Listen to Reason? The Laws of God vs. the Laws of Man

Below are some public mug shots of Amish men serving brief sentences in a Kentucky jail.

Their crime?

They refused to put yellow reflectors on their horse-driven buggies when using public roads. Their religion does not permit them to display vivid colors.

These images are haunting. They represent both human resilience and perversity, and put me in mind of Sophocles’s Antigone and Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground

Stubborn contrarians like these brought the Roman empire to its knees and ushered in the era of medieval Christianity. And they’re a reminder that one of the signs of religious faithfulness has always been an adamant refusal to follow the dictates of reason wherever it conflicts with an inner light or the Word of God (whatever you consider that to be). It’s why Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann—and other Tea Partiers—can blow-off the opinions of professional economists, biologists, and climatologists. In the culture they have been formed from, incorrigibility on matters secular and rational is a virtue. Nothing gets between them and their chosen form of anti-establishment contrarity. Nothing.

So it’s a scary and hopeful image at the same time. Mostly scary.

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About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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21 Responses to Listen to Reason? The Laws of God vs. the Laws of Man

  1. You have some good wrds and explanations here. Particularly the phrase ” In the culture they have been formed from, incorrigibility on matters secular and rational is a virtue.”

    I just got done with another post that is explaing part of the recent change in left/right political behaviour. Let me share it again here:

    There are actually two types of conservatives according to “Conservatism” by Jerry Muller. There are the orthodox conservatives who believe in varying degrees that their beliefs are ordained and then there are regular conservatives who find religion useful for utilitarian ends. Religion helps control and stabilize the masses.

    What has happened now though is that the whole world has moved further to the right(true liberalism is almost dead). Because of that, the right now is the extreme right.

    They basically want a savior.

    What the extreme right doesn’t understand is that the regular right will never go for that. The regular right will either abandon ship or seize control through any means necessary.

    Obama stands a chance.

  2. Paradigm says:

    I think the reason why Palin, Bachman and their likes can ignore scientific facts is that the internet has created a tsunami of facts and factoids that makes people turn to personality instead. Someone to identify with. It’s a cruel irony that the web in many ways fulfills the values of liberalism and in doing so creates a climate of fascistoid anti-intellectualism.

    Sadly, liberals and leftists have not learned anything from this. They stick to their failed ideas everybit as stubborn as the Amish. They even adopt the same strategies as the Right as can be seen in people like Michael Moore, Bill Maher and others.

  3. David Yates says:

    Something’s strange here. With regard to the Amish, I’ve seen them with the triangular orange reflectors on the backs of their horsedrawn buggies going back decades. Why has this suddenly become a problem now? How certain can we be that this is actually the reason for their arrests? Because, as I say, they didn’t appear to have an issue with them before.
    But that aside, I take it from the tone of your article that you’re under the impression that reason and the Christian faith are somehow antithetical to each other. Not only does this betray an egregious ignorance of Western intellectual history, it’s just plain nonsense.
    First, it wasn’t hidebound Christian “contrarians” that caused the dissolution of the Roman empire. Rather, this could better be traced to the exact opposite behaviours than that promoted within the Christian religion: lax morals throughout society and a concomitant dearth of civic virtue (i.e. the evanescence of the sense of duty and obligation toward the ‘res publica’); corruption endemic to all levels of government; porous borders, largely due to a pronounced relaxation in military standards and discipline (it eventually got to the point where, if you were to scan a Roman Legion and a barbarian mob lined up to oppose each other on the battlefield, unless you were told you would be hard-pressed to tell which was which); out-of-control government spending and hence a perpetually poor economy. (Come to think of it, a lot of this sounds all too dismally familiar.)
    Second, the medieval Christianity you appear to disparage (although somewhat implicitly, I admit) was hardly the “Dark Ages” it’s been so often depicted as. It was, in actuality, a time of great cultural, intellectual, and even technological ferment. It was during these so-called “Dark Ages” (AD 500 – 1500) that Western Europe saw — the abolition of slavery, the liberation of women, the formulation of chivalric codes and courtly love practices, checks and balances on absolutism, artistic achievements of medieval cathedrals, the musical scale, the mechanical clock, the invention of the book — not to mention the concept of universal education and the university. Indeed, it was with the Enlightenment and its almost rigid over-emphasis on Classical thinking that resulted in the revival of Roman law which brought about legal standardization in the interest of centralized nation states; the Roman notion of the ‘jus utendi et abutendi’. This resulted in the reintroduction of slavery (and in a far more oppressive and ugly form than that which was practiced in the ancient world), the subjection of women, the exploitation of the worker, and the rise of the absolutist state.

  4. Paradigm says:

    “I take it from the tone of your article that you’re under the impression that reason and the Christian faith are somehow antithetical to each other. Not only does this betray an egregious ignorance of Western intellectual history, it’s just plain nonsense.”

    I guess a good meassure of reason is scientific progress, which started out fine during Antiquity but came to an almost complete halt during the Middle Ages and then picked up again during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. As can be seen by the fact that the Middle Ages always makes the shortest chapter in books on the history of science. So it does look like reason was at its weakest when Christianity had its strongest influence.

    Generally speaking it is also a fact that countries with a lot of atheists are overall more scientifically advanced than others. So it seems like Christianity (as well as other organized religion) and reason are actually antithetical. That said, there is more to life than reason and rationality.

    • David Yates says:

      Paradigm: “I guess a good meassure of reason is scientific progress, which started out fine during Antiquity…”
      Started out fine?!? In reality, science suffered a series of stillbirths in various cultures prior to its flourishing in Western Europe, a.k.a. Christendom. The diverse worldviews inherent in each of those civilizations made this all but inevitable. E.g. China had a huge head start in terms of science, but its citizens were so rigidly stratified in their society that any innovation among the lower strata was quickly squelched; thus there existed no incentive to innovate since it wouldn’t better your station in life anyway. Additionally, any gains in knowledge that could be derived from what we would call empirical observation was regarded to be of no genuine benefit since the Chinese believed that everything was filled with ‘chi’. The end result was that, figuratively speaking, you couldn’t build a model of anything and then take it apart to see how worked, because you couldn’t fill your model with chi. Therefore, anything learned was considered of no real consequence.
      Ancient India famously produced several excellent mathematicians, but that never then developed into the language of science. Hindu pantheism saw the universe as Brahma, or “One.” Therefore, how could one countenance experimenting on, organizing, and then classifying any constituent parts of it? It would be inconceivable. Moreover, Hinduism also taught that, in reality, there was not reality; rather everything was Maya, or “Illusion.” One couldn’t empirically observe the world because it was all illusion, all one could do was merely meditate on that “truth.”
      Similarly, despite some initial promise shown, there was really very little scientific progress in ancient Greece. Nor could there be, since in Platonic thought, the material world as experienced with the senses also isn’t real, but merely reflections of that which was actually real: the realm of Ideas. Hence, any experimentation conducted in this world was regarded as all but completely useless, since they would only be experimenting on the reflection or shadow of their subject’s Ideal form, which only truly existed in a realm that’s ultimately and forever beyond them. The result was that, as in Aristotelian thought, all “true” knowledge could only be achieved deductively, through the mind. Therefore, as a result, Aristotle could teach with authority that larger, heavier objects fall faster than smaller, lighter ones. All one had to do was try it to see that this was false, but no one bothered (until Galileo nearly 2,000 yrs later), because that would be knowledge attained through inductive experimentation, not deductive reasoning. (Just for another obvious example, Aristotle also “reasoned” that all objects behave the same in all mediums. Thus, if you drop a rock, within the medium of air, it will fall, and it will also behave the same way within the medium of water. But try doing this with a stick of wood.)
      As I alluded earlier, these cultures could excel in a completely abstract discipline such as math, where one is dealing almost entirely in concepts that possess no objective reality (e.g. show me ‘5’ — you could show me 5 OF something, or you could show me its symbol ‘5’, but otherwise ‘5’ qua ‘5’ possesses no actual existence), but to translate this into scientific observation is completely beyond such views of reality.
      Also, within polytheistic societies such as these, nature is governed, not by reliable and predictable laws, but at the capricious whims of any of a number of gods and goddesses — some of which may wish you well, while others may actively wish you harm. Within these cultures, shamanistic magical potions, spells, or incantations may “work” on one occasion, but by no means would it necessarily work the next time.
      Thus, premodern Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, and even Muslims, could attain many accurate insights into nature and the cosmos, they could make certain observations and state certain facts, but they couldn’t take the next step toward explaining what they observed. Without explanation, one can arrive at facts but not science.
      No, it was only within a biblically-derived worldview that science could not merely survive its birth but also thrive. The Bible revealed that a good, rational God had created an orderly universe that ran according to natural laws that he had established for it. And perhaps what was most crucial was that, since God had created us in his own image — and so we are also rational — and that God is also good, then those laws are also discoverable. Furthermore, it was reasoned that at least a part of God’s command to us to “subdue the earth” was for us to use our God-given intellects to then actively go out and discover those laws.
      As well, it was also of crucial importance that society saw God as being transcendent from his creation, so that you knew when you were dissecting any part of it, you were not essentially also cutting into God.
      Thus, it’s not by accident that it was only in the Christian West that astrology developed into astronomy, that alchemy grew into chemistry, and that mathematics was translated into the language of science.
      Paradigm: “…but came to an almost complete halt during the Middle Ages and then picked up again during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. As can be seen by the fact that the Middle Ages always makes the shortest chapter in books on the history of science.”
      I’m afraid, Paradigm, you’ve bought into what is unfortunately a very long-taught, but also long-disproved, view of the Medieval period. As I stated in my previous post, this was actually a period of great intellectual and technological development and growth. (At this point, I have to say that I find it odd that rather than address any of the points I made in that post, you simply elide them altogether, and then go forth with your own unsupported assertions as if mine were never even mentioned and so not part of the discussion. Indeed, they’re decidedly and directly involved in this topic.) I guess it just depends on what you regard as technological breakthroughs. The watermill, for example, while not unheard of in the ancient world, was certainly not as widely used, nor as diversely utilized, as it was during the Middle Ages. Another appropriate example would be the development of the plough and horse-harness. Nowhere else in the world was soil relatively unfit for agricultural use, tilled, seeded, and harvested as effectively and efficiently as it was in Medieval Europe, due to the innovative development of those two implements.
      I could go on and on, but rather than that, allow me to mention two widely-renowned and respected historians of science, Alfred North Whitehead and Lynn White, neither of whom were particular friends of the Church, both of whom trace Western scientific predominance specifically to the Middle Ages. A.N. Whitehead averred, “faith in the possibility of science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology.” Lynn White observed, “the [medieval] monk was an intellectual ancestor of the scientist.” (And what the heck, I’ll throw in another: German physicist Ernst Mach once remarked, “Every unbiased mind must admit that the age in which the chief development of the science of mechanics took place was an age of predominantly theological cast [i.e. the Middle Ages].”)
      Paradigm: “So it does look like reason was at its weakest when Christianity had its strongest influence.”
      Not only did modern science owe its provenance to Christendom during the Middle Ages, but so did much of rational argument, as well.
      Paradigm: “Generally speaking it is also a fact that countries with a lot of atheists are overall more scientifically advanced than others. So it seems like Christianity (as well as other organized religion) and reason are actually antithetical. That said, there is more to life than reason and rationality.”
      I’ll grant you the general truth of your final remark, but strongly reject virtually everything else. Atheists living today enjoy a world that has been so thoroughly shaped and informed by the Judeo-Christian/biblical ethic and worldview that you’re like fish denying the wetness and legitimacy of water.

  5. Paradigm says:

    “Similarly, despite some initial promise shown, there was really very little scientific progress in ancient Greece.”

    Whoa. Science was not born in a day but most historians agree that the major first impulses came from Greece. But you imply that it was only when the Christian church created a climate in which science could thrive. I bet Galileo would disagree.

    “As I stated in my previous post, this was actually a period of great intellectual and technological development and growth.”

    You said that but you did not substantiate it. Also, I took scientific progress as a meassure of reason while you use the more vague “intellectual” which can refer to many things. The few technological advances made is nothing compared to what came in the following era.

    “Atheists living today enjoy a world that has been so thoroughly shaped and informed by the Judeo-Christian/biblical ethic and worldview that you’re like fish denying the wetness and legitimacy of water.”

    I doubt there is any other group in society that contains as many atheists as scientist. And yet they were like fish in the Christian water? Well, we can’t ask the dead, but I’m pretty sure the living would disagree strongly.

    • David Yates says:

      Paradigm: “Whoa. Science was not born in a day but most historians agree that the major first impulses came from Greece.”
      Speaking of not substantiating something…
      What “major impulses” might these be?
      Paradigm: “But you imply that it was only when the Christian church created a climate in which science could thrive.”
      Oh, I’m not merely implying it. I being about as explicit as I possibly can be.
      Paradigm: “I bet Galileo would disagree.”
      Oh brother, I knew this would come up eventually. You’ve bought into yet more anti-Christian propaganda here. The fact is, the Church didn’t object to Galileo’s scientific contentions, but rather it was the manner in which he presented them. A cardinal, who unfortunately for Galileo, later became pope, had previously discussed these matters with him. All he asked was that his position on these issues be included within Galileo’s book. Galileo agreed, and he did keep his word and included them. However, Galileo presented these arguments in the form of a dialogue, and the arguments of the cardinal (later pope) he put in mouth of the character he named ‘Simplicius’, or Simpleton. Not exactly the most tactful thing to do.
      So, yes, Galileo was taken in, censured, and sentenced to house arrest. This punishment though was, though bothersome to be sure, really quite mild. Galileo was allowed to continue his scientific observations and receive visitors. He was even allowed to earn a fairly handsome income from his studies, a portion of which he donated to the nunnery which housed his two daughters. The correspondence between him and his eldest daughter reveal her to have had a keen interest in his scientific discoveries (not to mention a fairly keen scientific understanding of them herself), and him to have remained a dedicated Catholic throughout the rest of his life.
      Paradigm: “You said that but you did not substantiate it.”
      Didn’t substantiate it?!? How is this…
      “It was during these so-called ‘Dark Ages’ (AD 500 – 1500) that Western Europe saw — the abolition of slavery, the liberation of women, the formulation of chivalric codes and courtly love practices, checks and balances on absolutism, artistic achievements of medieval cathedrals, the musical scale, the mechanical clock, the invention of the book — not to mention the concept of universal education and the university. Indeed, it was with the Enlightenment and its almost rigid over-emphasis on Classical thinking that resulted in the revival of Roman law which brought about legal standardization in the interest of centralized nation states; the Roman notion of the ‘jus utendi et abutendi’. This resulted in the reintroduction of slavery (and in a far more oppressive and ugly form than that which was practiced in the ancient world), the subjection of women, the exploitation of the worker, and the rise of the absolutist state.”
      …not substantiating my statement?
      Paradigm: “Also, I took scientific progress as a meassure of reason while you use the more vague “intellectual” which can refer to many things. The few technological advances made is nothing compared to what came in the following era.”
      Well, I should think that my previous post will have adequately assuaged your concern here.
      Paradigm: “I doubt there is any other group in society that contains as many atheists as scientist. And yet they were like fish in the Christian water? Well, we can’t ask the dead, but I’m pretty sure the living would disagree strongly.”
      So what if they do? That’s my point. Just as fish can fail to appreciate something that so ubiquitously surrounds them, so do atheists fail to appreciate how our world has been so ubiquitously influenced by Christianity.

      • Paradigm says:

        “However, Galileo presented these arguments in the form of a dialogue, and the arguments of the cardinal (later pope) he put in mouth of the character he named ‘Simplicius’, or Simpleton. Not exactly the most tactful thing to do.
        So, yes, Galileo was taken in, censured, and sentenced to house arrest. This punishment though was, though bothersome to be sure, really quite mild.”

        And this would be proof of how the church promoted science? By punishing him just because he stepped on someones toes? This “mild” punishment was actually house arrest for life and he was forbidden to publizice any of his ideas.It took until 1758 for them to drop books on helicoentrism from their Index of Forbidden Books. And it took until 2000 (sic) for the Catholic church to apologize for the trial against Galileo. Meanwhile all those ungratefull scientists were comfy like fish in water in the encouraging climate provided by this institution…

  6. David Yates says:

    Further to your contention that Christianity somehow retarded scientific progress:
    Why is it then that so many branches of science had devout Christians as their fathers, discoverers, developers, significant contributors, or pioneers?
    The following should suffice to illustrate this fact.
    Robert Grosseteste (ca. 1175-1253) – first proposed the inductive, experimental method
    Roger Bacon (1214-1294) – argued all things re: natural discovery must be verified by observation
    Theodoric of Freiborg (1250-1310) – discoverer of the cause of rainbows
    Francis Bacon (1561-1626) – father of the scientific method
    William of Ockham (1285-1347) – introduced the principle of parsimony (a.k.a Ockham’s Razor)
    Jean Buridan (1300-1358) – introduced the theory of probability
    Nicolas of Oresme (ca. 1320-1382) – introduced the mean-speed theorem
    Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) – wrote ‘De revolutionibus orbium coelestium’ (Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies); proposed the heliocentric theory (a.k.a. the Copernican Revolution)
    Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) – contributed to human anatomy, optics, physics, etc.
    Paracelsus (1493-1541) – argued that external agents caused diseases
    Ambroise Pare (ca. 1509-1590) – tied off arteries to prevent hemorrhaging; improved amputations
    Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) – wrote ‘The Fabric of the Body’; called the “father of modern anatomy”
    Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) – wrote ‘Concerning the New Star’; discovered a new comet
    Johann Kepler (1571-1630) – wrote a number of scientific treatises; discovered the elliptical orbit of planets; developed and confirmed three astronomical laws; first defined weight as the mutual attraction between two bodies; established the heliocentric theory
    Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) – first to use the telescope to study the skies; discovered sunspots; saw lunar mountains; discovered phases of Venus
    William Harvey (1578-1657) – discovered the circulation of blood
    René Descartes (1596-1650) – philosopher and inventor of analytic geometry
    Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) – discovered the law that liquid in a container exerts equal pressure in all directions; found barometric pressures varying with different altitudes; constructed first mechanical adding machine
    Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) – discoverer of cure for malaria, as well as proper use via dosages of drugs
    Robert Boyle (1627-1691) – father of modern chemistry; discovered Boyle’s Law: the volume of gas varies inversely with its pressure
    John Ray (1627-1705) – first to classify plants and animals according to their species
    Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) – co-founder (w. Marcello Malpighi) of the science of plant anatomy
    Isaac Newton (1642-1727) – discoverer of the universal law of gravitation, inventor of differential and integral calculus; contributed to advancements in optics and light theory (among many other contributions to science)
    Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) – invented calculus independently of Newton; proposed theory of monads
    John Flamsteed (1646-1719) – maker of the first modern star catalogue
    Stephen Hales (1677-1761) – the first to bring the exacting methods of physics to biology
    Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) – father of taxonomy
    John Michell (1724-1793) – father of seismology; predictor of black holes
    Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) – discovered oxygen
    Sir William Herschel (1738-1822) – founder of sidereal astronomy; discoverer of Uranus; also renowned for his conclusion that our solar system is situated within and near the edge of the Milky Way, which he claimed was shaped somewhat like a thick pancake; although the scientific consensus would not catch up with him for another century, Herschel maintained that all the stars we could discern belonged to the Milky Way, while other galaxies like ours existed far away
    Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) – found that oxygen is needed for combustion
    Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) – discovered current electricity; isolated methane gas
    John Dalton (1766-1844) – father of modern atomic theory; diagnosed colour blindness
    Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) – founder of the studies of palaeontology and comparative anatomy
    Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842) – the first to extensively map the brain and nervous system; father of neurology
    Andre Ampere (1775-1836) – discovered that electric currents produce magnetic fields
    John Kidd (1775-1851) – pioneer in the development of chemical synthetics
    William Buckland (1784-1856) – foremost English geologist (before Charles Lyell)
    William Prout (1785-1850) – the first to relate atomic weights to hydrogen; first to describe how free hydrochloric acid exists in the stomach and how it plays a necessary part in gastric digestion; also pioneer in the science of nutrition, being the first to divide fundamental foodstuffs into proteins, fats, and carbohydrates
    Georg Ohm (1787-1854) – formulated Ohm’s Law: the intensity of an electric current equals the magnetic force driving it, divided by the resistance of the conductor (wire)
    Michael Faraday (1791-1867) – discovered electromagnetic induction; founder of electromagnetic field theory
    Samuel Morse (1791-1872) – inventor of the telegraph, and developer of “Morse Code”
    Charles Babbage (1792-1871) – creator of the computer
    William Whewell (1794-1866) – inventor of the anemometer
    Joseph Henry (1797-1878) – discoverer of the principle of self-induction
    Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) – father of glacial science; helped establish the science of palaeontology
    Sir James Simpson (1811-1870) – founder of anaesthesiology; first to use ether and chloroform effectively as anaesthetic
    James Joule (1818-1889) – discoverer of the first law of thermodynamics
    Sir George Stokes (1819-1903) – contributor to light and sound wave theory
    Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) – father of modern genetics
    Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) – founded microbiology; formulator of the germ theory of disease; discovered bacteria and disproved the theory of spontaneous generation
    John Henri Fabre (1823-1915) – chief founder of modern entomology
    William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1912) – first to clearly state the second law of thermodynamics; discovered that molecular motion stops at minus 273 degrees centigrade (absolute zero)
    Sir William Huggins (1824-1910) – first to measure the stars’ velocities and chemical composition; greatest accomplishment may have been his recognition of blue- and red-shifting starlight as a Doppler effect
    Bernard Riemann (1826-1866) – formulator of non-Euclidian geometries
    Joseph Lister (1827-1912) – founder of antiseptic surgery
    James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1870) – formulator of the electromagnetic theory of light
    John Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945) – inventor of the diode; some call him the father of modern electronics
    Sir William Ramsay (1852-1916) – discoverer of the rare gaseous elements; also received the Nobel Prize in 1904 after successfully demonstrating the radioactive decay of one element into another: radium into helium
    George Washington Carver (ca. 1864-1943) – developed numerous by-products from peanuts and sweet potatoes

    All these individuals were confessing Christians: most were laymen, but others were either ordained ministers, church canons, church pastors, or members of monastic orders.

  7. Paradigm says:

    There is no way we can no for sure if these guys were “devout Christians” or not since the social pressure at the time was enormous against anyone who disagreed. All part of that great climate for reason and rationality that Christianity creates. We do know however that today when that pressure has vanished most scientist are no longer devout Christians. In fact, most seem to be atheists or agnostics.

    • David Yates says:

      Oh, brother. So, is this going to turn into one big exercise in frustration now, where even if I provide quotes from their own writings which testify to their love of God and how their scientific investigations were specifically motivated by their Christian faith, all you’re going to respond with is basically the equivalent of, “Well, how do we know some priest didn’t have a gun to their heads telling them to write that stuff, or else?” Sheesh.
      Roger Bacon was a Franciscan friar.
      Theodoric of Freiborg was a member of the “Order of Preachers,” or Dominicans.
      Nicolaus Copernicus was a canon in his church, the Frauenburg Cathedral in East Prussia. (But interstingly, it was two close Protestant friends of his who convinced him to publish his heliocentric theory, which he dedicated to the pope. I wonder how the Catholic Church got to them?)
      Ambrose Paré has inscribed on his statue in Paris his oft quoted remark: “I treated him, God cured him.”
      Francis Bacon was a dedicated student of the Bible, who wrote: “No one should maintain that a man can search too far, or be too well studied in the book of God’s Word (the Bible) or in the book of God’s Works (creation); divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both.” (But I suppose he was forced under pain of torture to write stuff like that, right?)
      Both Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler were devout Protestants. Kepler even studied three years to become a Lutheran pastor. (So how did the Catholic Church pressure them?)
      René Descartes’ intense belief in God stands in stark contrast to the agnosticism many today associate with great minds.
      Blaise Pascal is at least as famous now for his works of Christian apologetics (e.g., his “Pensees,” still in print to this day) as he is for any of his contributions to physics, mathematics, and philosophy.
      Thomas Sydenham was a Puritan. His faith in a God who had designed nature led him to believe that it was the physician’s task to help nature complete the cure.
      Robert Boyle learned Hebrew, Greek, and Syriac in order to study Scripture in their original languages. He also gave considerable amounts of his own personal wealth to Bible translation work in order to bring God’s word to those without it, and he founded the “Boyle Lectures” as an apologetics series to reach unbelievers.
      John Ray wrote several books on natural theology, including “The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation.”
      Nehemiah Grew entered his investigations with very little scientific training but with the firm conviction that “both plants and animals came at first out of the same Hand, and were therefore the contrivances of the same Wisdom.”
      Isaac Newton, at the end of his “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica,” concluded, “this most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets and Comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” Although deists later used his work to argue for a universe that ran by itself, for his part Newton believed in a God who “governs all things” and “is more able by His Will to move Bodies… and thereby to form and reform the Parts of the Universe, than we are by our Will to move the Parts of our own Bodies.” Not only did he also state that he was far more interested in theological than in scientific studies, this is also witnessed to by the fact that his body of work actually consists of more on biblical studies than it does science. He also once commented that he could be convinced of the existence of God through a simple study of the thumb.
      Gottfried Wilhelm Liebniz was a renowned Christian apologist. (It was his argument for God’s existence that Voltaire was making fun of with his character ‘Sansouci’ in “Candide.”)
      Both John Flamsteed and Stephen Hales were ordained clergymen.
      Carolus Linnaeus testified that his Linnaean system was inspired by his search for the distinct “kinds” of created organisms related in Genesis.
      John Michell, father of seismology, predictor of black holes, was a dedicated church pastor.
      Sir William Herschel’s Christian devotion was demonstrated not only by his church associations, like playing the organ for church services (he was also a professional musician), but by his many comments on God’s sublime harmonies in the heavens: “The un-devout astronomer must be mad,” he said.
      John Dalton, father of modern atomic theory was a devout Quaker.
      Georges Cuvier, founder of the studies of palaeontology and comparative anatomy, was a French Lutheran. (Again, it’s tough to imagine how the Catholic Church was able to put “enormous pressure” on a Lutheran.)
      Sir Charles Bell, the first to extensively map the brain and nervous system and one of world’s greatest anatomists (his contributions tremendously advanced our knowledge of the brain and nervous system, having discovered the different tasks of sensory and motor nerve filaments), wrote “The Hand; Its Mechanism and Vital Endowments, and Evincing Design, and Illustrating the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God.”
      John Kidd, pioneer in the development of chemical synthetics. This Oxford don’s work to extract chemicals from coal led to the compound building processes from which all modern synthetics are derived. Kidd pursued this groundbreaking work in part to demonstrate that God had prepared the natural world for man’s use. Well known for his Christian convictions, he used his platform as a naturalist to tell others of the evidence of divine wisdom seen in nature.
      William Buckland was an Anglican clergyman.
      William Prout, the first to relate atomic weights to hydrogen, also authored one of the Bridgewater Treatises, a famous Christian apologetic series. In it, he reacted to the unscientific spirit of romanticism that had crept in through the popularizers of “scientism” (materialistic science) like Sir Humphrey Davy and T.H. Huxley (i.e. the many science popularizers who put their own pantheistic spin on science by speaking of how the laws of nature “govern” the universe; a philosophically foreign virus that continues to infect true scientific investigation to this day). Prout wrote; “The poor untutored savage “sees god in every cloud, and hears him in the wind…. The complacent philosopher smiles at the credulity of the savage, and perhaps deifies ‘the laws of nature’! Both are alike ignorant; nor is the imagined supreme being of the untaught savage in any degree more absurd than the imagined pantheism of the philosopher.”
      Michael Faraday, discoverer of electromagnetic induction and founder of electromagnetic field theory, was a Sandemanian (these were classed among the “dissenters” from the Church of England as they were characterized by their dependence upon the Bible rather than church tradition).
      Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, and developer of “Morse Code,” chose as his first transmitted message, “What hath God wrought?” from Numbers 23.23. His inventions also penetrated into the spiritual realm: he was among the first to conceive of and implement the concept of Sunday school for children, which he promoted during his travels. Although poor throughout most of his life, his wealth in his later years gave him the opportunity to practice philanthropy, supporting missionaries and schools for pastors. Late in life, Morse wrote: “The nearer I approach to the end of my pilgrimage the clearer is the evidence of the divine origin of the Bible, the grandeur and sublimity of God’s remedy for fallen man are more appreciated, and the future is illuminated with hope and joy.”
      Charles Babbage, creator of the computer, is renowned today as a great mathematician and inventor. His ideas were so forward-thinking that the British government could not understand the use of his inventions and so refused him support. Babbage invented the speedometer, the principle of the analytic engine, and the first true, automatic computer with information storage and retrieval, including the ability to tabulate numbers up to 20 decimals. His mathematical analysis of miracles in the Bible was the last contribution to the famous Bridgewater Treatises, a series of Christian apologetic writings.
      William Whewell, inventor of the anemometer. His invention of the modern version of this device for measuring wind velocity is merely one of his numerous scientific contributions. As a philosopher of science, he is best known for his promotion of scientific inductive methods and his coining of dozens of scientific terms now in common use: the title “scientist” itself, “physicist,” “anode,” “cathode,” “electrode,” “ion,” “electrolyte,” and the geological epochs: “Miocene,” “Pliocene,” etc. An ordained clergyman, he wrote and taught of the wisdom of God seen in nature. As his contribution to the Bridgewater Treatises, Whewell wrote “Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology.”
      Joseph Henry, a committed Christian, was also known for his dependence upon God in all his work: standard operating procedure in all his experiments included prayer for guidance in every major decision.
      Louis Agassiz, father of glacial science, should also be remembered as a zoologist and geologist whose contributions helped establish the science of palaeontology. Agassiz called each species of animal or plant “a thought of God.”
      Sir James Simpson, founder of anaesthesiology, claimed his greatest discovery was that “I have a Saviour!” His search for anaesthetics, according to some accounts, was inspired by the passage in Genesis 2.21, when “God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep.”
      James Joule, discoverer of the first law of thermodynamics, as a committed Christian, Joule thus appears as an archetype of the many scientist-believers who first recognized patterns that make up our most fundamental laws of science.
      Sir George Stokes, contributor to light and sound wave theory, was a physicist/mathematician who held the chair as Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge while at the same time serving as secretary and president of the Royal Society; he is the only person other than Isaac Newton ever to hold the three offices simultaneously. Stokes’ Christian beliefs are amply displayed in his book, “Natural Theology.”
      Gregor Mendel, father of genetics, like Roger bacon long before him, served his God as a monk (Augustinian order) and as a devoted student of his creation. Mendel discovered his principle of heredity and laid the foundation for the science of genetics in a small monastery garden.
      Louis Pasteur, formulator of the germ theory of disease, was a devout Roman Catholic. When once asked how his religious beliefs had been affected by his science, he answered: “The more I know, the more does my faith approach that of a Breton peasant.”
      John Henri Fabre, chief founder of modern entomology. His painstaking, direct observations of insect behaviour made him the world’s leading authority on insects. He imparted his expansive knowledge on the subject in many books; his 10-volume set, “Souvenirs entomologiques” was crowned by the Institute of France. Like his friend, Louis Pasteur, he scoffed at the then current theory of spontaneous generation (the theory that life might form from non-life in a closed container). His research also led him to vigorously oppose the theory of Darwinian evolution (i.e. purely materialistic, undirected, purposeless evolution). Certain of his books were long used as textbooks in French state schools, although many opposed his frequent references to divine design. Fabre spoke openly of his Christian faith. Concerning the relationship between his science and his faith in God, he wrote: “Without Him I understand nothing; without Him all is darkness…. You could take my skin from me more easily than my faith in God.”
      William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907) – first to clearly state the second law of thermodynamics. During his prodigious career, he published over 300 papers, touching on nearly every area of physical science. In one he redefined Joule’s conservation of energy and went on to state the principle of energy dissipation, now known as the second law of thermodynamics. Kelvin’s biblical faith led him to strongly support the Bible’s teachings in British schools, and to oppose the doctrines of Darwinian evolution. Evolution, as he saw it, demanded an infinitude of time, whereas thermodynamic considerations rightly led him to believe that the universe and Earth have a limited history.
      Sir William Huggins, also readily confessed his faith in Christ.
      Bernard Riemann was the son of a Lutheran pastor who pioneered several new branches of mathematics. Some idea of the extent of his influence on mathematics can be had by considering a few of the concepts and theorems that now bear his name: Riemannian geometry, Riemann curvature, the Riemann mapping theorem, the Riemann integral, the Riemann approach to function theory, etc. He is best known today for the fact that Einstein based his general theory of relativity on Riemannian geometry. Like his father, Riemann began his education with an intention to enter the ministry. However, an obvious prodigy in mathematics, he soon changed his course of study in that direction; but he always retained his love for the Bible, even writing of the mathematical evidences he saw of its inspiration.
      Joseph Lister, learning from Pasteur’s experiments that putrefaction might be due to microbes coming from the air, Lister strove to eliminate the microbes. His extensive experiments led to his use of a careful mixture of chemical agents to serve as disinfectants, sulphochromic catgut to serve as sutures, and the scrupulous cleansing of operating instruments and personnel. In addition to the development of such standard procedures, Lister invented many new instruments, including the aortic tourniquet, the sinus forceps, and the wire needle. Lister also founded the British Institute of Preventive Medicine, later named the Lister Institute. Throughout his life, and in spite of his many honours, Lister maintained the humility characteristic of his Quaker upbringing, as well as the biblical beliefs handed down to him. At a time when many scientists of his acquaintance denied divine revelation, Lister continued to describe himself as “a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.”
      James Clerk Maxwell was known as a diligent student of the Bible and a man who freely confessed Christ as his Saviour, he wrote that God’s command to humanity to subdue the Earth provided the ultimate motivation for his scientific research.
      John Ambrose Fleming was the son of a Congregationalist pastor, and was also known for his work in Christian apologetics. He was particularly alarmed at the growing acceptance of Darwinian evolution as fact. Thus he formed the “Evolution Protest Movement” and wrote a book defending the notion of the universe as the creation of God.
      Sir William Ramsay: those who knew him personally knew him to be an outspoken, evangelical Christian who had once intended to go into the ministry. Today scientists know him as the only person to ever discover a whole family of new elements.
      And George Washington Carver described himself as “a humble and sincere Christian” who never hesitated “to confess his faith in the God of the Bible and attribut[e] all his success and ability to God.”

      • Paradigm says:

        Yes, they all claim to be religious and and are involved with the church in different ways. But could this be because this was the dominant educational institution of its time? And could it be because those who clearly voiced opinions that contradicted the Christian dogma were punished, “mildly” by life long house arrest or less mildly by execution?

        We can only guess but I personally find your interpretation somewhat naive.

  8. Fassett says:

    Okay, I’ll put in my two cents. There is a certain point where “the letter of the law” becomes nonsensical. In this particular case, we are penalizing a group of people who BY RELIGIOUS MANDATE do not interfere in our lives. Surely we could do the same for them. It’s the same reason why certain students should not be coerced to say the Pledge of Allegiance. There is simply no need for it. I fully and wholeheartedly support their decision to flex their civil disobedience muscles, and I’m not even a religious man.

  9. David Yates says:

    Paradigm: “And this would be proof of how the church promoted science? By punishing him just because he stepped on someones toes?”
    Yes, Paradigm, as you yourself acknowledge, the Galileo affair was not really a case of ‘the Church versus science’ at all, but rather a messy disagreement between two vain men.
    Paradigm: “This ‘mild’ punishment was actually house arrest for life and he was forbidden to publizice any of his ideas.”
    What I had in mind was that Galileo’s punishment was mild especially when compared to the alternative. I remember a while ago having someone tell me that the Church had executed Galileo by burning him at the stake! Compared to that I’m sure you’d agree that house arrest was relatively mild.
    Paradigm: “It took until 1758 for them to drop books on helicoentrism from their Index of Forbidden Books. And it took until 2000 (sic) for the Catholic church to apologize for the trial against Galileo. Meanwhile all those ungratefull scientists were comfy like fish in water in the encouraging climate provided by this institution…”
    Nice attempt at diversion here, Paradigm. I didn’t claim that the Church, as an institution, provided the necessary conditions within which science would flourish, but rather that it was the Judeo-Christian/biblical worldview. I should think that point was made pretty clear in my preceding post.

    • Paradigm says:

      “Nice attempt at diversion here, Paradigm. I didn’t claim that the Church, as an institution, provided the necessary conditions within which science would flourish, but rather that it was the Judeo-Christian/biblical worldview. I should think that point was made pretty clear in my preceding post.”

      Nice attempt right back atcha. Like this worldview was not created and upheld by the institution that monoplized all things Christian. Now you are just being silly.

      • David Yates says:

        No. It was not “created and upheld by the institution that monoplized (sic) all things Christian.” (Whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean?!?) As I stated, it was a BIBLICAL worldview, derived FROM the Bible. Go back and take a look-see at all those dates beside all those men’s names. Notice anything? There are a few scientific pioneers prior to the establishment of Guttenberg’s printing press and the subsequent period of the Reformation. But it’s after this, after the Bible has been translated into the various vernacular tongues of Europe, and put into more and more people’s hands that things really started to take off. Prior to that, the Bible wasn’t read by the laity — that is, the vast majority of the population. Not that most of them could read anyway, but the added obstacle was that the Bible was available only in Latin, which they didn’t speak. As such, Bible reading was purely the province of the clergy.
        Again, go back and check what those early pioneers of science otherwise did for a living. Again, notice anything? Robert Grosseteste was a Franciscan bishop. Both Roger Bacon and William of Ockham were Franciscan friars. Theodoric of Freiborg was a Dominican. Jean Buridan was French priest. Nicolas d’Oresme was the Bishop of Lisieux. And Nicolaus Copernicus was a church canon. All men with easy access to the Scriptures.
        Now go back and check those pioneers and contributors to science on the rest of the list — those coming after the mid-15th century when Bible reading became more and more widespread — and note how they were “involved with the church.” If memory serves, there are two ordained Anglican clergymen, one church pastor, and one Augustinian monk. Otherwise, the rest are all lay Christians.
        So, in light of all this, one might conclude that if you want to get smart, read your Bible. 😉

  10. David Yates says:

    Huh? So, with regard to all these people’s scientific discoveries, are you claiming that they were thereby “voic(ing) opinions that contradicted… Christian dogma,” and as a result were punished, either mildly or otherwise? Because if not, what’s your point?
    If they either pioneered or made significant contributions to all these various and diverse fields of science, and as a direct result were all — every one of them — punished by the Church, then you might have a case. But if they were not punished in any way, then obviously the Church posed no threat to scientific advance and your entire argument collapses to dust.
    But more than that, this whole line of argumentation makes no sense at all. For if these people were not punished for their scientific discoveries — and they weren’t — then why would there be a need to “fake” being Christian?
    Finally, that said, Paradigm, you previously accused me of proffering unsubstantiated claims, when the fact of the matter is the only one doing that here is you. For example, if you have any evidence whatsoever that any of the people I listed above should not be taken at their word, but were instead only “claiming” to be Christians, as you suggest, then let’s see it. Otherwise, kindly stop these, frankly, fatuous and malicious insinuations. (I’m sure you wouldn’t appreciate it if someone refused to take you at your word, and instead claimed that you were merely pretending to be an atheist.)

  11. Paradigm says:

    “Huh? So, with regard to all these people’s scientific discoveries, are you claiming that they were thereby “voic(ing) opinions that contradicted… Christian dogma,” and as a result were punished, either mildly or otherwise? Because if not, what’s your point?”

    No, I mean that they were held back by the church and avoided to to contradict its dogma since they didn’t like to get their careers put to a halt. Regardless of why Galileo was punished it must have been obvious to everyone that opposing the dogma could easily be used against them by anyone whos toes they may have stepped on or anyone who just wanted their place.

    “There are a few scientific pioneers prior to the establishment of Guttenberg’s printing press and the subsequent period of the Reformation. But it’s after this, after the Bible has been translated into the various vernacular tongues of Europe, and put into more and more people’s hands that things really started to take off.”

    And by scientific literature so which was the most inspiring? I don’t think it was the incoherent and contradictory tales in the Bible but who can tell.

    “Finally, that said, Paradigm, you previously accused me of proffering unsubstantiated claims, when the fact of the matter is the only one doing that here is you. For example, if you have any evidence whatsoever that any of the people I listed above should not be taken at their word, but were instead only “claiming” to be Christians, as you suggest, then let’s see it. Otherwise, kindly stop these, frankly, fatuous and malicious insinuations.”

    My argument is that atheism amounts to heresy which in many countries was punishable by death. They would fake to avoid torture or death. But even common social pressure will make people comply to a great many things. Taking people at their word in a situation like that seems almost autistic, but I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.

    • David Yates says:

      Paradigm: “No, I mean that they were held back by the church and avoided to to contradict its dogma since they didn’t like to get their careers put to a halt.”
      How were they held back by the Church?!? We have their scientific discoveries! And since we have their scientific discoveries, were their “careers” cruelly ended? Were they defrocked and/or excommunicated as a result of their scientific investigations?
      In a word: No. So again, your argument collapses, Paradigm, you have no point.
      Paradigm: “Regardless of why Galileo was punished it must have been obvious to everyone that opposing the dogma could easily be used against them by anyone whos toes they may have stepped on or anyone who just wanted their place.”
      Okay, this is a theory. (A silly one, I think, but fine, let’s go with it). Now, do you have even a scintilla of evidence to support it? Or is this simply more idle, baseless speculation on your part?
      Paradigm: “And by scientific literature so which was the most inspiring? I don’t think it was the incoherent and contradictory tales in the Bible but who can tell.”
      I can tell. Anybody who knows even a smidgeon of history can tell. What scientific literature would you be referring to? Can you tell me which scientific texts became so popular and widespread that practically everybody in Europe would have had copies of them?
      The truth is, you’re being awfully anachronistic here. Books were prohibitively expensive back then and therefore relatively scarce. However, the one and only book that people all over Europe would have done their utmost to have a copy of was the Bible. It was the most read book in Europe then, and is the most read book in all of history.
      “Incoherent and contradictory”? Not only is the Bible the most read book in all of history, it’s also the most influential.
      People like you often disparage Christianity and the Church, but if it was somehow possible to yank from the world all the charitable and social aid organizations that were started and operated by Christians, everybody would be stunned, and the world would be a whole lot meaner.
      I honestly don’t wish to toot my own horn here, but I’m disabled and rely on govt-assistance. Yet, motivated by our Christian faith, we regularly give to various charities, I volunteer every week at a local foodbank, and every other week I help make and serve breakfast at our city’s largest homeless shelter, my wife and I sponsor a young boy in India and our kids voluntarily give a portion of their allowance to sponsor a little girl in Central America, and each year we travel down to Mexico for a week to help with the construction of either a home or a school.
      May I ask what you, motivated by your atheism, do for the less fortunate, Paradigm?
      Paradigm: “My argument is that atheism amounts to heresy which in many countries was punishable by death. They would fake to avoid torture or death. But even common social pressure will make people comply to a great many things. Taking people at their word in a situation like that seems almost autistic, but I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.”
      No, no, no. You’re just trying to take the easy way out of this. If you have a single shred of evidence that indicates even a single one of the men I listed was insincere in his Christian faith, then let’s see it.
      Either way, I think I’ve sufficiently proven that scientific inquiry and Christianity are in no way incompatible with each other, and furthermore, history has shown that, while the Judeo-Christian/biblical worldview may not constitute a sufficient cause for science to flourish within a culture, it is a necessary one.

  12. Paradigm says:

    “How were they held back by the Church?!? We have their scientific discoveries! And since we have their scientific discoveries, were their “careers” cruelly ended? Were they defrocked and/or excommunicated as a result of their scientific investigations?”

    The fact that they did achieve something is not evidence of not being held back. And Galileo was banned from publishing and heliocentric books were forbidden. How is that not being held back?

    ““Incoherent and contradictory”? Not only is the Bible the most read book in all of history, it’s also the most influential.”

    And this means it’s not incoherent and contradictory?

    This isn’t leading anywhere. You’re just trying to bury me in words and learned gibberish, instead of any sort of logic or common sense. So go on, have the last word (or long rant rather), I’ve said what I have to say and going in circles doesn’t appeal to me.

    • David Yates says:

      Paradigm: “The fact that they did achieve something is not evidence of not being held back. And Galileo was banned from publishing and heliocentric books were forbidden. How is that not being held back?”
      I’ve provided a list of over 60 Christians who’ve “achieved something” (and believe me, that’s not an exhaustive list by any stretch). At that rate, if the Church was indeed trying to “hold back” scientific advancement, if anything, it’s proven itself to be singularly bad at it and therefore poses little to no threat.
      As well, considering the rest of the story, the isolated example of the Galileo affair — the real cause of which I’ve already clarified — fails to suggest that the Church has systemically resisted scientific investigation throughout her history. In fact, if anything, it instead indicates that to even make the accusation is ridiculously unfair.
      In your initial post on this thread you began by making the (unsubstantiated) claim that predominantly atheist nations produce the greatest scientific advancement. It’s a flawed argument on its surface (any and all scientific progress in a given prevalently atheistic state might be achieved solely by its religious minority, and in fairness, the inverse could be true as well), but nevertheless, the fact that it was only Christian Europe that saw the Scientific Revolution proves your claim false.

      Paradigm: “And this means it’s not incoherent and contradictory?”
      This is coming from somebody who very likely knows next to nothing about the Bible. You’re calling the most influential book in history incoherent and contradictory? You don’t see a problem with that claim? Considering its level of influence over the past 2,000 years, don’t you think the most prudent course of action would be to ask yourself if perhaps it wasn’t your own judgement that was faulty? It’s the foundation text of Western civilization. Is it mere coincidence that all the best, freest, healthiest and wealthiest nations in which to live, all over the globe, all share a significant Christian heritage? (Heck, even Japan’s constitution was written by a Jesuit priest!) To the extent that any non-Western nation has enjoyed any success in those areas is commensurate with the extent to which they’ve Westernized. Conversely, to the extent that any Western countries are becoming places that suck is matched by the same measure to which they’re rejecting their Christian heritage.
      But besides that, the Bible is in truth a work of pure literary genius. People a heckuva lot smarter than either you or me have dedicated their entire lives to its study and still have not plumbed its depths.

      Paradigm: “This isn’t leading anywhere. You’re just trying to bury me in words and learned gibberish, instead of any sort of logic or common sense. So go on, have the last word (or long rant rather), I’ve said what I have to say and going in circles doesn’t appeal to me.”
      Well, at least I don’t cherry pick from your responses, neglecting your major points altogether, and then comment only on little carefully chosen snippets here and there. On the other hand, I’ve supported my arguments with names, dates, and quotations. All I get back from you is unwarranted speculation. And I’m sorry, Paradigm, but if anybody is displaying a lack of common sense here, it’s you, by obstinately refusing to acknowledge what should be painfully obvious — that you’re mistaken in your claim that Christianity and reason (which you linked to scientific advancement) are antithetical with each other.
      There. Now I’ve said what I have to say.

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