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The Stillbirth of Science in Arabia

Taqi_al_din

NOTE: Today we wrap up our weekly series of essays by Dr. Stacy Trasancos on the "stillbirths" of science. They're based on Fr. Stanley L. Jaki's research into the theological history of science in the ancient cultures of Egypt, China, India, Babylon, Greece, and Arabia. See past articles here.


 
The last culture to be examined is that of the Muslims. Although theirs was a monotheistic view, it was not a Christological or Trinitarian view, which left it vulnerable to a monotheism that approached pantheism. What happened in the Muslim world seems to be the result of a mixture of mindsets. The Arabian philosophers adopted the works of the Greeks, along with the organismic, eternal cosmic treadmill worldview. This meant that the philosophers’ worldview was in conflict with the Muslim religion since the Koran taught that God the Creator created the world and held it in existence. The stillbirth of Muslim science could be credited with a separation of science and religion that ought to have been reconciled, a point that would no doubt surprise many people today.

As Athens and Rome lost cultural significance around the early seventh century A.D., there was less communication between the two. Greek scholars moved toward the East and organized at Jundishapur in Southwest Persia. In 641 A.D., when Persia was conquered by the Muslims, the Middle East and North Africa came under one rule. By 711 A.D., the Arabs took Spain and twenty-one years later they stormed France. One hundred years after Muhammed’s death, a political unification of land that spanned three continents emerged. As the new religion codified in the Koran was imposed, a giant empire formed “steeped in the conviction that everything in life and in the cosmos depended on the sovereign will of a personal God, the Creator and Lord of all.” (Jaki, Science and Creation, p. 193)

The continual study of the Koran inspired intellectual curiosity among faithful Muslims, as did the meticulous scholarship of the Greek philosophical and scientific body of knowledge. So serious was the promotion of knowledge that “Houses of Wisdom” were erected, notably in Baghdad (813–833), Cairo (966), and Cordova (961–976). Cordova amassed over 300,000 volumes for the library and immediately attracted scholars from the Christian West, who were welcomed with hospitality.

A paper mill, learned from the Chinese art of paper-making, was constructed in Baghdad in 794, and extensive translation and reproduction of Greek literature flourished. The works of Galen, who was considered second only to Hippocrates in the medical hagiography of the Western World, were translated, some 130 of them, and dominated medical practice in the medieval East and the West well into the Renaissance. (Plinio, A History of Medicine: Roman Medicine, p. 315) The greatest figure of Arab medicine was produced from this school, al Razi (865–925), the author of A Treatise on the Small-Pox and Measles. His work has been reprinted more than forty times in the last four hundred years. Islamic medicine in general was outstanding, a field in which Islamic science demonstrated its most sustained vitality. The Muslims had a realistic sense for facts of observation.

The Islamic ophthalmologist, Ibn-Rushd (1126–1198), otherwise known as Averroes, provides a “priceless insight” into the ultimate failure of Islamic science. (Jaki, Science and Creation, p. 195) He was a resolute advocate and student of Aristotle’s philosophy and science, and as such broke new grounds with ophthalmology. The practice of medicine could flourish under Aristotelian teaching because it did not require any questioning of Aristotle’s view of the physics.

Likewise Ibn-Sina (980–1037), also known as Avicenna, the famed philosopher provides the same insight. His textbook served as the standard in Arab medical teaching, a fine collection of observation and systematic pathology. Muslim science made notable contributions in areas that had nothing to do with physical laws. When it came to a study of physical laws of the world, there was a certain inertia owed to the unwillingness to question the Aristotelian animistic worldview, which is why the study of biology advanced but without an underlying increase in the understanding of the physical world.

This lack of understanding of physics is evidenced by Arab alchemy, which came to stand for the study of materials and compounds. This field of investigation was a combination of mystical and astrological proclivities, fundamentally the result of mixing the organismic, eternal cycles of pantheism with the belief that a Creator created the universe. It was an attempt to reconcile the conflicting views of Aristotelian philosophy and Muslim theology.

The same paradox occurred in astrology. The astrologers, working with assumptions in conflict with their religion, gave credence to the pagan doctrine of the Great Year, even to the point of believing it could predict the succession of rulers, religions, reigns, and physical catastrophes. Yet devout Muslims could not accept these ideas that were in conflict with Muslim orthodoxy, which revealed that the universe had an absolute beginning with creation. As attempts were made to reconcile these beliefs, something ambiguous resulted, as evidenced in the writing of al-Biruni, a Muslim who refuted the contradictions among scholars and religious men in his famous work The Chronology of Ancient Nations:

"It is quite possible that the (celestial) bodies were scattered, not united at the time when the Creator designed and created them, they having these motions, by which–as calculation shows–they must meet each other in one point in such a time. It would be the same, as if we, e.g. supposed a circle, in different separate places of which we put living beings, of whom some move fast, others slowly, each of them, however, being carried on in equal motions–of its peculiar sort of motion–in equal times; further, suppose that we knew their distances and places at a certain time, and the measure of the distance over which each of them travels in one Nychthemoreon." (Athar-ul-Bakiya of Albiruni, The Chronology of Ancient Nations, p. 30)

He goes on in the work to give credit to the mathematical computations of the cycles to explain the appearances, an incongruity between mathematics and reality and a failure to go beyond the Aristotelian and Neoplatonian positions regarding the physical world. As far as the Muslim scholars advanced, they still did not provide the psychology that could give birth to modern science because they did not effectively refute the pantheism of the Greek scientific corpus (body).

That reconciliation would come from Christian scholars who, in adherence to the Christian Creed, rejected the teachings of the Greek scientific corpus which contradicted Christian dogma, particularly pantheism and the eternal cosmic cycle. Indeed, the birth of science can be credited as a successful reconciliation of the Christian religion and science.

"There had to come a birth, the birth of the only begotten Son of the Father as a man, to allow science to have its first viable birth." (Jaki, A Late Awakening, p.60)

This series of essays is adapted from the book Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki (available on Amazon). In the book, this series is in the chapter "Was Born," which is preceded by an introduction to Fr. Jaki and a discussion about how he defined "science." This series is followed by a series of essays about "The Biblical Womb" and the attitudes towards Greek and Roman science in "Early Christianity." The birth of science in "The Christian West" is covered by a brief review of the following Christian scholars' contributions, in chronological order: Adelard of Bath, Thierry of Chartres, Robert Grosseteste, William of Auvergne, St. Albertus Magnus, St. Thomas Aquinas , Roger Bacon , Siger of Brabant , Étienne Tempier, and Jean Buridan.

Sources:

  • Stanley L. Jaki, Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, Ltd, 1986), 192-200.
  • Stanley L. Jaki, A Late Awakening and Other Essays (Port Huron, MI: Real View Books, 2004), 22-25.
  • Prioresch Plinio, A History of Medicine: Roman Medicine (Omaha, NE: Horatius Press, 1998), 315.
  • Athar-ul-Bakiya of Albiruni, The Chronology of Ancient Nations: An English Version of the Arabic Text “Vestiges of the Past,” translated by D. Edward Sachau (London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1879), 30.

 
 
(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Dr. Stacy Trasancos

Written by

Stacy A. Trasancos is a wife and homeschooling mother of seven. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She teaches chemistry and physics for Kolbe Academy online homeschool program and serves as the Science Department Chair. She teaches Reading Science in the Light of Faith at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. She is author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. Her new book, Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science (Ave Maria Press) comes out October 2016. She works from her family’s 100-year old restored lodge in the Adirondack mountains, where her husband, children, and two German Shepherds remain top priority. Her website can be found here.

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  • Stacy, thanks for making Fridays interesting. I've enjoyed the series. Your book helped convince me that Christianity is not a poison for science. But maybe neither is Islam. Maybe science would have been born in an Islamic culture. Let's imagine that science actually started full force in the 1200's with Robert Grosseteste's proposal of the scientific method. This may be too favourable to Grosseteste's accomplishments, but it's the earliest date to give for the start of science (unless, like me, you believe that Archimedes was engaged in full fledged science). That's 1200 years after the birth of Jesus. Muhammed was born in 570. 1200 years after Muhammed's birth is 1770.

    Maybe if science had not started in Christian culture in 1200, it would have started in Muslim culture in 1770.

    I'll leave a short second comment about my impression of the whole series, and the thesis that Christianity was necessary for the birth of science.

    • Andrew Kassebaum

      Paul, I always appreciate your comments and questions, which I believe are fair and charitable. I am sure Stacy will have more to say, but I wanted to make a couple points (which are brief and topical).

      Historians generally agree that the Scientific Revolution began in 1543, fifteen-hundred years after the establishment of the Church. Why did it take this long? A few answers come to mind: 1) Whether we agree with it or not, the primary mission of the Church is the salvation of souls. While it is of extraordinary import (at least in my view), the study of the natural world is secondary. The Church's primary mission is still playing out in space in time. The development of science has also followed this course. 2) Socio-political factors must also be considered. It was not until 313 that Catholics had religious liberty in the Roman Empire. After the dissolution of the Roman Empire in the West, Europe was besieged by a long series of invasions, which lasted until the 10th century. Starting in the 11th century, Western Europe began its remarkable advance.

      I have seen no evidence that science in Arabic lands was progressing to anything like a scientific revolution. In fact, by 1500, science under Islam had ceased to advance. This was a true stillbirth!

      • It's an interesting question about why the golden age of Islamic science (or whatever you want to call it) ended. But this golden age could well have continued, it seems to me, in an alternate history. There's nothing about the philosophy of Islam that would make this golden age end in every possible world. Maybe you disagree?

        If I'm right, and this golden age is of arbitrary length (it could have gone on for only 100 years, or it could have gone on for 2000), then we have it that:

        Christian west took from 0 to 1500 to get to science. Hypothetical Islamic nation would go from 570 to 2070 (imagining a golden age throughout). Where would they have been, in terms of their science? Would their bad philosophy have stagnated their development of the scientific method? Or would they have developed further from 570 to 2070 than the Christian west developed from 0 to 1500?

        It seems to me, reading both Trasancos's book "Science was Born of Christianity" and Jim Al-Khalili's "Pathfinders", that both Christianity and Islam are at least not poison to science, and both can be seen to support science. I think Judaism also provides support for science.

        There may be something special about monotheistic philosophy and culture that provides a positive environment for the development of science.

        • Loreen Lee

          Just a hope that this response will add to the conversation. Other than such opportunities, I will remain a constant 'listener'.
          Perhaps what is given in monotheistic religions is the concept of law, or governance. Although Hinduism could be thought to challenge recent cosmology, in that ancient texts spoke of multiverses long before other cultural pantheistic worldviews even developed, their God Brahman was indeed a pantheistic incorporation of the divine within the material universe, in such a way that it could be conceived that flowers were his eyebrows, and the sun his head, for example. With the advent of the Hebrew philosophy which underlines the tradition of Abraham and Moses, even to the command of God to Adam, there arises for the first time a concept of a single source of law and order, and this I believe is related to the distinction between pantheism and monotheism. There is not a recognition of 'unity' within the philosophy of Buddhism for instance. There are only 'conglomerates', which for me, again I repeat, illustrates what could be meant by the prefix, - pan.
          I will continue to believe that Christianity is a synthesis of Hebrew and Greek thought, and it is unfortunate I feel, that this series did not present the concept of law that has been inherited from the religious tradition. Greek culture also gave us the concept, however, of the Logos. This combined with the concept of 'Word made Flesh' or 'Incarnation', is understandable for me, as embracing this idea of law. In other words, although Creation is the exemplification of the power of Divine Will, it is the intellect, synonymous with Jesus as the fulfillment of the law, may I note that it is also understood within Scripture as being an aspect of even the cosmos since its creation, which distinguishes it from an animistic manifestation of divinity within the materiality of the universe.
          The homosapien, then is alone in the capacity of 'understanding' this logos and/or law from it's inception in the cosmos, to its relevance to normative thought. It is possibly the atonement which finds justification for the 'original' sin, which was taken by the 'eating of the apple', and thus the normative thought is reconciled also through an ascription to 'law'. I have had to give this much thought, as I found it very difficult to understand what could possibly be the significance of the incarnation within the context of still-births. I have found this reference to law, therefore, for me, a productive solution, one which is a corroborating factor between Catholicism and science.
          Thus I am also in agreement with the procession of the Holy Ghost from both God the father, and the son, (will and intellect) as the Holy Ghost (in my weak understanding) is related for me to Kant's third critique - the Power of Judgment, or the allocation of specific particularities within the compass of universals. (Also an element which would be necessary for a development of a science, which is not 'still born'.)
          I have talked too much. Thank you.

          • Loreen Lee

            Also, what hopefully may serve as a clarification, (according to my understanding) of the position taken by Aristotle with respect to causation. In alone thread much has been made of whether or not natural causes alone can involve efficient causation, and arguments have resulted denying the possibility that 'God can be an efficient cause).
            Please understand that my interpretation of Aristotle's four primary causes, i.e. material, efficient, formal and final need to be distinguished from his cosmological proofs. Aristotle held that God, and God alone was a 'First' cause. Indeed, that it what he called the cosmological explanation, The term God was not even referred to, I believe. There was simply, a 'First Cause', distinguished from the other four causes. Hopefully somebody can add to this distinction. I do understand that there are proofs of God's existence founded on the formal and teleological principles, however, such as the Ontological proof. Thank you.

          • Loreen Lee

            Edit: Perhaps that argument by C.S. Lewis regarding Proof by Desire could be an example of a Material Proof! Grin grin. And, (though I don't understand the dialogue in physics that many of you take part in), perhaps some efficient causes can be found even within quantum realities.

        • This article may help to answer your question about Islam in a multiverse.

          “Education in the Islamic system is based mainly on memorization, first and foremost of the Koran. The Koran is not discussed, it is memorized and repeated again and again, until it is learned by heart. It is the Word of God that has become a book. The Islamic formula is that the Koran
          "descended" (nazala) from Muhammad, who transmitted it as it is. It was not "inspired" it was "handed down"
          "inspiration": in other words, the Koran is not by the prophet Muhammad, it comes directly from God, the prophet is merely the means of
          communication.”

          “Another example of paralysis:
          once a Muslim professor once asked a question of his students: "Do you agree that those who steal should have their hand cut off, and if they steal again have the opposite foot cut off? "The answer was: "That is what the Koran says". The Professor rejoined: "But do you agree?"
          Their answer: "That is what the Koran says, and you can not change it".

          “When you enter the domain of religion, there is a paralysis of thought, of intellect. As if religion did not
          belong to the human sphere, but should be judged by other criteria. And this is what has been transmitted for centuries. Sure, in the past and even today, we
          have had religious revolutionaries, but they have been marginalized by the press, by the assemblies and the common mentality in the name of conformity.”

          http://www.asianews.it/news-en/The-barbaric-cruelty-of-the-Caliphate-puts-Islam-to-the-test-32006.html

          • To adjust one of your examples:

            Another example of paralysis: a Catholic professor once asked a question of his students: "Do you agree that condoms should not be given to people in Africa, even to those who have AIDS?" The answer was: "That is what the Church says". The Professor rejoined: "But do you agree?" Their answer: "That is what the Church says, and you can not change it."

          • Is this an actual conversation like the one above to illustrate a point or are you writing the dialog yourself?.

          • It's almost identical to a conversation I had with a Catholic friend, when I was still Catholic. His answer to my question was more along the lines of "The Church has definitively taught on the evils of contraception, so my opinion doesn't matter." It's an example of paralysis. And I hope it did make the point.

          • Your point is true, that there can very well be persons of other faiths or no faith at all that completely suppress their own views in favor of another group or entity. I am thinking of the dismal voting record of Americans in particular.

            I don't expect American young people to withhold their personal view for or against religious ideas however.

            The example I gave you was not in order to pit example against example. It's purpose was to present a concept that is apparently wide spread in Islam. I would expect that anyone who has an interest would investigate further.

          • Ray Vorkin

            The example I gave you was not in order to pit example against example. It's purpose was to present a concept that is apparently wide spread in Islam. I would expect that anyone who has an interest would investigate further.

            Would you recommend Robert Spencer, his books and writings as a good place to start our education/investigation?

            http://www.jihadwatch.org/

          • I have read Spenser and listened to him. I am not sure how he should be taken. I don't like the hard hitting style of his books and web site. Too much like popular journalism.

          • Ray Vorkin

            I imagine that he has some credibility among catholics since he broadcasts from the catholic Franciscan university at Steubenville...

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1g2cgVm6Ns

          • He has also been on Kresta's radio pgm several times.
            http://www.avemariaradio.net/

            Yes, he has some credibility with me also. He as studied Islam extensively. I am always a little worried when someone is, in my opinion, overly enthusiastic. It could just be my preference and it has nothing to do with valid content.

          • Ray Vorkin

            thank you for clarifiying that fact.

          • I have an opinion on Islam though and how it is viewed. Shameless plug (I need readers)

            http://catholicstand.com/boko-haram-christians-understand/

          • Ray Vorkin

            Thanks for the link...interesting. About your Avatar....is the interpretation below correct?Just curious.We are N. united to support persecuted Christians in Iraq

          • This is the Arabic letter "num" the first letter in "Nazarene" that was painted on houses in Mosul, Iraq to identify Christians there. Some of us have adopted this to show solidarity with those Christians.

          • Since you are an ex-Catholic you may be interested in this study by Barna, a Protestant Research group.

            "The study also looked at how young Catholic’s feel about the church’s stance toward ordaining women. Overall, just under half (45%) of young Catholics say it bothers them “that the Church does not ordain women as priests.” Just 14% feel strongly about this. Young Catholics who remain active in the church are even more likely than lapsed Catholics to say this is an important consideration (13% versus 9%). While not a majority view among young Catholics, it is a very strongly held sentiment even among those who have stayed connected to the Church."

            https://www.barna.org/barna-update/faith-spirituality/603-the-spiritual-journeys-of-young-catholics-plus-their-views-on-birth-control-sexuality-and-the-church#.VAOK2ZV0zIV

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think your Catholic example is fundamentally different than the one with Islam. Because of Islam's nominalism, there is no reason for the way things are or should be in the universe except for Allah's arbitrary will. In your example, the Church's teachings about contraception are based on the natural law. No amount of reasoning could ever reform the mind of a Muslim believer, whereas the opposite is true for the Catholic believer.

          • I reasoned through contraception and found that the Catholic position is wrong. I'm convinced of it. Catholics can only conclude that my reasoning is wrong. I find this a superficial improvement over Islam.

          • Actually what I thought you were saying was that it is possible to find a person that will acquiesce instead of debate Catholicism. That two religions have doctrine is no different that saying Americans and Iranians have law.

            I gave you the benefit, your example given the two people were Americans, sounds more to me like an answer to the ones badgering.

          • There is no real debate on this topic between orthodox Catholics, because there aren't really two sides. If a Catholic reasons that contraception is acceptable, that Catholic's reasoning has to be wrong, by authority of the Church. I see no significant difference between this and the Islamic example. Doubtless Muslim theologians claim to reason about the teachings in the Quran (see, among many examples, http://www.al-islam.org/al-tawhid/vol1-n1-3/understanding-uniqueness-quran-ayatullah-murtadha-mutahhari/conception-reason ). Anyone who doesn't come up with the answer in the Quran has reasoned incorrectly.

          • The issue has to do with the concept that free thought is not only possible but given to us by God. A person may chose to agree with a doctrine of the Church or not. They are also free to verbalize that position or not. Christians are also free to denounce the faith as you have, Muslims are not free to do these things.

            I understand your basic dislike of supreme authority, but this kind of authority not only exists in religion, it exists at University for example, or in civil government or the family. One can certainly reject one authority and accept another, but it is illogical to reject the concept of authority at the same time.

          • Christians are also free to denounce the faith as you have, Muslims are not free to do these things.

            Many Muslims are, though. There is an extremist version of Islam unrivalled in its violence and intensity by any Christian extremism, but there are many other varieties of Islam. Many Muslims I know seem to me to be just as rational as many Catholics I know.

            As for authority, I agree that it cannot be entirely avoided, but supreme authority can be. I prefer my authorities admit that they're fallible, because I find any claims to infallibility to be unbelievable.

          • I respect your desires and would not attempt to try and alter them.

            As for viewing the worlds of Muslims and Christians and not seeing the drastic difference between the two as they exist for the largest numbers, I would have to say that you need to step back and look at the countries of the middle east and compare those with Christian countries.

            I have never read a decision out of the Supreme Court of the U.S. that admits ambivalence in the decisions. The majority declares absolute truth and so does the dissenting. I do not see you as one who denies that your life is controlled in great measure by this Supreme authority.

          • I'm now curious, which of the Supreme Court justices would you say is most likely to claim supreme authority on the truth? In which majority decision did the Supreme Court claim perfect and absolute knowledge of the truth?

            Which Justice would be most likely to claim infallibility? I'd put my money on Sotomayor.

          • They all claim their rightful authority for the truth of the law. Decisions are not given as, We think this may be lawful

          • But not authorities on the truth. They can declare what the law is, but they can't declare what justice is or what truth is. In other words, they have what all human authority ever has, authority over the arbitrary. Fortunately, in my readings of Supreme Court decisions and especially in my listening of the oral arguments, I find among the justices a great amount of humility and uncertainty among them. One of the most common phrases I hear in the oral arguments is "I don't understand..."

          • They are not expected to decide truths outside of the law. My point is this, you will win or lose if you go before the court. You will be judged by a Supreme authority and because you have presented this issue to them, you have acquiesced to their authority.

            We all pick the authority we will follow. unless we are anarchists.

          • This doesn't seem right.

            First, it doesn't seem as though I choose my authorities. I steal from the gas station and appear before a judge, I cannot say "I didn't choose you as an authority over me." We are stuck with those who have real authority over us. Some of us can choose who we will obey some of the time.

            Second, in the just society, these authorities only really have control over arbitrary things. If they try to overstep their bounds, from the arbitrary into the definitive, then they lose all their authority. If a supreme court justice ruled "that we throw out the constitution", no one would pay attention to him.

            Third, I don't accept any authority over reality.

          • In about an hour I will be going for a beer. One stop sign and no other controls for 10 miles except for speed signs, painted lines, private property, public property. I chose to respect the authority of the law because it is beneficial to me as a weak member of society. I have chosen to let the law act even when it would be much more satisfying to act on my own because I agree with the principle involved. I may not like some of the controls but I have not reached the point that the colonials did at the time of the American Revolution. I have consciously chosen to be a supporter of the rule of law.

            I accept Christ as the second person of the Trinity. I accept the Catholic Church as the interpreter of His will. I affirm this every Mass. You have the freedom to reject Him.

          • DELETED

          • Kevin Aldrich

            One mark of reasoning is that it can often accurately predict the consequences of a certain kind of behavior. Take Pope Paul VI:

            17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

            Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

            Pretty good predictions made in 1968.

          • David Nickol

            Pretty good predictions made in 1968.

            What, exactly, are the predictions, and what is the evidence that they have come true? And if any of the predictions have come true, what is the evidence that they have come true because of the use of contraception?

            Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman . . . .

            Do men have less "reverence" for women than they did in 1968? What is the evidence?

            Interestingly, none of the "predictions" seem to be about what impact contraception will have on the behavior of women.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is philosopher Dr. Janet's Smith's answer only 25 years after HV:

            http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/courses/264/popepaul.htm

          • David Nickol

            Janet Smith said:

            The availability of contraception has led them to believe that they can engage in premarital sexual activity "responsibly." But teenagers are about as responsible in their use of contraception as they are in all other phases of their lives--such as making their beds, cleaning their rooms and getting their homework done on time.

            Where is the proof? Note the following news story of May 6, 2014:

            Statistics released this week show historically low trends in teen pregnancy nationwide. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and policy advocacy group, released a report this week analyzing public health and birth certificate data from 2010, (the most recent available) to examine teen pregnancy rates by state, age, race, and ethnicity.

            In 2010, approximately 6 percent of teens became pregnant, the lowest rate in more than 30 years. That’s 57.4 pregnancies per 1,000 teenage women, a 51 percent drop from the peak rate in 1990. From 2008 to 2010 alone, there was a 15 percent drop. . . . .

            But of course this was the pope's "prediction":

            The Pope first noted that the widespread use of contraception would "lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality."

            That reminds me of my favorite commercial when the fortune teller has told her customer his marketing plan is working and he asks if she can be more specific. She says, "Yes! Some parts are working. Some parts are not working."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't think you read the "news story" carefully enough. The zinger this Planned Parenthood advocate ended with was,

            Public health groups in the state are largely in agreement: ignoring the fact that teens are having sex is not as effective as giving them access to contraception.

            Do you really need statistical evidence that American teenagers are having premarital sex at far higher rates than in the 1950s?

          • David Nickol

            Do you really need statistical evidence that American teenagers are having premarital sex at far higher rates than in the 1950s?

            It never hurts to have statistics. What "everybody knows" is not necessarily the truth.

            In any case, it was not Janet Smith's contention that the pope predicted teens in the second decade of the 21st century would be having premarital sex at a higher rate than in the 1950s. I repeat here her contention:

            The availability of contraception has led them to believe that they can engage in premarital sexual activity "responsibly." But teenagers are about as responsible in their use of contraception as they are in all other phases of their lives--such as making their beds, cleaning their rooms and getting their homework done on time.

            The facts show she is wrong about this. Her implication, as I understand it, is that contraception actually increases problems like unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases because, having contraceptives, people have a feeling that they are protected, motivating them to have more sex. However, they don't use contraception consistently and correctly, leading to consequences worse than if they had no contraceptives and had less sex for fear of negative consequences. The statistics in the article indicate that is false.

            What, exactly, has been the impact of the pill and other, more modern, contraceptives developed since the 1960s? I don't think Humanae Vitae gives us any significant hints. But there is a wealth of social science research on the subject, none of which is ever cited by people claiming the pope made accurate predictions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            David, you are not really focusing on her argument. The part about teenagers is only a minor part of it.

            The Pope first noted that the widespread use of contraception would "lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality." That there has been a widespread decline in morality, especially sexual morality, in the last 25 years, is very difficult to deny. The increase in the number of divorces, abortion, our-of-wedlock pregnancies, and venereal diseases should convince any skeptic that sexual morality is not the strong suit of our age.

            There is no question that contraception is behind much of this trouble. Contraception has made sexual activity a much more popular option that it was when the fear of pregnancy deterred a great number of young men and women from engaging in premarital sexual intercourse. The availability of contraception has led them to believe that they can engage in premarital sexual activity "responsibly." But teenagers are about as responsible in their use of contraception as they are in all other phases of their lives--such as making their beds, cleaning their rooms and getting their homework done on time.

            You are saying that the social sciences are saying there has *not* been a huge increase in the number of divorces, abortion, our-of-wedlock pregnancies, and venereal diseases since the time Paul VI wrote?

          • David Nickol

            You are saying that the social sciences are saying there has *not* been a huge increase in the number of divorces, abortion, our-of-wedlock pregnancies, and venereal diseases since the time Paul VI wrote?

            I am saying that if you want to claim "huge increases" in all of these things, first, you have to cite statistics, and second, you have to provide some evidence that contraception is responsible. You also have to account for variations and changes in statistics, such as the fact that while abortions are higher than they were (in the United States) since when Humanae Vitae was written (before Roe v Wade!), they have been declining for thirty years. If contraceptives cause the abortion rate to increase, why has it been declining for decades?

            Exactly how do contraceptives cause the divorce rate to go up? I have seen arguments that contraception does have some effect on the divorce rate, but is the divorce rate the result of the pill? How does contraception cause or lead to divorce? And is the only social change that has taken place in the last fifty years the use of contraceptives? What about the women's movement? More women in the workforce? More women than men earning college degrees?

            And exactly how do you pin increases in out-of-wedlock births and abortions on contraception? On the one hand, people blame the extremely low birth rate on contraception (it works too well!) and also blame increases in out-of-wedlock births and abortions on contraception (it is ineffective!).

          • Michael Murray

            Interestingly, none of the "predictions" seem to be about what impact contraception will have on the behavior of women.

            A quote from Jennifer Worth's third book on being a midwife in the East End of London

            The advent of the Pill in 1963 brought an end to it altogether. Women, for the first time in history, had control over their own fertility, and the birth rate plummeted. Throughout the 1950s there Sisters had delivered around 100 babies per month. In the year 1964 that number had dropped to four or five.

            http://www.amazon.com/Call-Midwife-Farewell-East-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B002U3CC3S/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1409698410&sr=8-3&keywords=jennifer+worth+call+the+midwife

          • Michael Murray

            Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

            Or perhaps a man whose wife uses NFP will, because of the more limited opportunities to have sex, be more inclined to assert his desires regardless of how she feels about it. It's easy to invent stories on either side.

            It's also possible that relationships between real men and women are a little more complex than these caricatures. Something the Pope might know if he wasn't celibate.

        • Paul

          'There's nothing about the philosophy of Islam that would make this golden age end in every possible world. '

          I beg to differ. I feel there is definitely, if not a belief, then a very strong attitude in Islam which is antithetical to science and indeed most new trends in society. There is a saying attributed to Mohammed in the ahadith (generally accepted stories about the life of Mohammed) that he said that innovation (bidah) was the work of the Devil.

          'Jaabir (R) narrated Muhammad(S) said, "To proceed: The best speech is the Book of Allah and the best guidance and example is that of Muhammad, and the worse of all things are the newly invented things (in the religion), for every innovation is a error and a misguidance." (Muslim) "…Every innovation is a going astray and every going astray is in the fire." (Tirmidhi)'

          Now the argument will be made that this only applies to matters of religion and perhaps that was the intent but that is only one interpretation (notice how the phrase 'in the religion' is in brackets implying it is not in the original Arabic. Having lived in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, all I can say is that the attitude, even if it did only refer to matters of belief, has bled out into all corners of Islamic societies and infected the mentality so that a truly horrendous conservatism has retarded and continues to retard Arab in particular, and to a somewhat lesser degree, all such societies. The Arab conquests were swift and so for many years the rich cake of intermixed cultures (not yet completely controlled by Islam) brought about the so-called 'Islamic' Golden Age'. But after a few centuries passed, once the majority of the population became Moslem, the rot set in and those societies stagnated and still do so today. We can see this in the failure of the so-called Arab Spring where they promptly exchanged Islamic tyrannies for secular ones.

          • I feel there is definitely, if not a belief, then a very strong attitude in Islam which is antithetical to science and indeed most new trends in society.

            If you mean Islam as practiced by most of the Middle East today, I would agree. If you mean Islam as practiced by those in the Middle East during the Golden Age (as some call it), then I would disagree. And I would cite Stacy's argument as support for my position. You can't have even a stillbirth of science if you have a society that at its core is diametrically opposed to science. Just like you can't have a stillbirth if you are totally sterile.

  • Ultimately, the whole idea about Christianity being necessary for science, "there had to come a birth", makes me think of a friend of mine who tried to get some money from a car insurance company for an accident he was in.

    This friend of mine was involved in an automobile accident. The other person was in the wrong. His insurance company agreed to pay the damages. They paid for my friend's car to be fixed. My friend thought at the time that he had suffered no serious injury from the accident. A couple years later, this friend of mine started suffering from intense back pain. He connected this back pain to the car accident. So he wrote the insurance company demanding that they pay for his injuries and pain and suffering. He thought it might have worked out, but it didn't. The company said no, they weren't going to pay him a dime for your back pain on the argument that since so much time had passed, there was no way to know whether it was the accident that caused the injury or something else that happened later.

    Jesus was born, died, and then maybe did some other stuff. 1500 years later (or 1000 years later, or however you want to count it) science was born. I'm not a historian, but I assume that a lot of other things happened in Europe between AD 0 and AD 1500. Maybe some of those other things were necessary for science, and Christianity wasn't.

    The series was fun to read, and I got to learn a lot of interesting facts about different cultures. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I've enjoyed it thoroughly.

  • Mike O’Leary

    My apologies if the previous entries in this series addressed this, as I was only introduced the site a week ago. The article noted that the people at the time in Arabia were limited in their advancement in science due to both unwillingness to question the Aristotelian animistic worldview as well as their belief in the Great Year. If so, the religion there possessed specific traits that inhibited a flourishing of science. Let's imagine that there is a worldview which is completely wrong, yet does not possess traits which inhibit science. Would or could science flourish in such a setting?

    In other words does a religion/worldview require a positive trait which encourages science in order for more than sporadic scientific advancements to occur? I ask this because the article lists the various negative anti-science traits of Islam, but then ends with a quote from Jaki stating that only by the birth of Jesus could science be born. It seems like it's using the proposed negative points of one culture to claim a positive pro-science trait of Christianity (namely Christ).

    • Ignatius Reilly

      I ask this because the article lists the various negative anti-science traits of Islam, but then ends with a quote from Jaki stating that only by the birth of Jesus could science be born. It seems like it's using the proposed negative points of one culture to claim a positive pro-science trait of Christianity (namely Christ).

      Exactly. The most we can conclude from this series of article is that pantheism is harmful to the birth of science and that science emerged in a Christian continent. This does not mean that Christianity is pro-science, nor does it mean that Christianity is better for science than pantheism.

    • Doug Shaver

      then ends with a quote from Jaki stating that only by the birth of Jesus could science be born.

      Before I read the series, I would have found that claim only slightly more credible than the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Having now read the series, my thinking on that point has not changed.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    I think a major point or two has been overlooked.
    1. Prior to al-Ghazali's time, Islam was a religion of the elite, the ruling class, although it was spreading slowly among those who wished out of the tax levied on Jews and Christians. Egypt, for example, was still majority Christian, so was Antioch and Syria. Due in no small measure to al-Ghazali, Islam became a popular religion. Unfortunately, he also wrote "The Incoherence of Philosophy," in which he attacked the idea of secondary causation: that natural bodies could be causes of natural events. He used the example of fire burning cloth:

    "...our opponent claims that the agent of the burning is the fire exclusively;’ this is a natural, not a voluntary agent, and cannot abstain from what is in its nature when it is brought into contact with a receptive substratum. This we deny, saying: The agent of the burning is God, through His creating the black in the cotton and the disconnection of its parts, and it is God who made the cotton burn and made it ashes either through the intermediation of angels or without intermediation. For fire is a dead body which has no action, and what is the proof that it is the agent? Indeed, the philosophers have no other proof than the observation of the occurrence of the burning, when there is contact with fire, but observation proves only a simultaneity, not a causation, and, in reality, there is no other cause but God."

    In this, he anticipated the dead nature of Hume and his contemporaries, as when Newton had to invoke God to keep the solar system humming. Laws of nature, al-Ghazali wrote, were nothing more than certain habits of God. Fortunately, science had already gotten started in the West before Hume could put a damper on things.
    Ibn Rushd countered with "The Incoherence of the Incoherence" in which he championed the idea that the fire really is what burned the cloth. (And Moses Maimonides also ridiculed the notion.) But al-Ghazali won the culture. In the end, ibn Rushd was stripped of all offices and forced to flee al-Andalus.¹

    2. In the House of Submission, there were no corporate persons. Everything was in the gift of the emir or sultan. Astronomers were governed by the timekeeper of the mosque; doctors came under the purview of the regulator of the marketplace. Unlike the West, which had invented the corporation, and where anyone who wished could become an astronomer and doctors were governed by self-governing medical societies.

    3. In particular, there were no corporations that we call "universities." The madrassas were independently chartered bodies, but they never taught natural philosophy. The universities of Europe had an interconnected curriculum geared almost entirely toward logic, reason, and natural philosophy, as well as degrees of attainment and funny hats. A budding muslim scholar could get certificates from teachers that testified that he had memorized and mastered a particular book that the master taught; but no combination of such certificates could ever add up to a "bachelor of science" or a "master of science."

    4. Consequently, the natural philosophers in Islam were a corporal's guard, operating on the fringe of society, tolerated by some rulers, but not by others and regarded with suspicion by the traditional scholars. In Europe, the study of nature was integrated into society as a whole, not least by the enormous number of ordinary students who passed through the university (and where any doctor of theology had first been a master of science).

    5. The House of Wisdom in old Baghdad had been founded and staffed by Nestorian Christians: Hunayn ibn Ishaq and his two nephews. The Christians of Syria had been translating Greek works into Syriac for a long time, and Syriac to Arabic was fairly straightforward.

    6. The study of natural philosophy was called "Greek studies" or "foreign studies," indicating its alien nature.

    7. Some credit must also be given to the Turks and Mongols, who wrecked the caliphate, destroyed the waterworks of Iraq and the Levant, and generally raised hell. They were far less tolerant of pagan Greek or Christian influences than had been the classic Arabs.

    8. The Arabs did well (as did all peoples) in the mathematical sciences, which at the time included astronomy and optics, and in the practical arts, which included medicine, although many of the best-known doctors were Jews, Greek or Armenian Christians, or Persians (with a prior medical tradition). Their study of optics did not lead to the invention of eyeglasses, as it did in Italy. The mechanical clock (which Gimpel called the key invention) was declared haram and the later introduction of the telescope led to no revolution in science.

    "The problems of physics are of no importance for us in our religious affairs or our livelihoods; therefore we must leave them alone."
    -- Ibn Khaldûn

    ¹ lost all offices. Machiavelli would much later distinguish between the "Turkish state" and the "Frankish state." In the Turkish state, all offices are in the gift of the sultan, but in the Frankish state, the nobles are each independent centers of power which the king must balance. It never occurred to the Christians that natural philosophers should be employees of the state.

  • I would like to add some thoughts in summary.

    Worldview is the whole ballgame; it is the way we play the game of life. Our perceptions of what the people in history were like, how they thought, affects our present relationships and present worldview.

    The people that thought and wrote about their world in the past looked at it from common cultural existences that were faltering and not evolving. This was a departure from physical evolution so loved by some scientists. Mental evolution, recognition of a correct worldview, required Christianity

    The fear of acknowledging the necessary truths that Christianity brought to humanity and the fear that Christianity is still necessary in the post-modern world, has caused a very sloppy analysis of religions importance to take hold. All beliefs are considered superstition because spirituality is illogically disallowed a priori. This is not because spirituality has been shown to not be possible, because it is believed to not be possible thereby restricting the present worldview of too many leaders and followers to the material – this is the prime theory.

    Great effort has been driven by the need to prove this prime theory through a constant chain of hypothesizing and theorizing that has lead to the latest proposition that was announced by Hawking, “"It is not necessary to invoke God...”.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-11161493

    These science types are comfortable with claiming “"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. (Hawking)” And “He
    (Hawking) also discussed theories which suggest that existence in fact had no
    beginning.”

    These beliefs about “nothing” and “no beginning” or eternity, are accepted and hypocritically preached and lived as if they were true, while at the same time making a lame joke about the eternal existence of God; “What was God doing before He made the world?”.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2311168/Stephen-Hawking-says-The-Big-Bang-didnt-need-God-set-off.html#ixzz3BbhliMFq

    “Instead, Hawking claimed, the beginning of the Universe could be governed by laws of science,...”

    Probably a Freudian slip, but he is claiming science governs, controls the universe, NOT the other way around – worldview again. Science has become for many the
    replacement for God and scientists are it’s disciples.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2311168/Stephen-Hawking-says-The-Big-Bang-didnt-need-God-set-off.html

    This claim is just another version of mankind trying to dethrone God and warned of in Genisis 3:

    “But the serpent said to the woman, You will not die; for God knows that when you
    eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and
    evil.”

    • Doug Shaver

      Worldview is the whole ballgame;

      OK. Then let's compare our worldviews.

      The people that thought and wrote about their world in the past looked at it from common cultural existences that were faltering and not evolving.

      Two questions. (1) Did all people in the past think and write in that manner about their world? (2) Do people in the present think and write differently about their world?

      This was a departure from physical evolution so loved by some scientists.

      It obviously is not physical evolution, but I've never heard of a scientist who thinks physical evolution is the only kind of evolution that can happen. Can you name one does think so, and can you quote something from their work to support your claim?

      Mental evolution, recognition of a correct worldview, required Christianity

      That's an interesting construal of evolution.

      The fear of acknowledging the necessary truths that Christianity brought to humanity and the fear that Christianity is still necessary in the post-modern world, has caused a very sloppy analysis of religions importance to take hold.

      You may assume that everyone who disagrees with Christianity is afraid of Christianity. That assumption is quite unwarranted. I used to be a Christian. I didn't quit because I was afraid of it.

      And by the way, what are those necessary truths that you're referring to? Just which necessary truths were not known anywhere in the world until Christians discovered them?

      All beliefs are considered superstition

      Not by me, and not by almost any atheist with whom I'm acquainted.

      spirituality is illogically disallowed a priori.

      Not by me. I don't see any logical contradiction between "It's possibly true" and "It's probably not true."

      the latest proposition that was announced by Hawking, “It is not necessary to invoke God...”.

      I couldn't care less what Hawking has to say about God. You Christians might need to authorities to tell you what to think. I don't.

      • Answer to question #1: No for sure. Just as I am very sure that you didn’t wait in a quarter mile outside line for 12 hours to hear Hawking speak at Caltech. Or sat with the thousands outside on the lawn to watch him on a big screen TV.

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2311168/Stephen-Hawking-says-The-Big-Bang-didnt-need-God-set-off.html

        Answer to question #2. Yes. That is fact that became the lifelong study of Fr. Jaki.

      • "All (religious) beliefs are considered superstition because spirituality is illogically disallowed a priori. This is not because spirituality has been shown to not be possible, because it is believed to not be possible thereby restricting the present worldview of too many leaders and followers to the material"

        This is my complete quote. Note I refer to "too many" and not all.

        I am interested in your definition of atheism. If you call yourself an atheist what exactly do you share in common?

        • Doug Shaver

          "All (religious) beliefs are considered superstition because spirituality is illogically disallowed a priori. This is not because spirituality has been shown to not be possible, because it is believed to not be possible thereby restricting the present worldview of too many leaders and followers to the material"

          This is my complete quote. Note I refer to "too many" and not all.

          That "too many" is long way from what I quoted. The connection was not obvious when I read it.

          I am interested in your definition of atheism. If you call yourself an atheist what exactly do you share in common?

          I call myself an atheist because I am not a theist, by which I mean I don't believe in any god. Anything I have in common with other atheists is coincidental to that.

          • In order to understand generalizations properly it is necessary to understand that exceptions normally exist.

            Does that mean that you do not believe that a spiritual god can exist? Agnostics also do not believe in any god.

          • Doug Shaver

            I call myself an atheist because I am not a theist, by which I mean I don't believe in any god. Anything I have in common with other atheists is coincidental to that.

            In order to understand generalizations properly it is necessary to understand that exceptions normally exist.

            Does that mean that you do not believe that a spiritual god can exist? Agnostics also do not believe in any god.

            Definitions are established by usage. Dictionary definitions are reports of general usage. In giving you my definition of atheist, I am telling you how I use the word, which I am confident is consistent with the general usage among a substantial portion of the English-speaking community.

            When I say that I do not believe in any god, I mean, very strictly speaking, that I do believe there exists any entity that ought to be called a god. Some people believe that the universe is God. I do believe that the universe exists, of course, but I do not believe it should be called a god. But most people, when they speak of God, are referring to a certain identifiable entity, which they say is spiritual, that I do not believe actually exists.

            I would not say that such an entity cannot exist. I do say that I have found no cogent argument for its existence, and I think this suffices to justify nonbelief. But I am also told, by many theists (usually Christians, since I live in a Christian society), that this entity has certain characteristics or has done certain things that, to me, seem inconsistent with what I observe in the actual world. I believe therefore that such an entity probably does not exist.

            I understand agnosticism to be a disclaimer of knowledge, not of belief, but I realize that this is inconsistent with general usage. Most people construe "I'm an agnostic" to mean "I have no belief one way or the other about God's existence." However, one may believe that which one does not claim to know, and so atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive, and neither are theism and agnosticism. Having said that I think so, I prefer not to spend much time defending it. I care more about justifying my beliefs than justifying the words I use to label them.

          • Michael Murray

            It's interesting to see that Oxford dictionaries wrap about four definitions of atheist into one sentence in their definition:

            Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

          • Yes true. The definition of agnostic is:

            A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

            It is still true that they DO NOT believe in god claimed or not.

          • "I care more about justifying my beliefs than justifying the words I use to label them."

            Evasiveness is a problem I find exists with (insert most here) atheists when it comes to talking about themselves. Although many words are expended, meaning is blurred and definition is called "labeling". We all know that labeling is bad, don't we?

            You answered me when you said very simply, "I would not say that such an entity cannot exist." and " I believe therefore that such an entity probably does not exist." but confused it a bit in the beginning with, " I do (not) believe there exists any entity that ought to be called a god."

            I take this to mean a non-material, not intelligent being. This is not a statement that agrees with "probably does not exist".

            All of the above is talking about what you believe, justification was not mentioned.

          • Doug Shaver

            We all know that labeling is bad, don't we?

            I know nothing of the sort. I think people who say they don't like labels are being silly. At the same time, though, I think discussions ought to stick to one topic at a time. We can talk about what I believe and why I believe it, or we can talk about what label I should put on my beliefs. I'm happy to do either. I prefer to avoid trying to do both at the same time.

            Evasiveness is a problem I find exists with (insert most here) atheists when it comes to talking about themselves. Although many words are expended, meaning is blurred and definition is called "labeling".

            I'm sorry if I have seemed evasive. I do not intend to be. If there is a question you have asked that you think I have failed to answer, please repeat it and I'll try again.

            but confused it a bit in the beginning with, " I do (not) believe there exists any entity that ought to be called a god."

            I apologize for the confusion. I was actually attempting a clarification.

            I take this to mean a non-material, intelligent being. This is not a statement that agrees with "probably does not exist".

            The inconsistency is not apparent to me.

            All of the above is talking about what you believe, justification was not mentioned.

            I don't recall being asked about justification. I recall being asked to explain what I believe. When it becomes clear that you know what I believe (or don't believe), then I can tell you why I believe it (or don't believe it), if you wish.

          • "I care more about justifying my beliefs than justifying the words I use to label them."

            The words used to label (describe) your beliefs must be
            consistent with those beliefs.

            I take this to mean a non-material, intelligent
            being. This is not a statement that agrees with "probably does not
            exist".

            The inconsistency is not apparent to me.

            If the meaning of god that I offered, a non-material, intelligent being, is used in both of your beliefs then to say: That you do not believe that this entity exists and then to say that god "probably" does not exist is contradictory.

            You have determined that god’s existence is improbable
            by restricting your understanding to what "seem inconsistent with what I observe in the actual world". This has lead to your biased belief in an improbability without knowing what actually exists and assuming you accept the definition of god I have given.

            The two beliefs, “does not” and “improbable”, if claimed at the same time constitute violating the law of non-contradiction.

          • Doug Shaver

            If the meaning of god that I offered, a non-material, intelligent being, is used in both of your beliefs then to say: That you do not believe that this entity exists and then to say that god "probably" does not exist is contradictory.

            How so? Suppose I said both "I believe God probably does not exist" and "I believe God exists." That would be a contradiction, wouldn't it? But, "I believe God exists" and "I do not believe God exists" cannot both contradict the same statement.

            I must either believe or not believe that God exists. There are no other options. (If I believe he does not exist, then I necessarily do not believe that he does exist.) But if I cannot be certain one way or the other, then my belief or nonbelief must rest on some notion of probability. I would believe if I judged the probability of his existence to be sufficiently high. Since I do not so judge it, I do not believe.

          • You contradict yourself about your beliefs.

            I see no logical problem with partially denying the existence of god by saying that he "Probably" does not. There is an amount of uncertainty there, very human.

            However the certain statement, "such an entity cannot exist", is to argue with yourself.

            An observer is compelled to ask, "Please make up your mind".

          • Doug Shaver

            It appears to me that this conversation is destined to become an interminable series of semantic quibbles. Let me see if I can redirect it.

            This is a Catholic forum. Or at least, it's a forum run by Catholics. I think I'm pretty familiar with what Catholics believe about the God they worship. Here is my statement of belief regarding that God: "I believe that the probability of that God's existence is sufficiently close to zero to justify my believing that it does not exist."

            Will that satisfy you?

          • I am happy that you have decided upon an answer that at least makes sense.

          • I never in a million years thought I would invoke Dawins to support an argument. Life can be very strange.

            “Let us,then, take the idea of a spectrum of probablilities
            seriously, and place human judgements about the existence of God along it, between the two extremes of opposite certainty. The spectrum is continuous.”

            God Delusion pg 73

          • Doug Shaver

            All kinds of weird things can happen when you quote out of context. Here is the context (and in my copy of the book, it's on page 50):

            Let us,then, take the idea of a spectrum of probablilities seriously, and place human judgements about the existence of God along it, between the two extremes of opposite certainty. The spectrum is continuous, but it can be represented by the following seven milestones along the way.
            1. Strong theist, 100 percent probability of God. In the words of C. G. Jung, 'I do not believe, I know.'
            2. Very high probability but short of 100 percent. De facto theist. 'I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.'
            3. Higher than 50 percent but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. 'I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.'
            4. Exactly 50 percent. Completely impartial agnostic. . . .
            5. Lower than 50 percent but not very low. Technically agnostic but learning towards atheism. . . .
            6. Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. . . .
            7. Strong atheist.

          • What exactly have you added to the quote? The point is that he has said that belief in God is not an all or nothing proposition - your acceptance aside.

          • Doug Shaver

            The point is that he has said that belief in God is not an all or nothing proposition

            I didn't say it was all or nothing. I accept that there are degrees of belief, but you either have some or have none. A 10-gallon bucket with a cup of water in it is not an empty bucket.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Although I have read the entire series of articles, I am
    still uncertain as to what is the exact claim or thesis. Thus far, we have six
    civilizations: Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian, Chinese, Arabic and Greek, which
    are if we grant the author’s premises both pantheistic and did not develop
    science. Furthermore, it is argued that these cultures did not develop modern
    science, because they are pantheistic.

    Even granting all of these claims, we are nowhere near
    demonstrating that a Christian society is a necessary condition for the
    development of science. All we have is that a society with a pantheistic belief
    system could not have developed science. Interesting perhaps, but does
    meaningfully address any claims atheists may make with regard to the
    “conflicting nature of faith and science”, in fact, if anything it actually
    provides evidence for the claim that religious belief (on a macro level)
    hinders scientific advancement. In other words, the religions of the ancient
    cultures prevented them from developing science.

    A true hindrance to the development of science is dogmatic
    belief systems. Whether this belief system stems from the Koran, the Bible, or
    the works of Aristole it will be an impediment to the advance of science and
    knowledge. What is necessary for the advance of science is the doubting of the status quo. Things like the protestant reformation and the influx of writings after
    the crusades would seem to be more influential than the Catholic Church. Furthermore, it actually seems that modern science was born closely after the protestant reformation, so by the reasoning used in these articles could we not conclude that science was stillbirthed in Catholic Europe? And is it not interesting that most of thework done by scientists in the 17th and 18th centuries
    was done in France (enlightenment), Germany (Lutheran-Catholic), and England
    (Protestant)?

    Finally, this whole analysis ignores a broad array of socio-economic factors that most definitely played a part in the development of science. A certain degree of wealth, social stability, and leisure is required to produce meaningful science on a significant scale.

    • Benjamin Vallejo Jr

      Science in Medieval Catholic Europe could have been stillborn if not for the universities. The Medieval Church assigned a space for dissent and even heresy which was not present in Islam or the other religions. This was the university which right from its very foundation, was guaranteed academic freedom and autonomy. The medieval university provided the space for Grosseteste, Bacon, Ockham, Swineshead and Bradwardine, all of whom became clerics or bishops of the Church. Dr Trasancos doesn't mention the role of the space for dissent provided by the medieval university in her essay. If Roman Catholicism was responsible for the birthing of modern science, it is not really defending the Faith that was responsible but challenging what the medievals thought about Faith. In fact in the medieval universities, there was a dissent against scholasticism though expressed in various subtle ways as not to offend the hierarchy. This attitude is the basis for modern Science modern Science became more apparent at the time of the Reformation when a polarized Church was dealing with dissent that not just was limited to the universities.

      We have to recognize that many of the scientific developments post Reformation happened in England which by then had the Anglican establishment. Anglicanism as a reaction to the polemics of the Reformation, had to seek a via media in theology and religious culture. And so we can say that the Church of England became one big space for all sorts of dissent against the Establishment, not necessarily against Christianity. In fact this culture survives in the Anglican church of today.

      Continental Europe also had this space for dissent as a result of not just the Reformation but of the revolutions of the 18th century. Even the Lutheran Johannes Kepler was given the space by Lutherans in his science as long as he didn't challenge the primacy of Scripture. By this time the consensus that Scripture cannot be used to explain scientific fact had already started to take hold . The Roman Church would take until 1992 to finally formally accept this principle, when John Paul II explicitly said what the theologians did wrong in the Galileo case.

      Even Galileo after the Inquisition trial, had to be provided his space for dissent even in house arrest. At his Acetri villa, he still received visitors and discussed the basis for modern physics.

  • Benjamin Vallejo Jr

    One factor for the decline of science in the Muslim world at that time is that the orthodox Islamic theologians eventually won over the rationalist school that favoured Aristotle. And this was at the time of the first crusades and the Mongol sacking of Baghdad.The rationalist school were labeled as heretics. The "what if" question is if the crusades and the sackings didn't happen how would science have developed in Catholic Europe and Islamic Arabia? Only the career of Pope Sylvester II gives us a clue. The mathematician-pope demonstrated how this exchange of ideas benefited learning just before the era of the crusades. But the lesson remains relevant for today. A Roman Catholicism that is inward looking will not do Science (which is autonomous now) good and neither would it do good to Catholicism

    • Would you expand on what you mean by "inward looking Catholicism".

      • Benjamin Vallejo Jr

        A Catholicism that refuses to dialogue with other religious traditions or ideologies

        • Dialogue has happened. The question is what do you expect of the dialogue and how does that affect science?

          "The last fifty years has seen a significant amount of dialogue with other Christian Churches and communities. “We have uncovered surprising levels of common understanding and convergence in faith,” the statement explained. As well: “We have also clarified the sources of persistent disagreement."

          http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/canadian-bishops-mark-50th-anniversary-of-vatican-ii-s-ecumenism-document

          • Benjamin Vallejo Jr

            You are right but how the various religious traditions and theologies never dialogued on HOW and WHAT is their experience when confronted with Science. Professor John Polkinghorne, an Anglican priest and theoretical physicist wrote that this should be on the agenda of theology in the 21st century and beyond.

          • Are not the historical reactions of religion to natural discoveries and theory a matter of detailed examination already?

            When I think of dialogue as it is commonly used , I think of a public and a political conference for purposes of getting along.
            "Confrontation" has an aggressive tone. I have not thought of Catholicism as having been confronted by science, but it certainly has and IS confronted by scientists.

  • Andrew Kassebaum

    While we are on this subject, what do we think of this statement in the UN's 2003 Arab Human Development Report: "The aggregate total of translated books from the Al Ma'moom era to the present day amounts to 10,000 books - equivalent to what Spain translates in a single year." Al Ma'moon was caliph during the 9th century.

    The full report can be found here: http://www.arab-hdr.org/publications/other/ahdr/ahdr2003e.pdf

  • Ray Vorkin

    Ok....OK....We know, we get it. Christianity gave birth to modern science! Can we all move on now?

    • Where are we going next?

      • Ray Vorkin

        I am sure the people at SN have an imagination and will not allow themselves to get bogged down in a rut....unless they are under contract or something.

  • Mohammed Hanif

    Just how is Islamic monotheism in danger of being vulnerable to pantheism? Because Muslims believe in one God, we can lapse into identifying the world with Him?

    • Abe Rosenzweig

      I genuinely wish that somebody had attempted a response to these fair questions, because they were some of the first I had, as well, when I read this article.

  • I am afraid I just do not see what it is in Islam compared to Christianity that is the obstacle advanced here to the perspective allegedly necessary for modern scientific thinking. Both worldviews are monotheistic, they believe in a single deity that created the world and instituted natural laws that can only be suspended by this deity. If anything Catholicism with its trinity and hundreds of saints and beatified individuals is more vulnerable to characterization as polytheism, but this is besides the point.

    I can't help but point out that if pantheism is being advanced as the obstacle, our recent discussion in these pages seems to suggest that the Catholic god is quite pantheistic. It is not a being in the world, but pure being itself.

    This is wholly anecdotal but I came across the following in the botanical gardens yesterday as an interpretation of a flower by Jesuit missionaries:

    10 petals = 10 apostles at the crucifixion
    5 stamens , 5 wounds
    3stigmas, 3 wounds

    And so on. This is consistent with my lay understanding of Christian explanations for nature in the monastic tradition. The featured we see in the world are representative and symbolic of gods nature, not independent features following independent laws.

    Anyway, just some thoughts. Whether or not Christian philosophy was a factor in the development of modern science is irrelevant to my lack of a belief in any gods.

  • Ray Vorkin

    In this corner of the ring in the gold trunks we have Howard and in the other corner of the ring in the white trunks we have Doug. Ladies and gentlemen we have a tied match. ;-)

    • Considering this group that is an amazing outcome.

  • Brad

    Could it be that science developed in the Western world in spite of religion? Niall Ferguson in his book "Civilization" gives a more historically satisfying explanation to this divergence between East and West starting with two revolutionary events, the Reformation and the invention of the printing press. While the West was in the throes of a great upheaval of ideas and the easy spread of them, the Muslim world was turning inward, going so far as banning printing presses and restricting knowledge mainly because of the conflict between new ideas and religion. The Reformation marks a break in freedom of thought and the press becomes a tool to spread all and any ideas to a far greater number of people than ever before. The press made it so that once an idea was out there, whether or not it conflicted with religion, it could not be silenced. Scientific progress benefited from the press by the easy dissemination of new ideas regardless of what the authorities felt about them. It is not coincidence that science really didn't start to take off until after this invention. And it is not coincidence that it is this period that marks the beginnings of radical and free thought that broke away from Christian thinking. Why did science not develop during the 1500 years prior? If Christianity was so necessary to the development of Science then why do we find for the first time the strongest skepticism towards Christianity developing almost hand in hand with science starting with this period? It seems that a more satisfactory explanation for this divergence is found in the reality that in the West there was no more a uniform way of thinking and there was no more a single power whether it be Pope or Emperor that could stop the spread of new ideas, while in the East this spread was stopped largely because of the conflict with religion. No doubt there were many Christians who contributed greatly to science, however it is precisely starting in this period that many a Christian scientist was found in the position of having to try and reconcile their beliefs with their science because new ideas were not to be gotten rid of so easily as in the Muslim world.