by Eric V. Snow
Article Excerpt Published by the Institute for Creation Research
Impact #298 1998
When we think of Christianity's role in the
rise of science, what do we think of? How it hindered it, such as the
conflict between Galileo (1564-1642) and the Inquisition in the
seventeenth century? Or, perhaps, do we think of Thomas Huxley debating
evolution with Bishop Wilberforce in the nineteenth century? What we
need to do now is take a deep breath, and take a step out of today's
overwhelmingly secularized intellectual climate, and consider this:
Modern science arose among avowedly Christian clerics, theologians,
monks, and professors of medieval and renaissance Catholic universities
and monasteries. Normally, the Middle Ages are regarded as having a
worldview very opposed to that of science by atheists and agnostics
similar to the manner Leonard Peikoff, the literary and philosophical
heir of novelist Ayn Rand, expressed himself: "For centuries, nature had
been regarded as a realm of miracles manipulated by a personal deity, a
realm whose significance lay the clues it offered to the purposes of its
author."1 Yet, if science gradually arose during the medieval and
Renaissance periods, but Christianity and science are seen as totally
incompatible, how did this occur? After all, neither Galileo nor
Copernicus (1473-1543), who maintained the sun was at the center of the
solar system, not the earth, were skeptics or unbelievers, unlike such
medieval predecessors as the Islamic poet and astronomer Omar Khayyam
(1048?-1122) or Frederick II (1194-1250), Holy Roman Emperor? The
remarkable truth is that the worldview of Christianity was absolutely
necessary for the rise of modern science, as shown by the Duhem-Jaki and
(only secondarily) Merton theses.
The Duhem-Jaki and Merton theses are quite
different in how they tie Christianity to the birth of science. Pierre
Duhem and Stanley Jaki, respectively past and present professors of
Roman Catholicism, see a direct tie between Christian metaphysics, its
rejections of various classical Greek philosophical conceptions, and the
birth of a self-sustaining science.2 On the other hand, Robert K.
Merton, the sociologist who wrote Science in Seventeenth Century
England,3 ties seventeenth century English Puritanism's ethics to the
rise of English science much the same way the German sociologist Max
Weber tied the rise of capitalism to Calvinism.4 Merton's approach is
quite different from Jaki's and Duhem's, since Merton sees the rise of
English science only as a relatively inadvertent product of Puritanism's
values and beliefs, using an externalist approach that analyzes how
religious beliefs and actions caused by them affect the larger society.
By contrast, Duhem and Jaki take a more internalist approach by looking
at the intellectual roots of science and by seeing theology and science
as closely tied together in the medieval era since the same people often
did both (such as the Frenchman Nicole Oresme).5 Merton only sees
Protestantism as helping science along, and not as creating it, for
Galileo, the discoverer of the inverse squared law of the acceleration
of falling bodies in physics, and his predecessors were Catholics.6
Somewhat curiously, these two theses often seem to pass each other like
two ships in the night without partisans or critics of one mentioning
TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCE DOES NOT EQUAL SCIENCE
We must avoid assuming technological advance
proves a given civilization has science, or modern science, for most
inventions that affected daily life in the pre-modern world economically
were "empirical" discoveries by craftsmen and other pragmatic types, not
true scientists meditating on the laws of nature. While the Greeks,
Chinese, Indians, and Islam all had what can be fairly called "science,"
their science lacked the rigor and vigor that would characterize the
West's science from Galileo onwards, and soon fizzled out on own. In
order to have some idea of what culture's science really qualifies as
science it's best to introduce a definition here to avoid
misunderstandings: The systematized collection of knowledge about nature
through using only reason and sense experience in order to discover the
underlying laws of nature, which explain how nature is organized and
allow future accurate predictions about nature's processes or objects to
be made. For all the world's civilizations, only Greek geometry fully
met this definition, along with mathematics in general, prior to the
time of Galileo, and that is only by excising the "sense experience"
part of this definition.
Just what are the tenets of the Duhem-Jaki
thesis? First, it denies that sociological non-intellectual, externalist
causes are sufficient conditions to create modern science. As Jaki put
This historiography of science has still to face up honestly to the
problem of why three great ancient cultures (China, India, and Egypt)
display independently of one another, a similar pattern vis-a-vis
science. The pattern is the stillbirth of science in each of them in
spite of the availability of talents, social organization, and
peace--the standard explanatory devices furnished by all-knowing
sociologies of science on which that historiography relies ever more
All of these conditions may be necessary to allow a civilization to
develop science, but we have to look to the intellectual climate to
understand why only one particular civilization developed a
self-sustaining, modern science. Peculiarly, this same culture had been
in the immediately preceding centuries intellectually and economically
quite backward compared to the great Eurasian cultures that rivaled it.
Those influenced by Marxism may often be loathe to investigate how the
intellectual climate can independently change on its own, and influence
politics and economics. For we should realize that while the mode of
production (the technology and system of economics utilized by a
society) can and does influence the superstructure of ideology as Marx
maintained, the reverse influence can and does happen also. "Ideas have
consequences" is an assumption that won't be proven here,9 but it is a
perfectly reasonable one when so much religious behavior is not tied to
the economic self-interest of some class in society.
THE PHILOSOPHICAL IDEAS A CULTURE MUST AVOID TO DEVELOP
So now, according to Duhem and Jaki, what
ideas are necessary to have (or, to be more precise generally, not have)
in the intellectual climate of a civilization to keep science
self-sustaining, instead of dying out after a few centuries of progress?
First, a linear, potentially quantifiable conception of time that
clearly distinguishes past, present, and future promotes a scientific
view of nature and its cause-effect relationships is necessary for a
scientific outlook. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, this idea comes
from the act of God in creating the universe from nothing at some
specific point of time in the past, and then time is seen as progressing
through the present on to the future with the second coming and the day
of judgment. The alternative view of time, the concept of the "Great
Year," maintains centuries-long time cycles exist in which the future
repeats the past exactly or almost exactly, making progress of any kind
theoretically impossible. This idea of time breeds a sense of
complacency ("we know it all already") and/or hopelessness, hindering
the development of science in a given culture. Second, if science is to
exist, explanations of natural phenomena must avoid a priori,
pseudo-scientific "explanations" that really do not describe the causes
of events, such as astrology. Third, science is hindered by the
organismic view of nature. This idea conceives all of the universe as
alive, as if it was one huge organism which goes through the above
mentioned cyclical process from birth, to maturity, then death, to be
born again. The tie to pantheism--believing EVERYTHING is God, a
standard Hindu view--is obvious here. This outlook sees what we moderns
consider inanimate (and non-divine) objects, like rocks, the planets,
the stars, the oceans, and other natural objects to have wills of their
own, or intelligences of their own. Fourth, science is hindered if the
reality of the basic orderliness of the universe ("the external real
world") is denied. Humans will not often investigate carefully what is
considered not to really exist, or that which will be changed at whim by
the God(s), or nature herself. Fifth, the heavens (outer space) must not
be considered alive, or divine, if a scientific astronomy is to exist.
Sixth, a balance between reason and faith is necessary, without the
religious people totally rejecting science or natural laws, and without
the philosophers/scientists totally rejecting the claims of religious
truth. Seventh, man needs to be seen as fundamentally different from the
rest of nature, as having a mind that makes him qualitatively different
from the animals, etc., not just quantitatively different. The
foundations for this view are laid in the Judeo-Christian worldview in
Genesis where man and woman were made in God's likeness and image, and
were told they had dominion over the animals (Gen. 1:26-29). So long as
all or most of false ideas in these areas are believed by a great
majority of the intellectuals/"wisemen" of a given culture, a
self-sustaining science will not comes to exist in a given civilization,
especially any true science of bodies moving in the external real world
(i.e., physics, unlike math).
Now, the tie between the acceptance or
rejection of such ideas and the rise of modern science may not be
altogether obvious.10 Hence, a lot of explanation is needed to prove
such connections, and this essay is only scratching the surface. Readers
seeking more evidence should read Jaki's works in particular.11 Also, it
should be noted that some civilizations had all or most of these false
ideas, such as Hindu India, while other(s) had fewer of them (China),
and other(s) still fewer (Islam). Correspondingly, the last progressed
in science further as compared to the other two correspondingly to the
acceptance of such ideas, and the second more than the first. For
instance, the Chinese lacked the delusion the heavens were divine and/or
living.12 Such an idea was found in On the Heavens, a very influential
work by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 b.c.), which
hindered indigenous Islamic science13 permanently, and Christian science
for many centuries before being finally cast off. On the other hand,
Hindu science concerning the material world was crushed by almost all
these faulty intellectual ideas: the external real world and its
orderliness were denied, eternal cycles and the organismic view of
nature were espoused, and the heavens were seen as divine. Islamic
science would have become self-sustaining possibly, if its holy book the
Quran (Koran) had not emphasized God's will and power so much as against
His reason, and if Muslim philosophers and scientists had not become so
mesmerized by Aristotle's physics and philosophy. Let's briefly consider
each of these great civilizations in turn, and see how these faulty
metaphysical concepts held their science back from continual
WHY DIDN'T CHINA DEVELOP SCIENCE BEFORE EUROPE?
When we look at the great civilization of
China, and its marvelous wealth, population, and technological prowess
during the ancient and medieval periods, it is easy to wonder why
science did not occur there first.14 Paper, gunpowder, the compass, and
moveable type were all Chinese inventions. China's sophisticated rice
agriculture, improved by selective plant breeding, was much more
productive than contemporaneous medieval European agriculture.15 Yet,
such technological accomplishments do not prove China had modern
Nevertheless the accompanying assumption of Singer [who influenced
Joseph Needham, the great Sinologist of Chinese science and
technology] and of his era [the early twentieth century] that
engineering innovation has almost always sprung from prior scientific
discovery is not warranted by the facts. This certainly confused
Needham about China's influence upon European science, and I suspect
that it has not clarified his probings of the Chinese
This distinction Abu-Lughod appears to have missed,17 which is why it
was not mere time and chance China declined whilst the West rose, riding
the back of the first modern science.
What were some of the science-hindering
metaphysical concepts found in Chinese philosophy and religion? First of
all, the concept of eternal cycles was most certainly present. One
Buddhist monk attacked the Christian dogma of creation as follows:
Space, worlds, and beings have no beginning nor end if we consider
them not in themselves and individuals but in their totality. They are
eternal from this global point of view. They proliferate without end
and during incalculable cosmic periods progress through successive
stages of formation, stability, degradation and then a return to
Such ideas were no mere individual eccentricity of this monk, but
were part and parcel of Chinese intellectual life, having apparently
been strengthened by the entrance of Buddhism from Hindu India, and were
assimilated into Neo-Confucian thought.19 What are the problems caused
by acceptance of such cycles of thousands of years in which the world
and its civilizations are repeatedly created and destroyed only to be
created again? Such views create a sense of metaphysically-induced
hopelessness and passivity since no matter how hard humans may struggle
to achieve, work, and think, the results of all efforts will be
destroyed.20 Also, a non-linear view of time makes careful, precise
quantification (measurement using numbers) of time irrelevant. It also
makes people tend to confuse the order of cause and effect since the
idea of this-after-that (succession) is weakened. Yet science requires
non-passive investigators of nature, precise quantification of time, and
the correct knowledge of causes, so the above false ideas need to be
firmly rejected for it to exist.
Jaki illustrates the consequences of the
Chinese view of time as lacking of sense of succession, weakening their
view of cause and effect with
the fact that the Chinese saw nothing inordinate in attributing the
political failure of a certain prince to the sacrificing of humans at
his burial. As both political impotence and cruelty evidence the
absence of the same virtue, one could replace the other as explanation
regardless of their sequence.21
Jaki goes on to quote Granet's comment that cause and effect did not
matter to the Chinese, but instead saw the world as consisting of
manifestations whose order did not matter since being "Equally
expressive, they appeared interchangeable."22 With the Chinese having
such a conception of time, a true modern science would never have
spontaneously arise among them--or any other civilization believing in
eternal cycles so firmly, since it undercut the idea of succession in
time which is so necessary to developing an idea of, and applying, the
law of cause and effect.
SOME CHINESE PSEUDO-SCIENTIFIC "EXPLANATIONS" THAT HINDERED
Another metaphysical delusion the Chinese
sadly suffered from (though they were hardly alone) were various a
priori pseudo-scientific "explanations" of natural events. In Chinese
thought the two best examples of this were the two forces of Yin and
Yang on the one hand, and the book of Changes (I Ching) on the other.
Yin (female) and Yang (male) were seen as the two forces pervading all
of nature and its processes. As a result, the Chinese would not hesitate
to assign "the changes of weather to the stillness of Yin."23 Yin and
Yang were used to explain why magnets became attracted to each other,
and describe the movements of the sun, moon, and stars.24 Likewise, the
I Ching was a manual of divination that would line up various sayings
and interpretations of natural events through various symbols such as
lines, trigrams, and hexagrams. Through this book any observation in
nature ("omen") would be given an instant interpretation as to its cause
and significance. (Compare this to the Roman practice of examining
animals' livers to make major decisions of state, etc.) Although
normally very sympathetic to the claims of Chinese culture and science,
Needham still was willing to say: "Yet really they [Han dynasty
scholars] would have been wiser to tie a millstone about the neck of the
I Ching and cast it into the sea."25 The most widespread of
pseudo-scientific delusions was astrology. It plagued Islam, India, even
Christendom to a great degree--and China as well.26 At the Emperor's
court, various "wise men" (astrologers, astronomers, and meteorologists)
would interpret and blame on the emperor various portents and "signs."27
What are the costs of having such a priori "explanations" of natural
events? They dull the human mind through thinking it DOES know why such
events occur, when in fact the laws of nature are still unknown. To
posit such metaphysical entities as Yin and Yang, or the effects of
stars upon people's destinies, and then say they determine natural
processes, creates the delusion of knowledge out of ignorance. Of
course, the Chinese were hardly alone in embracing such
science-hindering deceptions--see Aristotle's On the Heavens, and his
four elements theory, for starters.
THE CHINESE VERSION OF THE ORGANISMIC VIEW OF NATURE
Another metaphysical conception that impeded
Chinese science was an organismic view of nature, which sees all of
nature as being one huge living creature that goes through a repeating
cycle of birth, maturity, and death. Humans are considered to be part of
it and fundamentally being like the animals, not basically different
from them. Correspondingly, Taoism, which was espoused by the sixth
century b.c. Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, conceived of nature as "an
all-encompassing living entity animated by impersonal volitions," was a
source of trouble for Chinese science.28 True, Needham, sympathetic as
always, strongly emphasizes how Taoists would contemplate nature and
believe it had an underlying order. (Needham believed "Tao" could be
best translated "order of nature").29 However, the Taoists would not
actively investigate nature as opposed to a mystically-inclined
contemplation and inactivity concerning it: "He who practices the Tao,
daily diminishes his doing. He diminishes it and again diminishes it,
till he arrives at doing nothing. Having arrived at this non-inaction,
there is nothing that he does not do."30 This attitude of non-activity
(not intended to be taken literally, as even Jaki commented),31 is at
least partly due to how Taoism would see man as totally weak and
impotent compared to the majesty of nature, with which he should see an
intimate organic unity.32 By seeing nature as a vast, single
spontaneously acting organism (albeit as mystically inspiring as that
may be for many in the New Age/environmentalist crowd), it kept them
from developing the idea of natural law in the modern sense. Needham
himself, although noting the tie in Chinese thought between the cyclical
time and organismic concepts, failed to realize the negative
consequences of such concepts by trying to put them in the most positive
light.33 However, such ideas have negative effects on developing an
active mindset towards nature, which was necessary to develop modern
science, as Jaki describes:
The organismic concept of the world (not in the Whiteheadian sense)
invariably fosters a state of mind dominated by a nostalgic longing
for the primitive golden age, with its idyllic settings in which
everything takes place in an effortless way. In that dreamlike
condition of spontaneousness men live off nature without disturbing it
[compare this thought with what some environmentalists believe
today!], and carry out their social propensities without the sense of
constraint due to authorities and laws.34
In short, both belief in eternal time cycles and in nature as one
huge organism encourage the passivity that opposes the mentally active,
investigating spirit of science, such as shown by Aristotle and Leonardo
da Vinci (1452-1519) dissecting carcasses, instead of just meditating
and contemplating passively deep within a forest about Nature.
CHINESE CONCEPTIONS OF THE LAWS OF NATURE
The Chinese believed nature both was orderly
and had an actual existence (when not influenced by the rather
pervasive, Hindu-derived Buddhist ideas of maya, the belief all is
illusion). However, they lacked the concept of natural law, as ordained
by a personal God, which assured nature was rationally understandable to
It was not that there was no order in Nature for the Chinese, but
rather that it was not an order ordained by a rational personal being,
and hence there was no conviction that rational personal beings would
be able to spell out in their lesser earthly languages the divine code
of laws which he had decreed aforetime.35
For a man who was a Marxist (and, admittedly, simultaneously, a very
liberal Protestant),36 this must have been a very hard concession to
make, as Jaki observed,37 for it points to an ideological cause for why
modern science did not appear in China, not an economic or political
cause. In contrast, the view of how Christianity's concept of the
rationality of God was tied to the rise of science in the West is best
stated by the English philosopher Alfred North Whitehead
I do not think, however, that I have even yet brought out the
greatest contribution of medievalism to the formation of the
scientific movement. I mean the inexpungable belief that every
detailed occurrence can be correlated with its antecedents in a
perfectly definite manner, exemplifying general principles. . . . When
we compare this tone of thought in Europe with the attitude of other
civilisations when left to themselves, there seems but one source for
its origin. It must come from the medieval insistence on the
rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah
and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher. Every detail was
supervised and ordered: the search could only result in the
vindication of the faith in rationality.38
The rationality of God is implied through certain texts, although
written specifically concerning church services, a broader application
of these texts is still appropriate: "God is not a God of confusion but
of peace," who wants activities to be "done properly and in an orderly
manner" (I Cor. 14:33, 40). Since Whitehead was a pantheist, he would
not be especially likely to concede too much to medieval Christianity
about its sense of nature being rationally knowable and its role in
causing modern science to exist.
WHY DIDN'T INDIA DEVELOP SCIENCE BEFORE EUROPE?
Moving westwards to the land of India, an
equally perplexing problem with the lack of modern science seems to
present itself. Hindu civilization on the subcontinent was ancient,
well-settled, and extremely rich materially by the standards of the
time. India routinely ran surplus balances of trade with the West, as
China did. As late as 1770, after the industrial revolution had begun by
some dating schemes in England, the British wool industry tried to
prohibit the import of Bengali calicoes into the United Kingdom.39 And
enormous credit should be given to the Indian mind for the momentous
invention of the Hindu-Arabic numerals, with their place notation and
the concept of zero. For without this system of enumeration, the (easy)
quantification of natural events and substances, so necessary to the
development of modern science, would never have occurred.40 (If you
doubt this, try multiplying using Roman numerals alone, without any
mental use of the Hindu-Arabic numerals, MDCCCLXVIII by CCLIX!)
Unfortunately, Hindu civilization as a whole
was weighted down with almost the most anti-scientific metaphysics
imaginable. The Hindu concept of maya, the view that sense data tell
only of illusion, not a real external world, was anti-scientific in the
extreme.41 Generally, you do not systematically investigate that which
you think is a mirage. Hence--the Hindu mind turned inwards, and
progressed in math by leaps and bounds, but failed utterly to come up
with a science of the external real world, such as physics. The concept
of eternal cycles, with its view of universal destruction and
recreation, saturated Indian culture as well. The sense of hopelessness
and passivity caused by this latter concept is aptly illustrated by the
comment of king Brithadratha in the Maitri Upanishad as he contemplates
an endless series of the transmigrations of the soul: "In the cycle of
existence I am like a frog in a waterless well."42 Or, consider what the
god Vishnu told the god Indra in the Brhamavaivarta Purana: "I have
known the dreadful dissolution of the universe. I have seen all perish,
again and again, at the end of every cycle. At that terrible time, every
single atom dissolves into the primal, pure water of eternity whence
originally all arose."43 Our modern minds, which presumably
automatically reject such concepts, unless influenced by New Age mush,
etc., may see their deadening effects on constructive activity by how
some today react to the fear of nuclear war: "let us eat, and rink for
tomorrow we die" (I Cor. 15:32). Worse yet, death is no escape, for that
will bring only another rather meaningless life by a rebirth, unless you
have reached the final necessary stage of perfection before being
absorbed into Brahma and the end of your individual existence.
THE HIGH COST OF PANTHEISM AND THE ORGANISMIC VIEW OF THE UNIVERSE
Hindu pantheism caused problems in
developing a scientific astronomy, for the heavens were seen as divine
and animate. Here the organismic view of the cosmos levies a terrible
tax, for then the heavens are seen as alive with a will of their own,
instead of being merely inanimate, inorganic matter. In contrast,
eventually, in the West, Aristotle's view of the heavens being divine
and/or intelligent was extinguished, but only after many centuries of
the Christian era:
. . . [D]uring the twelfth century in Latin Europe, those aspects
of Judeo-Christian thought which emphasized the idea of creation out
of nothing and the distance between God and the world, in certain
contexts and with certain men, had the effect of eliminating all
semi-divine entities from the realm of nature. Thus nature tended to
become a mechanistic entity, running according to the characteristics
with which it had been endowed and powered by the forces it had been
given in the beginning.44
Left to itself, Hindu pantheism never would have eliminated the
divine, organismic view of nature since it saw no ultimate difference
between God and the universe.
The most widespread pseudo-science in
Eurasia was (and is) astrology, and to this day it plagues India with
its influence. Tying a person's destiny to an arbitrary interpretation
of a given position of the stars and planets on some given day is a
denial of the scientific outlook. It encourage a passive, fatalistic
attitude in individuals through its complete denial of free will. Why
bother to know or try to change the world, when your destiny has been
decreed by the heavens? Even today, India is saturated by this nonsense,
and far more people take the predictions made far more seriously than in
the West. As Jaki observed: "Call for such conversion [that is, an
acceptance of science and modern technology by a changed mindset] will
hardly be heeded as long as the voice of astrologers is not on the wane
but on the rise (in spite of science and education) and carefully
listened to by higher government [Indian] officials."45 True, astrology
attained a grip upon much of the Islamic and Christian worlds in the
medieval past, and even devotees in modern, twentieth century America
such as Nancy Reagan. Nevertheless, the culture of Christendom had
built-in limits to its broad cultural acceptance since it is seen as an
idolatrous system that also denies moral responsibility. Hence even as
astrology grew in the West with the recovery of the Greek classics and
the growth of interest in science,46 the Church continued to condemn
it.47 Unfortunately, India had nothing intrinsic to its culture that
frontally assaulted astrology--hence, the former remains deeply in the
latter's thrall to this very day.
WHY DIDN'T THE ISLAMIC/ARAB WORLD DEVELOP SCIENCE BEFORE
Now the failure of the Islamic world to
produce modern science is much more curious than India's or even
China's. The flourishing of Islamic science and scholarship under the
Umayyads and early Abbasids, using the ancient Greek classics, was
simply remarkable. The medical works of al-Razi and Avicenna (980-1037)
were used by Christendom deep into the sixteenth century, more than 500
years after their deaths. The fact such English words as astrolabe,
chemistry, alcohol, algebra, algorithm, and azimuth are derived from
Arabic shows the influence Islamic science had on the West. Islamic
mathematicians made immense contributions such as al-Khwarizimi (the
algorithm and algebra), Thabit ibin Quarra (studied irrational numbers),
Albategnius and Abu al-Wafa (trigonometry), Umar Khayyam (works on
analytical geometry), and Nasir al-Din al Tusi (trigonometry).48
Furthermore, believing in a single God who created the universe at a
definite point in time, with time linearly proceeding to judgment day,
Muslims were not obvious, easy prey for eternal cycles, the organismic
view of the universe, or astrology. Orthodox Islam did not deny the
reality of the external world, nor was it apt to think the heavens were
divine/alive since they emphasized the monotheistic nature (oneness) of
God so strongly. So why did Islamic science mostly fizzle out after
Unfortunately, for the Islamic world, its
leading philosophical, theological, and scientific figures made some
very serious wrong turns. The key problem was a lack of balance between
faith and reason, which ultimately extended from the Quran's emphasis on
the absolute (and arbitrary) will of God. No Islamic equivalent of St.
Thomas Aquinas appeared on the scene to systematically reconcile and
integrate the theology of Islam with the rationalism of the Greek
classics, without unduly bending one to fit with the other. Hence, the
two most important Islamic theologians, al-Ashari (873-935) and
al-Ghazzali (1058-1111) were very mystically inclined, and both stressed
God's will as opposed to His reason. Al-Ghazzali's work, Incoherence of
the Philosophers, sharply assaulted the Aristotelian philosophers called
the mutazilites. It asserted the doctrine of occasionalism, which sees
the law of cause and effect as only occurring due to God's continual,
direct intervention in the universe. Hence, to al-Ghazzali, if a rock
lands on my big toe after I release it, the resulting pain is only due
to God putting it there in me, not due to the properties of the rock and
toe themselves. The direct consequences of such a concept against the
idea of a scientific law of nature can easily be imagined.49
THE COST OF LACKING BALANCE CONCERNING THE IDEAS OF THE GREEK
On the other hand, the Islamic philosophers
Avicenna and Averroes (1126-1198) clearly subordinated their Islamic
faith to Aristotle's metaphysics. Indeed, Averroes' concept of double
truth--of saying what was true for religion was not necessarily true for
philosophy--denies the metaphysical unity of the intellectual and
sensible world. This view allows him to avoid having to deny Aristotle's
On the Heavens when it conflicts with the Islamic faith.50 These two
philosophers, much like the mutazilites, fell nearly completely under
the spell of the ancient Greek classics, and could not conceive how
these classics could be wrong. They did not try to reconcile the
conflict between Islam and the Greek classics, but basically ignored or
denied it. Yet, as we will see, such a conflict between the teachings of
Christianity and various pagan Greek ideas, combined with the clear
rejection of some of the latter, was necessary in order to strip the
latter of metaphysical falsehoods that would have prevented the rise of
a self-sustaining science. Here, these Islamic philosophers fell into
the trap of accepting easily gained a priori concepts about the physical
world. It's much easier to read and accept what someone says rather than
to do experiments or think carefully in original ways. A true science of
physics could not develop until Aristotle's On the Heavens and Physics
were junked. That only occurred in the West due to the tenets of
Christian theology conflicting with these two works, and individual
philosophers and theologians pointing out such conflicts without
ignoring or denying them. The rejection of such errors in the Greek
classics in the culture around him made it much more possible for
someone like Galileo to boldly say "Aristotle was wrong!" concerning
some point of his physics which didn't conflict with Christian theology.
Unfortunately, this process of partial rejection and partial acceptance
in an overall synthesis like that of Summa Theologica, the master work
of probably the single greatest Catholic theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas
(c. 1224-1274), did not occur in the Islamic world. Putting it in crude,
exaggerated terms, Avicenna and Averroes seemed to think Aristotle could
think no wrong, and al-Ghazzali and al-Ashari seemed to think Aristotle
could think nothing right. A balance was necessary here, within the
culture and individual intellectuals as a whole to have a
self-sustaining science occur, using the insights of the ancient
classics yet being willing to point out their errors, theological and
scientific, something which occurred in Christendom but not the Islamic
world, which is why modern science arose in the former and not the
In addition, and rather strangely
considering the tenets of orthodox Islam definitely conflict with such
concepts, the Muslim world had a wide acceptance of eternal cycles,
astrology,51 and the organismic view of nature as reflected in the
belief that the heavens were alive, or even divine. For instance,
al-Kindi vehemently attacked alchemy, the crude, "magical" forerunner of
chemistry, but promoted the ideas of eternal cycles along with
ibn-Khaldun (1332-1406), the famous north African Islamic historian.
Both tried to fit historical events into 20 and 240 year time cycles.
Abu-Mashar, in his Book of the Revolution of Birth Years, said the
Deluge would recur every 180,000 years.52 The Brethren of Purity's
encyclopedia that summarized knowledge (Rasa'il) was saturated with
astrology, the occult, and contained even the view that 3000 year time
cycles corresponded with the rise and fall of civilizations as
determined by the Zodiac. Avicenna did not see God as directly creating
mankind (versus Gen. 2:7), but the latter was the emanation of a series
of higher intelligences, each of which grew weaker, until the final,
weakest one made humanity. Astrology ran surprisingly rampant, due to
the influence of the Persians and Hindus the Muslims had conquered, as
well as the Greek classics themselves. Even such a critic of eternal
cycles as al-Birundi still wrote a book espousing astrology.53 The end
result of these concepts running amuck, despite they plainly conflicted
with Islamic theology, helped to strangle science in the Muslim world.
No equivalent of the 1277 condemnation by Bishop of Paris Tempier
against pagan Greek concepts (or other such condemnations or cultural
acts of resistance) occurred in the Arab or Islamic world.
HOW MUHAMMAD'S VIEW OF GOD'S WILL UNDERMINED ISLAMIC
However, the Muslim failure in creating a
self-sustaining science has a deeper root: Muhammad (c. 570-632), the
founder and prophet of Islam, in the Quran emphasized God's will and
power at the expense of His rationality. It is common for people to
think of the God of the Bible as being just like the God of the Quran,
especially the non-religious who think, "All religions are the same."
However, this assumption can be seriously questioned once the texts and
accompanying history of the Bible and Quran are compared. Drawing upon a
list of comparisons made by Morey, some evident differences arise. The
God of the Quran is not active directly in history in the same manner as
Jehovah, since He did not enter history personally as Jesus via the
Incarnation did, but used angels and prophets as messengers. He is
totally unlimited in his possible choices, but the Christian God is
limited by His essence, as illustrated by Titus 1:2, which says He
cannot lie. He is less knowable. Islam's condemned applying positive
predications to God; humanity's knowledge of God consists really only of
negative stated attributes such as, "He is not limited," or "God is not
mortal." He is less personal. Allah is seen as so transcendent men
cannot know Him personally or as personally.54 Consider the following
sobering comment by Morey, when investigating the impact of the Quran's
theology on science:
6. Because the God of the Bible is limited by his own righteous
nature and there are certain things He cannot do, he is completely
consistent and trustworthy. But when we turn to study the actions of
Allah in the Quran, we discover that he is totally capricious and
untrustworthy. He is not bound by his nature or his
Hence, when al-Ghazzali condemns the concept of the laws of nature as
restricting God's freedom to act, he is perfectly in line with the
Quran: It is not just his personal idiosyncratic interpretation of
Islam's chief holy book. The consequences of such a view were well
described by the great Jewish scholar, Maimonides (1135-1204). He saw
the Mutakallium (orthodox Islamic theologians) as only willing at most
to concede the laws of nature were like the customary riding habits of
the caliph going through a city: subject to change at whim if desired.
Maimonides put it thus: "[T]he thing which exists with certain constant
and permanent forms, dimensions, and properties (in nature) only follows
the direction of habit . . . on this foundation their whole fabric is
constructed."56 Hence, the metaphysics of the Quran, by emphasizing
God's arbitrary and changeable WILL, as opposed to His reason, helped to
sink Islamic science through creating a weak view of the laws of nature
and an orderly universe.
THE CONFLICT BETWEEN CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY AND ANTI-SCIENTIFIC PAGAN
In the West, pagan beliefs in eternal
cycles, the organismic view of nature, astrological speculation, the
divinity/aliveness of the heavens and the illusionary nature of the
external world ran into the hard rock of Christian theology. Hence,
although the classical corpus (as elucidated by Muslims like Avicenna
and Averroes who were not truly orthodox) strongly encouraged belief in
such anti-scientific concepts in the West, there was always enough
intrinsic cultural resistance in the Christian intellectual community as
a whole to keep such pagan concepts from totally mesmerizing
Christendom. Most likely, Christianity by itself, without the Greek
classics (or Hindu-Arabic numerals) would not have created modern
science. However, the dogmas of Christian theology allowed a certain
intellectual community to strip the classics of antiquity of the
disastrous influence of these anti-scientific concepts due to their
conflict with their religious ideas, allowing a true modern science to
eventually blossom. Of course, if Catholic Christians had not believed
in concepts opposed to these pagan ones due to their theology, such a
conflict would not have occurred and science would not have reached a
modern, self-sustaining form in the West. Duhem, in his Le Systeme Du
Monde, maintained that modern science was made possible by the Bishop of
Paris Tempier's condemnation in 1277 of 219 propositions, which blasted
these anti-scientific concepts of antiquity.57
True, Jaki and Duhem mistakenly
overemphasize the contribution of Christian theology relative to the
ancient Greek contribution to the rise of science. The mindset
exemplified by the Elements of Euclid (living c. 300 b.c.) in using
general propositions in geometry as proofs and building upon them
through demonstrations, and Aristotle's Prior Analytics, which stated
the laws of logic, the idea of the syllogism, and how to analyze an
argument's form for its soundness, was necessary for the rise of
science.58 The Greek mind always had an authentic respect for reason
even in the works of Plato (c. 428-348 b.c.). He was an irrationalist,
but still couched his beliefs in dialogs and arguments that purported to
be a dialectical process of reaching the truth, and not as a mystical
revelation. Nevertheless, an important contribution was made by
Christian theology that is normally TOTALLY overlooked. Imagine--the
dogmas of Catholicism promoted the rise of science! We must not let
Galileo's fate at the hands of the Inquisition blind us to Christian
theology's contribution in sweeping away the rubbish of these pagan
beliefs from science, which kept science from becoming self-sustaining
and modern. These beliefs, if accepted, turn the human mind inward,
causing it to accept too blindly what occurs in the real external world,
making it impossible to develop the most basic science of moving bodies
(physics). However, notice that the Christian contribution is not so
much as creating a broad respect for rationality, or the discovery of
the basic laws of logic used in scientific reasoning (as found in the
Organon, Aristotle's body of logical works). Rather, Christian theology
(by chance conflict, someone could argue) shot down the false,
self-inhibiting ideas of pagan Greek science, absorbed much of its
respect for reason from them, and then allowed science to blossom forth.
However, since the God of the Bible operates in a much more rational
manner than the stories of the pagan gods non-Christian cultures
believed, Christianity helped promote rationality to a degree as well.
(Doubters of this should carefully read Genesis 1-2, and then compare
read the bloody battles among the gods involved in the creation of the
world in the Babylonian myth Enuma elish, which is absurdly asserted to
have influenced Moses/the writer(s) of Genesis). Christian theology
removed the intrinsic stunting inhibitions of Greek science. It did not
create science by itself mostly from scratch. However, neither could
have the philosophy of the Greeks without the theology of
Judeo-Christianity have created modern science by themselves either, for
it took Christianity to remove various science-inhibiting false
metaphysical concepts from the former's philosophy to have modern
CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY'S LINEAR TIME CONCEPT OF TIME VERSUS PAGAN
Because it would involve repeating exactly
or almost exactly the events of the Bible's history, Christians
fundamentally could never accept the idea of eternal cycles. To a
Christian, the thought of his savior God dying horribly on a stake
repeatedly again and again is too horrible to contemplate: ". . .
because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself" (Heb.
7:27). Hence, even when some Christians influenced by pagan thought
accepted by idea of eternal cycles, who include the rather unorthodox
Catholic church father Origen (185?-254? A.D.)59 and even St. Thomas
Aquinas,60 the concept was accepted in a highly mitigated, attenuated
form that greatly lessened its ill effects.61 Origen and St. Thomas both
still believed in an absolute starting point (creation), and ending
point (judgment). They still believed free will existed, which mean the
passivity and sense of hopelessness induced by the treadmill of
meaningless alterations of catastrophes and golden ages in ages past and
to come was largely removed. Some early Christian theologians, such as
Jerome (c. 374-419 A.D., translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible) and
Hippoclytus, condemned eternal cycles totally.62 St. Augustine, the
greatest of the Catholic Church fathers (354-430 A.D.), was more
equivocal, but was willing to forcefully condemn the more literal forms
of eternal cycles, and still believed in creation and judgment. He
denied reincarnation as well. This allowed him to maintain a basically
linear concept of time with the two end points between God beginning
everything and judging everyone.63 Bishop Tempier's condemnations in
1277 helped put a limit on the acceptance of such anti-scientific
doctrines through an attack on eternal cycles in proposition 92, and
against the eternal existence of the universe (a belief necessarily tied
to the former) in propositions 83-91. These condemnations helped keep
many philosophers/theologians in Christendom from totally capitulating
to Aristotelian thought, as had happened with Islamic culture with
Avicenna Averroes, and the mutazilites.64 Oresme (1323?-1382), a direct
forerunner of Galileo in developing physics freed from Aristotelian
conceptions, condemned belief in such cycles.65 Hence, the Christian
belief in creation and judgment kept Christendom off "the treadmill of
the Yugas" (Jaki's phrase), killing a sense of passivity caused by
helpless hopelessness, by promoting a linear conception of time that
made its precise quantification and cause-effect relations to be more
Astrology, that prime example of an
answer-giving a priori pseudo-science, ran into repeated condemnations
by church fathers and theologians in the West. St. Augustine, as noted
above, blasted it in the Confessions. Hippolytus hit it hard in The
Refutations of All Heresies.66 While the early medieval Church fought
astrology very successfully, the increasing interest in science due to
the recovery of the Greek classics, made interest in astrology surge as
well.67 Correspondingly, a condemnation of astrology figured in
proposition 105 of Tempier's list.68 Oresme told the king of France, his
patron, in a booklet to ignore astrology.69 Isadore of Spain in the
early medieval church attacked it also.70 Roger Bacon (c. 1220-1292),
famous for his predictions of future human inventions, agreed with
astrology to some degree, but still rejected its control over
individuals' destinies as opposed to that of nations.71 Astrology did
have some major influence in Christendom, but as even Bacon's case
shows, there were limits to the acceptance of this pseudo-science that
allowed science to eventually develop independently of it.
CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY VERSUS THE DIVINITY OF THE HEAVENS
The divinity of the heavens, normally
closely allied to the organismic view of the natural world, was
gradually eliminated by the medievals.72 The mesmerizing power of
Aristotle (384-322 b.c.), who propounded such views in On the Heavens,
was felt in Europe too, which was why this process took so long. Jerome
denied the heavens were alive, but St. Augustine remained in an
anguished uncertainty.73 St. Thomas entertained the notion, but only to
a limited degree.74 Even Kepler, the discoverer of elliptical orbits of
the planets, still believed intelligences controlled the movements of
the heavens.75 However, due to an already developed concept of natural
law there were natural limits on accepting this idea. "The overwhelming
majority of European thinkers accepted the reality of the order of
nature [unlike the Hindus], and most considered nature to be a
self-sufficient creation of God, containing all the powers necessary for
its operation without God's direct intervention [unlike al-Ghazzali's
concept of occasionalism concerning the universe's natural laws]."76 Of
course, the Christian rejection of pantheism, which says the material
world is God also, was instrumental in destroying the idea of the
heavens being divine as well.
The West began to develop the idea of the universe being rationally
knowable since God made it:
The cosmologists [of the twelfth century] felt certain that all of
nature was fundamentally rational because the all-knowing God had made
it so. . . . William of Conches writes that "the world is an ordered
aggregation of created things". And Thierry of Chartes says: "The
world would seem to have causes for its existence, and so to have come
into existence in a predictable sequence of time. This existence and
this order can be shown to be rational."77
The clock maker metaphor for the universe by used by Oresme.78 Bacon
felt all branches of learning had basic unity, interdependence, and
interconnectedness since only one God made them all.79 With the approval
St. Thomas gave to reason in Summa Theologica, science could go forward
as secure in the existence of natural law, which was a concept
al-Ghazzali and al-Ashari denied to Islam by emphasizing God's will and
power too much relative to His reason.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BURIDAN AND ORESME IN BUILDING THE FOUNDATIONS
The first key steps in totally discarding
Aristotle's physics were done by Buridan and Oresme. For Galileo and
Leonardo da Vinci had leaned upon them indirectly for many of their
seemingly totally new ideas in physics or in other fields.80 Ancient
Greece had developed a science of geometry that could be called
"modern," but this concerns mental entities, not material objects. Its
physics remained hopelessly backward by comparison due to pagan ideas
about eternal cycles, the irrationality of the universe, and the
divinity of the heavens. The second century astromer Ptolemy, whose work
the Almagest espoused an earth-centered solar system, as well as Plato,
believed the heavens were divine, which prevented belief that the laws
of motion on earth applied to the stars and planets, and in developing
correct conceptions of these laws to begin with. By contrast, the
medieval Christian Catholic Buridan, in a crucial passage, anticipated
the idea of inertia (the idea an object once in motion continues to move
in the same direction until it encounters resistance) through his
discussion of impetus. Notice the reference to God not directly making
the laws of nature operate:
Also, since the Bible does not state that appropriate intelligences
move the celestial bodies, it could be said that it does not appear
necessary to posit intelligences of this kind, because it would be
answered that God, when He created the world, moved each of the
celestial orbs as He pleased, and in moving them He impressed in them
impetuses which moved them without His having to move them any more
except by the method of general influence whereby He concurs as a
co-agent in all things which take place; 'for thus on the seventh day
He rested for all work . . .' [Gen. 2:2] And these impetuses which He
impressed in the celestial bodies were not decreased nor corrupted
afterwards, because there was not inclination of the celestial bodies
Also note this additional statement as a nascent form of the idea of
But because of the resistance which results from the weight of the
[waterwheel of the] mill, the impetus would continually diminish until
the mill ceased to turn. And perhaps, if the mill should last forever
without any diminution or change, and there were no other resistance
to corrupt the impetus, the mill would move forever because of its
While these passages are only halting steps
on a long road to repealing Aristotle's physics, they do show a move to
break out of his conceptions of how moving bodies move. These men show
that the Church never uncritically accepted the Greek classics as many
in the Islamic world had done earlier. True, it tied itself and lent its
authority to the Greek classics excessively, which set the stage for its
eventual disaster resulting from it using force that made Galileo recant
his belief that the earth moved. With the later discoveries of Galileo,
Hooke, Kepler, Torricelli, Boyle, Newton, and others, Europe's science
took a vast qualitative leap, but we should not overlook its origins and
these men's predecessors in the Middle Ages.
THE MERTON THESIS STATED
Now Merton's thesis does not claim as much
for Christianity as the Duhem-Jaki thesis does, for the former merely
sees seventeenth century Puritan ethical values as being conducive to
engaging in scientific endeavors. One partial critic of Merton's thesis
pointed out how some values of Puritanism opposed science even as some
If seventeenth-century science grew in harmony with Puritan values
of utility, reason, empiricism, and the glory of God, it also grew by
distancing its activities and goal from other values or sentiments
displayed by Puritanism: intolerance, dogmatism,
Also, since Merton is a sociologist, he is approaching science
through its relationship to the rest of society, which is an externalist
approach, instead of looking at science from inside its own history.
Merton lists various values that helped
promote science among Puritan Englishmen in the seventeenth century.84
One is to glorify God and serve Him through doing activities of utility
to the community as a whole, as opposed to the contemplative, monastic
ideal of withdrawal from the community. Through "the drive for the
conviction of one's election, . . . the Calvinistic doctrine of
predestination escapes any drift toward an apathetic pessimism."85
Through emphasizing a vocation (again, something useful to the community
as a whole) this created diligence, industry, and hard work in Puritans.
As the Quaker leader Baxter put it: "No: no man should do so without a
special necessity or call: for there are general precepts on all that
are able, that we live to the benefit of others, and prefer the common
good, and as we have opportunity do good to all men."86 The result is
the individual chooses the vocation that is best suited for his
abilities. Reason and education were both praised, the latter needing to
be practical in nature, not highly literary in content, and definitely
not consisting in the philosophy of scholasticism, with which the
Catholic "Angelic Doctor" St. Thomas Aquinas is identified.
VARIOUS ENGLISH PURITAN SCIENTISTS
The religious values and beliefs of many
English scientists of this period are easily documented. For instance,
Charles Boyle (1627-1691), the deviser of the namesake law concerning
the compression of gases, the English chemist and physicist wrote in his
last will and testament: "Wish [the Royal Society, a group of
scientists] a happy success in their laudable Attempts, to discover the
Nature of the Works of God, and prayer that they and all other Searchers
into Physical Truths, may Cordially refer their Attainments to the Glory
of the Great Author of Nature, and to the Comfort of Mankind."87 John
Ray (1627-1705), the great biologist, told a friend that sparing time to
investigate nature was good: "What time you have to spare you will do
well to spend, as you are doing, in the inquisition and contemplation of
the works of God and nature."88 Although not a Puritan himself, Francis
Bacon (1561-1626), who some have thought wrote Shakespeare's plays, had
a Puritan mother who (as mothers tend to do!) influenced him. His
emphasis on the utility of scientific discoveries, as opposed to gaining
knowledge for its own sake, which was Aristotle's tendency, has a
Puritan ring to it. Forty-two of the 68 founding members of the Royal
Society (starting through meetings in 1645 unofficially) for which their
religious background was known were Puritans. Such a high proportion is
very much out of whack compared to their proportion in the total English
population, which was mainly Anglican. Sir Robert Moray, Sir William
Petty, Robert Boyle, John Wilkins, John Wallis, and Jonathan Goddard
were all prominent leaders of the Royal Society--and all Puritans.89
Furthermore, the scientific method needs
both an empiricist and rationalist90 approach to nature to work
properly, something which Jaki comes back to again and again. Curiously,
Puritanism provided both by having the rationalism of St. Augustine's
type of Neo-Platonism, yet needing empiricism in order to serve one's
calling (vocation/occupation) and be useful to the community as a
whole.91 The irony to this is that the man who sparked the Reformation,
Martin Luther (1483-1546) had anti-rationalistic tendencies,92 and
attacked the Copernican view of the universe. John Calvin (1509-1564),
whose Institutes of the Christian Religion systematically set the
doctrinal agenda of many Protestants, including the Puritans, was not
enthusiastic over many of the scientific discoveries of his day.93 What
this shows is the unintended consequences of the new religious values of
Protestantism.94 Interestingly, even as the Counter-Reformation was
damaging Catholic science (the Inquisition's effort against Galileo, for
instance), Protestant science was taking off, helping to make up for the
slack.95 Although we have only briefly surveyed the Merton thesis,
partly because it overlaps the Duhem-Jaki thesis in pointing to religion
as positively influencing science, although by a rather different means.
However, it helps to show when pious Puritan scientists discussed
thinking God's thoughts after Him and trying to know God's attributes
better through studying His creation (compare Romans 1:20), they were
not saying this as a rationalization to justify their activities, but
really meant it.
WHEN CHRISTIANITY GETS BLAMED FOR SCIENCE: THE ENVIRONMENTALIST
A supreme irony is that many
environmentalists publicly concede the Christian origins of science, but
in a spirit of condemnation, since various ecological disasters get
blamed on the Bible's injunctions to multiply and subdue the earth.96
The reversion to ideas rejected by our medieval ancestors--in the "New"
Age movement--involves reviving the ideas of eastern mysticism as found
in Hinduism and Buddhism, and dressing them in some western garb. Of
course, the Unity School of Christianity, "New Thought," and Christian
Science have been at this for decades going into the last century. The
religious outlook of Transcedentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882),
American poet and essayist, was unquestionably pantheistic. Similarly,
the United Nations' Environmental Programme's Global Biodiversity
Assessment, some 1,140 pages long, explicitly condemns the Western (read
Christian) worldview as being "characterized by the denial of sacred
attributes in nature, a characteristic that has its roots in Greek
philosophy [a basically false statement, as shown above--they weren't
familiar with Aristotle's On the Heavens evidently], and became firmly
established about 2,000 years ago with the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic
religious traditions." Further, they condemn the abandonment of the
organismic view of nature thus:
This perspective, especially as elaborated in the Judaeo-Christian
tradition, set humans not as part of a wider community of beings, but
apart. . . . Societies dominated by Islam, and especially by
Christianity, have gone the farthest in setting humans apart from
nature and in embracing a value system that has converted the world
into a warehouse of commodities for human enjoyment.
They go on to condemn pagan cultures which converted to Christianity
that "began to cut down the sacred groves [compare the KJV's translation
for Canaanite Asherah poles!], to bring the land under cultivation"!97
Considering such attacks on Christianity for helping cause a
rationalistic, scientific worldview that led to environmental
destruction, it's then absurd to complain about Christianity or the
Bible as the roadblock to science getting started in the late Middle
Ages,98 or to make broad general statements about the necessary warfare
of science and religion the next time evolution get attacked by various
fundamentalists. As Jaki put it:
The argument would make some sense if it were accompanied by the
recognition that the medieval state of mind nurtured by the Gospel has
indeed been responsible for the rise of science. Responsibility for
the effect, the misuses of science, implies responsibility for the
cause. But the latter responsibility, which in this age of science
appears to be the most coveted credit, the credit for the rise of
science, is not attributed to Christianity when its mentality is
blamed, for instance, by the noted historian of technology, L. White,
for the ecological misuse of science.99
Hence, if you're an environmentalist or New Ager who blames Christian
worldview for creating the science and technology that is supposedly
ravaging the earth100, it's time to start admitting the facts of history
showing how it helped to cause modern science to exist. It's time to
stop repeating bromides about the warfare of science and religion that
could have come from the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial" where the agnostic
lawyer for the defense Clarence Darrow embarrassed William Jennings
Bryan, thrice-time presidential candidate loser for the Democratic
party, who was assisting the prosecution.
Briefly above the Duhem-Jaki and Merton
theses were surveyed, which show how Christianity led to the rise of
modern, self-sustaining science in Europe by stripping pagan Greek
thought of false metaphysical ideas that hindered science, or had values
conducive to scientific endeavor practically. Generally the militant
secular view that sways most western intellectuals has allowed the raw
facts of the Christian role in the rise of science to be covered up,
often causing intellectuals to leap some two millenia from ancient
Greece to Galileo in their reconstructions of the history science,
ignoring the influence of the culture filling the time in between as
irrelevant to the rise of science. Christianity normally only gets
"credit" for helping cause the rise of a scientific worldview when a
whipping boy besides industry or the military is needed for New Age
environmentalists. They, like famed science fiction writer H.G. Wells in
The Outline of History, commit the error religious historian Christopher
Dawson observed, by focusing on "the technical and mechanical
achievements of modern civilization . . . [but lack an] adequate account
of the movement of scientific thought that preceded those achievements
and made them possible."101 What such intellectuals should now consider,
with the rise of Eastern Mysticism, astrology, and the occult in the
west in the form of the New Age movement, is whether and how long
science can survive in a world increasingly reverting back to the ideas
that had kept it from existing in the past and which Christianity had
largely defeated, should they deny the second coming of Jesus the
Messiah will occur, and will occur soon. If one, seeing mankind's past
intellectually as a struggle between "witch doctors" and "attilas" as
philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand did, thinking the medieval worldview
dominated by Genesis 1 and the Cross was irrational, imagine what would
happen if the Zen Buddhists and monist Hindu mystics dominated the
intellectual scene (such as concerning the perplexities of quantum
mechanics) instead. For, as Jaki observed, Jesus was the Savior of
science--without His birth, life, and resurrection, it never would have
existed in this world.
1Leonard Peikoff, The Ominous Parallels as quoted in Harry
Binswanger, ed., The Ayn Rand Lexicon Objectivism from A to Z (New York:
New American Library, 1988), p. 297.
2Jaki himself probably would be embarrassed by entitling this
historical interpretation in this manner. He routinely freely draws upon
and repeatedly mentioning in his works Pierre Duhem, and even wrote a
biography of him. Pierre Duhem is the French scientist and historian of
science who wrote the magisterial ten volume Le Systeme Du Monde. I
label this thesis after the both of them because Jaki seems to be the
main "scholarly popularizer" of Duhem's thesis in the English speaking
world. Duhem's work mentioned above is significant for almost
single-handedly creating scholarly interest in medieval science.
3Robert K. Merton, "Science in Seventeenth Century England," Osiris,
1938, pp. 360-632. This is the original edition of this book.
4Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New
York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958). Especially interesting in this
context is note 145 on p. 249, where Puritanism's tendencies toward
empiricism are mentioned. Discussing Spener's work in this area, he says
a consequence of Puritanism scientifically was "that just as the
Christian is known by the fruits of his belief, the knowledge of God and
His designs can only be attained through a knowledge of His works."
5See the explanation of externalist and internalist approaches in the
introduction of George Basalla, ed., The Rise of Modern Science External
or Internal Factors? (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1968), pp.
6Theodore K. Rabb, "Religion and the Rise of Modern Science," Past
and Present, July 1965, pp. 122, 125.
7Stanley Jaki never seems to mention the Merton thesis in any his
books I used for this essay. Likewise, such a critic of the Merton
thesis as Rabb seems to be oblivious to Duhem's thesis. Hence, he write
when attacking Hill: "In the story of the rise of science, therefore,
religion is a peripheral concern." Duhem doesn't even rate a (negative)
mention. See Rabb, "Religion and the Rise of Modern Science," Past and
Present, July 1965, p. 126. About the only place I found the two
mentioned together was this comment by Hall: "Merton, who made no
reference to either Duhem or Wohlwill, saw a parallel lack of continuity
in the attitudes of society to science." See A. Ruppert Hall, "Merton
revisited or Science and Society in the Seventeenth Century," History of
Science (Cambridge, England: W. Heffer & Sons, 1963), p. 12.
8Stanley Jaki, The Savior of Science (Washington, D.C.: Regnery
Gateway, 1988), p. 35.
9A contemporary example is how Boris Yeltsin and his group of
revolutionaries have the ideology of capitalism (or did!), and seek to
impose it on a (formerly?) socialist economy.
10Probably the best one book on this subject in English is: Stanley
Jaki, Science and Creation From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating
Universe (New York: Science History Publications, 1974). Of course, the
ultimate source on this subject is Pierre Duhem's Le Systeme du Monde,
with its ten (!) volumes, most of which has yet to be translated from
the French. A good project for someone or some group who wishes to do
immeasurable good for the cause of Christian apologetics would be to pay
a group of scholars to translate this work into English so it could have
more influence in the English-speaking world.
11Two good places to begin are: Stanley L. Jaki, The Savior of
Science (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1988) and Jaki, The Origin
of Science and the Science of Its Origin (South Bend, IN:
12Jacques Gernet, "Christian and Chinese World Views in the
Seventeenth Century," Diogenes, Spring 1979, p. 105.
13Jaki, Science and Creation, pp. 205, 208.
14See Janet L. Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony The World System
A.D. 1250-1350 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 322. An
in-depth analysis in the form of a series of articles can be found in Hu
Daojing, Li Guohao, et al., eds., Explorations in the History of Science
and Technology in China (Shanghai: Shanghai Chinese Classics Publishing
15Alan K. Smith, Creating a World Economy Merchant Capital,
Colonialism, and World Trade 1400-1825 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press,
1991), pp. 17-18.
16Lynn White Jr., "Review Symposia Science in China," Isis, March
1984, p. 178. Another useful critique of Needham's work is Willard J.
Peterson, "'Chinese Scientific Philosophy' and Some Chinese Attitudes
Towards Knowledge about the Realm of Heaven-and-Earth," Past and
Present, May 1980, pp. 20-30.
17Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony, p. 322.
18As quoted from Jacques Gernet, "Christian and Chinese World Views,"
p. 104. See pp. 100-102 for more examples.
19Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, Vol. 2, History
of Scientific Thought (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1962), with
the assistance of Wang Ling, pp. 485-487, 420, 404; Jaki, Science and
Creation, pp. 33-35.
20However, such ideas could also breed the opposite attitude, of
complacency, "the illusion that one is and remains on top, at least in
the sense that the irreversible decline will begin to be felt only by
one's distant progeny" (Jaki, Savior of Science, p. 42). That is,
instead of despondently waiting for the cycles of history to bring a
future "golden age," you may think you are presently living during a
"golden age." Hence, you begin to think no further improvements are
possible or necessary.
21Jaki, Science and Creation, pp. 34-35.
22His emphasis, as quoted in Ibid., p. 35.
23Ibid., p. 45.
25Needham, Science and Civilisation, p. 311.
26Ibid., pp. 351-357.
27See Wolfram Eberhard in John K. Fairbank, ed., Chinese Thought and
Institutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 69. In
fairness, since portents were used as political weapons many times
(shades of Rome!), in order to dissuade the emperor from this or that
decision, they were not always taken seriously. Nevertheless, such
activities did not promote science or a scientific worldview: "It is
quite obvious that specialists were interested only in the political
application of their observations and not in philosophical reasoning or
28Jaki, Science and Creation, p. 29.
29Needham, Science and Civilisation, pp. 36, 56-57, 558.
30The Chuang Tzu, the second most important text, as quoted in Jaki,
Science and Creation, p. 29. Wide variations of belief existed in
Taoism, which included many practitioners of the Chinese peasantry's
varied superstitions, not just philosophers like Lao-tzu. See N. Sivin,
"On the Word 'Taoist' as a Source of Perplexity. With Special Reference
to the Relations of Science and Religion in Traditional China," History
of Religions, February-May 1978, p. 314.
31Jaki, Science and Creation, p. 29.
32Ibid., p. 36. Note the contrast to the Hebrew view of Gen. 1, where
mankind is place above and separate from nature, as being like God, and
dominate over the animal kingdom.
33Ibid., p. 42.
34Ibid., p. 43.
35Needham, Science and Civilisation, p. 581. The Judeo-Christian
mindset stemming from Genesis 1 is that if man's mind was made in the
image of God, and nature also reflects God's attributes (Romans
1:19-20), then scientists investigating nature can be assured it can be
understood by their minds in turn.
36Jaki, The Origin of Science, p. 79.
37Jaki, Savior of Science, p. 33. A somewhat different analysis as to
why China developed no modern science due to its philosophy focuses on
its tendency to turn inward to know the mind and the individual, as
opposed to the outside world. See Yu-Lan Fung, "Why China Has No
Science--An Interpretation of the History and Consequences of Chinese
Philosophy," International Journal of Ethics, April 1922, pp. 237-263.
However, a sociological explanation for the failure of modern science to
arise in China involving what could be called "Mandarin bureaucratism,"
also exists. See Max Weber, The Religion of China Confucianism and
Taoism (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1951), pp. 150-152. Jaki's analysis
doesn't hit on all the reasons why modern science did not arise in
China, though I have stressed it here.
38As quoted in Jaki, Science and Creation, p. 230.
39John R. Gillis, The Development of European Society 1770-1870
(Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1983), p. 13.
40However, Christianity still had a role here concerning the
application of the then new system of numerals, due to its view God was
rational and created an orderly universe. "They [the Parisian precursors
of Galileo, Buridan and Oresme] became the starting point [of modern
science] because they were imbued with what is Gospel truth for
Christians though it had never been for the Greeks of old, namely, that
the universe is not God, but only the fully consistent artifact of a
rational Creator. Because of their belief in that consistency, they
could approach with quantitative eyes the phenomenon of motion in a
broad sense, an approach alien to the Greeks," my emphasis, Jaki, Origin
of Science, p. 85. Such an analysis badly undermines the standard belief
of agnostics and atheists that the Greeks could have created modern
science except for the rise of Christianity and the collapse of the
41Mainstream Christianity could never accept the fundamental
unreality of matter or the material world because Jesus became a
material, fleshy Being through the incarnation (John 1:1-2, 14). Those
who thought Jesus was just a spirit being who just appeared to be a
man--the gnostics generally--were condemned in the strongest possible
terms by orthodox Christians, including the apostle John. For example,
II John 7 says: "For many decievers have gone out into the world, those
who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the
deceiver and the antichrist." Or, we have I John 1:1: "What was from the
beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we
beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life . . ."
Further, unlike Hinduism and its myths, Christianity is a religion based
upon the reality of certain historical facts, such as the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ. It doesn't really matter, to the Hindu
mind, whether Krishna really did anything as described in a Hindu holy
book, but Christianity is a hopeless religion if Jesus didn't really
exist, didn't really die, or didn't really arise from the dead. As Paul
said (I Cor. 15:13-15): "But if there is no resurrection of the dead,
not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then
our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even
found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God
that He raised Christ." This fundamental difference between
Judeo-Christianity as based on historical fact that it is potentially
falsifiable is very different from the metaphysical speculation of
various pagan myths, whether Hindu or Greek.
42Ibid., p. 7.
43Ibid., p. 8.
44Richard C. Dales, "A Twelfth-Century Concept of the Natural Order,"
Viator Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Vol. 9, 1978, pp. 191-192.
45Jaki, The Savior of Science, p. 30; Jaki footnotes his source as
the January 6, 1983 International Herald Tribune.
46Lynn White, Jr., "Science and the Sense of Self: The Medieval
Background of a Modern Confrontation," Daedalus, Spring 1978, pp.
47For example, Savonrola (1452-1498), a Catholic religious revivalist
and reformer in Renaissance Florence, condemned Florentines as believing
in astrology more than God. See Richard C. Trexler, Public Life in
Renaissance Florence (Ithaca, NY: Cornell, University Press, 1991), p.
79. St. Augustine attacks astrology in Confessions (Middlesex, England:
Penguin Books, 1961), pp. 73, 139-142.
48Sydney Nettleton Fisher and William Ochsenwald, The Middle East a
History (New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., 1990), pp. 99-116.
49Jaki, Science and Creation, pp. 204-205. It is quite clear the
traditionalist theologians beat out the Aristotelian philosophers
culturally, because of the concept of bid'a, which saw any innovation as
evil, with one exception: If the unbelievers used it in battle, you (the
Muslim) could use it also. "In the Muslim tradition, innovation is
generally assumed to be bad unless it can be shown to be good. The word
bid'a, innovation or novelty, denote a departure from the sacred precept
and practice communicated to mankind by the Prophet, his disciples, and
the early Muslims," Bernard Lewis, The Muslim Discovery of Europe (New
York: W.W. Norton, 1982), p. 224.
50Jaki, Science and Creation, p. 206.
51Thomas F. Glick, "George Sarton and the Spanish Arabists," Isis,
December 1985, p. 497. Glick notes how astrology was considerably
stronger in the Islamic world compared to Christian Europe.
52This view plainly conflicts against Genesis 8:21-22; 9:11-16 and
God's promise to never flood the earth again, as symbolized by the
rainbow. Here, perhaps, having the Bible itself, instead of the Quran
(Koran), would have helped him avoid this error.
53Jaki, Science and Creation, pp. 198-200, 206-7, 211.
54See the list of comparisons in Robert Morey, Islam Unveiled The
True Desert Storm (Shermans Dale, PA: Scholars Press, 1991), pp.
55Ibid., p. 58.
56As quoted in Jaki, Science and Creation, p. 214.
57As Jaki notes, Science and Creation, pp. 230, 245.
58Galileo leaned heavily on Aristotle's Posterior Analytics not just
during his earlier Scholastic stage, but throughout his life.
Scholasticism was a philosophy thoroughly imbued with Aristotelian
thought due to the influence of St. Thomas Aquinas attempting to
reconcile Christian theology and the philosophy of Aristotle. See the
works of W.A. Wallace and W.R. Shea cited in Jaki, Origin of Science,
footnote 62, p. 143. This shows, incidently, how the rebirth of
Platonism in the Renaissance may have hindered science instead of
helping it, since Aristotle had manifestly a more rational and
scientific worldview than Plato.
59Ibid., pp. 169-171.
60Ibid., pp. 225-226.
61See A.G. Molland, "Medieval Ideas of Scientific Progress," Journal
of the History of Ideas, October-December 1978, pp. 562-564.
62Jaki, Science and Creation, pp. 166-167, 175-176.
63Jaki, Science and Creation, pp. 178-184. See also Molland,
"Medieval Ideas," p. 562. "Eternal cycles" are only "eternal" if they
have no beginning (creation) and no end (judgment). If they are eternal,
then they induce the existentialist feeling of hopelessness, of life
being two spans between nothing, of nothing being important since all
doesn't matter since everything will be destroyed, etc.
64Jaki, Ibid., p. 229. Also see Edward Grant, "The Condemnation of
1277, God's Absolute Power, and Physical Thought in the Late Middle
Ages," Viator, Vol. 10, 1979.
65Jaki, Ibid., p. 237.
66Ibid., p. 166.
67Lynn White, Jr., "Science and the Sense of Self: The Medieval
Background of a Modern Confrontation," Daedalus, Spring 1978, p. 56.
68Jaki, Science and Creation, p. 229.
69Ibid., p. 237.
70Richard C. Dales, "The De-Animation of the Heavens in the Middle
Ages," Journal of the History of Ideas, October-December 1980, p.
71Jaki, Science and Creation, p. 227. More on Roger Bacon and
astrology can be found in: David C. Lindberg, "On the Applicability of
Mathematics to Nature: Roger Bacon and His Predecessors," British
Journal for the History of Science, March 1982, pp. 22-24.
72Dales, "The De-Animation," p. 549-550. Ironically today, this view
is coming back through New Age/environmentalist thinking.
73Ibid., p. 533.
74Jaki, Science and Creation, pp. 225-226.
75Dales, "The De-Animation," p. 550.
76Ibid., p. 547.
77Tina Stiefel, "Science, Reason and Faith in the Twelfth Century:
The Cosmologist' Attack on Tradition," Journal of European Studies,
March 1976, p. 4. Also see her article on a highly similar subject: "The
Heresy of Science: A Twelfth-Century Conceptual Revolution," Isis,
September 1977, pp. 346-362. In a useful corrective to Jaki, she points
out the resistance faced by these innovators from other theologians or
philosophers. Also along the same lines of a corrective, although it is
rather speculative, is: Manfred Gordon, "A Strategy For Medieval
Science," Diogenes, Winter 1981, pp. 70-93. These innovators did face
serious opposition, even persecution, which should not be ignored.
78Jaki, Science and Creation, p. 240. Jaki notes that Oresme did not
dispense with the notion the heavens had intelligences, but this
metaphor certainly leads in this direction.
79Ibid., p. 226.
80H. Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science 1300-1800 (London: G.
Bell and Sons Ltd., 1949), pp. 8-9.
81Jaki, Savior of Science, p. 53.
82Dales, "The De-Animation," p. 547. However, note that Dales says
that Buridan still was largely Aristotelian in outlook. A similar point
in made by A.C. Crombie in Augustine to Galileo, vol. 2, Science in the
Later Middle Ages and Early Modern Times XIII-XVII Centuries (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1961), pp. 66-73. Hence, Buridan was
making only the first steps towards a correct physics that broke away
from Aristotle's mistakes, it must be stressed.
83Thomas F. Gieryn, "Distancing Science from Religion in
Seventeenth-Century England," Isis, December 1988, p. 590.
84Merton, "Science," pp. 420-459 for general statements in this
85Ibid., p. 423.
86Ibid., p. 423.
87Gieryn, "Distancing Science," p. 590.
88Merton, "Science," p. 445.
89Ibid., pp. 471-473.
90Empiricism maintains knowledge is mostly gained by the senses,
while rationalism maintains knowledge is mostly gained by thinking,
reasoning, and logic.
91Ibid., p. 452.
92R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Classical
Apologetics A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of
Presuppositional Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), pp.
196-198. This work attempts to minimize Luther as being an
irrationalist, it should be noted.
93Ibid., p. 452.
94Ibid., p. 459.
95Theodore Rabb, "Religion and the Rise of Modern Science," p.
96Jaki, Origin of Science, p. 107; note his footnotes in
97As quoted are found in The New American, April 29, 1996, p. 7.
98The philosopher of science Sir Karl Popper once said: "Science was
invented once. It was suppressed by Christianity, and it was only
reinvented or, rather, recovered with the rebirth of Platonism in the
Renaissance," as quoted in Jaki, Origin of Science, p. 152. This view
also slights the importance of Aristotle's Organon, such as in the Prior
Analytics, which provided humanity with the basic laws of logic.
99Jaki, Origin of Science, p. 107.
100The standard environmentalist scare stories are largely either
false or exaggerated, especially concerning conditions in America
itself, wherein the environment today overall is unquestionably better
than it was in 1950. The newspapers columns of the late Warren Brookes
were good on this point. Also, see Dixy Lee Ray with Lou Guzzo, Trashing
the Planet (New York: Harper Collins, 1990) and Edith Efron, The
Apocalytics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984).
101Christopher Dawson, John J. Mulloy, ed., The Dynamics of World
History (New York: New American Library, 1956), p.