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Is Christianity At War With Science? (2/20

The truth is that the systematic and widespread repression of science and persecution of scientists by Christianity is a complete myth, as a number of modern historians acknowledge:

The myth of conflict first really got going during the Enlightenment (itself a description intended to derogate earlier eras) with the fiercely anti-clerical French philosophes.

In his Discours Preliminaire, D’Alembert paints a picture of men of the Renaissance finally throwing off the shackles of church domination so that rational enquiry can at last begin.

This idea, exposed as rubbish by studies of the highly rational scholastic thought of the Middle Ages by the likes of Edward Grant and Alexander Murray, was continued through the nineteenth century with historians like John William Draper.’

James Hannaman, ‘The Mythical Conflict between Science and Religion’, 2003-2005

Despite a developing consensus among scholars that science and Christianity have not been at war, the notion of conflict has refused to die.’

David Lindberg, Hilldale Professor Emeritus of the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin, as quoted in ‘The Mythical Conflict between Science and Religion’, James Hannaman, 2003-2005

Recent scholarship, however, has shown the “warfare” thesis to be a gross distortion – as this paper attempts to reveal, employing illustrations from the patristic and medieval periods and from the Copernican and Darwinian debates.’

Introduction to article ‘Beyond War and Peace:  Reappraisal of the Encounter between Christianity and Science’, David C Lindberg and Ronald L Numbers, in ‘Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith’, 39.3:140-149, September 1987

‘Although it is not difficult to find instances of conflict and controversy in the annals of Christianity and science, recent scholarship has shown that the warfare metaphor to be neither useful or tenable in describing the relationship between science and religion.’

The church fathers used Greek scientific knowledge in their defense of the faith against heresy and in the elucidation of scripture, thereby preserving and transmitting it during the social and political turmoil of the first millennium of the Christian era.

Science was thus the handmaiden of theology – a far cry from its modern status, characterized by autonomy and intellectual hegemony, but also far from the victim of Christian intolerance that White portrayed. Science was not the enemy, but a valued (if not entirely reliable) servant.’

David C Lindberg and Ronald L Numbers,‘Beyond War and Peace:  Reappraisal of the Encounter between Christianity and Science’, in ‘Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith’, 39.3:140-149, September 1987

‘In the late Victorian period it was common to write about the “warfare between science and religion” and to presume that the two bodies of culture must always have been in conflict.  However, it is a very long time since these attitudes have been held by historians of science.’

Steven Shapin, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, as quoted in ‘The Mythical Conflict between Science and Religion’, James Hannaman, 2003-2005

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