Summary: In an attempt to account for the origin of modern science, I will argue that the Judeo-Christian world view played a crucial role in this birth. I will cite four lines of evidence to support this hypothesis and respond to objections at the appropriate places.
Acknowledgment: Several points in the following essays are indebted to Stanley Jaki's, "Science and Creation: From eternal cycles to an oscillating universe."
Points of clarification:
1. It was not my intention that this article would convince those highly skeptical of this hypothesis (for those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still). Instead, I intend to simply clarify why it is that one might rationally think the Judeo-Christian world view was important, even crucial, in the birth of science.
2. I am not claiming that Christianity was sufficient for the birth of science. Other important ingredients stemmed from Greek philosophy and mathematics and various technical achievements associated with building and designing things.
3. I am not claiming that one must be a Christian to be a "good scientist." My focus is on history. The current relationship between Christianity and Science can be addressed in another article.
3. Evidence that supports hypothesis
a. Science was born in a Christian culture
b. Science was not born in any Christian culture
c. Biblical beliefs provided fertile ground for the birth of science
d. Christian philosophers paved the way for science
4. Left-over objections
5. Future concerns
Whenever one is educated about history, some paradigm is usually assumed to interpret all the facts in the context of a coherent pattern. As a student of the public schools and public universities, I was taught about the history of science in the light of the notion that there has always been warfare between science and Christianity.
The warfare myth is very popular and very powerful. It is popular because it seems to be substantiated today. We often hear certain scientists making metaphysical claims such as "the Universe is all that exists." We also hear religious leaders making scientific claims such as "evolution is not true." It's as if the religious leaders think they have the authority to make scientific judgments and scientific leaders think they have the authority to make religious/metaphysical judgments. The warfare myth is clearly supported by these dynamics, as it is if there are two opposing camps firing back at each other.
The myth is also very powerful. As one who is both a Christian and a scientist, I can see this from both sides. As a Christian, there are many fellow Christians who look upon my science with suspicion. How can I be a Christian yet believe in evolution? How can I be a Christian yet focus so much attention on something that doesn't seem directly related to the faith? As a scientist, there are many fellow scientists who look upon my Christianity with suspicion. How can I be a scientist yet believe Jesus bodily rose from the dead? How can I be a scientist yet focus too much attention on things that depend on faith? As many Christians who are scientists will tell you, they are often caught between a rock and a hard place.
So what is a Christian scientist (not to be confused with the religion of Christian Science) to do? Unfortunately, many opt for a perspective that tacitly reinforces the warfare myth. They buy into the warfare myth in the sense that science and Christianity are two camps that have little to say to each other. That is, they may not take part in the warfare, but they buy peace simply by cutting off meaningful dialog between the two camps. It's a mindset that basically says, "Look, since we can't talk to each other without fighting, let's not talk to each other." Thus, the Christian scientist often leads two lives - as a scientist, she is little more than a moral Naturalist and as a Christian, she keeps her science to herself.
Of course, some Christian scientists can't live such a schizoid life. Unfortunately, they also fail to achieve balance. For example, the Christian who becomes an authority in the lab finds himself thinking this expertise naturally extrapolates to authoritative judgments on matters of Christian belief. Many of these folks become closet naturalists or closet pantheists. They may attend church and use Christian language, but their theology and faith has long ago ceased being "mere Christian."
What is needed is a balance, a recognition that we are talking about two different camps, but these are camps that can talk to each other and contribute to each other. The Christian scientist needs to integrate their Christianity and science in a way that doesn't turn their science into non-science and their Christianity into some religion that is not Christian. If this can be done, then these scientists can serve as a light to both the Christian and scientific communities. To the scientific community, they can show that Christianity is not an anti-science, anti-thinking, emotional based system of blind faith that would punish scientists for daring to say something perceived contrary to the faith. To the Christian community, they could show that science is not an anti- Christian, man-centered, reason-worshiping belief system that would reduce Christianity to nothing more than a fuzzy, happy form of humanism.
How can we hope to make such an integration? After all, it can't be easy, otherwise, it would be more commonly done. In my opinion, the reason why this integration has been so hard is that we have been conditioned as students to buy into the warfare myth. That is, we've been told, explicitly and implicitly, that warfare is the natural state between religion and science. To make matters worse, atheists and other non-christians have gotten plenty of apologetic mileage out of perpetuating this myth. And Christian scientists help perpetuate this myth either by engaging in the warfare or by admitting that nothing can be said between to two camps. But what he have is something like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we continue to believe in the reality of such warfare, we will act in ways that bring about the warfare. So maybe the first step of integration is to call into question the necessity of the warfare myth. How can this be done?
I propose that we must first understand the origin of modern science. That is, to truly understand where we are, we must understand how we got here. Once we understand history, we can then call upon philosophy. And when history is understood, we shall see that science was not born as an enemy of the faith. On the contrary, we shall see that Christianity played the crucial role in giving birth to modern science.
The Christian world view's importance in the birth of science has other relevant implications. As noted, often times we are told that Christianity was/is an enemy of science. Such an analysis shows that this need not be true. Furthermore, in today's multicultural environment, where all cultures are deemed equally important, we fail to realize just how special Christianity has been in the history of civilization. Finally, as I will briefly explain at the end of these conclusions, the greatest threat to science stems from the same mindset that is an enemy of Christian faith. That is, in today's increasingly pagan environment, Christians have the unique opportunity to rally to science's defense, and thus show once again just how important Christian assumptions are to the practice of modern science.
The primary observation that led me to suspect that Christianity was crucial to the birth of science was the localized nature of the origin of science. That is, modern science was born in Christianized Europe. Of course, this observation alone is not a proof. As one skeptic has noted:
[That would be] a clear example of post hoc ergo propter hoc argumentation. Or possibly the correlation-causation fallacy. In either case, it is fallacious.
But neither of these labels capture the essence of my argument. As I have said countless times in the past, I approach reality as a sleuth, not a mathematician. And when I approach reality, I encounter the practice of science. Being a Christian, I am *fully* aware of the contingency of our being. Things need not be as they are. So why are they as they are? Thus, I ask myself, "How did science come into being?" Has it always existed? If not, was its existence inevitable?
When I look to history, I find that science, has not always existed. So how did it come to be? Most historians of science and philosophers of science recognize that a new type of science, what we call 'modern science,' was born only a few centuries ago in Europe. I also recognize that Europe was thoroughly influenced by the Christian world view. So as a Christian, I cannot help but ask, "Is this coincidence or is there something deeper involved?" Obviously, I think something deeper is involved. My hypothesis is that the Christian world view was crucial, perhaps even necessary, for the birth of modern science. I realize I cannot prove this, but since I set out not as a mathematician, interested in certainties and proofs, this is irrelevant. Instead, I set out as a sleuth, and I find many clues that converge to support my belief.
So again, at the very least, I think the Christian world view played an important role in the birth of modern science. This is not to say that Christianity "caused" science or that Christianity was sufficient cause for the birth of science. Instead, I have come to believe that the Christian religion was important, maybe even necessary, for the birth of science. The clues that support my belief are fourfold.
Clue #1. The founders/fathers of modern science were shaped by a culture that was predominantly Christian.
The founders of modern science were all bunched into a particular geographical location dominated by a Judeo-Christian world view. I'm thinking of men like Louis Aggasiz (founder of glacial science and perhaps paleontology); Charles Babbage (often said to be the creator of the computer); Francis Bacon (father of the scientific method); Sir Charles Bell (first to extensively map the brain and nervous system); Robert Boyle (father of modern chemistry); Georges Cuvier (founder of comparative anatomy and perhaps paleontology); John Dalton (father of modern atomic theory); Jean Henri Fabre (chief founder of modern entomology); John Ambrose Fleming (some call him the founder of modern electronics/inventor of the diode); James Joule (discoverer of the first law of thermodynamics); William Thomson Kelvin (perhaps the first to clearly state the second law of thermodynamics); Johannes Kepler (discoverer of the laws of planetary motion); Carolus Linnaeus (father of modern taxonomy); James Clerk Maxwell (formulator of the electromagnetic theory of light); Gregor Mendel (father of genetics); Isaac Newton (discoverer of the universal laws of gravitation); Blaise Pascal (major contributor to probability studies and hydrostatics); Louis Pasteur (formulator of the germ theory).
If an appreciation for math and the cause-and-effect workings of nature were sufficient to generate modern science, how does one explain the historical fact the the founders of modern science were all found in a *particular* culture that just happened to be shaped by a Judeo-Christian world view? Instead of measuring energy in joules, why don't we measure it in platos or al-Asharis?
Of course, the cynics would claim these men were not *really* Christians. That is, they really didn't *believe* in Christianity, but they professed such beliefs because they did not want to be persecuted. This is the "closet-atheist" hypothesis. But it doesn't square with the facts.
Many of the founders of modern science were also very interested in theology. If you read Pascal, this is obvious. Mendel was a monk. Newton often said his interest in theology surpassed his interest in science. Newton did end his Principles with:
"This most beautiful system of sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being...This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God."
As Charles Hummel notes,
"Newton's religion was no mere appendage to his science; he would have been a theist no matter what his profession."
Boyle set up Christian apologetics lectures. Babbage and Prout contributed to an apologetics series called the Bridgewater Treatises. Aggasiz, Cuvier, Fleming, Kelvin, and Linnaeus were what we now call 'creationists.' When I speak about Biblical beliefs that paved the way for science, I will use both Kepler and Pasteur to highlight two specific examples.
Furthermore, many of these founders of science lived at a time when others publicly expressed views quite contrary to Christianity - Hume, Hobbes, Darwin, etc. When Boyle argues against Hobbe's materialism or Kelvin argues against Darwin's assumptions, you don't have a case of "closet atheists."
Clue #2: Science was not born in any non-christian culture.
Yet it's not just the bunching of these founders in a Christian culture alone that is significant. Perhaps even more significant is the complete lack of analogs for these men from other cultures. Where is the Greek version of Newton? Where is the Muslim version of Kepler? Where is the Hindu version of Boyle? Where is the Buddhist version of Mendel? Such questions are all the more powerful when you pause to consider that science studies truths that are universally true. How is it that so many other cultures, some existing for thousands of years, failed to discover, or even anticipate, Newton's first law of motion of Kepler's laws of planetary motion? So it's not just that the Christian religion is associated with the birth of modern science, it's also the fact that modern science was not birthed in cultures which lacked the Christian religion.
Of course, the skeptic could reply as follows:
Many of the most important advances were made by Muslims in the Moorish Spain area, and other infidels.
I do not deny that other cultures contributed important ingredients, for I would never argue that the Christian world view alone was sufficient for the birth of modern science. But the fact remains that advances in mathematics and engineering do not count as modern science (as I am thinking of), for the Muslims and "other infidels" did not discover the laws of motion, the laws of gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, the laws of chemistry, the laws of heredity, the law of biogenesis, etc. If you take any introductory undergraduate textbook in physics, chemistry, biology, genetics, physiology, paleontology, etc., it is not hard to point to the knowledge that is indebted to the work of these Christian scientists from Europe. But you would find very little that is indebted to Greek, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist philosophers (aside from tools like mathematics and Arabic numerals).
In fact, if you survey other non-christian cultures, their inability to generate modern science renders this clue all the more powerful. For these cultures not only lacked the Christian world view's perception of Nature *and* God, they held to a view that prevented the birth of science. In this view, the Universe was eternal, necessary, cyclical, and organismic. One could argue that this view of the Universe followed from reason and observation (like Geocentrism). But Christianity gave men a larger reason to deny this type of cosmology, and in doing so, it paved the way for the birth of science.
I don't think it can be overemphasized as to how detrimental cyclical thinking was to the birth of science. And what made the cyclic views even worse was their close tie to the animistic/organismic view of the Universe. This feature was shared by the Hindus, the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and the Chinese. A detailed analysis of all these cultures, in this light, would make my case all the more obvious. Consider the Chinese.
The Chinese make an excellent case study in the stillbirths of science. For the Chinese culture experienced long centuries of relative peace, material prosperity, active social interplay, creativity of mind, and contact with other cultures.
The French sinologist, M. Granet, noted that "the conviction that the All and everything composing it, having a cyclic nature" was what stymied the Chinese awareness of causal links between events. Thus, there was nothing odd, as far as the Chinese were concerned, in attributing the political failure of a prince to the fact that human sacrifices took place at his burial. As Granet noted, the Chinese were not interested in causes and effects, rather "manifestations, whose order mattered little, conceived as they were separate, but grafted nevertheless on the same root. Equally expressive, they appeared interchangeable." Thus, as historian of science, Stanley Jaki points out, "if at a particular time, a mountain collapsed, a river ran dry, a man allegedly changed into a woman, and a dynasty came to an end, the Chinese sage took all these as equally significant indications of a "change of order" both in the cosmos and in history, without feeling any urge to search into a causal relationship among them."
It's hard for us to appreciate this mentality given that we have been shaped to think in linear terms. But if you can begin to grasp it, you will see how awful it is for the development of science. Yes, the Chinese and many other cultures would keep records about the position of the stars. Yes, they would invent calenders and be able to make predictions. But none of this had anything to do with trying to understand how nature works. It had nothing to do with science. And for thousands of years, it never anticipated science. It was simple record-keeping so that they could recognize the "signs of the time" and situate themselves in the rhythmic breathing of the eternally cycling Universe. And boy, did these cultures get carried away with their cycles. They'd break cosmic history into large repeating epochs, that spun like a wheel, and within each epoch were smaller cycles, and within each smaller cycle were smaller cycles yet. And on and on went the wheel. Thus, phenomena were not something to understand. They were merely signs that gave you an address. Or as today's neo-pagans would say (as yesterday's Stoics said), we need to live in *harmony* with nature.
This is why historian of science Stanley Jaki would remark:
"In such a outlook, measurable, quantitative aspects of events occurring closely in time could have no particular significance. Their frequency or order of magnitude commanded no special interest, nor did the normal sequence of events....The Chinese, bent on seeking the poetical, empathic, and organismic solidarity among facts, had no interest in their regular sequence. In their eyes, it was cyclic anyway, bringing about much the same situation after the completion of each period."
It's no wonder that Yu-Lan Fung, a Chinese scholar in the early 20th century, wrote the following in The International Journal of Ethics:
"China has no science, because according to her own standard of value she does not need any....China has not discovered the scientific method, because Chinese started from mind, and from one's own mind."
But it isn't just cyclical thinking that prevents the birth of science. Organismic thinking is also just as detrimental and is almost always associated with cyclical thinking. The Confucian method of finding cosmic order was premised on intuitive reflections of social life. Confucius himself wrote that "Custom is whereby Heaven and Earth unite, whereby the sun and moon are brilliant, whereby the four seasons are ordered.." Confucians believed this not only because they saw the cycles of history as reflections of cosmic cycling, but because they saw humanity as a reflection of the cosmos In fact, their organismic views got carried away, where Tung Chung-Shu (who succeeded in making Confucianism the official state doctrine in 136 BC) would claim that the number of lesser joints in the body was the same as the number of days in a year. He would then add that there were twelve large joints in the body, because this figure and the four limbs matched the twelve months and four seasons. Opening and closing of one's eyes was explained as a reflection of the succession of day and night. Winter and summer were reflected in man's strength and weakness. This thinking is alien to science. This is thinking held captive by a cyclical, organismic world view where the focus was on finding one's *place* in the spinning wheel.
What matters is that cyclical thinking was a great hindrance to the birth of science. It was very powerful and channeled much thinking and creativity away from a scientific pursuit. This is one reason why Greek science, which started with such promise, died. This is why astrology eventually overshadowed astronomy, so much so that even Ptolemy would consider his Tetrabiblios to be of far greater importance than his Almagest.
In fact, it is most interesting to view China through the eyes of some Europeans. Specifically, I'm thinking of the letters of Father Matteo Ricci. Ricci settled in the mainland of China in 1584. At first he was impressed, as he found that they were able to predict two eclipses of the moon without any knowledge of Ptolemaic astronomy. But as the years went by, Ricci began to realize that even with his own modest level of understanding, he was more knowledgeable about matters of nature than his hosts' best minds. He would write in 1595:
"In truth, if China was the entire world, I could undoubtedly call myself the principal mathematician and philosopher of nature, because it is ridiculously and astonishingly little what they know; they are preoccupied with moral philosophy, and with elegance of discourse, or to say more properly, of style."
Y'see, a few more years of eclipses showed Ricci that his Ptolemaic astronomy was superior to Chinese astronomy. In 1597, he would write:
"About the learned among the Chinese, let me say that this: the Chinese have no science at all; one may say that only mathematics is cultivated, and the little they know of it is without foundation.....They just manage to predict eclipses and in that they make many mistakes. All are addicted to the art of divination, which is most unreliable and also completely false. Physics and metaphysics, including logic, is unknown among them....Their literature consists wholly in beautiful and stylish compositions all of which correspond to our humanities and rhetoric."
In 1605, he would explain the following concerning those who predicted eclipses:
"they know nothing more than to make computations, without any insight into the rules, and when the result does not come out right, all they say is that they kept to the rules of their forebears."
Ricci also discovered that the Chinese were preoccupied with astrology and he blamed this, more than anything else, for the backwardness of their science. He noted that while they were very interested in predicting when eclipses would occur, they had no idea of the physical cause of the moon's eclipse. Put simply, cause and effect thinking was not used to understand nature. In fact, those who did try to explain the cause of eclipses simply used their philosophy shaped by cyclical, organismic thinking. For example, in AD 80, Wang-Chhung explained eclipses as periodic changes in the "life-strength" of the moon and sun and to the consequent rhythmic variation in their intrinsic brightness.
The Chinese were also very resistant to views that did not line up with their organismic, cycling universe. They could co-opt other cultures that shared these basic views, but they turned their back on ideas that stemmed from a different view. This is clearly seen when the European missionaries visited China over a span of several several centuries and tried to teach them science. In 1645, Father Schall von Bell was forced to change in the title of his great astronomical encyclopedia the expression "according to Western methods" to "according to new methods." And the Chinese were not really interested in these "new methods." For example, Juan Yuan praised Chinese thinkers for not falling prey to the lure of Western methods:
"Our ancients sought phenomena and ignored theoretical explanation. Since the arrival of the Europeans, the question has always been concerning explanations, circular orbits, mean movements, eclipses, and squares. The foreigners think the earth revolves about a fixed sun....but the theory of Tycho has been modified many times during the last century and I believe it will be again....Therefore, I do not see upon what the Europeans base their arguments...and really it does not seem to me the least inconvenient to ignore the western theoretical explanations and simply to consider the facts."
The perception of "where we are" was indeed an overwhelming obsession of many cultures that held to an organismic, cyclical world view. This type of thinking was poison to science. It smothered a spirit of progress and replaced it with fatalism. It turned phenomena into omens and made astrology far more important than astronomy. And it even led to severe closed-mindedness, as once you figured out where you are, you had no use for views that would disturb this harmony. A great example comes again from Father Ricci. Ricci's map implied the sphericity and true dimensions of the earth that really bothered the Chinese. Wei Chun would write:
"Lately Mateo Ricci utilized some false teachings to fool people... The map of the world which he made contains elements of the fabulous and mysterious, and is a downright attempt to deceive people on things which they personally can not go to verify for themselves. It is really like the trick of a painter who draws ghosts in his pictures. We need not discuss other points, but just take the example of position of China on the map. He puts it not at the center but slightly to the west and inclined to the north. This is altogether far from truth, for China should be in the center of the world, which we can prove by the single fact that we can see the North Star resting at the zenith of the heaven at midnight. How can China be treated like a small unimportant country, and placed slightly to the north as on this map? This really shows how dogmatic his ideas are. Those who trust him say that the people in his country are fond of traveling afar, but such an error as this would certainly not be made by a widely-traveled man."
While it is true that many cultures mapped and described the heavens, and they did seek to describe relationships between things, this had nothing to do with understanding how nature works. And it certainly had nothing to do with trying to understand why nature is as it is. The ancients were interested in finding correlations. Just because someone figures out that the cock crows when the sun comes up doesn't mean they were interested in how nature works. No one would ask how is it that the cock crows when the sun rises. No one would ask why the cock crows when the sun rises. In fact, their organismic thinking often might lead them to think the cock might be causing the sun to rise! For example, in China, it was believed that misconduct on the part of the Emperor, or his officials, would have a disturbing effect on celestial motions which would have a further disturbing effect on terrestrial affairs.
Concerning the Babylonian astrologers and magi, Jaki says:
"Their principal compositions were incantations appropriate to any of the sundry phenomena of the heavens. Among them most notable were, of course, the eclipses. Legion is the number of tablets on which all sorts of events on earth were connected with the moon's partial and total eclipses and with the various shapes of its horns. The invasion of locusts, the sickness of princes, the flourishing of market places, the peaceful reign of the king, the slaying of huge armies, general inundations, devastation of crops, eruption of fighting in the temple of Bel, the healing of sick, are only a few of the countless events connected in ancient Mesopotamian omens with eclipses."
Magic was also *very* common in all cultures.and it was almost always tied to a cyclical, organismic view of the cosmos. If human affairs could could effect celestial motions, and celestial motions could effect human affairs, then of course the magicians would look for incantations and formulas to tap into this vibrating, rhythmic world. And the number of these incantations and formulas would simply grow and grow over time. Why? Because magic is not science. If an incantation didn't work, the magician would not abandon it. He would simply figure that the timing was not right, and then move on to the next incantation.
Nothing better shows the non-scientific nature of magic than the growing laundry lists of incantations. In magic, nothing is discarded, because failed magic simply meant the right button wasn't pushed for the right occasion. Or perhaps the right omen wasn't recognized. So more and more "buttons"were created until one had a large list to choose and a better chance of getting the right one. Thus, if the use of pig entrails was correlated with the recovery of one person, it would be added to the list. If pig entrails didn't help the second person with the same symptoms, well, that was because the the second person was not in harmony with the same cycle as the first. But the magician wouldn't discard the pig entrails formula because another person in the future might find himself in the same cycle as the first.
And more and more omens were were also added. In Babylonia, a dog in a specific part of one's house was believed to entail its destruction by fire. So you go see a magician, and wouldn't y'know, his incantations kept the house from burning down. In that world of magic, the right formula could restore harmony in the cycling, organismic cosmos which reflected itself in human affairs. Of course, then you had to worry about the future of the land, which could be ascertained from the shape of the ears of lambskins.
It is interesting that some pagans try to claim that magic was the thing that put humanity on the road to science. But a scientific viewpoint that is part of a linear, mechanistic view is *very* different from a magical viewpoint that is part of a cyclical, organismic view. They are two very different ways of looking at the same data. And however you view it, magic failed to give birth to science in non-christian cultures, and in fact, almost derailed the birth of science in Europe.
Clue #3. Since most of the founders of science were Christians, it is reasonable to suppose their perspectives were shaped by their Christian world view. And this world view was in turn shaped by Christian theology. And there are several aspects of Christian theology that can easily be seen as contributing factors to the birth of science?
First, let's note that Christianity is a "religion of the book." This is significant. A religion that places special authority on the written word necessarily diminishes the authority of the priesthood. The Catholic Church got around this problem early on by claiming, "Hey, we wrote that book, thus we're the primary authorities." That's why the Church persecuted other Christians who later dared to get the Good Book in the hands of the common man. For the Good Book couldn't be properly interpreted in the hands of those who were not the primary authority. But, of course, Luther came along and said, "You guys have it upside down, the book is the real authority and any authority you think you have can only be imparted from it." What this meant is that the authority of the Bible itself imparted a certain freedom and a courage to dissent . And some of these early scientists (like Galileo) relied on this. If their scientific views were questioned on religious grounds, they could simply consult the Bible and question the *interpretations* of the religious authorities. Of course, they knew they were treading on someone else's turf, so that had to be careful about it all. But what it meant was that although a priest might condemn or ridicule a scientist's beliefs, in his own mind and heart, that scientist could consult the Bible and other works of theology and blunt the criticism of the priest TO HIS OWN SATISFACTION. It might not have been "freedom to inquire" in the modern sense of the term, as the Church remained very powerful, but there was enough freedom to at least personally question without having to resort to simple dismissal (and *this* is what is important). This also meant that early Christian scientists didn't have to throw the baby out with the bath water. They didn't have to reject Christianity to reject a priest's views. Instead, they could merge their religious beliefs with the scientific pursuits.
The Book is also important from the other direction, for it imparts *some* sense of authority, thus consensus. That is, a religion that places special authority on written texts not only necessarily diminishes the authority of the priesthood, but it also diminishes the authority of private belief. Someone once asked, "what type of Christianity are we talking about, after all, there are thousands of types." To me, that type of response misses the boat. It's like saying since there are so many types of dogs, it makes no sense to say "a dog is a man's best friend." Just as those many dogs share features, so too do many Christian variants share features. And it was the shared features, consensus beliefs, that played the role in the birth of modern science. For example, I would not claim that belief in baptism was important for the birth of science, but belief in Creation was important. Let's consider these consensus beliefs in more detail.
a. A belief in an "only God." This belief had two major implications. Only a lofty and vigorous monotheism could instill a sense that there existed a being so powerful that He created ALL there is to create. Pagan gods were too often seen as PART of nature. The birth of science needed a God bigger than that. Secondly, this God was a personal God with a will. Just as He willed certain moral laws, He could be perceived as willing laws of nature. In fact, this type of assumption/perspective actually turned into an apologetic argument, where theologians and scientists would argue the laws of nature implied a Lawgiver. Whether or not the argument if valid is irrelevant. I'm simply highlighting how the medieval mind would easily see it from the opposite angle - a Lawgiver implied laws in creation. Pagan gods were simply not seen as Lawgivers.
b. A belief in a rational God. This belief has a major implication. A rational God would create a rational creation, a creation that would turn out to be ultimately intelligible. Thus, all one had to do was uncover what was there waiting to be uncovered. One didn't have to worry that such searching would be in vain. No one worried about a deceiving god. Or a creation that was ultimately an illusion.
c. A belief that the Universe was created ex nihilo. This belief had several major implications.
i. If the universe was created, it is not eternal. Thus, it was also not necessary. Since it need not exist, there must be a reason why it exists. Furthermore, since it could have existed in another form, there must be reasons why it existed in the form that it does. A contingent universe arouses curiosity. A necessary universe does not.
If a Christian is curious about Creation and God's reasons for creating what He created, the obvious place to start is by studying Genesis. Whether or not one interprets Genesis as metaphor, myth, or history, one big truth arises from this account - ALL is creation. That is, the earth and the bird are every bit creation as the stars and the sun. It's this type of insight which enabled folks like Buridan (see below) to describe heavenly motions in terms of terrestial motions. It's hard for us modern folks to appreciate how radical it was to describe the movement of the heavens as being like a man jumping or a smith's wheel turning. But this was a crucial step. And it was a crucial step that helped to get around Aristotle's philosophy.
ii. It is true that the Bible doesn't clearly distinguish between the natural and the spiritual. But some type of distinction is assumed, otherwise, the miraculous would be meaningless. The distinction the Bible makes is between the Creation and the transcendent Creator. And this is a distinction which was very important to the birth of modern science. Pagans made no such distinction. A tree would never be studied because a tree was a divine representation! And Eastern religions could care less about the tree, as it was either an illusion or a distraction. But in Christianity, the tree was desacralized. Thus, it could be studied. And since it was made by a rational Creator, a Creator who instructed us to "subdue the earth," the impetus was there to study the tree. Why? Because it didn't necessarily exist. It was made and thus need not exist. Thus, to understand the tree, one couldn't deduce its existence from first principles, one had to actually "take it apart" and figure out how it worked. And since God was rational, it was thought that the tree would ultimately be intelligible.
This distinction between Creation and God was essential to science. For it is this very distinction that is behind what we now call the "natural" and the "spiritual" (anyone who can see this relationship will clearly see how science is indebted to Christianity). That is, if you simply remove God from the picture, Creation becomes the Natural. And God is over there in the "Spiritual." But this distinction was not commonly found among the worlds religions. Their views were inherently monistic and pantheistic. As Francis Bacon would write:
"For as all works do shew forth the power and skill of the workman, and not his image; so it is of the works of God; which do shew the omnipotency and wisdom of the maker, but not his image; and therefore therein the heathen opinion differeth from sacred truth; for they supposed the world to be the image of God, and man to be an extract or compendious image of the world." Bacon would add that this pantheistic view resulted in "the greatest arrest and prejudice of further discovery."
iii. Another simple implication is that a creation implies an act of creating. This would be an important point of speculation for medieval philosophers, and their speculations would turn out to be important in the birth of modern science.
d. If you are going to think God's thoughts after Him (as Kepler said), you'd better have reasons for believing this could be done. Part of this reason stemmed from the belief in a rational God. But also important was the belief that man was created in the image of God. This belief enabled folks to trust their own reason, as their ability to reason was not only viewed as a gift from God, but it was also a way in which humankind reflected God. Furthermore, the Incarnation was also probably relevant. For if God became man, then maybe the chasm between Man and God wasn't so huge. So maybe it wasn't so absurd to think God's thoughts after Him. After all, a Muslim would never dare to "think God's thoughts after Him," as God was viewed to be totally different from humankind.
e. Almost all cultures throughout history have had a cyclical cosmology. This makes sense. We live on a spinning globe which is in turn spinning around the sun, and this produces natural cycles on earth. And its these cycles that led to a cyclical cosmology (just as appearances also led to Geocentrism). But this cyclical view is not fertile ground for science. Science entails the notion of progress, a belief that we can progress towards a state where we understand nature. The Christians inherited from the Jews a sense that was most "unnatural," a sense that stemmed from revelation - cosmology is linear. That is, God created and works through history. For example, His delivery of the Israelites from Egypt would never happen again, so it must be retold. The Christians inherited this spirit. Their history became as follows: Creation - the Fall - the coming of Messiah- the death of Messiah - the birth of the Church - the return of Messiah. It was a linear view where history was progressing towards a goal. This linear thinking was important to science. Why? Intellectuals from cyclical world views tend to think "there's nothing new." Instead of looking for something new, they look to the wisdom of ancients who represent a Golden Age. But the Christian could say, "Hey, maybe the ancients didn't know everything. Maybe there is something new to be learned, something that has NEVER been known before." And to find this new material, they need look no further than Creation, for the Author of the Bible (who shows his intentions in linear fashion) is also the Author of Nature.
To see the importance of linear thinking, consider how cyclical thinking stunted the birth of science in Greece. Let's consider one of the greatest Greek philosophers, Aristotle. Aristotle attempted to explain the world in typical Greek fashion. Aristotle postulated a law (in "On the Heavens") which stated that the rate of at which falling bodies speed toward the center of the earth, or its surface for that matter, was determined by their weight. Aristotle said that if two bodies were dropped from the same height, the one with twice the weight as the other would reach the ground twice as fast as the lighter one. This law was simply accepted. And how odd this is! Any construction worker would have observed that this was not true. Anyone could have tested Aristotle's claim with a very simple experiment -climb a house and drop two objects of differing weight. But no Greek ever seemed curious enough to simply test this claim! Why was this? Why were they so blind to such basic science?
Well, we have to understand Greek cosmology. For them, the universe existed as an eternal cycle of birth-life-death-rebirth. This cyclical view of nature prevented the birth of science. For one thing, the notion of an eternal universe went hand-in-hand with the notion of a necessary universe. Aristotelian physics was simply taken to be necessarily true and known through introspection. It seems intuitively obvious that heavier objects would fall faster than lighter objects. But the Greek mind never thought to test it. And what a simple test it is! Furthermore, the cyclical view of nature eliminates the perspective of progress. And without the belief in progress, there is no need to look further once you think you have it all figured out. Aristotle endorsed, in a manner-of-fact way, the idea of eternal cycles. One way he did this was to make reference to cultural history. He explicitly stated that inventions familiar to his contemporaries had been invented in innumerable times before. But he did add that the comfort provided by the technical brand of those inventions available in his time represented the highest level they are capable of providing. This attitude also hindered science. If reality exists as a series of eternal cycles, the tendency is to think either one is at the bottom, and a hopeless, inward perspective develops, or one is at the top (as Aristotle thought), and complacency develops. Greek success with mathematics, coupled to their cosmogony, led them to think they could deduce reality and questioning those deductions by silly experiments was unthought of.
Unfortunately for Christendom, Greek philosophy was merged with Christian theology. And this, more than anything else, is what caused the birth of modern science to be delayed. The break with Aristotle stemmed from Christian theologians who questioned Aristotle's self- evident truth of the eternal universe. Their theology taught otherwise, that the universe was created ex nihilo. This teaching was formally and solemnly declared in 1214 as the Fourth Lateran Council (although is was debated a long time prior). The declaration essentially stated the truth of our finite creation, but said we could only know this from revelation. This declaration freed Christian thinkers as they began to reinterpret the world simply by assuming as fact the temporality and contingency of the universe.
[I often think Christians fail to realize that Big Bang cosmology represents a very powerful confirmation of their Christian faith. Every world view (including atheism) other than that shaped by Judaism and Christianity has proclaimed the Universe is eternal. In the thirteenth and fourteenth century, Christian philosophers took the bold step in denying that matter and time was eternal, something taught by all the great Pagan and Muslim philosophers. Yet they acknowledged that their denial could not be proven true, that it stemmed solely from their faith. And modern science has now corroborated their position!]
f. Finally, the Christian religion did indeed place emphasis on moral behavior and a concern for Truth. Both of these are important to science. Science is, after all, an attempt to uncover the Truth about the world. Science is committed to the notion of objective truth, truth that exists apart from individual belief. Since Christianity placed emphasis on this type of truth (in contrast to many forms of paganism), this religious attitude could easily be extended to the physical world. As for moral behavior, science depends on truthful reporting and honest experiments.
In addition to all these consensus assumptions, there is one more relevant point. Not only did the Bible provide a consensus on some basic assumptions about the world, assumptions important for the birth of science, but the very perspective about the book was important. God was viewed as the Author of the Book and the Book spoke of Truth. But for these Christians, God was also the Author of Nature. Yet, Nature was simply another book written by God in another code. The early scientists often used the metaphor about the *book* of nature. Seeing Nature as a *book* meant there were intelligible truths that could be uncovered with study. This whole attitude was already placed inside these men by their Christian religion's attitude toward the Bible. For them, Nature wasn't an illusion, Nature wasn't evil, Nature wasn't the playground of a myriad of gods or fairies, Nature wasn't simply "matter and space." Nature was a Book! And it was a book with containing new material from the Author of the Good Book. So uncovering new truths, uncovering God's thoughts, was actually a religious endeavor!
Many of the founders of modern science were in fact amateur theologians. And their theology constituted important background belief for their endeavors. Let us consider two examples, Kepler and Pasteur.
Arno Penzias (1978 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics and co-discoverer of the cosmic background radiation) makes a very interesting point concerning Johannes Kepler. Speaking about the scientific goal to find the simplest answer possible (a philosophical principle which of course stems from a Christian theologian -see below), Penzias says:
"That really goes back to the triumph, not of Copernicus, but really the triumph of Kepler. That's because, after all, the notion of epicycles and so forth goes back to days when scientists were swapping opinions. All this went along until we had a true believer and this was Kepler. Kepler, after all, was the Old Testament Christian. Right? He really believed in God the Lawgiver. And so he demanded that the same God who spoke in single words and created the universe is not going to have a universe with 35 epicycles in it. And he said there's got to be something simpler and more powerful. Now he was lucky or maybe there was something deeper, but Kepler's faith was rewarded with his laws of nature. And so from that day on, it's been an awful struggle, but over long centuries, we find that very simple laws of nature actually do apply. And so that expectation is still with scientists. And it comes essentially from Kepler, and Kepler got it out of his belief in the Bible, as far as I can tell. This passionate belief turned out to be right. And he gave us his laws of motion, the first real laws of nature we ever had. And so nature turned out to redeem the expectations he had based on his faith. And scientists have adopted Kepler's faith, without the cause."
The other example concerns Louis Pasteur, a devout Christian who nailed down the germ theory. In this case, we can see the clear contribution of his Christian theology. Pasteur lived in a time when belief in spontaneous generation still persisted. Many biologists in his day believed microbes could spontaneously appear from chemicals and this was thought to be the cause of illness. This disagreed with Pasteur's religious beliefs and theological beliefs involving Creation, so he set out to prove it false. And he succeeded with some clever experiments that are still taught in modern biology texts. Since Pasteur proved that microbes didn't spontaneously appear from previous chemical states, he argued that illness must be caused by the transfer of microbes from one person the the next. Pasteur's views and work influenced another Christian scientist/physician at the time, Joseph Lister, who then developed antiseptic surgery. So like it or not, the germ theory and modern surgery owe a great deal to the theological motivations that led to the rejection of spontaneous generation.
Clue # 4. The third clue comes from the Christian theologians/philosophers of the thirteenth and fourteenth century, who uniquely paved the way for the birth of science.
The founders of modern science did not develop their outlook in a vacuum. Instead, they inherited and built upon an intellectual landscape that was previously established by various medieval philosophers/theologians. Many of these philosophers had a distinct anti-Aristotelian bent. I won't go through all the details, but I will mention five of the men who were important to the birth of science. But before doing this, let's set the stage.
According to "Medieval Philosophy"( H. Shapiro, ed.):
"For roughly six hundred years the the western Church faced no problems of having to defend its doctrines against rival philosophical claims. This situation changed abruptly when, in the later half of the twelfth century, the works of Aristotle, Avicenna, Averroes, Maimonides, and other pagan, Arabic, and Jewish thinkers finally entered the Christian cultural orbit. At first these systems of thought which claimed competence in philosophical domains long considered the exclusive preserve of Christian thinkers were received with great reverence and candor. But as it began to appear that many of these importations contained powerfully structured arguments leading to conclusions diametrically opposed to approved teachings, the Church began to take steps accordingly. At the University of Paris in 1210, and again in 1215, students were forbidden to read the works of the new philosophers, except those on formal logic, and masters were forbidden to lecture on them. Still, as seems always to be the case with prohibited writings, these works continued to circulate. Only gradually, as the Christian thinkers themselves undertook to master the contents of the proscribed writings in order to get themselves into a better position to defend the Faith, did a critical spirit begin to manifest itself among the Christian scholars."
Nevertheless, the works of these non-christian philosophers began to become entrenched in the universities. So much so that by the thirteenth century, Aristotle had come to be regarded as 'The Philosopher.' In F.C. Copleston's "Medieval Philosophy," Copleston writes:
"Aristotelianism was the one philosophical system of which the medievals possessed a wide knowledge. Not all were enthusiastic in their reception of Aristotelianism, as we shall see; but the contrast drawn tended to be between Aristotle on the one hand and St Augustine and the Christian writers on the other."
Let's now consider some of these Christian philosophers/theologians (remember, this list is not exhaustive)..
a. Robert Grosseteste: He was born in 1175 in Suffolk, England. He dies in 1253. In 1235, he became Bishop of Lincoln and until he died, he worked energetically on many issues related to the Church. He was also present at the signing of the Magna Charta, was strongly influenced by Augustine's philosophy, and studied refraction.
Grosseteste was important to the birth of science for at least two reasons. First, as F.C. Copleston writes (in his text on Medieval Philosophy), "Grosseteste had insisted on the need for observation and experiment in the study of nature." Secondly, Grosseteste was the mentor of Roger Bacon.
b. Roger Bacon: One can hardly speak of the birth of modern science without talking about this colorful thirteenth century monk. He lived around 1212 to 1292 and was an English Franciscan. In many ways, his views were Augustine. But he was also a "troublemaker." Shapiro's text on Medieval Philosophy states:
"Though he charged the bulk of his contemporaries, among other things, with obscurantism in philosophy, faulty scriptural exegesis, ignorance of languages, and undue veneration for theological commentaries even to the point of preferring these to the Bible itself, Bacon's principle attacks were leveled against what he considered their abysmal ignorance and neglect of the sciences."
Bacon came out hard against those who placed more authority on the teachings of philosophers rather than experience. For example, he writes:
"He therefore who wishes to rejoice without doubt in regard to the truths underlying phenomena must know how to devote himself to experiment. For authors write many statements, and people believe them through reasoning which they formulate without experience. Their reasoning is wholly false. For it is generally believed that the diamond cannot be broken except by goat's blood, and philosophers and theologians misuse this idea. But fracture by means of blood of this kind has never been verified, although the effort has been made; and without that blood it can be broken easily."
Copleston says this about Bacon:
"He made his own observations, in the field of optics, for example, and urged observation on others. He was also quick to see the practical purposes to which scientific purposes could be put. He conceived, for instance, the possibility of the telescope [had it not been for Bacon, Galileo would never have had his telescope - MB]. Moreover, both Grosseteste and Bacon laid great emphasis on the role of mathematics in science. We have to start with the empirical data; but the aim of theoretical science is to render that data intelligible; that they are made intelligible by being explained deductively in the light of mathematical reasoning. 'Experience' is necessary in order to become acquainted with the empirical data and to extend one's factual knowledge and also in order to confirm the conclusions of deductive reasoning from 'causes' ascertained by induction; but a mere accumulation of empirical data does not constitute science."
Copleston also adds:
"Aristotle had held that we have scientific knowledge in the proper sense only when we can show that the effects follow necessarily from 'causes' as conclusion follows premises in logic; but he had given no clear indication how the knowledge of such 'causes' is to be obtained in the physical sense. Bacon, however, tried to show how the 'cause' of the facts can be ascertained by eliminating theories which are incompatible with the facts. In other words, he had some grasp of the importance of hypothesis in science and of the role of verification in confirming or discrediting a given hypothesis. Thirteenth-century science was certainly primitive and elementary; but research has shown, first that some of the scientific theories and investigations of the Renaissance were anticipated in the fourteenth century, and secondly that fourteenth century science was not entirely a new development but had its roots in the preceding century."
But there is one more thing to add about Bacon, something that is not often spoken of by those who study the medieval philosophers. Make no mistake, Bacon was thoroughly Christian. And after formulating his new science, Bacon offered it as a apologetic and *evangelistic* tool for the Church! Consider some of the things he wrote after explaining his new science:
"Then this science as regards the commonwealth of believers is useful, as we saw in its special knowledge of the future, present, and past, and in its display of wonderful works on behalf of Church and state, so that all useful activities are promoted and the opposite are hindered both in the few and the multitude, as was explained. And if we proceed to the conversion of unbelievers, it is evidently of service in two main ways with numerous subdivisions, since a plea for the faith can be effectively made through this science, not by arguments but by works, which is the more effective way. For the man who denies the truth of the faith because he cannot understand it I shall state the mutual attraction of things in nature..."
Bacon then lists a series of observations about nature where the common theme is apologetic. That is, the more we find out about Nature, the more we find truths that are ultimately hard to understand. Yet they remain true. Thus, like Nature, Christianity is true although it may be hard to ultimately understand. This apologetic move is questionable (to say the least), but it shows how Bacon was already explaining how science could be used by the Church. But he says much more:
"But there is still another very useful way; since the formation of judgments, as I have said, is a function of this science, in regard to what can happen by nature or be effected in art, and what not. This science, moreover, knows how to separate the illusions of magic and to detect their errors in incantations, invocations, conjurations, sacrifices, and cults. But unbelievers busy themselves in these mad acts and trust in them...Wherefore this science is of the greatest advantage in persuading men to accept the faith, since this branch alone of philosophy happens to proceed in this way, because this is the only branch that considers matters of this kind, and is able to overcome all falsehood and superstition and error of unbelievers in regard to magic, such as incantations and the like already mentioned....And now the wonderful advantage derived from these three sciences in this world on behalf of the Church of God against enemies of the faith is manifest, who should be destroyed rather by the discoveries of science than by the warlike arms of combatants."
I hope you read that carefully, because that's pretty "modern" thinking from a monk in thirteenth century. So not only did Roger Bacon lay the ground work for the development of the scientific method, he also gave science a purpose - the purpose of apologetics and evangelism. No wonder many of the founders of modern science (listed above) used their science in an apologetic framework. For example, Robert Boyle set up the Boyle lectures, which were apologetic lectures designed to reach unbelievers.
c. William of Ockham. He was born somewhere between 1280 and 1290 and lectured at Oxford from about 1309 to 1323 and died in 1349. While it is true that Ockham ran into problems with the Vatican, most of this was political and had to do with the issue of wealth. Ockham was important in the birth of modern science for three reasons:
i. He was probably the first to launch a serious, systematic attack on Greek metaphysics. These leads some people to think of him as a sort of modern rationalist. But this view would be in error. Copleston describes the true intentions of Ockham:
"In his view, the introduction of Greek metaphysics into Christian theology had made the theology talk as though God, in His creative activity, were guided or ruled by ideas or patterns of creation. But to say this is, in Ockham's opinion, to limit or circumscribe the divine freedom and omnipotence. In other words, he considered that the Greek metaphysics of the thirteenth century theologian-philosophers had contaminated the purity of the Christian faith. To get rid of this metaphysic is to liberate Christian theology from an alien yoke....He wanted also to purify theology from what he regarded as the contamination of pagan metaphysics."
Ockham was not the first Christian philosopher to attack Greek philosophy. Around 1270, Giles of Rome composed his "Errors of the Philosophers," where he set out to highlight the faulty beliefs of Aristotle, Averroes, Avicenna, etc. And among these errors were the belief that motion never began, time never began, the world never began, the heavens are not created, etc. But Ockham was the first to offer a serious, methodical attack. And this would influence those who would follow.
ii. Part of Ockham's attack involved the formulation of an epistemology where knowledge "about the world is based on experience; and experience is experience of individual things." Copleston would observe that "it is clear that his insistence on the experiential foundation of knowledge about the world would naturally favor the growth of physical science, in the sense that its natural effect would be to concentrate attention on observable facts."
iii. Ockham is generally known for his principle of economy -- the so-called Ockham's Razor. This principle stated that one should not postulate the existence of a greater number of entities or factors when fewer will suffice. Ockham didn't invent this principle, as it really stemmed from Durandus, who in turn used it to eliminate the number of entities postulated by the traditional Aristotelian psychology in order to explain abstraction. Nevertheless, it is well known how important Ockham's Razor has been to science.
d. Jean Buridan: There is very little we know about this man apart from his writings. We do know that he was appointed as Rector of the University of Paris in 1340. In his text on medieval philosophy, Herman Shapiro states:
"According to the estimates of modern scholars, Buridan was responsible for originating or developing some of the most essential ideas of the modern scientific tradition."
As a philosopher, Buridan wrote on the projectile motion, falling bodies, and the rotation of the earth. His writings, in many ways, anticipate the science of Galileo and Newton. For example, consider projectile motion. Buridan was a Christian philosopher who took for granted the temporality of the universe (thanks to his theology). In attempting to describe celestial motion, Buridan did something Aristotle (or any Greek) would dare to do - he explained the heavens by appealing to the terrestial. Y'see, Aristotle split reality into the celestial and the terrestial. These two were completely different not only as a matter of basic tenet, but also as a matter of religious dogma. But Buridan explained celestial motion by an analysis of the manner in which two earthly motions begin and continue - the rotation of a smith's heavy wheel and the manner in which the length of a jump could be increased. From these humble descriptions, Buridan dared to explain the movement in the heavens!
Aristotle had explained projectile motion by saying that the projectile experiences a push from the air closing in behind it. Buridan didn't buy it (by the way, Ockham also rejected Aristotle on this matter). He wrote:
"...one who wishes to jump a long distance drops back a way in order to run faster, so that by running he might acquire an impetus which would carry him a longer distance in the jump. Whence the person so running and jumping does not feel the air moving him, but rather feels the air in front strongly resisting him."
After ridding himself of Aristotle's views and replacing them with his impetus theory, Buridan then immediately invokes his theology to extrapolate this to the heavens:
"Also, since the Bible does not state that appropriate intelligences move the celestial bodies, it could be said that is does not appear necessary to posit intelligences of this kind, because it would be answered that God, when He created the world, moved each of the celestial orbs as He pleased, and in moving them He impressed in them impetuses which moved them without His having to move them any more except by the method of general influence whereby He concurs as co-agent in all things that take place....And these impetuses which he impressed in the celestial bodies were not decreased nor corrupted afterwards, because there was no inclination of the celestial movements for other movements. Nor was there resistance which could be corruptive or repressive of that impetus."
I don't know how anyone could read this and not be struck by its importance in the birth of science (I should point out that Buridan's work was very popular among Christian scholars in the 1400s). Buridan gets rid of Aristotle's views with some simple observations. His views of Creation then allow him to contemplate the celestial in terms of the terrestial. In doing so, he extrapolates his impetus theory to the heavens. Furthermore, by ridding himself of the eternal universe, Buridan had a place for his impetus. The impetus was imparted by the Creator in the beginning. Since He is God, there is no other impetus and since He is perfect, nothing could resist that impetus. The result? Buridan anticipates Newton's First Law of Motion!
e. Nicholas of Oresme: He followed Buridan, taught in Paris and died as bishop of Lisieux in 1382. Oresme was one who liked to discuss the daily rotation of the earth. The common objection to this belief was that stones dropped from a tower did not fall behind one a rotating globe. Oresme's answer to this objection was simply a special application of Buridan's theories - the earth's rotation was imparted to bodies and was kept undiminished by them. A little later, along comes Copernicus. And guess what his reply is to the objection about dropped stones falling behind? It's the same one Oresme developed. Oresme's solution (which was indebted to Buridan) must have been well known, as Copernicus didn't get this from his Greek sources and he offered the solution in a matter-of-fact way as if the objection had long been resolved.
Oresme contributed much more. According to Copleston:
"He discovered, for example, that the distance traveled by a body moving with a uniformly increasing velocity is equal to the distance traveled in the same time by a body moving with a uniform velocity equal to the velocity attained by the first body in the middle instant of its course. Moreover, in order to express these and similar successive variations of intensity in a manner which would facilitate understanding and comparison, Nicholas conceived the idea of representing them by rectangular co-ordinates, that is to say, by means of graphs."
Oresme also questioned the Ptolemaic hypothesis by showing that things might not be as they appear. He then said that Scriptures which seem to support Geocentrism were simply written according to the common mode of speech and should not be regarded as scientific treatises. In the end, Oresme did not abandon Ptolemism simply because one could not yet *prove* that is was false.
Much more can be said about these men (and others), but I hope the reader can see the importance of these men and their works. None of them were true scientists. Instead, they were philosophers who birthed and nurtured science. Eventually, men who were not philosophers would study the world. The empirical spirit birthed by Bacon and Ockham could stand on its own. The scientist would be born. Take Galileo. Galileo was clearly indebted to these works. When he argued with the Aristotelian professors at Pisa, he must have known of the works of Ockham, Buridan and Oresme. His anti-Aristotelian spirit owed much to Ockham, Giles of Rome, Buridan, Oresme, and many others. His spirit of investigation and experiment owe much to Bacon and Ockham. His telescope would not exist had it not been for Bacon! His replies to the clergy owe much to Oresme. Galileo was more than Galileo.
Let me quote a lengthy passage from Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." Kuhn is recognized as one of the greatest modern historians of science. So what did Kuhn have to say?
"Since remote antiquity most people have seen one or another heavy body swinging back and forth on a string or chain until it finally comes to rest. To the Aristotelians, who believed that a heavy body is moved by its own nature from a higher position to a state of natural rest at a lower one, the swinging body was simply falling with difficulty. Constrained by the chain, it could achieve rest at its low point only after a tortuous motion and considerable time. Galileo, on the other hand, looking at the swinging body, saw a pendulum, a body that almost succeeded in repeating the same motion over and over again ad infinitum. And having seen that much, Galileo observed other properties of the pendulum as well and constructed many of the most significant and original parts of his new dynamics behind them. From the properties of the pendulum, for example, Galileo derived his only full and sound arguments for the independence of weight and the rate of fall, as well as for the relationship between vertical height and terminal velocity of motions down inclined planes. All these natural phenomena he saw differently from the way they had been seen before."
Note two things. Galileo dealt with something that was not cultural-specific. All cultures must have known about the fact of swinging bodies. Yet only Galileo used this fact to help bring about modern science. Why? That brings us to the second point - Galileo *saw* the swinging body in a different light. His perception *was* culture-specific. Why is this? Kuhn continues:
"Why did this shift of vision occur? Through Galileo's individual genius, of course. But note that genius does not here manifest itself in more accurate or objective observation of the swinging body. Descriptively, the Aristotelian perception is just as accurate."
Kuhn's observation shows us that science was not born as the result of better measurements and new observations. The same ol' thing was seen, but it was seen in a different light. In fact, Kuhn adds:
"When Galileo reported that the pendulum's period was independent of amplitude for amplitudes greater than 90 degrees, his view of the pendulum led him to see far more regularity than we can now discover there."
Not only did Galileo see regularity where the Aristotelian saw none, he saw more regularity than measurement would provide. Now pay careful attention to what Kuhn says:
"Rather, what seems to have been involved was the exploitation by genius of perceptual possibilities made available by a medieval paradigm shift."
Bingo. And what do you think was behind this paradigm shift?
"Galileo was not raised completely as an Aristotelian. On the contrary, he was trained to analyze motions in terms of the impetus theory, a late medieval paradigm which held that the continuing motion of a heavy body is due to the internal power implanted in it by the projector that initiated its motion."
It's right there, looking ya in the eyes. Y'see, the pagan mind never came up with anything like the impetus theory. The Christian mind not only came up with it, it *explored* this theory as an alternative to Aristotelian thinking. The link is obvious, as the impetus theory is quite at home among the theological belief in a transcendent God who created nature out of nothing. But it is not at home among the beliefs of an organismic, pantheistic universe that cycles from eternity.
"Jean Buridan and Nicole Oresme, the fourteenth-century scholastics who brought the impetus theory to its most perfect formulations, are the first men known to have seen in oscillatory motions any part of what Galileo saw there."
I have already touched on the relevance of Buridan and Oresme. You'll find that in the same breath, Buridan could speak of the impetus theory concerning a jumping man and God creating the Universe. How much more clear could it be? When you talk about a projector who initiates motion and implants internal power to an object, that's simply another way of saying, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
"Buridan describes the motion of a vibrating string as one in which impetus is first implanted when the string is struck: the impetus is next consumed in displacing the string against the resistance of its tension; tension then carries the string back; implanting increasing impetus until a mid-point of motion is reached; after that the impetus displaces the string in the opposite direction, again against the string's tension, and so on in a symmetric process that may continue indefinitely."
Once again, we must ask if vibrating strings were not found in non-christian cultures. Of course they were found in non-christian cultures. They are universally found. Yet Buridan saw something in a vibrating string that other non-christian thinkers failed to see. Is it because the trade was so great in France that they obtained strings that better vibrated? Er, no. And even if they did, why didn't the folks they traded with notice the vibrating strings? Buridan saw something because his Christian world view enabled him to see things that could not be seen by those who held to views that nature was organismic, pantheistic, irrational, and cyclical.
"Later in the century Oresme sketched a similar analysis of the swinging stone in what now appears as the first discussion of the pendulum. His view is clearly very close to the one with which Galileo first approached the pendulum."
Galileo's indebtedness to Oresme is obvious not only here, but when it came to his interpretation of biblical teachings about nature.
Finally, Kuhn says:
"At least in Oresme's case, and almost certainly in Galileo's as well, it was a view made possible by the transition from the original Aristotelian to the scholastic impetus paradigm for motion. Until that scholastic paradigm was invented, there were no pendulums, but only swinging stones, for the scientist to see. Pendulums were brought into existence by something very like a paradigm-induced gestalt switch."
I am satisfied in noting that Kuhn is saying basically what I have said throughout these essays. The only difference is that Kuhn is not identifying the cause of the paradigm shift. But the cause is obvious - Christianity.
So in conclusion, we either attribute the localized aspect of the birth of science, where modern science was born in Christianized Europe, to a coincidence or to something resulting from a dependence on Christianity. I favor the later interpretation. It has the overall simplicity where it doesn't depend on a series of ad hoc explanations to account for the lack of science in so many other cultures. There are also several basic elements of Christian theology that certainly seem to provide a fertile ground for the birth of science, elements that are not found in other religious world views. In fact, many of these elements are found on the lips of the founders of science. And finally, even a brief synopsis of Christian medieval philosophy documents many elements that clearly paved the way for, and even anticipated, modern science.
Of course, there are two more objections to my hypothesis:
When the time is ripe for a discovery, the discovery is made by someone. Consider calculus, invented almost simultaneously by Liebnitz and Newton. What makes the time ripe? Usually external fertilization, from other areas.
In my opinion, what made time ripe was the thinking through of the implications of the Christian world view. Christianity had to cut itself away, once and for all, from the hindrance of pagan philosophy. This is easier to say than done, as Greek metaphysics had a very high reputation among thinking people, and science would of course be born among thinking people.
But if you think there is a better ripening factor, be specific. What was it? And in choosing this alternative factor, keep in mind that you must find candidates that are particular to Europe, as modern science was birthed only there.
I must confess that I really can't see any other truly viable alternative. After all, science is a "way of thinking," a "way of seeing the world." As such, you need to find a "way of thinking" that gave rise to the scientific "way of thinking," and do so in a way that is particular to Europe. Given that the Christian "way of thinking" predominated in Europe, and the theology and philosophy of the Christian world view can be seen to easily and simply explain the rise of science, I don't know how you could come up with a better explanation. But if you have one, I'm all ears.
If Christianity had been the cause, many discoveries would have been made when Christianity became the dominant religion. Yet, as soon as Christianity became the religion, the entire civilization collapsed.
It's not as simple as this. Even when Christianity became the most popular religion, the intellectual arena was still dominated by those beholden to pagan philosophy. So much so that Christian thinkers looked for ways to fuse their theology with Greek thinking. Neo- Platonism was the obvious system of choice. It took a long time for Christian thinkers to finally decide to throw out all the Greek metaphysics.
More importantly is the simple fact that Christianity inherited a decaying civilization. Don't confuse cause with correlation. Just because the rise of Christianity is often correlated with the fall of Rome does not mean Christianity caused the fall. In fact, I would argue that the fall of Rome was more important in the rise of Christianity. Rome would fall whether or not Christianity came into existence, and in fact, Christianity may have actually prolonged the Empire. But eventually it fell, and total chaos followed. Simply consider the chaos that has followed the fall of the Soviet Union. This is gentle when compared what followed the fall of the Roman Empire. Countless wars and battles, fought along tribalistic lines, occurred. The only unifying factor in all of Europe was Christianity and it was busy trying to work out its relationship with the little states and kingdoms. We can go into all the historical details in another article, but suffice it to say that Christianity inherited the ashes of a burnt out and savaged civilization. From this dust, new systems and new thoughts would have to emerge. And in an environment of confusion and chaos, you need time. Time for things to become more structured and more ordered.
Finally, couldn't the skeptic claim that I am engaged in revisionism, where I am simply using my Christian bias to rewrite history to show the importance of Christianity?
Y'see, what happens is historians look at history through the filters of their world view. Their world views then determine what facts are significant and what facts are irrelevant. A Freudian historian might think Galileo's momma was important in the birth of science, while a Marxist historian might focus on economic conditions. A Pragmatist might think pragmatism sufficient for the birth of science. Now, I realize that my interpretation of history is no less colored than others. But, nevertheless, not all interpretations of history can be equally true. And I am encouraged in my interpretation for several reasons:
1. It is not really "my" interpretation, as many non-christian scholars and scientists have arrived at very similar interpretations. Thus, the Christian world view is not necessary to engender such an interpretation.
2. It has the beauty of simplicity and better explanatory power. It explains the Big Fact - why modern science was born in a Christian culture and why it failed to be born in many non-christian cultures. It also explains many little facts - i.e., why it is that Aristotle's claim about falling bodies could remain accepted.
3. It is better *documented*. Most historians of science would point to Galileo as perhaps the most crucial figure in the history of science. Yet Galileo did not arrive at his approach all on his own. He was clearly indebted to medieval philosophers who, as many scholars of medieval philosophy note, paved the way for the birth of modern science. Galileo was more than Galileo.
4. When you consider the consensus views engendered by Christianity, it is very easy to show their importance in the birth of modern science. That is, you don't have to stretch things and rely on an obscure verse from the Bible to make this point. Instead, widespread and very basic assumptions form a set of beliefs that would be very powerful and helpful. On the other hand, it is also easy to see how the assumptions of non-christian religions would hinder the birth of science - as they did.
Let's consider point 1 on more detail:
Many non-christian scholars have acknowledged the role of Christianity in the birth of modern science. I suppose it began with Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) and J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967). While neither were Christians, both stressed that modern science was born out of the Christian world view (after all, it was born in Europe). Whitehead was a widely respected mathematician and philosopher and Oppenheimer was director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and wrote on a wide range of topics, ranging from subjects related to science to the atom and atomic energy.
In 1962, Oppenheimer wrote an article on "Science and Culture" for the journal "Encounter" and Whitehead gave a presentation at the Harvard University Lowell Lectures entitled "Science and the Modern World." Whitehead said that Christianity is the mother of science because "of the medieval insistence on the rationality of God." He noted that because of this belief, the founders of science had an "inexpugnable belief that every detailed occurrence can be correlated with its antecedents in a perfectly definite manner. exemplifying general principles. Without this belief the incredible labors of scientists would be without hope." As Whitehead noted, the Christian thought form of the early scientists gave them "the faith in the possibility of science."
Nowadays, Christianity seems irrelevant to science because science can point to its successes. But before there was success, there was only faith that science would succeed. And that faith stemmed from the Christian world view. From our perspective, it is hard to appreciate the boldness of the founders of modern science. They lived in a time when Aristotle's philosophy was considered dogma in the university. Yet before science had proved itself with a series of successes, they dared to do things such as explain how the heavens worked by appealing to how things worked on the earth. In fact, it was a theologian who anticipated Newton's First Law!
Paul Davies is a theoretical physicist who is also not a Christian. But he too has spoken about the essential role of Christianity. Davies notes that modern science was born as the result of a symbiosis between Greek philosophy and Judeo-Christian thinking. Davies notes that it was from the merging of these two thought streams that modern science emerged. Greek thinking contributed the emphasis on mathematical principles and Judeo-Christian thinking contributed an emphasis on the contingent, linear, and rational nature of creation. Davies said,
"All the early scientists, like Newton, were religious in one way or another. They saw their science as a means of uncovering traces of God's handiwork in the universe. What we now call the laws of physics they regarded as God's abstract creation: thoughts, so to speak, in the mind of God. So in doing science, they supposed, one might be able to glimpse the mind of God - an exhilarating and audacious claim."
If you read Davies carefully, he is saying science was born as a quasi-religious expression! We often don't appreciate just how religious many of these men were. After revolutionizing physics, Newton spent most of his later years studying and writing about the Bible (although most of this wasn't published). Robert Boyle is considered the chief founder of modern chemistry. He also set up the "Boyle lectures," which were *apologetic* lectures about Christianity that tried to reach skeptical unbelievers.
Of course, it wasn't just any ol' religion that helped to birth modern science. In spite of the fact that the laws of science are universal, modern science was born in a Judeo-Christian context. For where is the Muslim version of Newton - the Muslim who also independently discovered Newton's laws? Where is the Buddhist version of Mendel? Where is the Hindu version of Kepler?
Davies also adds something that should cause some eyebrows to rise here:
"In the ensuing three hundred years, the theological dimension of science has faded [note that science began with a "theological dimension"]. People take it for granted that the physical world is both ordered and intelligible. The underlying order in nature- the laws of physics - are simply accepted as given, as brute facts. Nobody asks where they come from; at least they do not do so in polite company. However, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is rational basis to physical existence manifested as lawlike order in nature that is at least part comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological world view."
I agree. The thinking of the atheistic French existentialists would never have given rise to science. But I would add something else to Davies' claim. It's not just any ol' theological world view. The theology of paganism or the various Eastern religions would likewise not have given rise to modern science. And in fact, they didn't.
Of course, I realize that it would cause too much cognitive dissonance for some atheists and skeptics to believe that Christianity was important in the birth of modern science. To help them, let me offer another type of argument - one that seeks to blame Christianity for an evil. Since many skeptics and atheists are always open to this approach, perhaps it might be more fruitful.
Y'see, Christianity has been blamed for our ecological crisis. How? It is noted that Christianity desacralized nature and gave us science and technology. These in turn gave us the ecological crisis. This claim was first popularized in an article which appeared in the scientific journal "Science." Lynn White, Jr. wrote 'The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis' and this work has been repeatedly circulated in ecological circles.
According to White, Christianity was crucial in the birth of modern science. White wrote:
"The victory of Christianity over paganism was the greatest psychic revolution in the history of our culture....It is often hard for the historian to judge, when people explain why they are doing what they want to do, whether they are offering real reasons or merely culturally acceptable reasons. The consistency with which scientists during the long formative centuries of Western science said that the task and reward of the scientist was "to think God's thoughts after him." If so, then modern Western science was cast in the matrix of Christian theology. The dynamism of religious devotion, shaped by the Judeo-Christian dogma of creation, gave it impetus."
As I noted, White argues that Christianity was crucial in the birth of science and technology. He then blames Christianity for our ecological crisis because of this. So, for those skeptics who can only believe something about Christianity if it is bad for Christianity, here is your out. You can acknowledge the facts that show Christianity to be crucial in the birth of science, but like White, you can move on from here and blame Christianity for yet another evil!
THE FUTURE THREAT TO SCIENCE
While science was born in a Christian environment, and the founders of modern science viewed it as something that complemented their faith, today's scientist no longer feels obligated to recognize the role of Christianity. The reason is obvious - science proceeds nicely on its own. Like a child who no longer needs his mother, science continues to advance simply due to its own success. But will science continue like this far into the future, or might it be forced to return to its mother like a prodigal son? I suspect that most think science will continue to exist as science because of its pragmatic value. And there is certainly some truth to this. But I think it naive to think science will continue to exist as it exists today. Consider my reasoning.
We live in an age when more and more people are adopting a "neo-pagan" outlook - where everything is ultimately relative and subjective. Can science continue to exist protected from such an outlook? I'm not so sure.
The common person seems to live in a love/hate relationship with science. They love the pragmatic benefits of science - cures to disease, better standards of living, new technology, etc. But they do hate the "coldness" of science. They don't like to think of themselves as meaningless, accidental accumulations of genes and chemicals. In fact, many think science is hostile. Why? Like it or not, humans are religious beings. We have always been so. And since science if often popularized by naturalists (folks who adopt the world view of naturalism), scientific findings are often interpreted in ways that threaten our religious sense of humanity and meaning. This need not be the case, but by taking Christianity out of the mix, you have the cold, rational materialistic interpretations of the scientist in conflict with the subjective, irrational religious views of the neo-pagan. And just as ancient paganism hindered the birth of science, modern neo-paganism can work to starve and ultimately kill science as we know it. How so? Consider just two phenomena - the rise of postmodernism and the rising influence of the animal-rights movement.
An excellent editorial appeared in the Wall Street Journal (7/10/95) entitled "The Flight From Science and Reason." It was written by Christina Hoff Sommers, a professor of philosophy at Clark University
Sommers notes that New Jersey has just sponsored the "New Jersey Project".
"It's goal is to 'transform' the curriculum in higher education to make it more multicultural and "inclusive." The project circulates a guideline cautioning that 'much previous scholarship has offered a white, male, Eurocentric, heterosexist, and elite view of "reality."' Citing the words of feminist historian of science, Elizabeth Fee, the guideline explains how male scientists exploit nature the way a violent man exploits a helpless woman: 'Nature was female, and knowledge was created as an act of aggression - a passive nature had to be interrogated, unclothed, penetrated, and compelled by man to reveal her secrets.'"
Sommers notes, "The document is striking because it emanates from an official government agency."
In my opinion, it is more than "striking." It is scandalous. While skeptics are quick to identify and oppose some local school board which is trying to include creationism in its curricula, look what is happening on the larger scale - feminist ideologues are using the state government to "transform" higher education with the notion that science = rape.
This is not an isolated event. Sommers notes:
"But it is the kind of attack that has been ROUTINELY leveled at science by multiculturists, radical environmentalists, feminist theorists and others on the cultural left for the past several years." (emphasis added)
What is really troublesome is that a good portion of these antirational, anti-science agendas are funded by the government. The Department of Education is one source of funds for these efforts. Its Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education backs "Women's Way of Knowing." Sommers describes this as:
"an influential book that impugns 'male ways of knowing' as excessively concerned with logic and hard data, and 'valorizes' something called 'connected knowing,' a compassionate style of cognition women are supposed to be especially good at."
Sommers also notes that even the NSF funds a faculty development project that runs seminars and workshops on doctrines "of prominent anti-science feminist epistemologists."
Sommers has a great summary of this current fad of irrationalism:
"Perhaps there is a place for romantic rebellion against reason and objectivity, but that place is not the Department of Education, nor the National Science Foundation, not university administrations (which are duty bound to promote respect for reason in the students under their care); nor is it in educational projects paid for by the taxpayers of New Jersey."
When you have government agencies coupled with university administrations working to promote anti-science and antirational ideologies, our culture is distinctly threatened.
"Martin Lewis, a geographer and environmentalist at Duke University, informed the conference (more on this below) that "hostility to science, coupled with misgivings about reason, is the norm among a sizable and influential group of academics devoted to the study of....environmental philosophy." Western philosophy and science are seen as "irredeemably flawed," says Mr. Lewis, "while the rest of the world is pictured as having existed in a state of near ecological bliss." He reports a particular hostility to the founders of modern science - Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Descartes - who are seen as "eco-villains."
For some time now, the deconstructionists have ravaged the humanity departments of their respective schools. It appears that they are now setting their sights on the practice of science.
But it goes beyond the university environment. Sommers brings up another example:
"In 1989, the American Chemical Society (ACS) commissioned the Smithsonian Museum of American History to design a permanent exhibit on "Science in American Life." The ACS scientists naturally expected an exhibit celebrating the triumphs of 20th century American science and did not imagine that this needed to be spelled out in the contract. But five years and $5 million dollars later, what the scientists got was an exhibition that presented American science as a series of moral debacles and environmental catastrophes: Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Silent Spring, Love Canal, Three Mile Island, and the explosion of the space shuttle."
As it was with the Enola Gay exhibit, the Smithsonian is defending its exhibit while the scientists now have to resort to calls for balance.
Yes, this is the America we are handing to our children and grandchildren: an America where you can take your kids to the museum to see the horrors of science and then send them to college to learn that science is rape. Of course, this will not happen overnight. It's happening one small step at a time.
But there is a reason for some hope. Scientists are beginning to wake up. Under the auspices of the New York Academy of Sciences, University biologist Paul Gross and Rutgers mathematician Norman Levitt helped organize "The Flight from Science and Reason," a high-level conference of more than 200 scientists, physicians, and humanists who met to "consider the flight from reason and its associated anti-science." At least the scientific community is beginning to become aware of the distant thunder over the horizon.
The July 10, 1995 edition of TheScientist also has an article addressing the same thing Sommers discussed in her editorial in the WSJ. The article describes the recent conference addressing the rising tide of irrationalism and anti-science beliefs. In this conference,several threats were identified - the rise in "alternative medicine,"cuts to scientific funding, and creationism/fundamentalism.
"The meeting's primary critical focus was postmodernism, a powerful intellectual shift in many humanities disciplines over the past few decades. Postmodernism has many facets - social constructivism and poststructuralism among them - but one of its central notions is that humans cannot perceive the natural world directly. Instead, perceptions must pass through such filters as language and culture, which define our understanding of the world."
Now, there is probably some truth to this "central notion," but postmodernists take this position as an absolute and push it too extremes. Of course, when they do this, they end up refuting their own position, because their "central notion" itself stems from perceptions which "must pass through such filters as language and culture." So why think this notion is TRULY "central?"
The articles cites some of the speakers.
From Mario Bunge, professor of philosophy and head of the Foundations and Philosophy of Science Unit at McGill University in Montreal:
"Walk a few steps away from the faculties of science, engineering, and medicine, walk towards the faculty of arts. Here, you will meet another world, one where falsities and lies are manufactured in industrial quantities. Here, some professors are hired, promoted, or given power for teaching that reason is worthless, empirical evidence unnecessary, objective truth nonexistent, basic science a tool of either capitalists or male domination, and the like. Here, we find people who reject all the knowledge painstakingly acquired over the past 5 million years."
David Goodstein, a physicist from Caltech, states:
"All scientists have a fundamental faith - and it is faith - that there is a real world out there that has rules that can be understood by rational means. That's what science is all about, and all scientists must believe that. Those who say science is socially constructed, it's not written in nature, it's whatever the scientists and their masters want it to be - that's crackpot. That's where I draw the line."
Notice that while Goodstein decides to draw the line at this point, his line seems arbitrary and based on blind faith. The Christian world view, on the other hand, gives reasons for drawing the line at this point. And since the postmodernists are enemies of Christianity (they are expressions of a sophisticated form of paganism), they don't acknowledge the line. Thus, the importance of Christian faith in science is clearly seen.
Now, let me add a couple of my own observations. We all know about the anti-science tendencies of certain fundamentalists. The prime example is creationism. But creationism is not the threat that postmodernism is. For one thing, creationism actually respects science. How? Creationists actually appeal to science to support their views. They may not succeed, but in trying to USE science to establish their viewpoint, they show a deep respect for the place of science. Postmodernists, on the other hand, are not interested in using science to support their views. They are engaged in a total attack on science _itself_. Another reason creationism is not nearly the threat that postmodernism is can be found in the influence of the two. Creationists are not commonly found in the University; they are simply outsiders whose influence reaches into a handful of local communities. Postmodernists, on the other hand, walk the halls of the University, receive government grants to fund their propaganda, and teach thousands of impressionable college students each year. That is, postmodernists are on the INSIDE and they have the ear of the state. Thirdly, it's easier to spot a creationist, tie his beliefs to religion, and then use the First Amendment and Court rulings to keep his views out of the schools. NONE of this applies to the postmodernists.
Or look at it this way. Postmodernists decry the influence of "Eurocentric, white, male, heterosexist" assumptions behind science. Now what religion is viewed as representing the "Eurocentric, white, male, heterosexist" viewpoint?
Postmodernism is not the only threat to science. Another threat can be seen in another expression of the pagan mindset - the notion that a boy is a dog is a rat. This pantheistic expression is found in the animal rights movement which would sacrifice scientific advancement to emotional and often pantheistic notions of animal essence.
Consider some abstracts from mainstream publications:
AUTHOR: Cherfas, Jeremy.
TITLE: Two Bomb Attacks on Scientists in the U.K.
APPEARS IN: Science 1990, v248n4962, Jun 22, p. 1485 (1 pages)
ABSTRACT: Animal rights activists have stepped up a campaign of violence against UK scientists who do experiments involving animals. Two recent bombing incidents in UK are recounted.
AUTHOR: McCabe, Katie.
TITLE: Beyond Cruelty.
APPEARS IN: Washingtonian 1990, v25n5, Feb p. 72-77+
ABSTRACT: Animal-rights activists want to end man's use of animals for research experiments. Activists have created a climate of fear in US laboratories by their acts and threats of violence. The animal rights movement and its effects are discussed.
AUTHOR: Getty, Jeff.
TITLE: Animal rights or AIDS research?
APPEARS IN: San Francisco Chronicle 1996, Jul 17, Sec A, p17 col1.
ABSTRACT: Jeff Getty discusses the debate over the use of animals for AIDS research and notes that using tactics, intimidation, harassment and in some cases even violence, animal rights extremists have effectively delayed significant AIDS research.
AUTHOR: Wells, Janet.
TITLE: Animal researchers feel hunted.
APPEARS IN: San Francisco Chronicle 1993, Oct 1, Sec A, p1 col1.
ABSTRACT: Security procedures at California university animal research labs are discussed. Animal rights activists have targeted the labs, committing 569 criminal acts, protests and boycotts against them from 1991 to 1992.
AUTHOR: Price, Joyce.
TITLE: Animal Activists Threaten Studies.
APPEARS IN: Washington Times 1990, Mar 5, Sec A, p1 col1.
ABSTRACT: Increased violence and threats by animal rights activists have forced some scientists to halt research and are discouraging many students from pursuing biomedical careers.
TITLE: Animal Rights Raiders Destroy Years of Work.
APPEARS IN: New York Times 1992, Mar 8, Sec 1, p51 col1.
ABSTRACT: A scientific research center at Michigan State University was set on fire on Feb 28, 1992 by animal rights advocates. University officials say the blaze destroyed 32 years' worth of animal science research.
TITLE: Animal Rights: Man's Mirror.
APPEARS IN: Economist 16 Nov 1991 v.321 no.7733 p.21-22,24
SUBJECT: Terrorism --Great Britain --United States.
EXCERPT: "Animal-rights terrorism has become a familiar phenomenon. Laboratories, abattoirs and furriers throughout Britain and America have been attacked. One raid, at a campus of the University of California in 1987, caused $3.5m-worth of damage to a veterinary centre. The Association of American Medical Colleges has recorded almost 4,000 cases of intimidation by animal-rights activists." (p21)
AUTHOR(S): Begley, Sharon.
TITLE: Liberation in the Labs.
APPEARS IN: Newsweek 27 Aug 1984 p.66.
EXCERPT: Each year, 70 million animals are employed in research in the United States. Approximately 400 groups with two million dues- paying members are crusading to stop the use of these animals in scientific experiments. (p66)
AUTHOR: Braaten, David.
TITLE: Animal Rights on a Roll : Insect Abusers Next.
APPEARS IN: Washington Times 1990, May 11, Sec A, p1 col3.
ABSTRACT: Biologist Robert Full's scientific experiments with various insects have raised the ire of animal rights activists. Full puts cockroaches, centipedes and crabs on treadmills to study their energy consumption and mobility.
AUTHOR Kleinhuizen, Jeff.
TITLE: Scientists State Their Case for Animal Research.
APPEARS IN: USA Today 1991, Apr 22, Sec D, p1 col5.
ABSTRACT: The National Academy of Sciences, worried about the growing influence of animal rights activists, has issued a rare position paper defending the use of animals in research.
TITLE: Dissection Pits Scientists vs. Activists.
APPEARS IN: USA Today 1991, Apr 3, Sec A, p1 col2.
ABSTRACT: The American Medical Association issued a statement saying that animal-rights activists seeking a ban on dissection in the classroom are a threat to science education.
AUTHOR: Pope, John.
TITLE: Official Denounces Animal Activists.
APPEARS IN: Times-Picayune 1991, May 16, Sec A, p18 col3.
ABSTRACT: Frederick Goodwin, head of the federal Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, accuses radical animal-rights groups and the Church of Scientology of mounting anti-intellectual attacks on research that is scaring away scientists.
APPEARS IN: Wall Street Journal 1992, Jan 17, Sec A, p10 col1.
ABSTRACT: A brief editorial notes that a recently ruling by Federal Judge Charles Richey that the FDA isn't looking out for the interest of rodents and birds used in medical research basically means that money will be siphoned out of science and transferred into inspections and compliance.
AUTHOR: Saltus, Richard
TITLE:Teachers feeling the heat in dissection issue.
APPEARS IN: Boston Globe 1993, Apr 5, 29:3.
ABSTRACT: Like conscientious objectors in wartime, more and more students are asking to opt out of animal dissection. They are getting encouragement from the Ethical Science Education Coalition, a grassroots group founded in Connecticut and funded in part by the New England Antivivisection Society.
The animal rights movement, and especially the postmodernist movement, represent a serious threat for two reasons--science no longer acknowledges its indebtedness to the Christian world view and abandonment of the Christian world view among people is becoming more and more common. The mindset that hindered the birth of science is being resurrected, and the continued existence of science-as-we-know-it is therefore threatened. The polarity between a scientific world view and a religious world view was only able to be bridged by Christianity. For Christianity, like science, acknowledges an objective reality that is intelligible, but unlike atheistic interpretations of science, it also acknowledges the reality of the non-material realm. As science comes under attack, the Mother of Science ought to step-up to defend her offspring from the attacks of the neo-pagan. For only the Christian world view can defend against the attacks of the postmodernists. Only the Christian world view can justify animal research. The atheists and the naturalists have only their blind faith and sentiments, and these are easily steam-rolled by the irrational faith and sentiments of the neo-pagan mind. The same philosophical and theological assumptions that paved the way for the birth of science are needed to defend the life of science. Christians have another unique opportunity to demonstrate the importance of Christian views in the practice of science. Will they take this opportunity? Or will they join sides with the neo-pagans?
Thus ends my little series of essays highlighting the crucial role Christianity has played in the existence of science. It is my hope that more Christians would stop buying into the warfare myth, stop seeing science as an enemy of their faith, learn to tease apart philosophical naturalism from science, and learn to appreciate that science is part of the cultural heritage of their Christian world view.
Copyright © 1996 by Michael Bumbulis. All Rights Reserved. Posted November 24, 1996
Email to author: mjb10@po.CWRU.Edu (Michael J. Bumbulis)
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