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Monday 5 August 2013

Christianity Gave Birth to Science

Jesus Christ

Science is the systematic application of a logico-empiricist method to look at and understand things, and was born in Christian Europe first with the Scholastic philosophy and then with Leonardo da Vinci, Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei.

The necessary foundation for scientific research is the belief in one God that created a universe regulated by immutable laws which can be understood by man exactly because God's mind and man's are similar except in extent. The Christian God is a person.

Galileo famously talked about the "book of nature", that scientists try to read, being written by God. This is possible because both God and man have a similar mind. If you read a book, you think you can understand the author because you speak the same language and your mind works in an analoguous way. Galileo also said that the book of nature is written in mathematical language.

The ancient people who went closest to developing science were the Greeks. But they were hindered by their polytheism and, after the 4th century BC, by the dominance of the Aristotelian method.

The latter consists in deducing phenomena from fixed principles. The many, capricious deities of the Olympus were also an obstacle to the rise of scientific thought, not being believed capable of creating a rational universe.

As historian of science Bernard Cohen (1914-2003) wrote, ancient Greeks were interested in explaining the natural world only through abstract general principles. The first technical innovations, dating back to prehistoric ages, Greco-Roman times, the Islamic world and China, were not science but are best described as observations, knowledge, learning, wisdom, arts, trades, crafts, technology, engineering. Even without telescopes, the ancient excelled in astronomic observations but without connecting them to testable theories.

It is no coincidence that many of the disciplines which are now part of science were once part of philosophy.

Science is made of theories which are subject to independent confirmation or falsification. The intellectual achievements of Greek or Oriental philosophers were either fruit of atheoretical empiricism or non-empirical theories.

Historian of science Harold Dorn considers the Greeks' atheoretical knowledge a barrier to the birth of science in Greece and Rome and also in the Islamic world, which preserved and studied Greek teachings.

This in no way diminishes the immense value of Greek culture and its great impact on Christian theology and European intellectual life. However, as historian of religions Rodney Stark observed, the birth of science was not the continuation of classical knowledge but the natural consequence of Christian doctrine: nature exists because it was created by God and, to love Him and honour Him, it is necessary to have a profound appreciation of the wonders of His actions.

The Chinese, when they came into contact with Western culture, found the idea of laws of nature and an order in the universe absurd. We now take it for granted, but it is by no means an easy notion to arrive at.

Bertrand Russell found the absence of science in China puzzling, but in fact it is understandable, since the Chinese scholars did not assume the existence of rational laws. Therefore, over millennia, what was sought was "enlightenment", not explanations.

British biochemist and science historian Joseph Needham (1900-1995), who devoted most of his career to the history of Chinese technology, reports that in the 18th century the Chinese rejected the idea of a universe governed by simple laws capable of being investigated by man - idea brought to them by Western Jesuit missionaries. Chinese culture, according to Needham, was not receptive to such concepts. He concluded that the obstacle to science in China was its non-Christian religion, because that prevented the development of the conception of a heavenly, divine legislator imposing laws on non-human nature. The Chinese believed that the natural order was not established by a rational individual being.


  1. p.s. I think you get it almost 100% right ... well, you could be a bit more precise and say that mainstream Christian Doctrines of the Roman Church, post Aquinas (etc !), were a solid cultural
    basis for the possibility of science. As regards Dawkins (of interest to me much in the news these last few days re Islam and Nobel prizes etc ) : he could easily work out what is MINIMALLY NECESSARY for science and you will see that that not only is it absent in post al-Ghazzali Sunni Islam (resp. for Asharism from the XII century A.D. until today) but that minimum is actually FORBIDDEN and thereby one understands why science could not arise
    there and given the strictures of Sunni Islam why science does not flourish in the educational systems of Islamic countries where doctrinally Sunni islam predominates.

  2. Question all things and hold onto what is good..... Paul

  3. Hello,The animal rights movement, and especially the postmodernist movement, represent a serious threat for two reasons--science no longer acknowledges its indebtedness to the Christian world view and abandonment of the Christian world view among people is becoming more and more common. The mindset that hindered the birth of science is being resurrected, and the continued existence of science-as-we-know-it is therefore threatened. The polarity between a scientific world view and a religious world view was only able to be bridged by Christianity. For Christianity, like science, acknowledges an objective reality that is intelligible, but unlike atheistic interpretations of science, it also acknowledges the reality of the non-material realm. As science comes under attack, the Mother of Science ought to step-up to defend her offspring from the attacks of the neo-pagan. For only the Christian world view can defend against the attacks of the postmodernists. Only the Christian world view can justify animal research. The atheists and the naturalists have only their blind faith and sentiments, and these are easily steam-rolled by the irrational faith and sentiments of the neo-pagan mind. The same philosophical and theological assumptions that paved the way for the birth of science are needed to defend the life of science. Christians have another unique opportunity to demonstrate the importance of Christian views in the practice of science. Will they take this opportunity? Or will they join sides with the neo-pagans? Thanks @GEORGE

    1. I agree with you on most things, except on what you say about the animal rights movement - that I don't consider as a threat but rather as the extension of the compassion typically inspired by Christianity -, and animal research.

      You identify animal research with science, but don't forget that science, contrary to popular opinion, is very dogmatic. Animal experimentation is part of the current paradigm but does not have at all the solid scientific foundation that is claimed for it.

      On the subject read this website:


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