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The Christian Delusion 15: Christianity Was Not Responsible for Modern Science

01/13/2011

As usual, Carrier does an awesome job. I think he had an easy task here, but its good that a professional historian was able to address the claims of people saying that Christianity is the only source of science. Carrier gives plenty of examples that counter that claim through ancient Greek history, and also gives plenty of time periods where Christianity failed to promote a scientific mindset. I didn’t see him defend as well the claim that science stagnated under Christianity for 1000 years, but perhaps given the progress in ancient Greece, and the lack of progress in the Middle Ages, that’s a claim that would be easy to defend. I’m just waiting for someone to make this claim.

As the story now goes, not only has Christianity never been at odds with science and never impeded it in any way, but it was actually the savior of science, the only worldview that could ever make science possible. And that’s why the Scientific Revolution only ever sparked in one place: a thoroughly Christian society. This is not only false in every conceivable detail but so egregiously false that anyone with even the slightest academic competence and responsibility should have known it was false (5127).

An obvious objection to this delusional claim is that it violates one of the most basic principles of causality: when the cause is in place, its effect is seen. Christianity fully dominated the whole of the Western world from the fifth to the fifteenth century, and yet in all those thousand years there was no Scientific Revolution (5134).

Dinesh D’Souza declares with unquestioning confidence that of all ancient religions “only” Christianity “was from the beginning based on reason” and consequently “there are no theologians” in the history of any other religion.4 Yet surely even an attentive high-school student knows the pagan Greeks invented reason, in the very sense he means, developing the formal sciences of logic, philosophy, mathematics, and rhetoric (5144).

This is as fallacious as assuming that because the inventors of formal geometry were polytheists, therefore polytheism caused the invention of formal geometry, or even more absurdly, that only polytheists could invent it. Neither is plausible (5150).

They even went beyond geometry, developing combinatorics and an early form of multivariable algebra. Yet medieval Christians showed such disinterest in these mathematical achievements that some were barely preserved at all, while others were literally erased from books so they could be replaced with hymns to Ood.19 In fact, under Christian tenure almost all the scientific achievements of the ancients were forgotten in the West and ignored in the East, or survived only in simplistic caricatures. The few books that got copied enough to survive were rarely or barely copied at all, often not understood, and never substantially improved upon for nearly a thousand years (5209).

Note: Carrier is totally making D’Souza look like a tool.

D’Souza insists “the presumption” that “the universe is rational [is] quite impossible to prove” and therefore requires theological justification.28 But that the universe is rational is observed. So it doesn’t have to be proved. Such a belief requires no faith or theology because it rests entirely on evidence (5252).

the values necessary for scientific progress: embracing curiosity as a moral virtue, elevating empiricism to the status of supreme authority in all disputes of fact, and valuing the pursuit of progress. Many ancient pagans held to all three values, so strongly and persistently that they made continual advances in scientific findings and methods. Christianity, by contrast, for a long time never esteemed these values, and in many cases even denounced them. There was nothing in the Bible or the original Christian mindset that had any tendency to favor them. Only with considerable ingenuity, and against considerable resistance, did some Christians eventually figure out a way to reintegrate these pagan values (5240).

Had Christianity not interrupted the intellectual advance of mankind and put the progress of science on hold for a thousand years, the Scientific Revolution might have occurred a thousand years ago, and our science and technology today would be a thousand years more advanced (5355).

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