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May 09, 2014

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That's right - Aristotle's Christianity showed him how the whole world was ordered. And the rise of Rome as the great western power was driven by great Christians such as Julius Caesar. Science could not blossom, though, until Western Europeans had invented our modern number system incorporating the zero place-holder, to say nothing of Algebra, which was discovered of course by Thomas Aquinas. Modern astronomy got started when the Council of Trent announced the heliocentric model. It helped too when Pope Urban VIII gave Galileo a generous endowment to establish a school of physics at the University of Florence. I could cite many more examples.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/apr/25/science-patricia-fara-review

Looks like someone disagrees with your parochial western view - "And a look at world history backs up that conclusion" - not so much.

"No design, no purpose to the way the universe developed." Purpose is a matter for philosophy, but science shows how natural forces can create what we perceive, naively, as designed.

Ive covered this ground before - if you want to claim natural things are designed and be taken seriously, you need to say how you arrive at that conclusion.

Anyway, this whole cul-de-sac of thought just begs more questions than it hopes to answer

The sarcastic comment prior to this does make a good point. But I do wonder if the Prime Mover concept is not owing to the One God coupled with a mystical creation story provided by the Hebrew texts.

You had to know that was going to happen, tired old atheist fallacies dragged out to support modern atheist 'sensibilities'. I noticed that when John Moore mentioned Galileo he didn't mention that the arguments used against him and his theory of heliocentricism was penned by the all time leading advocate of geocentricism: Aristotle. Nor did Mr. Moore mention that Galileo's main objectors was not the church but his peers. (A situation which has never changed, look at the peer driven ridicule directed at any modern scientist who fails to yield to the party line when it comes to Global Warming... Cooling... Climate Change... what ever the current faddish name is) If history were taught properly in today's schools, Mr. Moore's objections would never have been formulated in the mind of any student.

Mr. Moore would have been better not to mention algebra at all, just because an obscure ottoman invented the root of the word algebra (Al Jabr, and we still don't know exactly what it actually means) that doesn't mean said obscure ottoman invented that branch of mathematics. Algebra was merely more advanced arithmetic until the end of the 16th century with the work of François Viète who was definitely not an arab.

I'm not sure why Mr. Moore included the Roman empire in his arguments at all, Rome didn't become a world power due to their math skills. What kind of person could do MDCCCLVII + XXMMLVIII = XXMMMCMXV in their heads let alone on a wooden plank covered with bees wax? (yes, that's what they wrote on)

Rome's two main strong points were Basic Engineering (very basic, they couldn't even survey a curve in a road) and Negotiation (which consisted of a hob nailed sandal on the chest, a sword point at the throat, and a cheery "Wanna negotiate?") And while many atheists such as Gibbon claim that Rome was a society based on religious tolerance, there's really no evidence to back that up, while evidence to back the opposite reality of intolerance abounds.

Modern atheists have a big problem realizing that the concept of devout believers is not a new thing that started with Christianity. Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Persians didn't look at their pantheons of gods with a smirk, nor did they giggle at the myths. These were real and living Gods to them, Gods who would strike them dead with a single blow for j-walking should any god desire. Entire populations worshiped Jupiter and Zeus with a fervor that makes the Billy Graham crusades look like an agnostic lunch break.

It wasn't until the Roman Catholic church relaxed its grip on western society that science began to flourish, unfortunately for Mr. Moore's beloved eastern world, that same relaxation and freedom has yet to be experienced. Once unleased Science was never the sole purview of the atheist: Tycho Brahe, John Napier, Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Laurentius Gothus, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, John Wallis, Isaac Newton, Alessandro Volta, John Dalton, Michael Faraday, Heinrich Hertz, Louis Pasteur, Guglielmo Marconi, George Washington Carver, Victor Francis Hess, Wernher von Braun, and many many many more professing Christians were/are highly active in the fields of science, medicine, and mathematics.

Oh, and Mr. Moore - that Big Bang theory you like? It came to us not from Edwin Hubble, but from Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaîtr a Catholic Priest.

As a Christian, not buying the premise of this post at all. Actually, I think some of the statements are pretty outlandish. Particularly, these...

It’s pretty obvious…that the Judeo-Christian concept of God held the key to the rise of the West...Science only happened in the West. And the reason it happened [is] because only in the West was science plausible.

As much as I would plead with him to repent and turn to Christ, John Moore actually highlights the basic fallacies of this post and is spot on...this post does nothing for the defense of Christianity and science, and actually muddies the waters...

Rome's two main strong points were Basic Engineering (very basic, they couldn't even survey a curve in a road)

Nonsense. Ever heard of the aqueducts? The Romans pretty much invented concrete as a building material. You are not giving them the credit they are due.

If 'x' is a believing Christian, then I'm an heir to Queen Elizabeth.

If Christianity created science, then how does the OP explain these facts?

  • Arabic medicine was far more developed prior to the advent of the Christianity of Western civilization.
  • Examples such as the Minoan culture, which had developed indoor plumbing, thousands of years before Christianity and Western civilization.
  • Euclid, who by all accounts was a pagan Greek, invented most of the foundation for the mathematics we use today. BTW, he lived a long time before Christianity.
  • Unless we're willing to consider Chinese civilization as part of "Western" civilization, that culture actually far outstripped any science in other parts of world long before the West.

I'm sure I missed a few...

John Moore - Congratulations. http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f5/HangmenHeaven/Winner/1112099684767.jpg

I would also encourage readers to consider the negative example of the Chinese. Due to their backwards Confucian philosophy and ancestor worship, they were so far behind the West with regards to science and technology, that European colonizers had to teach them about gunpowder, astronomy, and silk manufacture, all of which John Calvin derived straight out of Romans 9.

Another negative example comes from the medieval Muslim false teachers. They believed in a sovereign God, but, alas, they denied his Triune nature. This precluded them from any interest in science or philosophy. Therefore, when they discovered Greek and Roman literature (like Aristotle's Organon, and the Hippocratic medical literature) in the ruins of Persia and Syria, they destroyed it with abandon. Only faithful, orthodox Christian scholars had the perspective to ensure the preservation of these important documents.

z, he discussed what made the science of the West unique in the interview, addressing some of the things you mentioned, so perhaps you'd be interested in reading that book or another of his, The Victory of Reason (I also recommend Nancy Pearcey's The Soul of Science). Inventions aren't the same as a systematic use of science to discover how the world works.

A lot of the objections in the comments section think that the claim being made is that "No one outside of Christianity every invented anything or made a discovery." So they think if they can point out a discovery made by a non-Christian peoples, it disproves the op.

Read more carefully. That's not the claim being made. Yes, people in non-Christian cultures made some insights and discoveries. None of the had a scientific enterprise like what arose out of the Christian west.

(And I still want to break Alan's swivel chair and you can't stop me from saying it, Nazi mods)

Inventions aren't the same as a systematic use of science to discover how the world works.

So the issue then is what is the definition of science?

A lot of the objections in the comments section think that the claim being made is that "No one outside of Christianity every invented anything or made a discovery."

I would argue, particularly in the case of Arabic medicine and Euclidean mathematics, that those things constitute something far greater than simply "inventing something" or "making a discovery". Were things such as those not rooted in science? In other words, I would argue that those folks did in fact engage in what Amy terms a "systematic use of science to discover how the world works."

Amy, will check into those things you suggest...

When the Sun goes to a supernova and incinerates earth. Is that part of God's plan?

Z,

Mathematics is not science per se. It has been utilized by science but a mathematician is not properly considered a scientist. Pythagoras, for instance, is never considered one of the earliest Western scientists. He is, however, considered one of the earliest Western philosophers. Ye Pythagoras developed a lot of math. He didn't put the mathematical knowledge to scientific use. He put it to philosophical use. Sometimes the lines between philosophy and "natural philosophers" was blurry, but still they clearly were more philosophically (amr-chair) bent than the scientific mind.

I am a Christian, but I believe this article suffers from the lack of philosophical precision necessary to successfully uphold its main claim.

It would have been better to examine basic necessary components of modern science, like the scientific method and the concept of natural law, and then asked if these concepts developed in other cultures and to what extent.

I think an objective examination will show that these essential concepts were indeed discovered and used by "pagan" intellectuals in various cultures (remembering that “atheism” is a relative concept, Christians were accused of atheism for their denial of the god’s), leading to various levels of achievement and understanding, and falsifying the main claim of the article that a judeo-Christian theistic worldview is the sine qua non for scientific knowledge, discovery and development. Not only because we do not possess a full record of knowledge in antiquity but because the records that have survived show marvels of engineering and various levels of scientific achievement and observation (Think for example of the level of intellectual sophistication necessary to predict an eclipse, and how there are records of such achievements in Greek pre-Socratics, Chinese astronomers, and astronomic observation records in Egyptian and Babylonian cultures etc.)

That being said, I would argue that the power behind these concepts was not universally unleashed until freedom of inquiry was finally recognized as a right for all individuals, which happened within Christian culture as a fruit of the Protestant Reformation applying it first to theology and then progressively to all areas of knowledge. Before that, education and scientific knowledge were everywhere the province of a privileged few, after that modern science and modern education were born.

It was a Protestant, John Comenius, and Bishop within a persecuted minority, who enunciated for the first time the educational ideal of: "All knowledge to all people" and developed a universal educational program accordingly. As far as I know this ideal is unique to Christianity and it is a direct implication of the teaching of the Gospel applied to education and science.

"¶Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-32

and "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, ..." Matthew 28:19.

Benjamin,

falsifying the main claim of the article that a judeo-Christian theistic worldview is the sine qua non for scientific knowledge, discovery and development.

I didn't read the op as making this stronger claim, which seems to be that without the judeo-Christian worldview, scientific knowledge and discover would not occur.

Rather, the claim, as I understand it, is that the judeo-Christian worldview provides a basis for science that the other worldviews in the relevant times and places did not.

These are two different claims. One is very strong and it can be debunked by looking at items of science here and there in other cultures. The other claim is weaker, but also seems to fit with history.

Again, like most other people in this comment box, you try to debunk the claim by pointing to specific things (marvels of engineering). While that requires some knowledge of the natural world, it never bloomed into a discipline of science.

People keep accusing the thesis of the op as lackign nuance, when it seems to me their own criticism lacks a nuanced view of the claim being made and what sort of thing might disprove it.

I didn't read the op as making this stronger claim, which seems to be that without the judeo-Christian worldview, scientific knowledge and discover would not occur.

I mean, the title of this thing directly states that Christianity created science and atheism couldn't have. Is that not the "strong claim" of which you speak?

Hi "r", read the title more carefully...

The rules are reasonable, rational. Consequently, since humans have the ability to reason, it might be possible to discover the rules of the creation. And that was the whole basis of science.
But science doesn't give us 'the' rules or even tell us that 'the' rules exist - let alone that they are 'rational rules' (as opposed to what - irrational rules?). Science is a set of tools we invent.

ronh,

The "rules" being refered to there are the rules of nature, not the rules of science. It's talking about laws of nature.

Remington,

What 'rules of nature'?

You know of such a thing?

You are the first then.

Where, exactly, did Gallileo's ideas pass a peer review process? I thought teaching a radical theory that hadn't been vetted by peer review was not science.

i.e. Intelligent Design

Is not one of the main objections the lack of peer review?

"Science is a set of tools we invent.

Hi ronh, Invent?

First of all, the experience man has due to his interaction with nature is a learning, might be more rightly said that men become familiar with nature through perception-a fallible perception at that.

Invent doesn't seem the right word to me, as though mankind invented reasoning also. If you want to stick with that, you might be forced to justify knowledge epistemologically, prior to now though, a failed endeavor for the non theist if you are up to it.

"You are the first then."

How about the guys who wrote this:

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

"Where, exactly, did Gallileo's ideas pass a peer review process? I thought teaching a radical theory that hadn't been vetted by peer review was not science.

i.e. Intelligent Design

Is not one of the main objections the lack of peer review?"

That only applies if the result don't conform to positivism.

Brad B,

What word do you prefer to 'invent'?

Consider the example of Newton's gravity next to Einstein's.

I would say 'invent' handles the situation just fine.

RonH

I am compelled to prefer "learned" or "discovered" in this type of forum. I would even further prefer "remembered" or "recalled" over those and especially over invent.

If you "invent" gravity, it implies that it did not previously exist. I doubt gravity did not exist prior to Newton.

At best he came up with the most used mathematical formulation to describe it.

BradB,

Had history been different, we would have today only Einstein's theory of gravity; we might never seen have Newton's. Just as we might never have had sailboats - only motorboats.

So, it's clearly better to think of both of these theories of gravity as 'inventions' and not as things 'discovered' or 'learned' - let alone 'remembered' or 'recalled'.

Indeed, for all we know, there will one day be another theory of gravity and it will make it clear that Einstein's theory was also a historical contingency.

Clearly then, neither theory is identical with any 'rule of nature' - if such rules exist.

Furthermore, it remains to be seen if this situation can change - even in principle.

That is, it remains to be seen how we'd ever make a transition from theories (which are useful inventions) to final knowledge of 'rules of nature'.

T,

Good grief. See above.

I'm not implying anything came into existence with Newton's theory - other than the theory.

Hi RonH, somehow as often happens when I'm working from a deficit timewise a lengthy response would be required to fully show the depth of folly your worldview provides as means to understand the world we interact with.

First, you imagine if history was different there could'a would'a might'a been different theories....well, what difference does this make? Gravity is gravity, any theory that tries to explain it is a response to the sense perceptions available. Being that the sense perception prompts a response, ie, Newton's apple falling, it is a continual inquiry to absorb all factors as to why the effects of gravity are experienced. Einstein found that there are more factors than did Newton and expanded the possible answer-even if he radically expanded the answer, he didn't complete reverse Newtons elementary theory. There were certain things Newton experienced that Einstein's theory proved also.

Neither man brought a theory to the inquiry that wasn't the product of discovery--they fallibly learned from the sense percpetion and modified as perceptions were found to be either coherent or incoherent with other experience.

This brings me to the problem with your worldview, it cannot provide you with guardrails that limit the wild imaginations of how things came to be because it is not a complete nor comprehensively coherent worlview.

You want to claim that man invents theories that explain the experiences he has as he interacts with the world, but you cannot even begin to found the ideas of consciousness, reason and logic, or the very idea that sense perceptions are even providing trustworthy data. Prior to you making claims about what man can and cannot know, you ought to have some idea of what can be known, and how it can be known. Your worldview assumes an awful lot, you assume an awful lot, and because of this you feel free to assume further than you ought. Rather than speculating on what might have been or could have been, why not wrestle with the epistemological challenges that a theory should be controlled by. For you to claim that a theory is an invention of man, you must start by explaining the origin of the concept of invention, how it is that it is even an idea in the mind of man. Prior to that, prove mind, consciousness, logic, ideas, concepts, forms/categories...on and on...

The Christian worldview accounts for consciousness, reason, logic, a moderated trust of sense perceptions, and the morality required to do honest science, along with a comprehensive list of concepts that comprehensively explain a life lived in God's world--it is an impressive and although ancient, unsurpassed coherent worldview.

BradB,

We're talking about which of 2 words, 'invention' or 'discovery', given their other uses, works better to describe what goes on in science.

I've supported my contention that 'invention' works better.

(I do think lots believers and non-believers alike would probably say 'discovery' - initially, anyway.)

Anyway, if you want to talk about why I make the error I make, you should first give some argument supporting the idea that I'm wrong.

RonH

This post is so spot on.
[Its not like Western History has a 1200 year gap
in innovation that was only closed through the rediscovery and embrace of ancient Greek writings (via Islamic scholars).]
Seeing the Christian worldview as essential to science clearly explains why
rocket ships and Ipads were invented in the year 600.

Well RonH, I dont really see how you missed my critique of your prefered word. So, I ask you what did Newton or Einstein bring to their theories apart from observation? Nevermind for now the preconditions of knowledge...just go ahead on asuming them for the answer. What did they invent that was not derived from observation?

Brad B,

To be clear: this is my answer to your question.

A scientific theory is a model.

I recommend reminding yourself of this frequently when you think about science.

The theorist doesn't need to say 'there are certain things with certain properties'.

He can just say: it's as if there were certain things with certain properties.

In saying that, he makes a model.

The things of the theory are inventions - not discoveries, not knowledge; the theorist can be agnostic about whether they are real or correspond to anything real. They are part of the model, for sure. But not (necessarily) part of the world.

And likewise, the properties of the things of the theory are inventions.

The point is: if you make a model and run and it behaves analogously to the world in a useful way, then you are a scientist.

A theorist can believe that the things in his model are (or correspond to) real things in the world, but he can't prove that - all he can point to is the analogous behavior.

Newton's theory and Einstein's theory contain different things with different properties. The differences are quite striking.

Yet, both models behave analogously to the world. They work.

That's interesting because it makes a surprising fact crystal clear.

Namely this: A model can be useful without being 'right'. Both Newton's and Einstein's models are useful. But since they conflict, they can't both be right.

what did Newton or Einstein bring to their theories apart from observation?
The brought the elements of their respective theories and the properties of those elements. (The properties are embodied in the equations that connect them.)


One important part of the mindset of science is that it is not 'absolute'.
In the 16th/17th centuries, the Dutch ideas of tolerance and compromise, battled head on with the Spanish view of obedience and uniformity . . . . so I think we can all agree that absolutism, certainty, and enforced uniformity, were NOT amicable to the methodologies of science.
Compromise and tolerance were important precursors to science, and were concepts that gained ground within Christian Europe. Both were revolutionary, both were thrashed out within the Christian domain, although, just to be controversial, we might admit that a lot of clever Jews, and Marranos [Christian-Jews] were in Holland at the time !
At a personal level, ‘loving one’s neighbour, and ‘loving one’s enemy’, were versions of tolerance, that helped Christianity to survive it’s first three hundred years of persecution, while later, the church showed genius and tolerance, in absorbing diverse and potentially disruptive enthusiasms [eg; monastic movements from Benedictine, to Franciscan].
Alas, there was always the Roman mindset [of crushing domination] skulking in the wings.
A quick thought on the Romans; it is amazing how extremely little, during 500 years of hegemony, they invented. Nothing changed. My theory on this is that slave societies, and monopolies, tend not to innovate. You need to get your hands dirty to invent things, and some sort of status/recognition.
Anyway, back to science. It is interesting to compare the Enlightenment support for science. In France it was regimented. In England it became yet another form of eccentricity, enhanced by Royal approval, but entirely self -financed. It was a hobby for egg heads. A hobby that was utilised by nonconformists [who did not waste their time studying Latin], patented, and turned into industry.
Did those nonconformist believe that they were doing God’s work ? I think so !
Did the egg heads ? Yup.
Is a God a scientist.? Seems pretty self-evident to me.
One last random thought about British Christians.
Slavery boils down to ‘exploit thy neighbour’
The Romans believed in ‘Rule thy neighbour’
The old mercantile system was essentially ‘beggar thy neighbour’.
But . . . when the 19thC British Government finally got hijacked by Christian Evangelists, they proceeded to abolish slavery, support Free trade, regulate factories, promote education for all, and expand democracy.
Totally impressive.

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