He Blinded Me With Science Part Deux: Just when you thought it was safe to leave God out of the lab…

The conversation continues…

Bob:  Christianity is a newcomer. Agriculture, metalworking, and the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World preceded it, for example.   You’re simply noting the confluence of Christianity and science. What I need is cause. That it happened to be the meme at the time doesn’t give us cause.   For example, Isaac Newton was a Christian. Good thing, because his Cambridge position required a particular statement of faith. To say, “Take a look at the great scientists of the last 500 years—mostly Christian!” gives us nothing to argue that Christianity was the cause.   I can think of no science that came from the Bible. There are lots of retrospective insertions of science into the Bible, but never the cause. It didn’t even have a recipe for soap!

Dr. Greg:   If I understand your point, you’re basically saying correlation isn’t causation.  I agree with that.  But I’m saying much more than that. My argument is not “lots of Christians happened to be scientists, therefore science is Christian.” That would be an absurd tautology.  My argument is that a Christian cosmology is the intellectual soil that allowed the seeds of science (that popped up here and there but were largely choked out or ignored in other cultures) to germinate and thrive.  I would encourage you to read up on the history of science and epistemology.  Choose any secular source on either.  If you do, you’ll get a better sense of what I’m saying.

Regardless, I just need to be clear that I am not advancing a theological argument. That wouldn’t make sense in this context. I am advancing what is largely accepted to be true as far as most, secular historians of science are concerned.  The facts are what they are. I can respect your rejection of religion, but surely you aren’t an a-historian too?  ;-)

In reference to your point about the bible, I’m honestly surprised by your fundamentalism. Do you really mean to say that because you can’t find the word “physics” in the bible then that settles it?    I happily agree the bible is not a scientific document and is chock-full of bad science.   That’s not the point.   My argument has nothing to do with any of that.  My argument is that the bible presents a cosmology that gets the mind thinking about an orderly universe that functions according to pre-designed rhythms.  This mindset is not present in other religious traditions.   Likewise, the bible establishes that God is knowable through his creation (a uniquely Christian concept) and establishes a Church to facilitate the accumulation of that knowledge about him.  That means that the seeds of science not only have the fertile soil of Christian cosmology to rest in, they have an institution dedicated to watering and nurturing the plant that springs up because it sees that plant as a means of understanding God.   And that is exactly how history shows science, as a sustained human enterprise, came to be.

Your argument appears to be that science emerged from its own head as an uncaused cause.  That strikes me as an oddly theistic argument for an atheist to make.   Can you present your understanding of the history of how science came to be?  I think that would be helpful.  In fact, I think it would be necessary if you really want to support your argument.  I’m not asking what your opinion is.  I’m asking what is your understanding of how science actually came to exist as a flourishing, sustained human enterprise.  I would need to understand your vision of this before I could continue the conversation further.

At any rate,  thanks for the opportunity to discuss this.  It’s a great topic and I hope we have the opportunity to cross swords in the future.  Peace.

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About Dr. Greg

Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems. Together with his wife, Lisa, he hosts More2Life Radio. He is the author of over a dozen books integrating psychological insights with our Catholic faith. For more info about books, tele-counseling and other resources, visit www.CatholicCounselors.com.

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  • Theodore Seeber
  • abb3w

    While the Christian cosmology was the intellectual soil that allowed the seeds of science to germinate and thrive, I don’t think you’ve shown that the elements necessary were unique. In particular, my limited familiarity with Chinese, Hindu and pre-Christian Egyptian religion suggests your claim that the mindset of “an orderly universe that functions according to pre-designed rhythms [...] not present in other religious traditions” has counterexamples in all of those.

    Similarly, Islam’s Caliphate also (prior to Averroes losing the debate) acted as an institution with a divine imperative driving their desire to understand the world; EG: need for figuring out which direction Mecca was. The combination may have been unique to Christian Europe (although you’d need to ask historians specializing in China and India to have any confidence); however, given the elements pre-existing elsewhere, claiming the combination for more than historical accident.

    In addition, Science also requires a degree of tolerance for new ideas, in which aspect the Church as a whole has been a rather stony soil. (Granted, less so than classical India, and possibly less so than classical China.) I think your thesis seems at most to get to Science as “rebellious handmaid” of the Church, rather than having an essential and ongoing philosophical dependency; and even there, it’s dubious.

    And, speaking of soil, you might care to examine the alternate thesis from Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel” (most directly in Chapter 13).

  • Darren

    ”Just when you thought it was safe to leave God out of the lab…”

    Hey, God is always welcome in _my_ lab… All this gathering of data, calibrating to standards, running system suitability’s, validating results, peer review, etc. is really, really, tiresome…

    Those ID guys have the right idea, if you ask me…


    • http://www.catholiccounselors.com Dr. Greg


      Just to be clear, I don’t have any truck with ID. Don’t confuse your Christianities. That said, the guys who developed all the tiresome lab standards you cite did, for the most part, have quite a bit to do with God.