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What Has Christianity Ever Done for the West?

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As Christmas and the holiday season draw near, it is time to take a pause and think deeply about the benefits that Christianity, particularly Catholicism, has conferred upon Western civilization. As a non-Westerner and non-Christian who has no ax to grind in this issue, I believe I can offer a fairly objective assessment of the impact that Christian ideas (some of which had pagan/Jewish precedents) have had on the evolution of Western civilization and their key role in the West’s spectacular ascent to scientific and technological supremacy in the past millennium. This brief essay shall throw light on some of these ideas, which are now taken for granted but are intrinsic to the Christian tradition.

One spurious idea, which continues to have a strong hold on the views of so many, is that Christianity functioned as an impediment to scientific progress and that only when the West threw off the “shackles” of Christian dogma, did it rise to towering heights in science and technology and achieve global preeminence in virtually every intellectual endeavor. In his scathingly anti-Christian book The Antichrist, the famous 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche charges that Christianity is antithetical to science, reason, life, and reality: “A religion such as Christianity which never comes once in touch with reality, and which collapses the very moment reality asserts its rights even on one single point, must naturally be a mortal enemy of the ‘wisdom of this world’—that is to say, science” (51). In his equally critical Letter to a Christian Nation, American philosopher Sam Harris asserts that “the conflict between religion and science is unavoidable. The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science” (63).

Both of these views are clearly off the mark. Far from constituting a handicap to scientific activity, Christian presuppositions encouraged exploration of the physical world and aided scientific progress. The Christian conception of God and of His physical creation has proved immensely conducive for the flowering of science. How so? Christianity conceives of God as a rational and benevolent creator who brought into existence a universe endowed with rationality, order, and purpose. God’s handiwork is not dominated by chaos or mystery or randomness, nor is it too complex for human comprehension. Rather, it functions in accord with invariable, consistent, and rational laws that are accessible to the inquiring mind and to observation. Since God created man in His own image, human beings are blessed with the gift of reason and are possessed of the ability to investigate and understand the rational, fixed, and divinely set patterns according to which the universe operates. Indeed, as Dr. Peter Hodgson, the late lecturer of nuclear physics at Oxford and an avowed Roman Catholic, once said, “Christianity provided just those beliefs that are essential for science, and the whole moral climate that encourages its growth” (Young 144).

Hence, it should come as no surprise that some of the greatest scientists in history, including the stars of the Scientific Revolution, were devout Christians, some of whom wrote on theology as well as science. Suffice it to mention medieval theologian-natural philosophers such as Robert Grosseteste (died in 1253), Albertus Magnus (died in 1280), Thomas Bradawrdine (d. 1349), Jean Buridan (1295-1363), Nicole Oresme (1325-1382), as well as Nicolaus Copernicus (died 1543), Johannes Kepler (died in 1630), Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Robert Boyle (1627-1691), Isaac Newton (1642-1727), Michael Faraday (1791-1867), Gregor Mendel (died in 1884), and countless others. Max Planck, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1918 for his work on Quantum Theory, believed faith and science were in partnership rather than at loggerheads: “Religion and natural science are fighting a joint battle in an incessant, never relaxing crusade against scepticism and against dogmatism, against disbelief and against superstition, and the rallying cry in this crusade has always been, and always will be: ‘On to God!’” (156).

Another key Christian idea that facilitated the West’s success is related to the concept of time as linear rather than cyclical; history is suffused with purpose because it moves forward rather than round in circles. Christianity, in other words, is a progressive and forward-leaning religion. Dominican preacher Fra Giordano encapsulated Christian belief in progress when he said in 1306 that “[n]ot all the arts have been found; we shall never see an end of finding them [my emphasis]” (Grant’s Foundations of Modern Science 160). Centuries before, St. Augustine celebrated the "wonderful—one might say stupefying—advances human industry made in the arts of weaving and building, of agriculture and navigation!" (117). In light of this belief that great inventions lie ahead, there is no wonder that the medieval Catholic Church did not express any opposition to the use of new technologies such as eyeglasses, mechanical clocks, telescopes, microscopes, and printing press, etc. Christian belief in progress was not confined to technology but extended to theology as well. Augustine was certain that human understanding of God’s will would increase over time, stressing that although there were “certain matters pertaining to the doctrine of salvation that we cannot yet grasp…one day we shall be able to do so” (Stark 9).

In contrast, the ancient Greeks viewed the universe as eternal, uncreated, and “locked into endless cycles of progress and decay” (18). Such a view renders history meaningless; decay or decline is bound to follow progress. Aristotle, indisputably the greatest Greek philosopher, believed that “the same ideas recur to men not once or twice but over and over again” and that everything had “been invented several times over in the course of ages, or rather times without number” (19). In the words of American sociologist Rodney Stark, Aristotle reasoned that ”since he was living in a Golden Age, the levels of technology of his time were at the maximum attainable, precluding further progress. As for inventions, so too for individuals – the same persons would be born again and again as the blind cycles of the universe rolled along” (19). In the same vein, the Stoics thought that the “difference between former and actual existences will only be extrinsic and accidental; such differences do not produce another man as contrasted with his counterpart from a previous world-age” (19).

Christianity has faith in man’s ability not only to unlock the secrets of the universe but also to reach universal moral truths, distinguish between right and wrong, and decipher the hidden meaning of Scripture, unaided by revelation. This remarkable idea looms large in St. Paul’s following assertion: “Even when Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, instinctively follow what the law says, they show that in their hearts they know right from wrong. They demonstrate that God’s law is written within them, for their own consciences either accuse them or tell them they are doing what is right” (Romans 2:14-15).

The Christian belief in free will has rescued man from sinking into fatalism, encouraged him to be active, and instilled faith in one’s ability to alter his destiny and take matters into his own hands. Augustine affirmed that human beings “possess a will,” adding that “from this it follows that whoever desires to live righteously and honorably, can accomplish this” (Stark 25). Similarly, the great theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) said: “A man can direct and govern his own actions also. Therefore the rational creature participates in the divine providence not only in being governed but also in governing” (25).

A key Christian concept that has figured prominently in Western, rather Eastern, Christendom is the separation of church and state. This separation derives from Jesus’ ingenious reply to the Pharisees: “[G]ive to Caesar what belongs to him. But everything that belongs to God must be given to God” (Matthew 22:21). Christianity views the secular and ecclesiastical authorities as two distinct and independent entities with their own separate jurisdictions. True, medieval popes and emperors often jockeyed for domination, but they recognized that in principle each reigned over separate realms. This distinction between the secular and religious enabled the legislation of both civil and ecclesiastical laws, and more importantly, set the stage for the creation of a free domain in which science could be practiced relatively unhindered by secular or religious constraints. In the words of historian of science Edward Grant, the separation of church and state in the West

“proved an enormous boon to the development of science and natural philosophy. The church did not view natural philosophy as a discipline that had to be theologized or made to agree with the Bible...[the separation of church and state] made numerous institutional developments feasible that might not otherwise have occurred. Indeed, the very separation of natural philosophy into the faculty of arts and the location of theology in a separate faculty of theology reveals an understanding that these are different subject areas that require very different treatment. The great benefit for science and religion is that each was left relatively free to develop independently of the other, although every individual scientist or theologian was free to incorporate ideas and concepts from the one area into the other” (Science and Religion 247-8).

One common misconception is that Christianity is an inherently otherworldly religion that encourages its adherents to turn away from the material world, to renounce worldly possessions, and to give precedence to spiritual pursuits at the expense of worldly concerns. It is grossly simplistic to refer to the monks and their ascetic lives in order to corroborate the fabrication that Christianity is inimical to earthly life and material progress. In addition to prayer, religious contemplation, and of course charity, the monks in the early Middle Ages transcribed the priceless manuscripts of the Greco-Roman legacy, thus saving it from oblivion. Monastic orders in the countryside turned into centers of learning and scholarship, with the monastery of Vivarium (founded by Cassiodorus) translating Greek works into Latin and teaching the seven liberal arts, including a surprisingly large number of pagan texts. From the sixth century onward, the monasteries of Ireland devoted much attention to classical pagan authors and the mathematical arts of the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy). Medieval monks also engaged in manual labor and agricultural activity, which had an enormously beneficial impact on their physical surroundings. Moreover, they made stunning technological achievements (in metallurgy) and even invented champagne.

Christianity has contributed a host of other values such as equality and freedom. Certainly, wrongs have historically been committed in the name of the faith, but these should not blind Westerners, irrespective of whether they still believe in the tenets of the faith or not, to the eminently salutary influence Christianity has had on their magnificent civilization.


 

Works Cited

Grant, Edward. The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional, and Intellectual Contexts. Cambridge University Press, 1996.

____________. Science and Religion 400 BC- AD 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus. The John Hopkins University Press, 2004. Print.

Harris, Sam. A Letter to a Christian Nation: A Challenge to Faith. Bantam Press, 2007.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Antichrist: A Criticism of Christianity. Translated by Anthony M. Ludovici. 1895. Barnes and Nobles, 2006.

Saint Augustine of Hippo. The Essential Augustine. Edited by Vernon Joseph Bourke., Hackett Publishing Company, 1974.

Stark, Rodney. The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. The Random House Publishing Group, 2005.

The Bible. Gift and Award Edition, Tyndale House Publishers, 1998.

Young, John. Teach Yourself: Christianity. Hachette Livre UK, 2008.

Tamer Nashef

Written by

Tamer Nashef is an Arab freelance researcher and translator from Israel. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature from the University of Haifa. Nashef is interested in a broad range of topics, especially Western philosophy, intellectual history of civilizations, Christian and Islamic theology with particular emphasis on the relation between science/reason and faith, and English literature. He is planning to write a book on the intellectual, scientific, and legal developments in the Middle Ages that led to the scientific Revolution and the rise of the modern world, and on the status of reason in the Catholic tradition. Nashef speaks three languages: Arabic, Hebrew, and English.

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  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    Thanks for writing the article, Tamer. I've enjoyed reading Jim Al al Khalili's book on Islam and science https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pathfinders-Golden-Age-Arabic-Science/dp/0141038365/ .

    It's an interesting historical question of how different faiths used to treat science, and how faith and philosophical traditions, Greek philosophy, Christianity, Islam, have helped to inspire the development of the modern scientific method. This exalted past inspiration can inform how these religions presently relate to science. Maybe both Muslims and Christians can look to their past encouragement of science as motivation to abandon anti-scientific nonsense common among religious people today, such as intelligent design.

    • neil_pogi

      quote: '.....anti-scientific nonsense common among religious people today, such as intelligent design.' intelligent design? have you ever observe a lifeless rock doing things?

      so an ardent atheist speaks as if he knows that the world, that life are just the creation of lifeless, non-directed, random, chances elements, but failed to explain how a lifeless matter became a vibrant living matter! how stupid and nonsense claim!

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        Life may have come from non-life as a big accident. This seems highly unlikely, at least given the way our universe is set up, so if it's that way, then we are probably the only intelligent life in the universe, maybe the only life at all.

        Or maybe the origin of life was directed, in which case it has happened as few or many times as the director deigns, but at least once, at least here.

        Or maybe the origin of life occurs due to necessary physical principles acting on conditions that are, in certain regions of our universe, inevitable. Put some likely simple chemicals and rocks near enough to a star and pop! Life. Every time. In this case, life is very likely all over the place.

        Or maybe life arises from incremental chances, incremental steps, maybe with some or all of the chance steps the numbers are fixed a bit, the dice are weighted by particular physical laws and conditions. After all, random isn't truly *random*. Even a coin flip is absolutely fixed by basic Newtonian physics. There might be a physical selection after these steps, choosing the structures that replicate however inefficiently over those that don't replicate at all. In this case, life might be unique to the Earth, all over the place, or in very few places, depending on how unique the steps are and what the probabilities of the steps happen to be.

        Which one of these is it? I don't know! No one knows! That's why we do the research. Because we don't know the answer, but with research, maybe we can find it. Also, if we ever find life on other worlds, something we can possibly do even within other solar systems within the next 25-50 years, that will strongly suggest that it wasn't a big accident, and will help strongly constrain how many little accidents and how likely they would have been. Or that discovery, along with the exploration of chemistry in the lab, might point to life being inevitable given ubiquitous starting conditions.

        Nothing can rule in or rule out a generic designer. If we find life, that's consistent with the designer, and if we don't, also consistent. That's why the design hypothesis is not personally very interesting to many scientists. Even if it happens to be true (and how would we know?), it's a terribly boring answer.

        • neil_pogi

          you still insist that it is an accident. have you ever encounter an 'unconscious' elements or entities create life? as far as i know, science tells us that 'life only comes from pre-existing life'.. it's a fact that atheists can't swallow!

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            No I don't insist it's an accident. I only insist that I don't know if it is or not.

          • neil_pogi

            therefore atheist worldview is false!

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            That does not follow. My ignorance cannot falsify any worldview, especially atheism, since I am not an atheist. My worldview is theistic. Unconventional, but theistic. If anything, my ignorance would falsify my own worldview and then it would be so much for theism.

          • neil_pogi

            well i didn't say that you are an atheist. i said: ''atheist's worldview is false''..
            i haven't encounter any thing like 'theistic, unconventional'?

            in theism, we believe that God is eternal, we can't fully understand how or why an 'eternal' exists. but we are here! we pinch our skin and we experience it!

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            As I said, my ignorance about how life came about does not verify or falsify any world-view. Your statement about the atheist world-view is both irrational and disconnected from the discussion. It's a total non sequitor.

            I also believe that God is eternal. The question of what eternity is is a rich and subtle question. This book gives a nice historical account of the term.

          • neil_pogi

            then why the discussions about atheism and theism if one worldview doesn't know anything about the origins issues and the other one boldy claim that there is a Creator? If atheism doesn't have no explanations for one issue, then what the hell, trying to force that explanation be 'çhance' or just 'accident' (for example, the mathematical beauty of the universe, the life itself). why 'chance' and 'accident' didn't create eiffel tower?

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            then why the discussions about atheism and theism if one worldview doesn't know anything about the origins issues and the other one boldy claim that there is a Creator?

            Well, first, I don't think that the question of the origin of life is one of the most interesting things about the theism/atheism debate. I think that there is no more interesting question out there than how life originated, but the question is not interesting to me because of its theological implications.

            Second, it would be unfair to say that a worldview knows or doesn't know about origins. Scientifically informed theists and atheists both know quite a bit about how the universe started, how our galaxy formed, how our star and planets formed, how life diversified, and even some of the aspects of how life came about. None of the possibilities I listed about the origin of life are exclusive to atheism or theism.

            Many theists believe that God causes and preserves what happens in nature largely through secondary causes. Snowflakes are beautiful creations of God, but when we ask how God makes snowflakes, there is an answer we can understand, and this mechanistic answer does not involve outside direction by an intelligence. Some theists believe that the origin of life can be explained like the snowflake. God started life, but the scientific explanation of how God started life does not involve mention of any outside intelligence.

            Theists might believe that the mechanism God instituted for starting life is rare and unlikely to work in most situations, and that our existence is, from the mechanistic explanation, one big accident. Or theists might believe that the mechanism God instituted for starting life is inevitable and ubiquitous. Other theists might believe that intelligence is a part of the scientific explanation for life. I myself don't know what the answer is.

            Likewise, atheists can look over all these explanations and accept any of them. There is nothing against atheism to think that life is a big accident, or that life arises inevitably from simple physical and chemical processes on the surfaces of rocky planets. Atheists are also free to believe that life on Earth was started by an outside intelligence, such as space aliens, or that the universe is a simulation and life was programmed into the simulation by whatever intelligence wrote and ran the program.

            None of the answers I've presented are exclusive to atheism or theism, and so none of this conversation has anything to say about the accuracy of either world-view. Atheists and theists together can speculate freely about the origin of life.

            Most scientists I know, atheist and theist both, simply say that they don't know how life started, and they don't want to just settle with any sort of made-up answer. They'd like to find out. I'd like to find out as well.

            There's nothing wrong with me saying "I don't know", when there is something that I don't know.

          • neil_pogi

            quote: ''Well, first, I don't think that the question of the origin of life is one of the most interesting things about the theism/atheism debate. I think that there is no more interesting question out there than how life originated, but the question is not interesting to me because of its theological implications.'' - then why the SETI?

            it's because atheists have no rightful explanations to that, it is not whether it has theological implications or not, because life is not possible to be originated from natural causes! that's is why atheists just don't want it to be discussed!

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            then why the SETI?

            SETI isn't a theological enterprise and the focus of SETI is not on how life originated. So SETI has nothing to do with what you quoted.

            life is not possible to be originated from natural causes!

            How do you know that?

          • neil_pogi

            SETI is all about research/search for ETs that might answer how the origins of life on earth evolved! well, i can say that the ET is a God that theists believe that created the universe!

            that begs the question: it is not my responsibility to answer how life originated from natural causes, it's your responsibilty to explain how life evolved from natural causes!

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            SETI is the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Its interest in the origin of life is secondary. Namely, SETI looks for how life comes about in order to find out how likely life is to come about and further constrain the probability of intelligent life close enough for us to detect it. It's part of Fermi's Paradox for them, among other things, but it comprises a rather minor part of their work.

            Why is it my responsibility to explain how life evolved from natural causes? All I say is I don't know how life came about. You claim it can't come about from natural causes. I ask you how you know this. Please answer my question.

          • neil_pogi

            so therefore, the origins issues are important. why waste billions of christian's tax moneys on it? and why the physicists are still in research about the quantum physicis, etc? what these scientists failed to see in their environment is the design hovering in front of their eyes, and just deny that the supernatural deity is already here!

            since atheists can't prove that life's origin came from natural cause (because they can't prove it, and the answer ''we don't know), that answers didn't bother you to think that they don't know or they can't explain it? there are only 2 possible answers, the one remaining is the supernatural cause. an analogy to that is, as i always use it, the effiel tower, if that tower's creation can't be natural cause, then what cause it? let alone life?

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            so therefore, the origins issues aren't important. why waste billions of christian's tax moneys on it?

            Don't get me wrong, I find the question of how life started to be the most interesting question to ask. That's one reason my day job is to help look for the answer. How life originated is for me the most interesting question. But it is not very interesting for theology. Just like with quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics doesn't say anything about God, but many people find quantum mechanics interesting for other reasons.

            In fact, if it turned out that something supernatural were necessary to explain these things, scientists would lose interest, because the scientific method is not well set up to handle the supernatural. Fortunately, nothing supernatural has been necessary so far to explain the origin of life or quantum mechanics or anything else.

            since atheists can't prove that life's origin came from natural cause (because they can't prove it, and the answer ''we don't know), that answers didn't bother you to think that they don't know or they can't explain it? there are only 2 possible answers, the one remaining is the supernatural cause.

            ---

            Imagine with me that Abe shows Betty a jar full of very small marbles.

            Abe: "Betty, do you think there are an even number of marbles in the jar?"

            Betty: "I don't know."

            Abe: "Either there's an even number of marbles or an odd number. Since you don't think there's an even number, that means you think there's an odd number"

            Betty: "No, Abe. It just means I suspend all belief about the number of marbles. I don't think it's an even number, and I don't think it's an odd number. I simply don't have an opinion."

            ---

            No one knows whether the explanation for life involves intelligent or not. Not knowing doesn't favour either possibility. It simply means that we should suspend our belief until we have more evidence. Not knowing the natural explanation for an event does not favour a supernatural explanation.

          • OldSearcher

            +10

          • neil_pogi

            why not make some comments here old searcher? i want to hear it!

          • OldSearcher
          • neil_pogi

            how valid?

          • neil_pogi

            quote: ''In fact, if it turned out that something supernatural were necessary to explain these things, scientists would lose interest, because the scientific method is not well set up to handle the supernatural. '' -- then you have billions of years to search how life came to be..
            1. universe
            2. life
            3. intelligence
            these are all products of supernatural activity.. i leave that to you, go on and search them all thru natural means, i tell you, you and science never give you answers unless you invoke the supernatural.. again, as a analogy, the computer is a product of intelligent activity, we know that its parts can be harness everywhere but if we just rely on natural activity, we don't get a computer, those raw parts are just there forever..

            quote: ''No one knows whether the explanation for life involves intelligent or not. Not knowing doesn't favour either possibility. It simply means that we should suspend our belief until we have more evidence. Not knowing the natural explanation for an event does not favour a supernatural explanation.'' -- go on, stick to that!

            ..and why croos out the 'christian' tax moneys? FYI, majority of U.S. taxes are paid by christians and atheists are the least to pay taxes! atheists should thank christians for secular sciences to get moving, without them secular sciences will not move

            just one question for you, mr rimmer: have you encounter an 'unconscious' 'lifeless entity' 'a state of nothingness' creating things? if you're answer is positive, then you need a lot of things to explain it (no 'make believe' explanations, pls)

          • Peter

            The gap between inanimate organic compounds and self-replicating molecules will be narrowed as we discover ever more complex organic molecules in outer space. Soon our terrestrial and orbital telescopes will be powerful and sensitive enough to detect them within cold molecular clouds, hot protoplanetary discs and even exoplanetary atmospheres. It is hoped that the latter will also reveal signs of life itself.

            The more complex the organic compound in outer space, the smaller the leap needed to achieve self-replication on a planetary surface. We are in for some great surprises when the new generation of telescopes come on line within the next decade. It is only a question of time and technology before we discover the vital link, and we will probably marvel at the incredible fine tuning involved.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The following is a quote I like a lot because it both explains how the universe could be directly designed by God and yet not need God's primary causation at any point beyond creation ex nihilo.

            “Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship.”

            Aquinas' "Commentary on Physics" II.8, lecture 14, no. 268

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            That's such a beautiful description. I was thinking of something similar, but far more crude, like if someone made a fully automated car manufacturing facility, where all the work was done by machines, then the description of how cars are made, the mechanistic description, would never have to mention people at all. It could just be in terms of parts of the car and the various machines and how they work.

            This doesn't mean people are unnecessary for cars to exist, but people are unnecessary to explain how cars come together at that factory. They don't enter into the mechanistic explanation in that case at all.

          • Michael Murray

            science tells us that 'life only comes from pre-existing life'..

            As I, and others, have told you, time and again, you are confusing evolution and abiogenesis. Wilfully I exect. There are a number of plausible scientific theories explaining how ordinary atoms become complicated molecules and then become life. Look it up. It's called abiogenesis. By all means examine the theories and reject them but don't say they aren't there. That would be false.

          • neil_pogi

            so how evolution started from non-living matter?

          • Michael Murray
          • neil_pogi

            is that another 'make-believe'' story? is that falsifiable? is that to be verified thru experiments!

            in your very own experiences, have you ever observe or encounter a non-living matter became alive?

          • Michael Murray

            Why do you always try to move the goalposts when you say something wrong and are corrected?

            You said

            science tells us that 'life only comes from pre-existing life'..

            I corrected this remark by showing you that science does not say this.

          • neil_pogi

            then prove it that life evolve, or came from lifeless matter!

            that is why science says that ''life only comes from pre-existing life''

          • Michael Murray

            Science does not say this. I have given you a link demonstrating that science does not say this. Why do you persist with telling untruths ? Is this some kind of "lying for Jesus" which is forgiven because of a higher good ?

          • neil_pogi

            then who says that life just evolved from lifeless matter? why the term ''abiogenesis''? i just demand that you prove it!

          • Michael Murray

            then who says that life just evolved from lifeless matter?

            Anyone in the field of abiogenesis I would imagine:

            Abiogenesis: or informally, the origin of life, is the natural process by which life arises from non-living matter, such as simple organic compounds.
            (wikipedia)

          • neil_pogi

            then prove it! all your claim is just a claim, without proof!

            my advise: just don't insist

          • Michael Murray

            then prove it! all your claim is just a claim, without proof!

            I have shown that there is a field of science that studies how life might arise from non-life. I did that by providing you with the name of that field of science which is abiogenesis and a link to the wikipedia page which defines abiogenesis and explains a bit about it.

            If you want to understand the field of abiogenesis and what the scientists say and why they say it then you will need to do that research yourself.

            Note: Science is not about proving things. It is about gathering and weighing evidence.

          • neil_pogi

            so why not provide link on it? why not provide a detailed recipe for life so that the thousands of scientists and even the secular ones can make life out of the ingredients these scientists have discovered! oh dear, that's another ''make me believe your story'' fantasy!

          • Michael Murray

            I did provide a link. Google "wiki abiogenesis" and you will find it. No-one can provide a detailed recipe as we don't have one. There are lots of things science doesn't fully understand.

          • neil_pogi

            it's not science that doesn't understand. science is a neutral field of knowledge and experimentation. it's only atheists who are so arrogant not to believe in what science is telling them!

          • Michael Murray

            What is science telling me that I don't believe ?

          • neil_pogi

            you don't know or just you refuse to deny it:
            atheists are fond of violating most science laws, including the 1. the first and secod laws of thermodynamics.

          • Michael Murray

            Why do you think I don't believe in the first and second laws of thermodynamics ?

          • neil_pogi

            you believe them but denies them when it comes to evolutionary processes

          • Michael Murray

            Why do you think the first and second laws of thermodynamics are a problem for evolutionary processes?

          • neil_pogi

            you should answer that first on how these laws do not go well with your evolutionary theories

          • Michael Murray

            You are the one making that claim. Not me.

          • neil_pogi

            do i need to repeat and repeat again the issues regarding evolution and other origins issues?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I think it is safe to say that modern science has discovered that self-organization is a feature of the physical universe at many levels. That is certainly a cause for wonder.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I completely agree.

          • neil_pogi

            but we must go back to the state of 'nothingness''... have you experience and observe that a 'nothing'' can create a 'something'?

            quote: ''I think it is safe to say that modern science has discovered that self-organization is a feature of the physical universe at many levels. That is certainly a cause for wonder.'' -- that is, AFTER the things were created. remember that the God believe by theists is ''unseen'' ''immaterial'' therefore we can not see God's wonder thru material senses!

            Romans 1:20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is hard for me to understand what you are arguing.

            St. Paul is saying we can infer the cause (Creator) from the effects (creation).

            I think there is an argument to be made that we can also move from the effect (self-organization) to the cause (Intelligent Organizer).

            This would not be a scientific argument (even though it uses scientific data, namely the self-organizing powers of material things) but a philosophical one (since it is arguing from material effects to a non-material cause).

          • neil_pogi

            i know that certain matter self-organizes itself but we can't conclude that it self-organizes without a purpose.
            for example, a surgeon surgically attaches an healthy donor heart to a patient. this heart 'self-organizes' itself to a patient's body and started to pump (but the body sometimes rejects it). the 'self-organize' property of matter serves some purpose, and all occurred after creation.

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    A wonderful thing about these gifts that Christianity has given the West is that the gifts worth keeping can be distilled from the other artefacts of Christianity, and summarised:

    "Nothing comes to pass in nature, which can be set down to a flaw therein; for nature is always the same, and everywhere one and the same in her efficacy and power of action; that is, nature's laws and ordinances, whereby all things come to pass and change from one form to another, are everywhere and always the same; so that there should be one and the same method of understanding the nature of all things whatsoever, namely, through nature's universal laws and rules. (Spinoza, Part 3, Preface)"

    So those who have not received the Christian faith can receive this gift, and can carry science forward just as well within the secular world.

    • MNb

      Funny that you quote a Dutch philosopher who definitely was not a christian, was expelled from his (jewish) religious community and didn't dare to publish his most important book during his lifetime because he feared prosecution from christian authorities and rightly so:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adriaan_Koerbagh

      That doesn't exactly support "The Christian conception of God and of His physical creation has proved immensely conducive for the flowering of science."

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        I quoted one of the most religious people I could think of. It is true Spinoza wasn't a Christian, although I think one could be a Christian (although not one who is orthodox) and a Spinozist.

        The Catholic conception of a simple God who acts from the necessity of his own nature is quite conducive to the flowering of science. Science is possible in a world ordered by a God who allows for few exceptions. Science thrives when these unnecessary exceptions, the miracles, are finally abandoned; when we move beyond unnecessary superstitions.

        • MNb

          "I quoted one of the most religious people I could think of."
          Not according to his contemporaries. And regarding the question "what has Christianity ever done for the West" their view is what matters.
          Science is possible in other worlds as well, as China and India have shown.
          Plus the Byzantine Empire also accepted "a world ordered by a God" etc., plus the catholic intellectual elite of the Roman Empire between 300 CE and 600 CE did. Still no flowering of science there.
          It's cherry picking, like I already wrote above.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I find Spinoza to be most deeply religious, and am not surprised if many of his contemporaries failed to appreciate that. Einstein said that "the religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another."

            Also, I think here there may be a confusion between sufficient and necessary conditions for science to flourish. The doctrine I cited above is necessary for science to do well, but it is not sufficient.

            I couldn't say anything about cherry picking. I'm not an historian and the point I'm trying to make here isn't historical. The gritty historical details of how science arose and all the factors that fit in doesn't interest me very much.

            The point I was making was philosophical. I see something in common with the Catholic conception of God and nature and the scientist's belief in a comprehensible universe. I'm happy to celebrate this common ground and see what can be made of it.

          • MNb

            "I find ....."
            What you and I find is still totally irrelevant, because you and I don't live in the 17th Century. And that's where we have to look when talking about "What has Christianity has ever done for the west".

            "I think here there may be a confusion between sufficient and necessary conditions for science to flourish."
            Perhaps with you, not with me.

            "The doctrine I cited above is necessary for science to do well, but it is not sufficient."
            Your cherry picking continues.
            India and China developed science without your doctrine. So did the Ancient Greeks (regarding deduction, though they did some induction as well) and the Babylonians. Unless you call them and all non-believers heretics as well, of course, which makes "what has christianity ever done for the west" a void question.

            "The point I was making was philosophical."
            The article is labeled as history.
            However it's quack history and so is your view. Proper historical research involves all relevant data and omits personal preferences. The same applies of course to Sam Harris.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            India and China developed science without your doctrine.

            So they have no notion that there are predictable patterns in nature and without that notion at all they investigate predictable patterns in nature? Astonishing! Or, as I suspect, you have no understanding of what I'm talking about. You haven't taken the time to read or to think about any of this.

            The article is labeled as history.

            I didn't write the article. You have shown no ability to comprehend what I've written at all, and so I doubt you have any better understanding of the article itself. Why should I waste any more time with you?

            (Edit to add: I suppose you can reply to this if you like. I've blocked you, so I suggest you frame your reply not to me, since I won't see it. You can frame it instead for the other five or so people who are likely to follow this comment thread.)

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            China had technology, but not science. Science is not a jumble of facts and rules of thumb, nor a gradual accumulation of lore. However, when most people speak of "science," they generally mean "technology," which is something different. Science means producing explanatory theories from which the laws can be deduced and the facts predicted. The Chinese explicitly shunned this. All you needed, Juan Yuan wrote, was the facts. Theories, like the earth moving around the sun, were superfluous.

            Everyone had mathematics, but mathematics is not science. The entire methodology and subject matter is different. Mathematics proceeds deductively to certain conclusions (theorems) QED regarding ideal bodies. Science (as we use the term today) proceeds inductively from empirical facts to tentative (falsifiable) theories.

            Natural philosophy pretty much ground to a halt during Late Antiquity, not only among the Christians, but also among the pagans and the Jews. For much of that time, in retrospect, the Empire was in crisis mode, with Goths, Persians, Arabs, Avars, Bulgars, and other traveling salesmen constantly knocking at the door, the richest half of the Empire -- and seat of its better philosophers -- shorn off by Arab invaders, and pretty much ever afterward the battered shield protecting Europe from the Jihad. The entire history of the Byzantine Empire was pretty much an existential threat.

            Even so, we are not entirely clear on Byzantine accomplishments. Much of what they did was bottled up and then destroyed in the Sack. Then, too, the presence of the Emperor and a Highly Centralized State largely (though not entirely) subordinated the Church within its jurisdiction. While the Jihad occupied the Mediterranean not much information traveled between the Greek East and the Latin West. Even today, scholarship has not assessed the philosophy and letters of the Greek East.

            I think you are regarding Christianity as some sort of magic potion. It may be a necessary condition; but it may not be a sufficient condition.

          • MNb

            "China had technology, but not science."

            After this howler I didn't care to read any further.
            In the first place technology without science is impossible.
            In the second place this.

            http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/mathhist/china.html

            Magnetism was studied in China in 300+ BCE - without such a study, how could they have developed a compass?!

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Neolithic man developed a technology of pressure knapping to make points which replaced the earlier percussion knapping. I hope you are not here to tell us that 'cave men' were scientists.

            Technology for most of history preceded science. That is, pragmatists interested in whether things worked and who developed rules of thumb and accumulate lore preceded the philosophers into nature, who were interested in discovering why they worked the way they did.

            It is only in the High Modern Ages that science began to lead technology by using theory to predict possible new facts. Likewise, the sciences (at least the hard sciences) became more mathematical. Consequently, the Late Moderns, when they say "science," will almost always mean a conglomeration of natural science, technology, and mathematics.

            The Chinese likely developed a compass the way the vikings did. By using lodestones suspended by strings or needles floating on leaves in a water bowl. IOW, by accumulated lore passed down from master to apprentice. They were certainly as able as anyone else to devise rules-of-thumb for practical applications.

            But a culture is unlikely to develop science as such as long as they believe concatenation and coincidence are as meaningful as causation.

            China made a great many impressive starts without developments. They invented woodblock printing but never gathered important literary works or maintained public libraries. Su Sung built a mechanical clock in the 11th century that was 30-40 feet tall. But it was the only one ever built and by the 17th century it had been disassembled and carted off and Su SUng's treatise on its construction had been lost (to be rediscovered by European missionaries).

            China had a scientific revolution in the 17th century when Jesuit missionaries introduced Western mathematics, heliocentrism, and translations of Aristotle’s natural philosophy. (That old Greek sure did get around.) Their revolution was the realization that there was such a thing as “Science.” If the Muslims never had an Aquinas, the Chinese never had an Aristotle. They had never integrated the study of the natural world into a coherent philosophy, as Aristotle and his Islamic and European successors had done. Poetry, physics, gardening and alchemy were all ko-chih. In effect, as Nathan Sivan wrote, while the Chinese had "sciences," they did not have "Science."

            Far from seeking causes in the natures of things, Chu Hsi argued that one should seek natural principles in only a third of cases; otherwise, moral principles should be sought within. Even this was too much for Wang Yang-ming, who criticized Chu Hsi’s “externalist” views. Sivan described Chinese thought thusly: “Empirical knowledge is neither certain nor probable, merely given.”

            The sages were more concerned with identifying the current point on the cosmic cycle than the natural causes of material phenomena. Sequence, frequency, quantity, and magnitude held little interest. Fang Yi-zhi [Little Notes on Principles of Things] wrote that sound and light “are always more subtle than the ‘number’ of things,” i.e., than their measurement. Regarding heliocentrism, Juan Yuan wrote, “Our ancients sought phenomena and ignored theoretical explanation... It does not seem to me the least inconvenient to ignore Western theoretical explanations and simply to consider facts.” If the Greeks valued logical theories more than facts; the Chinese prized facts with little concern for theories.

            This follow-the-procedure approach had consequences. During Huang-yu reign of Northern Sung, Shen Kua, who did work on magnetic inclination, noted that candidates preparing essays on astronomical instruments “were so confused about the celestial sphere, and the examiners themselves so ignorant of the subject, that all candidates were passed with distinction.” His proposal for daily records of planetary positions was sabotaged by his own staff, who simply made up the data.

            Chinese arithmetical astronomy at its peak (AD 1300) had not achieved the accuracy of Ptolemy’s geometric astronomy a millennium earlier. Three centuries later, the Ming calendar “was regularly failing,” yet the Directorate of Astronomy resisted Hsing Yun-lu’s reforms – not on technical grounds, but as sedition. A public admission of calendar failure amounted to a declaration that the dynasty had lost the Mandate of Heaven. This was not a worldview conducive to Science.

            References.
            1. Grant, Edward. The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages. (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
            2. Huff, Toby. The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West. (Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed., 2003)
            3. Huff, Toby. Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution: a Global Perspective. (Cambridge University Press, 2011)
            4. Sivin, Nathan. “Why the Scientific Revolution Did Not Take Place in China – Or Didn't It?” At: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~nsivin/scirev.html

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Your link doesn't work

  • Your pop up ad is uncloseable for me, in both chrome and IE

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      I'll also add: Your pop up ad is annoying for me, in all browsers. I've gotten my free PDF... thanks...

    • Paul Brandon Rimmer

      I second this. The popup made the article difficult to read and made it difficult to leave comments. I eventually had to configure my browser to block it.

    • I posted about this 17 days ago. It's not clear that the management cares.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    The Christian conception of God and of His physical creation has proved
    immensely conducive for the flowering of science. How so? Christianity
    conceives of God as a rational and benevolent creator who brought into
    existence a universe endowed with rationality, order, and purpose.

    I hear this claim made a lot and I'm not sure I understand it. Sure, believing in a rational creator is one way to get to the conclusion of an orderly universe, but certainly not the only way. And to me it seems like a very superfluous way of reaching that conclusion.

    From our youngest years, we experience the world and see that it acts consistently. When I drop the block, it falls, and it does so every time. When it's raining, there are consistently dark clouds in the sky. When I bang my head, it always hurts. We observe a consistent world throughout our life. Is it much of stretch to then suppose the universe is consistent? I don't see how a Christian worldview is needed to come to this conclusion.

    And, if anything, a Christian (or other supernatural) worldview puts a bit of a wrench into this idea. Isn't a miracle an event that violates the order of the universe? So at best a Christian can believe that the universe is orderly and follows consistent laws... most of the time.

    • Paul Brandon Rimmer

      I completely agree with your first two paragraphs. Christianity is not necessary for us to reach the conclusion that Nature is orderly. It is possible other religions or philosophies may lead to the same place, because the means to knowledge is available to everyone regardless of their creed.

      But some beliefs help more than others. When you finally say:

      So at best a Christian can believe that the universe is orderly and follows consistent laws... most of the time.

      This might be an improvement from what came before. Maybe ealier it was that the universe is orderly some of the time. Then Christianity improves upon this and we come to believe that the universe is orderly most of the time. Finally, naturalism improves things even further and we come to believe that the universe is orderly all the time. Christianity could totally have been a step along the way.

    • From our youngest years, we experience the world and see that it acts consistently.

      That is precisely the opposite of what Yuval Levin observes in his study of this matter:

      The notion that beneath the erratic clamor and din of daily life there lays a single logic, a single source of truth and law, is the genuine uniqueness and the essence of monotheism. ... The belief that a coherent set of rules exists behind the fabric of existence, a notion so deeply ingrained as to be taken entirely for granted in our time, could not exist as it does if it were not for a monumental intellectual leap taken by a community of nomadic shepherds living in the land of Canaan around the 20th century BC. (Tyranny of Reason, 1)

      What is obvious to you was not necessarily obvious to people before you. It is easy to mistake social facts for universal truths. Levin argues that in ages past, no such "acts consistently" was believed in:

          Indeed, such views tended not only to personify forces of nature, but also to individualize causes, finding a unique motive or root behind every historical and natural event. While modern Western science and philosophy tend to seek general causes by pointing to similarities among individual events, ancient man tended to seek specific causes by searching out the unique origin of each event. As Henri Frankfort notes, "we understand phenomena not by what makes them peculiar, but by what makes them manifestations of general laws. But a general law cannot do justice to the individual character of each event, and the individual character is precisely what early man experienced most strongly. We may explain that certain physiological processes cause a man's death, but primitive man would ask, 'why should this man die in this way at this moment?'"[1] Thus, the uniqueness of events was matched by the uniqueness of their causes. Broad general laws would seem insufficient to explain the infinitely various arrays of man's experience, and the seemingly disparate forces of nature give man no obvious reason to suspect they all follow a single set of rules. (Tyranny of Reason, 3)

      So, how do we figure out who's more likely to be empirically accurate—you or Levin?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Sure, believing in a rational creator is one way to get to the conclusion of an orderly universe, but certainly not the only way.

      Actual historical examples would include.... Where, exactly? In their seminal work, Science and Civilisation in China (Cambridge University Press, 1954), Joseph Needham and Wang Ling wrote:

      "It was not that there was no order in nature for the Chinese, but rather that it was not an order ordained by a rational personal being, and hence there was no conviction that rational personal beings would be able to spell out in their lesser earthly languages the divine code of laws which he had decreed aforetime. The Taoists, indeed, would have scorned such an idea as being too naïve for the subtlety and complexity of the universe as they intuited it."

      Similarly, Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī wrote in The Incoherence of Philosophy that...

      "...our opponent [ibn Rushd] 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 disconnexion 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."

      IOW, it is not enough to notice regularity in the world. You must also conceive (contra orthodox Islam) that this regularity is due to natural causes and that these natural causes are (contra Confucian orthodoxy) discoverable by human beings.

      From our youngest years, we experience the world and see that it acts consistently. When I drop the block, it falls, and it does so every time. .... Is it much of stretch to then suppose the universe is consistent? I don't see how a Christian worldview is needed to come to this conclusion.

      See above. The Christians of the West believed (via St. Paul's importation of synderesis from Plato that human reason was capable of reaching truth (cf. Romans 2: 14-16). This was not a belief much shared outside the West, where the emphasis was on public shame rather than private guilt, and doing right consisted of obedience to a painstaking list of rules and regulations. Contrast:

      "[T]he natural order does not exist confusedly and without rational arrangement, and human reason should be listened to concerning those things it treats of. But when it completely fails, then the matter should be referred to God. Therefore, since we have not yet completely lost the use of our minds, let us return to reason."
      -- Adelard of Bath, Quaestiones naturales

      The second facet, that of secondary causation became dominant in the West in the early Middle Ages, for example, William of Conches wrote:

      [They say] "We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it." You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so.

      and Thomas Aquinas in the High Middle Ages:

      Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship.

      IOW, the Christian notion was that God as First (recte, Primary) Cause endowed his creatures with Natures, capable of acting directly upon one another.

    • TamerNashef

      "And, if anything, a Christian (or other supernatural) worldview puts a bit of a wrench into this idea. Isn't a miracle an event that violates the order of the universe? So at best a Christian can believe that the universe is orderly and follows consistent laws... most of the time." -- Not quite. Medieval Catholic theologians did believe in miracles of course, but for them they were the exception rather than the norm. The image of the Christian theologian who invokes God as an explanatory cause every time he seeks to account for what happens around him in the universe is a distortion. Catholic theologians, particularly from the 12th century onward, gave precedence to naturalistic and rational explanations and only when they failed to find any, did they begin to consider having recourse to the possibility of divine intervention. The Christian worldview is predicated on the assumption that God is not only rational but good and therefore He would not tamper with the physical laws He laid down so as not to create randomness or cause confusion. In other words, God employs or works through natural powers to achieve His ends and it is the task of the natural philosopher/theologian to push these powers to their explanatory limit. In fact, divine intervention was confined to the initial act of creation and afterwards the universe operated in accordance with the physical patterns and laws God had created.

      I hope I've made this point clear.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        I was going to say that we are largely in agreement at first, before I read the last 2 sentences.. I agree that theologians considered miracles rare and that natural order is followed most of the time. This would mean that the universe is orderly "most of the time" as I said.

        But you seem to have a different definition of "miracle" than I do. Are you saying that God only intervened once, at the creation of the universe? There has been no divine intervention since? Are you then saying that miracles have not occurred since then or that they have, but that miracles do not involve further divine intervention?

  • MNb

    "The Christian conception of God and of His physical creation has proved immensely conducive for the flowering of science."
    Then how come the very christian Byzantine Empire did not enjoy any scientific progress for ten frigging centuries? How come that between 300 CE and 600 CE all smart people in Western Europe were christians and none of them did actually do anything to make science flower? In a time the (christian) Roman Empire could have used it very well to avoid the disintegration of the western half?
    Just like the fans of the conflict thesis you're cherry picking.

    "the separation of church and state in the West"
    “proved an enormous boon to the development of science and natural philosophy."
    In other words - keep christian authoritarian thinking, including "the Christian conception of God and His physical creation" out of it. Nice contradiction.

    Finally you totally neglected a third option, falling for the same false dichotomy as the fans of the conflict hypothesis. Many christians did a lot for scientific progress, others did nothing or worked against it and overall christianity was irrelevant for the flowering of science because other factors weighed in far more heavily. Science flowered in India and China as well and did so without any christian influence.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      how come the very christian Byzantine Empire did not enjoy any scientific progress for ten frigging centuries?

      Because for nearly all that time, the Empire was fighting for its life against existential threats and had little time for much else. Besides, historians have pointed out that we know very little of what went down in Byzantium because the Jihad had cut the trade routes between East and West. And later, whatever had been written down got burned up in the great Sacks; so what makes you think there wasn't any?

      How come that between 300 CE and 600 CE all smart people in Western Europe were christians and none of them did actually do anything to make science flower?

      We could ask the Germans, or the jihadis, vikings, and magyars. Western Europe was always on the edge economically. More than a day's march from the sea or riverhead, taxes were pretty much collected in kind, and there's a limit to how far you can cart the grain before the value of the taxes is outweighed by the cost of collecting them. Western Europe on its own probably never could support a leisured class of philosophers and few Greek works were translated into Latin even during the heyday of the Empire. Even so, Boethius was busily translating Aristotle into Latin when the Goths chopped his head off.

      Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages were a time when Western Europe was trying to operate on its own. Among other things, this meant re-inventing agriculture. Near Eastern/Mediterranean agriculture didn't work in the heavy clay soils of Transalpine Europe; so inter alia the Europeans invented or adapted the moldboard plow, the horse collar, the three-field rotation system, and (for protection) the stirrup, which enabled the armored knights into which Roman cavalry was evolving.

      In a time the (christian) Roman Empire could have used it very well to avoid the disintegration of the western half?

      You have got to be kidding.

      "the separation of church and state in the West"
      “proved an enormous boon to the development of science and natural philosophy."
      In other words - keep christian authoritarian thinking, including "the
      Christian conception of God and His physical creation" out of it. Nice
      contradiction.

      Separation meant that the Emperor could not call all the shots, annex the Church, and run roughshod over all other endeavors. By separating the Church from the State, the early Medieval legal revolution created a social space within which other chartered, self-governing institutions could operate. Not until the Modern Ages would the totalizing State resume its encroachments on people's daily lives. Meanwhile, the existence of the Church meant that in the medieval world, there was always another authority to which one could appeal. The invention of the corporation that arose from this was another key to Western progress. The first corporations were universities, which provided independent, self-governing centers where science could find a home base and, by Papal decree, be independent of secular authority.

      Many christians did a lot for scientific progress, others
      did nothing or worked against it

      Of course, most people have done nothing about science. They have been farmers. Also, merchants, lawyers, millers, sailors, etc. However, I would be curious to learn who were those who worked against it, and what their status was within Christianity. For example: al Ghazali's opinions within the House of Submission carried weight because his became the basis of the ash'ari aqida, whereas the opinions of the mu'tazilites were a marginalized segment of the ummah.

      overall christianity was irrelevant for the flowering of science because other factors weighed in far more heavily.

      Which ones?

      Science flowered in India and China as well and did so without any christian influence.

      Mathematics flourished everywhere (and hence also astronomy), but natural science did not. China had technology, but no science; that is, she had rules of thumb, accumulated lore, and the like; but the notion of "scientific theory" never came up. There was no seminal figure comparable to Aristotle to define anything that might be called natural philosophy. Even Chu Hsi produced little more than a grab bag of observations on nature, poetry, court etiquette, gossip, et al.; but no systematic application of logic and reason to nature. (The Mandarin word for "logic" is a loan word from Portuguese, iirc.) Even Euclidean geometry -- logical deductions from axioms -- was unknown. Chinese astronomy (datong) was purely arithmetical and applied without any theoretical understanding. By Ming era, the calendar was regularly failing, because Chinese "astronomers" (the Chinese word means "calendar-makers") had not achieved the accuracy of Ptolemaic astronomy, achieved millennia earlier. The invention of the telescope revolutionized science in Europe. It was brought to China immediately by Jesuit missionaries, but had no similar impact there. And although the translation of Euclid's Elements into Chinese so stunned the mandarins -- they had never seen anything like it -- that several of them converted to Catholicism, that enthusiasm diminished when the Mandate of Heaven was given to the Manchus, the Chinese Christians were beheaded, and the European missionaries were imprisoned and threatened with execution for unauthorized use of a telescope.

      http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2011/04/far-seeing-looking-glass-goes-to-china.html

      • "Because for nearly all that time, the Empire was fighting for its life
        against existential threats and had little time for much else."

        I don't think this is the case, nor does it follow. Societies often make enormous scientific progress because they are fighting existential threats. Consider the Manhattan Project.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Consider the different circumstances and prior art available during these two epochs. There is a great deal of difference in what can be done before and after a revolution in thought. Yet we chastize those laying the foundation stones because they have not carved the corbels.

          Of course, the Byzantines did invent napalm, with repulsed the earlier Arab assaults. But inventioning is not the same as sciencing.

        • YOS: Because for nearly all that time, the Empire was fighting for its life against existential threats and had little time for much else.

          BGA: I don't think this is the case, nor does it follow. Societies often make enormous scientific progress because they are fighting existential threats. Consider the Manhattan Project.

          Ehhh, try situating that response in a time where most people had to be farming and the rest had to be soldiering. But you're welcome to support your claim of "often" by listing one or two examples of your claim for each millennium for which we have decent history.

  • David Nickol

    I think it is far, far from accurate to credit Christianity (and particularly Catholicism) for the idea of "separation of church and state." Even after a significant shift in position coming out of Vatican II, it would (I think) be going too far to say that Catholicism endorses "separation of church and state."

    • Paul Brandon Rimmer

      I found this an odd claim as well. But the philosophy behind it seems plausible. Science, as Al-Khalili describes it, flowered in the Middle East when it was far more secular and pluralistic. When the secular space was removed and pluralism was discouraged, science in the Middle East stagnated and eventually all but disappeared. That at least is Al-Khalili's narrative.

      • David Nickol

        Any force, whether religion, government, or ideology, that interferes with free inquiry is a danger to science.

        The claim in the OP that Jesus established the separation of church and state as a Christian principle is simply false.

        • Paul Brandon Rimmer

          I agree with both things you say. Tolerance and free inquiry are good for science. Jesus didn't teach separation of church and state. That said, the not exclusively but definitively Christian belief in the comprehensibility of the universe and of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you would both seem conducive to science. By themselves they are probably not sufficient. But the belief seems essential, and the discipline seems like it could only help.

        • Any force, whether religion, government, or ideology, that interferes with free inquiry is a danger to science.

          Who says that science should be the god we worship? I'm all for being "a danger to science" in the sense of prohibiting, by force if necessary, experimentation on unwilling humans.

          • David Nickol

            Who says that science should be the god we worship?

            Certainly not me. I haven't advocated the worship of any gods. :P

          • Ahh. It seemed for a moment that you wished to criticize anything which would be "a danger to science".

          • David Nickol

            I can see why it may have come across that way, but actually my point was that religion wasn't the only potential force that might stand in the way of science (or free inquiry). Think of Lysenko and "Soviet science" or the rejection of relativity by some Germans as "Jewish science."

            There is, of course, a huge difference between forbidding experimentation on unwilling humans and forbidding the publication of astronomical or biological theories.

          • Ahhh. So would the following be an instance of being "a danger to science":

                There are several reasons why the contemporary social sciences make the idea of the person stand on its own, without social attributes or moral principles. Emptying the theoretical person of values and emotions is an atheoretical move. We shall see how it is a strategy to avoid threats to objectivity. But in effect it creates an unarticulated space whence theorizing is expelled and there are no words for saying what is going on. No wonder it is difficult for anthropologists to say what they know about other ideas on the nature of persons and other definitions of well-being and poverty. The path of their argument is closed. No one wants to hear about alternative theories of the person, because a theory of persons tends to be heavily prejudiced. It is insulting to be told that your idea about persons is flawed. It is like being told you have misunderstood human beings and morality, too. The context of this argument is always adversarial. (Missing Persons: A Critique of the Personhood in the Social Sciences, 10)

            ? Here, a renowned anthropologist and policy sciences professor describe how the deep desire for this thing called 'objectivity', combined with a deep resistance to admitting error about certain aspects of existence, leads to a failure to properly theorize about the precise center of the human sciences.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      One of the reasons why science foundered in China was that everything in China was controlled by the State. You could be beaten with bamboo poles for unauthorized possession of mathematics books, for example. And every innovation like "flying money" was taken over by the State. The appointment of priests came under the Ministry of Rites, headed by Third Minister reporting to the Grand Secretary. The Ministry of Rites was responsible for state ceremonies, rituals, sacrifices, licensing Buddhist and Daoist priests, etc. (The Bureau of Mathematics and Astronomy fell within this Ministry and its main task was preparing the annual calendar and identifying lucky and unlucky days. This was the sole purpose of Chinese astronomy.)

      The Greek and Roman states that preceded Christendom were likewise in charge of priests and temples. In Rome, they were elected like any other government official. (C. Julius Caesar had been elected Supreme Pontiff at the same time he invaded Gaul.) When the emperors got sprinkled, the saw no reason to change this. They closed up shop on the older rites and began to run the new rites. This would be like the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania closing all the State Stores or re-purposing them as Tea Houses because the legislature and most of the electorate had become teetotalers. However, The City of God by Augustine had made a very clear distinction between the government of secular life and the government of spiritual life. Emperors could not be entrusted with the appointment of bishops.

      In the East, this separation was hard to enforce because -- Emperor! And the Patriarch became pretty much a bureau head of the Roman State. But they did assert some independence by defying imperial edicts to make the Church Arian. Orthodox Christians were persecuted even more so than were pagans during this time.

      In the West, where the imperial authority was more theoretical, Charlemagne tried to swing his weight and later the Holy Roman Emperors of the German Nation. The Hildebrandine Reforms were the Church's Declaration of Independence and resulted in the Emperor chasing the Pope out of town to take refuge with the imperial vice-regent for Italy, the redoubtable Matilda of Tuscany at her castle of Canossa. The Emperor pulled a PR trick, the barons' rebellion collapsed at his supposed repentance, and the Emperor turned on the Pope once more. The Pope died in exile, but the principle survived: calling of councils, appointment of bishops, and all that were now within the purview of the Pope. By effectively depriving Emperors and kings of their sacral powers, the Church had created something new: the secular state. That is, kings whose powers were restricted to civil matters only. It worked for 500 years before kings became monarchs and brought pieces of the Church back under their rule.

      But it was this notion that the Emperor did not embody all of life -- as he had in Late Antiquity or in China -- that created social space within which self-governing corporations modeled on Church canon law could flourish: universities, free cities, guilds, companies of players, medical societies, et al. And the universities provided a "home base" outside government control (a la China) where science could begin to grow.

      • David Nickol

        All very interesting, but not particularly relevant to the point I was making.

        To be absolutely blunt about it, the idea that Jesus established for Christianity the principle of the separation of church and state when he said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are Gods," is indefensible.

        There are a number of countries even today in which Catholicism or some other denomination of Christianity is the state (or official) religion.

        • To be absolutely blunt about it, the idea that Jesus established for Christianity the principle of the separation of church and state when he said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are Gods," is indefensible.

          It seems rather a stretch to root the separation of church and state in just this statement, with no further development. But surely it is noteworthy that Jesus' questioners were trying to trap him in an impossible dilemma—that you can either have allegiance toward Caesar or toward YHWH, but not both. Jesus resolved the dilemma with a separation. This appears to be an important innovation.

          Perhaps some further development could be done via the fact that Jesus obeyed Roman law, even when his very life was threatened. There's quite a lot of continuity between this and Rom 13:1–7 & 2 Pe 3:13–17. Jesus' disciples were to greatly rebel against society in one way, but adhere to it in another. This kind of shattering of unity seems rather important. The very idea that the chief enslaving power is one's own sin instead of outside political authorities is huge. Instead of the law of the polis giving identity—such that Socrates couldn't bear to flee his death sentence—the letter can be subverted via a gradual change in the spirit.

          Now, how many further steps are required to get to anything recognizable as our modern separation of church and state? Do we, for example, require a rather recent conceptualization of 'religion'?[1] Do we require a robust notion of psychological inside vs. outside which hasn't always existed?[2] Do we require remarkable homogeneity in religious belief, so that society is quite unified as to its notion of 'the good'?[3] What does it really take to have a robust church/​state separation? It is so easy to think that the concepts obvious to us would be obvious to those born 2000 years ago, instead of seeing them as contingent constructions of human beings, arduously brought into being through great struggle.

          [1] William T. Cavanaugh writes, "the concept of religion as used by the theorists in chapter 1 is a development of the modern liberal state; the religious-secular distinction accompanies the invention of private-public, religion-politics, and church-state dichotomies." (The Myth of Religious Violence, 59)
          [2] See the first few pages of Moral Topography, within Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self.
          [3] Locke's A Letter Concerning Toleration excluded atheists and Catholics. There was also considerable animus toward Catholics in post-revolutionary America. Certain variation in Christianity is what was truly tolerated.

          • David Nickol

            Does the following, taken from the old (1912) online Catholic Encyclopedia article State and Church give the impression that the Catholic Church believed Jesus declared that the separation of church and state was to be a Christian principle?

            For a State once Catholic and in union with the Church to declare a separation on the ground that it has ceased to be Catholic is an action which as a matter of objective right has no standing; for in objective truth the duty of the people would be to regain their lost faith, if they had really lost it, or to live up to it if in reality it were not lost. But on the supposition that the essential constituency of a State has been transformed from Catholics to those who, not by hypocritical pretence, but in the fulness of good faith, are not Catholics--a condition easier of supposition than of realization--the State through such mistaken conscience might seek for separation without subjective fault, provided the separation were effected without the summary dissolution of existing contracts, without the violation of vested rights of the Church or its members. It may be noted in passing that in the recent instances of separation in France and Portugal, i.e., the breaking up of an existing condition of union between Church and State, the separation has been effected where the bulk of the people is still Catholic, has been conducted in violation of rights and contracts both natural and positive, and has resulted, as it was aimed to do, in an attempt at complete subsection of the Church and of all civil subjects in the matters of religion to the tyranny of administrations which scoff at all religion. That in States whose personality is constitutionally made up of every complexion of religious faith, much of it in its diversity sincere, there should be a governmental abstention from any specific denominational worship or profession of belief, and a general protection and encouragement of the individual in the practice of religion according to his own religious principles within the limits of the Natural Law, or of a general acceptance of Christianity, seems a practical necessity of evil times, when unity of faith is so widely lacking, and a modus vivendi which, if sincerely carried out, seems to work as little harm to objective right as can be expected in a condition of consciences sincerely differing in the matter of right established by the Divine Positive Law.

            It seems clear to me that once-Catholic states are under an obligation to remain Catholic. Currently that would include Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, and (of course) Vatican City. And while states whose populations belong to many religions are to have a religiously neutral government, this is not the result of a command of Jesus but "a practical necessity of evil times."

            It seems to me wildly anachronistic to speak of Jesus and the "separation of church and state" (which phrase, if Googled, is attributed not to Jesus, but to Thomas Jefferson). And of course one thing to remember here is that Jesus was speaking as a Jew, not as a Christian. There was no "church" in first-century Palestine, and I find it odd to claim that Jesus was looking to the future and outlining "Christian" principles. Also, it makes little sense to me think of the occupying Romans in first-century Palestine in the same terms as we think of the "state" today. So neither "church" nor "state" would have had any meaning to Jesus that would be close to what we think of when we use the two concepts today.

            The commentary in the USCCB points out that "the question that they [Herodians/Pharisees] will pose is intended to force Jesus to take either a position contrary to that held by the majority of the people or one that will bring him into conflict with the Roman authorities." In my opinion, Jesus did not actually answer the question that was put to him, and I think it is perhaps not to make too much out of a saying of Jesus that was a clever dodge in a situation where enemies were attempting to entrap him.

            In any case, is "separation of church and state" is a Christian principle articulated by Jesus himself, why did Christianity allow itself to become the state religion of the Roman Empire, and why have we had Catholic countries (and countries of other Christian denominations) up to and including the present day?

          • Does the following, taken from the old (1912) online Catholic Encyclopedia article State and Church give the impression that the Catholic Church believed Jesus declared that the separation of church and state was to be a Christian principle?

            Of course not, but this is a point-in-time statement which could be arbitrarily wrong about how many seeds of separation were sown by Christianity. Nobody is going to go to Manasseh's reign over Judah to see what real Judaism is. (I don't mean to draw a direct connection between Manasseh's reign and 1912 Catholicism.)

            In any case, is "separation of church and state" is a Christian principle articulated by Jesus himself, why did Christianity allow itself to become the state religion of the Roman Empire, and why have we had Catholic countries (and countries of other Christian denominations) up to and including the present day?

            Why did Israel give rise to Manasseh? Why did the Enlightenment permit the Holocaust? There are no doubt answers to such questions, and I think they're well worth exploring. As to your question, I think Jacques Ellul's The Subversion of Christianity is a great resource. Here's a summary which appears in an earlier work: "In fact, whenever the church has been in a position of power, it has regarded freedom as an enemy." (The Ethics of Freedom, 12)

            Ellul makes an excellent case that Christianity as you find it in the Bible is utterly subversive to the kind of domination you find the Catholic Church engaging in much too frequently for my taste. You can see this in the trajectory toward domination exemplified Deut 5:22–33 and 1 Sam 8, with the hoped-for-reversal in New Covenant passages such as Jer 31:31–34 and Ezek 36:22–32. Or see what Paul says in 2 Cor 3: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." Well, is that true? If we make that a definition, then where domination exists, Jesus doesn't. Recall Mt 20:20–28.

            But there's this niggling, complicating factor. You can't get something like the freedoms we enjoy in the West if the populace isn't sufficiently disciplined, if it doesn't have sufficient civic virtue. Try to impose democracy on a nation without that and you get Libya, Egypt, and Iraq. It's possible that the RCC has at times seen itself as imposing this kind of discipline and virtue. I'm inclined to think it actually did, whether or not it saw there being a point at which the children reach maturity and are no longer under the disciplining hands of their parents. There is a crucial "until" in Eph 4:1–16.

          • David Nickol

            Would you say that "separation of church and state" is a "key Christian concept"?

            Would you say that Jesus articulated "separation of church and state" as a key principle of his teaching?

            Those don't seem to me to be difficult questions to answer. You can write long essays with multiple citations to argue that there are other questions could be answered by more emphatic nos—for example, "Did Jesus speak in favor of the electoral college?" or "Did Jesus make capital punishment mandatory for murder?" You can argue that there were times that Christianity was less interested or involved in controlling civil government than others. But the statements in the OP are sweeping generalities about Christianity. I don't think even charity requires bending over backwards to find grains of truth in such statements.

            Suppose that, instead of writing on a blog where we all feel duty bound to disagree, you were grading student papers in which the students were required to give two important facts about the nature and history of Christianity. One student's test answers were as follows:

            A key Christian concept that has figured prominently in Western, rather [than?] Eastern, Christendom is the separation of church and state.

            Christianity views the secular and ecclesiastical authorities as two distinct and independent entities with their own separate jurisdictions.

            How would you grade the test? Assume it is mid-level course, not an introductory one or a graduate-level one.

            Ellul makes an excellent case that Christianity as you find it in the Bible is utterly subversive to the kind of domination you find the Catholic Church engaging in much too frequently for my taste.

            But if you are going to make generalizations about "Christianity," you can't exclude Catholicism. You can't talk about key principles of Christianity and then say, "except of course for Roman Catholic Christianity." Nor would it be legitimate to use the "no true Scotsman" approach and claim that while "separation of church and state" is a "key principle of Christianity," it has not always been practiced. The OP is attempting to make a historical argument about what Christianity has done for Western culture, and consequently idealized Christian principles more often violated than observed don't count as "Christian principles."

          • The following probably reproduces a lot of my last two comments, but they apparently didn't really get through. BTW, three paragraphs does not constitute a "long essay".

            I've already said that the NT doesn't contain anything we would recognize as the modern doctrine of the separation of church & state; at best one could claim that it provided important precursors. I thought I already implied this but I can state it directly: such a claim would need to be backed up, much more than the OP did.

            I talked about my own take on Christianity and the separation of church & state, but if I'm only allowed to make statements about ≥ 50% of everything which has been labeled 'Christianity' over the ages, I would have to say that separation hasn't been considered a key factor. But I think that's a silly restriction which prevents sound analysis of how concepts arose in history.

            It doesn't matter how often Christianity acted against some principle if it nevertheless introduced that principle into history. Similarly, it doesn't how much crazy theology Isaac Newton did—which many would say is anti-scientific thinking—he still introduced crucial science into human history.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          the idea that Jesus established for Christianity the principle of the separation of church and state when he said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are Gods," is indefensible.

          It was Augustine's The City of God and the Hildebrandine Reforms that established the principle. It was based upon the gospel teaching, but the principle was not accepted by the Men With Guns without a struggle.

          In The Modern Democratic State, A.D. Lindsay wrote of the medieval roots:

          "It was perhaps equally important that the existence and prestige of the Church prevented society from being totalitarian, prevented the omnicompetent state, and preserved liberty in the only way that liberty can be preserved, by maintaining in society an organization which could stand up against the state."

          The State-established churches you cite are examples of the triumph of Caesar in the Modern Ages, when Rationalism demanded Absolute Monarchs and monarchial absolutism demanded the Church be subordinate to the royal or imperial will. When they later dispensed with the monarchs in favor of the bureaucratic, totalitarian state, nothing changed.
          The takeover of the Church was die to the collapse of Christendom, not its fulfillment. In some places, like Saxony, this was done by Sponsor-a-Heretic; in other places, like England and Sweden, it was by straightforward nationalization; in still others, like France and Spain, it was by ordinary extortion. But in each case, it was the return of the old-style monarchy that enabled the establishment of these lapdog churches and the abandonment of the Christian principle of separation.

    • Robert Conner

      We could always ask Giordano Bruno. If he hadn't been burned alive by the Inquisition.

  • Doug Shaver

    This article is a recycling of arguments that have already been posted, and discussed at considerable length, on Strange Notions. Repeating the arguments doesn't strengthen them.

    • neil_pogi

      of course, repeating arguments are to be expected her on SN because if there is no more issues to be discussed, then SN is no longer here.. just like in the movies, for example, the movie Jurassic park, independence day and die hard, have been dormant for 25 years and now came back.

      it is not the issue that ''repeating the arguments doesn't strengthen them', it is just for reminders

      • Doug Shaver

        just like in the movies, for example, the movie Jurassic park, independence day and die hard, have been dormant for 25 years and now came back.

        That's an analogy I can accept.

  • "Christianity conceives of God as a rational and benevolent creator who
    brought into existence a universe endowed with rationality, order, and
    purpose."

    Ok, but the relevant part of this is "a universe endowed with rationality, order". That is all you need for science and it is not particularly a Christian idea, compared to, for example 'a Creator who resolved sin by ressurection'.

    We actually do not need the "God as a rational and benevolent creator who
    brought into existence a universe" which is the theistic aspect of this.

    Indeed it isn't as if the Greeks and Egyptians and others did not believe the universe was rational or ordered and did not make significant discoveries absent this specific concept of deity. Indeed, it seems the scientific revolution gained significantly at the time when classical texts became more widely read. Certainly it is very complex and Christanity played a role, but I think this oversells it.

    Additionally, I do think the persecution of Galileo was done for at least partial religious reasons and that it had a chilling effect on scientists in Catholic jurisdictions. I do not think it is a coincidence that later major discoveries happened by protestants at a time when humanism was gaining. But that is just my opinion.

    As Doug has mentioned this is well trodden territory on this site, but hey, there aren't infinite issues to discuss!

    • neil_pogi

      then who do you think the creator of the universe is? a little bumpy dot?

      then what do you think of the universe? rule and govern by chance? or just coincidence? only an intelligent and consious agent can do that!

      so you'd rather believe in the greeks and egyptians beliefs? then you must also believe the ancients' creation myths.

      http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2016/02/20/Book-Review-The-Genesis-Creation-Account-and-Its-Reverberations-in-the-Old-Testament.aspx

      • I do not think there is a creator of the universe.

        No, I think the universe follows natural rules, no, you do not need a conscious agent for that. That is what natural rules means.

        No, I do not believe in any myths. That's what "myth" means.

        • neil_pogi

          then what is the origins of natural rules?

          quote: you do not need a conscious agent for that. -- we observe every day that an unconscious entity is still unconscious entity, ever! that's a fact!

          • I don't know nor do I proclaim to know.

          • neil_pogi

            if you do not know, then don't proclaim that athiesm is the right worldview. have you ever encounter an 'unconscious' elements or entities create laws?

          • I don't proclaim atheism as a worldview. Nor do I think being able to "origins of natural rules" should be a tenet of any worldview, nor have I ever heard of any worldview that has answered this question.

            I have never encountered any entity or element conscious or not that create laws. Either these laws are a necessary component of reality or they are ultimately dependent on some necessary element of reality. I don't know and neither do you.

          • neil_pogi

            i observe that only conscious entities can create laws! that's all.

          • There is no observation of any conscious entity creating natural laws. There are simply no observations of any kind relating to the origin of a natural order.

            Our observations of humans creating rules for human conduct that can be violated amended and ignored is of no assistance in determining the origin of inviolable natural patterns.

          • neil_pogi

            so natural laws came from a 'nothing'? and you are given lots and lots of time to explain how it got, and how all things came from....'nothing'

          • I don't know where they came from or if they came from anything. (see my post from 3 days ago that said 'I don't know nor do I proclaim to know."0)

          • neil_pogi

            i know you know it. you just say 'i don't know' because atheism really has no answer for it, so as i've said, atheism has no right to declare that it has sole right to know things. that is arrogance. being arrogant make you a fanatic, and being a fanatic makes you a dangerous element in a society!

          • "i know you know it. you just say 'i don't know' because atheism really has no answer for it,"

            I fully agree, atheism has zero answer to it.

            "atheism has no right to declare that it has sole right to know things"

            No one ever said this.

            Do you enjoy ignoring what people actually say and substituting your own thoughts for theirs? I would say this might veer into a bit of arrogance.

          • neil_pogi

            because atheists always say that creationists are not science-bound thinkers!

          • They aren't there is an extremely well-establish body of science that contradicts Young-Earth Creationism. Possibly the strongest science we have. Certainly the strongest in biology.

            Most theists and most Christians, including the Pope and the Catholic church are not Young-Earth Creationists. Just intentionally ignorant people like yourself. Most are not as arrogant.

          • neil_pogi

            so here you are again claiming that you know all things! how well did you know for sure that the age of the universe is billion years old when the fact is that the ''i don't know'' answer is still lingers around?

            how sure you knew that the speed of light is still the same speed as of today's? nobody was there to measure it! the radiometric datings are still questionable? if the catholic church believe in an eternal sufferings of unrepentant sinners in hell, does that mean i have to believe also to it?

          • "so here you are again claiming that you know all things!"

            I never said that nor is it my position.

            "how well did you know for sure that the age of the universe is billion
            years old when the fact is that the ''i don't know'' answer is still
            lingers around?"

            I don't know for "sure", I believe this with the highest of confidence because of the multiple independent lines of uncontroversial scientific evidence supporting this conclusion.

            "how sure you knew that the speed of light is still the same speed as of today's?"

            Because of what we have learned from physics, in particular relativity and the multiple experiments demonstrating this over time. We need to make inferences about happened before people existed to measure things. The inference here is that patterns we see now, the laws of physics are the same now as they were a billion years ago. This is a point of view shared by theists and atheists alike.

            You are correct, if you are thinking there is nothing more than intuition for this assumption. But if we drop the assumption that the past is like the future, we lose the ability to make any inferences at all. About anything.

            " if the catholic church believe in an eternal sufferings of unrepentant
            sinners in hell, does that mean i have to believe also to it?"

            No, but this website is for Catholics and atheists. You are clearly not championing the atheist side. It seems you are not a Catholic either. That is fine, but you might want to clarify that your views are not only contrary to what all scientists believe, they are also contrary to what most Christians believe.

          • neil_pogi

            quote: 'Because of what we have learned from physics, in particular relativity and the multiple experiments demonstrating this over time. We need to make inferences about happened before people existed to measure things. The inference here is that patterns we see now, the laws of physics are the same now as they were a billion years ago. This is a point of view shared by theists and atheists alike.' -- the unchanging laws of physics only happens after the creation of the universe, but other components of it must be changing like the decay rates, and speed of light. and since the laws of physics say that only living matter evolve only from living matter, then atheists and evolutionists are violating the very laws of it!

            quote: 'No, but this website is for Catholics and atheists. You are clearly not championing the atheist side. It seems you are not a Catholic either. That is fine, but you might want to clarify that your views are not only contrary to what all scientists believe, they are also contrary to what most Christians believe.' -- that is just claims of yours! do not try to make that sciences supports all evolutionists/atheists'theories! because the following issues like the origins of life and the universe , atheists answers are a flat 'we don't know'.. how many times i ask you if the unconscious entity can create living matter, can create something vast and huge universe? you are so silent about it.. the question, 'have you encounter an unconscious entity creating things that are so designed, so elegantly functional like life'??

            SN is open even for non-catholics like me, even if i 'attack' catholic's doctrines like everlasting suffering in hell, SN didn't block me. remember i only hate the wrong beliefs and not the believers

          • neil_pogi

            the answer, 'i don't know' only shows that atheism can't explain it well, or atheism can't prove it either way!

  • 'Since God created man in His own image, human beings are blessed with
    the gift of reason and are possessed of the ability to investigate and
    understand the rational, fixed, and divinely set patterns according to
    which the universe operates."

    Again, there is no need for any God, or for us to be in his own image, for reason to be a gift, for science to develop. We just need an ordered universe and the ability to understand it rationally.

    Actually adding that there is a creative free mind on which this order is contingent, questions whether observation is really that ordered. Miracles would seem to do the same.

  • "Another key Christian idea that facilitated the West’s success is
    related to the concept of time as linear rather than cyclical"

    I do not see why or how this would be a key idea facilitating the West's success.

    "he medieval Catholic Church did not express any opposition to the use of
    new technologies such as eyeglasses, mechanical clocks, telescopes,
    microscopes, and printing press, etc."

    Ok, but it did expressly take the position that no matter what science determined, if it contradicted theology as determined by the bishops, it was wrong and was to be suppressed on pain of death.

    This is antithetical to scientific and social development.

    • TamerNashef

      "it did expressly take the position that no matter what science determined, if it contradicted theology as determined by the bishops, it was wrong and was to be suppressed on pain of death.This is antithetical to scientific and social development." -- The Catholic Church was actually more flexible than you think. Even though the Bible gave the impression that the earth is flat, NOT a single Catholic in the Middle Ages disputed the scientific fact that the earth is spherical.

      This is what Albertus Magnus (died in 1280), the greatest biologist of the entire Middle Ages, wrote regarding cases in which there appeared to be some conflict between Scripture and the findings of science:

      "It very often happens that there is some question as to the earth or the sky, or the other elements of this world, respecting which one who is not a Christian has knowledge derived from most certain reasoning or observation, and it is very disgraceful and mischievous, and of all things to be carefully avoided, that a Christian speaking of such matters as being according to the Christian Scriptures, should be heard by an unbeliever talking such nonsense that the unbeliever, perceiving him to be as wide from the mark as east from west, can hardly restrain himself from laughing."

      This is what Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (died in 1621) wrote on the the need to reinterpret Biblical verses to make them compatible with the heliocentric system: "If there were a real proof that the sun is the center of the universe, that the earth is in the third heaven, and that the sun does not go round the earth but the earth round the sun, then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and rather admit that we did not understand them than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true. But as for myself, I shall not believe that there are such proofs until they are shown to me."

      The great Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas (died in 1274) expressed similar flexibility when he affirmed that "when there are different ways of explaining a Scriptural text, no particular explanation should be held so rigidly." He further said that "if convincing arguments show it to be false," this particular explanation should not be adhered to. "Otherwise unbelievers will scorn sacred Scripture, and the way to faith will be closed to them."

  • Also keep in mind that Christianity was not terribly interested in science until recently if ever. What it was obsessed with in its early centuries, was monasticism, and the impending end of the world. Maybe this is why there was no significant scientific progress in the first 10 to 14 centuries in which Christianity dominated the west?

  • "A key Christian concept that has figured prominently in Western, rather
    Eastern, Christendom is the separation of church and state."

    Nonsense. Greek city states, the Roman republic, were not theocracies. The advent of Christianity did not advance this separation, it did the opposite, kings, popes and so on all insisted on the divine right of kings, and instituted state religions and persecuted non-state relgions.

    We do see a separation of Church and state in Iceland in 1000 AD, and other places too. But give me a break. It was an enlightenment idea of pluralist society that really got this concept going 1700 + years after the advent of Christianity.

    • Nonsense. Greek city states, the Roman republic, were not theocracies.

      Do you seriously want to claim that they had separation of church and state?

      The advent of Christianity did not advance this separation, it did the opposite, kings, popes and so on all insisted on the divine right of kings, and instituted state religions and persecuted non-state relgions.

      Given that the divine right of kings didn't really arrive on the scene in Europe until the 16th century, that seems like a spurious accusation. At best, you can say that sometimes, Christianity was anti-separation. This is unsurprising. Sometimes ancient Israel was more evil than surrounding nations. Actually, for a great majority of its existence, the OT records Israel as being evil. But that is quite irrelevant as to what innovations it introduced to history.

      It was an enlightenment idea of pluralist society that really got this concept going 1700 + years after the advent of Christianity.

      Who cares about what "really got this concept going"? Without necessary precursors, there would be nothing small-magnitude which can be magnified and spread. What is a necessary precursor? That there can be two powers, where one does not always bow or the other.

      P.S. As to my stance on Tamer Nashef's claim, see my response to @davidnickol:disqus.

      • The writer of the article clearly cares who got this concept going.

      • I would say that the Greek city states had about as much separation of church and state as did christian monarchies and empires for about 18 centuries following the advent of Christianity.

        "Given that the divine right of kings didn't really arrive on the scene in Europe until the 16th century"

        I can't really speak to that, I find it surprising that say Charlemagne did not have a claim to divine right to rule, I mean didn't he first take on the title "Holy Roman Emperor?" But I would defer to respected historians on this.

        I mean, I care. Like, I think this is interesting. I think you are going to find push back in a forum between atheists and Catholics when you claim that a religion caused the separation of church and state about 17 centuries before it was enshrined. Especially when it is based on such a vague quote.

        • I would say that the Greek city states had about as much separation of church and state as did christian monarchies and empires for about 18 centuries following the advent of Christianity.

          Based on what empirical evidence and what historical work?

          I can't really speak to that, I find it surprising that say Charlemagne did not have a claim to divine right to rule, I mean didn't he first take on the title "Holy Roman Emperor?" But I would defer to respected historians on this.

          You are welcome to show that Charlemagne is a good example of the ideology of the divine right of kings, and that it was strong leading from him to Louis XIV. As far as I understand, this is not at all the case.

          I mean, I care. Like, I think this is interesting. I think you are going to find push back in a forum between atheists and Catholics when you claim that a religion caused the separation of church and state about 17 centuries before it was enshrined. Especially when it is based on such a vague quote.

          You seem to exclusively care about what "really got this concept going", and not so much on the necessary precursors. Tamer Nashef seems interested in those precursors. Now, as I said to David, I don't think he did enough work there. But you're glossing over those necessary precursors, as if John Locke developed his A Letter Concerning Toleration ex nihilo, instead of depending on a long tradition (likely including Martin Luther's two kingdoms doctrine).

          • "Based on what empirical evidence and what historical work?"

            None.

            I would say that what resulted in this was multi-factored. The claim here is that this passage of render unto Ceasar was a very significant factor, even a necessary precursor. I am saying this is going too far.

          • BGA: I would say that the Greek city states had about as much separation of church and state as did christian monarchies and empires for about 18 centuries following the advent of Christianity.

            LB: Based on what empirical evidence and what historical work?

            BGA: None.

            ?! How often do you make empirical/​historical claims on SN with absolutely no empirical evidence or historical study to back up those claims?

  • "One common misconception is that Christianity is an inherently
    otherworldly religion that encourages its adherents to turn away from
    the material world, to renounce worldly possessions, and to give
    precedence to spiritual pursuits at the expense of worldly concerns."

    How is this a misconception, Jesus told people to do this:

    "Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions
    and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come,
    follow me.""

    Yes monks transcribed texts, but they also had to pray 8 times a day. They, like all Christians believed the end of the world is nigh.

    • How is this a misconception, Jesus told people to do this:

      "Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.""

      Caring for the poor hardly seems to be "inherently otherworldly". It also seems exceedingly problematic to apply Jesus' statement to a single person, to all people everywhere. Surely there are many ways to care for the poor, not all of which require selling all of your possessions. Now, let's see what the interests of the most prolific NT author were:

      Only, [Christian leaders in Jerusalem] asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. (Galatians 2:10)

      • this is a quote from the sermon on the mount, I take it as a direction to... well, "turn away from the material world, to renounce worldly possessions, and to give precedence to spiritual pursuits at the expense of worldly concerns."

        I see this as the driving force behind monasticism. Encouraging people like Saint Simeon Stylites.

        • What else drove Christians to cloistered monasteries, and what percentage of Christians took this approach? I surely hope you aren't using Stylites as a representative exemplar!

          • I would say that monasticism was a major undertaking of Christians in the early middle ages and the late classical age, much more than say, an undertaking to model the universe and develop science, would you not agree?

          • Putting a man on the moon was "a major undertaking" of Americans, and yet what percentage really contributed? Surely your thesis statement is that Christianity is predominantly otherworldly (and not of this kind, which is actually required for modern science); if you cannot defend that (minimum standard: > 50%), then stop making claims you cannot back up with hard evidence.

            In order to criticize Christians for failing to put forth sufficient effort towards modeling the universe, you first have to establish that there was a significantly better route than what lay at hand. It's not clear to me that this is the case, especially when I take stuff like the following into account:

                Medieval theologians engaged in a new and unique genre of hypothetical reasoning. In order to expand the logical horizon of God's omnipotence as far as could be, they distinguished between that which is possible or impossible de potentia Dei absoluta as against that which is so de potentia Dei ordinata. This distinction was fleshed out with an incessant search for orders of nature different from ours which are nonetheless logically possible. Leibniz's contraposition of the nécessité logique (founded on the law of noncontradiction) and the nécessité physique (founded on the principle of sufficient reason) has its roots in these Scholastic discussions, and with it the questions about the status of laws of nature in modern philosophies of science. But medieval hypothetical reasoning did not serve future metatheoretical discussions alone. The considerations of counterfactual orders of nature in the Middle Ages actually paved the way for the formulation of laws of nature since Galileo in the following sense: seventeenth-century science articulated some basic laws of nature as counterfactual conditionals that do not describe any natural state but function as heuristic limiting cases to a series of phenomena, for example, the principle of inertia. Medieval schoolmen never did so; their counterfactual yet possible orders of nature were conceived as incommensurable with the actual structure of the universe, incommensurable either in principle or because none of their entities can be given a concrete measure. But in considering them vigorously, the theological imagination prepared for the scientific. This is the theme of my third chapter. (Theology and the Scientific Imagination, 10–11)

            It is so easy to pretend that modern science is an easy thing for people to accomplish, and that only hideous religious blinders could prevent them from doing so. But the more I investigate, the more I find that is a terrible model of reality. The sociological and psychological makeups required for modern science to happen seem rather intricate.

          • "your thesis statement is that Christianity is predominantly otherworldly"

            I wouldn't say that. I was focusing on the sell your possessions and follow me.

            I don't say it was easy it took hundreds of years to develop and certainly Christian theology contributed to it. I just think it is oversold here.

            I think a much stronger claim is that Christianity advanced a message of compassion and equality, helping the poor. This is an innovative and unusual for the time, though Cicero was saying things like this just before, and of course Christians were not so good at practicing this and still are not in many cases.

            You know i was watching James Burke's Connections last night "Voices from Afar" I think. And he did indeed claim that it was Christian thinking about a rational universe that enabled western thinkers to model the universe, take it a apart, see how it works and innovate. I do grant that, but Burke also noted that communication plays in both scientific and technological advances. I would also grant that the literacy and christian clergy and their monastic networks were key in the west's success. I also grant that though it is a practical innovation not a theological or philosophical.

            But Burke also noted that in the history of investigation into eventually led to electricity, some thinkers, clergy among them, looking at how to make better pumps for mines, needed to investigate the idea of a vaccuum. Burke said that the pope said vacuums do not exist and the (monk?) who wanted to investigate was a little to close to Rome to be making such inquiries. So he wrote this other monk in Paris to more safely look at this. I heard similar statements made in the Ascent of Man.

            Now all of this to say that, both as an atheist and someone who is interested in history, I think it is incumbent on me to recognize where positive contributions are made by religion. I think I have done that. But I have to say I never really see Christians make similar concessions about the history of the Catholic church.

            You have to remember that as atheists we do not just consider Catholicism or enlightened theists such as yourself. We are dealing with people Ken Ham preaching directly contrary to science and saying the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it. With serious claims and millions of dollars supporting the view that the Earth is 6000 years old and dinosaurs lived with humans.

            Anyway rant over.

          • LB: Surely your thesis statement is that Christianity is predominantly otherworldly [...]

            BGA: I wouldn't say that. I was focusing on the sell your possessions and follow me.

            Well, that was a bit hard to discern, given:

            TN: One common misconception is that Christianity is an inherently otherworldly religion that encourages its adherents to turn away from the material world, to renounce worldly possessions, and to give precedence to spiritual pursuits at the expense of worldly concerns.

            BGA: How is this a misconception, Jesus told people to do this:

            "Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.""

            After all, caring about the poor instead of ignoring them could be construed as turning towards the world, in all its grittiness.

            I don't say it was easy it took hundreds of years to develop and certainly Christian theology contributed to it. I just think it is oversold here.

            You may think that, but you've given absolutely zero reason to believe your judgment.

            Now all of this to say that, both as an atheist and someone who is interested in history, I think it is incumbent on me to recognize where positive contributions are made by religion. I think I have done that. But I have to say I never really see Christians make similar concessions about the history of the Catholic church.

            Then check out David Bentley Hart's Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. He makes plenty of "concessions".

            You have to remember that as atheists we do not just consider Catholicism or enlightened theists such as yourself. We are dealing with people Ken Ham preaching directly contrary to science and saying the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it. With serious claims and millions of dollars supporting the view that the Earth is 6000 years old and dinosaurs lived with humans.

            I'm not entirely sure what this has to do with the subject at hand. For example, I'm frustrated by the insane amount of intellectual praise heaped on Marxism over the years (as a solution to our problems, not the many legitimate characterizations of problems Marx made), largely by intellectual elites who never admitted their error after the true character of Maoism and Stalinism was revealed, but that has very little to do with whether Christianity was "otherworldly" as the term is meant today (as opposed to otherkosmosly, which pretty much any atheist would praise as a laudable goal).

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        Looking at one example is not enough... let's take a look at what Jesus and his various disciples say in the Bible about being otherworldly:

        Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom 12:2)

        If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but
        because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,
        therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19)

        Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. (1 John 15-16)

        You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

        But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil 3:20)

        Sounds like a bit of a running theme...

        • Ahhh. Let's recall some facts about 'the world' which the first century Jews inherited. To do this, we have to roll back the updates that Galileo made to our understanding of reality. No longer do values reside entirely within human minds; they are "out there". More than being "out there", the social order and natural order weren't different things. Here:

          For the use of the word 'dikē', both by Homer and by those whom he portrayed, presupposed that the universe had a single fundamental order, an order structuring both nature and society, so that the distinction which we mark by contrasting the natural and the social as yet cannot be expressed. To be dikaios is to conduct one's actions and affairs in accordance with this order. (Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, 14)

          That is the kosmos (translated as 'world' in Jn 15:19) in which just about everyone lived. What does it look like to break out of such a conception of reality? Maybe the passages you listed are good candidates? After all, you're challenging someone's entire conceptualization of reality, and not just conceptualization. Much of how we understand and navigate reality is non-cognitive. That too must be challenged. Your audience is not a people used to playing with entirely different conceptions of reality.

  • " From the sixth century onward, the monasteries of Ireland devoted much
    attention to classical pagan authors and the mathematical arts of the
    quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy)."

    Ok, why did this take 600 years, and why only in a remote backwater of Christianity? Why wasn't this happening in Rome, Constantinople, the heart of Christianity? Maybe it had something to do with Celtic Catholicism, the influence of paganism, not monotheism?

    "Medieval monks also engaged in manual labor and agricultural activity,
    which had an enormously beneficial impact on their physical
    surroundings."

    Guess what? Everyone except a tiny fraction of elites was "engaged in manual labor and agricultural activity" in 600 AD and in 600 BC and in 1800 AD. Meanwhile the Chinese were inventing gunpowder, paper, printing, and the compass.

  • David Nickol

    For those who, like me, find that the articles published by Strange Notions are rarely challenging either to atheists or Christians, you might take a look at an article by David Bentley Hart (held in high esteem by some Christians here) titled Christ's Rabble: The First Christians Were Not Like Us. One reason I bring it up here is because it would not be utterly bizarre to title David Bentley Hart's article What Has the West Done for Christianity? Here's a brief excerpt:

    The first, perhaps most crucial thing to understand about the earliest generations of Christians is that they were a company of extremists, radical in their rejection of the values and priorities of society not only at its most degenerate, but often at its most reasonable and decent. They were rabble. They lightly cast off all their prior loyalties and attachments: religion, empire, nation, tribe, even family. In fact, far from teaching “family values,” Christ was remarkably dismissive of the family. And decent civic order, like social respectability, was apparently of no importance to him. Not only did he not promise his followers worldly success (even success in making things better for others); he told them to hope for a Kingdom not of this world, and promised them that in this world they would win only rejection, persecution, tribulation, and failure. Yet he instructed them also to take no thought for the morrow.

    David Bentley Hart argues that Christianity and capitalism are fundamentally incompatible and raises the question how we in the West—comparing ourselves to the first followers of Jesus as depicted in the New Testament—can even consider ourselves Christians.

  • You say that Christianity does not view God as mysterious, yet this is a common reply to the Problem of Evil. Not only that, but Catholic doctrine itself as I understand it says God's trinitarian nature is a mystery. So while there is the aspect you speak of, it also seems the opposite was the case (which holds true for many things in Christianity I think here).

    On separation of church and state, this is not so clear either. For most of its history, Christianity supported its being the official religion, with persecution of dissidents and non-Christians to varying degrees. True, the Pope and kings were separate, jockeying with each other (though at the same time the Pope himself was a secular ruler for most of Church history), yet in the West these secular rulers recognized the Church as I said, and were at least in name subordinate to the Pope. When this began to change, this sparked the bloody Wars of Religion. Even so recently as 1864, the Pope then denounced the idea of separation, and many Catholics do not seem so enamored with it still.

    I cannot say I'm an expert on this subject, and definitely want to explore it more. Still, it seems telling to me that the Scientific Revolution began in the wake of the Reformation when the Church's hold weakened. Of course, this may be a coincidence. I'm also not saying Christianity is anti-science inherently, but the opposite view also appears to be dubious. As noted above, it seems to have different aspects, some more conducive, others less so.

    • Michael Murray

      I always find these articles strange on this site. We are supposed to be atheists engaging with theists. To me, whether Christianity enabled science is an interesting historical discussion but it doesn't really impact on the fundamental question: are there gods ? In a previous article the author described himself as a secular Muslim. I would be really interested in reading his take on the Catholic arguments for God that we see for example here

      http://www.strangenotions.com/god/existence/

      It might provide a different insight to the usual arguments we hear here.

      • Peter

        Your fundamental question "are there gods" is the wrong question for an atheist to ask. Either the world creates itself or there is an author/creator/designer to the world; that is the right question for an atheist to consider.

        Christianity enabling science does indeed impact on this fundamental question. Inspired by their belief in a divine author who lays down steadfast laws of nature, the early Christian scientists embarked upon a systematic study of the natural world with the aim of discovering and cataloguing these laws. They laid the foundation for a successful scientific method which is employed up to the present day by secular scientists everywhere.

        The current scientific method, bolstered by new technology, is unveiling a universe which has all the hallmarks of delicate fine-tuning and complex design. Thanks to the early efforts of inspired Christian scientists, the world is revealing itself to be the elegant and intricate handiwork of a super-designer. Their original belief in a divine lawgiver has set the human race on a course of discovery which can only end with that conclusion.

        • Doug Shaver

          Either the world creates itself or there is an author/creator/designer to the world

          This assumes a creation event. I don't think that assumption is justified.

          • Peter

            If you wish to defy the scientific consensus that the universe had a beginning, you would need to produce evidence.

          • Doug Shaver

            If you wish to defy the scientific consensus that the universe had a beginning, you would need to produce evidence.

            The scientific consensus is that we have no knowledge of what was going on in the universe prior to the Planck time.

          • Peter

            There would have been no time prior to the planck time for anything to have gone on.

          • Michael Murray

            That doesn't mean there wasn't a universe. It just means that time didn't make much sense until around about the Planck time.

          • Peter

            If there was no time until the planck time there was no spacetime until the planck time, and if there was no spacetime until the planck time there was no universe until the planck time.

          • Michael Murray

            So your definition of the universe is just space-time ? I assumed you were talking about the universe which is the reality we live in not the approximate model provided by general relativity when we ignore quantum effects.

          • Peter

            So your definition of the universe is just space-time?

            Of course; what evidence do you possess of other spacetimes?

          • Michael Murray

            I'm not arguing for other spacetimes. I am pointing out that space-time is a description of only some aspects of the universe. Space-time is part of general relativity: a theory of the gravitational force. There are other forces. It contains no quantum effects. We know there are quantum effects in the universe. So we know there is more to the universe than space-time. Physicists hope that there is a theory of quantum gravity which subsumes general relativity and explains what happens when the universe is so small quantum effects dominant the gravitational force. Such a theory would still be a model of the universe but it might only describe space-time (i.e. general relativity) in particular situations as a limiting approximation. In the same way that general relativity reduces to Newtonian gravity in particular situations like velocities much lower than the speed of light, masses not so high as to curve space-time etc.

          • Peter

            I recognise that, as an atheist, your cosmological arguments are honed against those who believe in a supernaturally created big bang, just as your evolutionary arguments are honed against those who believe in a supernaturally created humanity.

            However, I am not a creationist. I do not claim that God conjured up the big bang and its precise fine-tuning like a cosmic sorcerer. I am open to the possibility that there are as yet unknown natural scientific causes..

            You mention quantum effects. One quantum effect is time reversal symmetry. Without going into detail, it's theoretically possible that the events leading to the big bang were time reversed. In that sense there would be nothing before the big bang and the big bang would constitute a beginning.

          • Doug Shaver

            I meant prior to t = 5.39 x 10^44 sec, not t = 0.

          • Peter

            In terms of time, prior to t=5.39x10^-44sec makes no sense.

          • Doug Shaver

            In terms of time, prior to t=5.39x10^-44sec makes no sense.

            Would it make sense, in your judgment, to speak of a time prior to any other value?

          • Peter

            Time is quantised in discrete units of planck time, so one unit prior to another would constitute an earlier time.

          • Doug Shaver

            Time is quantised in discrete units of planck time, so one unit prior to another would constitute an earlier time.

            What does that have to do with whether I'm justified in doubting that there was a creation event?

          • Peter

            Because there was no time, and therefore no time for anything to have gone on, before the first unit of planck time.

          • Doug Shaver

            The Big Bang occurred during the first unit of Planck time that we know about. Being the first that we know about doesn't mean there was none before.

          • Sample1

            I am not a physicist, but it helps me to keep in mind something Sean Carroll teaches: (paraphrasing) there is the Big Bang (a model of our understanding of the expanding universe supported by evidence) and the event itself called the Big Bang, which is really only a placeholder term for our current ignorance and indeed isn't even an event at all!

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Peter

            You are using a "god-of-the-gaps" type argument, something you accuse theists of doing.

          • Doug Shaver

            A god-of-the-gaps argument says, "We don't know how X happened, therefore God made it happen." My argument is, "We don't know how X happened, therefore we don't know how X happened."

          • Peter

            You are appealing to ignorance to make a point. That is a "god-of-the-gaps" type argument.

          • Doug Shaver

            You are appealing to ignorance to make a point.

            In some contexts, an appeal to ignorance is a valid argument.

            That is a "god-of-the-gaps" type argument.

            Not in this context.

          • Michael Murray
          • Peter

            Doug raised the issue of planck time, so I'm just following the same line of reasoning.

      • It's an attempt to rebut one common argument made by atheists against Christianity, I guess. As you say though, it doesn't tell us whether gods (or rather God, here) exist or not. Many atheists may be very willing to admit everything in the article is true, but that brings them no closer to believing. Christianity may be useful but untrue. I would be interested too, though a lot of the arguments don't seem very Catholic-specific, therefore a Muslim could agree with them (indeed some of the same arguments Christians use were first made by Muslims).

  • VicqRuiz

    I believe that what Jesus meant in "Render unto Caesar" was that the church and state were not to be combined within the same organizational chart and that the leadership of both is not united in a single individual.

    While a worthy objective, that's not at all the same thing as our concept of separation of church and state, which means that the state has no jurisdiction in the realm of religious belief, that the power of the state may not be used to either suppress or to compel religious practices or religious opinions.

    In that sense of the phrase, separation of (edit: Christian) church and state ended with the reign of Theodosius I and began its rebirth with the 1689 Toleration Act.

    • Quite so. This is very different from the common meaning of the phrase.

    • Division of power does seem to be a prerequisite of separation, wouldn't you say? It's not clear that those in Jesus' time had anything like the appropriate conceptual resources or social institutions to think what we think by "separation of church and state".

      • VicqRuiz

        In Jesus' time - under the early Roman emperors - there was certainly more freedom of worship than there was under the Christian emperors.

        • Suppose you're correct (suppose Christians were never persecuted as badly as they persecuted). What'd be your point? Does the Holocaust, committed by one of the most Enlightened nations of the world, count against the Enlightenment as severely as you want this to count against Christianity?

          • David Nickol

            Are you saying that Christianity bears zero responsibility for the Holocaust?

          • That's quite irrelevant to the point at hand, and I'd rather not detour into a yes-and-no answer. I'm just saying that we can play the same game of blame with the Enlightenment as we can with Christianity. But if we want to talk about how various ideas got started, the blame game seems rather irrelevant.

          • VicqRuiz

            Luke:

            #1 - It was never my intent to bring something like the Holocaust into this discussion. In this thread I am confining my comments to the concept of separation of church and state as implemented in practice.

            #2 - I think it's appropriate to judge belief systems by their general behavior over as many nations and time periods as possible, rather than picking out the single vilest example. And in fact Catholicism has clearly been a force for good when it is opposed to tyranny (Graf von Galen, John Paul II). It's only when it allies with authoritarian states that it loses the moral high ground.

            #3 - Yes, Christians were persecuted. But when Christianity became allied with Roman state power, the result was a ban on all faiths other than Christianity. This sort of ban was not characteristic of pre-Christian Rome.

            If you can show me some Christian-majority nations between ca. 400-1600 where it was clear that that the expression and practice of alternative beliefs was in no way within the scope of government action, I'll readily grant that "Christianity" and "separation of church and state" can reasonably be combined in the same sentence.

          • #1 My point for bringing the Holocaust into the discussion is rather different from how it is typically used. What I am saying is that fact that the Holocaust happened in one of the most enlightened nations in the world does not detract from the concepts the Enlightenment introduced into human history. The same applies to whatever terrible things Christians may have done.

            #2 But we're not judging belief systems, we're trying to figure out which people contributed to important concepts and how. Christians could have been horrible for 99% of history and still have advanced crucial aspects to the separation of church and state.

            #3 Ahh, so when you said "freedom of worship", you meant "as long as you burn incense to Caesar".

            If you can show me some Christian-majority nations between ca. 400-1600 where it was clear that that the expression and practice of alternative beliefs was in no way within the scope of government action, I'll readily grant that "Christianity" and "separation of church and state" can reasonably be combined in the same sentence.

            I don't know my history well enough to say (although I hope to rectify this sometime) and I've already questioned whether someone in AD 400 could have comprehended what "separation of church and state" would even mean. But if you want to suggest that separation of church and state was created ex nihilo by Enlightenment folks, I'm going to argue that such socially relevant concepts don't emerge in that way. For example, in the first revision of Locke's A Letter Concerning Toleration, we find that atheists are not to be tolerated. Now, if you want you can refuse to give credit to anyone who doesn't advance an concept in its final form. But I would say that's a terrible way to do history and a terrible way to promote future improvement.

          • VicqRuiz

            But if you want to suggest that separation of church and state was created ex nihilo by Enlightenment folks, I'm going to argue that such socially relevant concepts don't emerge in that way.

            I'm not suggesting that the concept was dreamed up by a collection of deists and agnostics sitting around coffee house tables in London and Amsterdam.

            In fact, my read is that many of the laws which embody the concept of "separation of church and state" as we know it were in fact conceived largely by Christians who had simply had enough of the butchery of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

            - St. Bartholomew's Day
            - the Munster Rebellion
            - sack of Magdeburg
            and others

            Most of this butchery originated in power political struggles, but the churches of the time (both Protestant and Catholic) were all too willing to provide moral and financial support to their bloodthirsty princes. Few if any ecclesiastical leaders were prepared to stand up and say "This killing will not take place in the name of our faith."

            So yes, Christians do get to claim a lot of credit for separation of church and state. But it's the seventeenth and eighteenth century Christians who deserve that credit, having realized that as the state's power to compel or forbid religious opinion approaches zero, life gets a lot safer for everyone. And yes, it took quite a while for that "approach to zero" to be realized.

          • In fact, my read is that many of the laws which embody the concept of "separation of church and state" as we know it were in fact conceived largely by Christians who had simply had enough of the butchery of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

            There was definitely a significant amount of development of the doctrine during this time; what is unclear is how much antecedent work had already been done. Unless we think we've obtained the be-all and end-all of social orders, it might be beneficial to focus on early precursors.

            So yes, Christians do get to claim a lot of credit for separation of church and state. But it's the seventeenth and eighteenth century Christians who deserve that credit, having realized that as the state's power to compel or forbid religious opinion approaches zero, life gets a lot safer for everyone.

            So... we just ignore stuff like this:

            Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:20–28)

            ?

            P.S. Their "realization" seems to have been falsified by the twentieth century, both during world wars as well as e.g. the mass starvations in the USSR and China. That is, unless you wish to count per-capita as Steven Pinker does, in which case a "safer" world would be one where there are a quadrillion populated planets and every year, the worst behaving one gets obliterated from existence. Per capita, that would be better than our current situation, and yet I think most people would be rightly horrified at describing that as "better".

          • VicqRuiz

            Give the warring powers of Europe ca. 1200-1650 access to machine guns, strategic bombers and Zyklon B, and I suspect the twentieth century would have less cause to bow its head in shame.

            Edit: the Matthew citation is another good example of the wonderful example set by Jesus, an example disregarded by many of those who later wore the big hats and sat upon the golden thrones.

          • Give the warring powers of Europe ca. 1200-1650 access to machine guns, strategic bombers and Zyklon B, and I suspect the twentieth century would have less cause to bow its head in shame.

            I doubt it. I doubt there's very much preventing us from doing to ourselves, in the future, much worse than we did in the 20th century. Steven Pinker's 2011 The Better Angels of Our Nature is not too dissimilar from Immanuel Kant's 1795 Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch.

            Edit: the Matthew citation is another good example of the wonderful example set by Jesus, an example disregarded by many of those who later wore the big hats and sat upon the golden thrones.

            That's rather irrelevant as to whether it constitutes one of the key conceptual resources of the separation of church & state.

  • Peter

    Christians believe in God as divine author of natural laws which are both constant and universal. It was this early realisation that the natural world would be regulated, ordered and therefore intelligible, which gave them the confidence to proceed and study how it operates.

    Now of course secular science has taken over that role. With the aid of progressively improving technology it is uncovering a world of unimaginable elegance and design.

  • Steven Dillon

    I don't comment much on these sorts of articles because they strike me as cases of narrative over detail. The proposition that Christianity played a unique or indispensable role in the etiology of science is one more likely to be discussed in apologetics than history.

    • TamerNashef

      Steven Dillon, you're wrong. I suggest that you read the work of some of the most distinguished historians of science such as David Lindberg, Edward Grant, Toby Huff, and many others. Even though many of them are not professed Christians, they are all objective researchers who agree that the Christian worldview (a rational creator, a rationally structured universe, the image of man as a possessor of reason) and the Catholic Church as an institution played a predominantly vital role in promoting and sustaining the scientific enterprise in Western Europe (yes, particularly during the Middle Ages). This view may not have tricked down to the general public nor has it penetrated popular consciousness but it is still a fact.

      • Steven Dillon

        Detail says that Christianity facilitated the development of science, but only with reluctance and upon institutionally conforming under pressure to a multi-cultural momentum for knowledge that was well under way by the time Christians got in on it. Narrative says that Christianity facilitated the development of science. The latter is something relevant to apologetics, but which dies by a 1,000 qualifications if translated into the former. Historians -- such as the ones you brandish --understand that the devil is in the details, and thus the counter-productivity of arguing with non-Christians for a proposition so oversimplified as that 'at the end of the day, Christianity facilitated the development of science, period'.

        • Narrative says:

          KP: Scientists and philosophers, for instance, know that their assertions will be subjected to relentless scrutiny and skepticism.

          Detail says:

          Most important, in Broockman’s opinion, his experience highlights a failure on the part of political science to nurture and assist young researchers who have suspicions about other scientists’ data, but who can’t, or can’t yet, prove any sort of malfeasance. In fact, throughout the entire process, until the very last moment when multiple “smoking guns” finally appeared, Broockman was consistently told by friends and advisers to keep quiet about his concerns lest he earn a reputation as a troublemaker, or — perhaps worse — someone who merely replicates and investigates others’ research rather than plant a flag of his own. (The Case of the Amazing Gay-Marriage Data)

          Are you sure you want to drop to the level of detail? Pretty much everywhere, the process of making sausage is disgusting. And yet, the narrative version I cited has an important kernel of truth. Or shall we say that it's actually false when we look at all the ways that scientists and philosophers fall short of the ideal?

      • Doug Shaver

        they are all objective researchers

        In whose judgment?

  • Peter

    It's quite simple really. Sacred scripture and tradition tell Christians that God the Creator is divine Author of the constant and permanent laws of nature. Confident that this is true, they systematically sought out those laws and their effects on the natural world, a practice which continues to the present day.

    The results of this line of discovery, initiated by early Christian scientists and aided by modern technology, are a dawning recognition and looming realisation that the universe is designed down to the most meticulous detail. God revealed to our forefathers that he designed the cosmos in a rational manner potentially intelligible to ourselves.

    We have turned this potential into reality. We have discovered the workings of creation for ourselves, having as a young race been pointed in that direction by the Creator himself.

    • Doug Shaver

      It's quite simple really.

      It usually is, when you assume your conclusion.

      • Peter

        On the contrary, I follow the evidence; nothing more and nothing less.

        • Doug Shaver

          I follow the evidence; nothing more and nothing less.

          So do I, and it hasn't taken where where it has taken you. How do you think we might explain that?

          • Peter

            I don't know; it's clear to me. Scripture and tradition proclaim a rational world with steadfast natural laws. Belief in the rationality and order of creation gives the first scientists the confidence to systematically investigate the natural world. Modern science takes over and reveals a universe which increasingly appears to be designed by an intelligent mind.

            If the revelation of millennia ago was merely from men, how could they predict the findings of modern science which is that the whole of creation is ordered to the minutest degree? It is perfectly plausible for the Intellect behind creation to reveal this in advance to his creatures so that they can investigate for themselves and eventually find a path back to their Creator.

          • Doug Shaver

            Scripture and tradition proclaim a rational world with steadfast natural laws.

            Maybe that answers my question. For you, scripture and tradition are evidence about how the universe works. For me, they aren't.

          • Peter

            For you, scripture and tradition are evidence about how the universe works.

            No they are not. The only evidence about how the universe works is observed evidence. Scripture and tradition are evidence that we as a race were told about it before we found out for ourselves through our own observations.

          • Doug Shaver

            Scripture and tradition are evidence that we as a race were told about it before we found out for ourselves through our own observations.

            Could we have found it out if we had not been told?

          • Peter

            Could we have found it out if we had not been told?

            The Christian understanding of a rational and ordered creation is the historical linchpin that inspired early scientists with the confidence that the world was worth investigating, and which encouraged them to do so in a systematic and methodical way. Without such an understanding, it is difficult to imagine any other historical phenomenon that could have kickstarted the scientific revolution.

            In all probability we would still be quite backward, mired in ignorance, superstition and paganism. Humanity has been like that for millennia; there's no reason to believe that we could not be like that even now. Mankind's recent and rapid technological advance relative to the stagnation of the past millennia is due to Christianity.

          • Doug Shaver

            The Christian understanding of a rational and ordered creation is the historical linchpin that inspired early scientists with the confidence that the world was worth investigating, and which encouraged them to do so in a systematic and methodical way.

            Some Christians have been saying so lately. I have yet to see any compelling evidence to support the claim.

          • Peter

            I for my part have yet to see any compelling evidence to deny the claim. I can point to an influential body of early scientists who held Christian views, but not to a similarly influential body of early scientists who did not. In fact I can't point to any early scientist who did not hold such views.

          • Doug Shaver

            I for my part have yet to see any compelling evidence to deny the claim.

            Whatever works for you. I don't need a reason to not believe something. I need a reason to believe it.

          • Peter

            I would need a reason to believe that the origin of science was inspired by paganism, just as I would need a reason to believe that it was inspired by atheism.

          • Doug Shaver

            I would need a reason to believe that the origin of science was inspired by paganism, just as I would need a reason to believe that it was inspired by atheism.

            Good. I trust you'll remember that, if anyone ever tells you that science was inspired by either paganism or atheism.

          • Peter

            That's because paganism and atheism had no influence on the birth of science.

            However, the birth of science did occur exclusively in a region which was uniquely Christian, at a time when Christianity predominated, where Christian views were prevalent.

            Given the noted absence of paganism and atheism, and the dominance of Christian belief in all walks of life, I would need compelling evidence to believe that the birth of science was inspired by anything other than Christianity.

          • Doug Shaver

            I would need compelling evidence to believe that the birth of science was inspired by anything other than Christianity.

            I would need compelling evidence to believe it needed inspiration from any source besides human nature.

          • Peter

            Human nature has been around for more than one hundred and fifty thousand years, for as long as humans have existed. It cannot be deemed to be specially instrumental to an event which only occurred several centuries ago.

            That the birth of science did not take place at any time within the preceding millennia, when human nature was no different to what it is today, is compelling evidence that human nature per se was not the source of its inspiration.

          • Doug Shaver

            Human nature has been around for more than one hundred and fifty thousand years, for as long as humans have existed.

            Yes, it has.

            Scientific knowledge has been growing exponentially since the period we usually call the Enlightenment. Do you know what an exponential curve looks like for negative values of the independent variable?

          • Peter

            The issue here is not the growth of science but the birth of science. Once the discoveries of science begin, it is obvious that, on the back of them, knowledge will begin to progress slowly at first and then at an ever increasing rate.

          • Doug Shaver

            The issue here is not the growth of science but the birth of science.

            Then we disagree about what constitutes science. I believe there has been science for as long as there have been human beings.

          • Peter

            If that were true we'd have colonised the stars by now.

          • Doug Shaver

            You prove my point that we don't agree about what constitutes science. Science, as I understand it, has not yet demonstrated even the possibility of our ever colonizing the stars, much less that we could have done it by now if we'd started the enterprise several thousand years ago.

          • Doug Shaver

            I can point to an influential body of early scientists who held Christian views, but not to a similarly influential body of early scientists who did not.

            In those days, what percentage of the European population do you think did not hold Christian views? Maybe you're noticing a correlation and inferring causation?

          • Peter

            Of course I'm noticing a correlation and inferring causation. The birth of science occurred in a continent which was uniquely Christian. Had Christian views not prevailed, science as we know it would not have been born.

          • Doug Shaver

            For you, scripture and tradition are evidence about how the universe works.

            No they are not .

            They are testimony, aren't they? Is testimony not evidence?

  • Robert Conner

    You're serious? Apparently so. Isaac Newton was a devout Christian. Yes, and an alchemist. Given his era and religious strictures, what else could Newton have possibly been? In point of fact Christianity's Roman critics had it spot on 18 centuries ago. Details here:

    https://www.scribd.com/doc/302045278/Christianity-s-Critics-The-Romans-Meet-Jesus

    • Michael Murray

      Depends what devout means I guess

      Like many contemporaries (e.g., Thomas Aikenhead) he lived with the threat of severe punishment if he had been open about his religious beliefs. Heresy was a crime that could have been punishable by the loss of all property and status or even death (see, e.g., the Blasphemy Act 1697). Because of his secrecy over his religious beliefs, Newton has been described as a Nicodemite.[9]

      According to most scholars, Newton was Arian, not holding to Trinitarianism.[9][21][22] 'In Newton's eyes, worshipping Christ as God was idolatry, to him the fundamental sin'.[23] As well as being antitrinitarian, Newton allegedly rejected the orthodox doctrines of the immortal soul,[9] a personal devil and literal demons.[9] Although he was not a Socinian he shared many similar beliefs with them.[9] A manuscript he sent to John Locke in which he disputed the existence of the Trinity was never published.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Isaac_Newton

      • Peter

        You are missing the point concerning Newton. Regardless of his trinitarian views, the fact that his science was inspired by the Christian revelation of an ordered creation is beyond question:

        “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being . . . This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God.”

        https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/newtons-views-on-science-and-faith/

        • Michael Murray

          I'm not really concerned about that. I am just continually amused by how often this rather conservatively Catholic site likes to pretend that

          "SN Catholicism" = "Catholicism" = "Christianity"

          when it helps their cause. Not so keen when my Anglican mother was marrying my Catholic father. That could not happen in the main body of the Church in front of the altar and could not happen at all if the children were going to raised Anglican instead of Catholic. But I guess these days, like the fires of hell, these things have changed.

          • Alexandra

            Would you mind giving examples where SN Catholicism has differed from Catholicism?

          • Michael Murray

            All I am claiming is that the opinions of SN Catholics are a subset but not equal to the opinions of Catholics which are a subset but not equal to the opinions of Christians. By opinions I mean their relevant religious opinions of course. It seems to me that this is a standard device amongst the apologist posts that we get so many of here.

            I don't think I really need to cite particular examples to make this claim. But here are some members of the broader Catholic Church that I think I can safely say do not have opinions agreed to by the people who write articles for Strange Notions.

            http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/

          • Alexandra

            But surely you can distinguish between orthodox/consensus opinions, from fringe and/or dissent. Not every indiscriminate "religious" opinion an individual catholic may have, has equal weight and merit in representing the Catholic Church. Fortunately, the Church does a good job of representing itself, clearly, as to where it stands.

            So, yes there can be varying opinions, but that doesn't mean all are equally valid, or representative, or a subset.. An analogy:

            Let's say there's a website called "Biologists for Creationism".

            Do you then say evolutionary biology is a subset of opinions in Biology and creationism (who we can safely say disagree with evolutionists) is another subset of Biology? Of course not. It is clear by Biology's scientific standards that creationism is not part of Biology. It doesn't matter that some biologists believe in creationism. It doesn't change how Biology is currently understood and represented.

            So just because you found a website of Catholics for "choice" it doesn't mean it is one of equal opinions within the Catholic Church- just like creationism is not one of equal opinion in Biology. It's outside of it.

          • Michael Murray

            So why hasn't the Vatican excommunicated Catholics for Choice if they are so clearly outside Catholicism.

          • Alexandra

            So far we've been discussing ideas inside or outside the Church.
            What makes a person (or group) within or outside the Church is a more complex question. With regards to CFC, the Catholic Bishop's Conference has specifically declared this group is not part of the Catholic Church:

            From a statement by Cardinal Dolan:

            As the U.S. Catholic bishops have stated for many years, the use of the name ‘Catholic’ as a platform to promote the taking of innocent human life is offensive not only to Catholics, but to all who expect honesty and forthrightness in public discourse.

            CFC [Catholics for Choice] is not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way. It has no membership, and clearly does not speak for the faithful....

            So it would a false statement to say CFC is part of the Catholic Church.

          • Doug Shaver

            So it would a false statement to say CFC is part of the Catholic Church.

            What about its members? Are they still part of the church?

          • Alexandra

            Hi Doug,
            Thanks for the question.

            In his encyclical On the Mystical Body of Christ , Pope Pius XII said:
             "Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed."

            Joseph Fenton writes:

            "According to Pope Pius XII, four factors alone are necessary in order that a man be counted as a member of the true Church. These are (1) the reception of baptism, and thus the possession of the baptismal character, (2) the profession of the true faith, which is, of course, the faith of the Catholic Church, (3) the fact that a person has not cut himself away from the structure or the fabric of the "Body," which is, of course, the Church itself, and (4) the fact that a person has not been expelled from the membership of the Church by competent ecclesiastical authority."

            For example, an Athiest who was baptized a Catholic, but no longer professes the faith, and is separated, is not a member. If they return to professing the faith and the Sacraments, they are a member again.

            Regarding Fenton's #2, the profession of true faith, it's possible for a Catholic to not profess the true faith unintentionally, such as out of error/mistake or ignorance. This does not preclude them from remaining a member of the church.
            Because the faith is taught, it is the responsibility of each Church member to faithfully and correctly pass on information -the faith. But mistakes happen, the teachings are complex, and people can be misled or in error. So it is also the responsibility of Church members, especially in authority, to "correct" the error, such as explaining a teaching clearly and providing authoritative information. As long as the individual in error is not purposefully, or intentionally, or defiantly trying to go against the Church, and receptive to correction, they are members.

            Clearly, that Catholics can support abortion is a false teaching, and not professing the true faith. So it is the responsibility of the Church to correct this error; such as, the public correction by Cardinal Dolan.
            So it's a question of intent, ignorance, and defiance, etc. as to whether the CFC members are still Catholic. It depends on the individual.

            Pope Francis said dissenting individuals [like the CFC members]:
            “They may call themselves Catholic, but they have one foot out the door.”

            Pope John Paul II said:
            "It is sometimes reported that a large number of Catholics today do not adhere to the teaching of the Catholic Church on a number of questions, notably sexual and conjugal morality, divorce and remarriage. Some are reported as not accepting the clear position on abortion. It has to be noted that there is a tendency on the part of some Catholics to be selective in their adherence to the Church's moral teaching. It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the Magisterium is totally compatible with being a "good Catholic," and poses no obstacle to the reception of the Sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching of the Bishops in the United States and elsewhere."

            Regarding #4
            Here's an article that goes into more detail.

            http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2016/05/06/before-calling-someone-a-heretic-you-might-want-to-check-canon-law/

            Note that "the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being" is a credenda teaching, and under the delict of heresy.

            To summarize, CFC members are in grave error, not professing the true faith, are risking disunity with the Church, and if obstinate and defiant are at the level of public heresy.

            Edit: added words

          • Doug Shaver

            Alexandra, thank you for taking the time for such an informative response.

        • Doug Shaver

          Regardless of his trinitarian views, the fact that his science was inspired by the Christian revelation of an ordered creation is beyond question:

          You don't question it. That doesn't mean nobody can question it.

          Your quotation shows that Newton believed his scientific discoveries were consistent with his religious beliefs, nothing more. They don't prove that he would not have made his discoveries if he hadn't held those beliefs.

          • Peter

            If you read the link I provided, there is another quote where Newton relates his scientific work to his religious belief:

            "When I wrote my treatise about our system, I had an eye upon such principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a Deity, and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose.”

          • Doug Shaver

            If you read the link I provided, there is another quote where Newton relates his scientific work to his religious belief:

            I'm not denying that there was a relationship. I'm disagreeing with you about the nature of the relationship, not its existence.

          • Peter

            From the quote, it looks like Newton's religious beliefs motivated his scientific discoveries. Without the former there'd have been nothing to motivate the latter.

            His discoveries were inspired by his desire to make men aware of the handiwork of God as "an intelligent and powerful Being" who "governs all things...as Lord over all" and who "on account of his dominion" is "called Lord God."

          • Doug Shaver

            From the quote, it looks like Newton's religious beliefs motivated his scientific discoveries.

            That's your interpretation of what he wrote.

      • Robert Conner

        Excellent points. Asking 17th century Europeans what they really believed about Christianity might be like asking present-day Saudis how they really feel about Islam.

  • Peter

    I used to think that there were two types of belief in God, deism - belief in a Creator who is aloof from his creation, and theism - belief in a Creator who interacts with his creatures. Now I am convinced that deism cannot exist. There can be no such thing as a Creator who is aloof. Only a Creator who interacts with his creation can exist.

    The concept of deism, strongly associated with the Enlightenment, is meaningless and the reason is quite straightforward. Those who embrace deism attribute qualities to the Creator such as intelligence, reason and the ability to create a universe governed by natural laws that are constant, ordered and intelligible.

    Yet the very trigger which inspired the human race to discover an ordered and intelligible universe - and therefore attribute its creation to a rational Creator - was the scripture and tradition of revealed Christianity. Without that revelation, there could have been no understanding of an intelligent Creator, no knowledge of an ordered universe and no deism.

    So deism rests in a paradox. It relies on something which automatically excludes it, namely a Creator who interacts with his creatures.

    • Doug Shaver

      Now I am convinced that deism cannot exist. There can be no such thing as a Creator who is aloof.

      You seem to be conflating belief with that which is believed. The existence of a belief in X has nothing to do with whether it is possible for that X to exist.

      • Peter

        It is not a question of belief but a question of reasoning, which leads to the conclusion that deism is a paradox.

        Deists claim that theirs is a natural religion where God is made known through the observation of an ordered and intelligible universe. Deists reject revealed religion; they reject revelation as a means of knowing God.

        The paradox is that it is scripture and tradition which revealed in the first place that the universe is ordered and intelligible. It is this confidence which inspired men to begin finding out for themselves. Without the revelation of scripture and tradition, there would be no recognition of an ordered and intelligible universe and no deism.

        • Doug Shaver

          It is not a question of belief but a question of reasoning

          It is a question of what it means to believe something. You're telling me that the God you believe in cannot be aloof, and I accept that. It does not follow, however, that it is impossible for anyone else to believe in an aloof God.

          it is scripture and tradition which revealed in the first place that the universe is ordered and intelligible.

          So says your religion. I get it that you think yours is the only religion that makes any sense.

          • Peter

            I am only following the evidence where it leads and make no apologies for it. The historical evidence is that a pervading Christian mindset existed in Middle Ages Europe which was directly conducive to the successful birth and development of science right up to the present day.

            This mindset was generated and inspired by Christian revelation which taught that God created the world (creation had a beginning), that God was separate from his creation, and that God was a rational Creator who laid down universal laws which are constant, ordered and intelligible to his creatures.

            Contrast this with the stillbirth of science in the great civilisations of India, China and Egypt. For them the universe was an eternally-occurring cycle in which the creator was synonymous with the universe itself. Everything was incorporated into an eternal pantheistic organism where things were considered just to be and the question of how they came to be was deemed unnecessary.

          • Doug Shaver

            I am only following the evidence where it leads and make no apologies for it.

            That's what they all say.

          • Peter

            It's what Antony Flew said when the evidence led him to abandon his atheism, adopt deism and admit being open to theism.

          • Doug Shaver

            That's what I mean. I've seen all the same evidence to which he was referring, and I don't agree that it leads to where he went.

          • Michael Murray

            I am only following the evidence where it leads and make no apologies for it.

            Surely you mean "I am only following the evidence as I see it where I think it leads ... "

          • Peter

            I did not make up the historical evidence. It was there before I was born. Throughout Medieval Christian Europe two crucial concepts were understood simultaneously:

            1. Creation was separate and distinct from its Creator. It
            was not divine and untouchable. It was not animate and
            it was not eternal.
            2. Creation was built on steadfast universal laws which
            were intelligible to men. These were rational laws laid
            down by an intelligent Creator.

            The result of this was that, for the first time in history and facilitated by the status quo, men acquired the confidence and courage to isolate creation from the Creator and treat it as a subject of methodical and systematic study. There lies the key.

          • Lazarus

            Surely that goes for everybody.

          • Michael Murray

            I was going to say that. Then I wasn't sure if I thought there is a case that scientific evidence is less subjective than that. I still haven't decided so I let it go. But basically yes I agree with that.

    • Doug Shaver

      Yet the very trigger which inspired the human race to discover an ordered and intelligible universe - and therefore attribute its creation to a rational Creator - was the scripture and tradition of revealed Christianity. Without that revelation, there could have been no understanding of an intelligent Creator, no knowledge of an ordered universe and no deism.

      What, then, do you think Paul meant when he wrote this to the Romans?

      For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.

      [Edited for typo.]

      • Peter

        Knowledge of God's eternal power and divine nature are not the same as knowledge of his authorship of a universe governed by natural laws that are constant, ordered and intelligible.

        It is only through the understanding wrought by Christian revelation that God is deemed a rational creator who lays down intelligible laws of nature that are universal and unchanging.

        It was confidence in the guaranteed universality and unchangeability of these laws which inspired early Christian scientists to methodically study the world.

        • Doug Shaver

          Knowledge of God's eternal power and divine nature are not the same as knowledge of his authorship of a universe governed by natural laws that are constant, ordered and intelligible.

          You're telling me what Paul did not mean. I asked you what he did mean.

          • Peter

            You can find a good commentary on this verse here:

            http://biblehub.com/niv/romans/1-20.htm

          • Doug Shaver

            You can find a good commentary on this verse here:

            If I agreed that Paul's intended meaning was exactly as stated in that commentary, I would think it logically followed that it was obvious to any reasonable person that the universe was governed by ordered and intelligible natural laws.

          • Peter

            St Paul says that man has always been capable of recognising God's divine nature - his omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence - by looking at the vastness, variety and harmony of creation and, through seeing it being continuously sustained and governed, his eternal power.

            It says nothing about HOW creation is governed. That knowledge comes through revelation. Had the knowledge come naturally, from the beginning as you suppose, science would have begun millennia ago and would have progressed much further by now.

          • David Nickol

            St Paul says that man has always been capable of recognising God's divine nature . . .

            Paul was no doubt a brilliant man, but there is no need for non-Christians to accept him as an authority on what is or is not obvious to human beings. Similarly, the Catholic Church has declared it dogma that God "can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason." It has long struck me as odd that the Church has made an "authoritative" declaration on what can be known by human reason. If something can be known by human reason, then demonstrating it conclusively by human reason ought to be sufficient. Dogmatic declarations should be unnecessary. That is, it should not be a matter of faith that a particular truth (or alleged truth) can be known by reason.

          • Peter

            Dogmatic declarations withstand the test of time. The Church is saying that this declaration is true, has always been true and will always be true. It is insufficient for it to be shown to be true merely in the present; it must be guaranteed to be true at all times. This is what the Church does and Catholics have faith that this is true.

            In fact, going forward into the future can only reinforce the veracity of the declaration. The natural intelligibility of the cosmos to man forms part of the natural light of human reason. The more we study the cosmos the more we realise how finely tuned it is for life and the more we recognise God's handiwork.

            My favourite is the Hoyle state of the carbon nucleus which regulates the fusion of carbon from helium and into oxygen in such precise proportions as to make life possible. The next great mystery is the step from organic compounds to self-replicating molecules. No doubt this will also involve another finely tuned process which is waiting to be discovered.

          • Doug Shaver

            It says nothing about HOW creation is governed.

            Strictly speaking, I suppose not. Some of us, though, feel certain that a universe created by a benevolent being would have to be governed by ordered and intelligible natural laws.

          • Peter

            What you may feel is one thing, but what logically follows is another.

          • Doug Shaver

            What you may feel is one thing, but what logically follows is another.

            Of course. But this discussion is about what people have or have not believed about God. Are you claiming that most people who believe in God have always followed the dictates of logic even when it has contradicted their feelings?

  • Peter

    Modern atheists proclaim a rational scientific outlook as the weapon against revealed religion (e.g. Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science).

    It is ironic that it was revealed religion itself which gave rise to the rational scientific outlook in the first place. Just like deism, modern atheism relies for it's raison d'etre on something which would automatically exclude it.