Creationists are forever telling us that modern science was developed in Europe by creationists, and to support that claim they recite a list of early scientists who were deeply religious. Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — made that claim in 1998 and they’ve never strayed from it. In The Creationist Basis for Modern Science they said:
The whole basis for modern science depends on the assumption that the universe was made by a rational creator. … An orderly universe makes perfect sense if it was made by an orderly Creator. But if there is no creator, or if Zeus and his gang were in charge, why should there be any order at all?
Then they give the usual list of early scientists who were Christians: Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, etc. It’s true that a monotheistic religion is compatible with an orderly universe — but the creationists’ universe isn’t very orderly. See The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Creation Science.
Living in a society that worshiped multiple gods didn’t prevent the Greeks — such as Aristotle, Archimedes, Hippocrates, Ptolemy, or Eratosthenes (who determined the circumference of the Earth using geometry) from being among the world’s first scientists, and no one attributes their work to a belief in the Olympian gods. So why should Western monotheistic religion — Christianity specifically — receive credit for the work of scientists like Galileo and Newton?
Those men may have felt — and even claimed — that they discovered the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on the universe by God, but were their discoveries revealed in scripture? No, of course not. For example, there’s nothing in scripture even hinting at Newton’s work on gravity, optics, and the laws of motion. There’s no reason why they couldn’t have done their work if they lived among the classical Greeks.
As we said in Common Creationist Claims Confuted, in the section titled “Great scientists of old were creationists”:
Before Darwin, there wasn’t much of an alternative to creationism. But the belief those men may have had in the Genesis creation account didn’t result in anything of scientific value. Nor have those beliefs produced anything since, nor will they ever. No scientific theory is based on six-day creation or Noah’s Ark. The accomplishments of science in the past have occurred in spite of scripture, and whenever there was a conflict — as with the Galileo affair — it was a disaster. There are a few present-day scientists who are also creationists, but like their predecessors, their work [if it’s any good] isn’t based on scripture.
If it were true that Christianity is responsible for science, then why wasn’t there a flourishing of science in the first three centuries AD — at least in those parts of the ancient world where the new religion was growing? And when Rome became Christian during the reign of Constantine in the early 300s AD, why didn’t Roman science flourish? Instead, Rome collapsed a century and a half later.
Speaking of Constantine, he also established the eastern capitol of the Roman Empire in Byzantium, which was thereafter known as Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire was Christian, and it continued for a thousand years, ending only when it was conquered by a Muslim army in 1453. Did science flourish in the Byzantine Empire? No, it didn’t. They had some notable accomplishments in architecture, and may have improved Greek fire as a weapon, but they made no scientific discoveries.
They did, however, preserve the ancient Greek knowledge. It was passed on to the Muslims, and eventually found its way back into Europe. The result was a rediscovery of classical Greek science and philosophy, which led to the Renaissance and later the Enlightenment. In other words, we owe science to the Greeks — not to any contemporary religion.
Creationists are claiming victory in a race they never ran, and for that they deserve the Curmudgeon’s Rosie Ruiz award.
Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.