Skip to comments.Christianity Gave Birth to Science
Posted on 08/12/2013 5:04:22 PM PDT by Enza Ferreri
Science is the systematic application of a logico-empiricist method to look at and understand things, and was born in Christian Europe first with the Scholastic philosophy and then with Leonardo da Vinci, Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei.
The necessary foundation for scientific research is the belief in one God that created a universe regulated by immutable laws which can be understood by man exactly because God's mind and man's are similar except in extent. The Christian God is a person.
Galileo famously talked about the "book of nature", that scientists try to read, being written by God. This is possible because both God and man have a similar mind. If you read a book, you think you can understand the author because you speak the same language and your mind works in an analoguous way. Galileo also said that the book of nature is written in mathematical language.
The ancient people who went closest to developing science were the Greeks. But they were hindered by their polytheism and, after the 4th century BC, by the dominance of the Aristotelian method.
The latter consists in deducing phenomena from fixed principles. The many, capricious deities of the Olympus were also an obstacle to the rise of scientific thought, not being believed capable of creating a rational universe.
As historian of science Bernard Cohen (1914-2003) wrote, ancient Greeks were interested in explaining the natural world only through abstract general principles. The first technical innovations, dating back to prehistoric ages, Greco-Roman times, the Islamic world and China, were not science but are best described as observations, knowledge, learning, wisdom, arts, trades, crafts, technology, engineering. Even without telescopes, the ancient excelled in astronomic observations but without connecting them to testable theories.
It is no coincidence that many of the disciplines which are now part of science were once part of philosophy.
Science is made of theories which are subject to independent confirmation or falsification. The intellectual achievements of Greek or Oriental philosophers were either fruit of atheoretical empiricism or non-empirical theories.
Historian of science Harold Dorn considers the Greeks' atheoretical knowledge a barrier to the birth of science in Greece and Rome and also in the Islamic world, which preserved and studied Greek teachings.
This in no way diminishes the immense value of Greek culture and its great impact on Christian theology and European intellectual life. However, as historian of religions Rodney Stark observed, the birth of science was not the continuation of classical knowledge but the natural consequence of Christian doctrine: nature exists because it was created by God and, to love Him and honour Him, it is necessary to have a profound appreciation of the wonders of His actions.
The Chinese, when they came into contact with Western culture, found the idea of laws of nature and an order in the universe absurd. We now take it for granted, but it is by no means an easy notion to arrive at.
Bertrand Russell found the absence of science in China puzzling, but in fact it is understandable, since the Chinese scholars did not assume the existence of rational laws. Therefore, over millennia, what was sought was "enlightenment", not explanations.
British biochemist and science historian Joseph Needham (1900-1995), who devoted most of his career to the history of Chinese technology, reports that in the 18th century the Chinese rejected the idea of a universe governed by simple laws capable of being investigated by man - idea brought to them by Western Jesuit missionaries. Chinese culture, according to Needham, was not receptive to such concepts. He concluded that the obstacle to science in China was its non-Christian religion, because that prevented the development of the conception of a heavenly, divine legislator imposing laws on non-human nature. The Chinese believed that the natural order was not established by a rational individual being.
Bookmarked for later read
"No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."Wikipedia entry: The River War.
Are you sure cause the Chinese invented everything except for the moslemites who invented everything and everything we have is just the fallout.
I don't get your point.
Sorry for poor formatting.
I don't have time right now to read the article and evaluate the supporting facts, but modern science did indeed spring from Christian Europe so the point may be valid.
It would be interesting to hold that theory up to the info in a book I am presently reading on the birth of science, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe by Arthur Koestler
It’s pretty well established that the ancient greeks invented the scientific method. Now a case could be made that Christianity isn’t anti-science like many other religions, but to claim it gave birth to science is utter drivel.
‘Einstein gives birth to gravity’ makes as much sense.
Actually, they did not. In fact, it wasn't until mathematicians and other thinkers turned away from the influence of Aristotle that the scientific method was developed. Roger Bacon in the thirteenth century and Johannes Kepler 400+ years later took the first steps out of the ancient thinking into the modern world.
The Christian religion did not give birth to science--that would be overstating the case to the point of silliness, but there are characteristics intrinsic to Judeo-Christianity which turned out to be essential to the development of modern science, characteristics that were lacking in other religions, including ancient paganism. Christianity provided the proper soil.
Yes and no. Pythagoras was on the right path, but Plato and Aristotle came to dominate to the exclusion of Pythagoras's methods for nearly two thousand years. Until Kepler, scientific knowledge was only built upon a priori assumptions. Kepler took the first baby steps of deducting scientific theories from observed facts.
This is FUN!
(But I’m supposed to be working. Bye.)
I am surprised that the name of the late Fr Stanley Jaki did not come up (if it did, I missed it). Fr Jaki was one of the foremost historians of science in the 20th and early 21st century.
Fr Stanley was a Benedictine priest who was born in Hungary. He survived WWII and was able to escape to New Jersey when the commies took over after the war. He earned Ph.D’s in theology and later in physics. His advisor for the physics Ph.D—whose name I can’t remember at the moment—taught at Fordham and went on to share the Nobel Prize in physics. Fr Stanley’s teachers were of the highest caliber.
Fr Jaki himself won the Templeton Prize for advancements in the field of religion, and gave the famed Gifford Lecture Series at the University of Edinburgh in 1975-76. These lectures were published under the title of, “ The Road of Science and the Ways to God.” The book is a challenging read, but indispensable if you are interested in the history of modern science.
An easier introduction to his writings would be through his many essays. The collection, “Numbers Decide and Other Essays” would be good for quant types. My own favorite is a book called, “The Absolute Beneath the Relative.” Also excellent and accessible to the general reader is his autobiography, “A Mind’s Matter.”
Fr Jaki was a lifelong anti communist and used to be published in all the conservative journals such as the old National Review, et al. His thumbnail sketch of the history of modern science is called “The Baby and the Bathwater.” I highly recommend it.
Once could argue that Aristotle took things off the rails, but before him people had developed empiricism which really is the method at its heart.
I will certainly concede that the modern scientific method came about after rejecting Aristotle’s errors. That took longer than it should have since he was so well regarded.
As you say, and I agree, Christianity was a religion that at least didn’t get in the way of the development (with hiccups, eg Galileo). Other religions, Islam, Bhuddism, Hinduism have mysticism and anti-scientific thinking at their cores.
It seems overwhelmingly obvious that Christianity made science possible.
Even medical science was broken free from fatalism by the miraculous.
We don’t have to be sick.
Atheists are unable to explain why the universe is ordered or why observed laws remain consistently in effect.
I think this essay understates Christianity as causation.
Even the classic case of Galileo misses why Galileo refused to recant.
Galileo believed that God made the world in an ordered rational manner and so he was willing to defy the church order.
Jesus’ advice in John 8 about the truth setting us free established an intellectual paradigm that allows us to resist the normative practice of propaganda that continues to dominate us today.
Secular scientist ought to be grateful for science.
The Christian perspective encouraged the biblical tradition of testing the validity of information in the belief that the furtherance of knowledge would increase our understanding of Scripture.
Other religions, Islam, Bhuddism, Hinduism have mysticism and anti-scientific thinking at their cores.
In addition, the Greek concept of the divinity of nature was an impediment for them.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.