She said it: Nancy Pearcey’s thoughtful article on how “Christianity is a Science-starter, not a Science-stopper”
|June 17, 2011||Posted by kairosfocus under Education, Evolution, Philosophy, Intelligent Design, Darwinism, Religion, Science, Creationism, Culture, Expelled, Atheism, Media, Ethics, Free Speech, Intellectual freedom, Christian Darwinism, Society, science education, academic freedom, ID Foundations|
One of the most common objections to design thought is the idea that it is about the improper injection of the alien supernatural into the world of science. (That is itself based on a strawman misrepresentation of design thought, as was addressed here a few days ago.)
However, there is an underlying root, a common distortion of the origins of modern science, which Nancy Pearcey rebutted in a 2005 sleeper article as headlined, that deserves a UD post of its own.
Let’s clip the article:
>>Challenge to Secular Stereotype Profoundly Affects Politics and Culture
Christianity Is a Science-Starter, Not a Science-Stopper
By Nancy Pearcey
[ . . . . ]
Most historians today agree that the main impact Christianity had on the origin and development of modern science was positive. Far from being a science stopper, it is a science starter.
One reason this dramatic turn-around has not yet filtered down to the public is that the history of science is still quite a young field. Only fifty years ago, it was not even an independent discipline. Over the past few decades, however, it has blossomed dramatically, and in the process, many of the old myths and stereotypes that we grew up with have been toppled. Today the majority view is that Christianity provided many of the crucial motivations and philosophical assumptions necessary for the rise of modern science.
In one sense, this should come as no surprise. After all, modern science arose in one place and one time only: It arose out of medieval Europe, during a period when its intellectual life was thoroughly permeated with a Christian worldview. Other great cultures, such as the Chinese and the Indian, often developed a higher level of technology and engineering. But their expertise tended to consist of practical know-how and rules of thumb. They did not develop what we know as experimental science–testable theories organized into coherent systems. Science in this sense has appeared only once in history. As historian Edward Grant writes, “It is indisputable that modern science emerged in the seventeenth century in Western Europe and nowhere else.”. . . .
The church fathers taught that the material world came from the hand of a good Creator, and was thus essentially good. The result is described by a British philosopher of science, Mary Hesse: “There has never been room in the Hebrew or Christian tradition for the idea that the material world is something to be escaped from, and that work in it is degrading.” Instead, “Material things are to be used to the glory of God and for the good of man.” Kepler is, once again, a good example. When he discovered the third law of planetary motion (the orbital period squared is proportional to semi-major axis cubed, or P[superscript 2] = a [superscript 3]), this was for him “an astounding confirmation of a geometer god worthy of worship. He confessed to being ‘carried away by unutterable rapture at the divine spectacle of heavenly harmony’.” In the biblical worldview, scientific investigation of nature became both a calling and an obligation. As historian John Hedley Brooke explains, the early scientists “would often argue that God had revealed himself in two books—the book of His words (the Bible) and the book of His works (nature). As one was under obligation to study the former, so too there was an obligation to study the latter.” The rise of modern science cannot be explained apart from the Christian view of nature as good and worthy of study, which led the early scientists to regard their work as obedience to the cultural mandate to “till the garden”. . . .
Today the majority of historians of science agree with this positive assessment of the impact the Christian worldview had on the rise of science. Yet even highly educated people remain ignorant of this fact. Why is that? The answer is that history was founded as a modern discipline by Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire, Gibbon, and Hume who had a very specific agenda: They wanted to discredit Christianity while promoting rationalism. And they did it by painting the middle ages as the “Dark Ages,” a time of ignorance and superstition. They crafted a heroic saga in which modern science had to battle fierce opposition and oppression from Church authorities. Among professional historians, these early accounts are no longer considered reliable sources. Yet they set the tone for the way history books have been written ever since. The history of science is often cast as a secular morality tale of enlightenment and progress against the dark forces of religion and superstition. Stark puts it in particularly strong terms: “The ‘Enlightenment’ [was] conceived initially as a propaganda ploy by militant atheists and humanists who attempted to claim credit for the rise of science.” Stark’s comments express a tone of moral outrage that such bad history continues to be perpetuated, even in academic circles. He himself published an early paper quoting the standards texts, depicting the relationship between Christianity and science as one of constant “warfare.” He now seems chagrined to learn that, even back then, those stereotypes had already been discarded by professional historians.
Today the warfare image has become a useful tool for politicians and media elites eager to press forward with a secularist agenda . . . [The whole article is well worth the read, here.]>>
Nancy Pearcey, author of Total Truth, is editor at large of The Pearcey Report and the Francis A. Schaeffer Scholar at World Journalism Institute. This article appears, with minor changes, in Areopagus Journal 5:1 (January-February 2005): pp. 4-9 (www.apologeticsresctr.org). Copyright © Nancy Pearcey.
We need to zoom in tight on a clip or two, first:
Today the majority of historians of science agree with this positive assessment of the impact the Christian worldview had on the rise of science. Yet even highly educated people remain ignorant of this fact. Why is that? The answer is that history was founded as a modern discipline by Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire, Gibbon, and Hume who had a very specific agenda: They wanted to discredit Christianity while promoting rationalism. And they did it by painting the middle ages as the “Dark Ages,” a time of ignorance and superstition. They crafted a heroic saga in which modern science had to battle fierce opposition and oppression from Church authorities. Among professional historians, these early accounts are no longer considered reliable sources. Yet they set the tone for the way history books have been written ever since. The history of science is often cast as a secular morality tale of enlightenment and progress against the dark forces of religion and superstition. Stark puts it in particularly strong terms: “The ‘Enlightenment’ [was] conceived initially as a propaganda ploy by militant atheists and humanists who attempted to claim credit for the rise of science.”
This is a sobering warning on how secularist rhetoric can distort objective knowledge, even among the elites, and that for generations. We cannot allow this to be done with the very definition of science [cf. what Lewontin et al have done], and the related methods of science issue of the inference to causal factors on empirically reliable signs.
Secondly, let us observe:
Far from being a science stopper, it is a science starter . . . .
[T]his should come as no surprise. After all, modern science arose in one place and one time only: It arose out of medieval Europe, during a period when its intellectual life was thoroughly permeated with a Christian worldview. Other great cultures, such as the Chinese and the Indian, often developed a higher level of technology and engineering. But their expertise tended to consist of practical know-how and rules of thumb. They did not develop what we know as experimental science–testable theories organized into coherent systems. Science in this sense has appeared only once in history. As historian Edward Grant writes, “It is indisputable that modern science emerged in the seventeenth century in Western Europe and nowhere else.” . . . .
As historian John Hedley Brooke explains, the early scientists “would often argue that God had revealed himself in two books—the book of His words (the Bible) and the book of His works (nature). As one was under obligation to study the former, so too there was an obligation to study the latter.” The rise of modern science cannot be explained apart from the Christian view of nature as good and worthy of study, which led the early scientists to regard their work as obedience to the cultural mandate to “till the garden”. . .
Indeed, going further, it is a commonplace that many early scientists saw themselves as “thinking God’s [creative and sustaining] thoughts after him.” That is, from their theistic perspective, they saw the cosmos as a creation by a God of order, who “sustains all thinks by his word of power.”
It is worth citing the C1 text, Heb 1:1 -3, in the Amplified version, to see the significance of this last quote:
1IN MANY separate revelations [[a]each of which set forth a portion of the Truth] and in different ways God spoke of old to [our] forefathers in and by the prophets,
2[But] in [b]the last of these days He has spoken to us in [the person of a] Son, Whom He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also by and through Whom He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time [He made, produced, built, operated, and arranged them in order].
3He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the [c]out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. When He had by offering Himself accomplished our cleansing of sins and riddance of guilt, He sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high . . .
It is in this context of thought that, in his General Scholium to Principia — arguably the most important scientific work of all time, in which the Laws of Motion and Gravitation are presented — Isaac Newton wrote in no uncertain terms:
This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being . . . It is allowed by all that the Supreme God exists necessarily; and by the same necessity he exists always, and every where. [i.e. he accepts the cosmological argument to God as necessary being and root cause of the observed cosmos] . . . We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final cause [i.e from his designs] . . . Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and every where, could produce no variety of things. [i.e. necessity does not produce contingency]. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing. [That is, he implicitly rejects chance, Plato’s third alternative and explicitly infers to the Designer of the Cosmos.]
But, aren’t miracles a chaotic element that would disrupt all possibility of a science that studies the regularities of the world?
This is a common, view, indeed Lewontin advocates it by favourably citing Beck in his infamous a priori materialism quote, using this accusation to indict theism and theists as inherently irrational (for, to such minds, to be “scientific” is to be rational):
The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.
Sadly, many seem to find this quote highly appealing and even justifying of censoring science from investigating the possibility of design in the natural world on studying empirically reliable signs of choice contingency [such as functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information], as that — shudder! –may allow the utterly unwelcome Divine Foot in the door.
But in fact this rests on a serious strawman distortion of theism and theists.
As a first correction, accurate history — as opposed to the commonly promoted rationalist myth of the longstanding war of religion against science — documents (cf. here, here and here) that the Judaeo-Christian worldview nurtured and gave crucial impetus to the rise of modern science through its view that God as creator made and sustains an orderly world. Similarly, for miracles — e.g. the resurrection of Jesus — to stand out as signs pointing beyond the ordinary course of the world, there must first be such an ordinary course, one plainly amenable to scientific study. The saddest thing is that many are now so blinded and hostile that, having been corrected, they will STILL think that this justifies the above.
But, nothing can excuse the imposition of a priori materialist censorship on science, which distorts its ability to seek the empirically warranted truth about our world.
So, let us start that process by first getting our history straight: rather than being a science-stopper, Judaeo-Christian theism, historically, was a science-starter. END
APPENDIX, Jun 20:
For some further primary source documentation, given highly misleading claims like this cited by Wikipedia in its article on Naturalism, which endorses Lewontin-Sagan style a priori materialism under the name of methodological naturalism, presented under the pretence that it is the historic way that modern science was done:
Philosopher Paul Kurtz notes two senses to naturalism. First, nature is best accounted for by reference to material principles, that is, by mass and energy; physical and chemical properties. Second, all scientific endeavors—all hypotheses and events—are to be explained and tested within methodological naturalism’s reference of natural causes and events. Naturalism in Kurtz’s first sense, insisting that nature is all there is, is called metaphysical naturalism or philosophical naturalism.
In the second sense, methodological naturalism provides assumptions within which to conduct science. Methodological naturalism is a way of acquiring knowledge. It is a distinct system of thought concerned with a cognitive approach to reality, and thus a philosophy of knowledge or epistemology.
- Expert testimony [–> According to Judge Jones at Dover (i.e. not a qualified historian of science), copying the post trial submission of the NCSE, an evolutionary materialism pressure group] reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries [i.e. the 1500’s – 1600’s — this is blatantly false as the above shows], science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena…. While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science. This self-imposed convention of science [–> cf Newton below on imposing question-begging, censoring metaphysical, speculative a prioris on science], which limits inquiry to testable, natural [–> notice the censorship: chance, necessity and art based on choice all leave empirical traces that can be studied with profit using scientific methods . . . ] explanations about the natural world, is referred to by philosophers as “methodological naturalism” and is sometimes known as the scientific method. Methodological naturalism is a “ground rule” of science today which requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify.
. . . let me cite Newton in Opticks, Query 31, 1704 (and thus well within the NCSE/Jones window where science was supposedly atheistical in its methods, and of course I am citing the leading single scientist of the past 400 years, maybe all time]:
>> Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
from Query 31 of Opticks (London, 1704)
All these things being consider’d, it seems probable to me, that God in the Beginning form’d Matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable Particles, of such Sizes and Figures, and with such other Properties, and in such Proportion to Space, as most conduced to the End for which he form’d them; and that these primitive Particles being Solids, are incomparably harder than any porous Bodies compounded of them; even so very hard, as never to wear or break in pieces; no ordinary Power being able to divide what God himself made one in the first Creation. While the Particles continue entire, they may compose Bodies of one and the same Nature and Texture in all Ages: But should they wear away, or break in pieces, the Nature of Things depending on them, would be changed. Water and Earth, composed of old worn Particles and Fragments of Particles, would not be of the same Nature and Texture now, with Water and Earth composed of entire Particles in the Beginning. And therefore, that Nature may be lasting, the Changes of corporeal Things are to be placed only in the various Separations and new Associations and Motions of these permanent Particles; compound Bodies being apt to break, not in the midst of solid Particles, but where those Particles are laid together, and only touch in a few Points . . . .
Now by the help of these Principles [of gravity, laws of motion, observations of the evident stability of material properties of e.g. water, etc], all material Things seem to have been composed of the hard and solid Particles above-mention’d, variously associated in the first Creation by the Counsel of an intelligent Agent. For it became him who created them to set them in order. And if he did so, it’s unphilosophical to seek for any other Origin of the World, or to pretend that it might arise out of a Chaos by the mere Laws of Nature [= chance + necessity without intelligence, i.e. he is pointing to inferior alternatives under comparative difficulties, which would be discussed in the General Scholium to Principia]; though being once form’d, it may continue by those Laws for many Ages. For while Comets move in very excentrick Orbs in all manner of Positions, blind Fate could never make all the Planets move one and the same way in Orbs concentrick, some inconsiderable Irregularities excepted, which may have risen from the mutual Actions of Comets and Planets upon one another, and which will be apt to increase, till this System wants a Reformation. Such a wonderful Uniformity in the Planetary System must be allowed the Effect of Choice. And so must the Uniformity in the Bodies of Animals . . . .
As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses [= a priori controlling/censoring speculations] are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d, and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations [ –> notice the definition of science and its methods]. . . .
And if natural Philosophy in all its Parts, by pursuing this Method, shall at length be perfected, the Bounds of Moral Philosophy will be also enlarged. For so far as we can know by natural Philosophy what is the first Cause, what Power he has over us, and what Benefits we receive from him, so far our Duty towards him, as well as that towards one another, will appear to us by the Light of Nature [–> this is an allusion to Romans 1:19 – 32 etc]. And no doubt, if the Worship of false Gods had not blinded the Heathen, their moral Philosophy would have gone farther than to the four Cardinal Virtues; and instead of teaching the Transmigration of Souls, and to worship the Sun and Moon, and dead Heroes, they would have taught us to worship our true Author and Benefactor, as their Ancestors did under the Government of Noah and his Sons before they corrupted themselves. >>
Thus, we see from a prime source document, that explanation by chance/chaos, necessity and agency were well understood as alternatives in the founding era of science, by leading scientists. Second, that inference to art based on choice of intelligent agent was rooted in empirical considerations, and that science was not to be held in thralldom to a priori question-begging impositions. Instead, the empirical, provisional analysis and resulting inductive generalisations were to be held based on empirical testing, and subject to further empirical testing. All this, in a context of a worldview that was plainly Biblical and indeed creationist.