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Vol. IX • 1987>v09n2p25.htm

Christianity & Science
Otto Scott

We live in peculiar times. Times when the heirs of Christendom are not taught that Christianity created our civilization, nor what that meant and means. They are guided into an admiration of science, without being taught that the emergence of the scientific method is precisely what distinguishes the Christian civilization from all others.

Nor can it be said that Science is a recent Christian undertaking. Science did not begin even in the Reformation, though certainly the Reformers gave it great impetus.

But Christendom was noted for its innovations and advances long before the sixteenth-century. Fr. Robert D. Smith, writing in The Wanderer, noted that "in other cultures, in the East and in the New World, the native music was that of single melodies, a single man playing a sitar… (but) Polyphony a central development in Western music, the idea that different concurrent melodies can be harmonized into one whole piece of music, the idea behind a band, a choir (in the Western sense), an orchestra, came from developments that started in Church music."

Medicine was another great area of Christian innovation. Sickness was regarded as a condition ordained by Fate in the Hindu and Buddhist religions: the sick were not to be disturbed. The Moslems thought that a sick man was impure, and should not be touched. In primitive areas, witch doctors wore devil masks, shook rattles and danced. Sometimes they achieved cures with roots and herbs; sometimes (as today) they provided poisons to unhappy wives or to ambitious rivals. Death and life were alike to witch doctors.

Only in the Christian cultures, during the ages of faith, did dedicated individuals devote themselves to tending the sick. Hospitals are a Christian invention; they did not exist before Christianity Their very name is Christian in origin. The dedication of Christians to the sick laid the foundations of modern medicine, benefited everyone in the world and are seldom, if ever, mentioned in histories or schools. All that is held aloft are errors from the Medieval period, misconceptions that in many instances were only corrected in very recent times, at enormous expense and with great difficulty Yet a deliberate impression has been created that Christianity is against the flesh.

Because Christians believed that the universe is ordered, they created tools by which to measure Time and Space. Clocks, navigational aids, measures, optical advances, watermills and windmills, advances in boat building, in architecture who can overlook the Cathedrals? were all contributions of Christianity.

Yet more than one modern historian goes to extraordinary lengths to glide past the contributions of Christianity to hold aloft the innovations of Asia, especially China. Hugh Thomas, in his History of the World excessively praised by the critics, incessantly praises Asiatic peoples for their innovations, and describes Western inventions as "belated." Not once does he refer to the odious tyrannies of Asia, the boundless executions, the frozen and static nature of virtually all Asian cultures before the advent of Christian missionaries and merchants.

Much the same practice is followed in our government schools: students are reminded, again and again that the Chinese discovered printing and gunpowder. Little is said of what they did with printing which remained static until a Christian craftsman, (not a scholar, not an aristocrat, but the proprietor of a printing shop) developed after experimentation moveable type. Nor did gunpowder provide the Chinese with anything more than the material for firecrackers until the West developed it into uses in both war and peace. Hardly ever are students told that local self-government, in the form of parliaments, was a product of the Middle Ages and not of modernity; that scientific research into the properties of metals, that the development of corporations (a mental construct), that agricultural advances in Europe were pursued more energetically and carried farther than in any other region on earth. The individualism that rose in the West was unknown to all other cultures, and held repugnant in the ancient world.

Our students are not told that orthodox Muslims in the 12th century (then in the vast majority) decided that all scientific research was heretical and blasphemous, and had it discontinued. Nor are students told inventions in other parts of the world, in non-Christian civilizations, were sporadic and virtually useless, since there was no infrastructure, no societal acceptance, by which they could be incorporated and advanced.

Schools do not teach that before the European nations could send their ships, merchants and missionaries around the world, to explore the oceans and map the islands and continents, Christianity had a thousand years of development. Instead, students are told about voyages of discovery (certainly discoveries to Europe) as though these were in some way an offense against civilizations too indolent, too inbred, too incurious, too self-centered to be curious about other inhabitants in the globe. They are even told that efforts to write the histories of these non-Christian nations constituted an injury to them, because European-biases were thus imposed upon other cultures.

Yet no barriers existed against explorations by other civilizations; no fences prevented their historians from writing about the West from an observational vantage. The fact is that no neutral observer can deny that it was Christianity which broke the narrow bounds of separate civilizations and forced the entire globe and all its peoples into the advances and inventions, the discoveries and wisdom of the accumulated Christian centuries.

The great spurt forward in scientific discoveries attendant upon the Reformation are described without reference to the Christianity that promoted and buttressed them. Scientific historians are aware, but seldom dwell, upon the deeply Christian nature of the early scientific societies and associations. And even today that the great majority of scientists are Christian remains a secret from the general public and students in our universities.

Reprinted from: Chalcedon Report, P.O. Box 158, Vallecito, California 95251

"Christianity & Science"
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