Monday, August 31, 2020

Is atheism a religion?

Although it isn’t an organized religion like Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, atheism is a religious worldview. With assurance rooted in faith (rather than in proven fact), the theist says “I believe in god(s)/God,” while the atheist with equal confidence says “I don’t believe in god(s)/God.”

Atheism is a religious worldview because it claims to know something fundamental about reality that hasn’t been—or can’t be—proven. Like theists, atheists operate out of a foundational faith or belief that shapes their perceiving, thinking, and living in the world.


Here. 


112 comments:

Martin Cooke said...

It is interesting that Christians were called atheists by the multiculturalists of the pagan Roman empire. Similarly, Buddhists were called atheists, because they did not worship the gods of India. And Buddhists clearly have a religious belief,. So, it similarly makes sense to think of militant atheists as having a religious belief.

Atheists even have mystical contradictions at the root of their worldview. Because we evolved, our logic is only as good as evolution made it. So, why would it be good enough for us to reliably interpret the evidence for evolution from paleontology and biology?

Atheists base their beliefs on empirical evidence, but they use their theories to rule out inconvenient empirical evidence, such as religious visions and miracles. Or they rule them out because such evidence is directly available only to a few people. But you could say the same about laboratory evidence, which is the foundation of those theories. Et cetera...

One Brow said...

theism does not claim to know something fundamental about reality, only to know something about oneself. I don't pretend to know there are no gods, I just know that I don't see a convincing reason to believe in any.

One Brow said...

Martin Cooke said...
So, it similarly makes sense to think of militant atheists as having a religious belief.

One have a belief that gods do not exist (strong atheism) without being militant, and one can be militant in expressing their lack of belief without being a strong atheist. Your comment here reads like a slur.

Atheists even have mystical contradictions at the root of their worldview. Because we evolved, our logic is only as good as evolution made it. So, why would it be good enough for us to reliably interpret the evidence for evolution from paleontology and biology?

1) That's not a contradiction, it's an argument from insufficiency.
2) Adding in gods that don't exist, or we have no good reason to believe exist, doesn't make our interpretations of evidence more reliable.

Atheists base their beliefs on empirical evidence, but they use their theories to rule out inconvenient empirical evidence, such as religious visions and miracles. Or they rule them out because such evidence is directly available only to a few people. But you could say the same about laboratory evidence, which is the foundation of those theories. Et cetera...

The miracles are not repeatable, but they are expected to be believed anyway. Laboratory results that are not repeatable are written off as errors.

One Brow said...

Sorry, the September 01, 2020 6:00 AM comment should start with "Atheism ..."

Hal said...

Like theists, atheists operate out of a foundational faith or belief that shapes their perceiving, thinking, and living in the world.

That is a strange claim. I noticed little to no difference in my perceiving, thinking or living in the world when I stopped believing in the Christian god and became an atheist.

I no longer prayed or attended church. But my moral and ethical positions didn't change. My reasoning ability stayed the same. I still perceived that I still lived in the same world I had when a Christian. I still find meaning in life.

There have been changes in my moral values since leaving the Christian faith. For example, I no longer think that homosexuality is wrong or evil. But many good Christians have come to the same conclusion.

I have noticed a decline in my rational faculty due to aging, but many Christians experience the same decline.

I do believe it highly unlikely that there is a God such as the Christian one. But I don't have faith in that belief like I had faith in God when I was a Christian. So it looks like the author's assumption that the word "faith" is being used in the same way when it comes to faith in the truth of Christianity or atheism is false assumption.

Starhopper said...

I've never understood why non-repeatability is assumed to be conclusive evidence of an error. That in turn assumes that everything is repeatable. So you've ruled out the existence of non-repeatable events, not by evidence, but by definition.

We should not expect a miracle to be repeatable. That's what makes it a miracle. If you could repeat it, there would be nothing miraculous about it.

Allow me to re-post my very first contribution to Dangerous Idea, from way back on July 8th, 2010:

Early on in George MacDonald's fairy story Phantastes, we come upon the following scene. The book's main character (Anodos) is suddenly confronted by a magical creature:

"Anodos, you never saw such a little creature before, did you?"

"No," said I, "and indeed I hardly believe I do now."

"Ah, that is always the way with you men; you believe nothing the first time; and it is foolish enough to let mere repetition convince you of what you consider in itself unbelievable."


That little three line exchange is perhaps one of the most profound statements I have ever read about how many people approach the miraculous. Just think about it. Were a person to come across a single lifeform in an otherwise lifeless universe - heck, were he to find a single strand of DNA, he would either refuse to believe it existed, or proclaim it a miracle. But here we are in the real world, surrounded by trillions and trillions of incomprehensibly complex lifeforms, and all too many people dismiss it all as just "the way things are".

The same thing goes for the Resurrection. Its very singularity is a stumbling block to skeptics, but the same people will not be bothered for a second by the fact that there are billions of people alive all around them right now. Why should finding life a second time be any less unbelievable than the first time? So is it "mere repetition", in MacDonald's words, that makes the starkly incredible fact of one's own existence so casually accepted?

I believe that MacDonald has hit upon an unexamined (and therefore unchallenged) assumption underlying skeptical thinking. Let me call it The Singularity Problem. (A problem, that is, for the skeptic.) Basically, the issue can be stated quite simply. A main objection to miraculous events raised by skeptics is that they are not common, or even sui generis. Thus, we frequently hear people objecting to Christ’s Virgin Birth because we don't see such births happening around us as a norm. But why should we? The singularity of the event is definitionally mandated by its miraculous nature. Until we somehow rule out the possibility of one-of-a-kind events on grounds stronger than ruling them out on principle (which, after all, amounts to a "because I said so" argument), we cannot object to their existence on those grounds alone.

I say this underlying assumption needs to be examined and defended, not simply accepted a priori. Otherwise, the skeptic must somehow make the case that we are not quite literally surrounded by countless miracles all the time.

One Brow said...

Starhopper said...
I've never understood why non-repeatability is assumed to be conclusive evidence of an error. That in turn assumes that everything is repeatable. So you've ruled out the existence of non-repeatable events, not by evidence, but by definition.

Strictly within the realms of science. Non-repeatable events can be examined by history, archaeology, etc. Please note I was not trying to limit what should or should not be believed, only refuting Martin Cooke's notion that science was not reliable because so few people are in laboratories. I believe we agree on that point.

In particular, I agree uniqueness is not sufficient reason to reject that an event occurred. I would say that such events need a reason to believe in them.

Starhopper said...

I think we're in general agreement here, One Brow.

I regard "science" as a special case. It's a field with its own internally consistent rules which must be followed, much as the players in a baseball game have to comply with the rules. But not all knowledge is science, and what is verboten in the laboratory may very well be acceptable (or even mandatory) in another context. A shortstop walking down the street certainly does not have to consult an umpire to see whether it's OK to cross over to the other side.

Yet even in science, not all events are repeatable (the "Big Bang" or the origin of life, for instance) or in some cases haven't even happened yet (the heat death of the universe or the discovery of extraterrestrial life, again for instance).

Hal said...

Like theists, atheists operate out of a foundational faith or belief that shapes their perceiving, thinking, and living in the world.

This begs the question as to whether or not a worldview requires a foundational faith or belief.

Starhopper said...

I've long made it habit to be perpetually reading the, Bible - at any time I'll be reading one book from the Old and one from the New Testaments. Last night, I finished reading for the nth time the Book of Wisdom. Most scholars believe it to be the last book of the Old Testament to have been written. Anyways, I was struck by a line I had never particularly noticed before:

You [the Lord] have made all things by measure and number and weight."
(Wisdom 11:20)

Now if that isn't a declaration of a rational universe, I don't know what is. Thinking about this statement, I wondered... Is monotheism a prerequisite for the scientific method? As long as Mankind worshiped many gods, he could (and did) attribute all the phenomena of nature to disparate and often contrary (or contradictory) causes. Poseidon might rule the seas, but Zeus was master of the sky. Even individual rivers had their deity. St. Augustine (employing argumentum ad absurdum) showed the ridiculousness of this line of thought by listing the Roman god of doors, the god of hinges, the god of thresholds, the god of houses, the god of roofs, etc., etc. to show how you could never determine just who was responsible for what.

The clearest example of where this all led is Homer's Iliad, where the fate of Troy hung on the outcome of the quarrels amongst the gods, and who would prevail.

But monotheism made possible the the idea of everything acting in harmony with everything else, and if action A produced result B over here (or today), then it ought to do the same over there (or tomorrow). And once that was unquestioned, then observation and experimentation could proceed.

Hal said...

Starhopper,

Is monotheism a prerequisite for the scientific method?

What do you mean by "scientific method"?

Starhopper said...

"What do you mean by "scientific method"?"

The same thing everybody else means by it.

1. Ask a question.
2. Do research.
3. Propose a hypothesis.
4. Test (a.k.a., Experiment)
(There's a possibility of looping here, but we need not go into that.)
5. Analyse results and draw conclusions.
(Again, there may be some looping here.)
6. Communicate results.

All of the above is predicated on the understanding that all things have been made "by measure and number and weight" and not by arbitrary whim or (worse) by conflicting wills.

Hal said...

Starhopper,

I would think that any civilization capable of building houses or structures like the pyramids would have to follow such a methodology. Don't see why that should require a monotheistic belief. Even the commonplace practice of cooking relies on it.

If you meant something like Western science which claims it will be able to offer a complete explanation of the world we live in then I would agree that Christianity had a great deal to do with that.

Starhopper said...

"I would think that any civilization capable of building houses or structures like the pyramids would have to follow such a methodology."

These pyramid building scientific method following engineers also cheerfully sacrificed their first born children to the gods, burning them alive, to ensure that their structures would not fall down.

bmiller said...

These pyramid building scientific method following engineers also cheerfully sacrificed their first born children to the gods, burning them alive, to ensure that their structures would not fall down.

In some ways, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Hal said...

Starhopper,

These pyramid building scientific method following engineers also cheerfully sacrificed their first born children to the gods, burning them alive, to ensure that their structures would not fall down.

Don't know how that relates to the development of Western Science.
Interestingly, the Christian God seemed quite content to kill a number of first born children in Egypt after He had hardened Pharaoh's heart.

bmiller said...

But they weren't persons.

Starhopper said...

Back to the subject of the origins of science, my point was that the builders of the pyramids, for all their undoubted engineering skills, were far from being scientists, or having a scientific outlook on the world.

As to the death of the first born of Egypt, the rabbis were unanimous in their commentaries on Moses that the Egyptians brought that disaster (as well as the other nine plagues) upon themselves. It was not the will of an ever-merciful God that they be destroyed, but the consequence of a (human) will set upon evil. By chance, this is explicitly spelled out in the very book (Wisdom, which I just finished) that began this conversation.

(We even see this in the movie The 10 Commandments. When Moses learns that Pharaoh intends to slaughter the first born of the Hebrew slaves, he (Charleton Heston) cries out in despair "Out of his own mouth he has condemned the first born of Egypt!" and immediately prays to God that this not happen.

Hal said...

Starhopper,
Back to the subject of the origins of science, my point was that the builders of the pyramids, for all their undoubted engineering skills, were far from being scientists, or having a scientific outlook on the world.

So then I understand you to me in agreement with what I wrote earlier:
If you meant something like Western science which claims it will be able to offer a complete explanation of the world we live in then I would agree that Christianity had a great deal to do with that.

Hal said...

Starhopper,
Sorry for my horrendous typing:

So then I understand you to me in agreement

should be:

So then I understand you to be in agreement

Starhopper said...

Change "Christianity" to "monotheism" and we're in agreement. Judaism and Islam (both monotheistic) have proven themselves to be compatible with a scientific view on the world.

Hal said...

Starhopper,
Change "Christianity" to "monotheism" and we're in agreement. Judaism and Islam (both monotheistic) have proven themselves to be compatible with a scientific view on the world.

I'm not really talking about compatibility. I'm talking about what enabled the scientific revolution to take place. Without that Western science would have faded away and not taken the dominant role it has in our culture. I think the credit for that goes to Christianity.

Islam was responsible for some scientific achievements, but it was not able to produce anything like Western Science. And although many excellent scientists wer and are Jewish, Judaism itself can't even claim any scientific achievements equivalent to Islam.

Christianity was the dominant monotheistic religion in Western civilization and it was predominantly responsible for the rise of Western science.

Starhopper said...

Interesting. I wonder what it is (was) about Christianity that made it a suitable incubator for the scientific method.

Islam had a "Golden Age" of scientific thought centuries before Galileo, but it didn't last. It was essentially stillborn. Contemporary Islam is borderline hostile to science. Judaism has produced some of the finest minds in the history of science (e.g., Einstein), but their work was produced in a Christian environment.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

Ever read anything by Stanley Jaki?

Starhopper said...

I've heard of him, but no, I haven't read anything by him.

bmiller said...

I've read a couple of his works and he has an answer to your question.

From Wikipedia:
"Stanley L. Jaki OSB (Jáki Szaniszló László) (17 August 1924 in Győr, Hungary – 7 April 2009 in Madrid, Spain)[1][2] was a Hungarian-born priest of the Benedictine order. From 1975 to his death, he was Distinguished University Professor at Seton Hall University, in South Orange, New Jersey. He held doctorates in theology and in physics and was a leading contributor to the philosophy of science and the history of science, particularly to their relationship to Christianity."

He has lots of books, and some go deeply into physics, so they may not be your cup of tea, but this book by Stacy Trasancos (she has a PhD in Chemistry) looks like it summarizes what you're looking for from his works (although I haven't read it)"

The Intro:
It is a stark claim to say that science was born of Christianity, but do not reject this claim without understanding what it is about, as so many have done. This book provides the historical research and the reasoning in outline form, to be read beginning to end, browsed one chapter at a time, or referenced when presenting and defending the argument to others. The claim that science was "stillborn" in other cultures and "born" of Christianity is more than a claim that man saw order in the world.

Jaki's historical research specifically considers the theological history of science and the effect of ancient religious mindsets on the development of science. This story is about how faith in divine revelation caused a departure from ancient worldviews of an eternally cycling universe and led to the breakthrough that was necessary for the Scientific Revolution to occur. This departure, this breakthrough, this birth, was not based on observation or experiment but on faith in the Christian Creed.


Available in Kindle too.

Hal said...

Starhopper,
Interesting. I wonder what it is (was) about Christianity that made it a suitable incubator for the scientific method.

The story is rather complicated. I've drawn my understanding of what happened on Stephen Gaukroger's tetralogy detailing the emergence of our scientific culture. The first book in the tetralogy provides the most detail regarding how Christianity was involved in that emergence.
Here is a link to the First Book

Here is a quote from Gaukroger's final book that will give you a little glimpse of his views:
Our starting point has been the second decade of the thirteenth century. Since I have argued that the major developments in disciplines making up natural philosophy did not occur until the middle to late decades of the sixteenth century at earliest, one might ask what was so significant about what happened three and a half centuries earlier. The answer is that we can trace back to this earlier period a number of connected developments that shape the emergence of a scientific culture. These resulted from the abandonment of an integrated conception of the world that was formulated in the early Church Fathers, and which received its canonical statement in the writings of Augustine of Hippo at the end of the fourth century. On this integrated conception, philosophy was a tool of theology, and there was no division into autonomous secular and ecclesiastical realms. It was with the Investiture Controversy (1050-11-22) that this conception first came apart in a politico-theological context. The Controversy hinged on the appointment of clergy by monarch and nobles, which was condemned by Pope Gregory VII, whose first target was the removal of the monarch's power to appoint popes. Asserting papal supremacy over the entire Western church, he declared its independence from secular control. The resolution of the Controversy resulted in the church achieving a legal identity independent of emperors, kings, and feudal lords. But the relevant upshot of this for our purposes was a separation of the ecclesiastical and secular realms.

The bifurcation into ecclesia and mundus gradually covered every aspect of political and intellectual life, and its first manifestation was the legal division into autonomous ecclesiastical and secular legal systems, initiating a tradition of reconciling the two legal systems so that they did not conflict. These procedures provided a model for the various forms of bifurcation that followed, not least in the realm of understanding, and this brings us to a formative development in the establishment of a scientific culture: the revision of the Aristotelian conception of metaphysics, one that enabled it to play a mediating role between what became two independent sources of knowledge, natural philosophy on the one hand, and revelation and Christian teaching on the other. Aristotelianism made sense perception the sole source of knowledge of the natural world, and allowing and understanding of the natural world that deployed purely natural resources was a fundamental concession. It was necessitated by the realization that Aristotelianism provided far more powerful systematic philosophical resources than anything else available for resolving fundamental theological dilemmas such as transubstantiation and the trinity. As a consequence, it was now metaphysics, not theology, that tempered claims about the natural world.


Continued:

Hal said...

Sorry, had to cut off the quote due to length. Here is the rest of it:
Despite much resistance, Aristotelianism became the preeminent means for understanding natural philosophy and metaphysics by the end of the thirteenth century. In contrast to the Platonism that had dominated theological and philosophical thought up to that time, the core of the new understanding of the world and one's place in it lay in natural philosophy. Here, for the first time, there emerges a culture in which scientific values take central stage. Early modern science was not continuous with medieval science, as some commentators have claimed. But neither was it formed via a dissociation of science and theology, as others have maintained. As part of an attempt to bolster the resources on which theology could draw, metaphysics becomes detheologized in the hands of Aquinas...... Aquinas construed metaphysics as a neutral discourse which, governed solely by reason, can decide conflicts between natural philosophy, reliant on sense perception, and theology, reliant on revelation. The latter was considered to have a degree of certainty lacking in natural philosophy, which gave it a more secure standing, but nevertheless it was metaphysics that was called upon to resolve contradictions between the two, on the immortality of the soul, for example, and on the eternity of matter.

bmiller said...

Interesting. I wonder what it is (was) about Christianity that made it a suitable incubator for the scientific method.

I don't see how the Gaukroger snippet answers the question of why science developed only in Christendom and no where else. Plato and Aristotle both died 600 years before Christ was born and since Greece was a world-wide trading route, their philosophy was known around the Mediterranean and beyond. All civilizations had access to their works for centuries before Christianity existed and for centuries after.

bmiller said...

Oops.

"Plato and Aristotle both died 600 years before Christ was born "
Should have been "Plato and Aristotle both died 600 years before Christianity was legal"

Starhopper said...

"600 years before Christianity was legal"

Is it legal today? I'm not so sure. Christian religion, maybe so. But Christianity? I seriously doubt it.

Just try to go out there and live a genuinely Christian life. You'd be locked up (for your own safety, they'd say) before you got to the end of your street.

bmiller said...

Just try to go out there and live a genuinely Christian life. You'd be locked up (for your own safety, they'd say) before you got to the end of your street.

I recall that you are a Christian that practices nudity, so perhaps the authorities have a point ;-)

This is a very brief summary of Jaki's review of history and why science was 'born' in Christendom and 'stillborn' in other religious cultures.

Hal said...

bmiller,

Of course that snippet does not give a complete answer to how our scientific culture was formed.
But if you read it carefully it does show the beginning of that process. Due to the Investiture Controversy the divide between the secular and the theological became more acute. And the truths found in the secular realm did not always agree with the truths revealed in Christianity.
Aristotelianism provided Aquinas with a philosophical system that helped to address some of the theological issues the Church was dealing with. But that came at a price: Aristotelianism made sense perception the sole source of knowledge of the natural world, and allowing an understanding of the natural world that deployed purely natural resources was a fundamental concession. By allowing natural resources (and not revealed theological claims) to explain and provide an understanding of natural processes the possibility for natural philosophy to become a truly autonomous enterprise existed.

Aquinas thought that Aristotelian metaphysics would be able to provide a bridge between natural philosophy and Christian doctrines. Unfortunately that was mistaken. One of the reasons it failed is that it could not provide support for the Christian doctrine of personal immortality. There were other reasons, but the upshot is that it ended up being replaced by Cartesian mechanism.

I understand you are relying on another book to explain how our scientific culture developed. I"m curious, doesn't the author point out the importance of Aristotelian natural philosophy in that process?

bmiller said...

Hal,

First of all, the present topic is why modern day science developed in Christendom and no where else. Your source is not interested in this particular topic, so I think it is irrelevant to the question Starhopper raised.

I think you are interested in interpreting history from an atheistic/naturalistic prospective that I disagree with and your interpretation of your source (your's or their's) confirms that in my mind.



Hal said...

Another snippet in this and the next post:
In short, theological resources were no longer deployed in our understanding of the natural world, which had now become exclusively tied to natural philosophy. I stress that this was a theologically motivated move: the adoption of Aristotelian metapkhysics provided the resources for dealing with pressing theological issues in a far more satisfactory way than the alternatives. But Aristotelian metaphysics came as part of a package in which natural philosophy provided exclusive acces to the natural world. In adopting it, Christianity took on a unique feature: a fundamental engagement with science, which set it apart from all other religions, transforming it radically and giving it a distinctive identity. Islam was the only other religion which had had a full-scale engagement with science, and Aristotelianism had also provided the route for this engagement: indeed the scholars of thirteenth-century Paris were deeply indebted to the Arabic Aristotle tradition. But the commitment to theocracy in medieval Islamic culture (something that the division of responsibilities that emerged in the wake of the Investiture Controversy had effectively made impossible in Christian Europe) resulted in the Arab engagement coming to an end just as the Christian one was beginning. The upshot was that, with Christianity from the thirteenth century onwards, science became an integral part of the understanding of the world. This had very significant consequences for Christianity, and at the same time it resulted in the gradual transformation of the Christian West into a scientific culture. These developments have occasionally been resisted: nineteenth-century Catholicism retreated into a staunchly anti-science form of dogmatism, struggling vainly to institute a form of theocracy, and twentieth-century evangelical Protestantism attempted to subordinate science to a biblical literalism. But the benefits of a scientific culture-particularly when associated with technological and other developments that have transformed daily life-together with the intellectual standing of science, have been so overwhelming that there was never any chance these developments being considered as anything other than marginal and misguided.

Hal said...

Nevertheless, the developments were problematic. The move, with the development of Scholasticism, to treat natural philosophy as autonomous relied on the assumption that metaphysics would be able to play a decisive role in adjudicating between natural philosophy and theology. This is where the problems began, for by the beginning of the sixteenth century it had become clear that a Thomist-style metaphysics was unable to provide the necessary guidance on the most pressing philosophical-theological issue of the day: the doctrine of personal immortality of the soul. These considerations arose in the context of a conflict between Aristotelian natural philosophy and theology. This is the arena into which the new natural philosophies of mechanics and micro-corpuscularianism were born, and by the early decades of the seventeenth century Aristotelian natural philosophy had been replaced, largely by micro-corpuscularianism, and two new forms of scientific enquiry appeared: a rejuvenated form of mechanics, initially in astronomy, optics, and statics; and later in the century we witness the emergence of experimental natural philosophy.

Hal said...

bmiller,
First of all, the present topic is why modern day science developed in Christendom and no where else. Your source is not interested in this particular topic, so I think it is irrelevant to the question Starhopper raised.

He is extremely interested in precisely that development. He wrote 4 volumes detailing why our scientific culture emerged in Christian Europe.

Hal said...

This snippet shows why Gaukroger does not hold to the myth of the war between science and religion:

There is a widely held view that the success of Western science - initially characterized by mechanics and micro-corpuscularianism - lay, at least in part, in its ability to dissociate itself from religion. It is certainly true that the relations between religion and natural philosophy shifted quite radically in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but these shifts were by no means straightforward, and the outcome was by no means a turn away from religion, but rather in many respects a turn towards it. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were the most intensely religious centuries Europe has known. A range of exacting moral standards, accompanied by demands for self-vigilance, which had been the preserve of monastic culture throughout the Middle Ages, were transferred wholesale to the general populace in the course of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Religious sensibilities in the secular population were deep and intense in the early modern era, and these religious sensibilities motivated much natural-philosophical inquiry well into the nineteenth century.

A good part of the distinctive success of the consolidation of the scientific enterprise derived not from a separation of religion and natural philosophy, but rather from the fact that natural philosophy could be accommodated to projects in natural theology: what made natural philosophy attractive to so many in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were the prospects for the renewal of natural theology that it offered. Far from science breaking free of religion in the early modern era, its consolidation depended crucially on religion being in the driving seat: Christianity took over natural philosophy in the seventeenth century, setting its agenda and projecting it forward in a way quite different from that of any other scientific culture, and in the end establishing science as in part constructed in the image of religion. The union of natural philosophy and Christian theology meant that the former took on the aspirations of the latter, as it became part of a project not just of understanding the world but also of understanding our place in it. This legitimization of science, in which it was effectively installed at the heart of the culture, was unique to the early modern West. It provided science with a role that its technical successes, no matter how significant, could by themselves never secure for it.

Hal said...

But just when science was assuming this new role, the features that gave it the appearance of being such a comprehensive success, and which enabled it to be a partner with theology, were coming under threat. Mechanism - the reduction of all physical phenomena to the mechanically characterized behavior of microscopic corpuscles - was a model of systematic natural philosophy, offering an exhaustive account of the natural world that made it the only serious competitor to the Aristotelian natural philosophy. Its most developed general form was that offered by Descartes in the 1640's, but in many areas mechanism was little more than a promissory note. And the promises turned out to be empty in crucial areas such as chemistry, electricity, and physiology which were at the cutting edge of research in the eighteenth century. Those working in these areas gradually turned away from mechanism and pursued experimental natural philosophy, which had no systematic aspirations; they rejected 'speculative natural philosophy', which had very explicit systematic aspirations.

Starhopper said...

"It provided science with a role that its technical successes, no matter how significant, could by themselves never secure for it."

This is what I meant by contrasting the engineering skills of the pyramid builders with their lack of a scientific grounding to those skills. There is, even today, an almost unbridgeable gap between engineering/technology and "pure" science, and people all too often confuse the two. They say that "science" gave us the airplane and the atomic bomb, when it was technology. Apples and oranges.

Hal said...

Starhopper,

Could you elaborate on what you mean by 'pure science'?

Starhopper said...

Pure science equals research that does not consciously or explicitly have technology as its motivation.

Discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle is pure science.

Development of a COVID-19 vaccine is not.

The discovery and further research into gravitational waves is pure science.

Fusion energy research is not.

Of course, as in all things there is a lot of gray area. I would toss climate change studies into that area.

Hal said...

Starhopper,
Thanks. Looks like you think of pure science as coming up with a theory and description of how the natural world works. This would also include discovery of currently unknown parts of the world.
Such knowledge does not entail the employment or use of technology.

Starhopper said...

"Such knowledge does not entail the employment or use of technology."

Not quite. Contemporary research relies heavily on technology (orbiting telescopes, electron microscopes, supercomputers, particle accelerators, etc.). The difference between pure and applied science is that pure research is not explicitly aimed at the creation, development, or improvement of technology, but rather has the acquisition of knowledge as its purpose.


On the other hand, any new knowledge gained from applied science is purely a by-product, and not the intent of any research.

bmiller said...

Hal,

The samples you've supplied from Gaukroger seem to show that he thinks western science had nothing to do with the Christian faith at all and was just an historical accident that it showed up in Christendom rather than anywhere else.

The Catholic Church had taught from the beginning that there could be no conflict between faith and reason. It was the eternal God that created the world and entered it, not some lesser demiurge. So we can know God by knowing his creation and we can know that he loves us. That idea didn't just show up in the year 1075.

Islam had all the same human materials as Christianity. It had a unified religion, a stable civilization, access to Greek philosophy and the time to study it. It has the same linear (versus cyclic) idea of history as Christianity since it was influenced by heretical Christian sects from the start. It was ultimately the non-Christian view that the will of God could be in conflict with His intellect that doomed science to a 'still-birth' within Islam. To argue that science would have been born within Islam if Islam had just left those philosophers alone rather misses the point of why science was 'still-born' in Islam.

Universities sprung up within western Christendom once peace prevailed and it's true that Aristotle's philosophy became the pre-req to study theology, but it was the Aristotlean philosophy that had been tweaked by the Scholastics, not pure Aristotle. The 'problem' of the immortal soul was not a problem at all for the Scholastics. Although Aristotle recognized that the intellect and will were immaterial and therefore incorruptible he had no firm answer as to how it came to be part of human nature. The Scholastics did.

It seems the author suffers from stale Enlightenment bias.

Hal said...

bmiller,

The samples you've supplied from Gaukroger seem to show that he thinks western science had nothing to do with the Christian faith at all and was just an historical accident that it showed up in Christendom rather than anywhere else.

Not quite:

A good part of the distinctive success of the consolidation of the scientific enterprise derived not from a separation of religion and natural philosophy, but rather from the fact that natural philosophy could be accommodated to projects in natural theology: what made natural philosophy attractive to so many in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were the prospects for the renewal of natural theology that it offered. Far from science breaking free of religion in the early modern era, its consolidation depended crucially on religion being in the driving seat: Christianity took over natural philosophy in the seventeenth century, setting its agenda and projecting it forward in a way quite different from that of any other scientific culture, and in the end establishing science as in part constructed in the image of religion. The union of natural philosophy and Christian theology meant that the former took on the aspirations of the latter, as it became part of a project not just of understanding the world but also of understanding our place in it. This legitimization of science, in which it was effectively installed at the heart of the culture, was unique to the early modern West. It provided science with a role that its technical successes, no matter how significant, could by themselves never secure for it.

Also, you are ignoring how differing philosophical traditions interacted and influenced Christianity. From Glaukroger:
With the demise, in the thirteenth century, of a Christian-Platonist conception of the world that had integrated the natural and the supernatural, the organizing thread was ripped out of the natural realm. It was with this epochal separation of the natural and the supernatural that modernity began to emerge in the Christian West.

As already mentioned, unlike Platonism, Aristotelianism provided natural resources for understanding and learning about the natural world:

Aristotelianism made sense perception the sole source of knowledge of the natural world, and allowing and understanding of the natural world that deployed purely natural resources was a fundamental concession. It was necessitated by the realization that Aristotelianism provided far more powerful systematic philosophical resources than anything else available for resolving fundamental theological dilemmas such as transubstantiation and the trinity. As a consequence, it was now metaphysics, not theology, that tempered claims about the natural world.

Hal said...

Starhopper,
Not quite. Contemporary research relies heavily on technology (orbiting telescopes, electron microscopes, supercomputers, particle accelerators, etc.).

Thanks for the clarification.

Hal said...

I should have included an explanation at the beginning of this discussion how Glaukroger is using the term "natural philosophy". Here it is:
'Natural philosophy' designates a group of disciplines that includes, among other things, what we would designate as physics, chemistry/alchemy, biology and physiology, and excludes some disciplines that we might include under 'science', such as mathematics and medicine. Aristotle defined its domain as covering those things that are independent of us and undergo change. This field undergoes some changes with the rejection of Aristotelian natural philosophy from the seventeenth century onwards, but these do not compromise our use of the term (although some qualifications will have to be made later, e.g. on the question of whether 'experimental philosophy' can be treated, for terminological purposes, as a type of natural philosophy, rather than an alternative to it, in the seventeenth century: similarly for 'rational mechanics' in the eighteenth century). Aristotle's own term derives from phusis - 'nature' - and is usually translated as 'physics', but since it is quite different from what we understand as 'physics' I have generally preferred the term 'natural philosophy'. Similarly with the seventeenth century term 'physiology', which refers to natural philosophy, not what we would now term physiology. The terms 'science' (in its modern meaning) and 'scientist' were introduced in the nineteenth century, the former denoting a form of what is usually a professional activity, and is quite different from the Latin term scientia, which denotes a form of wisdom that derives from the systematic organization of material, at least in the Aristotelian tradition. Nevertheless, I have where necessary, used the terms 'science' and 'scientific' in a very broad generic sense to include a range of cognitive activities covering, for example, classical antiquity, medieval China, and modern science proper.

bmiller said...

Hal,

its consolidation depended crucially on religion being in the driving seat:

What does Gaukroger think was unique about the Christian faith that set it apart from Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Polytheism, etc, and all other faiths and allowed 'western' science to develop? Aristotle's teachings were around since 322 and were available to all civilizations of all faiths for centuries before Christ was born. The faiths of all those civilizations put their particular faith in the driving seat of their cultures.

bmiller said...

Here is list of articles summarizing Fr Jaki's explanations for why 'exact science'* could not develop in the cultures of Arabia, Greece, Babylon, India, China and Ancient Egypt regardless of their accomplishments leading to exact science.

You have to scroll down some to the first one The Stillbirth of Science in Arabia.

*'Exact science' is the quantitative study of the quantitative aspects of objects in motion.

David Brightly said...

Regarding Islam, there is a concept in Islamic intellectual history called the 'closing of the gate of ijtihad'. Ijtihad is 'independent thinking' regarding Islamic law, ie, outside the theocracy, and by extension independent thought in philosophy and science

Ironically, the loss of its application in law seems to have also led to its loss in philosophy and the sciences, which most historians think caused Muslim societies to stagnate before the 1492 fall of al-Andalus, after which Muslim works were translated and led in part to the revival of classical works during the Renaissance, using improved methods, although the Muslims themselves were no longer using these methods in their daily life at all. Sardar argues that once imitation had become "the dominant paradigm of Islamic civilization... Islamic science truly became a matter of history," while "Muslim civilization" itself decayed.[6]

New World Encyclopedia

bmiller said...

This article argues that Greek philosophy ran into problems early on within Islam even though there was a initially a large effort to translate the texts.

But the Islamic turn away from scholarship actually preceded the civilization’s geopolitical decline — it can be traced back to the rise of the anti-philosophical Ash’arism school among Sunni Muslims, who comprise the vast majority of the Muslim world.

To understand this anti-rationalist movement, we once again turn our gaze back to the time of the Abbasid caliph al-Mamun. Al-Mamun picked up the pro-science torch lit by the second caliph, al-Mansur, and ran with it. He responded to a crisis of legitimacy by attempting to undermine traditionalist religious scholars while actively sponsoring a doctrine called Mu’tazilism that was deeply influenced by Greek rationalism, particularly Aristotelianism. To this end, he imposed an inquisition, under which those who refused to profess their allegiance to Mu’tazilism were punished by flogging, imprisonment, or beheading. But the caliphs who followed al-Mamun upheld the doctrine with less fervor, and within a few decades, adherence to it became a punishable offense. The backlash against Mu’tazilism was tremendously successful: by 885, a half century after al-Mamun’s death, it even became a crime to copy books of philosophy. The beginning of the de-Hellenization of Arabic high culture was underway. By the twelfth or thirteenth century, the influence of Mu’tazilism was nearly completely marginalized.

In its place arose the anti-rationalist Ash’ari school whose increasing dominance is linked to the decline of Arabic science. With the rise of the Ash’arites, the ethos in the Islamic world was increasingly opposed to original scholarship and any scientific inquiry that did not directly aid in religious regulation of private and public life. While the Mu’tazilites had contended that the Koran was created and so God’s purpose for man must be interpreted through reason, the Ash’arites believed the Koran to be coeval with God — and therefore unchallengeable. At the heart of Ash’ari metaphysics is the idea of occasionalism, a doctrine that denies natural causality. Put simply, it suggests natural necessity cannot exist because God’s will is completely free. Ash’arites believed that God is the only cause, so that the world is a series of discrete physical events each willed by God.

.... According to the occasionalist view, tomorrow coldness might follow fire, and satiety might follow lack of food. God wills every single atomic event and God’s will is not bound up with reason. This amounts to a denial of the coherence and comprehensibility of the natural world.

Hal said...

bmiller,


What does Gaukroger think was unique about the Christian faith that set it apart from Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Polytheism, etc, and all other faiths and allowed 'western' science to develop?


A key factor that enabled Western science to develop was the transition from Platonism to Aristotelianism in dealing with theological issues in Christianity:
The rediscovery of the Aristotelian corpus, with its elaborate defense of abstractive knowledge, provided what seemed, to an increasing number of theologians and philosophers in the course of the thirteenth century, exactly the right resources with which to develop a fundamental philosophical vindication of those key theological issues—such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and transubstantiation—that required a particularly sophisticated account of substance and its properties, and the relation between particulars and universals. In this way, Aristotelianism seemed to hold the key to a set of fundamental theological questions, and this, above all, is what would secure its philosophical primacy over traditional Platonism.

But Aristotelian metaphysics came as part of a package in which natural philosophy provided exclusive access to the natural world. In adopting it, Christianity took on a unique feature: a fundamental engagement with science, which set it apart from all other religions, transforming it radically and giving it a distinctive identity. Islam was the only other religion which had had a full-scale engagement with science, and Aristotelianism had also provided the route for this engagement: indeed the scholars of thirteenth-century Paris were deeply indebted to the Arabic Aristotle tradition. But the commitment to theocracy in medieval Islamic culture (something that the division of responsibilities that emerged in the wake of the Investiture Controversy had effectively made impossible in Christian Europe) resulted in the Arab engagement coming to an end just as the Christian one was beginning.

You seem to think that our modern science was destined to flow out of Christianity. But that doesn't seem so obvious when you consider this:

Moreover, it must be remembered, in the context of natural philosophy, that there was a Christian tradition of rejection of natural philosophy as an appropriate topic of study for Christians. In Deuteronomy 4: 9, we are warned to beware ‘lest you lift your eyes up to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you will be drawn away and worship and serve them'. Augustine's mentor, Ambrose of Milan, explained the absence of discussion of scientific matters in the Scriptures on the grounds that ‘there is no place in the words of the Holy Scripture for the vanity of perishable knowledge which deceives and deludes us in our attempt to explain the unexplainable', and Augustine himself took a similar approach:

When it is asked what we ought to believe in matters of religion, the answer is not to be sought in the exploration of the nature of things, after the manner of those whom the Greeks called ‘physicists'. . . For the Christian, it is enough to believe that the cause of all created things, whether in heaven or on earth, whether visible or invisible, is nothing other than the goodness of the Creator.

This attitude is also confirmed in his views on astronomy, where he takes the point that the motions of celestial bodies are hardly mentioned in the Scriptures to indicate that they needlessly burden the mind, and that one should desist from astronomy altogether.

bmiller said...

Hal,

I'm not sure you understand the question I am asking. That's why I provided the link to the Jaki articles and then specifically to Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science. The quotes from Gaukroger do not address why the faith of Christianity is compatible with modern science while the others (mentioned in the Jaki articles) are not.

Not sure why we're talking past each other if you've read the articles.

Regarding Gaukroger:

Why would he pull a snippet from St. Augustine's Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love to argue that Augustine rejected natural philosophy? Augustine is basically saying that knowing everything Steven Hawking knew won't get you to heaven, so it's better to know what gets you to heaven. The book, after all, is about getting to heaven not the latest scientific theories. Complete non-sequitor

Since I'm fairly familiar with Augustine, I was surprised he would say such a thing since it's opposite to the truth.

From the link to Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science:
Far from accepting anything close to the occasionalism and legal positivism of the Sunnis, European scholars argued explicitly that when the Bible contradicts the natural world, the holy book should not be taken literally. Influential philosophers like Augustine held that knowledge and reason precede Christianity; he approached the subject of scientific inquiry with cautious encouragement, exhorting Christians to use the classical sciences as a handmaiden of Christian thought.

I'll be happy to provide quotes from Augustine supporting this view.

Concurrentism is the Thomist view that prevailed in Europe and enabled science to develop instead of the occasionalism of Islam.

Let me know if you'd like to see a discussion of the differences.

bmiller said...

BTW. Bet Steven Hawking wish he'd read Augustine's book now:-)

Hal said...

bmiller,
Why would he pull a snippet from St. Augustine's Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love to argue that Augustine rejected natural philosophy?

He didn't argue that. You've snipped off part of his claim:

...in the context of natural philosophy, that there was a Christian tradition of rejection of natural philosophy as an appropriate topic of study for Christians.

Hal said...

bmiller,

Earlier you wrote:
First of all, the present topic is why modern day science developed in Christendom and no where else.

That is the topic I am interested in discussing. And that is the subject of Gaukoger’s tetralogy. That is why I have quoted so heavily from his writings.

So far I haven’t seen a substantial response to his position. Looks like you are more interested in comparing various religions attitudes to science. I am not interested in that discussion.

bmiller said...

Hal,

He didn't argue that. You've snipped off part of his claim:

...in the context of natural philosophy, that there was a Christian tradition of rejection of natural philosophy as an appropriate topic of study for Christians.


Augustine simply did not reject natural philosophy as an appropriate topic of study for Christians and it was wrong of Gaukroger to imply he did.

So far I haven’t seen a substantial response to his position.

The quotes you supplied do not address the question. The articles I linked to do. If he has a different opinion you have not supplied it.

Looks like you are more interested in comparing various religions attitudes to science. I am not interested in that discussion.

So you want to discuss why science developed in Christendom and no where else but you don't want to discuss the particular Christendom beliefs that are different than others that led to science being developed in Christendom? Sorry. That makes no sense to me.

Hal said...

bmiller,

First of all, the present topic is why modern day science developed in Christendom and no where else.

So you want to discuss why science developed in Christendom and no where else but you don't want to discuss the particular Christendom beliefs that are different than others that led to science being developed in Christendom?


The word 'Christendom' is used to refer to he part of the world in which Christianity prevails. The emergence of modern science occurred in the West, a part of Christendom.

I"m interested in the historical events and beliefs that were involved in that development and change. Simply comparing the various beliefs between different religions is not an adequate explanation for the emergence of science in the West. For example, Christianity's relationship with natural philosophy changed when it dropped Platonism and embraced Aristotelianism. That change along with the division of the secular from the religious realms that occurred in the 12th century (the Investiture Controversy) helped to lay the groundwork for the emergence of modern science.

One Brow said...

bmiller,
So you want to discuss why science developed in Christendom and no where else but you don't want to discuss the particular Christendom beliefs that are different than others that led to science being developed in Christendom? Sorry. That makes no sense to me.

As Hal pointed out, you're being a little too expansive. For example, Russia was a part of Christendom, but not a part of these advancements. It's about more than just your religion.

bmiller said...

Hal,

I"m interested in the historical events and beliefs that were involved in that development and change. Simply comparing the various beliefs between different religions is not an adequate explanation for the emergence of science in the West.

You just told me that you're not interested in discussing religious beliefs at all. Apparently Gaukoger does not discuss this at all either. Any explanation that ignores this is inadequate. I haven't argued that to fully study the development we have to ignore the attention paid to Aristotle, or historical events that occurred before the institutions of universities.

I do think the author puts too much emphasis on the Investiture Controversy since there has always been a struggle for the State to control the Church. Jesus told us to "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." so there was always a recognition in Christianity a difference between Church and State. If anything, it led to continued chaos that prevented establishing universities by the Church.

Hal said...

bmiller,

You just told me that you're not interested in discussing religious beliefs at all.

Nope, never said that.

What I am not interested in is engaging in a discussion that amounts to an apologetic for Christianity and a dissing of other religions.

bmiller said...

Hal,

Nope, never said that.

What I am not interested in is engaging in a discussion that amounts to an apologetic for Christianity and a dissing of other religions.


I don't know how people can discuss Starhopper's question without discussing the beliefs of different religions. I also don't know how anyone considers objectively comparing those differences is an apology for any of them. I do consider it an attempt at atheistic apologetics to consider discussing religious beliefs as irrelevant or harmful. I could sense that from the author from the first set of quotes.

Hal said...

bmiller,
I do consider it an attempt at atheistic apologetics to consider discussing religious beliefs as irrelevant or harmful. I could sense that from the author from the first set of quotes.

Interesting. Here is the first set of quotes again:

Our starting point has been the second decade of the thirteenth century. Since I have argued that the major developments in disciplines making up natural philosophy did not occur until the middle to late decades of the sixteenth century at earliest, one might ask what was so significant about what happened three and a half centuries earlier. The answer is that we can trace back to this earlier period a number of connected developments that shape the emergence of a scientific culture. These resulted from the abandonment of an integrated conception of the world that was formulated in the early Church Fathers, and which received its canonical statement in the writings of Augustine of Hippo at the end of the fourth century. On this integrated conception, philosophy was a tool of theology, and there was no division into autonomous secular and ecclesiastical realms. It was with the Investiture Controversy (1050-11-22) that this conception first came apart in a politico-theological context. The Controversy hinged on the appointment of clergy by monarch and nobles, which was condemned by Pope Gregory VII, whose first target was the removal of the monarch's power to appoint popes. Asserting papal supremacy over the entire Western church, he declared its independence from secular control. The resolution of the Controversy resulted in the church achieving a legal identity independent of emperors, kings, and feudal lords. But the relevant upshot of this for our purposes was a separation of the ecclesiastical and secular realms.

The bifurcation into ecclesia and mundus gradually covered every aspect of political and intellectual life, and its first manifestation was the legal division into autonomous ecclesiastical and secular legal systems, initiating a tradition of reconciling
the two legal systems so that they did not conflict. These procedures provided a model for the various forms of bifurcation that followed, not least in the realm of understanding, and this brings us to a formative development in the establishment of a scientific culture: the revision of the Aristotelian conception of metaphysics, one that enabled it to play a mediating role between what became two independent sources of knowledge, natural philosophy on the one hand, and revelation and Christian teaching on the other. Aristotelianism made sense perception the sole source of knowledge of the natural world, and allowing and understanding of the natural world that deployed purely natural resources was a fundamental concession. It was necessitated by the realization that Aristotelianism provided far more powerful systematic philosophical resources than anything else available for resolving fundamental theological dilemmas such as transubstantiation and the trinity. As a consequence, it was now metaphysics, not theology, that tempered claims about the natural world.


I fail to see any apologetic for atheism. Can you point to some specific passage in those quotes that supports your claim?

And I said:
I'm not really talking about compatibility. I'm talking about what enabled the scientific revolution to take place. Without that Western science would have faded away and not taken the dominant role it has in our culture. I think the credit for that goes to Christianity.

Islam was responsible for some scientific achievements, but it was not able to produce anything like Western Science. And although many excellent scientists were and are Jewish, Judaism itself can't even claim any scientific achievements equivalent to Islam.

Christianity was the dominant monotheistic religion in Western civilization and it was predominantly responsible for the rise of Western science.


Where is an atheistic apologetic in my remarks?

Hal said...

bmiller,

Here is a link to a Google preview of Gaukroger's book: Emergence of a Scientific Culture


Perhaps this will give you a better idea of what Gaukroger's aims are. There are about 60 pages that you can preview there.

Starhopper said...

I've been off-line for the past week, having spilled a glass of water on my computer and frying it. I now have a new laptop. And now my phone is dead! I am a Luddite for good reason!!!

For the record, since I seem to have been repeatedly misquoted in this discussion, I never said Christianity was a prerequisite for a culture adopting a scientific outlook on the physical world. I said monotheism was.

That said... Islam is a special case, since it never developed its own embrace of science. It basically stole it from Byzantium (like it did so much else). And for a couple of centuries the Arabic world ran with the stolen goods, achieving truly impressive heights in the Middle Ages. But without a foundational cultural commitment to science, Islamic science eventually ran out of steam, and it has accomplished little of note for the past 500 years or so.

Interestingly, the polytheistic culture of India has followed a completely opposite path. Like medieval Islam, India appropriated its attitude toward science from the West - it did not organically arise from within Indian culture. But unlike Islam, India has thoroughly, wholeheartedly, and enthusiastically embraced a scientific outlook and there is no end in sight to what they have yet to accomplish.

I fear however that the West may very well go the same route as Islam, now that our culture has abandoned its religious roots. We're already seeing the beginnings of the collapse of western science, in the rise of conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxers, "alternative facts", climate change denialism, etc.

Hal said...

Starhopper,

I never said Christianity was a prerequisite for a culture adopting a scientific outlook on the physical world. I said monotheism was.

Well, regardless of the whether or not that is true, it is an historical fact that Christianity was deeply involved in the emergence of modern science. It is the study of the historical events bringing about that emergence which I am interested in understanding better.
I think Gaukroger's 4 volume study does an excellent job of presenting the historical details involved in that emergence.

bmiller said...

Hal,

Where is an atheistic apologetic in my remarks?

I think it's a weak indirect apologetic. Apology by ommission if you will that he doesn't mention concurrentism. How can I think that?

When I mentioned how the different conceptions of God between Christianity (concurrentism) and Islam (occasionalism) allowed science to move forward in the case of the former and stop in the case of the later you accused me of apologetics:
What I am not interested in is engaging in a discussion that amounts to an apologetic for Christianity and a dissing of other religions.

A faithful Sunni Muslim would not take offense at his view of God being explained so I have to assume that you think the argument is directed against you, atheism or both since you are an atheist, and atheists have an incorrect idea of what God is from both the Sunni and Christian perspective.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

For the record, since I seem to have been repeatedly misquoted in this discussion, I never said Christianity was a prerequisite for a culture adopting a scientific outlook on the physical world. I said monotheism was.

No one misquoted you that I remember, and no one claimed or claimed you said "Christianity was a prerequisite for a culture adopting a scientific outlook on the physical world.".

It's just an historical fact that modern science developed within Christianity and no where else. Given that fact, I pointed to Fr Jaki's theory which actually studies the worldviews, philosophy and theology of other cultures compared to Christianity.

The Gaukroger quotes that Hal has supplied seem to ignore what Christians actually believe(d) about God and rather focuses on which philosophy they ended up with (who knows why) and a fight between the Pope(s) and the king(s) of Germany (while there were no such fights in Italy, France, Britain, etc.) while apparently ignoring theology altogether. It may as well be titled something like A Materialist's Explanation of Religion as far as I'm concerned.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

Why do you think India is advancing scientifically much more than any other culture that came to accept western science. Japan and China come to mind.

Starhopper said...

bmiller,

Not "much more than any other culture" but "much more than any other polytheistic culture".

Japan's Shintoism does not fit very well into our Western notions of religion. I would be loathe to label it polytheism, despite the fact that Shinto declares there to be an infinite number of "gods" in nature. But none of these spirits (a better term, I think) are worshipped, but are rather venerated or (in the case of one's ancestors) respected.

Neither China's Confucianism nor its variety of Buddhism worships any gods whatsoever, so that is not a polytheistic culture.

But neither is China an especially scientific culture. Technological yes, but knowledge for the sake of knowledge? Hardly. Research in China is expected to have a practical purpose.

I think India's willingness to accept, and even embrace, contradictions is its great strength here. The idea of there being a war between science and religion would make no sense in India. There would be no expectation of the two running in lockstep with each other, and any attempts to "reconcile" them would be met with a shake of the head or a "Who cares?" shrug of dismissal.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

What would you point to as evidence of India embracing pure science as opposed to other non-western countries?

Hal said...

bmiller,

Me:
Where is an atheistic apologetic in my remarks?

You:
I think it's a weak indirect apologetic. Apology by ommission if you will that he doesn't mention concurrentism. How can I think that?

When I mentioned how the different conceptions of God between Christianity (concurrentism) and Islam (occasionalism) allowed science to move forward in the case of the former and stop in the case of the later you accused me of apologetics:
What I am not interested in is engaging in a discussion that amounts to an apologetic for Christianity and a dissing of other religions.


That statement of mine was not in response to your mention of concurrentism. It was included in a response to a false claim you had made.
Here is the full post:

"You:
You just told me that you're not interested in discussing religious beliefs at all.
Me:
Nope, never said that.
What I am not interested in is engaging in a discussion that amounts to an apologetic for Christianity and a dissing of other religions.

As far as concurrentism goes: I imagine Gaukroger didn't discuss it because it is irrelevant to the emergence of modern science. Once it was recognized that Aristotelian natural philosophy was considered a failure it was replaced by Cartesian mechanism and the emergence of modern science continued.

By the way I did take a look at Trasanco's book. It is published by a little known press that specializes in Christian apologetics. In the book she states that it can be used for Christian apologetics. And Jaki is a Thomist attempting to use that particular theological position to advocate for how he thinks science emerged.

Gaukroger does mention Malebranche's advocacy for soccasionalism and the role it played in the emergence of modern science.

By the way, an atheistic apology would involve the denial of the existence of God(s).

Holding a different understanding than yours of Christianity's role in the emergence of modern science does not entail a denial of God's existence. I know that some atheists will try and use the myth of the war between science and religion in support of atheism but Gaukroger does not support that myth. And neither do I.

Also, you wrote:
It's just an historical fact that modern science developed within Christianity and no where else.

That is not an historical fact. Modern science did develop in the West, a part of Christendom.

Hal said...

bmiller,

By the way, Gaukroger did see an important role for Aristotelian natural philosophy in the emergence of modern science: it enabled natural philosophy to function as an autonomous enterprise.

Starhopper said...

bmiller,

India Mars Orbiter Mission.

bmiller said...

Hal,

You've accused Fr Jaki of being an apologist for supplying theological reasons for why Christianity nurtured science while other religions did not. I think he was uniquely qualified to speak on the matter:

He held doctorates in theology and in physics and was a leading contributor to the philosophy of science and the history of science, particularly to their relationship to Christianity.

It seems you're OK with allowing talk about how science developed within a society just as long as we don't discuss anything about the actual religious beliefs of that society. Otherwise it is 'apologetics'. Maybe you can't see your own bias in making that accusation.

You've wrote:
It's just an historical fact that modern science developed within Christianity and no where else.

That is not an historical fact. Modern science did develop in the West, a part of Christendom.


I don't know how your mind works. Western Europe is part of Christendom and science developed in Western Europe. How is it not an historical fact to say science developed in Christendom then when it developed in a part of Christendom? You may want to argue that I'm not being precise enough for tastes but what I said is still a fact. It's like someone telling me that I'm wrong to say that I live in America because I actually live in Kansas.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

I thought you would have classified that as technology rather than pure science. China does space exploration also.

I got the impression you classified pure science as something like theoretical physics.

Hal said...

bmiller,

What do you make of this:
Equations of numbers are practically everything in science, very little in philosophy, and nothing in theology. It is therfore a huge mistake to take trendy philosophies of science, let alone some theological flights of fancy, for science. Numbers alone make science.


Also,
I don't know how your mind works. Western Europe is part of Christendom and science developed in Western Europe. How is it not an historical fact to say science developed in Christendom then when it developed in a part of Christendom?

I would kindly suggest you re-read what I actually wrote. I did claim that it is an historical fact that science developed in Christendom.
You claimed it developed in Christianity.
See the difference?

Starhopper said...

bmiller,

Getting dangerously close to mind reading here, but there's a huge difference between China's motivations for space exploration and India's. China is in it for practical reasons - colonization, extraterrestrial resources (mining in space), and state power. Indian scientists seem to genuinely want to know what Mars is like, for its own sake. The MOM space probe serves no practical purpose.

Starhopper said...

"See the difference?"

I see the difference, but its awfully subtle. It's easier to spot when you talk about other cultures, such as Islam vs the Islamic world, or Marxism-Leninism vs the Soviet Union.

bmiller said...

Hal,

Sorry. I don't get either of your latest points.

Hal said...

bmiller,

I'm interested in what you think of this claim:


Equations of numbers are practically everything in science, very little in philosophy, and nothing in theology. It is therfore a huge mistake to take trendy philosophies of science, let alone some theological flights of fancy, for science. Numbers alone make science.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

Getting dangerously close to mind reading here, but there's a huge difference between China's motivations for space exploration and India's.

I suspect there are multiple motivations for nation states to explore space with the biggest motivation being military.

Do they build particle accelerators? Of course findings from those could be for military purposes too.

A big theme of Jaki is that when science separated itself from it's theological and therefore moral foundations, advances in science can and have become curses as well as blessings.

Hal said...

bmiller,

A big theme of Jaki is that when science separated itself from it's theological and therefore moral foundations, advances in science can and have become curses as well as blessings.

Gee, when Gaukroger points out that in the emergence of modern science it became an autonomous pursuit you think he is gravely mistaken. When Jaki points out something similar you embrace it.

bmiller said...

Hal,

I'm interested in what you think of this claim:

Sounds like a description of how modern physics is done.

Hal said...

bmiller,

Sounds like a description of how modern physics is done.

Sounds like that to me also. Do you think it an apt description for all scientific activities?

bmiller said...

Hal,

Gee, when Gaukroger points out that in the emergence of modern science it became an autonomous pursuit you think he is gravely mistaken.

My criticism of Gaukroger is that he apparently thinks theology was irrelevant to the development of science within Christendom. I haven't commented on 'autonomous pursuit' at all wrt Gaukroger.

bmiller said...

Hal,

Do you think it an apt description for all scientific activities?

No. Physics is only one branch of what we now call science.

Hal said...

bmiller,

My criticism of Gaukroger is that he apparently thinks theology was irrelevant to the development of science within Christendom.

Why would you think that? Gaukroger specifically mentions that Aristotianism metaphysics was adopted in order to help resolve theological disputes in Christianity:

It was necessitated by the realization that Aristotelianism provided far more powerful systematic philosophical resources than anything else available for resolving fundamental theological dilemmas such as transubstantiation and the trinity.

Hal said...

bmillr,

No. Physics is only one branch of what we now call science.

Interesting. That was a quote from Jaki. He meant it to apply to all of science.

Hal said...

bmiller,

It appears to me that Gaukroger and Jaki find the conception of modern science to be problematical.
Gaukroger denies the unity of science along with the reductionism that is used to justify that unity.

Does Jaki also reject that unity and reductionism?

bmiller said...

Hal,

You're mistaken. He was talking about physics. He called it 'exact science':
"the quantitative study of the quantitative aspects of objects in motion."

bmiller said...

Hal,

It appears to me that Gaukroger and Jaki find the conception of modern science to be problematical.

Sorry. I don't understand this post at all.

Hal said...

bmiller,
Do you agree that Jaki finds a problem with the current conception of modern science?

bmiller said...

Hal,

I don't know what you mean. Why would I think Jaki opposed modern science. He had a PhD in physics.

Hal said...

bmiller,

You've accused Fr Jaki of being an apologist for supplying theological reasons for why Christianity nurtured science while other religions did not. I think he was uniquely qualified to speak on the matter:

He held doctorates in theology and in physics and was a leading contributor to the philosophy of science and the history of science, particularly to their relationship to Christianity.


This is what I said:

By the way I did take a look at Trasanco's book. It is published by a little known press that specializes in Christian apologetics. In the book she states that it can be used for Christian apologetics. And Jaki is a Thomist attempting to use that particular theological position to advocate for how he thinks science emerged.

Do you not agree that he is presenting his Thomistic view of science and how it relates to the Christian faith?

There is nothing wrong with being an apologist. However, that is different from the cultural history that Gaukroger is engaged in.


Why would I think Jaki opposed modern science. He had a PhD in physics.

Doesn't he say that any definition of science that differs from his is mistaken?

bmiller said...

Hal,

In the book she states that it can be used for Christian apologetics.

I was addressing Starhopper's question:
"Interesting. I wonder what it is (was) about Christianity that made it a suitable incubator for the scientific method." He then wondered why other religions failed.

Fr. Jaki addressed this theological question. If one thinks that he is right, then one might be persuaded that Christianity has things more right than other religions and in that respect it may turn some people toward Christianity. I think that's why Stacy Trasanco says it could be used for apologetics.

Do you not agree that he is presenting his Thomistic view of science and how it relates to the Christian faith?

I don't know if he was a Thomist or not. I never read anything where he claimed he was. He compared philosophical/religious commitments of various cultures and showed how they prevented modern science from developing in contrast to Christianity. There's nothing particularly Thomist about that but, more importantly, what precisely do you disagree with? The facts? Or mentioning the facts?

Doesn't he say that any definition of science that differs from his is mistaken?

Who defines physics differently than he does? Why don't you just plainly state what you think is the problem?

Hal said...

bmiller,

I was addressing Starhopper's question...

??? The quote I copied was directed to me. Time of post was September 12, 2020 1:06
PM.

Here is the quote again:

Hal,

You've accused Fr Jaki of being an apologist for supplying theological reasons for why Christianity nurtured science while other religions did not. I think he was uniquely qualified to speak on the matter:

He held doctorates in theology and in physics and was a leading contributor to the philosophy of science and the history of science, particularly to their relationship to Christianity.


I don't see anything in that post that was directed towards one of Starhopper's questions.

Hal said...

bmiller,
It seems you're OK with allowing talk about how science developed within a society just as long as we don't discuss anything about the actual religious beliefs of that society.

Not at all. Gaukroger devotes a lot of space talking about religious beliefs:
One small example:

The rediscovery of the Aristotelian corpus, with its elaborate defense of abstractive knowledge, provided what seemed, to an increasing number of theologians and philosophers in the course of the thirteenth century, exactly the right resources with which to develop a fundamental philosophical vindication of those key theological issues—such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and transubstantiation—that required a particularly sophisticated account of substance and its properties, and the relation between particulars and universals. In this way, Aristotelianism seemed to hold the key to a set of fundamental theological questions, and this, above all, is what would secure its philosophical primacy over traditional Platonism. If this was the sum total of what was at stake, however, we might expect a relatively smooth transition from the pre-Aristotelian scholasticism of Abelard and his contemporaries to the Aristotelian scholasticism of Albertus, Aquinas, and their successors. But what actually happened was quite different. Aristotelian scholasticism was introduced in the face of massive resistance and condemnation from theologians. A crucial determining factor here is the role of natural philosophy. The doctrinal differences between Platonist and Aristotelian systems have very significant consequences for how philosophy is pursued, and the distinctive thing about following the Aristotelian route in abstractive epistemology is that you must start from sense perception, which in terms of the Aristotelian division of areas of philosophical enquiry means you must start from natural philosophy. This transforms the nature of philosophical enquiry in a number of ways, not least in that it makes the entry into the philosophical foundations of systematic theology something that is largely independent of the kinds of areas in which theologians, and the clergy generally, had taken an interest. To understand why the introduction of Aristotelianism was so bitterly opposed and condemned in the thirteenth century, we must appreciate that the issues went beyond any straightforward doctrinal question. They went right to the heart of the Church's authority, and to help us to understand how this happened, we need to focus on just how the authority structure of the Church had changed by the thirteenth century.

bmiller said...

Hal,

I don't see anything in that post that was directed towards one of Starhopper's questions.

I'm lost now. I don't honestly know what your beef is with respect to discussing theological differences between religions. Apologetics or something.

Not at all.

And I'm lost here too. You told me apologetics were being practiced and you were not going to participate. Fine. I don't think Gaukroger is qualified to discuss religious beliefs at all from what you've supplied within Christianity or any other religion for that matter. As a result, he is supplying a weak apologetic for atheism.

Hal said...

bmiller,

As a result, he is supplying a weak apologetic for atheism.

Neither Gaukroger nor myself is engaged in an apologetic for atheism. What are you basing that claim on?
Can you cite anything in my posts regarding the emergence of a scientific culture to support that claim?

Hal said...

And more examples of Gaukroger dealing with theological issues related to the emergence of science:

One problem that Aristotelian philosophers faced in abandoning the Augustinian account was to provide some philosophical understanding of God. This had not been a problem in the Augustinian synthesis of Neoplatonic metaphysics and Christianity, for there Christianity provided the key to metaphysics, as we have seen, and what Augustine considered the manifest failure of earlier metaphysical systems was induced by the lack of this essential ingredient. By contrast, Aristotelian metaphysics was not intrinsically Christian. But nor did its adherents consider it inherently pagan, in spite of its origins: it was a purely abstract rational discourse that could be used to articulate and clarify the fundamental principles of a Christian theology. It was generally agreed that the vehicle for a philosophical account of God was metaphysics, but the Thomist idea of metaphysics as bridging theology and natural philosophy seemed to many in the fourteenth century a poor instrument for providing rational foundations for theology.


And here:

Duns Scotus rejected this kind of account. If metaphysics was a general theory of being, he reasoned, if it encompassed both finite and infinite being, then it must be a discipline whose subject matter was being-qua-being, as Aristotle had maintained. One could hardly distinguish infinite being from finite being in the first place unless they were both forms of being. Consequently, there must be some unified notion of being, provided by metaphysics, and through this metaphysics we have access to some understanding of divine being.¹¹² Yet this access turns out to be very limited, for rather than having a more direct relation than analogy, we seem to have a less direct one. Scotus drew the contrast between God and his creation in terms of a distinction between finite and infinite being, and what is created and finite cannot in any way determine what is uncreated and infinite on Scotus' account. God's relation to anything else must always be absolutely free, contingent, and unconditioned. The core of Scotus' criticism of Aquinas was that his approach tied God in too closely with the institutions of priests, sacraments, accidental forms of grace, etc., losing sight of the gulf between God's will and the finite and contingent means by which this will is effected, means that are not any indication of intrinsic merit.¹¹⁴ But Scotus' own approach had the drawback of separating God and his creation so radically that they not only had properties at least as fundamentally different as was the case in Aquinas, but infinite being was hardly accessible at all, and Scotus not only could not find a conclusive argument for the immortality of the soul, for example, but argued that belief in resurrection and eternal life could not be rationally established and were matters of faith alone.

bmiller said...

Hal,

Neither Gaukroger nor myself is engaged in an apologetic for atheism. What are you basing that claim on?

I don't know how people can discuss Starhopper's question without discussing the beliefs of different religions. I also don't know how anyone considers objectively comparing those differences is an apology for any of them. I do consider it an attempt at atheistic apologetics to consider discussing religious beliefs as irrelevant or harmful. I could sense that from the author from the first set of quotes.

Also, I wonder why you keep posting quotes about the various philosophical discussions that took place within Christianity wrt Aristotle. Plato thought there was only one big soul in the universe that individual souls came from and returned to after death in an eternal cycle. Christians didn't buy all of Platonic philosophy, nor did they buy all of Aristotle's philosophy. They took the parts that made sense and rejected the parts that didn't. The quotes do nothing to tell us why Christianity? rather than Buddhism, rather than Hinduism, rather than Islam, rather than Shintoism, rather than pagan Greece itself.

Hal said...

bmiller,
I don't know how people can discuss Starhopper's question without discussing the beliefs of different religions.

I'll simply repost what I said earlier:

"You stated:
First of all, the present topic is why modern day science developed in Christendom and no where else.

So you want to discuss why science developed in Christendom and no where else but you don't want to discuss the particular Christendom beliefs that are different than others that led to science being developed in Christendom?


I said:
The word 'Christendom' is used to refer to the part of the world in which Christianity prevails. The emergence of modern science occurred in the West, a part of Christendom.


I"m interested in the historical events and beliefs that were involved in that development and change. Simply comparing the various beliefs between different religions is not an adequate explanation for the emergence of science in the West. For example, Christianity's relationship with natural philosophy changed when it dropped Platonism and embraced Aristotelianism. That change along with the division of the secular from the religious realms that occurred in the 12th century (the Investiture Controversy) helped to lay the groundwork for the emergence of modern science.
"

End of posted quote.


As a result, he is supplying a weak apologetic for atheism.

I've asked you to support your accusation that he or I are engaged in an apologetic for atheism. So far you've not provided it. If you can't provide it then you should retract your accusation.

Hal said...

bmiller,
Also, I wonder why you keep posting quotes about the various philosophical discussions that took place within Christianity wrt Aristotle.

I'm posting those quotes in response to your earlier claim:
My criticism of Gaukroger is that he apparently thinks theology was irrelevant to the development of science within Christendom.

They refute your claim and show that Glaukroger makes use of the theological views of Christians such as Aquinas and their views on natural philosophy to help explain why modern science emerged in the Christian West.

He relies on the expertise of such scholars as Etienne Gilson, Marilyn McCord Adams, Brian Tierney, etc. to present an accurate portrayal of the theological positions of Christianity.

Hal said...

And another quote to show that Gaukroger does deal with the theological views of Christians:
Ockham, emphasizing the contingent character of churches, priests, sacraments, and habits of grace, maintained that the moral order was an arbitrary enactment of the Divine will, and hence lacking in inherent rationality, and he denied the possibility of any rational knowledge of God.¹¹⁷ In line with this approach, treatments of metaphysics in the fourteenth century moved from the exploration of the relation between theology and metaphysics, which had been the staple of Christian philosophy up to this point, to that between meta-physics and natural philosophy.¹¹⁸ This was a source of concern, and by the fifteenth century theologians such as Jean Gerson, Chancellor of the University of Paris, were becoming worried by the divisions that had opened up between metaphysics as a sci-ence of being and metaphysics as a science of God, and above all with the ‘ration-alist' way in which natural philosophy was being pursued, where reconciliation with revealed theology was no longer paramount.¹¹⁹ Indeed, not only was this not a desid-eratum but the differences between the philosophical schools took over the theolo-gical agenda: conflict between Thomist, Scotist, and Ockhamist factions in his own Theology Faculty prompted Gerson to threaten resignation in 1400, as he tried to put an end to endless theological speculation.

bmiller said...

Hal,

I wonder why you keep posting the same sort of things without answering my repeated criticisms and conclude that somehow you are addressing my criticisms.

1) You got offended and defensive because of Fr. Jaki's factual comparison of various religious beliefs and why they all failed to nurture modern science except for Christianity.
2) Gaukroger suits you better because he offers you a weak apologetic for atheism by leaving out the reasons why other religions failed to nurture modern science while Christianity did. It gives you cover to believe there is nothing special about Christianity and it was all an accident that modern science developed within Christianity rather than all those other cultures. Intentionally leaving out facts from an account for the purposes of persuasion is a form of apologetics, albeit a dishonest form of it.
3) The latest Gaukroger quotes you supply are irrelevant to the question of why did modern science develop within Christianity and no where else.
4) You somehow think making a distinction between Christianity and Christendom is relevant, but you don't tell me how. At least One Brow make an attempt by referring to Russia, but you have not provided any reason for anyone to think that this distinction of your's makes any difference.

Hal said...

bmiller,

You somehow think making a distinction between Christianity and Christendom is relevant, but you don't tell me how.

One is a set of beliefs and the other is a place where those beliefs are played out. Science didn't emerge within the doctrinal beliefs of Christianity, it emerged within a culture which was dominated by Christianity. That is why the Investiture Controversy is important in understanding why a scientific culture emerged when and where it did. And why the adoption of an Aristotelian natural philosophy by the Church played an important role too.

And Gaukroger is not interested in explaining why modern science did not emerge elsewhere, he is interested in explaining why it did emerge in the Christian West. He does mention Islam's role in that emergence, but there is no need to talk about other religions that played no role in that emergence.

And again I have to point out that an atheistic apologetics is an enterprise intending to prove God does not exist. I don't see any such arguments being put forth in Gaukroger's work. In fact he critiques the myth of a war between religion and science which is a common argument atheists make to support their position.

I believe I've already mentioned I don't think there is anything wrong with trying to compare various religious beliefs. However, I don't see it adequately explaining why modern science emerged when and where it did.

By the way, I'm not sure you realize it or not but Gaukroger is also quite critical of modern science. He does not believe in the unity of science nor does he accept reductionism. Both are pillars of belief for modern atheists.

Hal said...

Here is section from Gaukroger's book which helps to explain what he attempting to do in his study of the emergence of a scientific culture:

Since classical antiquity, there have been a number of civilizations that have witnessed a form of ‘scientific revolution': rich, productive scientific cultures in which fundamental and especially intractable mathematical, physical, medical, astronomical, or other problems are opened up and dealt with in an innovative and concerted fashion, producing cumulative results over several generations. Among these,³² we can include classical Greece and the Hellenistic Greek diaspora;³³ Arab-Islamic North Africa/Near East/Iberian peninsula in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries;³⁴ thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Paris and Oxford;³⁵ and China from the twelfth to the fourteenth century.³⁶

The scientific revolution with which we shall be concerned—the Scientific Revolution—is quite different from these. It is sometimes asked why the Scientific Revolution occurred in the West in the modern era and not, say, in China, or medieval Islam, or medieval Paris or Oxford. But it is the Scientific Revolution that requires explanation, not these developments: what is peculiar and exceptional is the nature of scientific development in the West in the modern era.³⁷ Scientific developments in the classical and Hellenistic worlds, China, the medieval Islamic world, and medieval Paris and Oxford, share a distinctive feature. They each exhibit a pattern of slow, irregular, intermittent growth, alternating with substantial periods of stagnation, in which interest shifts to political, economic, technological, moral, or other questions. Science is just one of a number of activities in the culture, and attention devoted to it changes in the same way attention devoted to the other features may change, with the result that there is competition for intellectual resources within an overall balance of interests in the culture.

The ‘Scientific Revolution' of the early-modern West breaks with the boom/bust pattern of all other scientific cultures, and what emerges is the uninterrupted and cumulative growth that constitutes the general rule for scientific development in the West since that time. The traditional balance of interests is replaced by a dominance of scientific concerns, while science itself experiences a rate of growth that is pathological by the standards of earlier cultures, but is ultimately legitimated by the cognitive standing that it takes on. This form of scientific development is exceptional and anomalous. The question is, then, not why the Scientific Revolution didn't occur in any of the other cases of rich, innovative scientific cultures, but why it occurred in the West. The core issue here is this: how was scientific practice in the West s transformed in the course of the modern era that it was able to establish cognitive priority for itself, so that it was able to shape other cognitive values around its own?

bmiller said...


Hal,

And Gaukroger is not interested in explaining why modern science did not emerge elsewhere,

And so he does not address Starhopper's question. Thank you.

Science didn't emerge within the doctrinal beliefs of Christianity, it emerged within a culture which was dominated by Christianity.

The doctrinal beliefs of Christianity nurtured the development of and the birth of modern science. That is Jaki's thesis. Your distinction makes no difference in this respect.

Finally, it was you that claimed discussing and comparing religious beliefs "amounts to an apologetic for Christianity and a dissing of other religions." That claim looks like a counter-apologetic for an "all religions are the same...and wrong" worldview to me.

Gaukroger may or may not be of that worldview but as far as you've shown, he thinks the development of modern science within Christianity was an accident of history. It could have just as well happened in any culture. At the base, this is the atheist creed. Things happen accidentally......for no reason.

I'll let you have the last word.

Hal said...

bmiller,
And so he does not address Starhopper's question.

I addressed Starhopper's questions near the start of this thread. Here is our early exchange:


Starhopper asked this question in his post dated September 03, 202 1:27 PM:
Is monotheism a prerequisite for the scientific method?

I replied on September 03, 2020 3:10 PM:
If you meant something like Western science which claims it will be able to offer a complete explanation of the world we live in then I would agree that Christianity had a great deal to do with that.

Starhopper replied on September 04, 2020 9:56 AM:
Change "Christianity" to "monotheism" and we're in agreement. Judaism and Islam (both monotheistic) have proven themselves to be compatible with a scientific view on the world.

I replied on September 04, 2020 10:12 AM:
I'm not really talking about compatibility. I'm talking about what enabled the scientific revolution to take place. Without that Western science would have faded away and not taken the dominant role it has in our culture. I think the credit for that goes to Christianity.

Islam was responsible for some scientific achievements, but it was not able to produce anything like Western Science. And although many excellent scientists wer and are Jewish, Judaism itself can't even claim any scientific achievements equivalent to Islam.

Christianity was the dominant monotheistic religion in Western civilization and it was predominantly responsible for the rise of Western science.


Starhopper replied on September 04, 2020 1:49 AM:
Interesting. I wonder what it is (was) about Christianity that made it a suitable incubator for the scientific method.

I replied on September 04, 2020 5:50 PM:
The story is rather complicated. I've drawn my understanding of what happened on Stephen Gaukroger's tetralogy detailing the emergence of our scientific culture. The first book in the tetralogy provides the most detail regarding how Christianity was involved in that emergence.

Nowhere do I see him demanding an explanation for why science didn't develop elsewhere in that early exchange which resulted in my presenting Gaukroger's explanation. In fact it did develop elsewhere as is shown in my quote of Gaukroger posted on September 20, 2020 7:28 AM but failed to emerge in its modern form:
Since classical antiquity, there have been a number of civilizations that have witnessed a form of ‘scientific revolution': rich, productive scientific cultures in which fundamental and especially intractable mathematical, physical, medical, astronomical, or other problems are opened up and dealt with in an innovative and concerted fashion, producing cumulative results over several generations. Among these,³² we can include classical Greece and the Hellenistic Greek diaspora;³³ Arab-Islamic North Africa/Near East/Iberian peninsula in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries;³⁴ thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Paris and Oxford;³⁵ and China from the twelfth to the fourteenth century.³⁶

Hal said...

bmiller,

Finally, it was you that claimed discussing and comparing religious beliefs "amounts to an apologetic for Christianity and a dissing of other religions." That claim looks like a counter-apologetic for an "all religions are the same...and wrong" worldview to me.

Not at all. You are simply taking the most uncharitable assumption you can make for my reluctance to partake in a dispute between various religions. I simply see it as being irrelevant to the question of the emergence of modern science.

Christianity could be a false belief or it could be a true belief. That makes no difference to the important role it played in the emergence of modern science.

I have absolutely no interest in attacking theism or providing support for atheism in this discussion. I see nothing in Gaukroger's presentation that can be taken as an apologetic for atheism.

To be honest I find it quite bizarre that you appear to think the emergence of modern science is somehow related to the truth or falsity of Christianity.


Gaukroger may or may not be of that worldview but as far as you've shown, he thinks the development of modern science within Christianity was an accident of history. It could have just as well happened in any culture. At the base, this is the atheist creed. Things happen accidentally......for no reason.

Wrong again. Of course the emergence of modern science occurred in history. It was an historical process. And he gives many reasons for that process. And the theological positions held by Christians are among the reasons given for that emergence.

Would modern science still have emerged if Aquinas hadn't played such a role in employing Aristotelianism to proved support for such important doctrines as the Trinity or transubstantion? An interesting question, but I don't think we can know for sure. What we do know is that it is a reason Gaukroger gives for explaining the emgergence of modern science.