Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution by History and Philosophy of Science professor James Hannam

Many of the alleged examples of religion holding back scientific progress turn out to be false. For example, the Church has never taught that the Earth is flat or tried to ban lightening rods or tried to ban human dissection or excommunicated Halley's Comet. Yet, all these stories are still regularly trotted out as examples of the church trying to hold back scientific progress.

Christianity has a far more positive role to play in the history of science than commonly believed. The church has supported scientific research in a number of forms. One was simply financial. Until the French Revolution, the Catholic Church was the leading sponsor of scientific research. Starting in the Middle Ages, it paid for priests, monks and friars to study at the universities.

By the seventeenth century, the Jesuit order had become the leading scientific organisation in Europe, publishing thousands of papers and spreading new discoveries around the world. The cathedrals themselves were designed to double up as astronomical observatories to allow ever more accurate determination of the calendar. And of course, there is the father of modern genetics, Gregor Johann Mendel, a scientist and Augustinian monk.

Given that the Church has not been an enemy to science, it is less surprising to find that the era which was most dominated by Christian faith, the Middle Ages, was a time of innovation and progress. Inventions like the mechanical clock, glasses, printing and accountancy all burst onto the scene in the late medieval period.

Read more at Medieval History of Science

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