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Thursday, March 25, 2010

What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? The Impact of Christianity upon Scientific Development

In continuing our discussion of the impact of Jesus Christ upon Western Civilization using the D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe book entitled What If Jesus Had Never been Born? as a guide, we come to the inevitable topic that many skeptics hold up as their coup de grace in any intellectual discussion concerning the existance of God, the topic of science. What some atheists are loathe to admit is that the very foundations of modern science were established by Christians. On pages 94-95 we read...


"Dr Malcolm Jeeves ponders the question why the Greeks never went further in their scientific queries in his book The Scientific Enterprise and the Christian Faith. He points out that a unique blend of Greek thinking with a specific strand of Christianity-namely, the Reformed faith-birthed modern science. Jeeves writes:

"It was with the rediscovery of the Bible and of its message at the time of the Reformation....that a new impetus came to the development of science. This new impetus, flowing together with all that was best in Greek thinking, was to produce the right mixture to detonate the chain reaction leading to the explosion of knowledge which began at the start of the scientific revolution in the sixteenth century, and which is proceeding with ever-increasing momentum today."

Not only did science not develop with the Greeks, but it is also true that science would not have originated among the Hebrew people-it did not and would not-for the simple reason that to the Hebrews, as you recall in Psalms, the world was simply an occaision for praise to the Creator. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork" (Psalms 19:1).

Nor could modern science ever have come into existance among the Arabs, because of the Muslim religion. The writings of Aristotle, when lost to the Western world from about A.D. 500 to A.D. 1100, were kept by the Arabs of North Africa and finally reintroduced into Europe in the 1100's and 1200's. Aristotle-unlike Plato-had a philosophy that would lend itself to the scientific type of study because it was more inductive than Plato's deductive kind of reasoning. Plato would get an ideal and deduce all manner of things from it. Aristotle would tend to look at the particulars and induce principles from them. Because of the Aristotelian thought they had access to, the Arabs-including Nestorian Christians-generally made greater scientific and mathematical advances than the Europeans during the Middle Ages.

But during all of that time the Arabs never introduced nor created any real science. Why? Because of their religion. Because of the fatalism that dominates the Muslim religion. Since everything is fatalistically determined, obviously there is no point in trying to manipulate the natural world to change anything, because all things are unchangeable.

Science could never have come into being among the animists of central or southern Africa or many other places in the world because they never would have begun to experiment on the natural world, since everything-whether stones or trees or animals or anything else-contained within it living spirits of various gods or ancestors.

Nor could science have originated in India among the Hindus, nor in China among the Buddhists, for both Hinduism and Buddhism teach that the physical world is unreal and that the only reality is that of the world's soul and that the greatest thing anyone has to learn is that the physical world is not real. Therefore, there would have been no point in spending one's life fooling with that which had no reality in the first place.

It waited for Christianity to come and take several of the different strains and weave them together to produce in the sixteenth century the phenomenon we know know as modern science. It was because of a number of basic teachings of Christianity. First of all is the fact that there is a rational God who is the source of all truth, and that this world is a rational world. This gives rise to the possibility of scientific laws.

It is interesting to note that science could not originate in the philisophical view prevelant in the world today. The prevailing philosophy of the Western world is existentialism, which is irrational. It would not be possible for science to develop in an irrational world because science is based on the fact that if water boils at 212 degrees today, it will boil at 212 degrees tomorrow, and the same thing the next day, and that there are certain laws and regularities that control the universe. This all stems from the Christian concept of the God who created the world-a God who is rational and who created a rational world."

Kennedy and Newcombe bring up some interesting points in their above commentary. One other (demonstrably false) concept brought up by skeptics concerning the faux war between science and religion is the idea that science and religion are incompatible, a baseless assertion which is demolished by Vox Day in his book The Irrational Atheist. On page 58 we read...

"The idea that religion is the enemy of science is a remarkably silly one when examined in scientific terms. Consider that Christian nation and the hostility to science it supposedly harbors due to it's extraordinary religiosity. And yet the United States of America accounts for more than one-third of global scientific output despite representing only 4.5 percent of the global population. The scientific overproduction of religious America is a factor of 7.89, representing 28.7 percent more scientific output per capita than the most atheistic nation in Europe, France."

I can't leave without bringing up something quoted by Kennedy and Newcombe concerning the founders of so many branches of science. Let's look at a partial list from page 101, shall we?

"Antiseptic surgery, Joseph Lister

Bacteriology, Louis Pastuer

Calculus, Dynamics, Isaac Newton

Celestial Mechanics, Johannes Kepler

Chemistry, Gas Dynamics, Robert Boyle

Comparative Anatomy, Georges Cuvier

Computer Science, Charles Babbage

Dimensional Analysis, Model Analysis, Lord Rayleigh

Electronics, John Ambrose Fleming

Electrodynamics, James Clark Maxwell

Electromagnetics, Field Theory, Michael Faraday

Energetics, Lord Kelvin

Entomology of Living Insects, Henri Fabre

Field Mechanics, George Stokes

Galactic Astronomy, Sir William Herschel

Genetics, Gregor Mendel

Glacial Geology, Ichthyology, Louis Agassiz

Gynecology, James Simpson

Hydrography, Oceanography, Matthew Maury

Hydrostatics, Blaise Pascal

Isotropic Chemistry, Willam Ramsey

Natural History, John Ray

Non-Euclidean Geometry, Bernard Riemann

Optical Mineralogy, David Brewster

And on it goes. All of these founders were Bible believers...."




18 comments:

Tristan D. Vick said...

As to the science vs. religion debate... this article may or may not interest you:

http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2010/01/flynns-pile-of-boners.html

Froggie said...

This is nuts.
A bunch of vague circumlocutions with no evidence or basis in reality.

Egyption mathematicians were calculating volumes and areas, the basis of integral calculus as shown in the Moscow Papyrus dating to 1820 BCE.
They were even calculating pyramidal frustums.

Babylonians invented astronomy with exacting observations of the motions of the stars, planets, and the moon.
There are thousands of clay tablets created by them. Even today, astronomical periods identified by Mesopotamian scientists are still widely used in Western calendars: the solar year, the lunar month, the seven-day week.

I could write a book on all the scientific findings BCE.
Even early agricuture was carried out in a scientific manner.
Round 3500 BCE the Sumerians began to record some observations of the world with extremely thorough numerical data.

Aparantly you nor Kennedy ever heard of Pythagorus, or the equation he made so famous and bears his name untill this day.

The Edwin Smith papyrus is one of the first medical documents still extant, and perhaps the earliest document that attempts to describe and analyse the brain: it might be seen as the very beginnings of modern neuroscience.

The pre-Socratic philosopher Thales (7th and 6th centuries BC), dubbed the "father of science", was the first to postulate non-supernatural explanations for natural phenomena such as lightning and earthquakes.

Aristotle and Plato are the fathers of deductive reasoning on which science is based.

the geographer Eratosthenes accurately calculated the circumference of the Earth.

Hippocrates (ca. 460 BC – ca. 370 BC) and his followers were the first to describe many diseases and medical conditions and developed the Hippocratic Oath for physicians, still relevant and in use today.

The Four Great Inventions of ancient China are the compass, gunpowder, papermaking, and printing.

There is no merit whatsoever to Kennedy's ramblings.

Kennedy was "a leader among the distinct group of 'Christian Supremacists' who seek to 'reclaim America for Christ' and turn the U.S. into a Christian nation guided by their strange notions of biblical law."

Christian geneticist Francis Collins, who was cited in one of Kennedy's programs as supporting its views. Collins repudiated that, saying he was "absolutely appalled by what Coral Ridge Ministries is doing. I had NO knowledge that Coral Ridge Ministries was planning a TV special on Darwin and Hitler, and I find the thesis of Dr. Kennedy's program utterly misguided and inflammatory,"

Kennedy died the vain, vile, bitter, delusioned man that he was.

His writings were utter trash.

JD Curtis said...

TV,

I briefly perused the Richard Carrier link you provided.

I am not well versed in a couple of the subjects he brought up. Some of them I have read up on and, suprise, I disagree.

I disagree with his Seperation of Church and State statement, and his statement about the destruction of the library of alexandria. It just so happens that just this week I came across an article which has more information on the topic than one could possibly hope for.

Froggie said...

JD,
Stray off topic much? Or just when you find yourself in an untenable position?

"What some atheists are loathe to admit is that the very foundations of modern science were established by Christians."

I think you knew when you typed that sentence that it had no basis in fact.

JD Curtis said...

Aristotle and Plato are the fathers of deductive reasoning on which science is based.

Apparently you didnt read the above post very well. "The writings of Aristotle, when lost to the Western world from about A.D. 500 to A.D. 1100, were kept by the Arabs of North Africa and finally reintroduced into Europe in the 1100's and 1200's. Aristotle-unlike Plato-had a philosophy that would lend itself to the scientific type of study because it was more inductive than Plato's deductive kind of reasoning. Plato would get an ideal and deduce all manner of things from it. Aristotle would tend to look at the particulars and induce principles from them. Because of the Aristotelian thought they had access to, the Arabs-including Nestorian Christians-generally made greater scientific and mathematical advances than the Europeans during the Middle Ages.

But during all of that time the Arabs never introduced nor created any real science. Why? Because of their religion. Because of the fatalism that dominates the Muslim religion."

The Four Great Inventions of ancient China are the compass

" No one knows where or when the first compass was invented. It may have been in China or in the Near East or in Italy. All we know is that the compass was first mentioned in the 12th century, and that it was first used on a European ship in 1345" Link

"It is not known exactly where or when the formal magnetic compass originated. However, what little unclear evidence has been found indicates the compass was refined in Italy circa 1200AD. Italy is known for its grand maritime achievements that made them a navigational superpower. It is believed Flavio Gioia first invented the refined compass, and a monument has been erected in Almafi Italy to honor his invention." Link

It's not conclusive who invented the compass.

Kennedy was "a leader among the distinct group of 'Christian Supremacists' who seek to 'reclaim America for Christ' and turn the U.S. into a Christian nation guided by their strange notions of biblical law."

Christian geneticist Francis Collins, who was cited in one of Kennedy's programs as supporting its views. Collins repudiated that, saying he was "absolutely appalled by what Coral Ridge Ministries is doing. I had NO knowledge that Coral Ridge Ministries was planning a TV special on Darwin and Hitler, and I find the thesis of Dr. Kennedy's program utterly misguided and inflammatory,"


This has all of the originality of lifting select segments from the "Criticisms" section of the Wiki page on D James Kennedy. Who would be so lazy as to do that? Froggy?

Hitler-Darwin merits it's own entry. I recently found a good article on the subject and will post it soon.

Even early agricuture was carried out in a scientific manner

Like what? Trial and error? Being that their livelihoods depended on it I'm hardly suprised. The above entry doesnt claim that agriculture was invented by Christians.

Babylonians invented astronomy

The point is moot because the above entry doesnt claim that Christians invented astronomy. Did the Babylonians believe they were looking at "gods" or stars?

ATVLC said...

JD will believe what he wants to believe. No amount of history or facts can dissuade him. (After all JD literally believes in magic.)

Froggie said...

Someone does not want to admit that the Christians stifled science and burnt scientists at the stake for seven hundred years.
They are opposing science till this very day.

JD Curtis said...

Someone does not want to admit that the Christians stifled science and burnt scientists at the stake for seven hundred years.

You mean like the atheist-inspired hordes that beheaded Antoine Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry?

Do you mean like such open-minded individuals like Sam Harris who rail against ethical opposition to embyronic stem cell research? If japanese scientists had been as narrow-minded about the focus of their research and concentrated on embryos instead, they might never have discovered that stem cells can be grown with skin cells and thus science would have been poorly served. Link

JD Curtis said...

ATVLC, if it were me arguing against anything that I put forward, I would approach it like..

EXAMPLE: "JD, you see, Matthew Maury is not considered the father of modern Hydrography and Oceanography. It was actually a atheist or Hindu or Wiccan or whatever by the name of X. And then of course provide relevant links to back up my assertion, but that's just me.

Have any of you ever read about the role that the Holy Bible played in Maury's discoveries? Here's a link in case youre interested.

ATVLC said...

Maury did not need the Bible to inform him about the existence of ocean currents because they were already well known to sailors.

Steve Schuler said...

JD,

Whasub, brother?!

I bounced over here by way of Feeno's blog and soon I'll be bouncing on my merry way.

I'm no scholar (my last name translates from German as "schoolboy" not "scholar", and it is my real name) but I am a curious guy, as a schoolboy should be, and the connections between the history of religions and the history of science are interesting. I am not here to argue one way or another on the influence that Christianity may or may not have had on the development of science.

What I would like to bring to the attention of this discussion is that currently something like 92% of the members of the National Academy of Science, a very prestigious scientific organization (not an atheist think-tank), describe themselves as having no religious affiliation or as being non-theistic. (Hopefully I am not spreading mis-information here, as I just paused to do a quick search to try to verify my often faulty recollection of facts and got nowhere fast.) At any rate, while I do not have immediate access to the information, I think it is beyond dispute that there has been a very significant shift over the last 100 years in the religious perspectives and identities of people in the scientific community. I think that may be a pretty strong indicator that religion, not just Christianity, is an ever diminishing factor or influence amongst some of the most rational and scientificallly oriented folks on the planet.

Now, my point here is that if we try to develop a Christian apologetic based on the history of science and Christianity and maintain that science could only follow Christianity, that science is, in fact, dependent on Christianity, we might expect to see that connection manifest in more recent history. The problem is that we do not find that relationship, in large, currently maintained.

Finally, for what it is worth, I do not describe myself as an atheist or a theist. I do ally myself with a particular Presbyterian Church and minister (John Shuck), although in the not so distant past we both would have found ourselves sizzling on a burning stake for our heresy.

Thankfully, things change...

JD Curtis said...

Steve, thanks for your comment.

I would only add that within the last 100 years it hasnt only been scientists that have become increasingly irreligious, but societies in the West as a whole have become increasingly so. There was a study by Penn State University and SUNY Buffalo that was able to show...

"Our study data do not strongly support the idea that scientists simply drop their religious identities upon professional training, due to an inherent conflict between science and faith, or to institutional pressure to conform,....

Among scientists, as in the general population, being raised in a home in which religion and religious practice were valued is the most important predictor of present religiosity among the subjects." Link

JD Curtis said...

Maury did not need the Bible to inform him about the existence of ocean currents because they were already well known to sailors.

You might successfully argue that the currents already existed and some sailors were aware of them, but I am unable to find a reference to anyone who studied them in a scientific manner that predates Maury's experiments. From the secular website oceanmotion.org

"Maury conducted the first systematic study of the ocean's surface currents and winds. He compiled information on currents and winds from the thousands of logbooks of sailors' observations stored at the U.S. Navy's Depot of Charts & Instruments and published the first charts of the North Atlantic in 1847. He produced the first reliable wind and current charts of the ocean." Link

But lost in the discussion ATVLC is the fact that the Bible inspired the guy to research instead of discouraging him.

JD Curtis said...

No one can prove to a fool that he is wrong.

Right Ginx. Likewise, no one can prove an accusation of rascism without any evidence to back it up.

tinkbell13 said...

This whole thing is some of the most insane, irrational nonsense that I have ever read.... This is not even worth a rebuttal because not one ounce of this is even remotely attached to reality.

ATVLC said...

Your link states "Maury determined that if God’s Word said there were ‘paths’ in the seas, then there must be paths."
I contend that "Maury did not need the Bible to inform him about the existence of ocean currents (paths) because they were already well known to sailors."

http://www.tccsa.tc/images/franklins_gulf_stream.gif Gulf stream chart from the 1700's.
Ponce De Leon wrote of currents in the early 1500's.
Etc...

photogr said...

Einstein formulated the equation which led to nuclear power ( weapon of mass destruction) . Other uses were derived from this though at a later date. I don't know if he was a person of faith, although he was Jewish.

since said...

Read an excellent SF novel by Kim Stanley Robinson which asks how history may have been had 99% of Europeans been wiped out by plague. Not the same as of Jesus hadn't lived, but in the alternate history of the novel Christianity is merely a footnote in the history of western civilization.

On a lighter note, had Jesus never lived, the Galillee would have been know. As Potterville. And Mary Magdelene would have been an essene librarian storing scrolls in jars.