We Have Always Been At War With Science

For some reason, coming across an echo of George Orwell’s 1984, I found myself thinking about how it is paralleled in the revisionist history that has claimed that religion and science have always been at war.

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  • Ian

    And Soylent Green, ahem, Fundamentalism, is a wholesome and nutritious theology.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      I find myself torn between the point of the analogy being “fundamentalism is people” and the point of the analogy being “fundamentalism is people devouring other people.”

      • Ian

        I was going for the latter. What it seems on the surface, and what it is, in reality.

  • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

    I took a look at the “revisionist history” article you referenced. I commented on the site that it is a brilliant satire of what Christians think that atheists think about history.

    • arcseconds

      Oh, people who believe that revisionist history certainly exist.

      I’ve definitely had arguments with people claiming that religion in general and Christianity in particular have held back progress by thousands of years, and who knows where we’d be now.

      • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

        Oh, I’ve heard them, too, just as I’ve heard that the U.S. constitution was designed to make America a Christian nation.

        Those silly atheists! Isn’t it funny how all atheists think that all christians impede science.

    • http://historyforatheists.blogspot.com Tim O’Neill

      “That it is a brilliant satire of what Christians think that atheists think about history.”

      Really? You mean atheists like this guy?:


      And this guy?:




      Atheists like that?

      • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

        Are you telling me that those two sites fairly represent all (or even most) atheists?

        • http://historyforatheists.blogspot.com Tim O’Neill

          Given that we atheists have nothing intrinsically in common apart from a lack of belief in God or gods, I wouldn’t make any such claim. In fact, it would be as hard to prove that claim as it would be to prove your (implied) claim that all (or even most) atheists *don’t* believe this simplistic positivist pseudo history.

          But as an atheist who is also a medievalist with an interest in ancient, medieval and early modern science, I can assure you that barely a day goes by when I don’t come across some version of them being peddled by an atheist polemicist or have to deal with the howls of outrage when I debunk some variant of them.

          Perhaps they are a minority of atheists – who can tell. If they are, then they are a very noisy one. And they have some some very vocal and highly prominent proponents: Coyne, Myers, Carrier etc.

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            I don’t disagree. But David Barton has made more pseudo-historical noise than all of them combined.

          • http://historyforatheists.blogspot.com Tim O’Neill

            He has? Given that I just had to Google “David Barton” to work out who the hell you were referring to, perhaps he’s a lot less noisy than you think.

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            You’re kidding me! That says more about your ears than it does about noise!

            Since you know how to google, now try googling “David Barton books”. You will find that simply in number of pseudo-historical books alone, Barton outshouts your list by a wide margin.

            Of course, if you’ve completely missed this darling of the Tea Party, the Republican Party, and Fox News, it may be because you avoid those institutions, and for that I applaud you.

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            Oh, I just noticed you’re an Aussie. That must be it. David Barton has been trashing the American political airwaves with junk U.S. history for that past several years.

            Go to any American media outlet. Ask them who Coyne, Myers, or Carrier are – you will mostly get “huh?” Ask them who David Barton is – you’ll negative and positive reactions, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know him and what he represents.

          • http://historyforatheists.blogspot.com Tim O’Neill

            Fair enough. And my sympathies at living in a place where nut cases like Barton actually have some prominence.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    The greatest opponent of biology’s greatest theory—evolution—has always been Christianity.

    -Coyne is right on this one.

    Why is there something rather than nothing?

    -The answer to all “why” questions eventually comes down to “because it is/did happen”. There are likely very few possible steps between the blockquoted question and this answer.

    Also, Hoffman should pay five billion dollars in damages to Midwestern farmers. The smoke of the strawmen he has burned to the ground is heavier in intensity than the smog in Beijing.

    • Dorfl

      Coyne is right on this one.

      I have to second this. If you are a science teacher and someone insists that you should ‘teach the controversy’ or emphasise that ‘evolution is just a theory’, then it’s a pretty safe bet that that person is a Christian. Berezow and Hannam sidestep that by saying “The writings of influential Church Father Thomas Aquinas hint that he would have accepted evolution.”, which I’ve no idea how they think is relevant.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

        I don’t know anyone who would deny that a subset of Christians in the present day is engaged in a loud war against science. But that is not the point. The point is the revisionist history which says that because there is now a war against X, there has always been a war against X. Yet even just a century ago, when The Fundamentals that give fundamentalism its name was published, opposition to evolution was not considered one of them.

        • Dorfl

          The point is the revisionist history which says that because there is now a war against X, there has always been a war against X

          I don’t know. I’m still not so impressed by them arguing that the writings of a guy who lived before there was a theory of evolution hint that he would have accepted it. It may very well be true, but it seems about as relevant as “what so-and-so wrote about Indochina suggests that he may have supported a peace treaty with Eastasia, if east asia had been unified at the time”.

          Yet even just a century ago, when The Fundamentals that give fundamentalism its name was published, opposition to evolution was not considered one of them.

          I admit that my knowledge of the fundamentals is limited to what I looked up on wikipedia right now. Looking through the list of essays, the titles ‘The Passing of Evolution’, ‘Evolutionism in the Pulpit’ and ‘Decadence of Darwinism’ kind of jump out at me. I skimmed through ‘Evolutionism in the pulpit’ here:


          and it really doesn’t sound too science-friendly to me. It ends with

          Nevertheless, there can be no reasonable doubt in any intelligent mind that Darwinism so far as it relates to man’s origin and that of species in general is dead; and all who believe in a personal God and in a Divine revelation may say of it, paraphrasing Cushi’s answer to King David: “The philosophic enemies of our Lord and King, and all of the isms that rise against His truth, be as this deadism.”

          Edit: Fixed link

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            The Fundamentals was published in 1909. You can find it on Archive.org: https://archive.org/details/fundamentalstest17chic

            And while there is some discussion of Darwin, not all of it on target or persuasive or complementary, but be that as it may, it remains that the actual list of fundamentals does not include either taking Genesis literally or rejecting evolution.

            But be that as it may, a more relevant text is Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders which illustrates the positive and neutral reactions to Darwin among Evangelicals.

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          The point is the revisionist history which says that because there is
          now a war against X, there has always been a war against X.

          -Obviously, there has not always been a Christian war against X (if X is the Theory of Evolution), since X didn’t exist before the 19th century.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            And thus (since I need to point out the obvious) I spoke about science in general and not just evolution.

          • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

            As for whether there has always been a Christian war against science, that depends on the definitions of “always”, “Christian”, “war”, and “science”.

      • arcseconds

        I’ve always been keen to get a far more interesting and far longer-standing controversy taught, namely whether or not the cosmos came into being at all.

  • Adam Crowl

    Rational discussion has always been at war with fear-mongering demagoguery. Both aren’t unique to scientists or believers…