Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christianity and the Creation of Science

In our ever-increasingly secularized world today it has seemingly become rather hip to run down or mock people of faith as being unenlightened, backwards, willfully ignorant, or just plain dumb.  Our new modern age culture teaches us that science (and progressive politics) should guide us in our lives.  Anyone that still believes in an omnipotent divine creator is a curiosity at best.  Today they are often looked down upon with sadness and a slow back-and-forth nodding of the head as one might do when a not-particularly-bright child trys to stick a fork into the electrical outlet.  Either that, or with outright sneering and scorn.  Indeed, these foolish Christians that believe in such myths and fabrications of an all-powerful and loving deity must be dragged from their pews and into the new millennium for their own good, whether they want to do so or not.

The truly amusing thing is that irony abounds in the fact that today many atheists and agnostics are championing Science as their god.  Unfortunately for them, Science as we know it today would never have developed without the Catholic Church.  Indeed, it was the Catholic Church that developed the scientific method in the High Middle Ages via the Bishop of Lincoln,  Robert Grosseteste.   It was Bishop Grosseteste that was the very first man credited with formalizing the Scientific Method, under the concept of “composition and resolution” using Christian, Islamic and Aristotelean texts. His ideas were translated into the Scientific Method we know today by Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar who used terms like “observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and independent verification” for the first time.  Indeed, even the Big Bang Theory was formulated by a priest, as was our modern theory of genetics.

This must be very confounding, if not outright vexing, to our atheist friends today.  How can it be that the Catholic Church and Christian Western Civilization developed the Scientific Method and empirical science in general?  How come it was not developed by the Chinese or in India or other advanced cultures of those days?  For that matter, how come ancient Greece or Rome did not formulate the Scientific Method?

The answer will further confound and vex my atheist and agnostic friends, but I would submit that it lies in two simple words: Monotheistic Religion.
 
“WHAT?!”, you say!  “How can that possibly be?” 

Well, quite easily, actually.  History show us that the fragments of intellectualism that remained after the collapse of the Roman Empire were salvaged by Christianity.  Further, that same Christianity provided the philosophy on which the Scientific Method was founded.  Now Christianity has as one of its core tenets of belief that the Universe was created by a magnificent and supremely rational God.  Logic would thus dictate that the Universe He created must therefore also be rational.  This rational Universe that God created abides by very specific laws;  Laws regarding physics, gravity, thermodynamics and entropy and so forth.

At least through the 18th century, discovering the laws of nature and how they worked would be the same as discovering how God ordained that events and the Universe should unfold. Without that guiding philosophy and rationalism, it leaves only a conception of nature and the Universe as a succession of different events that just happen to show patterns and regularities.  To the atheist, it could be said that it is just one damn thing after another, accordingly.  Tom Bethell of The American Spectator and author many books and essays regarding science said it best, “Christianity elevated the faculty of human reason and fostered a spirit of inquiry.  Without it, there would never have been a scientific revolution.”

Atheism not only had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of Science but it could NOT have ever created Science.  To an atheist who thinks that life and the creation of the Universe happened as a matter of random chance coming to fruition over billions of years, this seems to be in direct conflict with an ordered universe.  “That’s just how things are” is hardly the basis for sound scientific thought, let alone the creation of the Scientific Method.

If, however, the very laws of nature and the Universe come from a supreme lawgiver, and we as mankind are made in the image of that lawgiver, then indeed the Universe absolutely explodes with possibility.  Everything is a subject for observation and rational study accordingly.

So the irony is supremely rich: The New-World Atheist claims that Science — created and promoted by religion, and indeed made possible by religion — invalidates the need for religion.  It seems to me that the religion of atheism requires a far greater leap of faith than does the rationality of Christianity accordingly.

13 comments:

John Myste said...

This must be very confounding, if not outright vexing, to our atheist friends today. How can it be that the Catholic Church and Christian Western Civilization developed the Scientific Method and empirical science in general? How come it was not developed by the Chinese or in India or other advanced cultures of those days?

I guess you are not familiar with Buddhism and Hinduism (q.v). That would not have solved the problem.

Since almost everyone was religious, it only makes sense that someone who was religious would have invented most methods of reasoning, including the scientific method. This fact does nothing to validate religion or to invalidate atheism. In fact, since the scientific method took off, religion has lost ground. That does do something to invalidate religion.

For that matter, how come ancient Greece or Rome did not formulate the Scientific Method?

Perhaps you have not heard of Zeus and Jupiter?

The answer will further confound and vex my atheist and agnostic friends, but I would submit that it lies in two simple words: Monotheistic Religion.

Oh, ancient Egypt, yes. Maybe that explains it.

To an atheist who thinks that life and the creation of the Universe happened as a matter of random chance coming to fruition over billions of years, this seems to be in direct conflict with an ordered universe.

What about the atheist or other thinker who claims it would be arrogance to say we know the origins of the universe without the data needed to know it? This is a great many, myself included.

If, however, the very laws of nature and the Universe come from a supreme lawgiver, and we as mankind are made in the image of that lawgiver, then indeed the Universe absolutely explodes with possibility.

Don’t you mean in the image of Those Law Givers? Does not the Bible say that the Gods said: “Let us make man in Our image?”

It seems to me that the religion of atheism requires a far greater leap of faith than does the rationality of Christianity accordingly.

Most atheists do not claim “there is no God.” They claim “it is irrational to believe that your mythological God exists or that any omnipotent being, omniscient being, all-purple being, exists.” That does not require any faith at all. If you provide me with a logical alternative, I will embrace it.

FandB said...

John Myste – I am a little surprised by the blatant inaccuracy of some of your comments here.

First, atheists do in fact claim that there is no God or gods. It is one of their basic “beliefs” or tenets. It is not just the lack of belief in the existence of God, but the belief in the lack of existence of God (or of gods if you prefer).

Second, you seem to be attempting to discount or discredit the Monotheistic nature of Christianity or other Judeo-Christian Bible based religions. In addition to a multitude of references to one God, there is one instance in Genesis where God refers to himself in the plural. The passage in question does not say that “the Gods” said “Let us make man…” but rather it says “…God said: “Let us make man in our image…”” Most theologians attribute this language structure to be similar to the “royal plural.” Others believe it was a reference to the Holy Trinity. The former is generally the most widely accepted. In no case, however, does the grammatical construct imply the existence of multiple Gods. I believe you know this and are just being disingenuous.

I may be misreading your comment about Egypt, but the ancient Egyptians were far from monotheistic. I am not familiar with any religion, other than the religions that believe in the God of Abraham (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, Islam), that is monotheistic.

Regarding your comment that a decline in religion corresponds to an increase in the scientific method, just remember, correlation does not imply causality. Both effects may be related to the same cause, but not to each other.

Belief in God does not preclude belief in science, or vice versa. In fact, many of the greatest scientific minds throughout history until now held very strong beliefs in an omnipotent God, an all-knowing Creator. One does not contradict the other.

FandB said...

John Myste – I am a little surprised by the blatant inaccuracy of some of your comments here.

First, atheists do in fact claim that there is no God or gods. It is one of their basic “beliefs” or tenets. It is not just the lack of belief in the existence of God, but the belief in the lack of existence of God (or of gods if you prefer).

Second, you seem to be attempting to discount or discredit the Monotheistic nature of Christianity or other Judeo-Christian Bible based religions. In addition to a multitude of references to one God, there is one instance in Genesis where God refers to Himself in the plural. The passage in question does not say that “the Gods” said “Let us make man…” but rather it says “…God said: “Let us make man in our image…”” Most theologians attribute this language structure to be similar to the “royal plural.” Others believe it was a reference to the Holy Trinity. The former is generally the most widely accepted. In no case, however, does the grammatical construct imply the existence of multiple Gods. I believe you know this and are just being disingenuous.

I may be misreading your comment about Egypt, but the ancient Egyptians were far from monotheistic. I am not familiar with any religion, other than the religions that believe in the God of Abraham (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, Islam), that is monotheistic.

Regarding your comment that a decline in religion corresponds to an increase in the scientific method, just remember, correlation does not imply causality. Both effects may be related to the same cause, but not to each other.

Belief in God does not preclude belief in science, or vice versa. In fact, many of the greatest scientific minds throughout history until now held very strong beliefs in an omnipotent God, an all-knowing Creator. One does not contradict the other.

John Myste said...

First, atheists do in fact claim that there is no God or gods. It is one of their basic “beliefs” or tenets. It is not just the lack of belief in the existence of God, but the belief in the lack of existence of God (or of gods if you prefer).

You know not whereof you speak, sir. I was “one of them.” I know how they think, the arguments they make and what they believe, and what arguments they consider straw men against their philosophy. I know that some atheists reject all divinity as false. Rejecting all divinity does not therefore define atheism. If you think I am mistaken, draw a Venn Diagram to represent it, and it will be graphically clear.

Second, you seem to be attempting to discount or discredit the Monotheistic nature of Christianity or other Judeo-Christian Bible based religions.

I only discredit the origins of the western belief in monotheism. The author(s) of Genesis were not monotheistic, but that does nothing to discredit the current Judeo-Christian views on monotheism. Christianity discredits the philosophy of Christian monotheism with its post hoc Doctrine of the Trinity. However, I do concede that sometime between the time Genesis was written and now, Judaism became monotheistic. I can clearly identify four Christian Gods, the same four Gods that existed in other Pagan religions. Christianity is not monotheistic.

[CONTINUED ...]

John Myste said...

FandB (Conclusion...)


In addition to a multitude of references to one God, there is one instance in Genesis where God refers to Himself in the plural. The passage in question does not say that “the Gods” said “Let us make man…” but rather it says “…God said: “Let us make man in our image…””

Correction: your English translation says “God said.” In the Hebrew Bible, in the language in which it was written, and the language I paraphrased, it says “Elohim [Gods] said, Let us make man in our image.”

Elohim is a plural word, and is the word for God used in Genesis. At the time Genesis was written and God was designed, the author(s) lived in a polytheistic society.

That fact notwithstanding, it was an old jab intended to connect with T. Paine only, and I apologize if your faith was caught in the crossfire.

Most theologians attribute this language structure to be similar to the “royal plural.”

The Majestic Plural has two connotations:

1. The British concept of royalty. It is when Royalty speaks for the group. The Brits did not exist when Genesis was written.


2. The same concept as the “editorial we,” meaning one acting as a spokesman for the group.

Both of these concepts (and perhaps others like them if you know of them) are called “nosisms.” It is the use of a plural pronoun that is considered acceptable for a spokesperson of a group. If God’s Authors used nosisms, as you suggest, then He existed aside other Gods, by definition. A nosisms in a context a single entity makes no logical sense.

Don’t panic. Of course God did not use nosisms, so your argument does nothing to offer evidence that the authors of Genesis were polytheistic.

Others believe it was a reference to the Holy Trinity.

Firstly, the concept of the Holy Trinity had not been adopted by Christianity yet, at the time Genesis was written. Secondly, I cannot accept an argument that suggests the conscious decision to introduce polytheistic principles into Christianity proves that Christianity is monotheistic. The proposition is self-defeating.

In no case, however, does the grammatical construct imply the existence of multiple Gods. I believe you know this and are just being disingenuous.

I do not know this. The word used (Elohim) is a plural word, which by definition implies plurality.

By the way “IM,” pronounced as a long E, followed by an M.

I may be misreading your comment about Egypt, but the ancient Egyptians were far from monotheistic. I am not familiar with any religion, other than the religions that believe in the God of Abraham (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, Islam), that is monotheistic.

Like Judaism, the Egyptian religions started out as polytheistic. Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) transformed Egypt and promoted the Aten (forming the branch of religion: Atenism), whereby he was the only Egyptian God. This was the world’s first known monotheistic religion.

Belief in God does not preclude belief in science, or vice versa. In fact, many of the greatest scientific minds throughout history until now held very strong beliefs in an omnipotent God, an all-knowing Creator. One does not contradict the other.

I absolutely agree with this. Further, even a belief in creation by evolution does not preclude a belief in the Christian God. You can be scientific minded and also fully embrace Christianity. I do not belief you can be scientific minded and fully embrace a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible, though, but that is a topic for another day.

[THE END]

John Myste said...

FandB,

My apologies. I did not finish one of the sentences:


By the way “IM,” pronounced as a long E, followed by an M, is how you make a Hebrew word plural. For example, a yod is a hand, but Yodaim are hands.

A boy is a yeled, but yeledim are boys (or children).

tsipor is a bird, tsiporim are birds.

FandB said...

Regarding atheism; I understand your point but it does not counter mine. I also have known a good number of atheists, having been brought up through several of our liberal institutions of higher learning. Atheists believe there is no God. If they did believe there is a God, they would not be atheists. I am not saying this defines atheists or atheism, but it is one of the core beliefs. Beyond this, I think it becomes a game of semantics.

I would be interested in which four gods you identify as Christian gods and also as pagan gods.

As for the Holy Trinity, this is one of the “mysteries of faith.” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God. This does not contradict the fact that Christianity is monotheistic. I understand that this concept is difficult, if not impossible to comprehend. That is one of the problems with secular humanism and atheism – people are so egotistical that they cannot believe that there is anything beyond their comprehension. It is impossible to fully understand the Trinity because it is impossible for humans to fully understand God.

This leads to the next point… The “majestic plural” was widely used in kingdoms of the middle east and Europe long before there were British royals. I’ll have to get into this more later.

It is nice to see we agree that Science and Christianity are not mutually exclusive. I’m not sure how literal you would mean by “literal interpretation.” Even the Catholic Church does not propose a fully “literal” interpretation of The Bible.

John Myste said...

Atheists believe there is no God. If they did believe there is a God, they would not be atheists.

Atheists believe that there is no supernatural Supreme Being. I am not aware of any who ascribe other beliefs to the theory of atheism. Most atheists consider other theories attributed to atheism as straw man arguments. I do agree that ours is largely a semantic logomachy, so I will not go any further.

I would be interested in which four gods you identify as Christian gods and also as pagan gods.

I am loathe to turn the discussion to this, which would force me to re-research things, but there is 1. God, 2. God’s Son, 3. The other God(s), the mysterious side kick in the raincoat (see ancient Babylon for example) and 4. The Bad God.

As for the Holy Trinity, this is one of the “mysteries of faith.” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God.

That is a man-made contradiction.

This does not contradict the fact that Christianity is monotheistic. I understand that this concept is difficult, if not impossible to comprehend.

It is difficult to comprehend as non contradictory because it is contradictory.

That is one of the problems with secular humanism and atheism – people are so egotistical that they cannot believe that there is anything beyond their comprehension.

Not true: they believe that lots of things, divinity included, is beyond their comprehension. They simply try not to provide answers in the absence of data. That is what secularism is all about. It is the theists who insist they have answers absent data. They refuse to say “I don’t know,” and they ask me, “then how do you say we got here, if God did not create us?” I don’t have to say how we got here if Santa Clause or God or an earthworm did not create us. I have no problem admitting that I don’t know.

The “majestic plural” was widely used in kingdoms of the middle east and Europe long before there were British royals. I’ll have to get into this more later.

I will grant you that this is possible. I will also point out again, that a nosisms, such as the royal we or the editorial we, makes no sense outside the context of a spokesperson selected for a group. Additionally, there is other evidence I did not share, that Genesis was written by polytheists. It speaks of various gods ruling the day, others the night, for example.

The argument that the authors of genesis were using the Royal We, something that is not done in Hebrew, is very weak and reaching. A secularist trying to answer the contradiction (as an apologist for Christian monotheism) would simply admit that he doesn’t know, but notice how the theist must contrive an answer in absence of corroborating data to support a rational theory?


It is nice to see we agree that Science and Christianity are not mutually exclusive. I’m not sure how literal you would mean by “literal interpretation.” Even the Catholic Church does not propose a fully “literal” interpretation of The Bible.

Agreed. The Catholic Church is more rational about the Bible than are many other Christian denominations.

Dave Dubya said...

While a mild case of persecution complex could be surmised here, I'll remind you most Americans believe in God. Fewer believe in religion, and for good cause. It creates an "us and them" mentality that runs long and deep.

You'd be surprised at the kind and loving faithful folks who belong to no church, mosque or temple. If God knows our thoughts, which building we pray in should not matter,

It often holds that a particular religion declares itself as the one true religion and all others, including atheists, are wrong. (Some faiths are more inclusive than others and don't see all others as Hell bound.)

Our new modern age culture teaches us that science (and progressive politics) should guide us in our lives.

I missed that class.

Now that sounds as absurd as me saying our culture teaches that Jerry Falwell, Rush Limbaugh, FOX(R) and corporatist politics and the will of the economic elites should guide us in our lives; and science, education, and teachers are to be demonized and ignored.

Hey, that IS what our so-called “conservative” culture says, come to think of it...Hmm. What is “conserved” by this culture? It seems to be the status quo of our government of, by, and for the rich.

And all this was going on while I was busy thinking for myself concluding love, compassion, learning, experience and wisdom should guide our lives. Following the words and example of Jesus would not be counter to these. However, from what I’ve seen of the TV versions of “conservative” religion and politics, they fail in almost all of these.

Supernatural entities, apart from the Trinity, abound in Christian religion. Angels, demons, the Devil, and even little ol’ us if we are to be immortal. Incidentally, what do suppose Jesus meant by “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer? If we are to be immortal are we not supernatural like God our Father too?

Not that I have a problem with all that, unless I’m condemned to an eternity with Rush Limbaugh, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Pat Robertson. That would be Hell, for I could never see them apologize, let alone repent. Perhaps they should find a lesson in Obama’s mythical “Apology Tour”.

But I digress.

I have one more little question. What you do differently if say, God the Creator said, “Sorry, I cannot promise you immortality. I want to see how you behave as if there were no everlasting reward or punishment.”?

Would you have the good character I’ve seen in many atheists who do in fact try to be the best person they can be? How about some credit for them?

You were once an atheist, right?

T. Paine said...

Dubya: …I'll remind you most Americans believe in God. Fewer believe in religion, and for good cause. It creates an "us and them" mentality that runs long and deep. You'd be surprised at the kind and loving faithful folks who belong to no church, mosque or temple. If God knows our thoughts, which building we pray in should not matter,

Paine: It does not surprise me that there are tens of millions of faithful loving folks that don’t go to any church, mosque, or temple. I meet such people every day. I even have the priviledge and honor of talking with and sometimes instructing those that are interested in inquiring about the Catholic faith. I understand your comment about God knowing us so it doesn’t matter which building we go to in order to pray. While there is indeed some truth to that, it is the Catholic belief that to come together as a community at Mass to partake in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is to indeed be in communion with God and to receive His grace accordingly. In other words, to me and untold millions of faithful Catholics, it does matter if we don’t go to church. Further, God may know our thoughts, but without guidance, how are we to grow and learn more about Him and His thoughts? Next, I would argue that a true Christian would not create an “us and them” mentality, but rather live his life to uplift everyone by the life he lives. Indeed, St. Francis of Assisi is credited with having said, “Preach the gospel always; and when necessary, use words.”

That doesn’t mean that a Baptist, Hindu, Bhuddist, or atheist are not also children of God and thus deserve our respect and to be treated with dignity too. Indeed, we can often learn from such good people. I certainly don’t think anyone that is not Catholic is automatically bound for hell. I do not think everyone that professes to be Catholic is bound for heaven. The Catholic faith does not teach this either.


Paine: Our new modern age culture teaches us that science (and progressive politics) should guide us in our lives.

Dubya: I missed that class.

Paine: No, you didn’t, my friend. It wasn’t a formal class. It is taught in many of our schools however, as well as in the news, and even entertainment media.

Dubya: Now that sounds as absurd as me saying our culture teaches that Jerry Falwell, Rush Limbaugh, FOX(R) and corporatist politics and the will of the economic elites should guide us in our lives; and science, education, and teachers are to be demonized and ignored. Hey, that IS what our so-called “conservative” culture says, come to think of it...Hmm. What is “conserved” by this culture? It seems to be the status quo of our government of, by, and for the rich.

Paine: See! I knew you had taken that class after all! Thanks for proving my point, Dave!

T. Paine said...

Dubya: Incidentally, what do suppose Jesus meant by “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer? If we are to be immortal are we not supernatural like God our Father too?

Paine: I am not sure what your point is here, Dave. Our souls are indeed immortal, so I believe. Our bodies are not. I don’t think that makes us supernatural. Indeed, God made us in His image to be a part of nature.


Dubya: I have one more little question. What you do differently if say, God the Creator said, “Sorry, I cannot promise you immortality. I want to see how you behave as if there were no everlasting reward or punishment.”?

Paine: We are promised mortality in the guise of our souls. Whether one’s soul spends the rest of eternity in the presence of God in heaven or cut off from him in damnation is up to the individual, so I believe. That said, I will play along with your hypothetical question. I would indeed hope that I would have the good character to continue to treat others as I wish to be treated, and to help my fellow man when I am able. It isn’t so much just about punishment or reward in the afterlife to me. I have lived both ways over the time of my life thus far, and I find life to be far better and full of more love and hope when that is what I give to others. It is a sad and lonely existence when one lives only for himself, especially to the detriment of others. You have always struck me as a good guy, even if you are wrong on most things of a political nature. I suspect you live your life similarly to the way I do now too accordingly. Am I right, my friend?

Dave Dubya said...

I seem to find my way in the world quite well as a lapsed Catholic, not that I've had no interest in faiths and good works. I've attended several different Christian churches and well as even non-Christian ones during my life. I've found the common threads running through them reassuring, if only to the extent those are recognized by separate faiths. One of my firm beliefs is that God does not belong to one church, one faith, one temple, one nation, or one people.

I have always tried to do what is best for individuals or the public, to endeavor to do what is right and affirm the values of love and compassion are superior to hate and indifference. I try to "hate the sin and love the sinner", which is never easy.

I must say I've felt more hate coming from self-identified Christians than from atheists.

I was never the atheist, nor the devout Catholic, your path has found. I was curious about how your experiences would be in contrast.

Yes, as my politics often are at odds with the politics of the servants of mammon and economic elites, I'm sure you believe they are wrong. ;-)

T. Paine said...

Dave, I don’t worship mammon. I don’t serve economic elites. I simply think that what a man earns by the sweat of his brow through his own work and talents, he should rightfully be allowed to keep those fruits of his labors. Confiscating that money to redistribute to those that are capable but unwilling to work is nothing short of stealing. Those that want government handouts – from the Occupy Wall Street crowd to those that are perpetual welfare recipients (despite being of sound body and mine) are an anathema to Americanism. Taxes are necessary. Excessive taxes to support others that are capable will eventually cause Atlas to shrug. Supporting those that cannot support themselves is the obligation of society. Supporting those that want free healthcare, free college tuition, government subsidized phones, cars, and housing is only serving to create and enshrine a dependent class of people into perpetuity.

Next, it always makes me sad when Christians act hatefully. I agree that is best that we all attempt to hate the sin and love the sinner. That said, I think it is best if we all agree with what Christ and God tells us are sins. Even those are morally relative in today’s society.

Regardless, you strike me as a good guy with a good heart, Dubya. I hope that you and your family have a joyous Christmas, my friend.