The Historical Roots of Modern Science

The war between science and religion myth

“Christianity, in absolute contrast to ancient paganism and Asia’s religions, …not only established a dualism of man and nature, but also insisted that man exploit nature for its proper ends.” Lynn White, Science 156, 1967, p.1205

The idea that Christianity warred against scientific and technological advance in Europe is absurd.This is one of the worst and most misleading of academic myths and one that was started and perpetuated by the French rationalists such as Voltaire and Rousseau and continued with A.D. White, who we discussed in 10 Myths Vol.1 in the chapter on Columbus. The myth continues into today with such pillars of atheism as Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan, being its modern purveyors and modern academic texts often assert that it was the enlightenment that brought about the fruits of modern science..

It is one of the easiest to explode, and yet at the same time, it is one of the best examples of historical revisionism and the extent to which atheistic academics will go in order to indoctrinate the young and old alike.

The role of Christianity in the world while far from perfect is one of overwhelming blessing and in fact, it’s quite possible the textbooks themselves owe their very existence to Christianity. In Europe the prominent leader in education was a man named Comenius, a Moravian Brethren, who among other things, insisted that women should be taught to read because they were the primary instructors of the children. What about the first hospitals, orphanages, the discoveries of antiseptics and antibiotics that have saved so many lives? Where were eyeglasses first invented and put in common use along with the mechanized clock?  In fact, where did almost every major discovery of modern science take place and in what type of culture?

All of these first appeared in the Judeo-Christian culture of Europe during the 1700 years between the Sacrifice of Christ to the end of the Reformation. Why has this incredible history disappeared from school textbooks?

In the first place, and a fact that academics always omit, is that almost all of the founding fathers, of each of the major scientific disciplines, were not only Christians, many were devout. And even the ones that weren’t evidently devout came from a culture dominated by a religion- the Christian Religion to be exact.

This has been a problem for prominent atheists from the time of Hobbes and Voltaire and they had to take care to play down this fact and the obvious Christianity of the Scientific Giants of their day, like Isaac Newton. Not only were all the founders of modern chemistry, astronomy, geology and physics, Christians, none were atheists.

Another major problem for them is the fact that, unknown to most people today, Modern Science really wasn’t a revolution at all, but grew out of centuries of accumulated studies in the Christian Scholastic Universities throughout medieval Europe. (As discussed in 10 Myths Vol.1 in discussing the “Copernicus Revolution”)

It did have something of an explosion after the Reformation and much of it was centered in Puritan England, but by and large it was the result of hundreds of years of study and spread fairly evenly among the various European countries and Protestant and Catholic alike.

Sociologist Rodney Stark, in order to demonstrate the Christian influence on the birth of modern science, listed 52 of the stars of science between 1543 and 1680, and found that 50 of them were Christian, evenly divided between protestant and catholic, and only two were not. He noted that, “It is the consensus among contemporary historians, philosophers and sociologists of science that real science arose only once: in Europe. The leading scientific figures in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were overwhelmingly devout Christians who believed it their duty to comprehend God’s handiwork.” (Stark, Rodney, For the Glory of God pp. 123, 126–127).

But before we go any farther, and because modern academia often gives us the ruse that it would be utterly crazy to try and do science in a theistic framework, let’s look at the founders of modern science, who did all their work in a non-Darwinian, non-atheistic but fully biblical, theistic frame of mind.

 Just a few to give a good idea;

Isaac Newton, who discovered of law of gravity and three laws of motion, an accomplished mathematician who made the first reflecting telescope and so much more, clearly stated his faith not only in a God, but in the Bible. He said that god,” governs all things and knows all things” and that, “The true God is a living, intelligent, powerful being…”, “He endures forever, and is everywhere present…”As a blind man has no idea of colors, so we have no idea of the manner by which the all-wise God perceives and understands all things”, and on and on. He wrote literally, millions of words on theology and the study of Scripture. (Cajori’s Translation, Newton, 1934, 543-547) 

Robert Boyle, founder of modern Chemistry who helped to debunk the beliefs in alchemy so prevalent all over the globe. He was a devout biblical Christian who started a missionary enterprise, and established a will to help support the defense of biblical Christianity. And he wrote a book whose main thesis was that it was a religious duty of man to study and observe nature.

Johannes Kepler, one of the main founders of modern astronomy, who claimed that as a scientist he was thinking God’s thoughts after Him. He had intended to become a theologian but instead decided to pursue astronomy because he said, “The Heavens declare the Glory of God.” quoting the Bible. He also said;

“I commence a sacred discourse, a most true hymn to God the Founder, and I judge it to be piety, not to sacrifice many hecatombs of bulls to Him and to burn incense of innumerable perfumes and cassia, but first to learn myself, and afterwards to teach others too, how great He is in wisdom, how great in power, and of what sort in goodness.” Kepler, J. 1619. “Proem” Harmonies of the World

Christopher Columbus, who said in his journals;

“It was the Lord who put into my mind ( I could feel his hand upon me) that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies (India)…There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit because He comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures…” (Libro de Profecias)

More modern examples would be Lord Kelvin, the leading founder of modern physics, who was devout in his biblical faith in a creator and who said, “…the atheistic idea is so non-sensical that I cannot put it into words…”

Or Louis Pasteur, who discovered and founded the science of microbiology, and who called Darwin’s idea of spontaneous generation, “Dumb, dumb, dumb.”, and said that the study of nature brought him closer to God.

Francesco Redi, the scientist who falsified spontaneous generation experimentally years before Darwin inspired Pasteur to again disprove it with his experiments. Redi said;

“I shall express my belief that the earth, after having brought forth the first plants and animals at the beginning by order of the Supreme and Omnipotent Creator, has never produced any kinds of plants or animals, either perfect or imperfect; and everything which we know in past or present times that she has produced, came solely from the true seeds of the plants and animals themselves, which thus, through means of their own, preserve their species”

Redi, F. [1688]. Experiments on the generation of insects. Translated by Mab Bigelow. Reprint, Millwood, New York: Kraus.

Or Joseph Lister who helped save millions through his development of antiseptics and their use in medicine. The son of devout Quakers he said, “…In my opinion there is no antagonism between the Religion of Jesus Christ and any fact scientifically established…”

I could go on and on, but I hope you get the point. Modern Science did not arise in an atheistic environment, and contrary to the indoctrination of the government schools, religion, particularly that of Biblical Christianity is no hindrance to doing science. This puts the lie to two popular academic myths, that the roots of modern science lay in the atheistic enlightenment and that good science can’t be done outside of naturalistic atheism.

What is real science, and why did it develop first in Christian Europe? Science is a combination of empirical observation and theory that leads to testable predictions and theories. Stark (ibid) points out that China, Islam, the Romans and the Greeks all had traditions of scholarship and had developed the pseudo sciences of alchemy and astrology, but only Christian Europe developed real science.

Stark’s answer lay in the rationality of the Christian God, His responsiveness, and dependability. The universe was his creation displayed for man’s benefit. They believed that every action had a reaction and a cause that would conform to laws laid out by the God of the bible.This, as many of the actual founders of modern science personally proclaimed, was the motivating force behind the development of science in Christian Europe.

What hindered science in other ancient cultures?

China- Joseph Needham, a Marxist scholar who spent his life studying technological development in China, was dumbfounded at the failure of the otherwise scholarly Chinese to develop real science. Stark (ibid) points out that after trying and failing to find a materialist explanation, he was forced upon a religious one. He said;

“The conception of a divine celestial lawgiver imposing ordinances on non-human nature never developed. It was not that there was no order in nature for the Chinese, but rather it was not an order ordained by a rational personal being, the Taoists indeed would have laughed at such an idea…” (Needham, Science and Civilization in China, Cambridge University Press)(Stark, ibid)

Greece- While they were great observers of nature, and very speculative, they remained largely philosophical in there approach to the Universe. They rarely, if ever became empirical in their studies. Stark has suggested this was due to their concept of gods being human and subject themselves to nature. While they did retain a vague notion of a universal god, he was rarely alluded to and then more often as a law giver of “natural law” given as morals governing humans, but not nature.

They also believed in an endlessly recycling earth and thought of the objects of the universe as animate living things, and even thought the universe itself was a living creature. Only the bible draws a clear distinction between the Creator and the created. All this fought against their ever developing science as we know it.

Islam- Stark (ibid) points out that while the god of Islam appears superficially to be like Yahweh of the bible, he is not the reliable orderer of the Universe. Allah is much more active and capricious than the biblical god. Allah does as he pleases, and does not act in the constant and immutable manner as the Christian/Judeo God. While the Muslim scholars did devote themselves to studying the Greek classics, they assimilated them and applied them to Islam…they never challenged them. This according to Stark was one of the reasons that kept Islam from growing beyond the Greeks and held back science indefinitely. The Islamic world thus absorbed with out controversy, the Greek idea that the Universe was a large animate being, and conscious, as well as other Greek fallacies. While the scholars of the western Christian world obtained the Greek Classics later than the Muslims, when they did receive them, they not only read them; they challenged them.

 Thus, not only is it indisputable that modern science arose first in Christendom, it wasn’t an accident. The God of the Bible, so despised by the secular world, turns out to have been the friend of science, not its enemy.

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