Here’s a quote from the book Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion:

In Augustine’s influential view, then, knowledge of the things of this world is not a legitimate end in itself, but as a means to other ends it is indispensable. The classical sciences must accept a subordinate position as the handmaiden of theology and religion — the temporal serving the eternal. The knowledge contained in classical sciences is not to be loved, but it may legitimately be used. This attitude toward scientific knowledge cam to prevail throughout the Middle Ages and survived well into the modern period. Augustine’s handmaiden science was defended explicitly and at great length, for example, by Roger Bacon in the thirteenth century, whose defense of useful knowledge contributed to notoriety as one of the founders of experimental science.

That’s historian David Lindberg. For the record, the “myth” he was addressing was, “That the Rise of Christianity was Responsible for the Demise of Ancient Science.” But that’s not really what interests me about this.

The first thing that struck me about Lindberg’s statement is that it is a near-perfect summary of the way modern young-Earth creationists view the relationship between science and religion. Their view is that science is a marvelous activity that can be used to glorify God, but only when carried out within the confines of the eternal truths of Scripture. YEC’s are far more in step with major trends in Christian history than many modern theologians would like to admit.

The other thing that struck me relates also to a common theme through many of the essays in the book. The contributors are keen to emphasize that the Roman Catholic Church did much to spread the advance of science, for example by establishing the first modern universities complete with science faculties, and by encouraging many scientists, including Galileo initially, in their work. There was no shortage of medieval scholastics arguing that a serious study of nature could only distract one from the important truths of theology, so this willingness to fund scientific research is not to be brushed aside lightly. I have no problem with that, though I would add that while the Church did much to promote the advance of science it also did much to stand in its way.

The handmaiden view might be a necessary step in the transition from a society in which knowledge is carefully policed by religious authorities to one where the spirit of free inquiry reigns, but anyone espousing it today would be considered profoundly anti-science. That science emerged from a religious backdrop, and in most cases was pioneered by people who held deep religious convictions is not controversial. Given the political and financial dominance of the Church in Europe during the relevant time period it is hard to imagine from where else science was supposed to emerge.

But science has now completely outgrown its handmaiden status, to the point where it is theology that must constantly fight, at least among educated people, to prove its relevance. Those medieval scholastics have been entirely vindicated in their fears. For several centuries now science has been producing reliable knowledge about the world at a clip that only seems to be increasing, to the point where there are so many avenues of investigation still left to explore that it just seems a bit silly to take time out for studying the Bible. During the same time period, theologians have mostly been reacting, trying to explain why the latest scientific advances have not completely relegated their holy texts to the dustbin.

That modern professional science is largely the offspring of religious men working for religious institutions is an amusing historical fact, and useful against some of the more extreme versions of the conflict thesis between science and religion. But it is of no value in deciding on the proper relationship between them today. Theology is today deservedly marginalized in academic life, while science is the gold standard for producing reliable knowledge.

People who speak of dialogue between them are little more than an endearing anachronism.

Comments

  1. #1 Antonio Jerez
    January 22, 2010

    Wow! This is actually one of your best posts ever. The funny thing is that nowadays it seems like it is science that has many Christian theologians come up with new ideas about what God actually is and how he acts. They go on claiming that God is like this or that until new scientic discoveries make their present “claims” about God and his working methods unsupportable. It is a real farce.

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    January 22, 2010

    … the “myth” he was addressing was, “That the Rise of Christianity was Responsible for the Demise of Ancient Science.”

    After reading Charles Freeman’s The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason, I suspect David Lindberg has set himself a near-impossible task.

    How do you think he fared, all in all? (That use of quotes doesn’t look too good for Lindberg’s case…)

  3. #3 The Science Pundit
    January 22, 2010

    Oops! I forgot that two links puts me in moderation limbo. Great post!

  4. #4 NewEnglandBob
    January 22, 2010

    Science has religion running and hiding, having nothing of substance to say about anything since science has taken over and has given rational explanation for most phenomena. Now cognitive science and other disciplines are stripping the last vestiges of authority from religion about the genesis (pun intended) of morality and the free will question.

  5. #5 Anon
    January 22, 2010

    Back in the early Ordovician, when I was a church-goer (eventually a born-again Xian, on my way to atheism), my pastor very actively encouraged skepticism, critical evaluation, and essentially science, because he fully believed that all roads lead to the same Truth he had found. I think an honest believer *must* think science will lead to Truth, and that it is only the dishonest “believers” (or those who have been convinced by them) who actively oppose science.

  6. #6 Tony61
    January 22, 2010

    As Pierce alluded to above, Freeman’s treatise on the effect that religion in the Antique had on the stunting of scientific development cannot be overstated.

    Religion kept it’s hand on the tiller of scientific discovery, not so much to promote it, but to monitor and squelch it when it became too influential, or at least to front run science enough to mold theology to its facts.

    How much delay had we seen just in the principal investigators from Galileo, Copernicus and Darwin… imagine the discoveries and investigations that had not taken place for fear of religious retribution over those centuries.

    Also, agree this is an excellent post.

  7. #7 Robert O'Brien
    January 23, 2010

    Science has religion running and hiding, having nothing of substance to say about anything since science has taken over and has given rational explanation for most phenomena. Now cognitive science and other disciplines are stripping the last vestiges of authority from religion about the genesis (pun intended) of morality and the free will question.

    NewEnglandSlob,

    You can add those delusions to your stockpile. Much of cognitive science is pure flatulence.

  8. #8 Cathy Sander
    January 23, 2010

    Robert O’Brien: How do you know that “Much of cognitive science is pure flatulence”? Making such an assertion without much evidence for it is not useful, let alone true.

  9. #9 Ettore Grillo
    January 23, 2010

    We are too accustomed to the duality. So we tend to discriminate between things, ideas, morals and so on. We don’t see the human being, the life like a whole, an unity. So we discriminate, between good and evil, science and religion, faith and reason and so on. Personally in my quest I use both faith and reason, science and religion, they are like two wings of a bird, as a bird cannot fly by only one wing, so we cannot go on in our physical or metaphysical researches by using only one wing. We need both.
    The book I have recently written may help in this direction and I want to draw it to your attention. The title is “Travels of the Mind”. It is available at http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/TravelsOfTheMind.html
    If you have any questions, I am most willing to offer my views on this topic.
    Ettore Grillo

  10. #10 Michael Kremer
    January 23, 2010

    On Freeman’s book The Closing of the Western Mind: let’s just say it’s reception among professional historians was mixed, to say the least. You might find this interesting reading:

    http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2009/06/closing-of-western-mind-by-charles.html

    Maybe this book: http://www.amazon.com/Beginnings-Western-Science-Philosophical-Institutional/dp/0226482057/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264273374&sr=1-1

    should be read in conjunction with Freeman?

  11. #11 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    January 23, 2010

    I’ve heard the “religion fostered the birth of science” line before, and it smacks of the genetic fallacy.

  12. #12 Noah Stewart
    January 23, 2010

    It is unfortunate that all the evidence is against you; evolutionism has no legs to stand on and is an invalid theory. Maybe if you checked out some books on the way God created the universe, you’d be in for a real wake-up call.

  13. #13 Michael Kremer
    January 23, 2010

    Noah: You seem to be committing the fallacy of false belief.

    Bayesian: And the “Christianity caused the downfall of science” line — post hoc, ergo propter hoc?

    (And a note to my previous: the critical review of Freeman at http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2009/06/closing-of-western-mind-by-charles.html is by an atheist and no friend of Christianity. Just in case anyone was wondering.)

  14. #14 Dave
    January 23, 2010

    Jason,

    Check Richard Carrier’s blog post thoroughly debunking the idea that medieval christianity had anything to contribute to science. Either the Greeks or Romans had already invented it and put the inventions into practical use, whereupon the christians neglected or forgot about the science and technology, or the Renaissance after 1300 began to reinvent what christianity lost.

  15. #15 Petra
    January 23, 2010

    First off, Noah’s post has to be a joke.

    Right?

    Second off, I found this series of phrases most interesting:

    “Theology is today deservedly marginalized in academic life, while science is the gold standard for producing reliable knowledge.

    People who speak of dialogue between them are little more than an endearing anachronism.”

    If you mean “dialogue” as “religion can inform science and impact how it works,” I agree with you. But if you mean that actual dialogue between science and religion doesn’t really happen anymore, I disagree. Outside of evolution, at least, I think that dialogue can happen in a very non-accommodating way, and still does help science – or at least the advancement of certain scientific objectives. For example, I’ve been sucked into the “collaborationism” discussion that somehow got cranked up via a link posted at Mooney’s blog this week (I have no idea how, because it’s counter to everything Mooney advocates). I’ve been following the science v. religion wars for years, but I’ve somehow missed that science and religion have been working together in very non-accommodating ways (i.e. this “collaborationism” thing) because no one ever seems to talk about them. So, in that way, dialogue betwen science and religion is still very real, and still produces results for science, if only in a case-by-case basis. Broadly informative dialogue between them is certainly dead, however. And we’re better for it.

    Anyway, excellent post. It’s certainly time to dispell the myths.

  16. #16 NewEnglandBob
    January 24, 2010

    Robert O’Brien, your post exposes you as an ignorant moron. Calling names shows you to be mentally about the age 0f 8. No one takes you seriously, especially after a fart joke. Its time to grow up and get an education Robert O’Brien.

  17. #17 Michael Kremer
    January 24, 2010

    Dave (@#15) and Jason:

    Check out not only Carrier’s post, but the discussion (especially the comments by Humphrey) and the responses by Flynn and at the Quodlibeta blog (apparently also by Humphrey).

    http://m-francis.livejournal.com/131531.html#cutid1

    http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2010/01/not-even-remotely-scientific-behaviour.html

    The issue seems to be complex. Carrier is not simply shown to be right in all of this. Nor is he simply shown to be wrong. History is messy.

  18. #18 Michael Kremer
    January 24, 2010

    More from Flynn responding to Carrier:

    http://m-francis.livejournal.com/132405.html

    On this particular point he seems to have it over Carrier. For the rest, history is messy.

  19. #19 Robert O'Brien
    January 24, 2010

    NewEnglandSlob,

    I realize that you are intellectually circumscribed, but referring to something as pure flatulence is not a fart joke. By way of contrast, writing that your comments are like a fart in that they befoul the air for a few moments, then dissipate for lack of substance is a fart joke, of a kind.

    Cognitive “scientists” have advanced countless bogus claims, an example of which would be the claims of Lakoff and Núñez in their book, Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being.

  20. #20 Pierce R. Butler
    January 24, 2010

    Michael Kremer @ # 10 – Thanks for passing along that review.

    The critic seemingly makes some good points – I’m not well enough read on the era to form judgments with real confidence – but the commenters (including Freeman) also offer potentially telling rebuttals.

    The one glitch I noticed in the reviewer’s piece was how he committed the same sin of which he accuses Freeman. By stating that the Romans did persecute Christians, and leaving it at that, he disregards the intermittent and (mostly) localized nature of said oppression – just as Freeman purported did with the generalized trends he described.

    None of which throws either side out of the game, of course. Even with the heat in that exchange, it was miles above most of the “science did too come from religion!” blatheration going on.

  21. #21 Andrew
    January 24, 2010

    It would be nice if instead of just repeating the same argument over and over, which is that science has relegated religion to the “dust bin”, you would actually give us example of a scientific discovery overturning or directly contradicting something in the Bible.

    The fact is, science does not make value judgements and it does not answer “why” questions. It answers “what” and “how” questions.

  22. #22 Jim
    January 24, 2010

    “It would be nice if instead of just repeating the same argument over and over . . . you would actually give us example of a scientific discovery overturning or directly contradicting something in the Bible.”

    This defies comment.

  23. #23 NewEnglandBob
    January 24, 2010

    Robert O’Brien is still acting like a juvenile by name calling. I have no idea who those people you quoted in your childish response are.

    My comment referred to neuroscience: molecular and cellular neuroscience, neurolinguistics, behavioral neuroscience, systems neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, neural engineering, etc. by people like Oliver Sacks, Francis Crick, Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, Robert Sapolsky, Wilder Penfield, Alois Alzheimer,Richard Davidson, etc.

  24. #24 Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth [Carneades]
    January 24, 2010

    Thanks,Jason.
    What about White’s and Draper’s books on science versus religion [that superstition]?
    Jason and others, two more most excellent sites are Digital-Bits Skeptic and Urban Philosophy.

  25. #25 Tommykey
    January 25, 2010

    Given the political and financial dominance of the Church in Europe during the relevant time period it is hard to imagine from where else science was supposed to emerge.

    Same thing with art during Medieval times. It nearly always depicted Christian themes. It was not until maybe the 15th century that you have wealthy patrons outside of the church having portraits of themselves painted or depicting stories from Greek mythology.

  26. #26 Blake Stacey
    January 25, 2010

    Printing with movable type did the spread of knowledge a great favour, but we’re not stuck with lead alloy any longer. If we are to be grateful to medieval Christianity for nurturing the development of science, then how much more gratitude should we have for modern secularism, for the global scientific community which has made more discoveries than ever before in human history.

  27. #27 JimC
    January 25, 2010

    you would actually give us example of a scientific discovery overturning or directly contradicting something in the Bible.

    The fact is, science does not make value judgements and it does not answer “why” questions. It answers “what” and “how” questions.

    Actually it answers allot of why questions pretty well, and with real answers and not the dogma of religion which really doesn’t offer answers at all.

    Oh and see the planet stop turning recently? Me either. Global flood-nope, origin of language – little different than the bible version.

  28. #28 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 25, 2010

    Each chapter in the Numbers’ anthology begins with an epigraph that illustrates the myth under discussion. For Lindberg’s chapter the epigraph comes from Freeman’s book. So Lindberg plainly sees his essay as a refutation of Freeman in particular.

    As for how successful Lindberg is, it is hard to say. His main argument is that early Christian thinkers integrated much of Greek philosophy into their thinking. Furthermore, the attitude of those early Christians was not that science and inquiry into nature were unimportant, but rather that they were of secondary importance to studying the scriptures. The handmaiden quote given in the opening post is a good illustration of what Lindberg has in mind. Thus it is not right to say that early Christians killed Greek science and replaced reason with faith. Rather, it was more of a shift of priorities.

    I have only just started reading Freeman’s book, so I’m not completely sure what he is arguing. My impression of Freeman’s argument, though, is that he is viewing science as an approach to inquiry, in particular it is an approach that abjures the idea of a central authority declaring in advance the bounds of acceptable inquiry and investigation. Thus, I suspect he would see Lindberg’s argument as largely confirming his thesis. According to early Christians thinkers like Augustine, the value of inquiry and investigation of nature was measured solely by its relevance to understanding scripture. It is this attitude that, I think, Freeman sees as antithetical to science and as something very different from the views of the major Greek scientists and philosophers.

    I might have a different opinion after I have had a chance to read Freeman’s book and the links provided by earlier commenters, but that is how it seems to me right now.

  29. #29 Starry Night
    January 25, 2010

    One of the great questions in science is indeed about “Why” Why do we see self-ordering systems in nature? Candle flames self-order. Life itself began as a self-ordered phenomenon and quickly evolved a capacity remember how to repeat the process of ordering by storing information about what to do.If you look at the stunning Hubble telescope photo called “Pillars of Creation,” you will see stars beginning to form——self-ordering on a cosmic scale that may eventually produce civilizations.If an explanation for self-ordering exists, a very big “why” would be addressed, and could provide insights into a relationship between science and moral order, if not between traditional religions and science.

  30. #30 Bob
    January 26, 2010

    There is a theory on the origin of religion. This theory is the supreme power theory. This theory states that for every power, there is a greater power, a larger tree for every tree. The theory states that the greatest tree, or power, is the supreme power. It then states that the supreme power is expressed in religion, as the Olympians, Allah, and so on. You will not find this theory in any books, or not very likely, and I really doubt you can find it on the internet. Rather, I developed this with my mother (I’m only fourteen).

  31. #31 pough
    January 26, 2010

    @NewEnglandBob: Robert O’Brien is simply attempting to get himself an award.

  32. #32 tobin
    January 26, 2010

    Bob,

    Nice theory on the supreme power. Thanks for the chuckle…

  33. #33 Scott Hatfield, OM
    January 27, 2010

    I think this business about Christianity relegating science to a secondary role is overdrawn. The Roman Empire was not fundamentally about natural philosophy or exploration. It was a political entity that absorbed, but never fully appreciated the Ionian polises which were the actual cradle of ancient thought. One of the Republic’s last casualties was the Library at Alexandria!

    We are the children of a civilization that has always rewarded applied science, but rarely celebrated science for its own sake. I agree with Blake that we should be grateful for the appearance of a global scientific community, but it is somewhat misleading to recast the history of science by our present circumstance, in which 98 percent of the scientists who have EVER lived are still alive. The truth is our time is atypical, and even in our time science is not truly preeminent in the global culture. If we miss that perspective, we’re crafting a Whig history of the relationship between science and religion.

    For the record, the early Christians were eager to harmonize the Jewish traditions concerning God and heaven with Greek philosophy, especially when they were a minority, because that made them more appealing to the various mystery cults inspired by Hellenic culture. Thus Neoplatonism. Later, as Christianity became a temporal power and schisms emerged, scholars associated with pagan traditions were persecuted and killed. But you know what? Neither group, nor the cultures they lived in, ever regarded science as we do today.

  34. #34 rob
    January 28, 2010

    12 year old kids see through the deception of santa claus and his naughty-nice list. why can’t adults see through the deception of religion and their various versions of heaven-hell?

  35. #35 James Sweet
    January 29, 2010

    That science emerged from a religious backdrop, and in most cases was pioneered by people who held deep religious convictions is not controversial. Given the political and financial dominance of the Church in Europe during the relevant time period it is hard to imagine from where else science was supposed to emerge.

    Yeah really. This reminds me of the argument, put forward surprisingly often by Creationists given its idiocy, that “so-and-so who lived before Darwin didn’t believe in evolution by natural selection!” Um, yeah….

  36. #36 jonathan
    January 29, 2010

    What’s ironic for me is that anyone believes that the study of the presently observable universe can say anything as to whether or not a “God” exists. Science and theology are not in conflict. They are two different methods for discussing two different aspects of human life. Science being the discussion of how the present physical universe is, the other discussing something entirely different. As an atheist, it seems that science can neither prove nor disprove the reality of a divine being. Perhaps the author should study philosophy before posting such statements.

  37. #37 Badger3k
    January 29, 2010

    Science has been dealing with the claims of the religious for (at least) several hundred years. Yet, for all the many claims, none have ever been supported by evidence. If there is no evidence to believe a claim is true (the burden of proof is on the theist making the claim that their particular idea of god is real and exists and influences the world), then why should we take them seriously? What is the difference between a god for whom there is no evidence and a god that doesn’t exist?

    We aren’t discussing two different aspects of human life, we’re discussing what is real. Religion claims to answer the “why” questions by making stuff up. Anyone can do it, and many people have. The scientific method is a practical way of discovering what is real, completely at odds with religions way of creating “answers” out of thin air.

    When a theist can bring any evidence – anything at all – that can withstand the slightest scientific scrutiny, then we can talk. Until then, we should treat the claims of believers the same as we treat the claims of those who believe in the tooth fairy. Well, at least the tooth fairy leaves money as evidence….

  38. #38 tomh
    January 30, 2010

    jonathan wrote:
    Science and theology are not in conflict. They are two different methods for discussing two different aspects of human life. Science being the discussion of how the present physical universe is, the other discussing something entirely different.

    What is this thing that is entirely different? How would religion know anything about it, this “something” that has nothing to do with how the present physical universe is? And the method of science is not to “discuss” the universe, but to study it and gather evidence to explain it. The method of religion is to invent answers without evidence. To equate the two is just silly.

  39. #39 G Felis
    January 30, 2010

    I always wondered who this “Robert O’Brian” (comments 7 & 19 above) Ed Brayton named a stupidity trophy after was. Now I know. And now I know why the “honor.”

  40. #40 Anti-O'Brien
    January 31, 2010

    “I realize that you are intellectually circumscribed . . .”

    I’m impressed that everyone just let this little gem from O’Brien go but I just can’t ignore it anymore. It had to be highlighted.

  41. #41 Robert
    February 1, 2010

    I came upon this blog today. Mostly more intelligent and polite than many others. I have been looking for reasons why, intelligent, scientifically informed people continue to believe in God. What possible purpose or effect could a God have in the universe as described by science? The science/theology dualism seems to be the last possible refuge for believers. The argument that theology answers the ‘why’ and science answers the ‘how’ seems fallacious. I think in the end, all answers to why questions become how questions. Why are we here – how did life form and evolve. Even the workings of the mind seem to be based entirely on physical processes – very complex and I suspect indeterminable due to quantum affects.
    So, what we have are hundreds of thousands of religious leaders trying to determine what is right and wrong based on essentially stone-age beliefs. We need moral leaders who understand the real world and can provide leadership on how we can live together on this planet.
    As for disproving God, if any one can give me a working definition of Him, one that at least makes him meaningful in the real world, I think I could disprove him.

  42. #42 Michael
    February 1, 2010

    Anti-O’Brien @#40: One meaning of “circumscribe” is “To limit narrowly; restrict.” (American Heritage Dictionary) So O’Brien is calling NewEnglandSlob intellectually limited or restricted.

    I wonder whether you confused “circumscribe” with another word that begins with “circum…”

  43. #43 eric
    February 1, 2010

    OT but the New York Times has started a series of (weekly?) Op-Ed articles on Mathematics. First one is titled From Fish to Infinity.

    I just hope that this is in addition to, and not replacement of, Olivia Judson’s weekly evolution articles…

  44. #44 tomh
    February 2, 2010

    @eric

    I hope it’s a replacement for the idiot Stanley Fish.

  45. #45 Antonio Jerez
    February 2, 2010

    Robert wrote:
    “As for disproving God, if any one can give me a working definition of Him, one that at least makes him meaningful in the real world, I think I could disprove him.”

    I think you will go on looking in wain for believers to give you a meaningful definition of God. When science has disproven one of their definitions of God they just redefine him, even to the point where their redefined God really hasn´t any connection at all to a figure like the traditional Christian God.

  46. #46 Charles Freeman
    February 10, 2010

    Glad to see my Closing of the Western Mind is still being discussed after all these years. I consolidated some of the ideas in a shortened and more focussed form in my AD 381 and there is now my A New History of Early Christianity.
    Tim O’Neill in Armarium Magnum makes the mistake of thinking that my book should be about his beloved Middle Ages when it isn’t. I didn’t become involved in the discussion, any more than I will here, as Closing is based on research done ten years ago and I am not going to reread it all especially to respond. I shall still be interested in any thoughts about it . My views that there was a massive closing down of freedom of thought, which ESPECIALLY affected Christian theological debate ( a point I wanted to stress in AD 381) have strengthened over the years. Christians suffered as much from the closing down of debate and the prohibition of ‘heresies’ as pagans and Jews in the fourth and fifth centuries. It would be wonderful if theologians realized that.
    I could not work out whether David Lindberg, whose book I like, had actually read Closing or not. It was such a dismissive criticism of my whole argument that he gave the impression that he had not. I was flattered that he felt he had to refer to it though!
    I stood aside from the discussion that followed from Armarium’s review-it wove all over the place- I am sorry that he rather discredited himself by his rants against me at the end. I , and I suspect many others who read his rants, can hardly take him very seriously from now on and when I last looked at what he was up to, he was busy seeing off commentators who disagreed with his views on the Middle Ages. Not good for long term business. Charles Freeman.

  47. #47 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 10, 2010

    Charles -

    Thanks for stopping by. I’ll add your more recent books to my reading list.

  48. #48 Charles Freeman
    February 12, 2010

    Thanks, Jason. I did not mean to be churlish in saying I would not debate Closing of the Western Mind. However, I did the research for it ten years ago and this Armarium guy, who unilaterally decided to do a 5,000 word review, seemed to think I would drop out of my busy schedule and answer his every point. Fed up with criticism that I was against Christianity as such, my AD 381 showed how theological debate was highly sophisticated in the best tradition of Greek intellectual thought in the fourth century but had been stifled by the emperor Theodosius in AD 381 when HE proclaimed the Trinity as orthodox. As there were enormous financial and political advantages to toeing the line, those not condemned as heretics suddenly proclaimed that the Trinity was the ONLY way of defining the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son. The political dimensions of this theology were then airbrushed from history. Theodosius continued by closing down all pagan festivals in the 390s. If this was not a Closing down I don’t know what is.
    Yale University press then approached me and asked me whether I would write this all up in a single volume which would include Jesus and the gospels and take the story up to AD 600. This is my New History of Early Christianity. One result of the end of the Greek intellectual tradition was a rise in belief in the miraculous and Yale will be publishing my book on medieval relic cults in the Spring of 2011.
    I have my critics, of course, – we would not live in a free society if I did not – but if you look at reviews by Amazon readers of my books, you will see I have a very loyal following of people who enjoy what I write. , Good reading, Charles Freeman.

  49. #49 Kennesaw Williams
    February 20, 2010

    Jason: I don’t mean this snidely, but would you please stop putting an “apostrophe s” after YEC. It’s very disconcerting. Just the “s” (as in “all YECs are left-handed midgets” or whatever) is sufficient, and much more aesthetically pleasing. You’re showing plurality, not possessiveness.
    Thanks.

  50. #50 Tim O'Neill
    February 21, 2010

    Charles Freeman took time from his busy schedule to write:

    “Tim O’Neill in Armarium Magnum makes the mistake of thinking that my book should be about his beloved Middle Ages when it isn’t.”

    Actually Charles, all I wanted you to do was explain why, if it was Constantine and successors that “closed the western mind”, the best you could come up with for the wonderful flourishing of Roman and Hellenic science in the Second and Third Centuries were Galen, Ptolemy, Diophantus and … well, nobody else. The scientific cupboard was pretty bare in that period, yet this was long before the villains of your story come on the scene. You never explain this, and simply obscure it with some vague handwaving about how there is now “increasing respect for the achievements of the Greeks under the Roman Empire”. Really? Based on what? Where are all the scientists of the Second and Third Centuries then?

    I was also keen for you to explain why you spent pages highlighting the Church fathers who condemned pagan learning and yet virtually ignored the ones who argued it was compatible with Christianity. Given that the latter WON the debate and laid the foundations for the later enshrining of reason at the heart of the Medieval university curriculum, this was one of many bizarre absences in your book. Your thesis has Aquinas’ commitment to reason springing fully formed seemingly from nowhere rather than being the result of a long line of thinkers stretching back through Boethius (who you don’t even mention) and Augustine to Clement of Alexandria. The most charitable explanation of these weird silences is that you neglected all this out of pure ignorance. The less charitable interpretation is that you neglected it because it totally undermines your creaking and tendentious thesis.

    “this Armarium guy, who unilaterally decided to do a 5,000 word review, seemed to think I would drop out of my busy schedule and answer his every point.”

    I “unilaterally” decided to write a review? Sorry? Was I supposed to get someone’s permission first? Whose? The UN’s? Yours? What the hell are you talking about?

    And this wibbling about your “busy schedule” preventing you from replying to my review would cut a bit more ice if you ahdn’t spent 2,898 words on my blog commenting on my review and telling me (in 2,898 words!) how you didn’t have time to reply to it. Maybe you can’t see the humour in that, but others certainly did I can assure you.

    I’ll let you get back to your busy schedule now.

  51. #51 Neal
    April 26, 2010

    You said, “But science has now completely outgrown its handmaiden status, to the point where it is theology that must constantly fight”…

    So why is there constant fighting about evolution? Because it is THEOLOGY! In the negative sense. Evolution is considered a FACT, by some, not because all the evidence supports it, but because Design or Creation is not allowed. Period.

    FOLLOW THE MONEY and the answer is clear as to why evolutionists circle their wagons and constantly fight off skepticism of their theory with slurs, anger, put downs, and empty rhetoric.

    Evolution is supported by a prejudiced and muddled paradigm that says “A God would not have created the world this way”. Perhaps if evolutionists would actually answer the skeptics questions with more than rhetoric or just-so stories the constant fights that evolutionist find themselves in would stop. Yes, there is some evidence to support evolution, but there is too much opposing evidence for it to be a sound theory any longer. The storm is coming.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!