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Science owes its origins to Christianity or Religion - Comments

kurtdenke's Avatar Comment 1 by kurtdenke

Intellectual history is complicated, and there are ways in which science was fostered by religion, and ways in which it was hindered by religion. But even if we only focus on the former and not the latter, so what? It doesn't make religion true; it is only an observation about intellectual history.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 11:23:00 UTC | #78157

sidfaiwu's Avatar Comment 2 by sidfaiwu

In a sense, it does. Religion was our species' earliest attempts at explaining the unknown. It just happens to be an incredibly bad way of explaining most things. Eventually, we found a much better way to explain things: the scientific method. So even if the roots are religious doesn't mean the roots are better, as kurtdenke points out.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 11:49:00 UTC | #78174

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 3 by Cook@Tahiti

The statement is entirely false. When Christianity was strongest in Europe, enquiry into the natural world was at its weakest. Christianity was one big 2,000 year interruption between the Greek awakening and the Renaissance and Enlightenment. It's referred to the Dark Ages for a reason - very little happened in the arts, humanities, sciences and philosophy. In fact, in many areas, Europe regressed under totalitarian Christianity.

Islam circa 1,000AD did more for science than Christianity e.g. School of Baghdad, translation of Aristotle, etc.

It was precisely when Christianity began to wane, that scientific enquiry could flourish.

The explanatory power of the scientific method and the real world results (e.g. increasing longevity and reduced suffering from diseases) meant that scientists increasingly were deists, agnostics and atheists; always more sceptical than the population as a whole.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 12:04:00 UTC | #78185

jeepyjay's Avatar Comment 4 by jeepyjay

Simplifying (more than) slightly! Science began in the Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations, and reached an advanced state with the Greeks, as for example in the work of Aristotle on logic, Euclid on geometry, Archimedes on mechanics.

Then there was a setback for 1000 years, known as the Dark Ages, during which the Christian religion took over the Roman world, and then Islam spread.

It was only with the gradual rediscovery, over the next 500 years, of the ancient Greek achievements, that a new questioning mind-set and willingness to test and experiment evolved that led to the scientific revolution.

Far from Christianity creating science or stimulating its development, religion was a force for ignorance for 1500 years, and it was the renewal of thought that led to the Reformation in the church that then permitted the new thought to evolve further.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 12:20:00 UTC | #78197

Quine's Avatar Comment 5 by Quine

Remember, if the Christians can find out that a scientist was baptized as a baby, they can claim credit, even if they suppressed him/her during life.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 12:37:00 UTC | #78203

burkbraun's Avatar Comment 6 by burkbraun

Wonder gives rise to religion, and wonder also gives rise to science. The historical sequence was that immature and narcissistic methods of addressing our wonder (we are the center and measure of everything, the universe loves/hates us, etc.) were gradually replaced with mature, evidence-based methods that we now call science. Christianity helped to put some distance between humanity and the natural world, and also incubated theories of an orderly universe. Scientific methods then observed and documented the universe to be empirically orderly in many ways, which is a far stronger and more durable form of knowledge. Early scientists were all religious, since they did not have any choice in the matter given the bullying nature of religion. The history is very interesting and lengthy, but to say that science relies on religion now is like saying that I rely on my childhood self for survival, let alone want to return to that state of reasoning.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 13:15:00 UTC | #78221

MaxWeiss's Avatar Comment 7 by MaxWeiss

Dinesh already talked me into buying 3 more used cars; what more do you want from me!!??

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 13:47:00 UTC | #78242

?'s Avatar Comment 8 by ?

The argument that certain aspects of Christian theology were conducive to the growth of early science has been preseted fairly well by Rodney Stark (sociologist) and others. Even if true, however, it says NOTHING about the truth of the religion.

The scientists discovered things through work not revelation. Anything that inspired this work would have ***indirectly*** contributed to science.

A person can be inspired to productive behavior by ideas that are not true. If you go into a jungle to find the "fountain of youth" and in the process draw some excellent maps of the region, those maps may have serious value to other travelers even if the myth that guided you is false or even absurd.

Propositions should be accepted or rejected as facts based on evidence; not their connection with some admirable person or useful act.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 13:56:00 UTC | #78247

Mewtwo_X's Avatar Comment 9 by Mewtwo_X

"Not at all, Science (along with medicine) owes its origin to ancient Greece."

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 14:24:00 UTC | #78258

kev_s's Avatar Comment 10 by kev_s

It is true that there was a time when the church (i.e monasteries) offered the only sanctuary for an intellectual person; a place where they could avoid an early, brutish death and find the time and resources to study. However whenever newly discovered scientific truth contradicted doctrine the church usually pronounced that science to be wrong. Bruno, Copernicus and Galileo are obvious cases. Behaviour like that can hardly be described as supporting science.
Science developed in spite of religion, not because of it.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 16:55:00 UTC | #78342

BCReason's Avatar Comment 11 by BCReason

I think it's no coincidence that the enlightment soon follwed the protestant reformation. It was only after the Churchs totalitarian power was broken that we began to see progress.

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 05:55:00 UTC | #78573

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 12 by irate_atheist

Stock reply -

"So, in what possible way does this make your religion true?"

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 06:14:00 UTC | #78578

tomyr95's Avatar Comment 13 by tomyr95

This one is easy. Who cares, honestly. It's not relevant. Purely historical discussion.

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 08:00:00 UTC | #78623

darth_atheist's Avatar Comment 14 by darth_atheist

I would say I have to agree with #2's (sidfaiwu) reply on this matter. To add to it, imagine explanations of observable phenomenon (whether religious or scientific) are like a computer processor. Religion's processor could be represented by an 8086 IBM chip (one of the oldest ones), while modern science's processor would be a certain upgrade to a 3.2 Ghz Dual processor. In other words, religion at one time was so easily viewed as having the answers since it would have been hard to disprove them, given the limited tools they had. Once our tools got better, the explanations got better. Unfortunately, there are people who still wish to use the ancient 8086 processor for running analysis of the data, rather than the better and more efficient and more accurate 3.2 Ghz processor of science.

I think it's time we had an upgrade.


Fri, 26 Oct 2007 08:14:00 UTC | #78625

JerryD385's Avatar Comment 15 by JerryD385

Saying that Science owes its origins to religion is like saying that vaccines owe its origins to small pox.

Skepticism, reason, and free inquiry were reactions against dogma, faith, and special revelation, not extensions from it.

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 08:34:00 UTC | #78627

ChrisMcL's Avatar Comment 16 by ChrisMcL

Successful religions are successful in large part because they plagiarize human nature. Religions make claims that their gods and the philosophies inspired by their gods are the origininators of those moral values that people respect. It is just as natural to assume a god as is to assume that that god brings certain things with it. It's just another form of creationism; in this case, it's the moral universe that is created by god.

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 09:54:00 UTC | #78652

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 17 by Dr Benway

Science owes its origin to religion in the same way penicillin owes its origin to syphilis.

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 10:00:00 UTC | #78655

Garnok's Avatar Comment 18 by Garnok

"Religion created science" or "Without religion there would never have bene science" or something like that.

Chemistry began as alchemy. Astronomy began as astrology. Christanity began as Judaism. The origins of something is not relavant to the veracity of its current position and the strength of the current position does not lend validity to its origins. Science began the moment one of our ancient hominid ancestors developed the brain power to ask "why?".

Sat, 27 Oct 2007 09:55:00 UTC | #78922

poggle's Avatar Comment 19 by poggle

In 100 years, Christians will be taking credit for the acceptance of gay marriage, the amazing success of embryonic stem cell research, and human genetic engineering to make a more peaceful, intelligent, and compassionate species. They will claim that only a Christians society would have made such advancements possible. Ha!

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 08:15:00 UTC | #79099

quill's Avatar Comment 20 by quill

I think the best answer to this statement is a simple "no it doesn't". Science as we know it today found its first expressions in pagan Greece. There's no disputing that fact. 'Nuff said.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 17:04:00 UTC | #79234

mrtim's Avatar Comment 21 by mrtim

Garnok -- well said. I think it was Christopher Hitchens who said in an interview that he hoped religion would eventually evolve into philosophy, just as alchemy evolved into chemistry.

In my experience this rebuttal will *not* result in a reasoned response . . .

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 08:50:00 UTC | #79382

Aaron's Avatar Comment 22 by Aaron

Science and religion have a common origin: human curiosity. Where they part ways is in the carefulness of their methodologies. Science strives to eliminate human bias and confusion from its process of investigation, an act in which religion places no value.

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 10:10:00 UTC | #79405

Garnok's Avatar Comment 23 by Garnok

mrtim said:

Garnok -- well said.


I think it was Christopher Hitchens who said in an interview that he hoped religion would eventually evolve into philosophy, just as alchemy evolved into chemistry.

Funny that. I had a discussion with a theist (one of the few somewhat pleasant and rational ones I've had) about this and he was trying to go the other way, that philosophy became religion. I granted at least the two were very similar and the lines between them could get blurred easily. However, I told him that I think that most likely religion, of some type, came first as religion has a "make it up as you go along" feel to it while philosophy has some forethought. I did admit that this was my opinion as one who is mostly uneducated in philosophy, so to take it with a grain of salt.

In my experience this rebuttal will *not* result in a reasoned response . . .

Not too many do sadly.

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 13:05:00 UTC | #79447

Plasticman's Avatar Comment 24 by Plasticman

Thanks, Dr. Benway, right on target ;-))

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 13:25:00 UTC | #79455

lpetrich's Avatar Comment 25 by lpetrich

Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers were the ones who had invented science; it took a LONG time to rediscover it, and the rediscoverers were Xians because Xianity was the only religious game in town.

Also, it's strange to see Xian apologists making heroes out of people that they would normally dismiss as hellbound heretics -- a sort of inverse No True Scotsman fallacy.

Like evangelical and fundie Protestants making heroes out of Catholic and mainline-Protestant and Jewish scientists.

Sir Isaac Newton was one of the world's greatest scientists, but he was also a religious nut, someone very interested in the Biblical prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. He also came to deny the Trinity, believing that Jesus Christ was not co-equal to God the Father, but subordinate to him. He also thought that God has to fix the Solar System every now and then to keep it in shape, a "God of the Gaps" argument.

Newton kept his Trinity denial a secret, out of concern that it would severely limit his career chances; that's another reason that so many of the earlier scientists were card-carrying Xians.

Galileo considered himself a good Catholic, but he argued that the Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go; he'd seem dangerously liberal to many conservative and fundie Xians.

In fairness to many early scientists, they might have thought it possible to develop a "science of God", as it were. But such efforts have clearly been unproductive.

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 22:11:00 UTC | #79568

Zakie Chan's Avatar Comment 26 by Zakie Chan

The argument that Christianity is responsible for science, therefore Christianity is good (and true?) is a genetic fallacy.

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 22:21:00 UTC | #79572

methinxaweezil's Avatar Comment 27 by methinxaweezil

Modern religion and science may have evolved from a common ancestor. Shamanism is a fusion of both religion's celebration of mystery and ritual, and the scientific impulse to explain and control the natural world. In this prehistoric form religion and science were one and the same.

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 23:02:00 UTC | #79580

lpetrich's Avatar Comment 28 by lpetrich

And to add to my previous post, Albert Einstein is a bad example for Xian apologists, since he was a Jewish deist/pantheist -- he did not believe in Jesus Christ, and he used "God" in an almost metaphorical sort of sense.

And here's my favorite one-liner rebuttal:

The ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras was a great mathematician who believed in the wickedness of eating beans. Does that mean that to be good at mathematics we must stop eating beans?

Tue, 30 Oct 2007 11:36:00 UTC | #79728

anonquick's Avatar Comment 29 by anonquick

The Gist: Thanks, but we don't it any more.

Acknowledge it - acknowledge that Science owes its origins to Christianity. Then say so what? Religion is man made, science is man-made. Science grew out of (man-made) Christian culture, it doesn't need it any more.

Remember the core tenet: Religion is man-made. My re framing the question in terms of religion is man-made then you can acknowledge that Christianity had a part to play as the best Historians of Science argue, and then say in Hybridized with Greek thinking, AND that during that time NEW social and psychological changes occurred (for example at various times the call for measurement and empiricism).

If you keep the core tenet in mind - religion is man made you can emphasise that WE did, human individuals and human culture did it.

This is the trojan horse. How many times in the debates do people bring up "religion makes people good" or some other objective claim. That's the weakness - claim it. Claim that what every good comes of religion, that good is man-made, and a secular variant can be produced (and often already has).

A nice lateral shift can be made into the increased numbers of atheists in the National Academy of Science etc.

The Gist: Thanks, but we don't it anymore.

Thu, 01 Nov 2007 22:45:00 UTC | #80516

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 30 by Bonzai

Well before the advent of chemical fertilizer tasty veggie used to grow out from piles of shit. So it seems that some people think they may just as well eat shit instead of vegetable.

Thu, 01 Nov 2007 22:51:00 UTC | #80517