View Full Version : Christianity vs. Science

Taras Bulba
Wednesday, September 20th, 2006, 11:21 PM
Since this topic comes up every now and then, I wish to help set the record straight. So here goes nothing.

Oh those terrible anti-scientific Christians!

“….how did the dominance of Christianity affect the knowledge of, and attitudes towards nature? The standard answer, developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and widely propagated in the twentieth, maintains that Christianity presented serious obstacles to the advancement of science and, indeed, sent the scientific enterprise into a tailspin from which it did not recover for more than a thousand years. The truth, as we shall see, is far different and much more complicated.

One charge frequently leveled against the Church is that it was groadly anti-intellectual – that the leaders of the church preferred faith to reason and ignorance to education. In fact, this is a considerable distortion…Christians quickly recognized that if the Bible was to be read, literacy would have to be encouraged; and in the long run Christianity became the major patron of European education and a major borrower from the Classical intellectual tradition. Naturally enough, the kind and level of education and intellectual effort favored by the Church Fathers that which supported the mission of the Church as they perceived it….whether this represents a blow against the scientific enterprise or modest, but welcome, support for it depends largely on the attitudes and expectations that one brings to the question. If we compare the early church with a modern research university or the National Science Foundation, the church will prove to have failed abysmally as a supporter of science and natural philosophy. But such a comparison is obviously unfair. If, instead, we compare the support given to the study of nature by the early church with support available from any other contemporary social institution, it will become clear that the church was one of the major patrons – perhaps the major patron – of scientific learning. Its patronage may have been limited and selective, but limited and selected patronage is better than no patronage at all. But a critic to view the early church as an obstacle to scientific progress might argue that the handmaiden status accorded natural philosophy is inconsistent with the existence of genuine science. True science, this critic would maintain, cannot be the handmaiden of anything, but must process total autonomy; consequently, the “disciplined” science that Augustine sought is no science at all. The appropriate response is that totally autonomous science is an attractive ideal, but we do not live in an ideal world. Many of the most important developments in the history of science have been produced by people committed not to autonomous science, but to science in the service of some ideology, social program, or practical end; for much of its history, the question has not been whether science will function as handmaiden, but which mistress it will serve.”

--David C. Lindberg The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 BC to AD 1450 pg.149-51

“The contribution of the religious culture of the early Middle Ages to the scientific movement was thus one of preservation and transmission. The monasteries served as the transmitters of literacy and a thin version of the Classical tradition(including science or natural philosophy) through a period when literacy and scholarship were severely threatened. Without them, Western Europe would not have more science, but less.”
--inbid. pg.157

Taras Bulba
Wednesday, September 20th, 2006, 11:21 PM
The horrors of it all! Those evil Christians sought to suppress science at every turn!


The Sun in the Church by J.L. Heilbron is a provocative work of scholarship that challenges long-held views of the relationship between science and Christianity. Heilbron's main point is simple enough: "The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment, than any other, and, probably, all other, institutions." Despite the persecution of Galileo, Heilbron notes, the Church actively supported mathematical and astronomical research--often designing cathedrals that could also function as observatories--in order to set the precise date of Easter (a crucial endeavor for maintaining the unity of the Church). Heilbron's fluid, engaging style brings his detailed reconstructions of 16th- and 17th-century Church politics to life. And his argument that scientific knowledge was deemed both morally neutral and politically useful during the Reformation and beyond yields an unusually interesting, complex, and human understanding of Catholicism in the early Modern period. --Michael Joseph Gross

Taras Bulba
Wednesday, September 20th, 2006, 11:21 PM
Further proof that the Church is anti-scientific!

“The Catholic Church long stood condemned as the enemy of enlightenment, with the alleged suppressions of Copernicus and Galileo as Exhibit A. More recent historians, however, have pointed to evidence of Church attitudes and policies of a quite different coloration. Lynn White asserted that Christian theology actually gave the Middle Ages a fiat for technology: “man shares in great measure God’s transcendence of nature. Christianity, in absolute contrast to paganism and Asia’s religions…not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends.”
--Frances and Joseph Gies Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages pg. 4-5

Taras Bulba
Wednesday, September 20th, 2006, 11:22 PM
The domination of the clergy hindered scientific development during the Middle Ages.

"It was not the case that the dominance of the lay and clerical aristocracy had a merely negative, inhibiting effect on the field of technology, in some areas it needs and tastes favoured a certain progress. The clergy and above all the monks were obliged to have few contacts as possible with the outside world, including economic relations, and above all they desired to be freed from material tasks to have time for the Opus Dei and for properly spiritual occupations (offices and prayers), and for their work of charity, which obliged them to provide for the economic needs not only of their numerous familia but also for the poor and of wandering beggars by distributing foodstuff. This encouraged them to develop equipment of a certain technical standard. If one is looking for the earliest mills, water mills, or for the progress in farming techniques, one often sees the religious orders in the vanguard. It was not a coincidence if here during the early Middle Ages men attributed the invention of the watermill to a saint who introduced it into a region, for example St. Orens of Auch who had a mill setup at St. Gabriel on the Durancole in the 6th century….As we have seen, the Church encouraged improvements in the measurement of time for the needs of ecclesiastical computation. The building of churches – the first great buildings of the Middle Ages – gave a stimulus to technical progress, not only in building techniques, but also in the tools used, in methods of transportation, and in the auxiliary skills such as glasswork.”
--Jacques Le Goff Medieval Civilization 400-1500 pg. 198

Taras Bulba
Wednesday, September 20th, 2006, 11:22 PM
Clearly one could only call the Medieval Period the "Dark Ages".

“Taken as a whole, the history of the Middle Ages after the ruin in the West of the ancient civilization is one of progress, progress in society, government, order and organization, laws, the development of human faculties, of rational thought, of knowledge and experience, of art and culture.”
--C.W. Previte-Ortor The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History vol.2 “The 12th Century to the Renaissance”

Taras Bulba
Wednesday, September 20th, 2006, 11:25 PM
Nothing of any lasting importance came out of the Christian-dominated "Dark Ages". Certainly nothing like the book!

"The Roman world still speaks to us. But we must remember that it speaks to us now only through books whose shapes came into being through the silent labor of generations of "technicians of the world" - lawyers, bureaucrats, and monks - in the centuries of Dark Age Christian Europe."
--Peter Brown The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity AD 200-1000 pg.23

Let this be a lesson to those who wish to glorify Ancient Rome at the expense of Christianity.

Taras Bulba
Wednesday, September 20th, 2006, 11:29 PM
Almost all the scientific accomplishment of Europe were because of the Greeks, Christianity did nothing to improve upon it!

"The Greeks laid the foundation, but it was the tramsmutation of that foundation by Christianity that gave modern Europe its impetus and differientiated European accomplishment from that of all other cultures around the world."
--Charles Murray, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 pg. 402

Taras Bulba
Wednesday, September 20th, 2006, 11:33 PM
Copernicus was absolutely scarred to death of possible criticism from the Church of his astronomical theories!


"If Copernicus had any genuine fear of publication, it was the reaction of scientists, not clerics, that worried him. Other churchmen before him- Nicole Oresme (a bishop) in the fourteenth century and Nicholas of Cusa (a cardinal) in the fifteenth-had freely discussed the possible motion of the earth, and there was no reason to suppose that the reappearance of this idea in the sixteenth century would cause a religious stir.17 Indeed, various churchmen, including a bishop and a cardinal, urged Copernicus to publish his book, which appeared with a dedication to Pope Paul 111. Had Copernicus lived beyond its publication in 1543, it is highly improbable that he would have felt any hostility or suffered any persecution. The church simply had more important things to worry about than a new astronomical or cosmological system. Although a few critics noticed and opposed the Copernican system, organized Catholic opposition did not appear until the seventeenth century.18"

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006, 11:37 PM

this goes against everything ive always been taught!