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.