In The Irish Catholic, which describes itself as “Ireland’s biggest and best-selling religious newspaper,” we found this article: Christianity gave rise to modern science. Naturally, we were intrigued.
The author is William Reville. They say he “retired in 2011 from UCC as Professor of Biochemistry and College Public Awareness of Science Officer,” and now he “writes a regular column about the interplay of science and religion.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
[M]odern science arose in Christian Europe in the 17th Century, not in China which had developed a sophisticated culture long before Europe, or in classical Greece. Many people credit Christianity with providing the missing ingredients that gave rise to modern science.
Really? Modern science is only a few centuries old — commencing with people like Galileo and Isaac Newton. Christianity, of course, is 2,000 years old. So what took so long? We discussed several of Reville’s claims in Did Science Originate with Creationists?
Also, no one who reads the New Testament could think of it as a science book. Is it possible that something else might be responsible for the recent development of science? Surely Reville has some solid reasoning behind his claim. Here’s what he says:
The way Christians think about creation has four significant consequences. First, Christians believe in a rational God who created an orderly world. Second, the world is worthy of study because it is God’s creation. Third, in order to understand God’s handiwork it is necessary to examine the world. Fourth, the universe is not itself divine so it is not irreverent to investigate it. Together these four features provided the intellectual setting necessary to spark off modern science.
We’re pleased that Catholics are in favor of science, but we have some doubts about Reville’s cause and effect claim. First, a universe where miracles occur is not rational or orderly, nor is it comprehensible by mere humans. If miracles are possible, then science is futile because anything can happen. Also, a study of the world sometimes contradicts things in found in scripture — as creationists are always telling us about evolution, and as Galileo learned when the Inquisition forced him to recant his writings about the solar system.
Christians believe that the individual is made in the image of God and is therefore endowed with intrinsic value and bears individual responsibilities. This gave rise, for example, to opposition to slavery. The Church banned slavery between Christians and ended slavery in Europe by the end of the 11th Century.
[*Groan*] Slavery was still sanctioned by the Church, especially in the New World, until relatively recently — see Catholic Church and slavery. Besides, that has nothing to do with science. We’re less than halfway through Reville’s article, and he has nothing else to say about science. So what does he say?
He claims that Christianity is responsible for property rights, free enterprise, widespread education, and improved living standards. That’s lovely, but he doesn’t mention why there was a notable absence of those things in Europe during the Dark Ages — ten centuries which were very Christian. Then he says
[A]s European Christianity loses its influence negative consequences are clearly emerging. We now live in an age where individualism is rampant and the person is increasingly seen as the sum of his/her wants and desires.
After that he talks about sexuality, abortion, and euthanasia. In his final paragraph, Reville warns:
If Christianity continues to decline in Europe then I fear that the various tendencies I have identified above will continue to intensify. However, if people pondered the practical consequences of losing Christianity they would be emboldened to fight to retain this invaluable asset.
So there you are. Reville says Christianity is the source of all good things, and its decline is the cause of evil. Maybe so, but he needs to improve his arguments.
Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.