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She said it: Nancy Pearcey’s thoughtful article on how “Christianity is a Science-starter, not a Science-stopper”

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:

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>>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.[6]

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.”[7]. . . .

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.”[19] 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’.”[20] 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.”[21] 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.”[22] 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.[23]

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.

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(U/D Dec 29, 2013; HT YFP: NB, it will also be helpful to examine Egnor’s replies to Coyne’s objections, here. Also the TOF series: 0, 1, 2, 3.)

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.”[22]

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.”[21] 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

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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.[2] 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.[3]

. . . 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]:

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>> 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. >>
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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.

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29 Responses to She said it: Nancy Pearcey’s thoughtful article on how “Christianity is a Science-starter, not a Science-stopper”

  1. kf, I would go even further and maintain that not only is the religion of ‘Christianity’ necessary for the birth of modern science, but that the very ‘person of Christ’ was, and is, necessary for science to exist and persist to this day and into the future;

    notes:

    A very strong piece of suggestive evidence, which persuasively hints at a unique relationship that man has with ‘The Word’ of John 1:1, is found in these following articles which point out the fact that ‘coincidental scientific discoveries’ are far more prevalent than what should be expected from a materialistic perspective,:

    In the Air – Who says big ideas are rare? by Malcolm Gladwell
    Excerpt: This phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples”—turns out to be extremely common. One of the first comprehensive lists of multiples was put together by William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas, in 1922, and they found a hundred and forty-eight major scientific discoveries that fit the multiple pattern. Newton and Leibniz both discovered calculus. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both discovered evolution. Three mathematicians “invented” decimal fractions. Oxygen was discovered by Joseph Priestley, in Wiltshire, in 1774, and by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, a year earlier. Color photography was invented at the same time by Charles Cros and by Louis Ducos du Hauron, in France. Logarithms were invented by John Napier and Henry Briggs in Britain, and by Joost Bürgi in Switzerland. ,,, For Ogburn and Thomas, the sheer number of multiples could mean only one thing: scientific discoveries must, in some sense, be inevitable.
    http://www.newyorker.com/repor.....ntPage=all

    List of multiple discoveries
    Excerpt: Historians and sociologists have remarked on the occurrence, in science, of “multiple independent discovery”. Robert K. Merton defined such “multiples” as instances in which similar discoveries are made by scientists working independently of each other.,,, Multiple independent discovery, however, is not limited to only a few historic instances involving giants of scientific research. Merton believed that it is multiple discoveries, rather than unique ones, that represent the common pattern in science.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.....iscoveries

    The following video is far more direct in establishing the ‘spiritual’ link to man’s ability to learn new information, in that it shows that the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores for students showed a steady decline, for seventeen years from the top spot or near the top spot in the world, after the removal of prayer from the public classroom by the Supreme Court in 1963. Whereas the SAT scores for private Christian schools have consistently remained at the top, or near the top, spot in the world:

    The Real Reason American Education Has Slipped – David Barton – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4318930

    The following video is very suggestive to a ‘spiritual’ link in man’s ability to learn new information in that the video shows that almost every, if not every,founder of each discipline of modern science was a devout Christian:

    Christianity Gave Birth To Science – Dr. Henry Fritz Schaefer – video
    http://vimeo.com/16523153

    These following studies, though of materialistic bent, offer strong support that Humans are extremely unique in this ‘advanced information capacity’ when compared to animals:

    Darwin’s mistake: Explaining the discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds:
    Excerpt: There is a profound functional discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds. We argue that this discontinuity pervades nearly every domain of cognition and runs much deeper than even the spectacular scaffolding provided by language or culture can explain. We hypothesize that the cognitive discontinuity between human and nonhuman animals is largely due to the degree to which human and nonhuman minds are able to approximate the higher-order, systematic, relational capabilities of a physical symbol system.
    http://www.bbsonline.org/Prepr.....eprint.htm

    Origin of the Mind: Marc Hauser
    Excerpt: “Researchers have found some of the building blocks of human cognition in other species. But these building blocks make up only the cement footprint of the skyscraper that is the human mind”,,,
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-341275

    Though the authors of the ‘Evolution of the Genus Homo’ paper appear to be thoroughly mystified by the fossil record, they never seem to give up their blind faith in evolution despite the disparity they see first hand in the fossil record. In spite of their philosophical bias, I have to hand it to them for being fairly honest with the evidence though. I especially like how the authors draw out this following ‘what it means to be human’ distinction in their paper:

    “although Homo neanderthalensis had a large brain, it left no unequivocal evidence of the symbolic consciousness that makes our species unique.” — “Unusual though Homo sapiens may be morphologically, it is undoubtedly our remarkable cognitive qualities that most strikingly demarcate us from all other extant species. They are certainly what give us our strong subjective sense of being qualitatively different. And they are all ultimately traceable to our symbolic capacity. Human beings alone, it seems, mentally dissect the world into a multitude of discrete symbols, and combine and recombine those symbols in their minds to produce hypotheses of alternative possibilities. When exactly Homo sapiens acquired this unusual ability is the subject of debate.”

    The authors of the paper try to find some evolutionary/materialistic reason for the extremely unique ‘information capacity’ of humans, but of course they never find a coherent reason. Indeed why should we ever consider a process, which is utterly incapable of ever generating any complex functional information at even the most foundational levels of molecular biology, to suddenly, magically, have the ability to generate our brain which can readily understand and generate functional information? A brain which has been repeatedly referred to as ‘the Most Complex Structure in the Universe’? The authors never seem to consider the ‘spiritual angle’ for why we would have such a unique capacity for such abundant information processing. This following short video, and verses, are very clear as to what the implications of this evidence means to us and for us:

    Modus Tollens – It Is Impossible For Evolution To Be True – T.G. Peeler – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/5047482

    Genesis 3:8
    And they (Adam and Eve) heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…

    John 1:1-1
    In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

  2. F/N: I decided to flesh out the clip a tad more.

  3. BA:

    As the fleshed out clip shows, Pearcey and the majority consensus opinion on the roots of science agree that the Judaeo-Christian worldview provided the matrix of ideas that were necessary to the rise of modern science.

    Dan Petersen’s more popular level summary written later that same year says:
    __________________

    >> from a materialist perspective, which holds as a matter of faith that God does not exist, any effort to show that life is designed will necessarily be an exercise in falsehood. If one defines the universe as consisting only of material forces, there is no intelligent designer and hence there can be no intelligent design. Materialism thus rules ID out of bounds, and holds it to be false, by definition.

    That is what leads to the emphatic claims that intelligent design is “not science.” ID transgresses the central tenet of materialism. But are materialism and science the same thing? Must all science be based on a view that matter and energy are “all there is,” and that there cannot possibly be an ordering intelligence behind the creation of life, the design of physical laws, and the place of human beings in the cosmos? Will a theistic worldview stop science in its tracks, as some materialists claim, because scientists who accept design will throw up their hands, and refer all explanations to “the will of God”?

    No, no, and no. The attempt to equate science with materialism is a quite recent development, coming chiefly to the fore in the 20th century. Contrary to widespread propaganda, science is not something that arose after the dark, obscurantist forces of religion were defeated by an “enlightened” nontheistic worldview. The facts of history show otherwise.

    IN HIS RECENT BOOK For the Glory of God, Rodney Stark argues “not only that there is no inherent conflict between religion and science, but that Christian theology was essential for the rise of science.” (His italics.) While researching this thesis, Stark found to his surprise that “some of my central arguments have already become the conventional wisdom among historians of science.” He is nevertheless “painfully aware” that most of the arguments about the close connection between Christian belief and the rise of science are “unknown outside narrow scholarly circles,” and that many people believe that it could not possibly be true.

    Sometimes the most obvious facts are the easiest to overlook. Here is one that ought to be stunningly obvious: science as an organized, sustained enterprise arose only once in the history of Earth. Where was that? Although other civilizations have contributed technical achievements or isolated innovations, the invention of science as a cumulative, rigorous, systematic, and ongoing investigation into the laws of nature occurred only in Europe; that is, in the civilization then known as Christendom. Science arose and flourished in a civilization that, at the time, was profoundly and nearly exclusively Christian in its mental outlook.

    There are deep reasons for that, and they are inherent in the Judeo-Christian view of the world which, principally in its Christian manifestation, formed the European mind. As Stark observes, the Christian view depicted God as “a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being and the universe as his personal creation, thus having a rational, lawful, stable structure, awaiting human comprehension.” That was not true of belief systems elsewhere. A view that the universe is uncreated, has been around forever, and is just “what happens to be” does not suggest that it has fundamental principles that are rational and discoverable. Other belief systems have considered the natural world to be an insoluble mystery, conceived of it as a realm in which multiple, arbitrary gods are at work, or thought of it in animistic terms. None of these views will, or did, give rise to a deep faith that there is a lawful order imparted by a divine creator that can and should be discovered.

    Recent scholarship in the history of science reveals that this commitment to rational, empirical investigation of God’s creation is not simply a product of the “scientific revolution” of the 16th and 17th centuries, but has profound roots going back at least to the High Middle Ages. The development of the university system in medieval times was, of course, almost entirely a product of the Church. Serious students of the period know that this was neither a time of stagnation, nor of repression of inquiry in favor of dogma. Rather, it was a time of great intellectual ferment and discovery, and the universities fostered rational, empirical, systematic inquiry.

    A newly published work by Thomas Woods (How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization) is replete with far more examples of the contributions of medieval scholars than can be mentioned here. But as Woods recounts, one need only look at some of the leading figures in the universities in the 1200s to see that they were already well along in the development of principles of empirical scientific inquiry. Roger Bacon, a Franciscan who taught at Oxford, wrote in Opus Maius:

    Without experiment, nothing can be adequately known. An argument proves theoretically, but does not give the certitude necessary to remove all doubt; nor will the mind repose in the clear view of truth, unless it finds it by way of experiment.

    Albertus Magnus — prodigious scholar, naturalist, teacher of Thomas Aquinas, and member of the Dominican order — affirmed in his De Mineralibus that the purpose of science is “not simply to accept the statements of others, that is, what is narrated by people, but to investigate the causes that are at work in nature for themselves.” Another 13th-century figure, Robert Grosseteste, who was chancellor of Oxford and Bishop of Lincoln, has been identified as “the first man ever to write down a complete set of steps for performing a scientific experiment,” according to Woods.

    WHEN THE DISCOVERIES of science exploded in number and importance in the 1500s and 1600s, the connection with Christian belief was again profound. Many of the trailblazing scientists of that period when science came into full bloom were devout Christian believers, and declared that their work was inspired by a desire to explore God’s creation and discover its glories. Perhaps the greatest scientist in history, Sir Isaac Newton, was a fervent Christian who wrote over a million words on theological subjects. Other giants of science and mathematics were similarly devout: Boyle, Descartes, Kepler, Leibniz, Pascal. To avoid relying on what might be isolated examples, Stark analyzed the religious views of the 52 leading scientists from the time of Copernicus until the end of the 17th century. Using a methodology that probably downplayed religious belief, he found that 32 were “devout”; 18 were at least “conventional” in their religious belief; and only two were “skeptics.” More than a quarter were themselves ecclesiastics: “priests, ministers, monks, canons, and the like.”

    Down through the 19th century, many of the leading figures in science were thoroughgoing Christians. A partial list includes Babbage, Dalton, Faraday, Herschel, Joule, Lyell, Maxwell, Mendel, and Thompson (Lord Kelvin). A survey of the most eminent British scientists near the end of the 19th century found that nearly all were members of the established church or affiliated with some other church.

    In short, scientists who were committed Christians include men often considered to be fathers of the fields of astronomy, atomic theory, calculus, chemistry, computers, electricity, genetics, geology, mathematics, and physics. In the late 1990s, a survey found that about 40 percent of American scientists believe in a personal God and an afterlife — a percentage that is basically unchanged since the early 20th century. A listing of eminent 20th-century scientists who were religious believers would be far too voluminous to include here — so let’s not bring coals to Newcastle, but simply note that the list would be large indeed, including Nobel Prize winners.

    Far from being inimical to science, then, the Judeo-Christian worldview is the only belief system that actually produced it. Scientists who (in Boyle’s words) viewed nature as “the immutable workmanship of the omniscient Architect” were the pathfinders who originated the scientific enterprise. The assertion that intelligent design is automatically “not science” because it may support the concept of a creator is a statement of materialist philosophy, not of any intrinsic requirement of science itself. >>
    ___________________

    Further food for thought.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I find the views to comments ratio for this post — usually, it is about 10:1 at UD — interesting.

    PPS: The text cited in Heb 1:1 – 3 is not an obscure comment in an obscure letter; this is the text from which some of the central concepts in the 325 and 381 Nicene Creed come, and indeed the powerful phrase in it, “Light of Light . . . ,” is a direct quote.

  4. Why do you have to post these great articles when I’ve got to get to bed early? It’s things like this that cause my temporary bookmarks folder to fill up to the brim!

    Aaaargh! I’ll be back . . .

  5. of related note of science and Christianity:

    Challenge To Atheists To Reproduce The Shroud Of Turin – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6581758/

  6. BA(1) wrote:

    I would go even further and maintain that not only is the religion of ‘Christianity’ necessary for the birth of modern science, but that the very ‘person of Christ’ was, and is, necessary for science to exist and persist to this day and into the future…

    Mung kinda beat me to it by linking to Jaki’s The Savior of Science, but here’s a quote from the book that makes BA’s point from a different perspective:

    Universe and Christology

    The trinitarian dogma is anchored in perceiving a concrete flesh and blood being, Jesus of Nazereth, as the Son of a God whom Jews as well as Muslims are found of calling Father. For Christians, Jesus is the only Son in a sense that prompted on their part a revolutionary break with Greek semantics. That break was expressive of the manner in which the life, words, and actions of Jesus suggested a radical break with all known human patterns. With the Greeks and Romans the expression “only begotten”…had the universe for its supreme reference point. Such was the use of the expression by Plato, Plutarch, and Cicero, to mention only some major Greek and Roman spokesman from Antiquity. They took the universe for the only begotten entity because they saw in it the par excellence emanation from the First Principle of Supreme Good, or Prime Mover, or whatever philosophical label was compatible with the pantheism on hand. Hence the strict divinity of heavens and also the non-divinity or partial irrationality of the regions below the moon with the Greco-Roman perspective.

    It should be obvious that the universe had to lose its status as the only begotten in the eyes of those who called a flesh and blood being the only begotten Son of a Divine Father and did so in the most exalted sense that could be formed by human minds. Admire as they did the universe as the chief evidence of the Creator (the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans is a most memorable instance), their admiration for it was also an act whereby the universe was put in its place, a place above which no mere creation could aspire. With Christians, inspired not by an abstract theologoumenon, but a most vivid vision of a most tangible only begotten Son of God, the universe could not retain its hallowed status as a “begetting” from the “divine,” that is, its status befitting an entity sharing the divine nature. With Christians, the universe had to remain a mere creature.This had to be so in spite of the comprehensiveness of all created perfection made for Christians the notion of the universe the most exalted notion conceivable apart from that of God Almighty. John Henry Newman merely added the touch of his charmingly simple diction to that age-long Christian view when he declared in The Idea of a University: “There is but one thought greater that that of the universe, and that is the thought of its Maker.”

    Thus in the Christian perspective the exaltedness of the universe remained intact as it was lowered through that infinite distance which is between Creator and creature. The alertness within a genuine Christian milieu to the danger of toying with pantheism served the proper understanding of the universe in a measure still not sufficiently esteemed by historians of science. It was, historically speaking, the first manifestation of the saving grace which the Christian doctrine of salvation in and through Jesus of Nazereth, the Son of Living God, provided for science. The other was unfolded two centuries or so later in the crucible of the first series of Trinitarian debates brought to a head by Arius and his allies.

    ~The Savior of Science, pp. 79-80, emphases in original

  7. However, there is an underlying root, a common distortion of the origins of modern science,

    I have to admit that I don’t quite understand what this common root is. It would be nice if you could expand on that.

  8. MN:

    I am pointing out the way the rationalist myth of the origins of science, has been used to make Lewontinian a priori materialism and slander of theists seem acceptable in claimed defence of science.

    The OP gives corrective history — on which, notice how those who are ever so eager to pounce, have been conspicuously silent.

    GEM of TKI

  9. @ kairosfocus

    But I thought that ID was compatible with materialism?

  10. MN:

    Materialism isn’t even compatible with itself, so why should we expect it to be compatible with ID?

    GEM of TKI

  11. @ kairosfocus

    I don’t know why. The only thing I know is that this compatability has frequently been claimed to exists on this blog.

  12. MN:

    I think there are two different things that were being discussed.

    ID is indeed quite compatible with evolutionary mechanisms and common descent up to and including universal common descent. (Evolut6ion is acknowledged by all to be a feature of living systems, the quesiton is how much of it happens. YEC’s for instance, accept rapid micro-evo as a means of adaptation to niches in environments, built in by the creator. They distinguish kinds form species, and most often point to the family as about the right level. They deny universal common descent from a remote unicellular ancestor or a network of such. Someone like Behe accepts universal common decent but views it as a designed mechanism. Many others stop off at points between these two views, and may see deliberate genetic engineering by various mechanisms as a means of sparking onward evolution of groups of organisms that share a new common body plan. In that context, some suggest that a lot of what we are looking at is libraries of genome, used to build up different organisms; common design using libraries of code that can be adapted and mixed-matched, blended with some degree of common descent. Interestingly the kangaroo has a lot of our genome in it, with a claimed last common ancestor about 150 mn ya. The platypus has in it blocks of genetic code from all over the animal kingdom, and is a notorious example of a mosaic creature. And, as JonathanM pointed out recently, homologous structures in grown organisms often come about by the most wildly divergent embryological development routes. I think there was an astonishing study on that among frogs some years back, if BA can pull it from his vaults or work his web search magic. Tell us BA, what search engines do you use, we want them, we want them!)

    But that perspective on natural history is different from MATERIALISM, which is a philosophical view that all that exists is matter, energy, space and time, interacting based on blind forces of chance and necessity; in effect, from hydrogen to humans.

    ID is compatible with the former (and in fact that is one of the objections key young earth Creationists have to it, they view it as a variety of theistic evolutionism), but it is indeed incompatible with materialism, the philosophy. (Why not look over at the just put up post on definitions of ID where that comes out?)

    I am not at all perturbed that ID should be incompatible with MATERIALISM, aka PHYSICALISM, as this view is not even compatible with itself, never mind how, by the back door route of imposing so-called methodological naturalism, it is imposed on origins science by some very powerful forces.

    To see what I mean by how materialism is not even compatible with itself, look at Haldane’s classic summary:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” ["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    In short, self-refutation by self contradiction.

    GEM of TKI

  13. kf, here is the reference you requested;

    A Primer on the Tree of Life (Part 4): Homology in Crisis – Casey Luskin
    Excerpt: ‘In sharks, for example, the gut develops from cells in the roof of the embryonic cavity. In lampreys, the gut develops from cells on the floor of the cavity. And in frogs, the gut develops from cells from both the roof and the floor of the embryonic cavity. This discovery–that homologous structures can be produced by different developmental pathways–contradicts what we would expect to find if all vertebrates share a common ancestor. … To summarize, biologists have made two discoveries that challenge the argument from anatomical homology. The first is that the development of homologous structures can be governed by different genes and can follow different developmental pathways. The second discovery, conversely, is that sometimes the same gene plays a role in producing different adult structures. Both of these discoveries seem to contradict neo-Darwinian expectations.’ – Stephen C. Meyer, Scott Minnich, Jonathan Moneymaker, Paul A. Nelson, and Ralph Seelke, Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism, pgs. 44-45 (Hill House, 2007).”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2......html#more

    Unfortunately I don’t have the ‘Explore Evolution’ book and thus cannot reference the exact studies for you;

    further notes;

    Neo-Darwinism’s Gene Homology Problem – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6P6bXA50c0

    A New Model for Evolution: A Rhizome – May 2010
    Excerpt: Thus we cannot currently identify a single common ancestor for the gene repertoire of any organism.,,, Overall, it is now thought that there are no two genes that have a similar history along the phylogenic tree.,,,Therefore the representation of the evolutionary pathway as a tree leading to a single common ancestor on the basis of the analysis of one or more genes provides an incorrect representation of the stability and hierarchy of evolution. Finally, genome analyses have revealed that a very high proportion of genes are likely to be newly created,,, and that some genes are only found in one organism (named ORFans). These genes do not belong to any phylogenic tree and represent new genetic creations.
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....izome.html

    Modern Synthesis of Neo-Darwinism Is Dead – No Evidence For Body Plan Morphogenesis From Embryonic Mutations – Paul Nelson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5548184/

    kf, here is a very interesting quote that I wish we had more background information on;

    The mouse is not enough – February 2011
    Excerpt: Richard Behringer, who studies mammalian embryogenesis at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas said, “There is no ‘correct’ system. Each species is unique and uses its own tailored mechanisms to achieve development. By only studying one species (eg, the mouse), naive scientists believe that it represents all mammals.”
    http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57986/

  14. BA:

    . . . strikes again!

    Thanks, I see I half-remembered the quote.

    Now, give: what is your secret search engine?

    G

  15. kf, this may interest you:

    Roberts Marks on Avida and ev – June 2011 – video – 6:00 minute mark
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc6Ktq0SEBo

  16. @ kairosfocus

    If ID is compatible with methodological naturalism than it is necessarily also compatible with philosophical naturalism and philosophical materialism. At least if one is applying reasonable definition of the terms.

  17. MN:

    Methodological naturalism is tantamount to full physicalism, but does it by subtle implication. This is what Lewontin says frankly.

    Such materialism is by definition opposed to the existence of design in the world, and for that matter a real, self-moved agent. In short, it is hostile tot the idea of a real mind, which directly leads to self-referential incoherence and self-refutation.

    Thus, it self-refutes. Only, subtly. (WHICH MAKES IT EASY TO DENY THE FORCE OF THE LOGIC . . . )

    There are some people who sometimes use “methodological naturalism” in a more restricted sense of saying that science usually looks for natural regularities [without using this in the lock-up a priori materialism sense], but that simply clouds the issue. Not a wise usage, unless your aim is to be fuzzy. Which is precisely what some aim to be on this matter.

    Let’s be clear: if methodological naturalism is used in the “science may only explain by naturalistic causes” sense advocated by NAS and NSTA etc — what is usually intended, it is tantamount to (but subtler than) hard core materialism.

    [The trick to spotting this is to look closer at Lewontin's classic little snippet where he speaks of a goal to get the general public to see science as "the only begetter of truth," i.e. what is not within the ambit of a priori materialistic science is not in correspondence with the real world, on this view. Other things may be fantasies or preferences but are not real. THAT'S why there are so many who want to cry quote mining when the snippet is quoted. It lets the cat out of the bag that was said to have a piglet. Of course, the "only begetter" statement is actually an epistemological not a scientific claim, and so it is itself self-refuting; but how many people generally speaking can trot out a definition of epistemology and classify it as a branch of philosophy, marking he distinction between scientific and philosophical methods, and why it is phil that grounds sci, not the other way around?.]

    Such materialism is not compatible with ID, but then, it is also not compatible with itself.

    And, lastly, I am not locked down to defending what any and anyone says here at UD. My focus is to be as clear and definite as possible.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Definition of materialism, AmHD:

    ma·te·ri·al·ism (m-tîr–lzm)
    n.
    1. Philosophy The theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena.

    Which last as bolded is precisely why it self-refers and self refutes.

  18. BA:

    I see you are hiding the secret sauce,

    G

  19. —KF Now, give: what is your secret search engine? [Bornagain77].

    Bornagain77 has something better than a search engine–his recall.

  20. As in, total recall . . .

    Guess we will have to hire him to do the job.

  21. @ kairosfocus
    I really don’t want to hold you accountable for anything that others say but do you realizes that it is a problem if other people claim that ID does not invoke the supernatural i.e. is compatible with methodological naturalism while others (like apparently you) say the exact opposite?

  22. @ kairosfocus
    I really don’t want to hold you accountable for anything that others say but do you realize that it is a problem if other people claim that ID does not invoke the supernatural i.e. is compatible with methodological naturalism while others (like apparently you) say the exact opposite?

  23. –myname: …”do you realize that it is a problem if other people claim that ID does not invoke the supernatural i.e. is compatible with methodological naturalism while others (like apparently you) say the exact opposite?”

    To say that ID methodology does not “invoke” the supernatural is to say that it does not presume to know anything about the identity of the inferred designer. At the same time, ID is “consistent” with the possibility that the designer in question was, indeed, supernatural.

    In the same way, a forensic scientist can discern that an intelligent agent ransacked a room [burglar] and distinguish the chaos from a natural cause [tornado]. The inference to design says nothing about the identity of the burglar, though it is “consistent” with the idea that the burglar could have been Joe Smith.

  24. MN:

    But, nowhere have I said that ID invokes “the supernatural.”

    You are projecting unto what I have said, the loaded, strawman tactic twisted definitions willfully and irresponsibly or outright deceptively created by opponents of ID to try to falsely characterise it as a science-suppressing religious movement rather than facing on the merits the actual scientific, empirically anchored inference on tested, reliable signs, to chance and/or necessity and/or art.

    It is the a priori materialists who have determined to drive out mind from the cosmos by insisting that mind “must” reduce to chance plus necessity. It is they who have a priori injected worldview level claims and used them to censor scientific, empirical investigations: science may only explain by chance plus necessity acting on matter and energy in space and time.

    That is a philosophical presumption, it is not true to the history of science or to what we can warrant on empirical sign, such as functionally specific, complex information. Such FSCI is a commonplace of our experience, and IN EVERY CASE WHERE WE DIRECTLY OBSERVE ITS CAUSAL SOURCE IT IS INTELLIGENT, E.G. THE POSTS IN THIS THREAD, WHICH ARE SYMBOLIC, CODED LANGUAGE.

    In addition, we know that something so specific from a vast sea of possible configs is utterly not likely to happen by chance even once on the gamut of our observed cosmos, and until we have already arrived at function, there is no basis for rewarding different degrees of function by hill climbing. For ALL cases alike will be non-functional.

    We thus have excellent inductive and analytical warrant for seeing FSCI as a reliable sign of intelligent cause, even where we have not directly seen the cause in action.

    Notice, we have made only an induction and an analysis on circumstances, projecting on inductive generalisation. At no point have we inferred more than something that is observed: intelligence is possible and FSCI is an observed sign of it.

    Sign that points to signified causal process, on an inductive warrant.

    So, we NOW turn to the observation of FSCI in the living cell, with particular emphasis on the digital code in DNA etc, which had algorithmic function. On the induction, we have reason to infer to intelligence as most credible cause per reliable sign.

    Is this an inference to “the supernatural”?

    Not at all, it is an inference on tested sign to art rather than chance and/or blind mechanical necessity.

    As design theorists have consistently and repeatedly pointed out from the very first technical design theory work, TMLO by Thaxton et al in 1985, there is no specific scientific, empirical warrant on the mere sign of FSCI to infer to the locus of the inferred designers as being within or beyond the cosmos. Indeed, as I have repeatedly pointed out, a molecular nanotech lab several generations beyond Venter would be sufficient.

    The assertion that ID theorists infer to supernatural design on the empirical warrant of FSCI in the living cell, is false. Indeed, as it is a falsehood maintained and propagated in the teeth of repeated correction, on the part of the ultimately responsible [as opposed to the many taken in unawares by their willful distortions], it is — sorry to have to say — a LIE.

    That’s a hard word, and one that will be resented.

    But, what else is correct, when the corrective truth has been there all along, from the very FIRST technical ID work, and has been repeatedly pointed out, and just as repeatedly brushed aside in the haste to paint a conveniently demonising caricature?

    Now, there is a related design inference on the fine-tuning of the cosmos that facilitates C-chemistry, intelligent life. That couples to the logic of the observation that the observed cosmos had a beginning, thus is a contingent entity, calling for a root cause — even through multiverse speculations — in a necessary being. A very credible candidate to be that necessary being and intelligent designer capable of building a cosmos, is the God of theism. But, that is a global worldview level inference on the logic of best explanation, not a scientific one, and design thinkers have consistently pointed that out.

    The original post also corrects another distortion, namely it shows that far from being a science stopper, theism was a science starter. There is a long laid up prejudice that needs to be corrected here, not least by pricking some myths that have long passed their sell-by date.

    So, returning to the matter you raised, no, design theory is not about an inference to the supernatural but rather of inferring to causal factors on empirically tested signs, including chance, necessity and choice or design. Similarly, design theory is incompatible with so-called methodological naturalism as it is a form of materialism [as already discussed], but that is not a big problem as materialism is not even consistent with itself.

    GEM of TKI

  25. @ kairosfocus

    It appears to me as if you are saying that ID is not compatible with methodological naturalism while ID still does not invoke the supernatural. But I don’t think that makes sense. What does compatible mean then?

  26. MN:

    Design theory is not compatible with implicitly begging the question about possible causes in such a way as to exclude agency where agency may be inconvenient to materialists. That is, it contradicts it, the two cannot be true at the same time.

    At the same time, the distinction ID makes is not the strawmasn one set up by some materialist advocates, natural vs supernatural; but instead nature [= chance and/or necessity] vs art [= intelligent intentional cause].

    We can identify and test empirically reliable signs of cause by chance, necessity and art, and may infer from the presence of sign to the signified causal process. That is an inference to what happened, which is distinct from who or what may have done it.

    This, SB pointed out to you above with the example of burglar vs tornado hitting a house. One may be able on signs to rule out tornado and rule in a process of burglary, without identifying that the burglar was any given individual, or class of individual.

    Notice, how we may infer from dFSCI in DNA etc, to design as the most credible cause without being able to identify that the agents responsible were within or beyond the cosmos.

    That is what the empirical data as a matter of scientific inference, allows. And, from the very first technical level ID book, TMLO, that has been openly and consistently accepted and stated.

    As I have repeatedly said, a molecular nanotech lab a few generations beyond Venter would be sufficient to account for the relevant facts. But sufficiency is not necessity in logic.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: This discussion would probably better fit the focus of a different thread, that on CNN’s proffered definition of ID; which also has things to say that would help clarify the point.

  27. F/N: In light of an exchange with NR etc at the ID & Design question thread, I have decided to add an appendix to the original post for this Pearcey thread on the real history of science’s founding, from Newton’s Opticks, Query 31.

    In so doing, I take occasion to address the a prioi imposition of naturalistic materialism under the slogan, methodological naturalism, including the NCSE/Jones claim that such a priori Meth Nat has been the established pattern of science since C16 – 17.

  28. The following video is far more direct in establishing the ‘spiritual’ link to man’s ability to learn new information, in that it shows that the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores for students showed a steady decline, for seventeen years from the top spot or near the top spot in the world, after the removal of prayer from the public classroom by the Supreme Court in 1963. Whereas the SAT scores for private Christian schools have consistently remained at the top, or near the top, spot in the world:

    The Real Reason American Education Has Slipped – David Barton – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4318930

    - BA

    One would imagine this to be yet ANOTHER nail in the atheist activists’ coffin, but they cannot help but be the enemies of reason, itself, and as likely as not, it only ‘inspires’ them to achieve a level of ever greater insanity at the first opportunity.

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