• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Marin Mersenne: A Priest at the Heart of the Scientific Revolution

V0003990 Marin Mersenne. Line engraving by P. Dupin, 1765.

In late 1644, the Minim friar Marin Mersenne (1588-1648) travelled to Florence and assisted Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647) in repeating his famous barometric experiment. When Mersenne returned to France, he shared Torricelli’s discovery with his network of correspondents, “giving rise to flourishing experimental and theoretical activities,”1 including the famous work on the weight of air conducted by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). This is one of many contributions Mersenne would make to the scientific enterprise.

Called “an architect of the European scientific community”2 and “one of the most important figures in the history of modern thought,”3 Mersenne is virtually unknown to non-historians, although mathematicians may recognize his name from Mersenne Primes.4

Mersenne was one of the greatest facilitators and correspondents in the history of science, acting as a “clearing house for scientific and philosophical information in the decades just prior to the appearance of the first learned journals.”5 In 1635, Mersenne created the Académie Parisienne, a precursor to the Académie des Sciences.

One of Mersenne’s closest collaborators was Rene Descartes (1596-1650). Both men had attended the Jesuit College at La Flèche, although Descartes was several years younger. Later, Mersenne would assist in the publication of Descartes’ Discourse on Method, and, after Descartes relocated to the Dutch Republic, Mersenne would keep the Father of Modern Philosophy updated on French intellectual developments, while acting as “Descartes’ mouthpiece to the republic of letters.”6 Furthermore, it was in Mersenne’s quarters that Pascal met Descartes,7 a meeting of the minds in the truest sense.

In addition to Torricelli, Pascal, and Descartes, Mersenne’s friends and correspondents included the mathematicians Pierre de Fermat8 and Girard Desargues,9 philosopher Thomas Hobbes,10 and the churchman-astronomer Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc.11 In total, Mersenne corresponded with 140 key thinkers from throughout Europe (and as far away as Tunisia, Syria, and Constantinople),12 and his compiled correspondence now fills 12 volumes.

Mersenne, however, offers us much more. He made several other important contributions to the scientific enterprise, especially in the fields of acoustics, scientific methodology, telescope and pendulum theory, and in the study of the motion of falling objects.

Mersenne is often credited as one of the founders of acoustics. In this field, he pioneered “the scientific study of the upper and lower limits of audible frequencies, of harmonics, and of the measurement of the speed of sound,13 which he showed to be independent of pitch and loudness.” Furthermore, he “established that the intensity of sound, like that of light, is inversely proportional to the distance from its source.”14 His work in acoustics is immortalized in his eponymous three laws describing the relationship between frequency and the tension, weight, and length of strings.

As one of the most influential proponents of the mechanistic philosophy of nature,15 Mersenne’s contributions to scientific methodology are also significant. Mersenne, who was inspired by Francis Bacon,16 was an ardent defender of the rationality of nature, as well a strong opponent of magic and the occult.

His “insistence on the careful specification of experimental procedures, repetition of experiments, publication of the numerical results of actual measurements as distinct from those calculated from theory, and recognition of approximations marked a notable step in the organization of experimental science in the seventeenth century.”17 The Catholic Encyclopedia (a sympathetic voice, to be sure) goes as far as identifying the work of Mersenne and Galileo in experimenting with the weight of air as “the beginning of the development of the experimental method”18 (This experimentation was not his only connection to the great Italian scientist: Mersenne translated Galileo’s work on mechanics19 and helped to spread Galileo’s ideas in France).

In his work with pendulums, Mersenne discovered that “the frequency of a pendulum is inversely proportional to the square root of its length.”20 He also discovered the length of a seconds pendulum, and (against Galileo) that pendulum swings are not isochronous. Furthermore, Mersenne’s suggestion to Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) that the pendulum could be used as a timing device partially inspired the pendulum clock.21

Mersenne did much more than contribute significantly to the scientific enterprise. He engaged and embraced the best ideas and minds of his time. In his century of genius, the power of the human mind reached new heights in its ability to understand the laws of nature. Against this backdrop, Mersenne championed the unity of truth.22

Encouraged by his order and always a loyal son of the Church,23 Mersenne was operating at the heart of the Scientific Revolution. And he demands the attention today of both Catholics and atheists.
 
 
(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Notes:

  1. “Torricelli, Evangelista.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. 13. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008. 439.
  2. “Mersenne, Marin.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. 9. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008. 316.
  3. Popkin, Richard H. The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Descartes. Assen: Van Gorcum, 1960. 131.
  4. In mathematics, Mersenne also made a study of the cycloid, worked with combinations and permutations in his music theory, and edited works of Greek mathematicians.
  5. Collins, James. God in Modern Philosophy. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1959. 51.
  6. The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. 183.
  7. Mersenne, DSB, 9, 316.
  8. Fermat’s theorem on sums of two squares was announced in a letter to Mersenne.
  9. See “Desargues, Girard.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. 4. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008. 47.
  10. “The Englishman, Thomas Hobbes, first began to develop his views on the physical universe after he made contact with Mersenne and his friends.” (Butterfield, Herbert. The Origins of Modern Science. New York: The Free Press, 1965. 83-84.
  11. “Mersenne and Peiresc regularly exchanged letters, discussing news of books, experiments, observations, and the theories and opinions that were opening fresh perspectives on knowledge of the natural world.” (“Peiresc, Nicolas Claude Fabri De.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. 9. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008. 489.)
  12. Mersenne, DSB, 9, 316.
  13. Mersenne and Pierre Gassendi “estimated the speed of sound as 1,038 feet per second, a passable approximation for the time.” (Gassendi, DSB, 5, 288)
  14. Mersenne, DSB, 9, 319.
  15. “In the circle around Mersenne in the 1630’s the idea of a complete mechanistic interpretation of the universe came out into the open, and its chief exponents were the most religious men in the group that we are discussing. They were anxious to prove the adequacy and the perfection of Creation—anxious to vindicate God’s rationality.” (Butterfield, 85)
  16. Although an admirer, Mersenne reproached Bacon for not keeping up with the progress of the sciences (Mersenne, DSB, 9, 317)
  17. Mersenne, DSB, 9, 318.
  18. “History of Physics.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911.
  19. “Galilei, Galileo.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. 5. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008. 239.
  20. Mersenne, DSB, 9, 319.
  21. Buckley, Michael J. At the Origins of Modern Atheism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. 65.
  22. Mersenne wrote that “the true philosophy never conflicts with the belief of the Church.” (Mersenne, DSB, 9, 317)
  23. For example, Mersenne dedicated several works to prominent Churchmen.
Andrew Kassebaum

Written by

Andrew Kassebaum is the Evangelization Coordinator for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Before stepping into this role, Andrew earned a Master's degree in theology from Ave Maria University. After years of skepticism and reductionism, Andrew's life changed forever upon reading Pope Saint John Paul II's writings on the human person. Andrew is fascinated by the question of why science developed in Western Europe at a unique time in history.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Loreen Lee

    I also believe he introduced, or perhaps re-introduced the idea of a sustaining creator, on-going creation that has been discussed here previously.. Am I correct in this belief, -does anyone know? I have read into (partially) his critique of Descartes, vis-a-vis their correspondence. He no doubt had an influence there, as well...

    • William Davis

      I was vaguely familiar with Marin because of an encryption algorithm:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mersenne_twister

      Quick research only shows he was a disciple of Descarte, but very important for the development of acoustics. I like his positions against magic and occult (too bad that garbage is still around today). Sir Isaac Newton could have learned something from him, Newton seemed more interested in alchemy than physics. I think Gregor Mendel was another important priest in science history.

      • Loreen Lee

        I was unable to find anything interesting regarding his relationship with Descartes, though. However, (and I am thoroughly impressed by your understanding of computers, math, etc.) perhaps with your acumen you might be able to join the club who are looking for more primes!!!! grin grin http://www.mersenne.org/primes/

        • Andrew Kassebaum

          Loreen: You weren't able to find anything interesting regarding Mersenne's relationship with Descartes?

          • Loreen Lee

            Nonsense! I found this: http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/D/bo3632998.html Also a lot on their independent careers, etc.

          • Gray

            Is seems that the two were close friends and discussed metaphysics. Hope this will be of interest.

            The philosopher wrote the letter on May 27, 1641 at Endegeest castle, close to Leiden, the Netherlands. It is part of an intensive exchange between Descartes and his friend Marin Mersenne concerning the publication of Descartes’ Meditations on Metaphysics.

            http://www.haverford.edu/news/stories/35971/51

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks Gray. I'm glad it went back to the French institute.

        • Andrew Kassebaum

          Loreen: You weren't able to find anything interesting regarding Mersenne's relationship with Descartes?

      • Mike

        And this dude of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre

        and this guy, although he was only a Canon lawyer not ordained:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Copernicus

        • William Davis

          Lemaître definitely made important contributions, some argue Hubble's law should be renamed after him. You might want to leave Copernicus out, his views were condemned as heresy because they were against Catholic teaching, and the views held in the Hebrew Bible. This ended up getting Galileo imprisoned until he died. Not a good moment for Catholicism. This is when the tables started to turn, and science began to dominate theology instead of vice versa. The Catholic church has come a long way since then :)

          • Mike

            But i don't think Copernicus was killed for his discoveries by the church was he?

          • William Davis

            No, they weren't condemned until after he died. He died naturally.

          • Mike

            Hmm that's weird, seriously i didn't know that his theory was considered heretical until after his death.

          • Doug Shaver

            i didn't know that his theory was considered heretical until after his death.

            He didn't publish his theory until he was near death. He knew the sort of reception it would get.

          • Mike

            he was also from eastern europe...i wonder why it took a catholic from that region to figure out the earth wasn't stationary...incredible if you think about it.

          • MNb

            Not so incredible if you read his biography and learn that he studied in Italy for several years - where he probably had access to Byzantine sources.

            Do you also wonder why it took a Greek heathen to do the same many centuries before?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristarchus_of_Samos

          • Mike

            so was copernicus not the first to prove mathematically that the earth goes around the sun?

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            William: There is no doubt that the Galileo Affair is a significant black mark in the history of the Church's relationship with the scientific enterprise. But the situation is quite a bit more nuanced than usually presented. For example, Copernicus was encouraged by several prominent Churchmen to publish his theories, and De Revolutionibus was dedicated to Pope Paul III. Furthermore, Galileo really wasn't imprisoned (see Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion). Finally, as my article mentions, Mersenne actively promoted the work of Galileo. We really can't speak of a monolithic response.

          • William Davis

            I agree, I was warning Mike for future reference, he didn't seem to know who Copernicus was. Galileo was under house arrest, that's imprisonment, just not IN prison. Notice my comment about the Church coming a long way since then :)

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            I think we have to be careful here. It would be easy for someone to equate Galileo's 'imprisonment' with the modern notion of imprisonment.

            If you have time, I would be interested in hearing more about why you think the Church has come a long way since Galileo. Thanks!

          • William Davis

            Since Galileo, the Church has learned to accept scientific views of the world over those in scripture, primarily the Hebrew Bible. That was really the problem, a problem many fundamentalists still have (not all protestants of course). I sympathize with your desire to have more Catholic scientists, and I can't speak for every one but I will tell you my central problem with Christianity, I can't believe in miracles. (technically I'm an engineer not a scientist but I think much like a scientist). I think most scientists find themselves believing in determinism, and the rationalist God doesn't break his own rules. He also does not chose a "special" people (he's not a racist God). Personally, my favorite religion is Buddhism, and I'm not anti-Christian, I just don't think we can say very much about God, he is much more mysterious than even the Bible admits. Einstein summed it up well:

            ...there is found a third level of religious experience, even if it is seldom found in a pure form. I will call it the cosmic religious sense. This is hard to make clear to those who do not experience it, since it does not involve an anthropomorphic idea of God; the individual feels the vanity of human desires and aims, and the nobility and marvelous order which are revealed in nature and in the world of thought. He feels the individual destiny as an imprisonment and seeks to experience the totality of existence as a unity full of significance. Indications of this cosmic religious sense can be found even on earlier levels of development—for example, in the Psalms of David and in the Prophets. The cosmic element is much stronger in Buddhism, as, in particular, Schopenhauer's magnificent essays have shown us. The religious geniuses of all times have been distinguished by this cosmic religious sense, which recognizes neither dogmas nor God made in man's image. Consequently there cannot be a church whose chief doctrines are based on the cosmic religious experience. It comes about, therefore, that we find precisely among the heretics of all ages men who were inspired by this highest religious experience; often they appeared to their contemporaries as atheists, but sometimes also as saints.[28]

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_and_science

            Can Catholicism become like Buddhism? I don't know if it can and still be Catholicism. This doesn't mean that there won't be a place for Catholicism in the world for a long time, but it is problematic for those of us with a strong cosmic religious sense.

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            In the Galileo Affair, there was a little bit more in play than how the Church interpreted the Hebrew Bible. Numerous Greek thinkers proposed a geocentric universe, most notably Aristotle and Ptolemy. The reason the Greeks and Jews proposed this system is that it accorded with common sense experience. It took decades to work out the science of heliocentrism.

            I cannot say much about Einstein's subjective views of Buddhism. The passage you shared is nebulous, at least for me. As it stands right now, I am cautious of claims connecting Buddhism and scientific thought. Buddhism has failed to produce first-rate scientific thinkers, and I don't see a Buddhist culture as particularly conducive to the creation of the institutions necessary for science to flourish. Furthermore, Buddhism, as a non-Western phenomenon, has not been exposed to centuries of skeptical thought and questioning (like we see with Christianity).

            Out of curiosity, what would it look like to you, if Catholicism became more like Buddhism?

          • William Davis

            Your criticisms of Buddhism are valid, and someone who sits around and meditates all day does NOT make the world a better place like a Christian who goes out and helps the poor. Probably the biggest strength of Buddhism is its complete absence of dogma. I've always been fond the of the parable of the blind men and the elephant when it comes to viewing God. Sure, there is a fact of the matter, an elephant is an elephant, but the blind men's perception limits them so much one thinks the elephant is a rope, the other a tree. Often somethings strength is also its weakness, and the idea that we are too limited to understand God and reality prevented them from trying, this is probably why Buddhism never contributed to science historically (but Buddhists are now, look at Japan and Korea).

            Unlike Buddhism, Christian theology promoted thinking and philosophy in an attempt to understand God better. Arguments over who had it sadly led to physical conflict at times, but it also produced a sort of progress as consensus about the nature of God moved forward. In my mind, however, we have evolved God from a man-like being who walked the Garden of Eden and wrestled with Jacob to a being so unlike man we cannot so anything very coherent about him in human terms, I tend to look at God as being itself. This is where I think scientists and Christianity tend to diverge.

            To answer your question, one major thing that would help is to change the requirement to believe in the resurrection to a requirement to believe in Agape love for your fellow human being. This would allow humanists and people like me who see a rationalist/deterministic God to join in a shared mission of helping to make the world a better place. Let the person who sees a rope go with what he sees when he looks for God. I am not a Christian because I am honest about what I believe. Hell is also a HUGE problem for me. A just God would create no such contrivance, especially on the grounds of what someone believes (I know Catholics think accurately think there is more to it than Sola Fide, but belief still plays a huge roll). I hope that is helpful, I think Christianity has many things to offer that Buddhism does not, but it comes with too much baggage I simply cannot agree to. For the record, I find Christian theology interesting, though my beliefs are heretical, and I am largely a Christian philosophically, there is a ton of truth in Christianity, but I reject the idea that it is THE TRUTH. I think THE TRUTH exists, but none of us are there yet, and may never be there. I think even Paul thought this way if you read 1 Corinthians 13:

            8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

          • Michael Murray

            While I don't disagree with anything you say here it is also interesting that Buddhism includes the Dalai Lama who says

            If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.

          • William Davis

            Sure, my critique was mostly directed at classical Buddhism, and thankfully Buddhist would likely accept the criticism with a smile on their faces. I'm a fan of this guy. He also considers himself a scientist first, and draws only what is viable from Buddhism. Let's call it scientific Buddhism.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Kabat-Zinn

            His book "Wherever you Go, There you Are" is a must read for anyone, in my opinion

            http://www.amazon.com/Wherever-You-There-Are-Mindfulness-ebook/dp/B0037B6QSY

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            Your post discusses topics that have occupied philosophers and theologians for centuries: the nature of God, truth, love, Hell, etc; I am largely unqualified to add anything new to these discussions. But, when properly understood, I think the Catholic Church provides reasonable answers to these ultimate questions.

            I wouldn't expect the Church to change its teachings on the Resurrection anytime soon, especially when considering Paul's teachings on this central Christian event (a fun aside: it was the Catholic Church trying to determine the date of the celebration of this Resurrection that gave us the Gregorian Calendar and a host of other scientific goodies. For more, see the opening paragraphs of Heilbron's The Sun in the Church).

            I would argue that agape love is intrinsic to Catholicism and that the Church has been the greatest witness to this love, in the history of the world.

            Is dogma always restrictive?

        • MNb

          Then you should praise communism as well.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Friedmann

          • Mike

            i've never heard of alex f, but thanks.

    • Andrew Kassebaum

      Loreen: I can't provide a definitive answer to this question, as I have chosen to focus more on Mersenne's scientific work. But everything was interrelated for him. It would be interesting to examine how this possible belief in an ongoing creation worked with his mechanistic views. One of my references for the article was At the Origins of Modern Atheism by Michael Buckley. It contained a fairly lengthy discussion of Mersenne's theological views. Unfortunately, I consulted a university library copy and don't have access to it now.

      • Loreen Lee

        It seems I was confusing Mersenne with Malebranche. I was thinking specifically of the theory of 'Occasionalism'. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11195b.htm

        • Andrew Kassebaum

          Thanks for clarifying, Loreen. This makes sense.

  • GCBill

    As one of the most influential proponents of the mechanistic philosophy of nature,

    “In the circle around Mersenne in the 1630’s the idea of a complete mechanistic interpretation of the universe came out into the open, and its chief exponents were the most religious men in the group that we are discussing. They were anxious to prove the adequacy and the perfection of Creation—anxious to vindicate God’s rationality.”

    It's strange that this receives only a passing mention. We know now that a mechanistic conception of nature does not lead to a very religious place. So if the Thomists are correct, then Mersenne's contributions to science could well be overshadowed by his support for a bankrupt philosophy of nature that would ultimately lead to many of the various heresies of Late Modern thought. But if the mechanistically-inclined naturalists are instead, his philosophical and scientific contributions are an almost unqualified positive. I'm interested to see whether commenter approval of his work divides along the axis and in the direction that I've predicted.

    • William Davis

      It's strange that this receives only a passing mention. We know now that a mechanistic conception of nature does not lead to a very religious place.

      This depends on how you define religious. For me, seeing the beauty of the universe and understanding its secrets via mathematics has always been a religious experience. But the God of this rational universe would almost certainly be diametrically opposed to miracles and breaching his on rules. Heck, even if he wanted to, it may not even be possible for him to break the rules. One way of looking at it is that the rules themselves are the actual mind of God at work, if God has anything like a mind.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      The phrase machina mundi (the machine of the world) was quite common in the Middle Ages. Nicole d'Oresme (later bishop of Lisieux) compared the world to a clockwork. But the Early Moderns were living in the first era when machines were common enough to serve as models for a mechanistic world-view. (Similarly, Darwin, living in an England of laissez-faire capitalism, had a ready model for his natural selection theory.) Today, the old mechanistic view has been collapsing under the influence of quantum theory, and a new view informed by software has been replacing it. Context matters.

      Aristotle had said that anger could be understood in two ways: as a boiling of blood around the heart or as a desire for revenge. (Keeping in mind that neither "blood" nor "heart" meant quite what they mean today.) To develop medicines and such, the mechanistic viewpoint of the first way is useful; but to develop laws and jurisprudence, the second way is needed. The natural philosopher, Aristotle said, must consider it both ways.

  • Andrew Kassebaum

    For those interested in learning more about Mersenne and the contributions of 17th century French mathematicians, there is a short BBC documentary available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BV5Fl1w9UWM

  • Gray

    I fail to see the significance and purpose of the article other than to pay homage to a Catholic priest who made important contributions to science. Nor is he the first person Catholic or otherwise who have made important contributions to science and humanity throughout history....relatively recently and in antiquity. These facts of Catholic contributions to science have no bearing on whether or not god exists, benevolent or otherwise, nor do these type of articles contribute any evidence to support the Catholic claim that god does exist. Color me bemused.

    • Mike

      Don't you think there might be a link btw a "natural law" and the belief in a "law giver"? Wouldn't belief in the latter help foster study of the former?

      • Gray

        No.

        • Mike

          Why not?

          • Gray

            Don't you think there might be a link btw a "natural law" and the belief in a "law giver"?

            I answered your question...I said No. Since you are the one with the question, I think that you are the one for whom the onus is upon to refute or give a reason that my answer No, is unsatisfactory to your liking. I can see where this circular reasoning is going...down the rabbit hole?.....no need to respond.

          • Mike

            Just seems like a reasonable assumption that unless ppl without a scientific base believe in order in nature they are unlikely to spend massive amounts of energy and resources looking for it...kind of like the chinese who developed lots of technology but no fundamental science whereas science exploded in christian europe.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Repeat a lie a thousand times and it becomes the truth.

          • Mike

            How can a lie even if repeated over and over become a lie?

            Is this a possibility from an atheist world view? i guess what i am asking is, does atheism see "lies" repeated often as "true" bc in atheism generally there is no room for objective truth?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Because the repetition changes everyone's perception. It is still a lie, but everyone thinks it is true. Maybe read your own post again and see if you have repeated one of those lies.

          • Mike

            do you think it's true?

            consider a thought experiment: 2 cultures one which doesn't believe in any god any over riding order in nature any creator and which doesn't proceed as if there is intention telos but just investigates things one by one by one; then think of a culture which believes in an embedded order in nature, a god who set down rules and patterns etc. Seems obv. to me that the second would feel justified in looking for the fundamental underlying patterns and "laws" whereas the first would have a very hard time convincing its ppl that they should sacrifice resources in pursuit of something that they thought doesn't even exist - think of how many atheists today deny intention direction telos in nature.

          • MNb

            "intention telos"
            That was thrown out of science more than 200 years ago. You won't find it in any scientific essay.

          • Mike

            how about in philosophy of science?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It's not true. Repeating it wont make it true.

          • Mike

            still makes more sense to think apriori that reality is ordered and regular and patterned than that it just "is" brute fact after brute fact and on and on - all scientists are theists without admitting it bc they assume that the world is intelligible and that it is regular and ordered!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Do you care to evidence your claims?

          • Mike

            name one scientist who doesn't expect to find order and intelligibility in nature? how could that be possible unless there was order built into the system?

          • Papalinton

            "... whereas science exploded in christian europe."



            That's the catholicized view. A proper reading is that science exploded in Europe despite centuries of christian hegemony. It could no longer be constrained by prevailing religious thought. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy best illustrates the change:

"

            "The Enlightenment begins with the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The rise of the new science progressively undermines not only the ancient geocentric conception of the cosmos, but, with it, the entire set of presuppositions that had served to constrain and guide philosophical inquiry. The dramatic success of the new science in explaining the natural world, in accounting for a wide variety of phenomena by appeal to a relatively small number of elegant mathematical formulae, promotes philosophy (in the broad sense of the time, which includes natural science) from a handmaiden of theology, constrained by its purposes and methods, to an independent force with the power and authority to challenge the old and construct the new, in the realms both of theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles."

          • Mike

            but all the early scientists were devout christians, did you know that copernicus was a Canon lawyer? Check out the stephen m barr presentation i linked to; lots of entire branches of science were started not just by christians, not even just by catholics but by actual priests! it's amazing.

          • MNb

            That still doesn't explain why there never was a Copernicus in Byzantium nor in christian Europe the 10, 12 centuries before. For instance Augustinus of Hippo wasn't exactly stupid, you know. Still he didn't formulate heliocentrism.

            "it's amazing"

            Only if you systematically ignore all the none-catholic scientists. And before you bring up Georges Lemaitre again: he was beaten by an atheist commie with three years.

          • Mike
          • MNb

            "the chinese who developed lots of technology but no fundamental science"
            Ignorance flourishes.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_science_and_technology_in_China
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_science_and_technology_in_the_Indian_subcontinent

            But I suppose you define "fundamental" science in such a way that only western science qualifies and preferably done by catholics.

            "whereas science exploded in christian europe.

            I'd like to see you explain
            1) why that explosion didn't happen in Byzantium, a totally christian nation;
            2) why it took western Europe 10, 12 centuries to light the fuse.

            I mean - the decimal system and especially the number zero aren't exactly christian european products.

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            MNb: I hope you don't mind me making a few comments on your two questions.

            1) Can you explain what you mean by "a totally christian nation"? I'd like to recommend The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages by Edward Grant. Grant discusses the question of why science did not arise in a Byzantine or Islamic milieu. One of the key issues he addresses is the lack of separation between Church and state. The interplay between Church and state has bearing on the types of institutions that may or may not form, most notably universities.

            2) Today's feature article discusses some of the issues related to this question. I am not sure that an image of lighting a fuse is the best way to visualize the development of science in Western Europe. Can you explain this further? And when do you see this fuse as being lit? Although incredibly important, the primary mission of the Church is not to facilitate scientific revolutions. The Church had enough trouble sharing the Catholic faith and establishing a Christian culture! Poland wasn't 'baptized' until the 10th century. Christianity spread slowly through space and time.

          • MNb

            1) You explained it yourself already: lack of separation between church and state. Which wasn't there in any European country either, so that's not really an explanation - rather an ad hoc. Did you know btw that the first European university was founded in Toledo in islamic Spain? Three years after the conquest of that city (and the Moors were so nice to keep the library intact) the University of Bologna was founded.

            2) "Can you explain this further?"
            You need to ask Mike, not me. He talked about the explosion of science, so it's rather dishonest to ask me and not him. I only used his metaphor.

            "the primary mission of the Church is not to facilitate scientific revolutions"

            Exactly. This effectively undermines Mike's claim that christianity is a necessary and/or sufficient condition for a scientific revolution. Thanks.

            Of course we need to look at the specific circumstances. There are several that contributed. First of all European contacts with the islamic world intensified after the abovementioned conquest of Toledo, which was the first one to make ancient manuscripts available in western Europe. In the second place the authority of the RCC, which had reached its peak in the 13th Century, had decreased, especially after the Black Plague epidemy of 1350 CE. In the third place after the fall of Constantinople many scholars fled to Italy, bringing even more manuscripts with them - in Greek, not in Arabian translations. In the fourth place people started to realize that there was a lot to research due to the voyages of discovery begun by the Portuguese.
            Circumstances were favourable for independent thinkers. Funny enough the RCC is partly to credit, exactly because contemporary popes were more politcal than spiritual. One of them was highly interested in Copernicus' work; Tycho Brahe, who doesn't get enough credit, never had problems with RCC authorities either (he worked for a while at the court of the Austrian Emperor).
            My point is just, I repeat it, that christianity is not a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a scientific revolution. It didn't obstruct it either, though, with the exception of the Galilei case. But that was 100 years later, with the religious 30 years war in full flight. And even then it's rather a weak example compared to Giordano Bruno.

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            For centuries, Byzantium tended towards Caesaropapism. Although there was ongoing interplay between the temporal and spiritual orders, Western Europe had a more robust understanding of the separation of Church and state.

            Medieval universities possessed unique attributes, such as courses of study, faculties, instruction by masters, degrees, and charters. Do we find these at Toledo? Also, the manuscripts at Toledo were not the first ancient manuscripts available to Western Europe. We have to differentiate between Latin and Greek works. Irish monks and the scholars of Charlemagne's court contributed significantly to the preservation of Latin manuscripts. Greek manuscripts were available to Western scholars as well, although in a very limited sense (see the work of Boethius). The translation work done in Spain and Sicily, however, greatly expanded the Greek corpus, most notably through the labors of Gerard of Cremona and William of Moerbeke (among others, of course).

            I hope to address your other points sometime soon.

          • MNb

            "Western Europe had a more robust understanding of the separation of Church and state."
            In the first place there were no states. There were feudal entities ruled by nobles and monarchs who considered their territories as their personal properties. Hence the borders changes every few decades. This is important because it makes the expression meaningless. What matter is the relaion monarch vs. clergy.
            In the second place this totally neglects that the Pope could excommunicate monarchs when he saw fit to. Emperor Henry IV's journey to Canossa shows this best.
            In the third place this totally neglects that either the Pope was politcally dominated by nobility (in the 10th Century in Rome) or by monarchs (in the 14th Century in Avignon).
            It's typical how apologists need to twist the facts to back up their predetermined conclusions.

            "Do we find these at Toledo?"
            Yes.

            "the manuscripts at Toledo were not the first ancient manuscripts available to Western Europe."

            I didn't write that. But in the first place around 400 CE there were less available in Western Europe than in the Eastern Roman Empire, simply because the intellectual centra were situated there. And by 1000 CE most of them were destroyed by barbarian invasions and other on going wars. Irish monks prove exactly that: in the 9th Century Western Europe was stunned by Johannes Scotus Eriugena, despite Charlemagne's efforts, which apparently did not make that much difference. Two centuries later all the Irish cultures were destroyed.
            If you want to know how low the intellectual level was around 1000 CE you don't have to look any further than the letter Pope Silvester II received from the Bishop of Utrecht. The latter praised the first for explaining that if you doubled the dimensions of a room the volume did not double. Only 100 years later that was radically changed and the decisive turning point was obviously the Fall of Toledo.
            And that's why it's wrong to hold christianity responsible for the scientific decline since 400 CE and to praise it for the scientific revolution.
            As for Boethius - 1. he essentially belonged to Antiquity yet, as he was born and raised and lived in Rome, where culture was preserved until the disastrous Byzantine-Gothic wars; 2. there is no evidence at all that his scientific level was the same of Augustinus of Hippo and Synesius of Cyrene around 400 CE. So he rather confirms my point of view than yours.
            Same for Gerard of Cremona - he died in no less place than Toledo - and Willem of Moerbeke, who lived in the 13th Century. They confirm that Western Europe got an enormous intellectual boost after the Fall of Toledo - something christianity could not have pulled off on its own before.
            So the conclusion remains: christianity never has been a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a scientific revolution.

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            Thanks for your reply.

            Just to clarify, I am not addressing your claim that Christianity has never been a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a scientific revolution. For me, addressing an issue such as that would require years of engagement of primary and secondary resources, preferably in the context of a doctoral program at a prestigious university. Until then, I remain relatively neutral. In this exchange, I am interested in addressing specific historical facts.

            I stated that "Western Europe had a more robust understanding of the separation of Church and state." This is in comparison to Byzantium. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

            Here's a quote from the prominent non-Catholic historian, Edward Grant:

            "One of the major features of Western Christianity was its differentiation from the secular state. Each had its role to play and although, at different times, church and state sought to dominate each other, they usually recognized their mutually established spheres of jurisdiction. By contrast, Byzantium was essentially a theocratic state. The distinction between church and state was largely non-existent." The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages, 187

            He agrees with your assessment that at times (or even often) one power sought to dominate the other. This is my belief as well, as I alluded to in a previous comment.

            "Church and state" is used colloquially to refer to the temporal and spiritual orders. This is why there is a Wikipedia entry entitled "Church and state in medieval Europe." I am well aware that modern states did not exist during the time period in question.

            "Yes. Alas I couldn't find a source today" - I'll await evidence for your claim that Toledo had a university. The link you provided in your last comment doesn't even mention Toledo.

            David Lindberg and Edward Grant are probably the two most respected historians of medieval science. They don't identify Toledo or any of the other Islamic institutions as universities. Neither does Wikipedia's List of medieval universities.

            Certainly there were schools before these universities were formed. We find schools in both Christian and Islamic territories.

            "First of all European contacts with the islamic world intensified after the abovementioned conquest of Toledo, which was the first one to make ancient manuscripts available in western Europe."

            Can you further explain what you mean? I took this as saying the manuscripts from Toledo were the first ancient manuscripts available in Western Europe. I want to make sure I understand your correctly.

            By mentioning Boethius, I wasn't making a judgment of his scientific prowess relative to the likes of Augustine or Synesius, nor was I positioning him into an historical era. Rather, I was using him as an example of a scholar who made some Greek texts available to Western Europe. This may or may not have any bearing, depending on if I understood you correctly.

            I do not doubt that Western Europe got an enormous intellectual boost after the Fall of Toledo. My previous comment praised the work of Gerard of Cremona.

          • MNb

            "I am not addressing your claim that Christianity has never been a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a scientific revolution"
            OK, sorry, thanks, that makes my previous comment largely superfluous.

            "Do you agree or disagree with this statement?"
            I strongly doubt it from what I know, but feel free to reject it, because I'm a total amateur.

            "Church and state ....."
            OK. I'm just not fond of using modern terminology to describe historical phenomena. That's something I have learned from scholars. It can be very misleading. I haste to add that many atheist amateurs make the same mistake. Something like "the war between science and religion" simply doesn't apply to the second half of the Middle Ages. It's meaningless and nobody back then would have understood it.
            So if you would reformulate it like something as "the relation between the secular and the spiritual powers was in Western Europe much more dynamic than in Byzantium" I would agree. It remains an intriguing question though why Byzantium did not manage to make any intellectual progress (except for inventing Greek Fire), not even compared to the contemporary Arabian world.

            "My previous comment praised the work of Gerard of Cremona."

            Oh, it's amazing how much intellectual progress was made after the University of Bologna was founded.

          • Mike

            those are all excellent observations, thanks.

          • MNb

            Scientists like Mersenne are the law givers.

            "Wouldn't belief in the latter help foster study of the former?"
            There are quite a few unbelieving scientists who don't need that help.

          • Mike

            how can an observer also be the author? isn't that like raskolnikov writing crime and punishment? isn't that circular reasoning?

    • Andrew Kassebaum

      Gray: How teleological of you! While arguments for and against the existence of God are central to the mission of Strange Notions, the possible areas of discussion are much broader (see the section titles in the website header).

      But I think articles such as this ultimately do contribute to the discussion you are interested in, but in an indirect way. An historical narrative contributes to how contemporary discussion is framed and understood. And no argument has bearing on whether or not God exists.

  • Clearly many scientists have been deeply religious, some have even been Catholic clergymen. I have been convinced that elements of Christianity likely played a causal role in the development of modern scientific thinking, commencing about a thousand years after Christ.

    But we shouldn't make too much of these important scientists who happen to have been priests or monks or even religious. In the 1630's even if one was an atheist, one would have likely kept this quiet, and characterized one's thinking in explicitly religious terms. Particularly if one lived in a Catholic country, one had to be very Getting imprisoned as a heretic and potentially facing death for it was pretty easy, as Mercator discovered. It seems only his often travel to Germany and fraternization with Protestants was sufficient to have him imprisoned and we might have been deprived of his projection.

    What we do see as science develops, is that any role of Christianity fades into the background and is now irrelevant to science and any field of study, other than theology in the like. It seems the necessary piece is holding the mechanistic world-view, not a Catholic or Religious view. Most of the big names in scientists turn out to be protestant in the enlightenment (Kepler, Newton, Darwin, Maxwell, Plank, Bohr), and in the modern era we find scientists becoming more and more secular and at times atheists. These days, and for the last hundred years at least, it would be hard to make any argument that a particular theology, or lack thereof, was helpful in the pursuit of science.

    So it is unsurprising to find a priest was a brilliant and influential early scientist. Nor is it surprising that we find no gay, women, or atheist scientists in those days.

    • Andrew Kassebaum

      Thanks for reading. When time allows, I'd like to respond to several of your points. For now, a couple comments:

      1) "in the modern era we find scientists becoming more and more secular and at times atheists. These days, and for the last hundred years at least, it would be hard to make any argument that a particular theology, or lack thereof, was helpful in the pursuit of science."

      I think there is a lot of truth in these statements. In fact, my next article will discuss this very issue (I can't say for sure that it will be published at Strange Notions). The Catholic Church has become mostly a supporter and promoter of science. A less-than-ideal number of the first rate scientists of the 20th century were devout Catholics. This is a problem.

      2) "Most of the big names in scientists turn out to be protestant in the enlightenment (Kepler, Newton, Darwin, Maxwell, Plank, Bohr)"

      You have listed a Lutheran, a non-Trinitarian from the Anglican tradition, an agnostic from the Anglican tradition, a Presbyterian, and two more from the Lutheran tradition. It is an ecclesiological error to group all such individuals under the label of Protestant. Plus, you've ignored hundreds of scientists who were Catholic.

    • Brian,

      A question and some thoughts that deal with your above post:

      What are your thoughts in regards to how particular subcultural environments effect the views of individuals found within a subculture?

      The particular subculture I am speaking of is academia. In general, I believe that students are more likely to gravitate towards academic environments they are likely to fit into, and those who spend a large amount of time with those they disagree with are likely to begin to adopt the views of the majority or modify their views to fit in. When one looks at the current cultural environment found within academia around the sciences, you find a cultural environment that is not always the friendliest to theists (often condescending and scornful) and quite open and friendly to an atheist/agnostic/questioning view towards religion and spirituality. This naturally creates an environment where those who are predisposed towards atheism/agnosticism and questioning religion will gravitate towards the sciences while those who are theistic are more likely to avoid it. Why go into a career where your views are going to be constantly questioned and you might be looked down upon? Students who are theists and go into the sciences in college might end up leaving the sciences because they don't like the environment, and also some who stay in the field might find themselves agnostics/atheists by the time they are finished with their education. While some might become atheists or agnostics due to a serious soul searching (I find commentary from you and the majority of common atheist/agnostic bloggers on Strange Notions to demonstrate this soul searching), social pressures from the environment they are in might get them to change their views. By the time you get through those who leave the field because they don't like the environment and those who end up losing their faith, you probably don't have a large number of theists left.

      I raise these thoughts because while the majority of major scientists today are not subscribing to an organized religion and are more and more frequently subscribing to atheism and agnosticism, I believe this has more to do with cultural influences than it does to science. Most major scientists are coming out of the west, and the west is becoming more secular. Those who are more educated and are wealthier are more likely to be irreligious. There are also several cultural and environmental factors that are going to cause atheists and agnostics to go into the sciences and those with religious persuasions to avoid the sciences. The above paragraph goes into some of these factors.

      • Doug Shaver

        According to all the traditions and legends, Christianity was born and flourished in an environment that could not have been more hostile. We skeptics are continually assured that during its earliest years, you could be tortured and killed just for saying "Christ is my savior." What does it say about modern Christianity that its adherents are so easily driven away just by people saying, "If you believe that, you're an idiot"?

        • It says we have serious issues. It also says that when given a choice, many individuals who are very devout will choose to walk away from a particular environment (in this case academia, but it goes into other environments as well) and go to one where they will not face the same condescesion. This isn't equivalent to early Christianity. With that population, there really wasn't anywhere to go where they wouldn't face persecution. One can be just as much of a witness to God in the sciences as within other professions, but the current cultural climate towards religion and spirituality within scientific academia simply creates an environment that is naturally going to drive many with spiritual inclinations away from majors in the sciences.

          • Doug Shaver

            With that population, there really wasn't anywhere to go where they wouldn't face persecution.

            I don't believe that was actually the case, but I'll stipulate it. Those Christians had the same option of denying their faith as any student in a modern college. And any student does have the option of going to a school where nobody will make fun of them for believing in Christ.

          • Ummm... I'm talking about majors in the sciences, not a particular college. In general you are going to find a mixture of attitudes at most colleges towards organized religion, but the current attitude found within the sciences is generally more negative than within other branches. I doubt most people would be willing to go to the another college in the hopes of having a more pleasant atmosphere when there is no guarantee that would actually be the case. Academic condescension is not the same thing as persecution suffered by early Christians. What happened in the early days of Christianity would not be happening on a college campus. Jumping from one college to another does not guarantee a more accepting environment.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm talking about majors in the sciences, not a particular college.

            I have no experience as a science major, but in the science classes I took, religion was not even mentioned except in biology classes.

            I had to take introductory biology twice. The first professor mentioned evolution only briefly. He commented that some religions had a problem with it but others didn't. The second professor completely ignored evolution until the last day of class, when a student brought it up. The professor took a Bible out of his desk, read Genesis 1:1, and said that that was all anybody needed to know on the subject.

            Years later I took a class on human evolution. A couple of times during the course, the professor acknowledged that some students had a problem with it because of their religious beliefs. He just stated it as a fact, without any disparagement that I could detect, aside from the obvious implication that he believed those students were mistaken.

          • I'm glad that your experience in your science class was positive in regards to how your prof spoke about religion. Experiences of others might be more mixed

            "That was sort of my point. If Christianity could flourish in the face of potentially lethal persecution, how is a bit of condescension driving so many students away from their faith?"

            My main point is that many individuals are going to step away from sciences because their faith is going to put them into an unpleasant/frustrating position. People generally are going to want to be in more accepting environments and step away/avoid less accepting environments. An example of another population choosing to go into a particular major in college would be homosexuals going into majors involving theatre. Homosexuals historically have been more accepted in theatre than in many other settings, hence you see a large number of homosexuals in theatre majors. It is an environment that is more accepting.

            Back to the point I'm trying to make... Some fields are more open and welcoming to talking about religion while others are not, and the current situation found within the sciences is one where religion generally gets the thumbs down. In regards to why some who are in the sciences might end up losing their faith in college, especially within the area of the sciences, we now live in a time where many Christians are unchurched, don't know a lot about their religion, and don't know how to address questions from skeptics. Lack of knowledge and a firm foundation in the faith creates a situation where individuals are more likely to lose their faith in an environment that is critical of religion.

          • Doug Shaver

            Experiences of others might be more mixed

            My experience constitutes a sample size of one. Obviously, I can't just assume it was typical. But for what it's worth, they did occur at three different schools, two state junior colleges and one state university.

            My main point is that many individuals are going to step away from sciences because their faith is going to put them into an unpleasant/frustrating position. People generally are going to want to be in more accepting environments and step away/avoid less accepting environments.

            I hope you're distinguishing the subject matter from the academic environment in which the subject is taught. If a well established scientific theory, such as biological evolution or a non-supernatural cosmogony, happens to conflict with a student's sectarian religious beliefs, then that student needs to be made uncomfortable, as far as I'm concerned.

            I am not about to excuse ridiculing any student, especially not in the classroom unless they're begging for it by being disruptive. But the professor has to be able to say something like: "What I'm about to teach you is the consensus of the scientific community at this moment in history. The purpose of this class is to inform you of that consensus. Some of it might conflict with certain religious beliefs to which some of you are committed. You don't have to believe any of it to pass this course, but you do have to demonstrate some level of familiarity with it. If this makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you to seek counsel from your spiritual mentors."

            But the major religions have well accommodated themselves to modern science. I don't deny that students belonging to such a religion will find, in the general academic community, a prevailing opinion that even their religion is out of intellectual fashion. The same is true, however, of students who share my conservative political opinions, and I see no acceptable way of compelling the academy to change itself in that respect. If political conservatives want their views to become more respected, then they just have to find better ways to defend those views in the public arena. So too for those who wish to make mainstream religion more respected.

            we now live in a time where many Christians are unchurched, don't know a lot about their religion, and don't know how to address questions from skeptics. Lack of knowledge and a firm foundation in the faith creates a situation where individuals are more likely to lose their faith in an environment that is critical of religion.

            That looks to me like a problem that the churches should be solving. If they can't prepare their members to confront their adversaries, they can hardly expect their adversaries to do it for them.

          • Thanks for your thoughts Doug. Again, I'm speaking about the general environment towards religion within the sciences, not specific religious doctrines conflicting with science. The Catholic Church today is pretty in step with science (e.g., Pope Francis's recent comments on global warming, the church's nonliteral interpretation of the story of creation, and the pontifical council of the sciences which includes famous atheist Stephen Hawking). While there are less ordained priests, brothers and sisters within the sciences today, there still are some and those individuals are highly unlikely to take a more fundamentalist view of the Bible.

            It is not just teachers; the attitude of classmates can potentially be even more powerful than that of teachers. Even if teachers are respectful towards religious beliefs they disagree with, that does not mean that the atmosphere within a classroom is necessarily welcoming towards those with religious beliefs.

            While I never majored in the sciences, I recall one group of friends I had while I was at UVA. Whenever the topic of religion would come up, they would not necessarily "bash it" but they would be very dismissive and at times scornful. Whenever I would bring up my beliefs-out of frustration at times-it was total conversation shut down. They didn't want to hear it. They talked about how they were "open minded" yet whenever they were confronted with ideas about God and religion that they didn't like, the conversation would stop and they would move onto something else. Were they mean? No. However, it was at times a deeply frustrating environment to be around. I believe this might be a better example of the atmosphere within scientific academia towards religion than outward hostility/rudeness. Most students don't go around proselytizing in the classroom, but at the same time, they probably like being in an atmosphere where if they were to talk to a fellow student about faith or just what's going on at their church, it wouldn't be conversation shut down with many of the people one speaks to. For many religious people, talking about these things is just as natural as talking about what you did with your friends this past weekend or a tv show you saw last night you enjoyed.

            If in the midst of a conversation you started talking about what you did with your friends/family this past weekend or a tv show you liked and your conversation partner started acting like they didn't care or they didn't want to hear it, how would you feel?

            Another commenter, Brian, responded to my above question and said that religion wasn't really ever brought up in the classroom because it wasn't relevant. Part of what I'm saying is that since many within the sciences don't believe that religion or spirituality is relevant, the views of those with deeply held religious beliefs are minimized and at times dismissed, and this creates an atmosphere that many religious would not want to be part of unless they had a very specific calling to the sciences. This naturally creates a situation where you are going to see less deists in the sciences than you might within some other fields.

            "That looks to me like a problem that the churches should be solving. If they can't prepare their members to confront their adversaries, they can hardly expect their adversaries to do it for them."

            A very true comment. There is always room for improvement with the way the church catechizes, and there are some religious who don't do a very good job at it. With that said, I would bring up the phrase, "You can bring a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." I've met many priests who have done everything they can to try and get their parishioners interested in learning about the faith, but many of the parishioners aren't interested. I've been to churches where there are Bible studies on a weekly basis, but you don't see more than five or six people at the Bible study. You can't force people to learn something. There needs to be a willingness on the part of those in the pews to take the time to learn and many simply choose not to.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm speaking about the general environment towards religion within the sciences, not specific religious doctrines conflicting with science.

            What kind of environment is there supposed to be? If there is no conflict, I don't see how there is a problem. Do you want an astronomy professor saying "Here we see the glory of God" when he shows the class a picture from the Hubble telescope?

            Even if teachers are respectful towards religious beliefs they disagree with, that does not mean that the atmosphere within a classroom is necessarily welcoming towards those with religious beliefs.

            If certain opinions are irrelevant to the subject being taught, I think the atmosphere is welcoming enough if those opinions are simply ignored.

            Part of what I'm saying is that since many within the sciences don't believe that religion or spirituality is relevant, the views of those with deeply held religious beliefs are minimized and at times dismissed, and this creates an atmosphere that many religious would not want to be part of unless they had a very specific calling to the sciences.

            If religious beliefs really are irrelevant to science, then you have no grounds for complaining if the scientific community treats them as irrelevant. If this discourages some religious people from becoming scientists, then it is not clear to me what the scientific community is supposed to do about it.

            Most students don't go around proselytizing in the classroom, but at the same time, they probably like being in an atmosphere where if they were to talk to a fellow student about faith or just what's going on at their church, it wouldn't be conversation shut down with many of the people one speaks to. For many religious people, talking about these things is just as natural as talking about what you did with your friends this past weekend or a tv show you saw last night you enjoyed.

            Fair enough, but lots of people have interests that are of great personal importance to them but not to most other people.

            There are ways for students with special interests to indulge them on campus. At the last school I attended, a group of Protestant students got together every week in the Student Union for a Bible study. I went to one of their meetings just out of curiosity. They weren't bothering me, and I kept my mouth shut and didn't bother them.

            There is always room for improvement with the way the church catechizes, and there are some religious who don't do a very good job at it. With that said, I would bring up the phrase, "You can bring a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

            If it's thirsty, you don't need to make it drink. It will drink without any encouragement. And if it's been deprived of water for long enough, it will be thirsty, guaranteed. The church's problem is that when people deny being thirsty, the church has nothing to say except, "But you should be."

          • Hi Doug, sorry I haven't replied yet. Super busy with work and haven't had the time to read through everything and devote some time to what u have said. I will get back to u though.

          • Thanks for your thoughts Doug. After reading through your reply, I don't think there is much left to say besides we agree to disagree on a number of things. I've explained multiple times what I mean about the atmosphere within the sciences, and I believe a number of your replies further confirm my beliefs.

            In regards to your comment about a horse will drink once it's thirsty... you are incorrect... Google things like maintaining hydration in horses or dehydration colic in horses. Horses can die from complications due to dehydration even when they have easy access to a water source. Regardless, it is an analogy, and one that I believe is appropriate. Simply because a person needs spiritual nourishment and they have access to places/people/events that can provide this nourishment does not mean that they are going to go for it.

            Take care,
            James

          • Doug Shaver

            Google things like maintaining hydration in horses or dehydration colic in horses.

            I did.

            Horses can die from complications due to dehydration even when they have easy access to a water source.

            They're in a pathological state when that happens. I was thinking of horses in a normal state of health.

            Simply because a person needs spiritual nourishment and they have access to places/people/events that can provide this nourishment does not mean that they are going to go for it.

            As far as I can tell, spiritual starvation is an imaginary malady. Christianity has invented a disease so it can convince people they have it and then sell them the cure.

          • Doug Shaver

            Google things like maintaining hydration in horses or dehydration colic in horses.

            I did.

            Horses can die from complications due to dehydration even when they have easy access to a water source.

            They're in a pathological state when that happens. I was thinking of horses in a normal state of health.

            Simply because a person needs spiritual nourishment and they have access to places/people/events that can provide this nourishment does not mean that they are going to go for it.

            As far as I can tell, spiritual starvation is an imaginary malady. Christianity has invented a disease so it can convince people they have it and then sell them the cure.

          • William Davis

            Christianity cannot be defeated by attack. Today it is simply being defeated by the truth, sorry my friend.

          • Don't know how to reply to that besides saying I disagree. Jesus has already won with the cross... I believe that is truth.

      • In my experience in university, I obtained degrees in the 1990s and 2000s there was no unfriendliness to theism, in fact the issue never arose. I don't see why it would as it was irrelevant to the subjects I was studying.

        My speculation is that some theists feel threatened by things they discover in science and history that may conflict with conclusions they have reached on the basis of a religious tradition. If they were to raise religious ideas in a science class, I think such ideas would rightly be quickly discarded as irrelevant and unscientific. I doubt they would in a theology class or philosophy class.

        I think culture, society and peer groups are extremely influential on the conclusions we reach on issues of theism. I think religious and scientific contexts do influence us much more than the kinds of discussions we have on this site. This is why I think such environments should have reality checks and mechanisms to try and keep the analysis as objective as possible and disregard fallacious thinking. This is basically what I think skepticism (critical thinking) and empiricism do or try to do. I think such mechanisms are woefully absent in religion, which is why scientific environments tend to disregard them without need for much serious contemplation.

        • Thanks for your thoughts. Very much appreciated :)

  • Or the shorter version: overwhelmingly, most important and influential scientists have not been priests, or Catholic, and theology is more or less irrelevant to scientific findings.

    • Mike

      Well the most successful scientist of all time as measured by nobels is still a person who was brought up in one of the most ardently catholic places on earth, years before women even got the vote in most of europe let alone sat at the same table as the greatest modern scientists! Yup, it was a women brought up in strict Catholic eastern europe at the turn of the 20th century:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie

      Amazing eh? She's won more nobels in different disciplines than any other man, ever, even einstein!

      • Luke Cooper

        Mike, Marie Curie forsook her Catholicism after her mother and sister both died, and became at least agnostic in her early teens.

        [My husband] belonged to no religion and I did not practice any.

        http://hollowverse.com/marie-curie/

        • Mike

          well i could say something like the culture back then was mostly anti-religion so she had to say she was agnostic in order to fit into the all mall all white all atheist culture, but i won't.

          ok my only point is that it is truly amazing that not only did the most decorated scientist of all time emerge out of a traditional strident catholic milieu but that it was astonishingly a WOMEN! at a time when even among most "liberal" societies like France and England there were no women at her level of achievement! Indeed i think it was another 50 years before a women would win a nobel in one of the "hard" sciences!

          • Luke Cooper

            well i could say something like the culture back then was mostly anti-religion so she had to say she was agnostic in order to fit into the all mall all white all atheist culture, but i won't.

            You won't say what you just said? Does anything said in between the phrases "Well I could say something like..." and "...but I won't" get a free pass?

            If you want a strident Catholic milieu to get the credit for Marie Curie, you're going to have give Catholicism the credit and blame for everything else that happened during all strident Catholic milieus. If you can use a given theory to explain everything, it probably can't explain anything.

            Edit: Two words changes for clarity.

          • Mike

            no i am just saying that the fact that the most successful scientist of all time came out of a very catholic culture AND was not a MAN but was a women! and 50 years before any other women won a nobel in a hard science! is insane but true.

            check our how many nobels her family has won too! 5 i think! that's just incredible.

          • Luke Cooper

            And you're trying to give Catholicism the credit for it.

          • Mike

            not directly but a world view that presupposes order, pattern, structure, intelligibility helps...i just think its very "strange" in light of the non-sense myths about the church being against women and science that the only person to win 2 nobels in 2 different "hard" sciences should have been 1 a women and 2 from a very catholic culture and 3 to have won her nobels 50 years before another women would win even 1 in the hard sciences...just fascinating.

          • Luke Cooper

            Fascinating, yes. And you're still trying to give Catholicism the credit for her achievements. I'd say she accomplished what she did in spite of the patriarchal religious milieu in which she was raised, not because of it as you continue to imply. Why was it rare for a woman to achieve these things in the first place? One could argue that it was because women were generally forbidden to occupy any place of power and influence equal to that which a man could attain, much like how the RCC and many other Abrahamic religions continue to operate today.

          • Mike

            No not directly although i didn't even know she was raised catholic per andrew's comment below: my only point is that curie has still not been bested by any man or women in terms of nobels and she came from a culture which you continue to accuse of the worst things...anyway they also made a movie:

            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036126/

          • Luke Cooper

            No one is arguing against Curie being an amazing scientist or against Curie being one of the first major female scientists.

            Please point me to where I "continue to accuse [Catholicism] of the worst things".

          • Mike

            "forbidden to occupy any place of power and influence equal to that which a man could attain, much like how the RCC and many other Abrahamic religions continue to operate today"

            you do it here but i know you see everything in terms of power and influence so that's understandable given your worldview.

          • Luke Cooper

            Is the content of my quote incorrect?

            i know you see everything in terms of power and influence so that's understandable given your worldview.

            What gave you that false impression? Please explain.

          • Mike

            just seems that you equate an all male priesthood with being anti women and you equate the priesthood with an executive position in a company or gov ie a place of power over ppl.

          • Luke Cooper

            And you don't see a problem with women being forbidden to achieve the same level of power that men can achieve? Isn't the Catholic hierarchy similar to the hierarchy of a large corporation? Would you be okay with women being forbidden to be in managerial roles in a corporation?

          • Mike

            no of course i don't see that as a problem, in fact i see that as one of the things that makes the church so special imho - the lib. protestants are now redefining marriage to exclude a women in one instance and a man in another so that could also be seen as discriminatory but that's another issue.

            i don't know about how similar the corporate structure is to the church but the word corporate is ofcourse latin in origin.

            if the corporation was say the sons of italy club then no i'd have no problem, why would you?

            do you think that the major feminist orgs should have men as presidents? that would be not right don't you think?

          • Luke Cooper

            Wow. This is getting way too off topic, so I'll just say that, Yes, I have a problem with these types of discrimination.

          • Mike

            yes it is...anyway i think women and men are equal in value but are not the same/not interchangeable.

          • Mike

            check this out: the only women in the room, einstein is behind her:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solvay_Conference#/media/File:1911_Solvay_conference.jpg

          • Luke Cooper

            Exactly. The only woman in the room. I'll see your picture and raise you one. How many women here? Maybe a few in the background? Maybe? http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/03/28/article-2300490-18F8E2C5000005DC-827_964x629.jpg

          • Mike

            maybe it's just me but it seems like you didn't know about marie curie?

            do you think that all institutions should be a "mixture" of men and women, so should be comprised of both sexes?

          • Luke Cooper

            What gave you the impression that I didn't know about Marie Curie?

            Yes. What you call a "mixture," I call equality. I don't think any man or woman should be forced into any institution, but I do have a problem when a person is denied the option of joining an institution based on her/his biological sex. Or race. Or sexual orientation. Or basically anything that doesn't have to do with one's merit.

          • Mike

            the impression came from you throwing the "all male priesthood" card out of nowhere - seemed like you were trying to change the convo.

            ok so do you think that the institution of marriage should also be made up of both men and women or do you think that a marriage which excludes/bans a women in one case and say a man in the other is not unequal or discriminatory or "wrong"? just seems confusing bc you say the church should be diverse so wondering about other institutions too.

          • Luke Cooper

            I can't even follow your logic here. I don't think I'm being confusing.

          • Mike

            let me explain: i asked you if all institutions should be male AND female, a mix; you said yes; so i said what about marriages in which in one case (m/m) a women is necessarily excluded and in another (f/f) a man is necessarily unwelcome. Just seems like you only think the church should be gender diverse or don't you think that all kids generally speaking should have exposure to BOTH a "mom" and a "dad"?

            i am just pointing out that you seem to have a bias against the church.

          • Luke Cooper

            I can't believe this. You think that allowing two women to marry is discriminating against men? Mike, I can't take you seriously sometimes.

            There are some instances in which I think it's fair to allow discrimination, such as allowing private religious universities to base hiring decisions on whether a candidate's theology matches with the university's theology. However, I'm against most instances of discrimination, such as discrimination against women by many Abrahamic religions.

            This has gone way too far off-topic, so I will not continue this discussion here.

          • Mike

            No not "allowing" 2 women but recognizing a female only or male only relationship as equal to a diverse one; you seem to feel strongly about diversity in the church and all institutions which i asked you about but seem to make an exception for marriages which exclude gender diversity - just struck me as odd.

            yes and it's late, take care.

          • William Davis

            I don't take Mike seriously at all, this is why I still like Mike. Did you see Mila's comment? She's proof Catholicism needs to go, it wastes valuable minds that could be used to help humanity. I couldn't have make the point better than she just did if I had tried.

          • William Davis

            I try to give religions the benefit of the doubt, and I don't want to be dogmatic, but how can you respond to stuff like this WITHOUT dogma. It is so morally wrong it is repulsive.

          • Mila

            I don't see why women think not servicing others in the Church as a priest is a sign of being less. God gave me the ability to feel a life inside me. Everything else is straw. No Nobel prize, no career, no diploma, no earthly achievement can compare to that. If God chose women to serve Him in the Church, that would be unfair to men.
            It is not the Church that opposes the ordination of women. It is God. From the beginning He chose men to serve. There were no Levi women in the altar. The Church can't go against what she inherited. She has no authority to claim more authority than God.
            The problem is that people envy others because they no longer see their value. Women envy men, (though in the case of women ordination is just an attempt to destroy priesthood), and men envy women. They have each lost their identity and self-worth
            As a woman, I can tell you that I would decline being a priest, bishop, or Pope any day for just 9 months of an uncomfortable pregnacy and a lifetime of motherhood.

          • Mike

            hey i agree with you mila; btw sometimes i do wonder about how strange it is that no man will ever feel new life in his body and how "weird" "wonderful" it is that all of us were born of a women.

          • William Davis

            God gave me the ability to feel a life inside me. Everything else is straw. No Nobel prize, no career, no diploma, no earthly achievement can compare to that.

            OK. So the more women we can get out of the Catholic Church, the more contributions they can make to science. People like you make me both anti-Christian, and anti-Catholic. No wonder the religion is dying, it deserves to die. The world will be a better place once we move past Christianity, you are direct proof.

          • Mila

            Unreal! Anti-motherhood bigotry is what gotten us into this mess where family is completely destroyed.
            Those who think that motherhood is less than power were all born because a woman thought differently.
            And they have been saying the religion is dying for 2000 years.
            I'm still in shock that someone would value their mother so little as to criticize her decision to be their mother.

            "I HAVE never understood myself how this superstition arose: the notion that a woman plays a lowly part in the home and a loftier part outside the home."

            ~G.K. Chesterton

          • William Davis

            Lol, exactly how did I criticize being a mother? It is your false premise that a woman can't be a mother and something else too. Does it make it more difficult? Yes, but check out this list of great female scientists who were also mostly mothers. The Church has been teaching you non-sense for so long you just believe it to be true for no reason at all, it's called a shared delusion

            http://famousfemalescientists.com/

            It is a matter of social interest how to get the best minds in the right places, and keep them from having to chose between being a mother and having a career. Work from home is becoming more and more viable thanks to technology. Instead of pretending something is impossible, let's make it happen. We continue to do things with science and technology that were long held to be impossible.

          • Mila

            Notice I merely said that feeling a life inside was so incredible that every thing else was straw and you reacted as if I had said that women couldn't do anything else other than motherhood. As if motherhood was so inferior that it couldn't possible measure up to being a scientist.

            FYI, I am a woman and I have done both. I know from experience which is more important and more rewarding and more challenging.

          • William Davis

            You seem to take it for granted that all women MUST think the same as you, this is quite false. I attack you in defense of my mother, my sisters, and my daughter. If my daughter decides not to have children, I won't exactly be happy, but that is HER choice. Not yours, not the church's, not anyone's, it is hers. You are content for a choice to be taken away from other women simply because you don't want it, that is the problem I have with you.

          • Mila

            Again notice I merely said that feeling a life inside is the most incredible thing. And you come up with this? What? What?
            Let me repeat, feeling a life inside is so incredible that nothing compares to it. I know from experience. I never said anything thing that you assumed I said.

          • William Davis

            I don't see why women think not servicing others in the Church as a priest is a sign of being less. God gave me the ability to feel a life inside me. Everything else is straw.

            Yeah...

            BTW here is where "God" said women shouldn't be priests:

            1 Timothy 2

            "8 I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; 9 also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. 11 Let a woman[b] learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no woman[c] to teach or to have authority over a man;[d] she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty."

            Not only should they not be priests, but they should shut up and submit. Oh yeah, and original sin is all their fault. Not only is was this passage written by a sexist fool, it was written by a darn LIAR.

            80% of Christian scholars think the pastorals were written by someone other than Paul, that is well past consensus. The problem is that the author CLAIMED to be Paul, this makes him a liar. Don't take my word for it, take Catholic resources:

            For the other four letters, about 80% of scholars think they were not written by Paul himself, but by one of his followers after his death:

            Ephesians is almost definitely a later expansion of Colossians, since they are so similar in structure and theology, but quite different from Paul's earlier letters; Ephesians was probably written to serve as a “cover letter” for an early collection of Pauline letters.

            The Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) were most likely written late in the first century by some member(s) of the “Pauline School” who wanted to adapt his teachings to changing circumstances.

            Note: Judging a particular letter to be pseudepigraphic does not mean that it is any less valuable than the other letters, but only that it was written later by someone other than Paul.

            All thirteen of the letters attributed to Paul are still considered “canonical”; all of them are still part of the Holy Bible and foundational for the Christian Church.

            Distinguishing the letters based on actual authorship, however, allows scholars to see more clearly the development of early Christian theology and practice.

            http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Paul-Disputed.htm

            What you just said, your view, is the result of deception. It's despicable and if God has a mind, he can't be pleased with that. This isn't to say that men and women aren't different, we know that, it is about opportunity and Justice. I oppose Christianity for its injustices.

            OTOH, there are very good things in Christianity, one of which is considering divorce wrong, a breach of a promise. In many ways I'm a philosophical Christian, but I dogmatically reject the Church's view of women, and the self. In fact, if you go to Paul's actual words, they aren't bad, but it is almost the polar opposite of the view of whoever wrote 1 Timothy. Look at 1 Cor 7

            7 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” 2 But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 This I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.

            8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. 9 But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

            10 To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

            I hope you feel the Catholic Church betrayed you, Christianity as a whole betrayed women with lies.

          • Mila

            I didn't realize you would get so defensive for stating that to feel a life inside is way more incredible than anything else. That nothing can compare to it. My bad, I guess I can't expect someone who can't to even relate to it. You don't like my opinion, how I feel, then great. Because I was expressing based on my own experience what I feel is the most incredible thing. I would expect anyone to respect me as a woman to feel like that.
            And the Catholic Church or Christianity didn't betray women. Those who devalue the main attributes of women actually do. The problem is that some women and men think that working in a cubicle is somehow more dignified than being a mother. The problem is in how society values mothers.
            And I used to think that the Church and Christianity had actually betrayed me also, but after many years of being in the world that supposedly promised equality, I realize that it was only the equality to be a slave. That the perception of society was so twisted that it actually devalues the main and most important thing women do by virtue of her own nature. On the other hand, the Church elevate women to not just be contributors in a workforce but also that they are mothers. But of course, if someone doesn't see motherhood as the important role it plays in society, they wouldn't understand it.
            I, myself, rather be a mother than anything else. Everything else is straw compared to motherhood. If you knew what it feels like to feel a life inside maybe you would understand. I know most women feel like this too. I think you should respect women who do not hold the trendy perception that somehow working in an office is more dignified than being a mother. As a woman, I can tell you that it is very disrespectful to women to say that her own nature of motherhood is inferior and thus they need to prove themselves to be great by becoming great scientist or inventors. Women can do that too. Nobody says anything against that. I mainly said that being a mother tops them all.

          • William Davis

            Whatever you need to tell yourself to sleep at night. I think the Catholic Church would have made WAY better decisions if it had allowed women in the priesthood a long time ago. I've excellent experience with teams composed of both men and women. Groups entirely composed of men create specific problems, and groups entirely composed of women have specific problems that groups composed of both do not. Women help a great deal with group cohesion. Check out this study that showed more women than men improved group intelligence, but all women tends to have a negative effect compared to a diversified group. Mental diversity has profound benefits when it comes to creativity. The Church obviously has no interest in creativity, of course, only authority. Sad really.

            Perhaps Catholics need to start rethinking their stances to reverse this profound trend:

            http://www.pewforum.org/2013/03/13/strong-catholic-identity-at-a-four-decade-low-in-us/

          • William Davis

            P.S. You attempt to say I was attacking mothers is a straw man if there ever was one. Anyone can tear down a straw man.

          • Mike

            Easy william, you're just being offensive now!

          • William Davis

            I know, I'm done now. The idea that sexism is "of God" really ticks me off in case you can't tell ;)

          • Michael Murray

            If the women were allowed to be priests who would wash all the vestments and arrange the flowers ?

          • Alexandra

            You're mistaken that only women do this work. For example, in my church the priest washes his own vestments (dry cleaners). Or in a monastery, men would do this work.

            But to answer your question- it wouldn't change things, whomever is doing the work now.

          • Mike

            This is why i always look forward to what you have to contribute bc it's always tinged with a genuine affection for sincere dialogue and mutual respect ;)

          • Luke Cooper

            To be honest, Mike, I never feel genuineness, sincerity, and mutual respect from you; rather, I see question-dodging, goalpost-moving, and word-twisting that I'm doubting can be attributable to simple misunderstanding.

          • Mike

            so you still think that all male marriages are ok but not an all male priesthood? ;)

            dude, take it easy! i am just trying to decipher things same as you...but i think i am following the logic a bit more closely if i may say so.

            happy sunday!

            ps did you get to mass today? believe it or not for the first time in my uber lefty parish i heard the priest mention BOTH chesteron and lewis, weird!

          • Luke Cooper

            This is precisely what I'm talking about.

          • Mike

            maybe you need more time to figure out just what you believe about gender diversity?

          • Luke Cooper

            No, Mike. It's really quite simple and I'm astounded that you can't understand: I'm generally against forbidding people from having the same rights as other people. In the RCC, women do not have the same rights as men; they cannot preside over men as men can preside over women, which subjugates women based solely on their biological sex. This asymmetry is a problem for me. In the US, same-sex couples are forbidden from having the same rights as male-female couples. This is also a problem for me.

          • Mike

            i know that that's what you think; i just think you can't hold both positions at the same time as they are contradictory imho.

            i think you make an exception for an all male marriage bc of your politics and condemn the church for an all male priesthood bc it's what your politics dictate.

            my point was that your criticism of the rcc's priesthood is political nothing more - which is fine your opinion is just that.

            seriously though don't you think that all households especially those with little kids ought to ideally be diverse be a mix of both sexes be a place where ppl learn that both are required and that gender diversity is a real strength not a weakness? actually never mind don't answer as we're getting way off topic.

            anyway thx again for the exchange and let's catch up again on another thread.

          • Luke Cooper

            If you knew that's what I thought, why did you play dumb? My worldview dictates my politics, not the other way around.

          • Mike

            "which subjugates women"

            btw this is really kinda rude to catholics, just in case you were wondering...especially to female catholics.

          • Doug Shaver

            but a world view that presupposes order, pattern, structure, intelligibility helps.

            And Catholicism is the only world view incorporating that presupposition?

          • Mike

            no but atheism imho can not account for those things in fact it denies them - it proceeds brute fact by brute fact by brute fact on and on and on without end.

          • Doug Shaver

            atheism imho can not account for those things

            Atheism is not a world view, and it is not supposed to account for anything.

          • Mike

            what's the point of it then?

          • Luke Cooper

            Mike, we've had this conversation before; multiple times. Don't you remember?

          • Mike

            no, really if there's no worldview no implications what's the point?

          • Luke Cooper

            How about to distinguish ourselves from theists? You're asking more of the term than it was coined to describe.

          • Mike

            ok thx.

          • Doug Shaver

            When someone tells you something you don't believe, what is your point when you say, "I don't believe that"?

          • Mike

            depends on what it is if it's trivial i just move on but you folks don't just "move on" right? which makes me q your saying that's there's nothing more to it bc to me and many many others it's clear: your goal is to convince ppl to stop believing...which i think is cruel and immoral but again that's a whole other topic.

            btw atheism would have a MUCH more positive image if it started BUILDING UP rather than trying to tear down and everyone knows it...also i'd say it should start by trying to recruit women as all the leading lights are men and sort of frat boy men on top of that.

          • Doug Shaver

            Atheism is not a world view, and it is not supposed to account for anything.

            what's the point of it then?

            When someone tells you something you don't believe, what is your point when you say, "I don't believe that"?

            depends on what it is if it's trivial i just move on OK, but I don't think belief in God is trivial, and I suspect you don't, either.

            but you folks don't just "move on" right? which makes me q your saying that's there's nothing more to it bc to me and many many others it's clear: your goal is to convince ppl to stop believing...which i think is cruel and immoral but again that's a whole other topic.

            The "more to it" is not in atheism itself. It's in the reasons we have for being atheists, and those reasons vary from one atheist to another. Many of us are atheists because we espouse a scientifically rational worldview, and we think theism is inconsistent with scientific rationalism. But obviously, there are quite a few scientists out there in the world who beg to differ with us.

            btw atheism would have a MUCH more positive image if it started BUILDING UP rather than trying to tear down and everyone knows it…

            In atheism per se, there is nothing to build on. In science and reason, though, I think there is all we need to build a better world than the one we're living in now.

            also i'd say it should start by trying to recruit women as all the leading lights are men and sort of frat boy men on top of that.

            Plenty of atheists are working very hard to change that, but the atheist community is just as human as any other community. People who say they are committed to science and reason don't always act as if they really were, and atheist advocates for social justice are no exception.

          • Mike

            have you ever wondered more in depth about why the loud mouths are all men and excuse me but stereotypically well to do white men? besides that tyson guy it's all sort of frat boy -esque rich white dudes who imho kind of can afford to reject traditional religion bc they're all super educated intelligent and basically rich...i get the appeal if you're also rich secular and white in a big city but if things aren't all going well for you i wonder what the appeal is of a bunch of guys basically telling your a "dummy red neck" if you believe in sky fairies - just comes as very insulting to ALOT of ppl.

          • Doug Shaver

            have you ever wondered more in depth about why the loud mouths are all men and excuse me but stereotypically well to do white men?

            No, I haven't wondered much about that, because I don't think the main problem with loudmouths is who they are. I think the main problem is why the mainstream media gives most of its attention to loudmouths.

            but if things aren't all going well for you i wonder what the appeal is of a bunch of guys basically telling your a "dummy red neck" if you believe in sky fairies - just comes as very insulting to ALOT of ppl.

            Yes, it's insulting, and gratuitously so, in my judgment. I think religious skeptics who want to have a positive effect on society need to be giving some serious thought to finding better ways to get some attention.

            And some of us are trying. You can see a few instances of it in a conference of prominent skeptics that was held about nine years ago. You can watch it at http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-science-religion-reason-and-survival.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Mike.

        You need to update your information. Although Ms. Curie was the first to win two Nobels, and in different disciplines, you are incorrect in your closing remarks. Linus Pauling, the great Cal Tech chemist, who lost the "race" with Messrs. Crick, Watson, Wilkens and Ms. Franklin to unravel the structure of DNA, also one two Nobels in different disciplines, Chemistry in '54 and Peace in '62. He happens to be the only laureate, to my knowledge, to have two unshared Nobels. Two others have also won two Nobels, albeit both shared and both in the same discipline: John Bardeen in '55 and '72 in Physics and Frederick Sanger in '58 and '80 in Chemistry.

        While it would be of more import to have any of the actual scientists or historians of science not banned by SN to weigh in on this topic -- Michael Murray or Paul Brandon Rimmer, help -- let me venture the suggestion that probably few serious and knowledgeable scientists regard the number of Nobels awarded to be a useful metric of a scientist's historic stature and overall contributions. While not diminishing Ms. Curie's substantial contributions, I doubt many scientists would regard her overall contributions to the development of science and the state of human knowledge on a par with, say, Newton's, Einstein's, Bohr's, Darwin's, Faraday's or Maxwell's or, for that matter, Pauling's.

        • Mike

          She's still the only person to win 2 nobels in 2 hard science fields! and the only women!

          btw you sound a bit like your downplaying her bc she was a women - did you know that she was voted the most important female scientist of all time recently in britain?

          • Greg Schaefer

            Mike.

            In response to the question you pose, I did not know that, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

            But,
            it is none too charitable on your part to suggest that I was
            "downplaying [Ms. Curie] because she was a woman." You know nothing
            about me on which to base such a charge. Nor did I say anything in my
            original post from which you could fairly infer that. I'd invite you to
            reread my earlier post.

            That other scientists and historians of
            science engaging in the parlor game of ranking scientists in a "Top 20
            of All-Time" type list might place several other scientists, who
            happened to be men, higher on their list than Ms. Curie hardly
            demonstrates sexism or the downplaying of women. It is possible that it
            might, for some (consider, for example, the manner in which James
            Watson wrote about Rosalind Franklin's contributions to the discovery of
            the structure of DNA in his book, The Double Helix), but wouldn't you
            actually have to know something about the person making the list and the
            reasons they offered for ranking scientists as they did before you
            leveled such a charge? Don't you suppose it is possible that it
            simply reflects the list maker's judgment about the significance and
            importance of the overall contributions made by individual scientists
            over the course of their careers, regardless of their gender, race,
            ethnicity or nationality or whether or not they happened to be religious
            believers?

          • Mike

            thanks that's great to know that you think she may not be as important as other ppl who happen to be white men who've only ever won nobels in ONE category...but i really don't care one way or another how important this women is to science all i know is that to my surprise bc i too only recently found out how astonishing her career was, she remains the only PERSON to win in 2 Hard Sciences nobel categories! still not 1 man has won 2 in different sciences!

            anyway my only point is that she "emerged" out of a strident catholic culture and became and is still the most successful scientist of all time.

            ps you just listed all these men at the end of your post, but when i looked them up none had won 2 nobels in 2 different fields so it just seemed like you were more "enamored" of them bc they were men bc some of them were maybe agnostic too like her.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Mike.

            I'd invite you to read more carefully before you leap to making unfounded charges and misrepresenting others, as you have done, once again, in the first and the concluding sentences in your most recent post. If you're looking for someone to demean or diminish Ms. Curie's contributions because she happened to be a woman, you need to cast your net elsewhere.

            Without doing a thorough survey, I'd venture the guess that a great many, and probably the majority, of "Greatest Scientists of All Time" type (knowledgeable) polls will list Ms. Curie in the "top 10," almost all will list her in the "top 20," and a number may list in her in the top 5. But, I'm not a historian of scientist and in no position to evaluate such things independently myself. Are you?

            I'd invite you to think for a moment as to why it may be that Messrs. Newton, Faraday, Maxwell and Darwin never managed to win even a single Nobel, and why the fact that none of them has a Nobel to his credit doesn't keep them out of the top dozen or so in most of these kinds of lists and why Newton somehow manages to be placed in the top spot in most such lists even though he won two fewer Nobels than Ms. Curie and Messrs. Pauling, Bardeen and Sanger.

            As to the speculation in your closing paragraph, if you go check more than a few polls of the "greatest scientists of all time" variety, you might gain actual insight as to why I bothered to list Messrs. Newton, Einstein, Bohr, Darwin, Faraday and Maxwell. Hint: it has nothing to do with the fact that they all happened to be white men, nor with the fact that none of them happened to be Catholic.

            Finally, even if it was the case that a majority of the Polish population at the turn of the 20th Century might have been baptized Catholic or otherwise self-identified as Catholics, it is hard to see what that has to do with Ms. Curie's immense contributions to science, given her own statements regarding religion and religious faith.

            Because you seem impressed by the number of Nobels won and ranking in "Top __" type lists, it might prove an interesting research project for you to look into the backgrounds of all the Nobel laureates in the "hard" sciences and the scientists whose names often appear in the top 20 or 30 (or wherever you chose to draw the cut-off line) of "greatest scientists" lists and determine how many identified themselves as devout Catholics and, of those, how many attributed their scientific contributions to the nature of their religious beliefs (as opposed to, say, their devotion to the scientific method as a means of producing knowledge, and their willingness to consider with an open mind where the evidence took them, rather than "knowing" what the "answers" were a priori based on their religious faith).

          • Mike

            ok, thanks for that but i still think you're over analyzing this; my only point in bringing her up was to make the point that she emerged out of one of the most catholic cultures of that era and she was a WOMEN! it just explodes the non-sense about catholicism and it's "influence" ambient or otherwise being in any way "against" women or science.

            do you know of any other women usually listed in the top 10 scientists of all time? i checked and there doesn't seem to be even 1.

            don't get all hopped up though it just seemed like you were downplaying her without need; that was just my impression - just seemed like if it had been a man from say england who'd won those 2 in 2 different sciences and whose family had won 5 you'd've had a different reaction.

            anyway thx for the exchange and all the best.

      • Andrew Kassebaum

        As far as I can tell, the Catholicism of Marie Curie's youth had little to no influence on her contributions to chemistry and physics. I don't think we can extract anything meaningful from the fact that she was from Poland. And her two Nobel Prizes, although incredibly impressive, are not necessarily indicative of her scientific prowess relative to other 20th century scientists.

  • Mila

    "Catholic mathematicians and philosophers such as John Buridan, Nicole Oresme and Roger Bacon as the founders of modern science." Pierre Duhem, Historian of Science

    • Gray

      What are you trying to say by referring to these people? I don't understand? Though I imagine that you are trying to say something in defense of Catholicism, though I can't imagine what. No one here denies the contribution of Catholic contribution to science and art to the human race.

      • Mike

        Check out this presentation i think you might enjoy it: lots of actual priests made fundamental scientific discoveries:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quE5h30x6v0

        • Peter

          Barr's main theme is that Christian faith in a rational author of nature led Europeans to believe that unchanging and universal natural laws existed and motivated many, especially priests, to seek out and discover these laws.

          The great scientists are western and not oriental, because in the orient there was no belief in a rational author of nature who established universal laws and therefore no impetus towards discovering those laws.

          This effectively seals the discussion. Without belief in an author of natural laws - without belief that natural laws existed in principle - there would have been no incentive to search for those laws and science would be centuries behind what it is today.

      • Doug Shaver

        No one here denies the contribution of Catholics to science . . . .

        According to Duhem and the OP, they did more than just contribute to it. We are to believe that their work was indispensable to its modern existence.

    • Gray

      What are you trying to say by referring to these people? I don't understand? Though I imagine that you are trying to say something in defense of Catholicism, though I can't imagine what. No one here denies the contribution of Catholic contribution to science and art to the human race.

  • Michael Murray

    Ah Mersenne Primes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mersenne_prime

    There was a time when you could write them down on a large number of pages and I used to show the latest ones to my classes. There is a distributed internet program to hunt for them

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Internet_Mersenne_Prime_Search

    Unfortunately they got big and the latest one has 17 million digits. No scrolling through that in front a class.

    • William Davis

      Yeah, rounding a prime number kinda ruins it doesn't it?

    • Ignatius Reilly

      According to Wikipedia it would take 4,647 pages to display. That would take hours.

      • Michael Murray

        16 MB text file. Looks like this with some extra numbers where the dots are

        581887266232246 ..... 5203705645658725746141988071724285951

        so at least we can check it can't be divided by 2 !

  • I was having a bad hair day when that woodcut was made.