Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Myth Of Christianity Being Anti-Science

Contrary to the popular narrative of our time that posits faith, and the church specifically, against science, the reality is the church has never been its enemy and any disagreements between the two, which have of course existed at times have been gravely exaggerated. When atheists speak of the church's "persecution of scientists, for instance, they tell stories about people being burned at the stake for scientific theories that displace God; about Galileo Copernicus, and Giordano Bruno being tortured for holding "heliocentric" views of the universe. Thrilling dramas, but untrue. Historian David Lindberg, speaking about the medieval era wherein these supposed persecutions of science took place, writes, "There was no warfare between science and the church. Historians agree the science versus religion story is a nineteenth-century fabrication. The church did not persecute Copernicus or Bruno or Galileo for scientific theories. As historian Thomas Kuhn points out. "Bruno was not executed for Copernicanism but for a series of theological heresies centering on his view of the trinity "11 A gruesome reality but not one based on the conflict of religion and science.

In fact, Galileo was a friend of the church for most of his life a practicing Catholic. In 1616 he came to Rome and met with the pope multiple times. As time went on, he did become more critical of the church and its views. The church did persecute Galileo for a time, demanding he recant some of his heliocentric views but he was never charged with heresy and placed in a dungeon, or tortured, as has become popular mythology among skeptics. He was sentenced to house arrest and then released into the custody of the archbishop of Siena, who housed him for five months in his palace. Galileo then returned to his villa in Florence, continuing his scientific work and even publishing before dying of natural causes in 1642.12 The traditional picture of Galileo as a martyr of intellectual freedom is wrong. Any persecution he faced serves as an anomaly historian Thomas Less writes, 'a momentary break in the otherwise harmonious relationship that had existed between Christianity and science. Indeed there is no other example in history of the Catholic church condemning a scientific theory."13

Another modern example of this historical revisionism by skeptics is the story of the medieval church believing that the Bible taught a flat earth, and then reacting in outrage when science came along and proved that the Bible was wrong. This is simply not true. From the time of the ancient Greeks, people knew the earth was round. They observed that the hull of a ship sailing from shore disappears before the top of the mast, and would see the reflection of the earth on the moon during an eclipse. They knew the earth was round. The so-called flat earth conflict is simply part of nineteenth century propaganda. And so, Oxford professor Alister McGrath concludes rightly. "The idea that science and religion are in perpetual conflict is no longer taken seriously by any major historian of science.... One of the last remaining bastions of atheism which survives only at the popular level namely, the myth that an atheistic, fact-based science is permanently at war with a faith-based religion. 15

Mark Clark, The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity, p. 26-28

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