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The Stillbirth of Science in Babylon

Babylon

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


 
In The Savior of Science, Jaki mentioned the history of science among cultures that communicated and developed in succession–Babylon, Greece, and Arabia. Knowledge was transmitted to the Sumerians from the Egyptians and then on to Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians (c. 2900 B.C.– mid 7th century A.D.). From there knowledge was transmitted to the Greeks and then to the Arabs, and this history is recorded in detail. Just as in other ancient cultures, there was obvious skill.

Jaki devoted the first few pages of the chapter “The Omen of Ziggurats” in Science and Creation to those massive structures built by the Sumerians and Babylonians as an example of their technological ability. “The planning, building, and decorating of the ziggurats,” Jaki wrote, “implied craftsmanship and practical geometry and is application on a grand scale, especially if one considers the temple complex and city surrounding the ziggurat.” Towns were planned around these temples, with defense walls, palaces, and quarters of the cities. The temples were made of mud bricks laid in a herring-bone pattern with mud mortar overlaid with bitumen or lime plaster, which could be smoothed and polished to a high-quality finish, to waterproof them. (Crawford, Sumer and the Sumerians, 60-67)

According to Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian (c. 484–425 B.C.), the ziggurat of Babylon was exceeded by no other city:

“[Babylon] lies in a great plain, and is in shape a square, each side fifteen miles in length; thus sixty miles make the complete circuit of the city. Such is the size of the city of Babylon; and it was planned like no other city of which we know.” (The Histories, Book 1, Chapter 178, section 3)

Jaki credited the Babylonian discovery of “mathematical puzzles equivalent to second-degree equations, lists of hundreds of plants and chemical compounds, together with their astonishingly accurate medicinal properties, and even longer lists of planetary positions” as extraordinary items of learning. The lists of planetary positions were the factual proof that Hipparchus, a second-century B.C. Greek astronomer and mathematician who discovered the precession of the equinoxes, relied on Babylonian astronomical data to reach his conclusions, another “one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all times.” The Babylonians had the skills necessary to apply mathematics to nature, but they did not take this step.

It may seem contradictory for Jaki to have claimed that science was “born” of Christianity and “stillborn” in other cultures while he also credited those cultures with great scientific discoveries. This point is often missed, so it is useful to pause here to point out something in Jaki’s use of the word “stillbirth” of science. He acknowledged cultural wombs that were capable of developing science even to the point of viability as a sustained discipline. His choice of the word “birth” was to show that the final step from isolated dependence to universal independence was not taken in any culture before the Scientific Revolution in the Middle Ages.

Historians have argued that “all subsequent varieties of scientific astronomy, in the Hellenistic world, in India, in Islam, and in the West–if not indeed all subsequent endeavors in the exact sciences–depend upon Babylonian astronomy in decisive and fundamental ways.” (Aaboe, “Scientific Astronomy in Antiquity, 21-42) Jaki would not have agreed with this argument, and the reason has to do with how he defined “exact science” and how he considered the theological implications of ancient cultures as well. All subsequent varieties of science may have depended in some way on Babylonian astronomy, but not in decisive and fundamental ways.

The Babylonians may have mathematically modeled astronomical appearances, but their cosmology is evidence they believed a very different reality behind the appearances. The Enuma elish was a portrayal of personified forces engaged in bloody battles; the mother goddess, Tiamat, is dismembered to form the sky, earth, waters, and air. Jaki explained, “Such a cosmogony was certainly not a pointer toward that kind of understanding of the cosmos which amounts to science.”

The Babylonians observed celestial phenomenon as a service to a religious worldview steeped in magic, and the calculations were abstracted from physical objects. Jaki held that it was absolutely necessary for a true science, the “quantitative study of the quantitative aspects of physical objects in motion,” for calculations not to be abstracted from objects.

A viable birth of science could not have been made in such an environment where the mathematical formality was cut off from the physical reality. The failure was neither geophysical nor socio-economical, but rather an intellectual inertia that prevented a systematic investigation of the world and its lawfulness. There was no confidence in the reasonability of such an enterprise under the belief that people were part of a huge, animistic, cosmic struggle between chaos and order.

Next week, Greece.

Sources:

  • Stanley L. Jaki, Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, Ltd, 1986), 85-99.
  • Stanley L. Jaki, The Savior of Science (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 38-39.
  • Harriet Crawford, Sumer and the Sumerians, Second Edition (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 60-67.
  • Herodotus, The Histories, with an English translation by A.D. Godley (Cambridge, UK: Harvard University Press, 1920), Book 1, Chapter 178, section 3.
  • A. Aaboe, “Scientific Astronomy in Antiquity,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, A. 276 (1974), 21-42.

Adapted from Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki.
 
 
(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Dr. Stacy Trasancos

Written by

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

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  • "The failure was neither geophysical nor socio-economical, but rather an intellectual inertia that prevented a systematic investigation of the world and its lawfulness."

    This very well may be the case, I don't know how one could establish this with any certainty, he seems to conclude this intellectual inertia existed from the fact that no such investigations occurred, this seems rather circular to me.

    But of course the above statement is also true of Christian cultures for the first 1500 years or so. What changed in the late Middle Ages, renaissance and enlightenment? Secularism, a rejection of Catholic authority in Western and Northern Europe. Heavy investigation into pre-Christian Greek writings. What didn't change? The bible as the source of Christian philosophy.

    • "What changed in the late Middle Ages, renaissance and enlightenment? Secularism, a rejection of Catholic authority in Western and Northern Europe. Heavy investigation into pre-Christian Greek writings. What didn't change? The bible as the source of Christian philosophy."

      Just so I'm clear, are you suggesting that prior to the renaissance and enlightenment:

      1) There was little investigation into pre-Christian Greek writings, presumably on the part of Christians, and

      2) Christians viewed the Bible as the (not a, but the) source of Christian philosophy?

      • No, I am suggesting that one of the many factors that led to the early development of modern scientific theory and hence the growth in scientific discovery was a renewed interest in Greek writing. The big names in early science did not look to the Bible or the catechism for how to view the world, they looked to the Greeks, Aristotle, Thales and so on. Other factors include Protestantism, the proliferation of knowledge by way of the printing press.

        What did not occur in the late Middle Ages was a renewed interest in Biblical or theological writings, these had been the focus of monastic reading and copying for the first ten centuries or so of Christian domination in Europe and Byzantium. But science was "stillborn" in Christendom until at least 1000, and I would argue until around 1600, and actual modern science did not emerge until the 19th century.

        • "No, I am suggesting that one of the many "factors that led to the early development of modern scientific theory and hence the growth in scientific discovery was a renewed interest in Greek writing."

          Thanks for the comment, Brian. I can agree with that claim, which is phrased much softer and broader than your original comment. The renewed interest in Greek writing, both within and outside the Church, played a role--among other factors--in the flowering of science.

          "The big names in early science did not look to the Bible or the catechism for how to view the world, they looked to the Greeks, Aristotle, Thales and so on."

          I'm still a bit confused. First, because I'm not sure whether you're implying that pre-scientific thinkers looked only to the Bible to determine their worldview, or whether they used the Bible, among other sources, to determine certain parts of their worldview. If the former, that's an audacious claim that is demonstrably untrue. If the latter, it seems insignificant. To say pre-scientific thinkers used the Bible to determine some parts of the worldview (the religious parts, for instance) and Greek thought to inform other parts (the philosophical parts), is hardly controversial. I'd agree with you there. But we should also note that the early and medieval Christians leaned heavily on Greek philosophy to inform both their theology and their general worldview.

          Second, I don't think it's accurate to suggest "big names in early science" did not look to the Bible to form their worldview. In fact, history shows nearly the opposite. Copernicus, Bacon, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Boyle, Faraday, and Mendel--certainly included in your list of "big names"--leaned heavily on Scripture, and it was their biblically-informed worldview that motivated them to explore the natural world. Faraday, in particular, was driven by what he read in Romans 1:20: "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made."

          "What did not occur in the late Middle Ages was a renewed interest in Biblical or theological writings"

          What specific time periods are you including in "late Middle Ages"?

          • The point of all of this is to try and figure out what changed in the late Middle Ages, say 1200 at the very earliest, that sparked the flame that in later centuries would become the scientific method and revolution. It wasn't as if Europe became Christian at that time, it had been Christian for centuries. In other words, why in the 800 to 1000 years after Christ provided us with his message which spread quickly, did science not emerge? Again, I point to the Byzantine empire. A powerful state with all of the heritage and experience of centuries of the Roman Empire that was able to complete the Agia Sophia ruled for centuries, lacking the flawed worldview of Egypt, China and so on. Why was science stillborn in the Byzantine Empire?

            Please do respond, I find it disappointing when you give me the last word after only a couple of exchanges.

          • I can give you the short answer. That period was the nurturing and purifying period, the gestation if you will. The Biblical world view was a radical departure from the ancient pantheistic and animistic world views of the other cultures, and early Christianity maintained and defended this world view. People may have been more interested in the salvation of souls than trying to figure out the natural world, but they also held firm to the belief that the natural world is the creation of God, ordered and rational, with an absolute beginning in time.

            Next week is Greece. It's a longer essay (not long enough). The birth of science in the Christian Middle Ages was the result of reconciling the Greek scientific writings with the Christian Creed, abundantly demonstrated in the writings of the Christian scholars.

          • Sorry, I have no idea what you mean by "nurturing and purifying". What does this have to do with anything? How were Christians being nurtured and purified and how do you know the Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese were not in a similar process?

            And next week I will argue that the Greeks were doing very well in fact until Phillip of Macedon, war, religion, and monarchy killed that golden age of Freedom of Thought. It re-emerged in Islam and then in Western Europe along with democracy and freethinking.

            It was when people were allowed to say things like "maybe the church and the pope don't have all the answers" without being burned alive that we see scientific advancement begin to flourish.

          • "Sorry, I have no idea what you mean . . . " There's a reason for that. 1) You repeatedly go off-topic, and 2) you won't read what you are trying to refute.

            This essay is a sub-section in a section titled "The Stillbirths of Science" in the chapter titled "Was Born." This section is preceded by "The Biblical Womb" and "Early Christianity" and followed by "The Christian West." I refer you to those sections.

            For now, I am systematically making the case (a la Jaki) that the failure of "science" (i.e. the exact science of the Scientific Revolution) failed to emerge as a viable and independent discipline in ancient cultures because their pantheistic world view was incompatible with such an intellectual breakthrough.

          • Instead of telling me I go off topic and won't read what I refute, why don't you just explain it to me. This "nurturing and purifying" process would seem to be a significant obstacle to the intellectual breakthrough you are speaking of. What is it? How was it an obstacle? I thought the only obstacle was a "pantheistic world view". But apparently, for the scientific revolution to occur, one needs a monotheistic worldview akin to Catholicism AND to be "nurtured and purified"?

          • Howard

            This period of 1,000 years contained major events and
            influences. The great stability of the Roman Empire disappeared about 330 and was replaced by general social chaos.

            It was as if the U.S. Army and Border Patrol were dissolved,
            the U.S. government (the Emperor) became a relic of the past, state governors and mayors (kings, lords) fought with each other for power using paid police. On top of all of this the Barbarians of the east (the USSR) attacked and gained
            territory (the Eastern seabord). Then Islam attacked from the south and gained territory (half of the west through the southwest – no comparison today).

            It took Christianity to convert the Barbarians during this
            Dark Ages to gain enough influence over Europe to unify it. The Muslims were pushed back and then once again Europe could be a stable and become a modern world.

            Europe was preoccupied with survival, settled into calm, then the church was able to create the great universities.

            The rest is history too.

          • "The great stability of the Roman Empire disappeared about 330 and was replaced by general social chaos."

            Well, not really, even the Roman Empire itself was constantly being besieged and engaged in constant war, from the Celts, to the Cathaginians to the Huns. They never really had a grip on Germany. And, only the Western Empire fell. The Eastern Empire continued for centuries, as Christian,and did very well. For example it built this in the 6th century.

            https://www.google.ca/search?q=hagia+sophia&client=firefox-a&hs=y6m&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=5MnvU5-LFoaZyATSooD4Bw&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1204&bih=656#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=pzAnSJ5ox_vY6M%253A%3Bix-zN1-HvZ7bMM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fimages.wikia.com%252Fassassinscreed%252Fimages%252Farchive%252F5%252F5b%252F20111010181022!Hagia_Sophia_001.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fassassinscreed.wikia.com%252Fwiki%252FHagia_Sophia%3B1289%3B930

            If you think that Europe was unified in the Dark or Middle Ages you need to brush up on your history. It was not in any sense unified until the 20th Century.

            But you are right, soon after converting to Christianity Western Europe suffered an enormous contraction and could not get its act together to fight off Vikings or Muslims. The Eastern Empire had no such trouble, until it too fell to the Ottomans in 1453. It never fought this back.

            But it is not as if there was a great peace in Western Europe around the time of the Renaissance or Enlightenment that allowed for science to develop. It was pretty much constant war until 1945.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_conflicts_in_Europe#12th_century

          • Howard

            We are talking about Western Europe. The East had it's own trouble dealing with Islam.

            Few periods in history are free from wars. We call the various stages of Rome's life Empires for a reason, the rule of law and the army controlled society. The expansion into and the vast territories were controlled and protected well enough but the Empire became overextended. When that protection collapsed and invasions were successful society changed.

            The unification I speak of is not the modern meaning, the European Union, the area was unified by being Catholic - Christendom. That is how Urban II managed to call the various European leaders to the Crusades.

          • You are talking about Western Europe. I am responding to the implication that science was stillborn in ancient Egypt, Babylon, China and Greece because they lacked a Christian worldview. Byzantium is the outlier. Science was stillborn in Byzantium as well. It was Christian.

            Sure Byzantium fought wars, but so did the various European communities when science got really rolling. War and strife cannot be said to have been an obstacle to science, it was a constant in all these civilization.

            Sure when Urban II was Pope there was a religiously unified Europe, but this was hardly the cradle of the scientific revolution, any more than Ancient Greece itself was. The late middle ages, when the scientific revolution began, are not properly characterized as a unified Catholic Christendom. They were an assortment of kingdoms constantly fighting each other and the Pope, installing alternative Popes, and finally most of Europe rejected Catholicism completely, causing more war. But not in any way stifling science, which really flourished in Protestant Europe. We also had a plague killing off a third of the population. If the scientific revolution could begin in these conditions I see no reason why it could not in Byzantium.

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

          • Howard

            "...why in the 800 to 1000 years after Christ provided us with his message which spread quickly, did science not emerge."

            Several people have tried to help you find the answer. I hope your quest for the perfect one-liner will be satisfied.

          • I really don't think they have, but I agree, as I have noted, such a long and complex issue as the development of modern science can't be boiled down to a one liner or a single issue, such as a pantheistic worldview.

            This whole series seems to be trying to do just that, examine other civilizations who had all the elements required for science to develop, but one, presumably Christianity.

            I think this is a bad way to do history.

          • Howard

            "This whole series seems to be trying to..."

            You have not read to whole series. You are reacting to the suggestion that Christianity could have done something important.

            This story has to unfold over many centuries, and it is not finished yet unless you have studied Fr. Jaki.

            The essential elements are:

            1. The reasons the modern scientific method DID NOT emerge in other cultures. Answer that question culture by culture.

            2. This is a story of the CHRISTIAN Worldview which has not change essentially (the essence) in the centuries following the reformation. So if you can acknowledge such things as, "..science, which really flourished in Protestant (Christian) Europe" and the creation and administration of the universities by the Christian church, and support for science by that church, we are left with the details of a part yet untold here.

            A knee-jerk anti-Catholicism is a bad way to understand history. Analysis without hearing the story is bad anytime, unless we only discuss one-liners or take the Monty Python course in European History.

          • Hey, I really do not disagree with anything you have said. Do you disagree with something I have said?

          • Howard

            Not true and yes.

            “I think this is a bad way to do history.”

            “I really don't think they have”

            “If the scientific revolution could begin
            in these conditions I see no reason why it could not in Byzantium”

            “Well, not really”

            “Enlightenment that allowed for science to develop”

            “It was when people were allowed to say
            things like "maybe the church and the pope don't have all the answers" without being burned alive that we see scientific advancement begin to flourish.”

            “The big names in early science did not look to the Bible or the catechism for how to view the world”

            “The emergence of science, largely in the west over hundreds of years, is just not something that can be pinned down in any meaningful way to a single factor like a religious worldview.”

            I suspect that there will be more in the future.

          • So let us take the first one. "Well not really", I assume you really mean you believe in fact that there was great stability in the Roman Empire and that this disappeared about 330 A.D.

            I will grant retract my statements about the Punic Wars and Celtic Invasions as these were Republican Rome. So let us start with Augustus. His reign started with civil war between himself and Mark Anthony and in the Battle of Teutoburg Forest he lost 3 legions, to the barbarians hardly a model of stability.

            His grandson was Caligula, who made his horse a Senator. Certainly Claudius' reign saw some stability, England is conquered, but then there was the Boudica rebellion. We have Nero soon thereafter and Rome itself burning.

            We then have the years of the four, five and six emperors with their social, military and political upheavals which Wikipedia describes as having "Empire-wide repercussions, which included the outbreak of the Batavian rebellion."

            We have other rebellions and civil wars, including the Jewish revolt around 7 AD.

            We have the crisis of the 3rd century, again from Wikipedia "(AD 235–284) was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression."

            And this is just from 15 minutes of internet research. Certainly Roman rule provided some stability. There is the Pax Romana of about 200 years, but it ended around 180 AD, not 330.

          • Howard

            I will stop here with this one. This one illustrates my
            point. To begin to understand by automatically saying “No not really” instead of What do you mean? inhibits any understanding.

            The context is Christianity and a combox is not a history
            book or a lecture it is a conversation.

            Since the scientific method was developed in Western Europe and your question was why it didn’t develop sooner that it did, I restricted my comments to that place and question. Stacy is covering other cultures and places better than I could attempt to do.

            Compared with the previous centuries, Christianity reached it’s height of stability and acceptance with Emperor Constantine (d 337 AD). Christianity finally had reached acceptance to the point of protection by
            law, Roman law. An era of great turmoil erupted after that when the Barbarian invasion began. The Empire also withdrew it’s protection from Britain.

            This invasion I believe was the single most important
            factor in the decline of a Christian worldview at that time. It took conversion to Christianity and a major event like the establishment of the Carolingian Empire to see it’s revival.

          • No, I take your point that in Western Europe, since the fall of Rome, there was less stability. I'm not convinced there was insufficient stability for science to develop, particularly when we look at the literate classes, generally monks in fortresses of monasteries.

            But the point is well taken, at least for the sake of argument, which is why, in the same paragraph I asked about the eastern Empire that remained stable and Christian, at least when compared to China, Egypt, Babylon and so on. All this to say that it seems the evidence is inconclusive at best that the missing piece to allow science to develop was the Christian worldview. Byzantium seems to have all the missing pieces, yet science was stillborn there.

          • Howard

            The point in time that we are concerned with regarding the emergence of a modern science is leading up to and after
            1,000. It is really worldview that is the important thing here, not stability. Stability affected worldview as the first phase of migration began about 300 AD or so. These people were not Christian, or even very civilized, so where ever they
            went and settled and fought worldview suffered. When the later Christian kingdoms fought with each other it was largely a Christian world.

            We are now at Babylon and I have a tendency to drift off topic. This is Stacy’s series and if you read it through to the end you will still be able to disagree.

          • David Nickol

            This story has to unfold over many centuries, and it is not finished yet unless you have studied Fr. Jaki.

            If it is not legitimate to comment unless and until we have studied Fr. Jaki, then Strange Notions was not the proper forum for this series.

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            You raise many worthwhile considerations, BGA. Among your many claims, allow me to make a brief statement about the Byzantine Empire.

            In Byzantium, there was a perennial tendency to caesaropapism, which significantly blurred the lines between Church and state. In Western Europe, the friction between the Church (under the authority of the papacy) and state allowed for the creation of third-party, independent corporations, the most important of which were the universities.

            The scholar Edward Grant identifies the medieval universities as the foundation of modern science. He also provides a lengthy discussion of the the failure of Byzantium (and Islam) to produce a scientific enterprise. His work may be worth reading, if you are interested in this subject.

          • Thanks Andrew, this makes sense to me. I would tend to agree that the emergence of independent institutions with freedom of thought and inquiry, was a huge factor in the development of science.

            I think also there must be technological factors as well, and a number of discoveries which opened the medievil mind, such as the new world, all kinds of different animals.

            My whole point is that we shouldn't boil it down to a single factor such as theological perspective.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          science was "stillborn" in Christendom until at least 1000
          Sometimes one wonders at the consequences of replacing history with "social studies."

          • Please explain. Are you saying Dr Transocos' thesis is social science not history? She presented it in the faculty of Dogmatic Theology, as far as I can tell, so I would say it is neither.

            Determining causes for things in the past is inherently difficult, historians don't agree on the "causes" of the First World War, much less the scientific revolution. The emergence of science, largely in the west over hundreds of years, is just not something that can be pinned down in any meaningful way to a single factor like a religious worldview. Our ability to be confident of why a number of civilizations did not make more scientific progress in the past, particularly hundreds and thousands of years ago is even less.

            If you are saying that we really cannot even approach conclusive answers on these subjects, I would agree! But I think the whole point of this series is so say that we can be reasonably sure that

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            one wonders at the consequences of replacing history with "social studies."

            Are you saying Dr Transocos' thesis is social science not history?

            No. First of all, "social 'science'" is an oxymoron.
            Secondly, it is because folks today get "social studies" and not history that we get grand theories of "intelligent design" history, in which abstractions are endowed with causative power.

            to a single factor like a religious worldview

            What makes you think that "a religious worldview" is a "single factor"? Some of the specifics that can be cited include:
            a) the idea that the universe is an organic being rather than something more like a machine.
            b) the idea that human reason is incapable of reaching independently reliable conclusions about the world or morality.
            c) the idea that the world is the result of the actions of competing (and somewhat whimsical) decisions by a host of rival gods.
            d) the idea that the world is eternal and proceeds through endless repetitive cycles in which the same events recur when the stars are aligned once more in the same positions.
            e) the idea that coincidence and concatenation are as meaningful as causation.
            f) the idea that natural bodies do not cause effects, but God directly causes both the apparent cause and the apparent effect.
            g) the idea that natural laws are an illusion resulting from the "habits of God" producing the same effect of B following A repetitively.
            h) the idea that the universe is inherently disorderly and its deeper understanding is not accessible.

            i) the idea that inquiry into nature must be licensed and regulated by the central power.
            j) the idea that the wisdom of the past must not be questioned and debated.
            k) the idea that inquiry into nature, while sometimes a fun vocation for the leisured, is not a fit occupation for adults.
            l) the idea that the results of inquiry into nature is privileged information, to be kept from the profane gaze of the common ruck.

            It's not clear that these (and other factors) can be considered a "single" factor, even if all of them reflect some "religious" commitment. Every society has struggled with them; some embraced them. Only the Latin West shook free of them. (The Greek West might have, except it was largely extinguished when it was reduced to dhimmi status. And the House of Submission shook free of some of it, except most notably f) and g))

            Perhaps it only seems that way to people who have been unwilling to allow any positive influence whatsoever to Latin Christendom. Like the young men in my friend's college theater class, who were convinced that John was calling on the girls "all the time" when he was simply calling on the boys and girls with pre-planned equality.

  • Chee Chak

    I think that it is time for us agnostics and atheists to relent and accept the fact that Stacy Trasancos presentation of the facts of history as represented in her book, Science Was Born Of Christianity, are essentially correct, and that there is no use "kicking against the goad". I have done much online research and can find no credible refutations to her book or to Fr. Jaki's publications. Some of us may find that her book and Jaki's words smack of Catholic triumphalism....and as odious to some as that may be....that is not the point. The point is that the historical facts are so far unimpeachable. Recommended reading.

    • David Nickol

      I think that it is time for us agnostics and atheists to relent . . . .

      Never! :-)

      I don't consider myself an agnostic or an atheist, but as someone who had what I believe to be a very solid Catholic education but now am highly skeptical. I have chosen not to immerse myself in the issues at hand for a number of reasons, but one is that it it requires an impossibly large survey of the history of many different cultures, and another is that while I think it's a legitimate area of study to try to determine why modern science emerged when and where it did, it does not seem to me to be a particularly legitimate pursuit to try to explain why modern science didn't emerge in Babylon, India, and so on. History, it seems to me, is the study of what did happen, not what didn't. If you want to expand history to cover all of the things that didn't happen, it becomes an extremely vast field of study!

      Also, although I have not read Tracy Sancos's book or the works of Father Jaki, it seems that to say "science was born of Christianity" is a basically meaningless claim, except insofar as modern science began in a culture that happened to be Christian. (Of course, I am going by the book title, which of course is not the book!) But was everything that developed in Western Europe "born of Christianity"?

      Also, there is a deep question as to what exactly science is and whether it is "born" or whether it is a human invention.

      Some of us may find that her book and Jaki's words smack of Catholic triumphalism . . . .

      Who would be so uncharitable as to come to that conclusion? :-)

      But as for Catholicism and science, there are strong arguments that very important to the development of modern science was the Protestant Reformation (or the "Protestant Revolt," as I was taught to call it in elementary school). It seems to me it can hardly be denied that the Protestant Reformation was "born of Christianity," but I doubt that the Catholic Church wants to take credit for it.

      • Chee Chak

        I don't consider myself an agnostic or an atheist.

        Well ...you must be somewhere on the spectrum.Speak clearly please, otherwise it is difficult to relate and see where you are coming from. Are you a fence sitter or simply a contrarian on either side of the issue? No offense intended.

        • David Nickol

          I am not quite sure it would be helpful to me or to anyone to label myself. In any case, I don't think it is particularly relevant whether one is an atheist, an agnostic, or a devout Catholic. I am sure there are many, many devout Catholics who would not agree that "science was born of Christianity." (Again, I have not read the book, so I am making certain assumptions about what the phrase means.) It is not as if all Christians believe one thing about the origins of modern science, and all agnostics and atheists believe another. I don't believe there are any Catholic doctrines which require Catholics to believe there is a necessary connection between Christian thought and the origins of modern science. Also, if it is indeed true that certain Christian doctrines or beliefs about the world in some way were necessary for the rise of modern science, I see no reason why atheists couldn't acknowledge that fact without converting to theism. If the idea that there are laws by which nature, the world, or the universe are governed (when God is not working miracles) came out of Christianity, that does not mean it must be wrong.

          • Chee Chak

            I am not quite sure it would be helpful to me or to anyone to label myself.I don't think it is particularly relevant whether one is an atheist, an agnostic, or a devout Catholic.

            Ok......good enough......the lone ranger.....hi...oh....Silver away. :-)

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        The contention is that something in the medieval world-view eased the emergence of natural science. For example: synderesis: that human reason is capable of reaching correct conclusions; secondary causation: that natural bodies were capable of genuine causal interactions; methodological naturalism: that one investigates nature asking only what nature with its immanent powers can do; the notion that improving life in this world is an aid to salvation in the next.

        He who does not avail himself of reason abandons his chief honor, since by virtue of reason he was made in the image of God.
        -- Berengar of Tours

        There were impediments to all these factors present in other cultures.

        • David Nickol

          The contention is that something in the medieval world-view eased the emergence of natural science.

          I have no quarrel with that whatsoever.

      • Howard

        " to say "science was born of Christianity" is a basically meaningless claim, except insofar as modern science began in a culture that happened to be Christian."

        We could rename the book, "Science was Born of Human Beings". But, that would also be meaningless according to your conclusion.

        The Catholic church as you mean it, is concerned with salvation. Credit and triumphalism are human weaknesses.