Surely, however, the conflict of science and religion is something new? A common story goes something like this: while there were early stirrings of dissent in Pope Urban VIII’s condemnation of Galileo, it was the principled opposition to tradition and superstition in the eighteenth-century movement known as ‘the Enlightenment’ which really got the argument going, and then Darwin dealt the vital death-blow to traditional readings of Scripture. Since that time, people have accepted that science is a superior way to truth, and that religion is outmoded, an anti-intellectual clinging to discredited traditions.
If this story were true, then we could not expect to hear any echoes of recent debates in antiquity. There is truth in the story: experimental science is a relatively new practice, which began about the time of Galileo, and it has been remarkably successful in offering theories, usually mathematical, that either describe the way the world works or at least successfully model it. At the heart of the method of experimental science is the careful and disciplined observation of the natural world.
The ancient Greeks would never have given time to such careful observation. They generally believed that the material world was made up of flawed and imperfect copies of spiritual realities. Why study a distorted copy when you can contemplate the original, they would have asked. Our current debates about science and religion are not really about scientific method, however. Today we all accept that the best way to find out how the natural world works is by science. (Even Christian creationists do not deny the explanatory power of science. Instead, they claim that an alternative scientific construction, which is more in accord with a particular reading of parts of the book of Genesis, is a better way of explaining the observed scientific evidence than the generally- accepted scientific view). Rather, our interesting debates are at deeper philosophical levels about our human identity, and morality, and the origin of the world. The ancient Greeks debated precisely these points at length, and we can find insight for our own debates in what they had to say.
Source: Test of Faith (Dr. Stephen R. Holmes)