I look at it this way. If science disappeared from human memory, we would soon be living in caves again. If theology disappeared from human memory, no one would notice.
Thanks to Debunking Christianity, which seems to post one incredibly stupid thing after another, I was directed to this opinion piece in the Guardian UK by Terry Sanderson, who is the head of something called the National Secular Society.
As I’ve followed various atheists over the past 2-3 years, I’ve found that the writing is getting more and more ridiculous, and at times desperate.
Oh well, on to bigger and better things…
“However, religion – or theology, which is a better word here – also takes advantage of reason and logic”.
A very key point, Alden, which Chapman touches on in his documentary when he looks at John’s use of ‘logos’ (John Chapter 1). This was certainly the manner of understanding which informed the inquiries of men such as Copernicus and Kepler and later Newton, all of which saw a value to science in aiding us to understand something of the works of God.
“Science uses evidence and reason”. Science applies various methods of examination (observation and experiement being chief amongst these) which seek to provide us with an understanding of some of the aspects of the physical universe, and whilst this approach is valid in supplying some measure of understanding, it has its limitations.
In a BBC interview in 1981, Richard Feynman concluded on the matter:
“I have approximate answers and possible beliefs in different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything, and of many things I don’t know anything about, but I don’t have to know an answer I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose which is the way it really is as far as I can tell possibly”.
Chapman shows us something which argues with that as being the only conclusion to be reached – the scientists of the Medieval period were informed in their pursuit of understanding by a faith and a theology which teaches that ‘wisdom’ (knowledge or information) is key to our reality – something which has most certainly been verified through the field of scientific endeavor.
“science originated with men of faith”
That’s not an unreasonable suggestion. Early religions were attempts to explain the unexplained, and as such, were indistinguishable from science.
However, the dogmatic nature of evolved religion, while allowing for reason and logic, does not recognize their primacy.
The only presupposition that I would imagine you could apply to science is that a hypothesis without evidence (such as those promoted by religion) is useless.
Of course, science does have limitations. It should not make comment on the “supernatural”, for instance. That should be left to theologians and spiritualists etc. But these also need obvious presuppositions: that is, that either gods or spirits etc, exist. And in the specific case of theology, that the deity has, in fact, communicated its wishes through revelation (for which there is no evidence).
The problem here, though, is that the presupposition of science is in direct conflict with the presupposition of theology. It is, of course, possible to ignore this contradiction.
David, You are quite wrong here. “Religion” – which is a word with many meanings – is not the enemy of science. Science is a method, a tool; it is useful, but it has limitations. There are other ways of knowing outside of science, which “religion” takes advantage of. However, religion – or theology, which is a better word here – also takes advantage of reason and logic.
Remember, science originated with men of faith, and many of the great advances came from men who wanted to understand creation. Religion is not against this kind of knowledge. There are scores of Christian scientists (I know a few) who understand the 2 are not opposed.
Materialistic science has set itself against religion because of its presuppositions, which it protects as much as fundamentalists protect theirs. It’s a religious battle for materialists, not one of science.
“Chapman concludes that science and religion are not enemies”.
Chapman concludes wrongly.
They are enemies because their fundamental methods of deriving understanding of the Universe comes from two very difference sources.
Science uses evidence and reason, whereas religion uses its scriptures. Where the evidence and reason agree with the dogma, they are accepted – so in all your examples the Ptolomaic Spheara Mundi and the astrolabe, and optics there was no problem. But in the case of the heliocentric model, religion could not reconcile the two – and so used threats and force to try to make its case.
But if religion or any ideology holds back parts of science, it is holding back all of it, because it is rejecting the basis premise of the science – i.e. that reason is more important than holy books – in which case none of it can be considered valid.
Here’s some good news…
The program I’ve referred to above can still be watched!….
Shame there are a couple of adverts at the start and mid-way point (commercial TV), but the actual material provided here is first class.
David wrote: “There was 1800 years between Aristarchus and Copernicus”.
Chapman’s book examines how an impartial study of physical nature (which involved seeing the physical world as created objects) only became possible when people viewed astronomical bodies as significant in their own right, first as deities in the ancient world, and then as part of a grand design within a Christian world-view, which actually informed this line of inquiry others did not. It was the fusion of Greek and Jewish approaches in early Christian thought that actually facilitated and later encouraged an ‘extraordinary potential for the growth of science”.
‘To suggest that science was nurtured by Christianity, in whatever form it came, is akin to me saving you from drowning by taking my foot off your head’.
This is really missing the wood from the trees…
It was medieval Europe (from around 1150) which created and developed not only the science of optics, but a proper and systematic approach to astronomy (Sacrobosco’s De Sphaera Mundi and Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe), all of which was done with the full encouragement of the church, and without which there would have never been the physical resources or the intellectual initiative which would lead to our modern scientific revolution. Chapman concludes that science and religion are not enemies, but stem from a common desire to understand, and it is this common intent which has produced some of the most telling moments in the history of our civilization.
I don’t know that your myth is 100% accurate, but I do think that the general consensus is that Galileo was a jerk (and he’s not alone in the scientific community in that respect).
His main interest in the telescope was to make a fast buck.
David, The Myth of Galileo, according to the International Planetarium Society. Apparently Galileo’s biggest problem was that he was a jerk.
Copernicus, too, was encouraged by fellow churchmen to publish his theories, but he hesitated due to fear of the scientific community, who were Aristotelians. Commitment to Aristotelian precepts was a much bigger issue than Christian theology, which itself was subjected for a time to Aristotelian influences in the Western church.
While I agree the RCC often makes a nice easy target, sometimes the real blame lies elsewhere.
The Catholic church was in no way open to new ideas where they conflicted with its accepted dogma. Descartes had no such issues as Galileo (also a good “Catholic”) had, as his specialization was in mathematics and optics. I’m not sure what you mean by the “myth of Galileo” but if you are suggesting that the church at the time was open to the concept of heliocentricity: there might have been sympathies, but as an institution it had set its face firmly against the idea.
You are, of course, right that throughout the course of scientific history, scientists have also been dogmatic. However, this is embodied only in the individual, who will either accept reason or whose ideas will die with them, the Catholic church is an absolutist institution that is not open to logic and reason (unless it already agrees with their conclusions or they have been forced to change by the sheer naivety of their position) and which usually won its argument with a burning stake in place of a valid deduction.
My conclusion is not, however, that the church was against science. I don’t believe this is the case. However, where science met dogma it was always the loser – and unfortunately, one of the most important fields of science, cosmology, was inevitably in that position.
Would we have had Isaac Newton in the 8th century if the church had been open to reason – that’s hard to say. But we can be sure that its opposition ensured that it couldn’t have happened.
One second there Howard. There was 1800 years between Aristarchus and Copernicus – this begs the question as to why was the heliocentric model of the solar system suppressed in favour of the geocentric model supported by the bible and the church. The resolution of this problem required the advances in maths and physics that established the enlightenment – and it only surfaced because, at the time, Christian theology was tearing itself apart. Had it been unfettered, these solutions would have been pondered far earlier.
To suggest that science was nurtured by Christianity, in whatever form it came, is akin to me saving you from drowning by taking my foot off your head.
David, Begging the question is one thing, jumping to conclusions is another. It was usually the “science” community which in fact resisted new models, not the Church. The RCC, in fact, was often very open to new ideas. The myth of Galileo is a good example. And, of course, Descartes himself was a very good Catholic. And who was it who translated the Greek philosophers?
It’s pretty astonishing to see the amount of ignorance in Sanderson’s view. The final chapter of Dr Graham Chapman’s brilliant book, ‘Gods in the Sky’ (the book also became the basis of a Channel 4 documentary series a few years ago) shows how it was BECAUSE of Christian theology particularly that we have modern science. Many of the basic tenants of modern scientific inquiry were nurtured in the cradle of the Reformation era, so his ‘flash of brilliance’ would effectively leave us a great deal closer to living in caves. Tragic doesn’t begin to cover this poverty of approach to reality.
Granted. I was merely expressing my disappointment at what these folks obviously feel are flashes of brilliance. I’ve responded to a few of Loftus’ points in the last couple of weeks, pointing out that he’s missing points entirely. He doesn’t seem to care.
And thanks re the theme… it’s the new “facebook” theme. very user-friendly.
I find your position poorly supported for obvious reasons. One can just stand back and say “Well, that’s stupid,” wink nod and walk away; but has there been any value added?
I find the increasing lack of substance in theology quite reflective of the growing sound and fury.
Nice new theme.