Sunday, October 20, 2013

Christianity promoted the rise of science

For the question Did Christianity (and other religions) promote the rise of science?, here are some quotes:
“. . . the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships.”—Paul Davies, “Taking Science on Faith“, New York Times.

“Moral laws are promulgated by God for free creatures, who have it in their power to obey or disobey. The laws of nature, on the other hand, are promulgated for the inanimate world of matter; physical objects don’t get to decide to obey, say, Newton’s law of gravity. In each case, however, we have the setting forth or promulgation of divine rule for a certain domain of application. It is important to see that our notion of the laws of nature, crucial for contemporary science, has this origin in Christian theism.”  —Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies, p. 276

“Indeed, a distinctive feature of the Scientific Revolution is that, unlike other scientific programmes and cultures, it is driven, often explicitly, by religious considerations: Christianity set the agenda for natural philosophy in many respects and projected it forward in a way quite different from that of any scientific culture. Moreover, when the standing of religion as a source of knowledge about the world, and cognitive values generally, came to be threatened, it was not science that posed the threat but history.” —S. Graukoger, The Emergence of a Modern Scientific Culture, p. 3

“faith in the possibility of science, generated antecdently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology.” —Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p. 19.

“Recent scholarship, most of it conducted by secular academics, has established that religious belief was entirely compatible with scientific progress, even encouraging it in many cases.”—K. Giberson and F. Collins, The Language of Science and Faith
One approach is to compare scientific accomplishments over the last few centuries under cultures dominated by the major world religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese. Christian societies have done far more than all the others put together.

A lot of scientists today are atheists, but atheism is not a belief system, so it is not really comparable. Einstein did not believe in a personal God, but he did very much identify with Jewishness all of his life. It is fair to say that he subscribed to the Jewish religion. A lot of these atheist scientists are cultural Christians or Jews.

I am not sure what Christian beliefs helped, but I suggest: Seeking truth (Jesus said "the truth shall make you free" John 8:32), individualism, free will, an orderly universe. Also Christianity absorbed ancient Greek philosophy and science, as well as more modern advances. Christianity coexists with government and other institutions, and does not pretend to answer all questions. Other religions tend to be much more superstitious, and less adaptable to scientific progress.

The vocal atheist scientists attack Christianity all the time, but most of the attacks are not against mainstream Christian teachings.

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