Lack of appreciation of the precise point I'm making here can lead to confusion. I am not claiming that all aspects of religion in general and Christianity in particular have contributed to the rise of science. What I'm suggesting is that the doctrine of a unique Creator God who is responsible for the existence and order of the universe has played an important role. I am not suggesting that there never has been religious antagonism to science. Indeed, T.F. Torrance, commenting on Whitehead's analysis, points out that the development of science was often "seriously hindered by the Christian church even when within it the beginnings of modern ideas were taking their rise." As an example he states that Augustinian theology that dominated Europe for 1,000 years had a power and beauty that led to great contributions to the arts in the Middle Ages, but its "eschatology which perpetuated the idea of it, directed attention away from the world to the super-terrestrial, while its conception of the sacramental universe allowed only a symbolic understanding of nature and a religious, illustrative use of it" thus "taking up and sanctifying a cosmological outlook that had to be replaced if scientific progress was to be made."
Torrance also says that what often seriously discouraged the scientific mind was a "hardened notion of authority and its relation to understanding that went back to Augustine... which first gave rise to bitter complaints against the church." Torrance nevertheless gives strong support to the general tenor of Whitehead's thesis: "In spite of the unfortunate tension that has so often cropped up between the advance of scientific theories and traditional habits of thought in the church, theology can still claim to have mothered throughout long centuries the basic beliefs and impulses which have given rise especially to modern empirical science, if only through its flagging faith in the reliability of God the Creator and the ultimate intelligibility of his creation."
John Brooke, Oxford's first Professor of Science and Religion, is more cautious than Torrance: "In the past religious beliefs have served as a presupposition of the scientific enterprise insofar as they have underwritten that uniformity... a doctrine of creation could give coherence to scientific endeavor insofar as it implied a dependable order behind the flux of nature... this need not entail the strong claim that without theology, science would never have taken off, but it does mean that the particular conceptions of science held by its pioneers were often informed by theological and metaphysical beliefs." More recently, John Brooke's successor at Oxford, Peter Harrison, has made an impressive case that a dominate feature in the rise of modern science was the Protestant attitude to the interpretation of biblical texts, which spelt an end to the symbolic approach of the Middle Ages.
It is, of course, notoriously difficult to know 'what would have happened if...,' but it is surely not too much to say that the rise of science would have been seriously retarded if one particular doctrine of theology, the doctrine of creation, had not been present, a doctrine that is common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Brooke issues a healthy warning against overstating the case: Just because a religion has supported science does not prove that the religion is true. Quite so, and the same can, of course, be said of atheism.
The doctrine of creation was not only important in the rise of science because of its entailment of order in the universe. It was important for another reason. In order for science to develop, thinking had to be freed from hitherto ubiquitous Aristotelian method of deducing from mixed principles how the universe ought to be, to a methodology that allowed the universe to speak directly. That fundamental shift in perspective was made made easier by the notion of a contingent creation, that is, that God the Creator could have created the universe any way he liked. Hence, in order to find out what the universe is really like or how it actually works, there is no alternative to going and looking. You cannot deduce how the universe works simply by reasoning from 'a priori' philosophical principles. That is precisely what Galileo and, later, Kepler and others did: They went and looked, and revolutionized science.
God's Undertaker, pp. 21-23.