David Wolpe Succinctly Explains the New Atheist Moment

Rabbi David Wolpe, in the Washington Post this weekend, on what triggered the New Atheist moment:

After Sept. 11, 2001, religion seemed to many to be less a consolation for suffering than a cause. Science, not spirituality, offered the promise of a moderate, prosperous and anchored life; reason would deliver salvation.

That’s about as taut as it can be said.

Who, afterall, wants things like this (a 16th century depiction of fanatic Calvinists trashing a Catholic Church):

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  .

When you can have this (a philosopher and two scientists—Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Lawrence Krauss—at a conference in Burbank, Ca., talking ):

100_9376

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    .

I took the above photograph at the Atheist Alliance International Convention held in Burbank, Oct. 2009.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to David Wolpe Succinctly Explains the New Atheist Moment

  1. TomH says:

    Wolpe’s incompetent. Technology, not “science,” is behind the improved standard of living. Some of “science” has no impact on technology.

  2. Gato Precambriano says:

    Of course, as technology is not science based but comes out by magic revelation. How can anybody think otherwise?

    • TomH says:

      Trying to whack the Bible, are you? Let me give you a lesson.

      In point of fact, it was revelation from the Bible that gave experimental science a major boost. Read the history of Robert Boyle and his works. Boyle developed Bacon’s philosophy and publicized it. Stephen Shapin had a lot to say about this. Boyle’s religious motivation also exercised a major influence on his decision to pursue science.

      Francis Bacon made a contribution to philosophy that helped advance the cause of experimentation. So, philosophy was extremely important to science and technology.

      However, even before Bacon, medieval technology (including architecture) was helping advance science.

      The Carnot Engine helped to advance science. Here, technology was instrumental to science.

      The first major book to be printed on the printing press was…the Gutenberg Bible. So, religion was a motivator to advance technology.

      However, probably the most important thing for technology is intellectual property law, which protects inventions so that they can be commercialized. Contract law is also important, of course.

      • No. Actually I was mocking your bogus ignorant claim that “Technology, not “science,” is behind the improved standard of living” as if technology was something other than applied science, as if the very technology you use to make this bogus ignorant claim were possible without basic science. Lots of it in fact.
        As for the Bible, with which you seems to be sort of obsessed about, and your references to Bacon, Carnot, etc, I’m affraid you’ll have to be a little more clear and specific, because I really don’t get it. I have a clue, but I would like you to clear things up before say anything.
        AFAIK the Guttemberg Bible wasn’t the first “major book” printed, but the very first ONE to be printed . You seem to give some very special meaning to this fact, but I fail to realize what it is. Again some clarification would be handy my boy.

      • Ah yes. I completely miss that “it was revelation from the Bible that gave experimental science a major boost” major league bullshit part. How could I?
        Well, let’s get it simple for you. Boyle came in XVII century (1627-1691) right? But as I’m in a good mood lets be generous: Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was about half century earlier, and he is by convention the mark of the beginning of the Scientific Revolution, if I’m not wrong.
        If, your claim makes any sense at all, then why the hell it took more than at least two bloody thousand years for the Scientific Revolution to came about? And with an argument that was a matter of debate already in ancient Greece (Geocentrism vs Heliocentrism) two bloody thousand years before, and without anybody been burned alive at the stake, what a bonus!
        Maybe the The Archimedes Codex can tell you why…

      • santitafarella says:

        TomH:

        Aren’t you undermining your argument a bit by bringing in capitalism and property protection? “If a man asks for your idea, give him your patent also.” Didn’t Jesus, in other words, specifically insist that one not cling to possessions? And isn’t it true that prohibiting the charging of interest on borrowed money stalled human economic progress as well?

        Christianity has, on a number of levels, made property acquisition and possessions psychologically and practically problematic (at least in the past; maybe contemporary Christians have free souls about all of this).

        —Santi

  3. TomH says:

    Gato,

    I’ve posted the link to the relevant work by Shapin recently. I’ll post it again for you. http://books.google.com/books?id=K9eI7TGxLCsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=steven+shapin&source=bl&ots=_oaD-noGgk&sig=VlOPtelLn53ESaedKxxXgecIulk&hl=en&ei=c48zTPPKOdy1nAf65tSKBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=15&ved=0CFsQ6AEwDg#v=onepage&q&f=false

    You are wrong to think that Galileo marks the beginning of the “Scientific Revolution,” whose very existence (scientific revolution) Shapin questions.

    As regards Boyle, you might read Rose-Mary Sargent’s book, “The Diffident Naturalist: Robert Boyle and the Philosophy of Experiment ” (http://www.amazon.com/Diffident-Naturalist-Philosophy-Experiment-Foundations/dp/0226734978) Shapin also has a bit to say about Boyle and his importance to the establishment of Bacon’s ideas. Boyle was very insistent that witnesses observe his experiments. He was almost manic about witnesses and witnesses signed guestbooks after observing his experiments. Boyle quoted the Bible, “Out of the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact will be confirmed.” Of course, experimental corroboration is essential to experimental science, which is what Boyle was getting at. The witnesses were able to provide corroboration of Boyle’s experimental results when questioned. Of course you know that Boyle was one of the founders of The Royal Society.

    “why the hell it took more than at least two bloody thousand years for the Scientific Revolution to came about?”

    Simple. Aristotle cast a loooooong shadow. Greek philosophy (especially Aristotle!) played a major role in the renaissance. It took Bacon and Boyle (via The Royal Society) to defeat Aristotle’s influence on the academy.

    • Can we agree that no Scientific Revolution have occured in the first millenia of Christianity?
      As you claim that

      it was revelation from the Bible that gave experimental science a major boost

      The question stands: why it was so? Why it took so long for a Scientific Revolution?
      To say that

      Aristotle cast a loooooong shadow

      poses imediatly the question: Why Aristotle was abble to cast a so long shadow in the first place, as he wasn’t the only player in town back then in Ancient Greece? Why he and not others? And why this have any relevance given your claim? Are you claiming that Biblical Revelation(TM) was/is weaker than Aristotle’s (a pagan!! :-O) Shadow? If BR wasn’t able to overcome the (you seems to think) strongest Shadow of The Pagan a whole millenia before what is the sense in claiming that it was able to do so afterwards?
      I take a glance at Shapin’s link but I don’t see how he is of any relevance to answer the question I posed contra your ludicrous claim, as the book’s subtitle is “Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England” (enfasis mine).
      Otherwise I think this links from Carrier: Science and Medieval Christianity, and Flynn’s Pile of Boners may…enlighten you, although I’ll not hold my breath for it.

  4. Gunlord says:

    I dunno, man. I’m not so sure I’d want much to do with a movement that has guys like this in it either:

    • Neither do I. I don’t even advocate death penalty, and happily my country doesn’t have it. But neither do you am I right? Neither anybody in your “movement” whatever it is right? Nobody in your “side” advocates to kill oponents, nor even think about it right? Of course if it turns out to be some, even one, lunatic in your “side”, then you and your fellows not so lunatics are held responsible for the lunacies, even if only rethorical, of your lunatics, that’s what you mean isn’t it?

      • Gunlord says:

        No offense Gato, but I can barely make out what you’re trying to say. The only thing I think I’m sure of is that you think I’m as involved as either you or TomH in the slapfight between atheism and religion, or that I have a particular ‘side’ or belong to some ‘movement;’ an assumption which is mildly amusing.

      • No ofense Gunlord, I just fail completely to see what the link you provided have anythink to do with something. My mistake perhaps or maybe you need to be more specific. What the hell are you talking about?

      • Gunlord says:

        That a lot of the ‘New Atheists’ are perhaps a bit closer to those Calvinist fanatics than a bunch of nice, harmless geezers. If the choice is between religion, with all of its violence, and the New Atheism, which has guys like the ‘Darwin Killed God’ fellow just under the public image of harmless old white dudes “just talking,” I think I’ll choose neither.

      • Maybe, maybe not, I can’t tell really how many facist atheists are out there. The internet is a poor medium to figure this out, as it’s not a reliable sample of real demographics, so I simply don’t know how representative this guy is, IF he is representative of anything else beyond his own stupidity.
        What I know is that he don’t represents me atheist or not, and neither do anybody else FTM. To be atheist for me is not to be a member of some club to which I owe some sort of loyalty. I’m accountable for what I think, say, and do, nothing more, nothing less.

      • And I think the same is valid for anybody else, including those harmless old white dudes just talking there.
        The “Darwin Killed God”…”fella” may go f*#$& himself.

    • Gunlord says:

      Well, at least we can agree on that.

  5. TomH says:

    Looked up your Carrier link and his CV. Richard Carrier claims to be a historian of science. Does he have a Ph.D. in history of science? I don’t think so. His Ph.D. is in Ancient History, not Philosophy of Science, which is a very different animal. His dissertation was in natural philosophy of the 1st 3 centuries AD, so he has some very limited expertise in the history of science (but no formal training in it!). He hasn’t the training of someone like Steven Shapin or Nancy Pearcey or Ron Numbers, who are true experts in history of science and have written some important books about the history of science.

    From reading Carrier’s CV, I didn’t see where he has published any peer-reviewed papers about the history of science in medieval times.

    Maybe he should start an elementary education about medieval history of science with the wiki article about science in the Middle Ages. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_in_the_Middle_Ages

    Christianity made two major contributions to learning–the universities and science societies. The arabs made many experimental contributions, but those might have been lost without the medieval universities. Oh, the monastaries were also important for scholarly work as well. (You know that Gregor Mendel was an Austrian monk, right?) Of course English parsons of the 19th century also contributed to natural philosophy and many studied it. I’ve already discussed Robert Boyle and Francis Bacon.

    The Bible speaks a fair amount where it assumes that man will study nature, so it is fair to say that this is an assumption of the Bible. For example, God speaks to Job, asking him questions about nature. As another example, Jesus, when teaching, asks his hearers to consider nature (e.g., the lilies of the field or the birds of the air).

    Here’s some more about medieval science and technology. The technology of war developed quite steadily during medieval times, so Carrier ignores this theme which was very important for both physics and chemistry. Carrier also ignores the ongoing research in alchemy, which led to the Theory of Phlogiston, which was very important for chemistry.

    • TomH says:

      Darn, Gato, I fell for your red herring, where you switched the Bible for Christianity. Doh!

      • Dear TomH

        So CVs and qualifications are of paramount importance now, but are irrelevant when the topic is evolution or AGW, right? Riiiiiight.
        And that way you desperatly manage to keep avoiding to address the points I make. Besides Carrier is a historian and phylosopher, with training in both fields. A historian is a historian no matter the particluar field he works, you would have a point if his work were about chinese cooking history, but it is about Ancient Science history, and I really fail to see how that cannot be part of the history of science. In fact is the most relevant part for what we’re discusing. He is in position to know what kind, in quality and quantity, of scientific knowledge there were already in Ancient World, and to evaluate how many “progress” there were in fact. He doesn’t say, neither do I, that there were no scientific progress in the whole Middle Ages. What he says is that there were a colapse and tons of knowledge were lost, and the europeans had to reinvent the wheels, many times, restart from zero.
        The very same Wikipedia article you point says

        As Roman imperial authority effectively ended in the West during the 5th century, Western Europe entered the Middle Ages with great difficulties that affected the continent’s intellectual production dramatically. Most classical scientific treatises of classical antiquity written in Greek were unavailable, leaving only simplified summaries and compilations. Notwithstanding, with the beginning of the Renaissance of the 12th century, interest in natural investigation was renewed[my enfasis]

        So, there were a massive loss of knowledge in the early Middle Ages, between the 5th and the 12th centuries roughly speaking. And that’s precisely the point Carrier makes if you had the trouble to read. Through those “treatises and summaries” that barely survived we know there were many, many works of thousands of pagans, greeeks and romans, engineers, physicians, astronomoers, etc. that didn’t make it. And they didn’t survive because nobody that could manage to preserve then, i.e. christian copyists, nobody give a shit, they didn’t care. What they care about, the main task was to copy religious texts, hymns, prayers. The Archimedes Codex is just an example of what have happened. Entire libraries simply rotten or were trown away. I really fail to see this scenario as religion activelly promoting scientific knowledge.

        The technology of war developed quite steadily during medieval times, so Carrier ignores this theme which was very important for both physics and chemistry

        Well, first, Carrier ignores it because it’s pretty irrelevant to the point. Secound, about warfare, including technology, you seem to ignore that the Romans were far superior to practically anything that came afterwards, in the West for centuries. Do you know that Romans already provided medical treatment to casualties in the battlefield? With surgical techniques, of amputation p.e., that included the use of anesthetics? Something that was matched only after WW I? Do you know that they were in fact superior in almost anything? you name it: agriculture, economy, transportation, water supply, medicine, etc?

        Christianity made two major contributions to learning–the universities and science societies.

        Focus Tom. First I took exeption with your claim that “Technology not “science” blah-blah-blah” and make a joke about “magic revelation”, then you follow with another even more ludicrous assertion that “it was revelation from the Bible that gave experimental science a major boost”.
        My point is that if the Bible is so gung ho for science, that would inspire, and even more: to guide christians from the begining don’t you think? So we would expect christian monks activelly and carefully protecting, and copying all those ancient scientific works, I think. I don’t see this as a red herring. But what happened was that that most of what survived, was thanks to the musllims. Would you acknowledges that the “revelation of the Koran” gave a major boost to experimental science? I don’t think so.
        Sure you may claim that somebody somewhere claim that the Bilbe inspired him, and so on, but I don’t think this is enough to make a case. That would be the same as to claim that politheysm were needed for the invention of Axiomatic geometry, as it was invented by politheysts.
        Would it be a complete another case IF the Bible itself have many, many, many, pages filled with acurate, specific, scientific knowledge, magically revelated by God. I’m not joking now, I’m serious. Why not? There are plenty of space in the Bible. There are very carefully detailed instructins of rituals of sacrifice for pleasing God in there, certainly it could have very specific revelations, and predictions in there. Why not? It could have but it doesn’t.

    • santitafarella says:

      TomH:

      If what you say is true about Christianity and science (and, frankly, I think it largely a dubious and strained narrative), how do you explain the fact that so many philosophes of the 18th century saw their movement as a move away from Christianity? If they were already living in societies that were obeying the imperative “dare to know,” then why did Kant have to say it?

      And why have so many scientists over the past three centuries felt that they were walking on eggshells with Christians and Muslims? Darwin felt that he had been present at God’s murder (just for discovering a very good mechanism for change in species).

      And Francis Bacon, of course, felt he was at war with theologians who had stalled intellectual progress by being insufficiently empirical and inductive. In his utopian New Atlantis imaginative piece (I’m sure you can find it online somewhere), he imagines a world light-years ahead of Christian society because it is based on the principles of science that he developed. And his utopian vision has come to pass. And that was exactly because of ideas that were perceived by him as disjunctures from the past (not a continuation of it).

      It is true that it was men within Christian civilization—and who, themselves, often called themselves Christians—that developed science, but it is also true that it was often against the resistance and static of the dominant culture. The same trend is true in art. Michelangelo, for example, loved the Lord his whole life but was chased out of Florence by Christian fundamentalists. Recall Savagnorola’s ‘bonfire of the vanities’?

      And the fact that Christianity conceived of the world as a cosmos, thus laying the ground for subsequent premises about how science might progress, is not evidence of Christianity’s wonderfulness, but of Plato’s and Greek culture generally. Christianity has always been Platonism for the masses, and Plato long preceeded Christianity. (And cosmos and the “first ordering cause” came from Greek ideas.)

      Lastly, it was Muslims who preserved Aristotle for the West, not Christianity. Thomas Aquinas learned of Aristotle via Christian contact with Islam.

      —Santi

  6. TomH says:

    Santi,

    You have one substantive point and several minor points.

    The problem with suppression of ideas (e.g., by some Christian Scholastics) is not limited to Christianity, but applies equally to all authorities where the dominant idea is threatened. I think we’ve already covered this elsewhere. You might remember this the next time and avoid the libelous Andrew Dickson White narrative. The same sort of narrative has been raised against the suppression of ideas by evolutionists and others in various disciplines who were out to protect their dominance. The problem of suppression of ideas is not peculiar to one tradition or another or to one narrative or another. It’s an ongoing struggle. Also, the suppression of ideas is generally a matter of degree–there is almost always some way to express one’s ideas. Not to say that injustices don’t occur.

    I agree with some of your points about problems for Christianity from the Bible as regards business–but only for Christians. Christianity also upholds just laws; this is true for intellectual property just like any other kind of property. As regards usury, I’m sure you agree that it is a trap for the poor and that it’s fine to prohibit high rates of interest, which would hinder business in any case. No question that prohibiting all interest is bad for business.

    No question that at various times some institutions of Christianity incorporated extra-biblical philosophy (whether ancient greek or modern naturalist) into their theology.

    My main point was that the Bible provided a great deal of the philosophical framework for experimental investigation and you have never answered that point in the slightest, so I guess you accept it. I’m not saying that sources like Aristotle (who was hardly pagan, Gato) or some muslim scholars didn’t also make many significant contributions.

    I think especially of the law of Moses and the wisdom literature of the Bible when I think of the contributions that the Bible made to the philosophical foundations of western research.

    From Job, man is encouraged to study Nature.

    From the Law of Moses, man is encouraged to find corroboration of facts, especially by eyewitnesses, which thereby establishes reliance on empirical evidence. Man is also encouraged to carefully test the testimony of the witnesses.

    From Proverbs, “He who walks with wise men shall be wise….” This encourages association with others who are interested in learning, which led to the establishment of universities and various societies of learning. Christianity was a major impetus to literacy, generally, so that people could read the Bible. Some Christian leaders (e.g., Charelmagne and Alfred the Great) have continually sought to establish schools in order to educate the public. This shows that some of them see knowledge and literacy as valuable and things that should be publicly accessible.

    From Ecclesiastes we see that information must be maintained, so the importance of keeping copies distributed in repositories (e.g., libraries) in various locations is suggested.

    We also see much of this repeated in the New Testament and I see no reason to repeat this stuff.

    As far as technological progress goes, I see Boyle as the shining light in the west due to his emphasis on experimental philosophy and his establishment of the Royal Society (which became a model for other, similar societies). I also see the establishment of universities as being absolutely essential for technological progress at a rapid rate, as universities served to disseminate the ideas found by experimental research and served as forums where ideas could be discussed (or suppressed, in some cases).

    • santitafarella says:

      Tom,

      You wrote: “From Job, man is encouraged to study Nature. From the Law of Moses, man is encouraged to find corroboration of facts, especially by eyewitnesses, which thereby establishes reliance on empirical evidence. Man is also encouraged to carefully test the testimony of the witnesses. From Proverbs, ‘He who walks with wise men shall be wise….’ This encourages association with others who are interested in learning, which led to the establishment of universities and various societies of learning. Christianity was a major impetus to literacy, generally, so that people could read the Bible.”

      I agree with you that these are good things (study nature, colloborate facts, test witnesses etc.). My question is simply this: are they things that you need a Bible verse to think of?

      Obviously not.

      You also don’t need a Bible verse to conclude that murder and stealing are wrong.

      Is it really your position that, absent the Bible, the Greco-Romans (uninterrupted by the Christian takeover of their civilization) would not have gotten to the point we are at in the 21st century? I (personally) think that they would have gotten there sooner. Perhaps a millenium sooner. There’s a reason that they call the lapse of time between Constantine and the Renaissance the “Dark Ages.”

      This is not to say that certain biblically-derived cultural habits have not been helpful. For example, I think it undeniable that the Jewish tradition of study and the importance of law comes from being a people traditionally built around a book (the Hebrew Bible).

      I have no interest in denying the contingent contributions of Judaism and Christianity, for example, to our notions of law. I think, however, that they are far less obvious with regard to science, and it begs the question: why did the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries—via the Enlightenment—not occur at the time when the Book of Job was written? And why didn’t the people initiating this revolution see the biblical foundations in Job as clearly as you do? In other words, why did they foreground other things (most specifically, Descartre, Bacon, Locke)? The philosophes believed that they had arrived at a real disjuncture from the past, and that the three men above would go down in history as epochal Mosaic-style “game changers.” Do you think that the philosophes simply misread their own period? That they had missed the link between Job’s admonition and Bacon’s insights?

      And take the larger thrust of the way that the Bible was digested in past centuries. Don’t you think, for example, that Jesus’s admonition to Thomas (“Blessed are those who have not seen, but believed”) was a blatant attack on empiricism? Thomas wanted evidence; Jesus dissed him for it. You have to account for this fact before making the case that the Bible has been good for science.

      And if empiricism and the scientific method are means to truth, and the Bible is a divine book, why did God not simply give the method to Moses and put it right in there next to the ten commandments?

      —Santi

      • TomH says:

        Santi,

        First, the wisdom from the Bible, though not necessarily exclusive to the Bible (agreement with you about this), is still reliable and sufficient to form a philosophical basis for research. Of course, a philosophical basis isn’t sufficient for all kinds of research, many of which rely upon the availability of certain kinds of technology.

        Would the pagan greeks have advanced like Western Europe did? Nancy Pearcey makes a good case that this would not have been so (as have others). Greek philosophy made some stunning errors that would have inhibited their progress. The greek ideal was an athlete, not a philosopher. (Plato’s Academy seems to have been an anomaly.) The greek worldview abandoned deism for polytheism with its attendant capricious views of nature. A lot of western philosophy amounts to undoing the damage from greek philosophy. (Not to say that greek philosophy made no positive contributions!) So, I think that it would be irrational to pin one’s hopes on the pagan greeks for the advancement of knowledge.

        “There’s a reason that they call the lapse of time between Constantine and the Renaissance the “Dark Ages.”” Andrew Dickson White and his bad history? Maybe ignoring Eastern Christianity in Byzantium? Maybe because of a paucity of historical documentation from the period? And what of the Carolingian Renaissance? http://www.allabouthistory.org/the-dark-ages.htm

        What happened to all the books from Byzantium? Culture was centered in Byzantium until its conquest. Byzantium was responsible for copies of ancient greek texts and later translated greek into arabic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Empire

        “In other words, why did they foreground other things (most specifically, Descartre, Bacon, Locke)?”

        Descartes was a deist. He would have had no interest in Job. Francis Bacon was fighting the Scholastics (http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/scholastics.html); there was no issue with them over observing nature since they did it themselves. Locke didn’t become a Christian until years after he wrote the “Enquiry,” so he would not likely have directly referenced Job, though the ideas of Job may have been implicit in the culture and Locke’s education. We had to wait for Boyle before any kind of biblical imperative to study nature would be voiced.

        ” The philosophes believed that they had arrived at a real disjuncture from the past”

        I’m not sure what you mean. Certainly, Spinoza and Voltaire played a significant and sometimes helpful role in criticizing ideas common in medieval Christianity. However, some of the philosophes were hyperbolic regarding the criticism and threw the baby out with the bath water. They concluded that the Bible couldn’t be trusted because some illiterate priests made inaccurate statements.

        “Don’t you think, for example, that Jesus’s admonition to Thomas (“Blessed are those who have not seen, but believed”) was a blatant attack on empiricism?”

        Quite the contrary! In order to understand that, it’s necessary to understand Jewish epistemological thought of the 1st century. It was centered on eyewitnesses, which ultimately relies on empirical observations. The apostles, when arrested by the Sanhedrin, appealed to the fact that they were only saying what they had “seen and heard.” Remember that bearing false witness was prohibited by the Ten Commandments. This is the cornerstone of Jewish empiricism (via witnesses, of course). Jesus expected Thomas to question the other apostles about what they had seen. This should be viewed as an implicit suggestion that the apostles were to be questioned and their testimonies compared. Jewish epistemological thought about witnesses can be found in many places in the NT historical books. (Acts, John sent two witnesses to Jesus asking if Jesus was the Christ, I John 1:1-3 discusses the empirical basis of the apostles’ message, etc.)

        “And if empiricism and the scientific method are means to truth, and the Bible is a divine book, why did God not simply give the method to Moses and put it right in there next to the ten commandments?”

        And so I answered this question as well. It’s actually in the Ten Commandments. This discussion was very helpful to me in that I saw this for the first time. Thank you.

      • santitafarella says:

        TomH:

        I decided to reply to your Thomas assertion in a separate post. See here:

        http://santitafarella.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/is-the-jesus-of-johns-gospel-anti-science/

        —Santi

  7. Aristotle (who was hardly pagan, Gato)

    WHAAT? Was he a christian? Hebrew? Muslim? Was he baptised? WTF?

    My main point was that the Bible provided a great deal of the philosophical framework for experimental investigation

    So, why tell hell did we have to frankin wait for a frankin Boyle, kid?
    You never answered this point in the slightest. Cherry picking quotes from the Bible don’t help at all, didn’t you learn that already?

    • TomH says:

      Aristotle was a deist, from what I can tell.

      “why tell hell did we have to frankin wait for a frankin Boyle, kid?”

      Don’t know. Maybe plagues and wars and bad economic conditions hindered Europe in many ways. Maybe the Christians before Boyle’s time didn’t study the Bible as much as Boyle did. Why did not the ancient greeks maintain their advanced knowledge if the pagans were so superior and all?

      “Cherry-picking” from Proverbs is quite acceptable. You don’t know the Bible very well, do you?

  8. TomH says:

    Gato,

    “So CVs and qualifications are of paramount importance now, but are irrelevant when the topic is evolution or AGW, right?”

    Carrier raised the issue of authority by claiming to be a historian of science. I tested his claim and found it somewhat lacking, especially as regards the period his topic addressed (300-1200 AD). This question is unlike the situation where evolutionists seek to preclude considering a creationist’s argument because the author lacks training. You are confusing two different things.

    “And that way you desperatly manage to keep avoiding to address the points I make.”

    And your points are a red herring, which I’ve just pointed out. How did you miss it?????

    “Besides Carrier is a historian and phylosopher, with training in both fields.”

    Sorry, Carrier’s CV doesn’t show any training in philosophy. Maybe you are confusing the name of a degree with the field of philosophy.

    “A historian is a historian no matter the particluar field he works, you would have a point if his work were about chinese cooking history, but it is about Ancient Science history, and I really fail to see how that cannot be part of the history of science.”

    I don’t know how it is in Italy, but in the U.S., the history of science comes under the department of the History and Philosophy of Science, not under the History department. The courses are very different and so are the methods. Carrier seems to be very ignorant about what real historians of science have written.

    “He is in position to know what kind, in quality and quantity, of scientific knowledge there were already in Ancient World, and to evaluate how many “progress” there were in fact.”

    I agree.

    “What he says is that there were a colapse and tons of knowledge were lost, and the europeans had to reinvent the wheels, many times, restart from zero.”

    Right. This is standard stuff everywhere. Knowledge is lost. Nothing special about Europe or Christianity here. Perhaps the librarians thought that they had adequate numbers of copies and simply made a catastrophic mistake.

    “And they didn’t survive because nobody that could manage to preserve then, i.e. christian copyists, nobody give a shit, they didn’t care.”

    What about Byzantium? http://www.fashionencyclopedia.com/fashion_costume_culture/Early-Cultures-The-Byzantine-Empire/The-Byzantine-Empire.html

    Why didn’t Rome preserve its documents? Well, there was a Roman emperor who burned lots of Christian books. Maybe a lot of pagan books got mixed in by mistake. Who knows?

    Here’s an entry on book burning. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_burning Isn’t it wonderful how tolerant those ancient Romans were about new ideas and all? Looks like the intolerance of ideas isn’t limited to Christianity. Strangely enough, the Codex Vaticanus was saved from being destroyed by a monk who was using Christian manuscripts for fuel. But I guess if you can find some Christians who do stupid stuff, like ignoring the Bible, burning it, etc., that shows that the Bible is false, right?

    “I really fail to see this scenario as religion activelly promoting scientific knowledge.”

    And again, you are repeating your red herring, right? The issue is whether the Bible provides a foundation for the advancement of learning about Nature. Are you perhaps forgetting your “joke” about “magic revelation?” I equated “revelation” with the Bible. Wasn’t that your meaning?

    “Well, first, Carrier ignores it because it’s pretty irrelevant to the point.”

    LOL He ignores it because he doesn’t know about it. It’s very relevant to the point about the advancement of knowledge about Nature during the early Middle Ages.

    I don’t dispute that the Romans had made a lot of advancements in technology. What happened to their universities? Oh yeah, they didn’t have any. What about their scientific societies? They didn’t have any.

    As regards Rome, generally, it was sacked and burned a few times, wasn’t it? Perhaps that’s where a lot of books went. Maybe also when the Library of Alexandria burned. A library burns very nicely with all that paper.

    Books were expensive compared to today and the economies and populations in Europe were much smaller compared to today. I would guess that not as many copies of ancient books would be made as more current books, just like today.

    “My point is that if the Bible is so gung ho for science….”

    This is a straw man. I said that the Bible was used by Boyle to provide a foundation for science, not that it is gung ho for science.

    “So we would expect christian monks activelly and carefully protecting, and copying all those ancient scientific works, I think.”

    Lots of times Christians ignore the Bible. Why should they pay attention even if the Bible were “gung ho” about science?

    “Sure you may claim that somebody somewhere claim that the Bilbe inspired him, and so on, but I don’t think this is enough to make a case.”

    I don’t dispute that empiricism was discovered independently of the Bible. However, the Law of Moses is very ancient and it is empirical as regards eyewitnesses. The New Testament also emphasized the importance of eyewitnesses (which ultimately relied on empirical evidence) even more than the Old Testament.

    • TomH

      First, I’m brazillian not italian, different countries, different continents. No problem, you couldn’t know it.
      Secound, I’m not blaming christians of the early Middle Ages for the loss of knowledge, nor I’m helding them fully responsible for that. They weren’t AFAIK burning (this time) libraries, or books, they just didn’t keep copying them. You are right, books were expensive compared to today, so they choose what to keep and what to not, what to copy and what to not. And the fact is that they keep lots of things, and copy lots of things, but just the things they seem as valuable. Scientific/technical literature weren’t seem as valuable as religious texts, like the Bible itself.
      I find it odd that you one time atributes to the Bible the insights, and motivation of Boyle’s work, but when those insights and motivation are lacking then the blame lies on the poor christians that for some reason didn’t figure it out, didn’t read it right, didn’t pay attention, etc. When there’re a success case then it’s obviously because of biblical inspiration, when there’re a failure then the Bible don’t have nothing to do with it whatsoever.

      The issue is whether the Bible provides a foundation for the advancement of learning about Nature

      Maybe you should explain more clearly what do you mean by this exactly, because just to say this and show as example one religious man of the XVII century, that happen (or claims) to be motivated, or inspired by the Bible, are just not enough given the track record.
      Yeah, maybe, just maybe, somebody, sometimes, somewhere, could (claim to) find, after a very long and very careful reading, including backwards, very deep down in the Bible something that “provides” him with a “fundation for the advancement of learning about Nature”. So what?
      Sincerely Tom, you would have a case if there was something so special about this in the Bible that simply didn’t occured to anybody else ever anywhere, or if we had a Boyle, or a stream of Boyles why not, much more early in christianity. And neither did happen as you may know. To just say that it was there but the christians of the time (no one!) just don’t get it, it’s..well..bullshit. Sorry.

      • TomH says:

        Well, I’m wearing my brazil t-shirt, supporting my football team. I’m sorry they’re out of the world cup. I also have a four-star brazil cap. That’s how long I’ve been a supporter. I used to play football, but now I’m old and fat like Maradona.

        Also, I’m no kid. I’m an old curmudgeon.

        Seriously, if you want to understand how technological progress and knowledge increased massively in the 17th century, please read Shapin’s book that I linked to. It will help a great deal. Please also read Sargent’s book about Boyle that I linked to. These will help answer your questions: Why Robert Boyle? Why in the 17th century?

        I suspect that there needed to be a minimum level of technology (knowledge of machining, the printing press, cheap paper) and legal protection for intellectual property as well as certain philosophical preconditions (provided by Christianity though perhaps not exclusive to Christianity) in order for the rate of knowledge acquisition and technological progress to increase dramatically beginning in the 17th century.

        Fyi, Boyle also needed to avoid the restrictions of the Scholastics who dominated the universities, which is why he avoided the universities and helped to found The Royal Society. Universities still suppress ideas today on occasion. It’s a universal problem of the human condition. I really object when Christianity or the Bible is blamed for idea suppression when it’s just people protecting their turf. I think that this is one of Carrier’s big mistakes. Dogmatism isn’t limited to Christianity or other religions. It’s rampant in academia to one degree or another.

      • Well, I’m wearing my brazil t-shirt, supporting my football team. I’m sorry they’re out of the world cup. I also have a four-star brazil cap. That’s how long I’ve been a supporter. I used to play football, but now I’m old and fat like Maradona.

        LOL. I’m a football supporter every 4 years, but personaly I’m affraid I don’t have such intimacy with the leather sphere as so to speak. Don’t worry, sooner or later US will join the major league, and will have a team to be feared. Seriously, I believe that, I’m not ass kissing. And don’t let age or weight, or the sense of ridicule to spare you from fun, come on! :-)
        And sorry for the ‘kid’, I’m none neither. Besides isn’t it funny how we usually guess people’s ages over the Internet completely wrong? I do at least, I mean, guess ages wrongly.
        I think that Boyle, and everybody else FTM, belongs to a historical context (I almost said ‘is a product of’ as an old school marxist would have, but that may sound more mechanicistic, deterministic, and simplistic than I think things really are), with all that comes with it: economics, politics, family, education, and so, and so, and yes, religion too. I have no problem in aknowledge that. What I have a problem with is to single out religion, or the Bible, as The One Main Factor to be taken into account. If that is so then there is a huge gap to be explained. But if the gap can be explained by lots of circunstances, then it is prety reasonable to assume that a whole lot of different circunstances can explain the later filling of the gap, not just a single one.
        Also, I don’t think Carrier is blaming Chistianity or the Bible for idea suppression in this particular case. I think he is more nuanced than that.
        As for blaming BTW, I think things are more complex also. Only very recently in History we can talk about religion as something distinct from say politics. It’s so a new idea that many people didn’t get it yet, christians and non-christians. As such I think it’s not correct to say that ‘it’s only about religion’ or ‘it’s only about power/politics’, as many times were, and still is today, both.

    • Looks like the intolerance of ideas isn’t limited to Christianity.

      Yeah, quite true indeed.

      • TomH says:

        Yeah, it turns out that it’s often the case that whoever’s in authority suppresses the ideas that might undermine their position. I’ve seen this happen many times for many research questions by creationists against creationsts, creationists against evolutionists, evolutionists against creationists, evolutionists against evolutionists, cosmologists against cosmologist, microbiologists against microbiologists, etc. Also, often times the reviewer of a paper doesn’t understand its new ideas and rejects it, so it’s not a political matter of suppression, but because of ignorance.

  9. Why did not the ancient greeks maintain their advanced knowledge if the pagans were so superior and all?

    They did at their time, so we know those knowledge existed. They weren’t around or in charge in the period we’re discussing, christians were, so your question is silly.

    Maybe plagues and wars and bad economic conditions hindered Europe in many ways

    Too bad that the Bible didn’t give sound economic , or sanitary advice, like thou shalt keep the cats around, rats are evil, regular baths are good, etc., instead of all those detailed instructions for sacrifices for the pleasing of God, p.e., isn’t it?

    Maybe the Christians before Boyle’s time didn’t study the Bible as much as Boyle did.

    What? A variation of ‘Not a true scotsman’? ROTFLOLMAO.

    “Cherry-picking” from Proverbs is quite acceptable

    Oh sure.

    From Job, man is encouraged to study Nature.

    What people were already been doing almost everywhere (have you heard about ancient China?)waaaayy before the Bible was written.

    From Proverbs, “He who walks with wise men shall be wise….”

    Something nobody could ever thought about before, sure…

    Christianity was a major impetus to literacy, generally, so that people could read the Bible

    After the Protestant Reform, in Protestant countries you mean. Before that ….

    From Ecclesiastes we see that information must be maintained, so the importance of keeping copies distributed in repositories (e.g., libraries) in various locations is suggested.

    Wow, just another brilliant idea nobody have ever thought about before. Shocking.
    You don’t know history very well, do you?

  10. TomH says:

    “They did at their time, so we know those knowledge existed.”

    Really? We should be able to find the universities and scientific societies they started. Right? So where are they?

    “Too bad that the Bible didn’t give sound economic , or sanitary advice, like thou shalt keep the cats around, rats are evil, regular baths are good, etc., ”

    Actually, the Bible addresses community health and regular bathing.

    “What? A variation of ‘Not a true scotsman’?”

    No, you keep missing the point, don’t you? The point is whether the Bible provided a foundation for experimental philosophy and Boyle expounded it, along with the whole university and scientific society points. But don’t let a little thing like staying on point stop you from rambling.

    “What people were already been doing almost everywhere (have you heard about ancient China?)waaaayy before the Bible was written.”

    Your metanarrative is showing. But that’s probably over your head.

    “Something nobody could ever thought about before, sure…”

    Solomon antedated Plato, but that’s a minor point. Sure, this seems obvious to us now and isn’t exclusive to Christianity. However, Christianity was the first to institute universities with a plan for them to survive long term.

    “After the Protestant Reform, in Protestant countries you mean. Before that ….”

    Surely also in the first three centuries, when studying the Bible was also important. What point is there to make a lot of copies of the Bible if only a few can read it? We have lots of manuscripts of the New Testament from ancient times, which must be a small fraction of all that were created. http://www.csntm.org/manuscript

    I’ve already mentioned Charlemagne’s attempt to improve literacy and Alfred the Great’s work.

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

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

    “Wow, just another brilliant idea nobody have ever thought about before. Shocking.
    You don’t know history very well, do you?”

    Actually, I do. I can’t say the same for you and your fictional history.

  11. Pingback: Is the Jesus of John’s Gospel Anti-Science? « Prometheus Unbound

  12. Hi Tom

    As the World Cup have ended, lets back to business.

    Darn, Gato, I fell for your red herring, where you switched the Bible for Christianity.

    Actually the point was the relationship between science x technology, that you changed into an atempt to prove that it was “magic revelation” from the Bible that gave experimental science a major boost. I’ve just assumed the Bible and it’s magic powers have something to do with Christianity. Or vice versa. My mistake on that. But you were the one that actually did red herring first. :-p

    We should be able to find the universities and scientific societies they started. Right? So where are they?

    I don’t dispute the fact that the first universities were created by christians. However that doesn’t mean as you implicate that ancient greeks and romans didn’t have means or interest in education at all, or in spreading knowledge. If that was the case then where did their engineers came from? Their astronomers? Architects? Physicians? Speakers? Writers? What to say about their libraries? Knowledge was been produced, teached, stored and spreaded in pre-christian context, so, to claim as you do

    that the Bible provided a great deal of the philosophical framework for experimental investigation

    is only possible ignoring what ancient greeks and romans have achieved already. In fact without what remain of that knowledge Renaissance would be impossible.

    Maybe he [Carrier]should start an elementary education about medieval history of science with the wiki article about science in the Middle Ages. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_in_the_Middle_Ages

    Interesting that this link says exactly what Carrier says: “Until the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Western Europe, except Spain, would lag far behind the scientific knowledge of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine Empire and the Muslim empires….The leading scholars of the early centuries were clergymen for whom the study of nature was but a small part of their interest. They lived in an atmosphere which provided little institutional support for the disinterested study of natural phenomena and they concentrated their attention on religious topics….”

    Would the pagan greeks have advanced like Western Europe did? Nancy Pearcey makes a good case that this would not have been so (as have others)

    Nancy Pearcey? THIS Nancy Pearcey? Wow, talking about qualifications…and integrity..
    Anyway, that’s a ‘what if’ question, a kind of question serious historians usualy don’t engage in. As I’m not a historian I’ll just ask ‘why not’? Actually by what we know without those pagan greeks Western Europe would have never advanced like it did.

    Greek philosophy made some stunning errors that would have inhibited their progress.

    AFAIK “Greek Philosophy” is an umbrella for a diverse range of schools. There wasn’t a single dominant “Greek Philosophy” school that everybody had to comply with. I don’t think that was the case in the christian schools. Besides, what were exactly been teached in those christian schools in the begining? Astronomy? Enginnering? Architecture? Medicine? Math? Who was getting there? Anybody? Or only professing, non-heretical christians?

    ….I’ve already mentioned Charlemagne’s attempt to improve literacy…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolingian_Renaissance

    That’s very telling indeed: “The lack of literate persons in eighth century western Europe caused problems for the Carolingian rulers by severely limiting the number of people capable of serving as court scribes”. In fact things were so bad that “not all parish priests possessed the skill to read the Vulgate Bible”, something that was “Of even greater concern to the very pious rulers”. So to call this as an “atempt to improve literacy” is a very generous evaluation of the state of affairs, IMO. What this tells me is that these not so stupid kings had a practical problem to address, not that they were specially inspired by biblical revelation to give education to the masses. Sorry.
    It’s interesting as well that the article also says that “Instead of being a rebirth of new cultural movements, the period was more an attempt to recreate the previous culture of the Roman Empire.” [my enfasis].
    As well the later Renaissance (14th – 17th centuries): “…could be viewed as an attempt by intellectuals to study and improve the secular and worldly, both through the revival of ideas from antiquity, and through novel approaches to though”, and that “…a subtle shift took place in the way that intellectuals approached religion that was reflected in many other areas of cultural life..”
    Again please just see that I’m not in the “blame who?” business. Certainly I’m not blaming Christianity, or the Bible. It’s just a book to me, writen by some specific hairless bypede apes, with barely functional evolved brains, some specific time ago, through a specific period, in a specific context. That some other hairless bypede apes with barely functional evolved brains took it as something more than that it is not the book’s fault.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s