Has Christianity done more for science than atheism ever could?

Has Christianity done more for science than atheism ever could? September 26, 2013

I got sent this article, which is apparently being heralded as a “checkmate atheists” moment.  It’s so full of wrong I need to go through it line by line.

Our governor here in Kentucky has decided to implement the new Common Core “Next Generation” science standards. Progressives are celebrating this move for a few reasons : 1) It will put us in line with many other states, which is great because we all know a diverse and enriching education must be in utter uniformity with the national collective and in compliance with the federal agenda.

The thing about snark is that it only makes you look clever if you’re making a solid point.  If you’re being snarky about something in which you’re wholly wrong, your wrongness combines with your overconfidence to make you look…not good.  Such is the case here.

Education is about teaching children the facts, not just what people believe.  This is how teachers can mark questions wrong on tests.  In terms of teaching the facts, yes, we need to be in uniformity.  If all the schools are teaching kids that the earth is round and one school is teaching kids that the earth is flat, the kids from the flat earth school are going to be hosed in adulthood.  Schools should be uniform in the aversion to teaching things that are not true.

2) The criteria calls for a renewed emphasis on man-caused climate change and, of course, evolution. Evolution — atheistic, nihilistic, materialistic, mindless evolution — must be taught as fact, without other ideas presented to compete with the theory.

Because there are no ideas that are legitimately competing.  The author is clearly hinting at creationism.  The thing is, creationist advocates have sometimes tried to go through the proper channels to have their ideas integrated to the body of science, but every time they have failed to live up to scientific standards.  So they don’t get taught.  Ideas don’t get taught just because they exist – they must establish that they are in line with the facts.  Evolution is, creationism is not.

We don’t teach alchemy along with chemistry.  We don’t teach geocentrism along with heliocentrism.  We don’t teach that the earth is tortoises all the way down.  We don’t teach these things because there is no evidence for them, not because of some evil atheist conspiracy.  You want your ideas to be taught?  Gather your evidence and take it to peer review like every other scientific idea.  Once you have credible beliefs, then we’ll teach them to kids.

Proponents say that atheistic evolution is the only thing that belongs in the classroom because religion and science just don’t mix. I agree, partially at least. Some religions don’t gel with science — religions like Scientology or, say, Atheism.

Yes, because the absence of a belief in god is a religion, much in the same way that not playing baseball is a sport.

The followers of the COA (Church of Atheism)…

Oh, he’s a witty one.  The irony is that the author almost certainly thinks church is a great thing, yet he calls atheism a church to denigrate us.  Remember what I said about being snarky?

And if atheism is a church, when do I get to stop paying taxes?  What book do atheists accept as fact without question?  What do we believe that is as ridiculous as someone rising from the dead?

…are not only hostile to science, they are aggressively allergic to history and philosophy as well.

Which atheists are hostile to science?  Name one.  I see a Christian writer decrying science in this very paragraph (with his sneering at evolution).  It takes quite a bit of hubris to turn around in the next breath and accuse atheists of being the ones hostile to science.

They are the ones who constantly need to alter and warp these subjects, so as to fit them all in their tiny little box of nihilism and emptiness.

Says the guy who thinks people can’t ordinarily rise from the dead or walk on water except for when it makes his faith true.

A Christian doesn’t need to be so selective and manipulative because he is part of something full, rational, multi-faceted and universal.

A Christian doesn’t need to be manipulative?  What do you tell children will happen to them after death if they don’t believe a guy rose from the dead or that a talking snake really convinced a woman to eat an apple?

And anybody who thinks eating shrimp is fine and homosexuality isn’t (even though god mentioned hating shrimp eight times compared to homosexuality twice) doesn’t get to lecture anybody else about being selective.  Yes, the universe is rational.  Believing a person rose from the dead is not rational.

He is part of something that, as Chesterton said, has “a multiplicity and subtlety and imagination about the varieties of life which is far beyond the bald or breezy platitudes of most ancient or modern philosophy. In a word, there is more in it; it finds more in existence to think about; it gets more out of life.”

You’re asserting that Christians are happier.  You give no evidence for this, so I reject it.

This is where some of my Christian brothers and sisters fail mightily. So often they cede “science” to the atheist and shrink away from his challenges, backing off in defeat while muttering something about “faith” and “belief.” “Well, you might have your fancy science books, but I’ve got faith.” Yes, faith and belief are important, but you, my Christian compatriot, are standing on the Mountain of Truth. You have the high ground. YOU have the facts and the science on your side.  Your faith does NOT conflict with science.

This would be an excellent time, if YOU have science on your side, to explain how a person rising from the dead is not in conflict with biology.  This would be an excellent time, if YOU have science on your side, to explain how a person walking on water is not in conflict with physics.  This would be an excellent time, if YOU have science on your side, to explain how a global flood that left no trace is not in conflict with geology.  This would be an excellent time, if YOU have science on your side, to explain how a woman being turned into a pillar of salt is not in conflict with chemistry.

These things are called miracles because they conflict with the way we know the universe to work.  You know what doesn’t make exceptions for how we know the universe to work?  Science.

Christianity built this civilization; your Christian ancestors are the pioneers behind the greatest advancements in many fields of study.

Wrong.  Christians built some things and discovered some things, but Christianity did not.  Muslims conceived of algebra, not Islam.  If the schematics for a telescope were in the bible, then we could talk about Christianity giving us something (although, since the bible was written by people, it would still be the product of humans, not god), but they aren’t.

Christianity illuminates the sciences and invigorates the passion for discovery.

Christianity illuminates the sciences?  For most of the time Christianity was in power its leaders had the nasty habit of burning scholars at the stake for reaching scientific conclusions that the church didn’t like.  The passion for discovery is a human quality, shared among people of all faiths and no faith.  You don’t get to claim human impulses as the property of your religion.

As a Christian, you aren’t just a member of a religion — you’re a member of a rich intellectual tradition unmatched by any group, anywhere in the world.

Really?  The majority of anti-science sentiment to this day emanates exclusively from pulpit.  Your very piece sneers at the conclusions of science when you speak of evolution.  Also, find me an atheist group throughout all of history that murdered scientists for asserting positions (which were correct) which offended the group.

So don’t just sit there and let the atheists blabber about how your faith hates science. Speak up, damn it. Fight back. Get angry.

And submit papers to peer review about how your faith makes scientific sense.  Show us how your faith doesn’t conflict with known science.  Or just get impotently angry.  Y’know…whatever.

I have heard this “you can’t mix religion and science” argument so many times, and so many times the atheist gets away with making such a silly and irrational claim.

Talking snake.  Walking on water.  You don’t have the first clue what science is.

A guy actually told me today that “Christians have always hated science.”

Not all Christians always have.  But many Christians have and still do.  That’s why we have the displeasure with evolution present in your very article.

But take heart, your caricature atheist wasn’t entirely correct.

What a bizarre and stupid thing to say; easily refuted, if only we take the time and endure the frustration.

And the very next sentence is:

Modern science, despite the incoherent ramblings of historically illiterate fools, wouldn’t exist without religion.

Say what?  You think without religion people wouldn’t be curious and try to figure out how the universe works?  News flash bucko: people were curious long before they fashioned the story of the Old Testament.

Christianity hasn’t stifled science.

The organizational body of Christianity has certainly done so in the past.  Galileo was put under house arrest for the remainder of his life for claiming the universe did not revolve around the earth.  This was actually a kindness afforded to Galileo because he was buddies with the pope.  For others the Church ensured that the remainder of their life was a very small amount of time.

To this day Christians stifle science by opposing the conclusions of science that do not align with their faith (i.e. evolution).

Christianity has been its driving force and, for hundreds of years, virtually its only significant contributor.

This is simply untrue.  Christianity gave us demons as the cause of illness.  Science gave us medicine.  Now while it’s true that some of those scientists were Christian, this does not mean that Christianity gave us squat.  The methods of science are secular, and even a religious person can deploy them.  No faith owns the scientific method.

Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Descartes, Newton, Kelvin, Mendel, Boyle — all devout Christians. You want to remove your science from my religion? Fine. But we’re keeping these dudes. You can have Richard Dawkins and his tales of “mild pedophilia.” Enjoy.

Yes, they were all devout Christians.  One can only wonder why they never applied the same scientific standards as they did toward their discoveries that every intelligent person now accepts to the Christian god.  Even now there are Christian scientists who submit their work on various things to the process of peer review.  Yet none of them try to prove, by that same avenue, that their religion is true.  The explanation for this is quite simple: there are not scientific reasons to believe Christianity is true.

Scientific credence stands on the reliability of one’s work and nothing else.  All the people mentioned above could have been Muslims or genocidal maniacs.  Their scientific conclusions would still stand based on the reliability of their work, and would say nothing to the nobility of Islam or genocide.  Newton was a Christian…and an enormous asshole.  His work on gravity had everything to do with the rigor of his methods, not with him being an enormous asshole.   Christians can have good methods on their scientific work, but believing a guy rose from the dead is still ridiculous.

Father Steno was a priest. Geologists call him “father,” but for none religious reasons: he’s considered the father of modern geology.

If he were a racist, would you attempt to give credit, through him, to racism for modern geology?  Steno was admirable for his scientific contributions, none of which were in defense of a guy rising from the dead.

The Basilica of San Petronio is a beautiful church. It was also, for many years, one of the most sophisticated solar observatories in the world.

Because of the equipment inside and its location.  Rest assured the steeple and the crosses on the wall did not contribute to its efficiency as an observatory.  Take them away and the telescope still works.

In fact, for five or six centuries no institution funded and supported the sciences more than the Church. They don’t teach that in school, which yet again demonstrates the danger of mixing atheism and education.

I actually learned about how the Catholic Church integrated with science in one of my astronomy courses in college.  It gave funding in the interest of particular conclusions.  When the funding and assistance resulted in conclusions the church did not want they created the concept of heresy (nothing could be more anti-scientific than that) and applied it liberally.

And the author seems to be confusing secularism with atheism.  No school teaches atheism.  Literally none of them.  No biology teacher would put the question “Is atheism true?” on a test.  However, your religion has failed to live up to scientific standards, and so it doesn’t get taught as science.  We teach of religion in religion classes, and of how the church influenced science in history classes, because those facts are relevant.  But you don’t get to imprint your faith over facts of science when it hasn’t even attempted to play by scientific standards.

When western scientific knowledge came to places like China and India in the 1600′s, it came by way of Christians and their science-hating Christianity. You’d be hard pressed to find a single bit of modern scientific knowledge that wasn’t discovered, or heavily influenced by, the work of devout Christians.

You act like its a revelation that Christians can use the scientific method.  That’s like saying we should be thankful to Christianity for transportation because some Christians drive cabs.  It’s the method that makes it science, which is why Christians, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and everybody else can do science.  But while anybody can do science, science does not support every conclusion – many of the claims of Christianity are such conclusions.

Atheism has to hide from so much, deny so much, and twist and manipulate so much, because its existence is always jeopardized by the scorching light of truth.

You have a whole article in which you make no scientific arguments for god’s existence (let alone the truth of Christianity), but here you are pounding your chest about how true it is and how atheists are so afraid.  First off, atheists generally love the truth.  If proof for god’s existence arose tomorrow, we’d change our minds.  We’re not married to particular beliefs, we’re married to reliable methods.  You act like changing one’s mind is something to be ashamed of, so much so that we resist it with all that we are.

Compare this to Christians who, in the face of various disciplines that conflict with the nonsensical claims of their faith (people rising from the dead, the earth stopped spinning, walking on water, talking snake, global flood, and more), cite faith as a way to remain unbound by consistency.  This is the very zenith denial and manipulation.

But if you’re going to talk about how we’re evading the “scorching light of truth” (which, to this point, strikes me as more the bloviating and offensive scent of bullshit), maybe you could explain why someone rising from the dead makes sense somewhere in your article.

To paraphrase CS Lewis, an atheist has to be careful about what he reads and which facts he encounters. There are traps everywhere.

CS Lewis was wrong.

Do the progressive science lovers, who use the Big Bang to “disprove” God, even know the name of the guy who originally formulated the hypothesis? Well, they think the universe and the human mind came about my happenstance, so I guess it follows that the Big Bang Theory just appeared magically in text books one day. But, unfortunately for them, just like the Big Bang itself, the theory has an originator. His name was Monseigneur Georges Lemaitre. “Monseigneur,” for the uninitiated, means “priest” in France-talk.

You act like any atheist would attempt to suppress Lemaitre’s religion.  His faith is of zero consequence to his discovery.  Had Lemaitre been a Hindu car thief, his work in physics would be just as revered (and just as correct) because he had so much evidence.  If Lemaitre had applied the scientific method to god’s existence, this would be a whole different discussion.  Instead, he applied it to the Big Bang and found a demonstrable fact about the universe that required no appeal to god.

You keep saying Christians can do good science, which nobody has disputed.  Ever.  But you keep saying that because Christians can do good science that Christianity must be in harmony with science, which is simply not the case.  Take a great astronomer like Kepler, who believed in astrology.  Is astrology now to receive credit for Kepler’s ability to use the scientific method?  If not, why does Christianity get the credit for Lemaitre?

It was also Lemaitre who, in 1951 when Pope Pius XII was trying to say that Lemaitre’s work confirmed the genesis account (the one where the earth preceded the stars) of creation, told the pope to stop doing that.

Those who broadly mock religion, and who pretend that Christianity inhibits education and discovery, aren’t just arrogantly dismissing Joe Schmoes like me.

Take a moment to read over the UN’s Human Development Index.  You’ll find that the more religious a country (on the average) the less educated they tend to be.  Religiosity and lack of education often go hand in hand.

And yes, I’m dismissing you.  Not because you’re a Joe Schmoe, but because you’re writing about a subject you clearly don’t know anything about, you’re making shit arguments (when you make arguments at all), and you’re doing it with such a nauseating amount of overconfidence that I want to go take a shower.

Yesterday I received a typical email from a tolerant progressive atheist.

Which you’ll no doubt use to construct a strawman.

It read, in part, “f**ck you and your Jesus bull sh*t. You people are all idiots constantly afraid of real education.”

Am I good or what?  Yes, atheists can be assholes.  I guess if a Christian can make a scientific discovery and all of Christianity gets the credit, then you can look at an atheist asshole and decide that “typical” atheists are assholes.

What happens when a Christian is an asshole?  Inception!

Oh, don’t worry, he then segues from calling billions of people “idiots” who believe in “Jesus bull sh*t” to railing against Christians for being “bigoted” and “hateful,” just as you’d expect. Masters of unintentional irony, these left wing atheists.

You take one person being a jerk and apply it to all of the people in your out group as a means of insulting them, right after you bitch about being insulted, and have the gall to accuse others of irony?  Ok…

But are we Christians all “idiots”?

No.  However, you specifically are not doing much to escape the label.

Well, I don’t mind if you say that about me, but was Da Vinci an idiot? Aquinas? Shakespeare? Mozart? Washington? Locke? Martin Luther King Jr? Edison? Tesla? Alexandar Graham Bell? Adam Smith? Marconi? Chesterton? Lewis? MacDonald? Dickens? Faulkner? Tolkein? Marco Polo? Neil Armstrong? Magellan? Columbus? Henry Ford? All of these guys are idiots, along with the scientific pioneers I mentioned earlier?

No, they were not idiots.  But even smart people can have bad ideas rattling around their heads (see Kepler and astrology).  Blaise Pascal was a brilliant mathematician, but his argument’s for god’s existence were absolutely terrible.

One does not need to be an idiot to be wrong.

They all hated education?

One person, who we only know of through your word (which I don’t exactly trust), is the only person who has said that so far, yet you’re attempting to transpose the words of an email troll onto every one of your interlocutors.  This is either mind-bogglingly stupid or flagrantly dishonest.

Science, just like any other subject, is multidimensional. There is the fact, and then there is the meaning behind the fact, and then there is the motivation to pursue the fact and its meaning, and then there is the issue of how to apply and interpret all of these things. In other words, science does advance or regress drastically depending on the prevailing philosophy of any civilization.

Wrong.  Science has measures in place to remove as much bias as possible (double blind tests ftw!).  While civilizations can fund, de-fund, or even suppress science, this says nothing about the conclusions of good science.  Those will always be the same.  A Muslim who performs and experiment will receive the same result as a Christian (assuming they both performed it properly).  In this way, science transcends the vagaries of our various cultures.

For instance, the Catholic Church attempted to silence Galileo (and did successfully silence Copernicus), but despite the assertions of the Church Galileo was right.

Christian civilizations advanced science immeasurably because they were Christian civilizations.

No evidence is provided for this claim, and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.  Leave the resources when the Catholic Church was in power and take away the dogma and murder of academics whose opinions conflicted with those of the Church and you would’ve seen far more discovery.

If you take God out of the study of the origin of life, not only are you left with a confused and arbitrary thing, riddled with holes and inconsistencies, but you’ve also stripped the subject, and the study of the subject, of its meaning and purpose.

This is so ludicrously asinine as to be offensive.  Scientists are studying life right now, with god being nowhere in any of their experiments or equations.  Far from there being holes and inconsistencies, we have multiple means by which life could’ve arisen naturally (like the RNA world model), all in compliance with known science, all with no appeal to god being necessary.  The issue is that we don’t know which one was responsible.

And what’s more, how does not believing in god strip the subject of meaning and purpose?  We’re curious!  We want to know the answer through reliable means, not just believing some story that makes no scientific sense.  That’s the purpose!  That’s the meaning!  If you think curiosity itself isn’t enough, then you have no idea what science is about (not that the rest of your article didn’t already confirm this).

Our understanding of the universe deepened so profoundly during the Christian era because of the Christian tradition that brought a sense of order and rationality to the universe. Now political and ideological forces wish to decapitate existence from the Mind that created it, thus shredding its order and meaning, and leaving us with a “science” that has regressed back into something incoherent and archaic. Atheism does not advance science — it doesn’t advance anything — it does only what it is designed to do: confuse and destroy.

Yes, atheism has nothing to do with science.  Science is a method that functions independently about what anybody thinks about god.  Christianity also has nothing to do with science.

And in science evidence is given supreme authority over all other authorities.  In science when somebody makes a bunch of assertions which they do not then defend with evidence (like you did in this whole paragraph), that person is ignored.

And atheism confuses and destroys?  This is just an insult with no backing whatsoever.  It’s fearmongering.

You can’t take Christianity out of the classroom no matter how hard you try.

It depends on what you mean by that.  Christian students can still pray and wear religious jewelry.  They can still talk about god to other students and read their bibles at lunch.  But if you think that Christianity is being taken “out of the classroom” because we don’t teach unscientific ideas in science class, then you’re wrong.  Those things have no place in science class any more than Kepler’s astrology.

If you want Christianity in science class, it’s time for religious people to start submitting papers to peer review defending god’s existence.  This would actually solicit the change (if you’re right, which you’re not) that you want, far more so than a pissy blog post that misses every conceivable point on a subject the author clearly knows nothing about.

If you take it out, most everything — especially science — goes with it.

Really?  Because science seems to be doing just fine without the idea that god exists.

Christianity is woven into the fabric of most every academic subject (except gender studies).

Because Christianity is the dominant religion and it has opinions on those subjects, often opinions that conflict with the conclusions of the experts in those subjects (like gender studies).  It is not interwoven with these subjects because their conclusions only make sense if Christianity is true.

You can, however, remove Atheism, and I think it’s time we do that.

You can’t remove atheism from science because it isn’t there.  Anybody can do a gold foil test to confirm the structure of an atom.  It has zero to do with whether god exists or not and everything to do with figuring out how the universe actually works.  It is secular, but not atheistic.  At no point in the test do you require a variable that says god does/doesn’t exist.

Such a silly superstition — uncaused causes removed from the Ultimate Cause, human consciousness that develops accidentally out of lifeless material, order coming from chaos, rationality coming from irrationality, everything coming from nothing — has never done anyone any good, and it doesn’t belong inside a school.

Yes, this guy just can’t stand it when “typical atheists” insult him.

First, your caricature is unfair.  The universe is rife with uncaused causes (virtual particles, decay of a radioactive nucleus, etc.).  The “Ultimate Cause” is something you are proposing, so its on you to defend it, not us.  As far as human conscience, we understand the evolution of the brain.  Also, if you believe computers work, you must believe that lifeless material, arranged in the proper way, can perform logical functions (and “think”).  Also, order does come from chaos – see thermodynamics.  Everything coming from nothing is, again, your assertion.  Can you defend why you think non-existence is a more natural state than existence?  What you call “silly” is either your own unsupported assertions or your own ignorance which could’ve been cured if you were more interested in using google than griping.

Really, we must get atheism away from education before we all end up like the modern atheist’s greatest prophet, Nietchsze, who died insane and naked, eating his own feces in a mental institution. This is not the sort of fate we should wish upon our children.

You’re now saying that atheism is the cause of mental illness?  Christians are as susceptible to mental illness as anybody else.  More so if you’re talking about depression:

The study, published in the October issue of Psychological Medicine but online now, followed more than 8,000 people in rural and urban areas in seven countries for one year. During the research, they were each examined at six- and 12-month intervals.

In those time frames, 10.3 per cent of religious participants became depressed, compared with 7.0 per cent for atheists and 10.5 per cent for those with a “spiritual understanding of life,” the study found.

In fact, why does atheism get the blame for mental illness when god supposedly designed everything?  Way to leap upon a person’s suffering to condemn a whole group of people.  Tell me more about how atheism corrupts people.

And look at all the Christians piling on in the comments, who can’t pick out that the author of this piece just dug at atheists and never, ever, defended any of his points.  The author should be sure to enjoy it, since if he ever presented anything like this to scientists he’d be lucky if they even exerted the effort to glare.

Debating people like this is capture in a song I heard recently (go here and listen to “progress”).  Seriously, go listen.  It will help mitigate the frustration of debating people too dense to do research or to have their ignorance negatively impact their confidence.

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  • Daniel_JM

    Some where and some weren’t. Jefferson, Paine, and Franklin were deists.

    Samuel Adams, John Jay, and Patrick Henry were orthodox Christian. John Adams was a Unitarian and a theist. Washington is unclear, because he was a lot quieter than most of the other founders on religion. From what I’ve read I’d say he was a theist, but probable not an orthodox Christian.

    • There’s quite a lot of evidence that Paine was a straight-up atheist, actually, given some of his rants about religion and such.

      Jefferson and Franklin were still definitely deist, though, and I agree with your analysis that Washington was probably a theist or deist.

      • Daniel_JM

        Paine was certainly an anti-theist, and, with the possible exception of Ethan Allen, was the most critical founder on the subjeft of Christianity I know of. But Paine specifically says he is a deist in the Age of Reason, in fact one of the reason he says he wrote that book was because he was concerned with the rise of atheism while he was in France. Like I said in another comment, views on religion were different then, so it is possible that he was less religious, but from the Age of Reason I have a hard time describing him as possibly an atheist.