• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

From Faith Came Science: The Condemnations of 1277

Condemnations of 1277

In 1277, Étienne Tempier, the Bishop of Paris, issued a list of 219 condemned propositions relating to details of Aristotelian texts that were irreconcilable with the Christian worldview. These propositions were not binding on Christians, but served as a guide for the scholars at the University of Paris. The decree largely dealt with the eternity of the world and creation.

The Condemned Propositions

 
The propositions are often referenced by historians of science, and their intent and effects are disputed. It is instructive to review them as they are (in translation) and consider them on their own merit. Below is a list of some of the propositions condemned at the University of Paris by Tempier.1 Note, the quoted material is a condemned error, not an assertion.

  • Proposition 31 rejected that the heavens are divine. “That there are three principles for celestial things: the subject of eternal motion, the soul of the celestial body, and the first mover, [which moves things] insofar as [it is] desired. This is an error with respect to the first two.”
  • Proposition 32 rejected that the world is an organism. “That the eternal principles are two, namely, the body of the heaven and its soul.”
  • Proposition 66 said that rectilinear motion is possible for planets and stars. “That God could not move the heaven in a straight line, the reason being that He would then leave a vacuum.”
  • Proposition 73 essentially condemned pantheism. “That the heavenly bodies are moved by an intrinsic principle which is the soul, and that they are moved by a soul and an appetitive power, like an animal. For just as an animal is moved by desiring, so also is the heaven.”
  • Proposition 75 also condemned the animistic view of the universe as if the heavens are made of organs. “That the celestial soul is an intelligence, and the celestial spheres are not instruments of intelligences but rather [their] organs, as the ear and the eye are the organs of a sensitive power.”
  • Proposition 83 safeguarded the doctrine of creation. “That the world, although it was made from nothing, was not newly-made, and although it passed from nonbeing to being, the nonbeing did not precede in duration but only in nature.”
  • Proposition 84 condemned the error that the physical world is eternal. “That the world is eternal because that which has a nature by which it is able to exist for the whole future has a nature by which it was able to exist in the whole past.”
  • Proposition 85 also guarded against an eternal worldview. “That the world is eternal as regards all the species contained in it, and that time, motion, matter, agent, and receiver are eternal, because the world comes from the infinite power of God and it is impossible that there be something new in the effect without there being something new in the cause.”
  • Proposition 86 protected the reality of time and eternity. “That eternity and time have no existence in reality but only in the mind.”
  • Proposition 87 guarded the absolute beginning and end of time. “That nothing is eternal from the standpoint of its end that is not eternal from the standpoint of its beginning.”
  • Proposition 88 rejected that time is infinite. “That time is infinite at both ends. For even though it is impossible for an infinitude [of things] to have been traversed, some one of which had to be traversed, nevertheless it is not impossible for an infinitude [of things] to have been traversed, none of which had to be traversed.”
  • Proposition 89 declared that it is possible to refute arguments of Aristotle if his arguments for an eternal universe contradict revelation. “That it is impossible to refute the arguments of the Philosopher [Aristotle] concerning the eternity of the world unless we say that the will of the first being embraces incompatibles.”
  • Proposition 90 carefully noted a distinction between Creator and creation. “That the universe cannot stop, because the first agent has [the ability] to transmute in succession eternally, now into this form, now into that one. And likewise, matter is naturally apt to be transmuted.”
  • Proposition 91 asserted the beginning of the universe. “That there has already been an infinite number of revolutions of the heaven, which it is impossible for the created intellect but not for the first cause to comprehend.”
  • Proposition 92 condemned the doctrine of the Great Year. “That with all the heavenly bodies coming back to the same point after a period of thirty-six thousand years, the same effects as now exist will reappear.”

Historians still study the writings of contemporaries of this time to ascertain the extent of the drama involved, but these condemnations demonstrate, incontrovertibly and like any other writing produced by Christian scholars, that faith guided the reasoning process. The Condemnations of 1277 are a good reflection of the intellectual climate of the times.

Not Proved by Demonstration

 
It is noteworthy that St. Thomas Aquinas, who died before the Condemnations of 1277 were issued, had also specifically expressed rejection of the eternity of the world contra Aristotle. He credited faith in divine revelation, and not demonstration, for such rejection:

"The articles of faith cannot be proved demonstratively, because faith is of things 'that appear not' (Hebrews 11:1). But that God is the Creator of the world: hence that the world began, is an article of faith; for we say, 'I believe in one God,' etc. And again, Gregory says (Hom. i in Ezech.), that Moses prophesied of the past, saying, 'In the beginning God created heaven and earth': in which words the newness of the world is stated. Therefore the newness of the world is known only by revelation; and therefore it cannot be proved demonstratively.
 
By faith alone do we hold, and by no demonstration can it be proved, that the world did not always exist, as was said above of the mystery of the Trinity."2

Just as biblical cultures and early Christian writers, the philosophers of the Middle Ages viewed the world as creation, created out of nothing by a merciful, faithful, and loving Creator, with an absolute beginning in time. By rejecting details of the Greek scientific corpus that conflicted with the Christian worldview, the scholars effectively refuted the pantheistic-animistic-cyclical view of the cosmos held not only in Greece, but also in the cultures and religions of Egypt, China, India, and Babylonia. Following that refutation, a realistic physics emerged.

A Realistic Physics Emerged

 
In the generation after the Condemnations of 1277, Jean Buridan applied this biblical understanding of the cosmos to the common experience of objects in motion. Buridan was not a theologian, but a man with a brilliant scientific mind, confident in his faith to guide his thinking and lay boundaries for reality. He was most interested in explaining natural phenomenon, particularly the motion of objects, and even more particularly, the beginning of all motion. His assent in faith to the tenets of the Christian Creed guided him to assert the most critical breakthrough in the history of science, the idea of inertial motion and impetus.3 The theory of impetus relates motion to mass of an object, air resistance, and momentum. Buridan specifically refuted the Aristotelian idea that terrestrial motion is due to antiperistatasis, impulsion by air moving in behind an object, which was similar to celestial motion. Aristotle believed perfect celestial bodies moved eternally due to a desire to be contact with the divine æther, hence eternal impulsion by divine essence moving in behind an object.

Buridan noted that the Bible does not claim God had to keep his hand on the celestial bodies to maintain their motion. Buridan suggested that the motion of celestial bodies could be answered another way, that God could have created both terrestrial and celestial bodies with physical laws that kept them in motion.

"God, when He created the world, moved each of the celestial bodies as He pleased, and in moving them He impressed in them impetuses which moved them without His having to move them any more except by the method of general influence whereby He concurs as a co-agent in all things which take place; 'for thus on the seventh day He rested from all work which He had executed by committing to others the actions and the passions in turn.' And these impetuses which He impressed in the celestial bodies were not decreased nor corrupted afterwards, because there was no inclination of the celestial bodies for other movements. Nor was there resistance which would be corruptive or repressive of that impetus."4

This idea of impetus was the beginning of physics, exact science, where one discovery generates the next at an ever more accelerated rate. Buridan became the rector of the University of Paris in 1327 and taught there until about 1360. In 1377, his theory was formally proposed by Nicole Oresme (1320–1325) and was destined to be adopted by Albert of Saxony (1316–1390), Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), and Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727). As has, in fact, occurred since the time of Buridan, physics has grown exponentially with new insights, understandings, capabilities, and realms of observation and measurement at almost unimaginable scales of minuteness and grandeur.

Science and Faith in Conflict?

 
Some historians have interpreted the condemnations of the University of Paris as antagonistic to the autonomy of philosophy, as a symbol of an “intellectual crisis” in the University and culture of the late thirteenth century and a demonstration of the conflict between faith and what would become science.5 This interpretation is partially correct, but "tension" is a more accurate word than "crisis." The refusal of the theologians and philosophers to separate the truths of faith from the truths of reason may have caused tension, but hardly a crisis, for this tension to purify Greek thought from whatever conflicted with Christian theology is tension that brought about the intellectual purification that led to the emergence of modern science. The rejection of the ancient ideas of an eternal, cycling, pantheistic, animistic world had to be refuted before a realistic physics, and thus science, could emerge in Christian Europe. This rejection is a distinction that isolates the Christian West culture from all others, a theological distinction that allows one to say, with confidence, that science indeed emerged from a reconciliation of the cosmic view with Christian faith.

There is a lesson for modern-day science in this story. If it seems like, in the century in which we live, science and faith are irreconcilable, the reason is not because they are in actual conflict, but because our knowledge is incomplete. By striving for new understanding toward reconciliation, even amid tension that appears to some as crisis, new insights to realistic breakthroughs can be made. Scientific progress needs the light of faith.
 
 
(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Notes:

  1. Athur Hyman, James J. Walsh, and Thomas Williams, ed. Philosophy in the Middle Ages: The Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Tradition. Third Edition (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2010), 541-549.
  2. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, I, q. 46, a. 2, Sed contra.
  3. Stanley L. Jaki, A Late Awakening and Other Essays (Port Huron, MI: Real View Books, 2004), 50.
  4. Jean Buridan, Book VIII, Question 12 of Super octo libros physicorum Aristotelis subtilissimae quaestiones.
  5. Jan A. Aertsen, Kent Emery, Andreas Speer, and Walter de Gruyter. Philosophy and Theology at the University of Paris in the Last Quarter of the Thirteenth Century. Studies and Texts (Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter GmbH& Co., 2000), 3.
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.

Enjoy this article? Receive future posts free by email:

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.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Very interesting chapter in the intellectual history of the West - thanks!

    So, this is an episode where fidelity to the Christian narrative can be understood to have corrected certain errors and inadequacies in natural philosophy. I think it would also be interesting, and reassuring to some, to read about particular episodes (especially from the middle ages, if possible) where things worked in the opposite direction, i.e. where the Christian understanding of divine revelation (not divine revelation itself, but our understanding of it) was revised in light of science, or history, or philosophical reflection. As I understand it, this is the whole project of systematic theology, but it would be interesting to read about particular episodes in history that can bring this opposite and equally important trend into relief.

    The narrative shapes our understanding of reality, and reality shapes our understanding of the narrative. Needs to go both ways, right?

  • M. Solange O’Brien

    Scientific progress needs the light of faith.

    Unfortunately, despite Ms. Trasancos assertion, there is no evidence of this whatsoever. And since the large majority of scientists are atheists, yet science advances, it is quite clearly false.
    Science was advanced in Europe from its previous state as developed in Greece, Arabia, Spain, India, and North Africa usually be theists; often Religious or Clergy.
    I hypothesize that this is because everybody in Europe was a theist, and Religious and Clergy had the time to spare to think about it.
    Science is only possible given methodological atheism.

    • mgcruss

      I'm also curious if she is asserting that science needs the light of Christian faith , or is the light of any faith tradition sufficient?

      • cminca

        If you look at the body of her work she asserts that there is no science without Catholic theology.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          That is not a fair summary of Stacy's position as I understand it.

          She is not a crazy person asserting that the application of scientific methodology is impossible absent a Catholic worldview. We all know that methodology is methodology, and anyone can carry it out given sufficient intelligence, training, and resources.

          She is saying that a particular social and intellectual milieu is required in order to kickstart and protect scientific flourishing, and the first instance of such a milieu in world history was one in which Catholic dogma was regnant. I think she is further suggesting (though not outright arguing this point in this post) that we continue to derive a similar benefit in our current milieu only because vestiges of Catholic doctrine still shape the fundamental values and metaphysics of our society (though in increasingly unrecognized ways).

          (I'm reading between the lines a bit, and I will admit that I haven't read Stacy's book, but that's my understanding after reading a number of her blog posts).

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I would say that's not correct. She seems to genuinely believe catholic doctrine is a requirement for catholic teaching and that the church should have veto power over scientific results. Read her blog. I'm so glad she is no longer working in the sciences.

          • Benjamin Vallejo Jr

            One of these vestiges you say is the autonomy of science from theology, which is a direct consequences of the 1277 condemnations.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          That's just history. The problem was that older cosmology, in which the universe was conceived as "alive, divine, and influential in human affairs." That the universe was some kind of organic thing, like an animal; that it ran in cycles and when all the cycles came back to their starting point simultaneously, all of history would repeat itself exactly. This was the "scientific" basis for astrology. (Oresme showed mathematically that the heavenly cycles would never repeat exactly, and had to invent what we call fractional exponents to do it; but alas not many could follow the reasoning and there are astrology columns in the papers even today.) You cannot have physical science is whatever happens is due to the present location on the great cycles and not to immediate causal factors. Perhaps some other culture could have thrown off those shackles, but they had no philosophical standpoint for doing so. The House of Submission came closest, but alas, no cigar.
          The other factor overlooked by rugged individualists is that natural science is a collective effort and while individuals in all cultures have been interested in the natural world, it never became "embedded in the culture" save in the West. (And maybe might have in Byzantium, much of whose legacy was lost.) So the great faylasuf of Spain and Persia were "voices crying in the wilderness" compared to the rest of Islam.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      What is methodological atheism?

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        The assumption no deities or supernatural agents exist. Science is impossible without it.

        • Super Genius

          That is an absurd assertion, easily falsified by the fact that many of the great early scientists held no such assumption.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Apparently you missed the bit about "methodological". I absolutely guarantee that Newton completely discounted the action of angels when working out the laws of motion.
            No scientist (except a few fringers like the folks from the Discovery institute) allows for the action of gods, devils, spirits, etc. in the course of research and experimentation.
            I take it you're not a scientist? You may be unfamiliar with the scientific method.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            So you are using "methodological atheism" to refer to scientific methodology that does not invoke God as an explanatory mechanism. Why do you consider that to be an atheistic approach? Most of us just refer to that approach as "the scientific method". For a theist, *all* things that happen are ultimately attributable to God (though there may be some freely acting intermediaries). so it would be very uninteresting to a theist if "God did it" was proposed as an explanation of anything in particular. Accordingly, we prescind from consideration that fact that "God did it" when doing science, and focus exclusively on *the way* that God did it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Exactly. The scientific method presupposes no god: methodological atheism.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You are close to saying something reasonable that we could agree on, but you need to say it a lot more carefully. Prescinding God from scientific explanation need not entail presupposition that there is no God.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Did I say it did?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I sure thought you did. First you said that "methodological atheism" (your term for the scientific method) entails the "assumption no deities or supernatural agents exist". Subsequently you said, that "The scientific method presupposes no god".

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Methodological atheism scientific method. And I said the same thing in variant words.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If you are agreeing that neither a theistic nor an atheistic worldview is required, or implied by, the application of the scientific method, then why would you refer to it as "methodological atheism"?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You're putting words in my mouth. The scientific method uses methodological atheism. They are not synonymous terms. And I certainly think the result of using the scientific method implies that the atheistic worldview - a disfunctional in itself - is correct.

          • Tim Dacey

            I don't think he is putting words in your mouth...I think he just trying to get some clarification.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, he actually said something I did NOT say.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Suppose I have two apples already, and I want to figure out how many apples I will have after picking two more apples.

            I could consider solving this problem with mathematics. This methodology would prescind the apple-ness of the problem from consideration. The fact that apples exist would be completely irrelevant to the way that I solved the mathematical problem.

            Must I presuppose that there is no such thing as an apple in order to apply mathematics to this problem?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No.

        • Tim Dacey

          It seems you're confusing methodological assumptions with metaphysical ones. Stating that "science is impossible without it [MA]" is a metaphysical statement.

          • Tim Dacey

            Whatever you mean by "Methodological Atheism", I don't see it as being controversial (i.e., I think it's probably right), but I also don't see it as being very interesting. For example, a car mechanic can be consider a "Methodological Atheist"

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Exactly. Everyone uses methodological atheism. But Trascanos disputes that we should.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Nope. I'm making a pragmatic statement. As some one pointed out, perhaps I'm not being clear enough. Methodological atheism is a condition of an experiment: it applies to the particular problem. Unless I assume that undetectable agents are not affecting my experiment, I cannot accept the results as valid.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think we are both starting to beat a dead horse, so let me propose that I say one more thing and you say one more thing and then we let this drop:

            When a Catholic scientist clocks in at the lab or the office, he or she does not say to himself: "I am going to pretend for the next 6-12 hours that God does not exist". He or she instead says: "For the next 6-12 hours, it is not my job to reflect on God's plan or God's existence. It is my job to do things that reveal the natural order of God's creation. God willing, I won't get sucked into strangenotions.com for too long, and I will just focus on the thing that I am paid to do. But at not point do I need to pretend that God does not exist".

            I think this is important to understand, because some atheists enjoy the interesting theory that good Catholic scientists must somehow suffer from "cognitive dissonance" in order to do their jobs well. The fact that such a strained hypothesis -- that so many smart and balanced people would be that unreflective -- is seriously entertained is evidence that some atheists really don't understand how science practice is in any way in tension with a Catholic worldview.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          This methodology was something invented by medieval theologians and natural philosophers. See William of Conches, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Nicholas Oresme, and others for details. The doctrine was called "secondary causation" and it was the rejection of this principle in favor of voluntarism that stifled natural philosophy in Islam. The great ibn Rushd fought a losing battle against the trend.
          However, it is not an assumption that no supernatural agents exist. It is the assumption that one need not refer to them in explaining "the common course of nature." Secondary causation was quite sufficient for most material purposes. As was expressed at the time, God had created material bodies with "natures" and endowed those natures with the abilities to act directly upon one another. Heck, you can find that in Augustine, and he was Late Roman.

    • Super Genius

      Actually, Ms. Trasancos makes what is properly called an argument. That is, she tries to back up her claims with a reasoned discussion of historical evidence. Since this is a blog, it's necessarily brief.

      Your comment, on the other hand, it what is properly called an assertion, that is, a statement with no evidence provided. (Your hypothesis doesn't count as evidence.) That doesn't make it necessarily wrong, but it's certainly not persuasive.

      As to your statement that "there is no evidence whatsoever," it's good to keep in mind that it's very hard to prove a negative. All someone needs to do is provide one tiny scrap of evidence in order to prove you wrong. And if you look in "Science and Creation" by Fr. Stanley Jaki, you'll find more than enough evidence to do the trick.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        I offered a hypothesis quite specifically. And I've read Jaki. He no more makes his case than Trasancos does. And she not make an argument to support her point that I can see. Can you recapitulate what you think her argument is?

        • Super Genius

          The development by Jean Buridan of the concept of inertial motion required the rejection of the Aristotelian notion of motion governed by antiperistatasis. Although she doesn't fully elaborate the argument in her brief post, the idea is that it (Buridan's development) removed from nature the idea of intentionality/willfulness/divinity, which had hindered the development in Greek science of such crucial ideas of predictability and laws of nature, without which it's hard to do real science. Similar notions of the divinity of nature (along with the idea of endlessly recurring cycles) hindered the birth of science in other great civilizations.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So you're saying that because Buridan adopted methodological atheism he could advance the concept of interial motion? Great. But there's no particular evidence that the chain of thought Trascanos offers was the correct one.

        • Super Genius

          Now it's clear why all you do is make unsupported assertions. You must not understand the meaning of the word "argument". It involves pointing to evidence and reasoning about that evidence to make a point. Ms. Trasancos may or may not right or persuasive, but she is undeniably making an argument.

          And unless you're just here to be a troll, why don't you back up some of your assertions with some examples? For instance, how do Ms. Trasancos and Fr. Jaki fail to make their case? Make your case. Make an argument (Still in doubt? See above paragraph.). I think people would be interested in any good-faith argument you're prepared to make. Believe me, your just saying it means diddly.

          • btpcmsag

            It's refreshing to see well-reasoned posts that keep the topic on topic and politely ask for reasonable substantiation for any propositions delivered. Fortunately for me, this proposition of mine doesn't require any evidence beyond the rules of this forum, Strange Notions.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I have been here quite a while, and I am not a troll. Apparently you are new here and unaware of that.
            I also note that you are incapable of dealing with a simple request, or incapable of actually telling me what Trascanos' argument really is.
            Duly noted.

    • Roman

      .....there is no evidence of this whatsoever. And since the large majority of scientists are atheists, yet science advances, it is quite clearly false.

      Another example of why you have no credibility with most Catholics on this forum. You've been called out for making this false statement before. Again, Pew Research conducted one of the largest surveys on scientists and belief in God in recent years and found that just 41% of scientists are atheist. (http://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/)

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        You really should look more carefully at the studies you cite. And remember that determing such numbers is a complex task. Try http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/23/5-facts-about-atheists/ for a more nuanced take on the numbers. And of course, it depends on which scientists are surveyed. Look at the membership of the AAAS, for example.
        Consider also, that the numbers don't ultimately matter to the problem I raise: if Trascanos' hypothesis is correct, no atheist scientist should be able to contribute anything to science. This is clearly false.

        • Roman

          I'm actually quite familiar with the details of the pew research study on scientists and belief so I don't need your reference. There is nothing in the survey methodology that would warrant your obviously false statement on the percentage of scientists that are atheists. As the survey found, a minority of scientists are atheist.

          • Ignorant Amos

            There is nothing in the survey methodology that would warrant your obviously false statement on the percentage of scientists that are atheists.

            Just that it represents the U.S., where figures regarding religious belief are notoriously anomalous for a variety of reasons.

            For example, 55% of the population would have creationism taught as science, now that is bonkers. But even then, the data shows a stark contrast with scientists to the general public.

            There is no question that Americans are on average considerably more religious than Europeans; the only major exception is Poland, which remains a bastion of Catholicism. Other major Catholic countries in Europe, such as Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Austria, have low levels of church attendance and adherence to church doctrines. Countries like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, and (above all) the Scandinavian countries, rank very low on the scale of religiosity. There is some suspicion, however, that the differences in religious observance between the United States and Europe are smaller than public opinion polls reveal, because Americans are reluctant to acknowledge that they don’t attend church regularly—but of course this is a clue to the hold that religion has over the American mind. No one could be elected President of the United States who did not profess to believe in God, whereas the question of religious belief does not arise for aspirants to become European heads of state.

            http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/2012/06/why-are-americans-more-religious-than-europeans-posner.html

            See that last bit there? It can be detrimental to ones position, or future, if one is overtly atheist in the states. The violence against pro-choice comics and personnel in the state's is well documented, the nutbags are not avert to shoot doctors that perform abortions in parts of the U.S....even religious ones.

            https://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/violence/history_violence.html

            Interesting the footnote provides a disclaimer.

            Discussion of the beliefs of scientists is based on a survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which partnered with the Pew Research Center on the survey. AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and includes members representing all scientific fields. However, the survey of AAAS members may not be representative of all scientists in the U.S.

            Which is just as well really, given that...

            The degree of scientists’ nonbelief goes up with their professional status. Ecklund’s own earlier work found that 62% of scientists working at “elite” universities were atheists or agnostics, with only 33% professing belief in God. And, considering members of America’s most elite scientific body, the National Academy of Sciences, we see that only 7% believe in a personal God and 93% are atheists or agnostics. These figures, and the correlation of nonbelief with professional achievement, are well known.

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/elaine-ecklund-is-still-pretending-that-science-and-religion-are-compatible/

          • Roman

            Thanks for all the info. I don't dispute the fact that the percentage of atheists among scientists does not reflect the percentage of atheists in the general population. Clearly, that percentage is higher among scientists. However, I would caution against using statistics such as the percentage of atheists in a particular scientific organization or elite university for several reasons. The first is that only a handful of PhD graduates in science and engineering actually end up teaching or doing research at a university. Most are like me and work in industry. There is also a subtle but real discrimination against believers in certain scientific circles. The NAS is a perfect example of that. The head of the NAS is on record as saying that the 93% statistic is too low and his goal is to make it 100%. I see the NAS as being not just a scientific organization but an atheist organization since they appear to be using belief in God as a criterion to filter out otherwise qualified candidates. I still remember the outcry from the atheist community of scientists when Dr. Francis Collins was elected to head the NIH simply because he is a Christian. This is the same Dr. Francis Collins that headed the human genome project. I don't mean to demonize atheists in this regard. This is to be expected to some degree any time you have people with opposing world views I suppose. But anyway, I think we're probably beating the proverbial dead horse.

          • Ignorant Amos

            There is also a subtle but real discrimination against believers in certain scientific circles. The NAS is a perfect example of that. The head of the NAS is on record as saying that the 93% statistic is too low and his goal is to make it 100%. I see the NAS as being not just a scientific organization but an atheist organization since they appear to be using belief in God as a criterion to filter out otherwise qualified candidates.

            I think you may be being a tad disingenuous Roman. Are you referring to the remark made by Neil DeGrasse Tyson at Beyond Belief 2006? Here is an excerpt of the discussion...

            Tyson: I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences reject God, I want to know why 15% of the National Academy don’t. That’s really what we’ve got to address here. Otherwise the public is secondary to this. [Moderator then turns to the panel for responses.]

            Larry Krauss: It’s hard to know how to respond to Neil, ever. But the question you asked about “Why 15%” disturbs me a little bit because of this other presumption that scientists are somehow not people and that they don’t have the same delusions — I mean, how many of them are pedophiles in the National Academy of Sciences? How many of them are Republicans? [laughter] And so, it would be amazing, of course, if it were zero. That would be the news story. But the point is I don’t think you’d expect them in general to view their religion as a bulwark against science or to view the need to fly into buildings or whatever. So the delusions or predilections are important to recognize, that scientists are people and are as full of delusions about every aspect of their life as everyone else. We all make up inventions so that we can rationalize our existence and why we are who we are.

            Tyson:But Lawrence, if you can’t convert our colleagues, why do you have any hope that you’re going to convert the public?

            Krauss: I don’t think we have to convert those people. They’re fine. That’s the point. They’re doing science. I don’t understand why you need to do that.

            As you can see, there wasn't much support for Tyson's opinion from a stalwart such as Lawrence Krauss.

            The irony is, not far back in history, it was the other way around. Still not right though.

            To my mind, scientists that are religious are using compartmentalization when donning a lab coat, and that is fine by me.

            If it is a different reference you have in mind, could you cite it?

            I still remember the outcry from the atheist community of scientists when Dr. Francis Collins was elected to head the NIH simply because he is a Christian.

            No, it wasn't simply because he is a Christian. It was because..."...on his website BioLogos and his book The Language of God, he lets his faith contaminate his scientific views", that is not acceptable for someone in such a position.

            Think about this: would a nonbelieving scientist who was as vociferous an atheist as Collins is a Christian have any chance to get the NIH spot? I don’t think so. And a Scientologist who publicly espoused his belief in Xenu and thetans would be considered too much of a lunatic to have responsibility for the NIH. But of course Christianity is a publicly acceptable form of superstition, and Scientology is not.

            I don't mean to demonize atheists in this regard. This is to be expected to some degree any time you have people with opposing world views I suppose.

            That is precisely the point. His worldview should remain private...it didn't. Isn't there something n the constitution about separation of church and state?

            BTW, it wasn't just atheist's that were unhappy at his appointment either...

            There are two basic objections to Dr. Collins. The first is his very public embrace of religion. He wrote a book called “The Language of God,” and he has given many talks and interviews in which he described his conversion to Christianity as a 27-year-old medical student. Religion and genetic research have long had a fraught relationship, and some in the field complain about what they see as Dr. Collins’s evangelism.

            The other objection stems from his leadership of the Human Genome Project, which is part of the N.I.H. Although Dr. Collins was widely praised in 2003 when the effort succeeded, the hopes that this discovery would yield an array of promising medical interventions have greatly dimmed, discouraging many.

            But anyway, I think we're probably beating the proverbial dead horse.

            I think you are right. Whole threads have been devoted to the subject over the past year or so. I don't even care that much, as you point out, as long as someone's religious beliefs don't encroach on their ability to give their best, but that is not always the case, so in the interest of balance, I felt the need to engage you on a number of points.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          No, Dr. Trascanos' argument was that the medieval Catholic milieu was necessary for the birth of science: the doctrine of secondary causation, the establishment of the university, and a number of other factors unique to the West. This is totally independent of what individual practitioners happen to believe. You have only renamed secondary causation as "methodilogical atheism" because it apparently suits your Weltanschauung. But semantics aside, it was an invention of medieval Christendom and never arose in any other culture.
          Take another look at the propositions condemned in 1277. There were also propositions like "there cannot be a vacuum" and "there cannot be multiple worlds" that were also condemned. (The list was hastily drawn up and contains essential duplicates. It was meant to settle a row among the professors in the School of Arts versus the School of Theology, and had no broader purpose.) Had those Aristotelian principles persisted in Western thought, they would have stifled natural science in its crib. So the other way in which medieval Christian thought facilitated the birth of science was as the weeder in the garden of thought, plucking out absurdities and disenchanting the world.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Oh, and as for my credibility....
        If you don't like what I say, you can feel free to ignore it. Problem solved, I think.

        • Roman

          Not really. I have a better idea. How about you make a sincere effort to be truthful in the future

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Well, as long as you don't mind being schooled in statistics and honesty occasionally, I'd say it's your lookout. :-)

          • Roman

            I believe you have to actually know something to school others....sorry.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Roman, it's quite clear that you loathe me and my arguments; you have no respect for anything I say; and you are not wiling to actually read my postings and respond to their content. In short, there is no profit for you in our continued exchanges.

            That's fine; I certainly don't expect anyone to be interested in my ideas or respond to them in a meaningful fashion. But I don't wish to see you banned for snarky behavior, either. Therefore I will ignore your posting, and you can feel free to ignore mine. Have a lovely life.

          • Roman

            No, I don't loathe you or even dislike you. The truth is that I respect your intelligence and your tenacity. I just happen to have a short fuse when I think someone is playing loose with the facts. If I misjudged your intentions, I apologize for my remarks. hopefully we can start with a clean slate.

    • Roman

      Science was advanced in Europe from its previous state as developed in Greece, Arabia, Spain, India, and North Africa usually be theists; often Religious or Clergy. I hypothesize that this is because everybody in Europe was a theist, and Religious and Clergy had the time to spare to think about it.

      LOL........you're kidding, right? No one in the entire world, except for European Christians, had time to think about scientific discovery? Not the Buddhist monks? or the Hindu Priests? or the Muslim clerics? Not the Africans, or the South Americans? The reason science advanced in Christian Europe is because the Catholic Church has always been concerned with both the preservation of and the pursuit of truth. The earliest Christian theologians, priests, bishops, teachers were educated in both science and Greek philosophy which provided a rational backbone for the further refinement of Catholic theology. It is a historical fact that the Catholic monastic orders created the University system in western Europe, a significant factor in the pursuit and discovery of scientific knowledge.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        You might find my credibility enhanced if you actually took the trouble to read what I wrote. Apparently you find your straw men less work to spar with.

        • Roman

          Huh? Is this your tactic when you don't have an appropriate response to a comment? Yell "straw man" and run? My comment was frankly on the money.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Your comment deliberately misstated what I said, and asserted claims without evidence. Hence, my highly accurate point that you are trying to engage a strawman.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Some points:

        The universities were not chartered by monks. Most of them started from the cathedral schools of the Early Middle Ages, which were diocesan, not monastic. The universities were a unique invention and about 80% held either Papal charters or joint Papal-Imperial charters. (Some had royal charters or only Imperial charters.) All of them operated under Parens scientiarum, sometimes called "the Magna Carta of the Universities." The entire undergraduate curriculum consisted of logic, reason, and natural philosophy. This master's degree was required before matriculating in the graduate schools of Theology, Law, or Medicine. And this meant that just about every medieval theologian had first been trained in natural science.
        Secondly, the vast majority of students graduated and went to work in the secular world, just as they do today, so it was not simply theologians who had been educated in logic, reason, and science. Never before has such a sizable portion of the general population been educated so thoroughly in purely rational subjects. And when one sees some of the courses in Late Modern catalogs, one is tempted to add "and never since."

    • Roman

      Science is only possible given methodological atheism

      Wow...what on earth is "methodological atheism"? Have you forgotten that it is Sir Francis Bacon, a devout Anglican, who is generally credited with developing the scientific method?

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Now it's my turn to laugh. The scientific method is the product of millennia of development, going all the way back to the Egyptians and the Smith papyrus. All Bacon did was build on previous work. If you're looking for a critical man, you'd be better off with Roger Bacon.

        • Roman

          duh....off course Sir Francis Bacon built on previous work on the scientific method. Aren't all scientific discoveries based in part on previous work? Sir Francis Bacon did much to popularize inductive methodologies for scientific inquiry which is why the scientific method was initially called the Baconian Method. But you didn't refute my point - only deflected it. The point is that your statement that "Science is only possible given methodological(??) atheism" is nonsense. There is no evidence to support that and plenty of historical evidence to show that the Scientific Revolution only happened in Christendom because of the intellectual groundwork laid down by the Catholic Church. Thanks by the way for citing Roger Bacon, a Franciscan Friar, as another important figure in the development of the scientific method.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You claimed that Francis Bacon is generally credited with developing the scientific method. This is, as I pointed out, false.
            Next time try to be more accurate, there's a good chap.

          • Michael Wellen

            Francis Bacon is generally credited with making the scientific method what it is today. Nice sarcasm though.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Grosseteste is credited for blending composition and resolution and making the process non-circular. There was a Spanish faylasuf who had done something similar in the House of Submission, but that was the seed that fell upon bad ground, and nothing sprouted from it.

  • lee faber

    It's nice to see some medieval content here. The author might want to mention that Aquinas was condemned as well (5 or 6 propositions on the list are his, though the number is disputed), though not by name. The condemnations were issued on the anniversary of Aquinas' death, and a separate inquest directed directly at Aquinas was apparently underway when the Bishop or Pope died, which put an end to it.

    I'm not sure about the 'not binding on christans' part. At the time, you couldn't teach these positions publicly, and if you did, your students were under threat of excommunication to report you. Plus, they are found in the Denzinger enchiridion, which is a collection of magisterial documents.

  • cminca

    "By rejecting details of the Greek scientific corpus that conflicted with the Christian worldview, the scholars effectively refuted the pantheistic-animistic-cyclical view of the cosmos held not only in Greece, but also in the cultures and religions of Egypt, China, India, and Babylonia. Following that refutation, a realistic physics emerged."

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a logical fallacy.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a logical fallacy.

      True. But should we refrain from all causal inference based on historical data?

      • cminca

        When Stacy's entire hypothesis: "Scientific progress needs the light of faith." is based on a logical fallacy then yes, we do.

        When you review the full body of Stacy's work you find that her position is that science comes from and is dependent on CC theology. That any and all science that predates the CC was doomed to either fail or dead end, and that the CC is the REASON for the advancement of science in the Western hemisphere.

        • Super Genius

          You realize that everything that occurs has a prior cause. To try to identify that cause is not to commit the logical fallacy of Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. Stacy's argument may be incorrect, but it not logically invalid. For that to be the case, she would have had to say something to the effect that because the scientific revolution occurred in Europe after the development of Catholic theology, therefore it necessarily was caused by that theology. But she doesn't assert that.

          If you want to refute her, you need to show that the evidence she marshals is unpersuasive.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Actually, she does assert that. Read her book.

          • Super Genius

            An easily proven claim if true. So indicate where.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So you haven't read her book?

    • Super Genius

      Since Ms. Trasancos doesn't present this as a logical assertion (i.e. one that is necessarily true) but rather as an argument backed up with historical evidence and reasoning, she doesn't commit a logical fallacy.

      • cminca

        I don't agree that her evidence backs up her assertion.

        • Super Genius

          Fine, but that's not a logical fallacy. And it's perhaps a little ungenerous on your part to reject her evidence based on a few brief paragraphs in a blog post. I'm sure she could give you much, much more, but if you really want to grapple with this in an open-minded way, I recommend that you read "Science and Creation" by Fr. Stanley Jaki. He provides a comprehensive historical review of the many "stillbirths" of science in the great civilizations around the world before it achieved its flowering in CHristianity.

          • cminca

            Perhaps I was unclear.

            I quoted Stacy saying: "Following that refutation, a realistic physics emerged." She is clearly stating that following and because of "A", "B" occurred.

            She doesn't prove that--either in the last paragraph of her writing or in the body.

            She claims: "In 1377, his theory was formally proposed by Nicole Oresme (1320–1325) and was destined to be adopted by Albert of Saxony (1316–1390), Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), and Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727)". She offers no proof of this statement. In addition, her use of the phrase "was destined to be adopted" implies, once again, "after and therefore because of". Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

            (Please also note that the use of the phrase "was destined to be adopted" also seems to indicate that she cannot PROVE the connection between Buridan and the others. Such proof would be a requirement to her thesis.)

            I've heard all about Fr. Jaki and read Stacy trying to prove modern science occurred because of the Catholic founding of universities in Europe.

            Charles Darwin studied to become a parson at Cambridge. While there, he learned botany and geology from professors Henslow and Sedgewick, respectively.

            Are you and Stacy now going to claim that Charles Darwin became Charles Darwin because he studied theology at Cambridge?

            That would "after and therefore because of". Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

          • Super Genius

            Where to begin?

            Let's start with your last question: "Are you and Stacy now going to claim that Charles Darwin became Charles
            Darwin because he studied theology at a university founded by Catholics?" The answer of course is no. But this shows just how completely you misunderstand the thrust of Stacy's/Fr. Jaki's argument. The point is not that one has to be a believing Christian in order to be a scientist; it's that any scientist, regardless of personal religious beliefs, will necessarily have to draw upon scientific concepts that required a Judeo-Christian intellectual climate for their development/discovery.

            As to your first gotcha! You are right that Stacy stated rather than proved her point, but we are talking about four or five paragraphs in a blog post; I suspect that it was not intended as her last word on the subject. But once again, you are committing a category error. She is making a historical, not a logical argument. Your claim of a logical fallacy would apply as much to any possible historical argument on any subject.

          • cminca

            READ STACY'S WORK. As I said below--she is claims that modern science is reliant on Christianity.

            "She is making a historical, not a logical argument"?
            She's not successfully making either! And neither are you.

          • Super Genius

            I've read her work. You mis-state her claim. Again, it's that modern science relies on presuppositions that derive from Christian theology.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Absolutely false, as I have already explained. Either engage my argument or don't, but your endless "is not!" Is less than interesting.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            She is not making an argument at all: she is making a series of claims whose conclusion, therefore, constitutes a logical fallacy.

          • cminca

            You have far more energy than I do. I admire your fortitude but I am done.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I am also rather disappointed; Trascanos' OP merely reiterates points she's made and failed to support numerous times in her blog and book. And the responses to calling out that lack of rigor and argument themselves seem to lack argument and rigor.
            But what else do I have to do? Until this bloody leg heals I'm not the most mobile of scientists.

          • btpcmsag

            Are you attempting to imply that had Charles Darwin NOT studied botany at Cambridge he would have been equally prepared to study flora and fauna aboard the Beagle at the now-famous Galapagos Islands, without any education to observe and catalog data like a botanist? Would tourists to this day still take cruises there to visit his landing sites as if they're pilgrims with a religious cause in mind?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not at all. He might have been prepared elsewhere - in Baghdad or Peking. He might have been self-taught. In many ways, he was largely self-taught. That's sort of necessary when you're inventing an entirely new theory in science.

          • btpcmsag

            Okay, perhaps his life could have been different, but it wasn't. He went to school where he did and his research was what it was. It seems that with the goal in mind of denying *post hoc ergo propter hoc* you are pre-emptively saying that the complex EFFECT of a person's life work could be identical even when his training for that work had been entirely different. On that basis, if it were true, nobody should ever have any advantage because of where they go to school because it makes no difference.

            Also, the 'theory' (it's really an hypothesis not a theory) he invented was one he inherited from his father and grandfather, and it was not "entirely new" at all. His progenitors just hadn't made the trip to the Galapagos Islands, nor had they done the same studies Charles did in school.

            Can you (or anyone else) prove that Charles Darwin was an atheist?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            First, evolution is absolutely no longer a hypothesis. It's a set of theories.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Can you (or anyone else) prove that Charles Darwin was an atheist?

            Darwin describes himself not as an atheist, but more of an agnostic in the following letter...

            Dear Sir

            It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.— You are right about Kingsley. Asa Gray, the eminent botanist, is another case in point— What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one except myself.— But as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. Moreover whether a man deserves to be called a theist depends on the definition of the term: which is much too large a subject for a note. In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.

            Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's not a hypothesis. It's a theory. A set of related theories, actually. This is not a matter of debate.

          • btpcmsag

            Well, if it were a 'theory' wouldn't it need some kind of data, some kind of evidence? Can you supply any one piece of evidence that has ever been found to support it? Let's say, the fossil of an unquestionable "missing link" or IOW a 'transitional form'? Just one would be nice. Because according to the guy who dreamed up this hypothesis-which-isn't-a-theory-unless-you-can-supply-some-evidence (whether or not you think that's 'debatable' is irrelevant), the so-called 'transitional forms' would eventually be found to be THE MOST prevalent of all fossils, since necessarily they'd have to have been more prevalent than the settled-on species due to statistical probability that many such transitional forms would have to 'attempt' to 'become' some new species since most of them would likely fail to survive, and so, they'd have to be utterly commonplace everywhere --- one problem with that: they're not.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Then you're in luck! We have found a transitional form. Several. In fact, millions of them.

          • btpcmsag

            Are you trying to be funny?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, actually. I'm trying to point out that every fossil we have is basically a transitional form. Every single one.
            I haven't met a compete evolution denier in quite a while. Where should we begin with evidence? Every fossil, tens of thousands of papers, the consencus of millions of scientists?
            Do you understand the theory of evolution? How it's supposed to work? Why the data supports it?

          • Ignorant Amos

            NO!!!!...don't do it, anyone too asinine to know the bare minimum, should be avoided like the plague...remember what GBS said?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Alas, all too well. It's just that I haven't met an unrepentant evolution-denier on a catholic board before.

          • btpcmsag

            You are funny. Like in funny farm. Every single one, huh? So why are you so cozy with Darwin when you're effectively saying he was all wet? Where did Charles Darwin say every fossil we have is a transitional form? Answer: He didn't. So you're saying this fantasy of yours is "the theory of evolution?" Go ahead, and dream your subjective dream, and do it in your own dream world, I guess. You don't need anyone's help.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I have reported your comment to Brandon for violation of the website commenting policy.

          • Susan

            So you're saying this fantasy of yours is "the theory of evolution?"

            What is "the theory of evolution"? Can you describe what it is you are dismissing? So far, you've given no indication that you have any idea what you're talking about.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Are you Catholic?

            Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes!

          • Ignorant Amos
          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Actually not. Neither Baghdad nor Peking were the go-to places for scientific education in those days. Imperial College in Peking (note the singular noun) was a cram school for passing the government exam. It did not cover scientific topics at all. One was judged on how well one wrote the Eight-Legged Essay. Briefly, during Huang-yu reign of Northern Sung there was an exam in astronomy. But astronomy was purely mathematical, not physical science, and in China it was purely arithmetical. The great Shen Kua noted that candidates preparing essays on astronomical instruments “were so confused about the celestial sphere, and the examiners themselves so ignorant of the subject, that all candidates were passed with distinction.” This was the only period in which a technical subject was ever part of the Imperial Examinations.
            Baghdad was in Darwin's day a backwater, and schools in Dar al-Islam, although independently chartered and self-governing, taught exclusively Koranic studies. Edward Said noted about ten or twenty years ago that to study anything outside the practical subjects an Arab would have to go to Israel or to (Westernized) Turkey. (I think Iran would also have had the resources: I have been told there are more modern-day universities in Iran than in all the Arab world combined. But that may not have been true in Victorian times.)

          • cminca

            No--I am clearly stating that his study of theology at a university founded by Catholics had nothing to do with his later scientific discoveries and theories.

          • btpcmsag

            Thanks for the reply, cminca. Please excuse my delay. How could you (or anyone, really) be sure that Darwin's theological studies had NO EFFECT on his later work collecting scientific data on a merchant ship voyage around the world? On what basis can you say that he could have done the same thing without having had the same schooling? How can one's education be extracted from their past so as to have no impact on the work they do? I don't get it. Please explain.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Since nothing he did was informed by his theological education, it's a safe bet.

          • cminca

            btpcmsag--I've read your comments. I replied to the first.

            I would be happy to respond to you and/or "super genius" if I thought you were interested in an honest conversation. I don't believe that is the case.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            We can look for evidence that his theological studies effected his work. There are none. Beyond that point, we can't argue that they had any effect, either.

          • Ignorant Amos

            As I said above, A.R.W. came up with the same theory with o training in theology.. He sat law, but never practice's.

            Einstein's discoveries had very little to his Jewish upbringing.

            Faraday had little formal education and was a member of the heretical Sandemanian, or Glassite sect of Christianity.

          • Ignorant Amos

            A.R.W. managed okay on a law degree.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I quoted Stacy saying: "Following that refutation, a realistic physics
            emerged." She is clearly stating that following and because of "A", "B"
            occurred.

            The rock hit the ground after I released it. Is that also a post hoc? Or is it simply a fact? She didn't say B followed A, therefore A caused B. She explained (albeit briefly) the current of thought represented by A and how it led to B. That once the cause was embedded in Western thought, the effects followed.

            As for the connections, that too is a matter of history. Oresme and Albert of Saxony were students of Buridan. Galileo used Oresme's proof of the Mean Speed Theorem (complete with diagram) in his own works, though without attribution. Galileo learned his "demonstrative regress" from his Jesuit instructors, and it is traceable in the history of thought to Grosseteste's "reductio et compositio." I mean, the intellectual history of Europe is hardly unknown, mon dude.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          You could try any of Edward Grant's books on the medieval origins of modern science. That might help. He's the eminence grise for medieval history of science.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Unless one can trace the trail of the history of thought, which in this case we can do.

  • Guest

    I have read the fine paper which delves deeper into this subject. The paper is entitled "Christianity: A Cause of Modern Science?" by Eric V. Snow. It is a discussion of the thesis by Duhem-Jaki and Merton. You can find it here: http://www.meaningfulscience.com/ChristianityCauseOfModernScience.pdf

  • Pierre Axiaq

    I have read a fine paper which delves deeper into this subject. The paper is entitled "Christianity: A Cause of Modern Science?" by Eric V. Snow. It is a discussion of the thesis by Duhem-Jaki and Merton. If anybody is interested, it can be found here: http://www.meaningfulscience.com/ChristianityCauseOfModernScience.pdf

    • Loreen Lee

      Good article. Thanks.

  • Zibal

    Science and Faith should not be perceived to be in in conflict in any serious manner historically,, considering the total history! It is obvious to Catholics and should be to other Christians who do their homework, and should also be obvious to atheists, that it is "Catholic turtles all the way down" since the advent of the church.in both the disciplines of science and philosophy. Let us reason together......."can't we all just get along".....simple wisdom from the grass roots of society....by someone who is of lesser credentials, than those who usually post comments here. Rodney King....Pax.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      It's not catholic turtles. It's pagans, atheists, Muslims, Hindus, taoists, Buddhists, etc.

      • Loreen Lee

        Yes and Rene Descartes, the Empiricists, the Rationalists, the Pragmatists, the Analytic Philosophers, and as we find in yesterday's post even the Continental Philosophers. Oh, and of course, there was Immanuel Kant, who put Christianity into three books, and brought all the speculation down to earth. But the Catholic Church I believe thinks of all of these developments towards the enrichment of science, as various examples of 'heresies'!!!! True.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          So the problem argument should be religion and lack of religion both contribute to the advancement of science? I'd probably buy that.

        • btpcmsag

          When it came to "putting Christianity into books," -- I. Kant couldn't.

          As deep a thinker as he was, he wouldn't have had the jump start he did without the example one Italian Catholic provided for him, right around 170 years previously. Propter Galileo, post hoc &c.

          • Loreen Lee

            What I meant by 'the three books" was a reference to his three critiques. Critique of Pure Reason, Practical Reason, and Power of Judgment: the three books are parallel to such Catholic concepts as the Trinity, including l. the Intellect 2. the will and 3. judgment or: truth, goodness, and beauty. So I am agreeing that the implications of Christianity have continued in philosophic understanding to this very day, but that ironically, the Church rejects the basis of the modern arguments.

          • btpcmsag

            Sorry for the lag time. Thank you for the "3 books" note.

            I fail to see any 'parallel' in them with goodness truth and beauty, however, unless their value to which you allude is numerical alone. If so, then would lung cancer, emphysema and tuberculosis be likewise "parallel" to these 3 books? Army, Navy and Marines???

            Also, why would the Church's rejection of any false basis of 'modern arguments' be ironic?

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you for your reply bipcmsag. First the -Critiques-!!!

            Kant's first critique is the Critique of Pure Reason, and thus deals with an examination of the Intellect. The Intellect is associated, I believe, with the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, who is also known as The Truth.

            The second books of the Critique, is the Critique of Practical Reason. This has to do with an analysis of an ontological basis of morality, which is conceived to be based on duty, and living up to maxims or principles that conform to the high criteria of being conformable to universal application and necessity. Something like a secular appropriation of principles that could be considered comparable to the Natural Law which sets the norm in the CC. Morality in both of these moral systems is base on goodness of the will, (sometimes thought of as love); thus the parallel with the Will and Goodness.

            The Third critique is an analysis of beauty, the sublime and purpose or teleology. Beauty is also related to 'order': the perception of which is demonstrated to underlie how we tend to see purpose, not only in our actions but in the natural 'order'. Judgment, in contrast to the intellect associated with for instance law, is related to specific ordering of particulars within experience and their placement within a universal context, (when this is possible)

            Thus the parallels: Intellect. Will, Judgment. - The Son, The Father and the Holy Spirit: Intellect, The Will, and Judgment (love? life?) (We are always a big vague when it comes to the Holy Spirit!!!!: or Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and as Christ said, I am the truth, the way and the life.

            On your second point, I'm glad you pointed out that the Church believes the naturalization of philosophy does indeed make the arguments of the moderns unacceptable, for God, and Theology are no longer the center. 'Mankind' (since Descartes) has made the human intelligence, not God, the center. But perhaps the irony in this, is that although the CC takes credit for providing the 'structure'/intellectual basis, for scientific discovery, they seem to be rejecting the change in orientation, since even Francis Bacon, i.e. to make the study of man (and nature) the most essential, (not the study of God), and that it is science that deals with this 'modern orientation' of knowledge towards the world. As my reference to parallels with Kant and the Trinity, etc. the metaphysical basis is still there, which 'ironically'!!! allows the CC to take credit for the developments of modern science while rejecting its philosophy.

          • Ignorant Amos

            That would be army, navy and air force...the marines are an arm of the navy....just saying, in a pedantic fashion }80)~

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Copernicus was a canon of the Frauenburg cathedral and was once shortlisted for the bishops seat; but it is not known if he had been ordained a priest. Copernicus was urged to publish by his bishop and by a cardinal. The protestant you're thinking of is the one who did the donkey work taking the manuscript to press -- not an easy task in those days.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Actually, when you unpack them, they are pretty subversive of natural science.

  • Jeff_McLeod

    Dr. Trasancos, thank you for this piece. You are saying ALL knowledge is incomplete and that science and faith must purify one another. We simply don't know what it is we don't know, so the critique has to come from outside our frame of reference. Science can't critique its own foundations.
    It needed Christianity to point out things it did not know it didn't know.
    I don't find that difficult to understand. Thankfully there are decent atheists like Jurgen Habermas who was a good friend of Pope Benedict XVI and who jointly published a book called the Dialectics of Secularization which is a beautiful example of the kind of two way purifification you are talking about here.
    What a powerful piece you wrote, Dr. Trasancos. I hope the atheists of the future will step up and engage the way Habermas did. Such a gentleman, and brilliant to boot.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      The problem I see with your logic is that religion is incapable of criticizing science. Religion is based on revelation, tradition, and theological speculation detached from reality: this hardly constitutes a useful tool with which to critique science. Of what use, for example, is the existence of angels to science? Of the immorality of contraception? Of the trinity? I can assure you that you that no scientist thinks, "aha! The trinity! Therfore I must the concept that dendridic speins occur in triplets!" As an example, of course.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        We are not talking about religion in general but Catholicism. Stacy wrote: "By rejecting details of the Greek scientific corpus that conflicted with
        the Christian worldview, the scholars effectively refuted the
        pantheistic-animistic-cyclical view of the cosmos held not only in
        Greece, but also in the cultures and religions of Egypt, China, India,
        and Babylonia. Following that refutation, a realistic physics emerged."

        That is one way the Catholic faith criticized the science of its day.

        A second way the Catholic faith can criticize "science" is when scientists, or people who claim they speak for science, or who say "science tells us X" claim that just because we can do something it is moral for us to do it.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Since the tension between the Solid State and the Big Bang theory persisted into the late 20th century, apparently the Catholics of the Middle Ages didn't do much of a job of refuting the 'cyclical' nature of the cosmos, did they? And pantheism, along with Christianity, has to be discarded when actually DOING science in any event.
          Science tells us nothing about morality. If you see a scientist claiming that science makes moral judgements, you can feel free to ream them out.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You write:
            "Since the tension between the Solid State and the Big Bang theory persisted into the late 20th century, apparently the Catholics of the Middle Ages didn't do much of a job of refuting the 'cyclical' nature of the cosmos, did they?"

            You write as though steady state and the big bang models were under disussion since the middle ages. The steady state model began in the 1920s and persisted about 50 years.

            The steady state thesis isn't cyclical either. It's more like, matter in, forever. The big bounce model might be said to be cyclical, but that is a late development, too.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm not sure what your point is, then? Cyclic models have not discarded as possibilities - despite what Trascanos stated in the OP. Animism, is some forms, has never been discarded; given our increasing understanding of the complexity of apparently inanimate feedback loops.
            Have you given up on our previous discussions, by the way? I was rather enjoying them.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm happy I've been able to provide some amusement.

            I think the crux of the whole issue of Catholicism and the rise of natural science is: what caused modern science to arise where it did and when it did, and why did it not arise in other times and places, despite the "stillbirths" Jaki has noted.

            The philosopher of science Mariano Artigas argues that it arose because of three presuppositions which are not necessary to do science but without which no one would think to do it, suppositions bequeathed by centuries of Catholicism: (1) that there is an order in nature; (2) that we can know this order; and (3) that it is good to know this order.

          • Loreen Lee

            There is the metaphysical basis of scientific order in a nutshell. l. the order in nature: i.e. beauty; judgment; Kant's third critique including teleology 2. knowledge: the intellect; truth 4. goodness. the will; Basically the three aspects of the Trinity. This is also the basis of dialectical thinking, and so many other methodologies that are vital to scientific 'discovery'.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I didn't say amusement - I said enjoyment.

            And the problem is that there is no particular evidence that those three concepts ACTUALLY provided a basis for or stimulated the growth of science. And there is the complicating factor that these things are found elsewhere, in other cultures and other times. It doesn't hold up.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            no particular evidence that those three concepts ACTUALLY provided a basis for or stimulated the growth of science.

            Except that a) in the absence of one or more of them, natural science did not come to birth and b) historically in the history of ideas, its what happened. It does no good to suppose that in some hypothetical alternate history it might have happened differently. We are stuck with the history that actually happened. Don't worry. That you don't believe in the tenets of Catholicism doesn't mean that Catholic doctrine did not produce spin-off that you approve of. To assert otherwise is to fall into the genetic fallacy.

            And there is the complicating factor that these things are found elsewhere

            This would be more convincing if you had cited actual examples. In most cultures, the study of nature was not considered a fit occupation for grown ups, for example. Oh, tinkerers and practical men might stumble across rules of thumb, but that is not science. And brilliant individuals here and there might have done so, swimming against the current of thought in their cultures, as the great faylasuf did in the House of Submission. But in many places, like China and even Islam, the universe was held to be fundamentally chaotic. That is why Needham, not only an atheist, but a Marxist atheist, ascribed the lack of science in China to the lack of believe in a rational Godhead to give order to the chaos. So China developed a high technology, but not a science of nature. Coincidence and concatenation of events were regarded as being as significant as causation.

          • George

            there is an order to nature... but at any time that could all be completely thrown out the window by the reality-warping hand of the creator.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That is one of the problems with science and Christianity. Oddly enough, science would work better with Confucianism, and some of the eastern faiths which don't have an anthropomorphic deity.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            George suggests the voluntarism propounded by al-Ghazali, which did indeed stifle science in the Islamic world. Ibn Rushd argued against it -- fire really does burn cloth, he insisted -- but he lost the intellectual battle there.
            But if science would work better with Confucianism, one is stuck with the problem of why it did not. Needham, the great scholar of Chinese technology asserted just the opposite. (See comment above.)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What is the import of your comment, George?

          • George

            Pointing out an inconsistency. or at least just trying to tell the full story behind that statement. if one thinks the whole story is harmonious, I'd like a discussion over that.

            to start off, on that first one: how do supposed miracles fit in to the order?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Miracles do not fit into the natural order. They are not part of the natural order. Miracles have nothing to do with those three presuppositions.

          • George

            1. Do they happen? 2. Do they have any effect on the world?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            1. Yes. 2. Obviously yes if 1 is true.

            You might do a little research on Strange Notions:

            http://www.strangenotions.com/the-rational-judgment-of-a-miraculous-cure/

            And even better:

            http://www.strangenotions.com/can-an-atheist-scientist-believe-in-miracles/

          • George

            I wasn't clear. I wasn't looking to open up the discussion on miracles with supposed evidences, sorry about that, but thanks for linking. I wanted to know what you believed. Now I'd like to ask another question. Are miracles chaotic or the "chaos" being introduced to the "order", assuming that they don't fit in? or are miracles also ordered/orderly themselves?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Miracles could not be chaotic since they are performed by a rational person (God) for a good reason (the benefit of another rational person (a human being).

            I don't know what you are getting at.

          • George

            I want to know what makes them distinct from the "natural order". I want to know what catholics are getting when they talk about these things.

            and before I read that article, does it have a support for the idea of medical miracles besides: "Well the scientists couldn't explain this unlikely recovery."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you read the two OPs they will answer your questions.

          • Susan

            Hi George,

            You asked:

            before I read that article, does it have a support for the idea of medical miracles besides: "Well the scientists couldn't explain this unlikely recovery."

            Kevin replied:

            If you read the two OPs they will answer your questions

            Kevin could have saved you the trouble and just answered "no".

            It's more of the same.

          • Jeff_McLeod

            If you were a scholar you would address her as Dr. Trasancos.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why? She's no longer a working scientist, and her credentials are irrelevant to her "argument". In my experience, only the insecure or egotistical academics insist on the title. Or would you prefer to address me as Dr. Dr. Dr. O'Brien?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You mean Hoyle's "Steady State" not "Solid State." It was not a cyclical cosmos but one that was unchanging. Hoyle was a good scientist, but he was moved in part by a reaction to Father Lemaitre's theory. In fact, it was Hoyle who derisively called it "the Big Bang" at one of the Solvay conferences that both he and Fr. Lemaitre attended. Hoyle incorrectly saw the Big Bang as supporting a creation narrative and developed the Steady State because he was a staunch atheist. Oddly enough, he and Lemaitre got along personally.
            The cyclic theory has been making a comeback lately -- along with other New Agey kinds of things -- but it is not the Great Year of the Babylonians and Mayans that others in antiquity adopted. In particular, no serious cosmologist has yet reasserted that the universe is a living organism whose stars, planets, and galaxies are its internal organs.

        • Doug Shaver

          A second way the Catholic faith can criticize "science" is when scientists, or people who claim they speak for science, or who say "science tells us X" claim that just because we can do something it is moral for us to do it.

          If Catholics want me to applaud their faith for disputing such a claim, I don't mind doing so. Most of us secularists, though, think the absurdity of that claim is too obvious to need the endorsement of a religion or any other authority.

      • Jeff_McLeod

        But Dr. Trasancos has elsewhere documented that religion did indeed critique science, as has Fr. Jaki. The critique was to point out that before any calculation, it must be admitted that the universe follows laws. It is knowable, predictable, meaningful. There is no scientific proof of those things. Even Descartes admitted as such. It has to be accepted as given. This is in part what Christianity gave to science. Is the world ordered or not? If it is ordered, how do you know? You know because of Christianity which offers the radical idea of salvation history, the universe on a determinate course. I believe this is what Professor. Jaki and his able student Dr. Trasancos are saying here.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          But science doesn't accept this regularity as a gift from the church. Science, on the basis of observation CONCLUDED the regularity of the universe. The claims that the church somehow offered the unique insight if an ordered world doesn't hold up. First, because the literature of the church (e. g. Lives of the Saints) show a world full of miracles, unique happenings, angelic spirits manipulating reality. Second, these are concepts derivable from ordinary life and available everywhere - otherwise even the abortive scientific moments couldn't have happened.

          • Jeff_McLeod

            What you just said about science CONCLUDED the regularity of the universe is similar to something I read from priest, a biologist, who disagrees with Fr. Jaki. The book is "The Mind of the Universe" by Fr. Mariano Artigas. He too believes that the success of the scientific enterprise itself confirms that the universe is ordered.

            I disagree with Fr. Artigas, but because you framed your answer so clearly it is easy for me to explain where we differ.

            My background is in philosophy of science so my comments are about the structure of inference.

            The ancient view is the inductive view whereby the scientist picks up bits of the universe and draws generalizations from them. "Oh, see that planet behaves in an orderly way, and oh there that other planet does to, so, etc., so it appears that things in the universe are ordered." I know you are not arguing that, but I fear many do, so let's dispose of that right away.

            The more plausible case is to observe that scientific inference follows a logic of falsification.

            T -> e (theory implies evidence)
            ~e -> ~T (failure of evidence implies failure of theory)

            So where does the regularity of the universe fit in?

            It is an auxiliary assumption of the experiment.

            T.A1.A2 -> e

            The theory in conjunction with auxiliary assumptions implies evidence. Auxiliary assumptions are things like "The measurement equipment is properly calibrated" and "There is not a strong magnetic field nearby distorting the instruments" or "I did not make a mistake in my mathematical calculations of the predicted result." Things like that.

            So if the evidence comes out as predicted, it confirms or gives strength to the theory. But if it does not, we don't throw out the theory. We are open to the possibility that an auxiliary assumption was not in place. Right? De Morgan's law, ~(T.A1.A2) == ~T OR ~A1 OR ~A2.

            I just wanted to start with that. This is a fairly mainstream neo-Popperian view of the logic of scientific reasoning.

            But notice, conversely, does the successful observation e imply that T is true? Or A1? Or A2?

            NO, all it does is say that the evidence does not contradict the theory. Reality is consistent with the theory together with the auxiliary assumptions.

            Sorry to be so long-winded but it is only to address your statement that science CONCLUDED the universe is orderly.

            The order of the universe is an Auxiliary assumption. I want to make 2 points about such auxiliary assumptions.

            (1) They cannot be confirmed by science, only supported. I described that just above. Evidence surely doesn't contradict an ordered universe, but it could never give scientific proof of an ordered universe.

            (2) They cannot be deduced logically, they are based on personal and poorly articulated principles of HOW WE EXPERIENCE REALITY.

            This is an interesting point. Could you ever enumerate all of your auxiliary assumptions in science? No because you aren't AWARE of them. Maybe assumption 3 A3 says "The lab assistant remembered to turn on the computer."

            Why would this be a relevant auxiliary assumption? Because I have personally known many inattentive lab assistants and I know they are careless. Notice, I appeal to myself and my PERSONAL experience in life. It is impossible to separate the scientist from the PERSON and his worldview.

            Where do these auxiliary assumptions come from? They come from our very personal perspective in the universe.

            Don't you think it's possible that a person could assume the universe follows infinitely repeating cycles? Yes it is, and many scientists indeed thought this was true.

            Now you're in a position to appreciate (not to agree with, but to appreciate) Fr. Jaki's and Dr. Trasancos' point.

            Where did the notion of an ordered universe come from? It was a radical departure from existing worldviews in ancient times. It might have been a dim awareness but never clearly articulated.

            It was Christianity that sharpened and gave the greatest expression to that notion that turned it into a principle and purified the experimental method.

            That's what Dr. Trasancos lays out in her wonderful book.

            Think of it what you may, it is not crazy talk. And I have to say what I admire very much about you in this discussion is how honest you are in searching for the truth.

            Apologies for long-windedness, but your comment really caused me to think and I wanted to give an adequate answer.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm sorry, but nothing in that post appears to address my point. All you have done is reiterate your claim that regularity is an assumption; again, this appears to be false. Regularity is an observation - it may feed into future observations and experiments, but the world certainly didn't go around saying "oh, my god - how do I know that the universe is orderly, i'ts probably not!" before the Catholic church deigned to tell it so.
            Scientists working in other religions and areas with no real religion at all were quite happy to use the observed regularity of the universe in their work.
            Since other non-Catholic, non-religious areas were also doing science, there must have been some other factor that contributed to the rapid development of science in Europe than Catholic doctrine.

          • Jeff_McLeod

            Well, yes people knew the world was patterned for a long, long time. Thank you for reminding me. But the ancient notion of what it means to be patterned was a deprecated idea compared to the insight of Judeo-Christian thought.

            If you want to continue laughing at things being obvious in the history of science, then you would also have to chuckle at the following:

            People knew that things "fall down" for a long time.

            Galileo just rolled balls down inclined planes.

            Duh. Everybody knew they would roll down.

            You know and I know that Galileo was revolutionary and that his contribution to physics wasn't that he showed that things fall down. Very few people I've ever met can articulate exactly what was revolutionary about Galileo's experiments on inclined planes. It takes a little effort and a little study to know why Galileo broke the rules.

            Similarly, it takes time and attention to find out how the Judeo-Christian world view gave birth to modern science.

            To the incurious, it looks like Galileo was proving that objects tend downward. Historians and philosophers of science see extraordinary thought processes behind his experiments.

            It sounds like you are hungering for a deeper understanding of what we mean specifically by the notion of the "world being ordered." You are reducing it to mere common sense, which it is not.

            What we knew by this notion of an ordered universe was as radical as what Galileo knew when he designed his experiments in falling bodies. Something that looks obvious but is actually a peculiar genius when you fully understand the insight that occurred.

            Read Dr. Trasancos' book, you won't regret it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But the ancient notion of what it means to be patterned was a deprecated idea compared to the insight of Judeo-Christian thought.

            I see no evidence of this. Be specific. I see no insight in Judeo-Christian thought on this point at all; nor any evidence that whatever you think the key "insight" of Christianity actually impacted the development. That's what both Jaki and Trascanos continually fail to do as well: they offer weak correlation and no evidence of causality.

            It sounds like you are hungering for a deeper understanding of what we mean specifically by the notion of the "world being ordered." You are reducing it to mere common sense, which it is not. You need to move from the thin gruel of common sense to the steak and potatoes of science as Christianity made it.

            What we knew by this notion of an ordered universe was as radical as what Galileo knew when he designed his experiments in falling bodies. Something that looks obvious but is actually a peculiar genius when you fully understand the insight that occurred.

            Why do you continue to be so vague? Rhetoric is not an argument.

            Read Dr. Trasancos' book, you won't regret it.

            Given the sloppy and highly biased thinking she shows on her blog, why do you think her book is an improvement?

          • Jeff_McLeod

            I can't make you read Dr. Trasancos' brilliant book! Some day it will be a perfect day and you'll pick up a copy just to see what all the fuss is about. I've heard rumors that Professor Dawkins is going to read it, if he has not already. He apparently believes it is worthy of his time!

            One last thing. It's not worth getting into here, but I want to tell you that when I was in graduate school studying philosophy of science, the discussions bore zero resemblance to the discussions on a typical comment board like this.

            For example, we took a very intensive seminar dedicated to nothing except the concept of evidence.

            You might not be aware of this but there is no agreement whatsoever among scholars in philosophy of science as to what constitutes evidence.

            Someone with pretty advanced study in this field looks with awe when people use the word "evidence" without ever once acknowledging what a loaded word that is.

            I notice you refer to it constantly, and yet I wonder if you appreciate that we have very different understandings of what that word means.

            Once an atheist friend told me that he wanted evidence, but when I asked him what would constitute evidence he said he didn't know but that he would know it when he saw it.

            What a squishy concept of evidence! I can't imagine being intellectually satisfied if I had gone through life having no idea what the word 'evidence' means while constantly badgering others to provide it.

            I suspect you have a better definition of evidence than that, but I also suspect it is a very outdated one. Most people are stuck somewhere around the time of Bacon. A few are stuck at logical positivism. A very minuscule number went beyond that.

            Anyway, it was very nice to talk to you and I will respect your desire for me not to rehash my arguments pending this thing you keep referring to as evidence. I admire your enthusiasm.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And what is your definition of "evidence"? Naturally I would not expect philosophers to agree on the definition of evidence; philosophers don't agree on anything (except, perhaps, contempt for folks who don't take them seriously.) You seem to think I'm stuck pre-Bacon; I suspect you're stuck post-Quine.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Science, on the basis of observation CONCLUDED the regularity of the universe.

            Except that the belief in a rationally-ordered universe long predates anything we would call modern science. Alas, in history effects cannot come before their causes.
            For example, Adelard of Bath in the 12th century, wrote in a dialogue with his nephew:
            "[T]he natural order does not exist confusedly and without rational arrangement, and human reason should be listened to concerning those things it treats of. But when it completely fails, then the matter should be referred to God. Therefore, since we have not yet completely lost the use of our minds, let us return to reason."
            -- Quaestiones naturales
            and again:
            "If we turn our back on the amazing rational beauty of the universe we live in, we should indeed deserve to be driven from it, like a guest unappreciative of the house into which he has been received."

      • Loreen Lee

        Yes. I agree that there is 'evidence' that the CC rejects modern philosophy from Descartes, on, because its pivotal point of assessment is from the theological perspective. It is mentioned above that this theological perspective does provide a point from which we can know what we don't know. (Can't find comment where this idea is expressed at the moment). But the slow development within modern philosophy is that such areas of metaphysics, in which the subjects of causation, simplicity vs. complexity, existence of God, and the origin of the 'universe' are now understood to be elements of knowledge in which the basis of scientific knowledge is always open to debate. We can not always know what we don't know.

        Today in cosmology, I understand there are actually three theories of possibilities: (with respect to time I believe) that is: it is either finite, infinite or cyclical. So with the advent of quantum mechanics, etc. etc. some of the theories of Asian/Hindu/Buddhist metaphysics, may yet be found to have some validity, within this other arising context. Kant's critiques were meant to be the basis of critical thinking, not in the sense of adhering to specific forms of argumentation, and methods of observation, but were 'critiques' of the limits of knowledge per se. The Critique of Pure Reason, for instance, attempts to define/delineate the limitations of pure reason; that is reason without substantiation within the scientific methodology of empirical 'evidence'. In some cases, however, it still remains a 'fact', as with the antinomies, that evidence is not necessarily available, and that therefore these areas of speculative metaphysics/theology are 'beyond' the scope of science 'per se'.

        I believe that it is this latter conclusion that still supports the Catholic position that theology, even more than philosophy, is the 'a priori' basis of not only knowledge, but of understanding according to the 'priority' of the categories that are utilized within the 'discovery' process. This I believe is argument of the Good Doctor Stacey (I can't remember spelling of her last name) CC has provided a most fruitful conceptual understanding or basis with respect to the development of science. It is an a priori argument.

  • GCBill

    Buridan: God, when He created the world, moved each of the celestial bodies as He pleased, and in moving them He impressed in them impetuses
    which moved them without His having to move them any more except by the
    method of general influence whereby He concurs as a co-agent in all
    things which take place...

    Trasancos: This idea of impetus was the beginning of physics, exact science, where one discovery generates the next at an ever more accelerated rate.

    Trasancos: The rejection of the ancient ideas of an eternal, cycling, pantheistic,
    animistic world had to be refuted before a realistic physics, and thus
    science, could emerge in Christian Europe.

    I can see how assumptions of animism and pantheism would conflict with Buridan's thesis. As I understand them, they propose competing explanations for the tendencies of physical bodies to behave in certain ways; furthermore, these explanations predict different behavior than Burdidan's account does. However, I don't see how an eternal and/or cycling universe conflicts with the notion of impetus at all; I believe them to be orthogonal to it when properly understood. Furthermore, there are other worldviews within logic-space that are perfectly consonant with the methods and findings of science. Even if these views couldn't have historically mothered scientific inquiry, science can be done quite comfortably within them. So while I think Christianity played a role in the development of science, I think that role 1) was not logically necessary, and 2) entailed less conceptual housecleaning than this article suggests.

    I'm not sure why impetuses couldn't exist within an eternal universe. If regularities can be brought into existence by God with physical bodies, surely they can be conserved (in the sense of Divine Conservation) within an eternal universe. With regards to universe-cycles, I envision a similar argument: one could just as easily hypothesize that God imbues the physical bodies of each cycle with impetuses. The latter is no less possible than if God were to only do so once. I therefore maintain that the precise origin of the universe is orthogonal to the development of science. What really matters is how the tendencies observed within the universe are understood (i.e., as rule rather than whim).

    Now it seems to be the case that the universe (probably) does have a (non-cyclic) beginning. But knowledge of this fact is not necessary in order to do science. No one was actually sure whether the universe had a beginning until Lemaitre's theory came along (in fact, many were skeptical). Yet science still made great progress during 600+ years between the Medieval and Modern periods. Nor was Lemaitre's theory an example of the light of faith illuminating the path to scientific inquiry, for Lemaitre (anticipating Late Modernity) saw science and religion as separate endeavors.

    Furthermore, I'd like to point out that there is still an ongoing debate on precisely how to conceptually model the regularities discovered by science. Science can proceed (somewhat) independently of these concerns, with the important caveat that the extrapolations from scientific findings are different under these competing theories. For instance, the regularist position predicts consistency within nature without physical necessity. It is consonant with the observations of science, but not with the concept of unchanging impetuses. This is not the view that historically gave birth to science, but it could have, provided that the project of science is the discovery of non-necessary regularities. Furthermore, this demonstrates that science can proceed under assumptions far different than those that founded it.

    The key idea here is that the crucial notion for science is consistency. We need a world in which things continue to behave similarly before we can rely on experiment. Based on what you've written, I suspect that European Christendom may have been the first culture to come up with the idea that the universe behaved with such consistency. But, as my objections probably suggest, I'm not at all convinced that Christian assumptions are the only ones that could have given birth to science. Some of the doctrinal condemnations you list in the OP are actually orthogonal to the development of science. The Pagan peoples were fewer conceptual steps away from an orderly universe than this piece implies.

    So basically, if your only argument is that Christianity played an important role in the way science actually developed, I'd say you're correct. But if you're arguing that science could not have developed without Christianity, then I'd say you're wrong. There are other logically-coherent views that can support science; the fact that they did not is a contingent historical fact only. It is on this basis that I reject your claim that "Scientific progress needs the light of faith." (emphasis mine). What science needs is any account of the world on which consistency of regularities is plausible. And I don't think Christianity is the only worldview that offers such comfort, even if it was the first one and the only prominent one to do so at one time.

  • This was an interesting post. I didn't know about the Condemnations of 1277--most histories about modern science seem to start from Galileo and treat the Middle Ages as an intellectual vacuum existing between Ancient Greece and the Renaissance. From what the writer explains, one can see that a necessary position of doubt started to arise from the Christian faith. Aquinas's quote asserts what one can establish through reason and through revelation, and the Condemnations echo this sentiment. Aristotle came to his many of conclusions through speculation and logic, not actual evidence. Some of those conclusions
    held steady, but some did not. For science to progress, people had to think differently about these positions, and question whether anyone could even know some of these things with any degree of certainty, like the creation of the universe, time and eternity, or motions in the universe. One would have to look beyond the conclusions of science, and, in this case, reform the methods of science to better
    address these ideas.

    Even after so many revisions of the scientific method, many of these questions remain. Just as it was false, almost to the point of superstition, to believe Aristotle's theories adequately explained these mysteries, it is equally false to imagine that current science has solved these mysteries perfectly and thus obviated the need for a metaphysical understanding of the cosmos. At some point, faith will determine how a thinker will move forward.

  • Ben Posin

    I think pretty much everything Dr. Trasancos has to say on this subject is silly at best, largely for reasons discussed in this thread by Solange and Cminca. But really it boils down to: who cares? Even if Dr. Trasancos was right, and it was the drive of these supposedly truth loving Catholics driven by truth loving Catholic doctrine that helped birth certain institutes of learning or specific theories, well, many a rose is born from the muck. Here we stand today, in a world where science pretty clearly does not depend on the Catholic church, and where the mindset of faith and Catholicism pretty clearly is not consistent with good science. So Dr. Trasancos and others can gush over the supposed contributions the Church has made to learning over the years, but let's live in the present and move forward to make a better future.

  • btpcmsag

    Quote: Proposition 83 safeguarded the doctrine of creation.
    “That the world, although it was made from nothing, was not newly-made,
    and although it passed from nonbeing to being, the nonbeing did not
    precede in duration but only in nature.”

    Proposition 83 precludes the possibility of any "big bang" that occurred in time, because that would constitute a precedence of being, from non-being "in nature," but not "in duration." Therefore, on this basis (83) Catholics are forbidden to believe in the 'big bang'.

  • btpcmsag

    Dr. Tracy Trasancos ends her article with a note of pure sweetness in this paragraph: "There is a lesson for modern-day science in this story. If it seems
    like, in the century in which we live, science and faith are
    irreconcilable, the reason is not because they are in actual conflict,
    but because our knowledge is incomplete. By striving for new
    understanding toward reconciliation, even amid tension that appears to
    some as crisis, new insights to realistic breakthroughs can be made.
    Scientific progress needs the light of faith."

    Our knowledge is incomplete! Tension that appears to some as a crisis is the atmosphere amid which we should be striving toward reconciliation, with new understanding of what we observe in nature............. such as, for example, in the cosmos.

    So, does a new understanding mean that any discovery that shakes up our long-held concepts of what the cosmos is, and what it has been doing, constitute a 'crisis'? Tension, yes, but 'crisis'? Michio Kaku thinks it's a "crisis." Max Tegmark doesn't disagree. Lawrence Krauss THOUGHT it was a crisis, until he realized that he doesn't want it to be one, so now he's in denial -- denial of several things.

    But back to Dr. Tracy Trasancos: "There is a lesson for modern-day science in this story." That is, modern-day scientists can take a lesson if they're willing to learn where our knowledge is incomplete. But will they? When before in the history of science, have REAL scientists been unwilling to learn something where their knowledge had been incomplete?

    There was a time when spontaneous generation of life was a foregone conclusion. Then simple experiments showed that flies only reproduced via the laying of their eggs in rotting meat, for example. Then later, similar experiments (albeit with more sophisitcated apparati) showed that bacteria do not spontaneously generate but require parents (or at least a parent, apparently).

    Are we now back to that time, when we need a Dr. Trasnancos to cheer us on to higher principles? Speaking of The Principle, the earthmoving film of our time has a release date, and it will be announced on Wednesday coming up. Are you ready?

  • I do not agree that Burundian is terribly key in the history of science. The important idea here is whether or not the matter and motion we observe follow certain rules that do not change. This idea goes out of the window with an omnipotent God (who can suspend any of these) but was not uncommon among the Greeks and in other places in the world. I would suggest that this idea was simply suppressed by the church. This suppression began to ease in the late Middle Ages, but its death throes involved the inquisitions and wars of religion.

    I would further suggest that it is Kepler who was the most key in developing the scientific approach. Although he had specific and perhaps dogmatic views he was trying to reinforce, he eventually followed the evidence and discovered a factual, if less beautiful truth. He did this based on empirical observation and his findings could be tested and falsified.

    I don't know about faith but science and religion are not in direct conflict with religion as religion will generally re-interpret itself to be consistent with empirical findings.

  • cminca

    It occurred to me that this entire conversation is wrong. There is a simple reason why science flourished in the West. Competition.

    Jaki and Stacy claim that the lack of faith was the reason scientific discoveries didn't go further in societies like the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, or Ottoman empires. That isn't the reason at all.

    Europe, from the middle ages and right up until the end of the 19th century, was in a constant flux of small city states, countries, principalities, etc., in economic (and frequently armed) conflict. They were miniscule in comparison to the sprawling bureaucratic Chinese and Ottoman empires, and the boundaries and relationships were constantly changing.

    Applied science was called upon to help the individual states pursue their economic and political goals. Build faster ships, invent stronger weapons, chart more dependable maps, move products over land faster, cure diseases that are decimating populations and creating economic havoc. Applied science leads to other, more theoretical scientific discoveries. (Before anyone challenges the last--alchemy attempted, among other things, to change base metal to gold. While doing experiments in that applied science other breakthroughs--for example the discovery of mineral acids--occurred.)

    The economic and political completion that drove European society was what fostered science and technology--it was the Duke of Milan that hired da Vinci to build and engineer and invent--not the church. And it was the sprawling bureaucracies of the Ottoman, Egyptian, and Chinese empires that killed innovation. Not the lack of the trinity.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      This is one of the stronger hypotheses. As others have noted, science developed in many ways as a byproduct of engineering, until the entire cycle became synergistic; and unfortunately for the Catholics, most of the key minds were Protestant. Newton, Bacon, Einstein, maxwell - the list goes on.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Wasn't Einstein an atheist? But your point is well made.

        http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_thinkers_in_science

        Many were also creationists...had beards....and ate roast beef on Sunday.

        “...let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet a true creator is necessity, which is the mother of our invention.”
        The Republic, Book II, 369c, Plato

        "the basis of invention is science, and science is almost wholly the outgrowth of pleasurable intellectual curiosity."
        Alfred North Whitehead

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Yes, Einstein was an atheist - and a secular Jew.

  • Benjamin Vallejo Jr

    "By striving for new understanding toward reconciliation, even amid tension that appears to some as crisis, new insights to realistic breakthroughs can be made. Scientific progress needs the light of faith."

    After Charles Darwin clearly demonstrated that faith is not necessary for a scientific understanding of nature, it is better said as "Scientific progress requires a dialogue with faith"

  • Hans-Georg Lundahl

    Notice a few of the things the condemnation of the propositions did NOT condemn:

    a) that Heaven as a whole is moved in its daily rotation around Earth by God
    b) that heavenly bodies (great and small luminaries and presumably also invisible ones) are moved by angels.

    Here is a Latin version of propositions condemned, chapters ordered thematically, so double numeration (number in chapter and number in original condemnation), with comments/footnotes also in Latin by me:

    http://ppt.li/tempier