Did science originate in Christianity? (2/2)

The argued that there were two books by which humans could understand God. One was the Bible; the other was nature. One Could approach God through learning the Bible; one could also approach God by learning the natural world through reason and observation. Both books were held to be true. Beginning with Anselm (1033-1109) and Abelard (1079-1142), medieval Christian scholastic theologians emphasized the use of critical reason so much that the Protestant Reformers later accused them of putting reason ahead of the Bible.

Still, one can’t properly speak of science as early as the 1100s, because natural philosophy was still mostly theoretical, relying on reason and mathematics rather than on observation. The domination of medieval philosophy by the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle in the 1200s and 1300s aided the development of theory but also stifled originality by making Aristotle’s views standard and virtually unquestionable.

The profound effort of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) to combine theology with Aristotelian natural philosophy was brilliant and monumental, but it accepted Aristotle as the last word on too many topics. The combination of reason and observation to produce true science began in the late 1200s and flowered in the 1300s and 14005. Albertus Magnus (1200-1280) made intricate botanical observations. William of Ockham (1285-1347) is famous for “Occam’s razor,” the still valuable idea that the simplest explanation covering all known observations is usually the best.5“ But Ockham also made an important theological distinction that enabled the development of science in Christianity Without the impediments that it had encountered in Islam. Ockham said that although God’s power is absolute, God chooses to create a consistent system in which he rarely intervenes.

This premise enabled Christians to believe in a cosmos constructed along rationally coherent, observable principles-Without denying that God has the power to change anything if he wished. For example, God could choose to rnake a cosmos without planets, in which case he would not be “able” to make the cosmos with planets. To use the old, crude question, “Can God make a rock heavier than he can lift,” the answer is no, he can’t.

God is logical: he is not bound by human logic but chooses to bind himself by his own logic. Robert Grosseteste (1168-1263), _lean Buridan (1300-1358), Nicolas Oresme (1323-1382), Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) and others made observations of importance to astronomy, optics, medicine and the physics of motion. Buridan even anticipated Copernicus and Galileo in conducting thought experiments that indicated that the Earth was in motion. Again, this brings us to the time of Copernicus. The growth of science from the 1600s onward is one ofthe greatest phenomena of human existence, and it came out of Christianity. Destructive to both Christianity and science is the deconstruction and relativism that promotes the idea that anyone’s science is as good as anyone else’s because there is no objective reality. Combining hydrogen and sulfur will never produce ice cream. Deconstruction is a reversion to ancient rnythologies that lack the idea of rational connections and regularities. Scientists and Christians prefer to pursue truth.

Source: Burton Russell, J (2012) Exposing the Myths About Christianity. IVP Books

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