of Constantinople, Coptic Pope Theophilus destroyed the Serapeum in 391 AD.”

    Then mohammedannists: “In 642 AD, Alexandria was captured by the Muslim army of Amr ibn al `Aas. Several later Arabic sources describe the library’s destruction by the order of Caliph Omar.[34][35] Bar-Hebraeus, writing in the 13th century, quotes Omar as saying to Yaḥyā al-Naḥwī: “If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them.”[36] Later scholars are skeptical of these stories, given the range of time that had passed before they were written down and the political motivations of the various writers.[37][38][39][40][41]”

    2. They burned the Library of the Indian world (in Nalanda).

    “Nalanda University complex (the most renowned repository of Buddhist knowledge in the world at the time) was sacked by Turkic Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khilji;”.

    3. They burned the Library of the American world (in Yucatán).

    “Bishop De Landa, a Franciscan monk and conquistador during the Spanish conquest of Yucatán, wrote: “We found a large number of books in these characters and, as they contained nothing in which were not to be seen as superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all,”.

    Actually, various religious sects burned most of the libraries of the ancient world. Of 12 known large libraries destroyed up until the Mongol invasions, 8 was destroyed due to religious sentiments.
    [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_destroyed_libraries ]

    And as S McAndrew notes, religious sects are, by their own actions, as insincere about the value of science even today.

    This is a variant of the Outsider’s test, and religion fails miserably. They don’t understand science, they don’t care about science and they feel (correctly) threatened by science. Some individuals and some historical processes involving religious sects have behaved differently.

    But the norm is: ‘Thief, thief, thief! Science! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!’ [ http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Hobbit ]

  23. Were I to ask Galileo, Copernicus, Roger Bacon or Giordano Bruno (who was burned at the stake by the church for his scientific contributions) if science arose from Christianity, their answer would be that the religion obstructed the progress of science. Others like Mendel or John Napier would be much kinder.

    I’m not a historian and I’ve had to relearn much of what I was taught either because I was daydreaming about girls guitars and cars at the time or because the teaching was less than factual. Christianity has directly stood in the way of science whenever it felt even remotely threatened by it. Indirectly, it may have actually helped.

    After the fall of the Roman Empire it was Christianity that provided some sort of unity among the Western European states that sprung up. Without that, I think the progress of science during the dark ages might have been even slower. Furthermore, the church provided centers of education and many contributions to science were made by clergymen. Then again, many clergymen who made contributions to science were also involved in its suppression. Albertus Magnus and Pope Silvester II come to mind, thanks to the History Channel, as being in this category.

    There are many factors that lead to the progress of science. It is stuff for a rather long book. Christianity had both a negative and positive role but anyone claiming that modern science is Christianity’s gift is going to get stuck rather quickly.

    1. Not related to the science issue: Christianity provided some unity to Europeans who prosecuted the Crusades, I guess, but nothing close to total unity even then — consider the fate of the Templars. Other than that, though …

  24. I have read that Christianity did have some unique features which allowed the growth of science. The most important of these was the ability to get out of the way.

    Most other religions and spiritualities had an attitude towards the physical world which either negated it (“Reality is just an illusion/suffering”) or merged it completely with the supernatural (“Everything is connected, above and below.”)

    But because Greek philosophy was infused into a mystical substructure — and because the Bible talked about a break between the physical and spiritual — it was possible to separate the City of God from the City of Man. And then it became possible to study the latter as separate from the former, as theology’s “handmaiden” with its own rules and regularities. You didn’t need to consult holy or sacred scripture to make discoveries which already contained all the wisdom you needed to learn. You could also study Nature.

    This credits Christianity in a backhanded sort of way. If the best thing you have ever done for your child is to stay away from them as much as humanly possible — that’s not really a paean to your loving skill as parent. It suggests that your offspring learned their valuable lessons from other sources because they HAD to.

  25. I have read enough history to know that science evolved through numerous cultures long before Christianity arose. Without the accumulation of Egyptian, Babylonian, Arab, Jewish, Greek, Roman, Chinese sciences, etc., there would have been little or no science available for Christianity to claim.

  26. To echo some of the other posters – so what?

    Even if it could be proven that every name on the list was a theist (and that they wouldn’t have changed their opinion in light of our current level of scientific understanding) – it doesn’t mean anything of any consequence.

    Ultimately, it’s just a rather unsubtle argument from authority and as such carries no weight.

  27. Modern chemistry arose in part out of ancient alchemy – that doesn’t mean we should keep alchemy.

    Astronomy arose in part out of astrology – that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t criticise & mock modern astrology.

    The sweetest rose can grow out of the smelliest, um, fertiliser. That doesn’t mean you should pin a turd to your lapel as readily as a rose.

  28. Well, first of all we have to define science. Keep in mind that astronomers of ancient civilizations had methods of predicting the motion of the stars, moon, and planets which predate christianity by a few hundred years.

    Aristarchus estimated the distance between the earth and the moon (and got it very wrong, but he was on the right track) and argued that the earth revolved around the sun.

    Eratosthenes estimated the circumference of the earth and from what little is known of units in use at the time, it is claimed to be a pretty good estimate; Eratosthenes, like many Greeks of the time and contrary to popular christian myth, also understood that the earth was spherical.

    Unfortunately the medieval church imposed the Airstotelian cockeyed version of reality and everything was true by dictation rather than by observation and honest dialog. Science’s honest argumentative nature had no place in the church; it was a beast in every way inimical to the church and far more so than many of its early practitioners may have imagined. The same is true today – science investigates while the church makes proclamations. How can an organization antithetical to honest thought possibly be responsible for promulgating honest thought?

    The church of course would claim that ‘debate’ has long been in their tradition, but anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to read works by the likes of Augustine the Hippo and Aquinas the Village Idiot can see that the church’s idea of a ‘debate’ is to blather a lot and, in the most circuitous and obscure fashion the author is capable of, state that the premise which was assumed to be true is indeed true. That’s more like our current Orwellian politics and nothing like science.

  29. Nice post and the numbers for the National Academy and the Royal Society certainly show that it is not relevant even if it did arise from Christianity. Although that notiion is pretty absurd as the concepts for math and science (such as the zero concept) come from pre Christian times.

  30. I really don’t get why believers make such a big deal about this. Even if it were 100% true without qualification, just what point would it make beyond the historical truth of the matter?

  31. Eratosthenes, Aristarchus, Archimedes, Hypatia, Hippocrates, Pythagoras, Euclid …

    Do I need to keep adding to the list of scientists/”natural philosophers”/discoverers who weren’t Christian?

    Science wasn’t invented by well-heeled English gentlemen in large wigs, for crying out loud; humans have always wanted to know how things work and have always been good at finding out. Five minutes wiki-ing the names above shows that beyond any doubt.

    Even if all the early scientists were Christians and Christianity was the prime mover when it came to inspiring people to observe and experiment, the truth Christian doctrine would still be baseless fiction. You don’t get to claim it’s true because you associate it with something else that’s true.

      1. Science as subject to censorship , was not of much interest to the inquisitors , with the exception of heliocentrism , Galileo process after 1633. During the sixteenth century heliocentrism enjoyed wide tolerance in Spain . The introduction of the study of Copernicus in the statutes of the University of Salamanca, Juan Aguilera professor astrology resulted in Salamanca from 1550 to 1560. Teaching heliocentrism was approved by Bishop Diego de Covarrubias and confirmed by Felipe II 15 October 1561. ‘s true that the condemnation of Copernicanism in 1633 by the Roman Inquisition was binding on the Catholic world but the Spanish Inquisition never included the books of Galileo in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum and decrees of the Holy Office also were published in France . If it is true that after the 1633 conviction were more caution with heliocentrism . Jorge Juan , for example, to publish his astronomical observations in 1748 had problems with the inquisitorial censorship but the friendly intercession Mayans solved the issue. As revenge , Jorge Juan, in the second edition of Observations … ( 1773 ) made a passionate defense of Copernicus and Newton’s discoveries . Furthermore we should not exaggerate the effects of sentence Galileo Gassendi , Galileo’s friend and wrote in 1643 : ” I do not think this decision be an article of faith , for neither the Cardinals have declared so, nor its decrees have promulgated for the entire church , nor has it received as such. ” And the Jesuit Riccioli in 1651 : ” As in this matter , nor any Sovereign Pontiff or Council approved it defined something, is far less faith that the sun moves and the earth stands still , at least under this decree ” ( Almagestum Novum 1, 52 ) . Finally , Caramuel (the Spanish Leibniz ) , mathematician , scientist, monk and Bishop (1651), in which he wrote moral treatise says: ” What if the wise tomorrow would demonstrate that the Copernican theory is true ? “and says,” in that case , the cardinals would allow us to interpret the words of Joshua metaphorically . ” When in 1741 were available evidence of the movement of the Earth , Pope Benedict XIV authorized the publication of the complete works of Galileo , and in 1757 favorable to heliocentrism works were authorized again, by a decree of the Congregation of the Index, which these works removed from the Index Librorum Prohibitorum .
        I rescue this fragment of an immortal , Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo , ” Abro Indices , and I find in them no philosopher of antiquity , none of the Middle Ages, Christian nor Arab nor Jew; see allowed in express terms the doubters Guide , Maimonides ( rule 14 of the General ) , and vainly seeking the names of Averroes , and Tofail Avempace ; came to the sixteenth century, and I find that the Spaniards could read all treaties Pomponanzzi , including who wrote against the immortality of the soul, for they are only prohibits De incantationibus , and could read unabridged almost all philosophers of the Italian Renaissance : Marsilio Ficino , a Nizolio , Campanella , a Telesio (both with some redactions ) . What more ? Incredibly, the name of Giordano Bruno is not in any of our indices , as it is not on the Galileo , although in Roman Index ; nor Descartes , nor Leibnitz , nor , what is more pilgrim, that of Thomas Hobbes, nor Benito Espinosa ; and only minor amendments to the Bacon . Are we not allowed all this to say that it is a slander and falsehood unworthy I have closed the doors to the philosophical ideas that were born in Europe, where, if something can accuse the Holy Office , is careless in not having tackled the circulation of books that well deserved its rigors ? They tell you not passed our ports ; but are not there all the biographers tell us Espinosa for Ethics and the Theological- Political Treatise were introduced in Spain Charles II disguised with other titles? For still greater falsehood and slander more noticeable what is said of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences . Neither the Inquisition persecuted nor any of its growers never banned a single line of Copernicus , Galileo and Newton. A Indices I refer . What much so, when in 1594 a whole Inquisition counselor who later became Grand Inquisitor Juan de Zúñiga , visited by royal and apostolic commission Studies Salamanca and raised in them a whole faculty the mathematical sciences as then possessed no other university in Europe , ordering astronomy text to be read as Copernicus’ book ? “

        1. I’m afraid that problems with English make it hard to understand what you’re saying. That’s a pity, as you seem to be saying something interesting.

          1. Mateo Orfila, Spanish scientist and chemist , tells us that in his youth ( 1805 ) had won the University of Valencia in a public contest on Geology ; someone denounced to the Inquisition ideas about the geologic age of the world expressed by him, so that he was interrogated by the inquisitor Nicholas Lasso. Is Orfila himself who tells us about his experience: ” I ​​found myself in front of a priest in his fifties , good plant and majestic appearance , noble and honorable ways. I soon realized that their knowledge and spirit placed him in the front row of the men of the Enlightenment. Yesterday afternoon I said you had a great success which I welcome , especially as I appreciate the studious youth and I try to encourage it with all the means at my disposal . Who are you? Where do you come from? What would you do? Suddenly his friendly words fear vanished and I was self-conscious in a conversation that could have unpleasant consequences for me . I replied respectfully , trying to show that he was not intimidated. I asked : Is it true that the session last night , when I asked you left glimpse , following the physical and geological knowledge you have learned in French books , that the world is older than it has been believed so far, and while they betray you left your comments on the many wonders of creation are not completely orthodox ? Tell me the truth . My answer was clear , so he was satisfied . Then he stood up and invited me into his beautiful library , pointing , among other books , the complete works of Voltaire, Rousseau , Helvetius and other modern authors. Finally I said : Go, young ; Continue your studies quietly and do not forget the Inquisition now that our country is not as spiteful as they say, nor cares to pursue both as people say . “

            1. Uh-oh. Now I’m beginning to suspect that you just use any response as an excuse to go into a canned rant. Strike my earlier interest.

      2. But anyway the Church opposed to paleontology ?
        No way. Charles Darwin was never included in the ” Index of Forbidden Books” . On the contrary, they were and are ( as Emilio Palafox, Doctor of Biological Sciences , priest and member of Opus Dei ) many priests dedicated to exploring the prehistory and the fossil record , including Henri Breuil and Hugo Obermaier German . It’s past were world-renowned experts in rock art, studying for years Combarelles caves , Font -de -Gaume , Lascaux and Altamira. Hugo Obermaier especially studied the Upper Paleolithic hominids . Henri Breuil , a French priest born in 1877 was an archaeologist and student of human paleontology, widely studied Spanish rock art , with important contributions to the study of Paleolithic cave art . He also participated in the discovery of Sinanthropus in China and called chukutiense the set of primitive tools , carved in volcanic stone and quartzite , which are attributed to the Sinanthropus . Henri Breuil authored the article L’ homme prestigious ” Dictionnaire de la foi catholique apologétique ” in 1926. Breuil This article explained with absolute freedom on the origin and the different kinds of hominids ( Homo erectus, Neanderthals , Cro-Magnon man ) to throughout human evolution. All with ecclesiastical authority .

  32. To be honest, even if the claim was true and science descended from Christianity, the relationship between them is something like that between Zeus and Cronus in Greek mythology.

    All the nasty stuff included, obviously!

    1. More James Hannam :http://bedejournal.blogspot.com.es/2007/09/top-tens-and-other-matters.html
      1) In the Middle Ages, Christian universities laid down the foundations of modern science and took the subject of rational logic to heights not reached until the nineteenth century.

      2) The Jesuits published over 6,000 scientific papers and texts between 1600 and 1773 including a third of those on electricity. They were by far the largest scientific organisation in the world.

      3) Copernicus’s book, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, was never banned by the church. Instead, the pope’s censors compiled a short insert with ten corrections intended to make clear heliocentricism was an unproven hypothesis. At the time, this is what it was.

      4) During the Middle Ages, hardly anyone thought the Earth was flat. The question never arose with Christopher Columbus.

      5) No one has ever been burnt at the stake for scientific ideas. The only great scientist to have been executed was the chemist Antione Lavoisier. ‘Freethinking’ anti-clerical French revolutionaries guillotined him in 1794, although for political reasons.

      6) Calvin never said “Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit.

      7) Even by the standards of their time, Sir Isaac Newton, Johann Kepler and Michael Faraday were devoutly religious. During the Enlightenment, when scepticism about religion became acceptable, scientists almost always remained committed Christians.

      8) Christians did not try and destroy pagan Greek scientific ideas. Instead, they laboriously hand copied millions of words of Greek science and medicine thus ensuring they were preserved.

      9) The church never tried to ban zero, lightning conductors or human dissection.

      10) The concept of a good creator god who laid down the laws of nature at the beginning of time was an essential metaphysical foundation for modern science.

      1. The official policy of the Catholic church is still that Adam and Eve are the literal ancestors of humanity, and that humans were specially endowed with a soul, as opposed to other animals. Other non-Catholic christians are the greatest opponents to evolution in the U.S., as Muslims are in other countries. Christianity is certainly not promoting science in this country–at least not as much as pro-science organizations. In the main, Christians are opposing science, with 46% of Americans (not all of them fundamentalists) being young-earth creationists.

        Enough of your lists, Alfonso. You’ve made your tendentious points.

        1. Versus radical intransigence fundamentalism called American scientific creationism , the Catholic Church believes that the theory of evolution in their purely scientific ( aspects and , therefore , beyond biased but unscientific ideological manipulations , which are analyzed in the last chapter) is compatible with the metaphysical notion of creation and therefore the assertion of an absolute being that transcends nature but that is their ultimate cause. Defend the compatibility of the theory of biological evolution and the existence of a God who created following a rational plan. This allows it to be stated that there is an order in nature , although science can not grasp the methods , which , however , is reflected in the complex organization of the physical reality . But as well said the priest and scientist Mariano Artigas , this does not mean they’re right supporters of the theory of Intelligent Design.

          1. Catholic Church believes that the theory of evolution in their purely scientific ( aspects and , therefore , beyond biased but unscientific ideological manipulations , which are analyzed in the last chapter) is compatible with the metaphysical notion of creation

            Yes, Catholics believe lots of very idiotic things, especially about biology. Male human parthenogenesis, for example, or instantaneous transmutation of water into wine and thence into zombie blood.

            They even believe that their voodoo is fully compatible with science, when nothing could be further from the truth. The “metaphysical notion of creation,” as you put it, is in violent contradiction with the basic idea of Evolution. It is no less insane than insisting that Jesus is pushing on inertia so that inertia may, in turn, move the planets. It is pre-scientific Aristotelian bullshit that so spectacularly misses the point that it’d be hilarious if it weren’t for the way the Church tries to pervert science education with it.



            1. For Lemaître, the initial state described in the theory of the Big Bang should not be confused with the metaphysical or theological idea of ​​creation. It is a natural beginning to the physics can be approximated using astronomical observations. Paradoxically Lemaitre, a priest, contribute to secularize the notion that her teacher and many other physical then insisted on “theologizing”. Einstein came to support the expansion, but never acknowledged that natural beginning, due to his pantheistic ideas close to Spinoza.

              1. I have no clue what you think Big Bang Cosmology is supposed to have to do with terrestrial evolution, which is what we were discussing. And there can be no doubt but that Catholic doctrine on evolution is completely batshit fucking insane.

                Catholics hold that humans were created in YHWH’s image, right? Pure lunacy. And they have faith that there was a literal Adam and Eve? Idiotic! And even the most liberal of them claim that neither YHWH nor Jesus intervened, but merely set up the initial conditions such that humans were guaranteed to evolve, correct? Even homeopathy isn’t that stupid. And all of them agree that we’re infested with some immaterial phantasm that YHWH introduced into humans at some point in the distant past, no? There’s more evidence for the faeries at the foot of the garden than that howler.

                So, please. Stop embarrassing yourself by trying to pretend that there’s anything rational about Catholicism. It’s an asinine primitive superstition with no bearing on reality, and it prides itself on the gullibility (“faithfulness”) of its membership. It has no place at the “big people” table, even if some of its dupes have managed to distance themselves far enough from the stench to get some real work done.



            2. Taking into account the studies and theological reflections of the priest and scientist Mariano Artigas , we are inclined to think that Adam had to be the first individual of the species H. sapiens. In any case it would be the first individual of the first species with reflective intelligence , ie , with soul.

              We know by faith that every man ‘s soul is immediately created by God and infused in each new individual of the human species and , therefore, at the time of their most natural concepción.Lo is that individuals have appeared as many new species : begotten, with a new chromosomal mutation , for externally hominid like him , but of a different kind . His biological parents would not be proper parents, as this concept is reserved , in philosophy, who begets something according to their own kind.

              That would be the first guy with chromosomal and gene corresponding to the human species endowment and therefore God will create and infuse his soul , as he always does , but with the peculiarity that was the first time, and must have an order special of God, among other things, that also happen with a female , the first woman, Eve.
              “In a male hominid there some sperm with a chromosomal mutation that means they are no longer their own species, but have come to have the characteristics of a human sperm ; a female hominid may be true of some of their eggs . If these two hominids and cross fertilization of an egg with a mutated mutated sperm , then the first human being appears , and the first supernatural event in the material universe from its very creation occurs: a new creation, the soul of the first man.” (Mariano Artigas)

              This is the most we can say for now but if we receive new evidence , we can never know exactly how it happened , we would need a time machine , but we know it happened , we can come to this conclusion by science ; and we know by faith that we could never know anything in science : why it happened , who planned and carried to term, why did it, why is there evil and how we can overcome it with the help of Christ and his grace.

              Faith teaches us necessary and convenient for our happiness and salvation. For science we know more and more things that are not necessary for this purpose , but well understood and employed we can help you get it.


              1. See, that’s what I’m talking about. I’ve known salads that were more coherent and eloquent. Oogity-boogity ramalama dingdong heywassamatta shazaam alakaboo. Sorry, but whatever it is you think you’re explaining has not the slightest bearing on reality whatsoever.

                That word you keep using, “faith,” ought to be the the clue right there. If the best reason you can come up for believing something is because you want to believe it, there really isn’t any doubt at all, even in your own mind, that it’s just bullshit. If it was real, you wouldn’t have to bother with faith.

                Do you have faith that things fall down? That rain is wet? That clear skies are blue? No, of course not. Faith is what you need to convince yourself that the scam you just bought into isn’t a con job after all.

                Get back to us when you’ve got something less crazy than faith to inform you of your fantasies, and then maybe we can have a productive conversation.



              2. “Theological reflections” of the priest and scientist…lead to scientific conclusions that are not even wrong. Seems par for the course. Maybe this scientist should’ve done less reflecting and more investigative inquiry.

                Wait, wait, this just in! I’m reflecting right now and I know by faith that it was Satan who endowed all creatures with souls then took ours away. That crazy YHWH is just trying to steal his thunder and hold on, my bag of nuts on my desk has the essence of Elvis.

      2. Christians did not try and destroy pagan Greek scientific ideas. Instead, they laboriously hand copied millions of words of Greek science and medicine thus ensuring they were preserved.

        So, it’s called the Dark Ages for a reason. There was a de facto collapse of the economic, intellectual, cultural and political systems in Western Europe in the 5th C AD (CE for you folks that don’t like AD). Things got a bit better. Most of the good stuff that the Romans had was lost and not even close to being recovered until the 15th C AD. Now, Christianity isn’t to blame for the whole thing but guess who was in charge during those years?

        Didn’t destroy stuff? How about the Archimedes Code which contained all the science of Archimedes — guess what the monks did to it? Go on guess? Do you think they painstakingly copied it? Nah, they scraped it off and replaced it with hymns to God. This is just one example of the loss of 99% of the literature, scientific and historic information of Late Antiquity.

        1. I’ve just begun Heilbron’s new bio, Galileo, and I believe there’s going to be lots of defending of Archimedes against the church.
          The book seems very good so far.

  33. For starters , it is a falsehood to say that the church has been an obstacle to science. In fact, after the Council of Trent period witnessed the emergence of an army of Jesuits , Carmelites, Benedictines, escolapios , Dominicans, Capuchins and minimum dedicated to scientific studies : Ignazio Danti ( Bishop , mathematician and cosmógrafo ) , the Benedictine , mathematician and astronomer Francesco Maurolico , the monk Benedetto Castelli (inventor of the gauge ) , Athanasius Kirchner ( inventor of the magic lantern ), the father Gassendi ( the first scientist to measure the speed of sound ), the escolapio Giambattista Beccaria ( researcher atmospheric physics ) , Averani , Galvani , the Jesuit Grimaldi , Laura Bassi ( physics professor named by the Pope) , Lagrange , Abbe Guglielmini ( the first mechanically experience the rotation of the Earth in 1791 ) , Ampere ( love the rosary ) , Ardinghelli (another woman), Marsigli ( a naturalist working for the Dominicans ) , Volta , Avogadro, Cannizzaro , the priest Eugenio Barsanti escolapio invented the internal combustion engine in 1854 , among many others. As Arnold said Lund 60 years, most of the scientific achievements are related to devout Catholics : Copernican astronomy is modern ; Calendar, Gregorian ; is galvanized iron ; electricity is measured in amperes , volts and coulombs ; animal breeding is Mendel ; pasteurized milk ; doctors apply the Röntgen rays and Marconi provided the opportunity to establish communication to those who claim that the Church is the enemy of science .

    1. The trivial fact that many scientists (and inventors and engineers) were Christians, even bishops, and that some scientific discoveries were not opposed by the Church does nothing to redeem the Church’s behaviour (especially in its first thousand years).

      From the fact that the Earth orbits the Sun to the fact that humans are related to apes, squid and fungus, Christian opposition to discovered natural truths over the centuries is well-documented. From the burning at the stake or imprisonment of those who discovered inconvenient facts about the universe to the destruction of ancient knowledge to right now, today, when bishops are outright lying to Catholics about condoms and AIDS, the church has always had a problem with facts.

      Your tedious babbling does nothing to defend them.

      1. Let’s not forget that even if the Church had never even anecdotally opposed science, reason, or free thought that it makes absolutely no headway in the argument that Christianity spawned modern science. It’s like saying my grandfather was instrumental in developing the Standard Model because he never blocked the work of those who formulated it. The claim that Christianity is responsible for modern science is a claim so bold that it is unparalleled in any other field, other than of course religion. An argument needs to walk before it can run and these non sequiturs have yet to attempt to crawl.

          1. William J. Broad, NY Times reviewer who wrote the linked piece, wants readers to believe the book details three centuries of enthusiastic Church support for astronomy. As is the rule when religious claims actually jibe with reality, serendipitous good fortune accounts for why faith belief winds up supporting or contributing to truth, rather than objective policy goals intended to discover reality. Broad writes:

            ‘When to celebrate the feast of Christ’s resurrection had become a bureaucratic crisis in the church.

            Traditionally, Easter fell on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring. But by the 12th century, the usual ways to predict that date had gone awry.

            To set a date for Easter Sunday years in advance, and thus reinforce the church’s power and unity, popes and ecclesiastical officials had for centuries relied on astronomers, who pondered over old manuscripts and devised instruments that set them at the forefront of the scientific revolution.

            According to Dr. Heilbron, the church “gave more financial and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment, than any other, and probably, all other, institutions.” …’

            The church, it seems to me, gave this money not to discover knowledge about celestial objects and their relationship to Earth, Sun, and each other, but instead to buttress doctrinal consistency so as to enhance institutional authority.

            ‘Not so, Dr. Heilbron claims (claims Broad). Rome’s support of astronomy was considerable.

            “The church tended to regard all the systems of the mathematical astronomy as fictions,” Dr. Heilbron wrote. “That interpretation gave Catholic writers scope to develop mathematical and observational astronomy almost as they pleased, despite the tough wording of the condemnation of Galileo.” ‘

            Yes, Catholic proto-astronomer observers and mathematicians were afforded wiggle room for unimpeded research — because Church authorities dogmatically believed nothing non-doctrinal existed that might be discovered. These authorities thought they were funding precise time measurement for their ecclesiastical calendar, and nothing more.

            ‘Around 1655, Cassini persuaded the builders of the Basilica of San Petronio that they should include a major upgrade of Danti’s old meridian line, making it larger and far more accurate, its entry hole for daylight moved up to be some 90 feet high, atop a lofty vault.

            “Most illustrious nobles of Bologna,” Cassini boasted in a flier drawn up for the new observatory, “the kingdom of astronomy is now yours.”

            The exaggeration turned out to have some merit as Cassini used the observatory to investigate the “orbit” of the Sun, quietly suggesting that it actually stood still while the Earth moved.’

            Quietly, indeed. Galileo was censured for heresy and confined to house arrest for life for publishing the same observation only 23 years before Cassini made his “quiet suggestion.”

            ‘The experiment was run around 1655, and after much trial and error, succeeded. Cassini and his Jesuit allies, Dr. Heilbron writes, confirmed Kepler’s version of the Copernican theory.

            Between 1655 and 1736, astronomers used the solar observatory at San Petronio to make 4,500 observations, aiding substantially the tide of scientific advance.’

            Yes. For the next 80 or so years, before the invention of the telescope rendered the cathedral observatories obsolete, astronomers were able to ply their craft under the noses of authorities who may well have turned them over to inquisitors had they known what was actually occurring. But they didn’t look, because blind faith in Biblical tales rendered these authorities blindly ignorant to the heresy in their midst. The claim that the Church endorsed this scientific endeavor is disproved by historical fact stated in this paragraph from the text’s author (not Broad):

            ‘The censure of Galileo, at age 70, hurt the image of the church for centuries. Pope John Paul II finally acknowledged in 1992, 359 years later, that the church had erred in condemning the scientific giant.’

          2. The Church has and has had observatories. So what? I wouldn’t qualify this as a little known fact as the article you link does and the fact that they wanted to more accurately determine Easter has nothing to do with my above comment either. The Church having supported scientific endeavors neither shows that the doctrines gave birth to science nor that they were instrumental in devising the methods of science that they used. The central claim here is that science could not have developed without Christianity and none of these links do anything to show why this is true. The most charitable interpretation is that the Church has not always opposed all science.

      2. J.L.HEILBRON
        The Catholic Church is portrayed as an institution that has been willing to impose the heavy hand of censorship to suppress scientific freedom. But nothing could be further from the truth. Beginning with the recovery of ancient learning in the twelfth century and continuing through the Copernican upheavals and on even into the Enlightenment, the Roman Catholic Church gave more financial and social support to the study of astronomy – Copernican and otherwise – than did any other institutio

  34. Yes, Christianity was so pro-science that there was no over-1000-years of Dark Ages when Christianity ruled Europe :/.

  35. Science has been around since the start of human civilization. Way before any of the abrahamic religions came about. Another inaccuracry about that claim is during the time when christianity came around to be more developed in its ealier day’s such as the 7th century(dark ages) it was pretty anti-science until around the 15th or 16th centuries it stared to be somwhat open to it. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/science/sciencesbook.asp http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_science

  36. Wait so you’re telling me that most scientists 400 years ago before modern discoveries were YECs….and your point is?

    1. Creationists can do good science and it is required to do so. In fact, presuming a deity is preferable. To think otherwise would not be reliable, but harmful even.

  37. “On Early Christian Hostility to Science” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2otjniHgMPk)
    and from the very beginning:
    From the presentation:
    Ways of knowing of christianity:
    – Revelations from God – Intuition inspired by God – God’s word in scripture
    And it can be read in the NT. And was taken literally for many time:
    ” … for the Lord will give you understanding in EVERYTHING.” 2 Timothy 2:7
    “… and ye need not that any one teach you; but as his anointing (CHRIST) teacheth you; concerning all things, and is true, …” 1 John 2:27
    “We walk by faith and NOT by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:7
    “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
    “The Lord will give understanding in everything” 1 Corinthians 14:6
    “Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God: Mind the things that are above, NOT the things that are upon the earth.” Collossians 3:1-2
    “Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy, and vain deceit; according to the tradition of men, according to the ELEMENTS of the world, and not according to Christ” Collossians 2:8
    “For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent I will reject. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” 1 corinthians 1:19-20
    “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, which is moved and carried about by the wind.
    Therefore let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is inconstant in all his ways.” James 1:6-8
    etc, etc…(see video)
    As one can see, “No values references to the values of observing the natural world, curiosity about natural causes, or progress therein” (from the video).
    But let us see what some patristic fathers say about science.
    **Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) tried study philosophy but was offended that
    (1) They elevated reason and evidence above god (“sure faith in god is more important than human reason”, quote from justin)
    (2) Philosophy required payment (says he should not pay for an education)
    (3) … schools required him to study the sciences (he had no time for such trifles and should not need them)
    Athenagoras (133-190 A.D.):
    “… it would be irrational for us to give heed to mere human opinions, and cease to believe in the Spirit from God, who moved the mouths of the prophets like musical instruments” Plea for the christians 7
    **Tatian (120 – 189 A.D.)
    – Pagan philosophy and religion morality disgusted him
    -Antiquity and prophetic power of scripture impressed him
    He wrote that “my soul being taught of god, I discerned that these writings” (meaning the science and philosophy of greeks) “lead to condemnation, but that Scripture and our slavery to the world” (by revealing what philosophers and scientists have been ) “prevented by their error” from learning.
    More quotations, see video
    **Clement of Alexandria (150-216 A.D.) is considered the first “scientifically” educated christian. He wrote:
    “(A christian) avails himself of all branches of learning only as auxiliary preparatory exercises, in order for the accurate communication of the TRUTH (gospel), as far as attainable and with as little distraction as possible, and only for defense against arguments that threaten to destroy the TRUTH. He should NOT shun proficiency in the common curriculum of studies and in greek philosophy … (see video)” Stromata 6.10
    **Tertullian (160-240 A.D.)
    “What concerns have I with the conceits of natural science? It were better for one’s mind to ascend above the state of the world, not to sloop down to uncertain speculations” To the Nations 2:4
    Thales (6 B.C.) was an ancient philosopher considered the father of natural science. He discovered the causes of eclipses, proposed an working universe based only on natural causes, etc.. A history (legend?) is told that he felt in wheel when was looking at the stars. Tertullian comments about it:
    “His (Thales) fall, therefore, is a figurative picture of the philosophers; of those, I mean, who persist in applying their studies to a vain purpose, since they indulge a stupid curiosity on natural objects, which they ought rather (intelligently to direct) to their Creator and Governor.” (A metaphor for philosophers falling in hell) Ad Nationes 2.4
    This one lets no doubt about the issue:
    “For it is really better for us not to know a thing, because [God] has not revealed it to us, than to know it according to man’s wisdom, because he has been bold enough to assume it.”
    A Treatise on the Soul 1&2
    (see video for more quotations from him)
    Lactancius (240 – 320 A.D.) – Tutor of Constantin
    “Rants at how stupid and ridiculous the idea of a round earth is, because it would mean there are upside down people…”
    BUT even in standard introductory text books in astronomy from the roman period astronomers laid down six empirical evidence from earth’s shape (I quote only two):
    – Lunar eclipses at diferent times (in the night)-> only possible with a spherical earth
    – Stars were visible from some places and not from other (no flat earth)
    For some others more important quotations from lactancius, see the video. They’re too length to be copied here.

  38. One last one from this author is enough:
    “… the causes and systems of heavenly things only, or natural things, because they are hidden, cannot be known, for there is no one to teach them; and ought not to be inquired into, for they cannot be found out by inquiry!” Divine institutes 3.6
    **Eusebius (260-339 A.D.)
    [Though the study of moral philosophy]”is practicable and useful, any discussions about nature are QUITE the contrary, neither being compressible, nor having any use if they are clearly understood.” Preparation for the Gospels 15.62.7-8
    Finally, as already cited by others, the destruction of ancient works by (re)writing the palimpsests with religious texts. The archimedes palimpsest and the vitruvius scaling tables – to make war machines – are examples of this practice (see video for details).
    The restoration of scientific values started MUCH LATER on, and only after the year 1000 A.D. by addressing ancient texts. The church – cathocism in Europe – was already existent and predominant. There was a struggle inside the church against and pro this kind of research in the pagan manuscripts. It was not the case that (since ever or) suddenly the church decided to support it and everything was right.
    As Sam Harris rightly posed it, the dialogue was ever only directional (through the time): Religion has/had to give up its unjustified views about the world. There is no case where someone made a well-grounded scientific discovery and later on a religious idea discarded it as false.

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