Thursday, May 26, 2016

New Atheist Vs, Real Historian



I found an interesting exchange between  some New atheists and Historian from Cambridge who is a Christian James Hannam., Hannam wrote Genesis of Science (God's Scientists in UK, same book). The exchange is not intellectually interesting but it showed the depth brain washing among New atheism, this known nothing arguing with a real historian, The blog is that of I am Skeptical who argued with me on this blog as few weeks ago. He starts out criticizing VictoryReppert (philosopher) for lauding Hannam's book.

It is amusing to see Christian apologists like Victor Reppert seize upon any any article they find on the internet that appeals to their confirmation bias.  One topic that Christians have been touchy about is the idea that the church played a large role in the suppression if intellectual pursuit during the historical period known as the Dark Ages.  If you're a Christian apologist, you'd rather believe that there was no such thing as the Dark Ages.  You'd rather believe that intellectual endeavors flourished under the benevolent leadership of the church, and life for the average citizen was just peachy.  There is no shortage of revisionist literature that supports this.  In his customary manner, Victor has uncritically latched onto a review of James Hannam's book God's Philosophers that supports this notion.
I told Hannam about it and he commented.


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  • JamesMay 25, 2016 at 1:18 PM
    1. Joe was kind enough to alert me to this discussion. As you mention my book, perhaps I might be permitted to comment. I'd be the first to admit that God's Philosophers is far from perfect, but it is pretty close to the mainstream of history of medieval science. It was also, I am proud to say, shortlisted for some major prizes back when it came out including the Royal Society Science Book Prize (which so upset Charles Freeman) and the British Society for the History of Science book prize. Neither the Royal Society nor the BSHS are notable hotbeds of Christian apologetics.

      I responded to Charles's review at length at the time so won't rehash all that. You can follow the link in his piece if you'd like to read my response. However, I am happy to respond to any specific points you'd like to raise. I note you talk about the Renaissance as when science broke free. However, the story of the modern scientific tradition starts way back in the 10th century. In 1000AD the Pope himself, Gerbert, was one of Europe's most renowned mathematicians and inventors.

      The question that needs an answer, if you don't want to give Christianity an ounce of credit, is why modern science arose in a society dominated by Christianity, rather than ancient Greece or China or anywhere else? And is it sensible to treat the Christian worldview as irrelevant or detrimental to modern science when it was shared by pretty much every scientific pioneer until Laplace?

      Best wishes

      James

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    1. James,

      I think the history of science goes back to before the rise of Christianity. I don't deny that the church had some role in science during the middle ages, and it is obvious that the first modern scientists in Europe had to be Christians, because everyone was. But it was only when people started to challenge church dogma that science had a chance to flourish. Many Christians give far too much credit to Christianity. You can spin it in a way that seems to support that notion, but I think the big picture is pretty clear. Scientific progress was largely curtailed when the church came to dominate society in Europe, and it re-emerged when church domination declined.



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    4. Thanks. A couple of points to consider:

      I presume you begin the history of science with Thales and the pre-Socratics. But scientific progress in the ancient world was glacially slow in the ancient world. We find isolated geniuses like Aristotle and Archimedes but their work was rarely taken forward. Experiments hardly existed. One example: Aristotle says heavy objects fall faster than light ones. It take thirty seconds to show this isn't true (say with a dessert spoon and teaspoon). Yet five hundred years later Hero of Alexandria, supposedly a practical man, was saying exactly the same thing. The first recorded instance of someone saying Aristotle was wrong on this was John Philoponus in the sixth century. He was a Christian.

      You might also note that many of the scientific pioneers of the sixteenth century onwards were extremely religious. Johannes Kepler breaks into spontaneous prayer in his scientific works. Andrew Cunningham, a Cambridge professor of history of science, describes Newton as 'the most religious man of the seventeenth century.' His friend Robert Boyle was not far behind. Rene Descartes based his entire philosophy on the existence of God. I could go on, but you get the picture. These were not men rejecting Christianity, but embracing it wholeheartedly.

      Best wishes

      James


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    5. "some role..." it had a huge role. I wrote two papers on it.
      - Yes, the main role played by the church was to suppress it. This tradition goes all the way back to Tertullian, whose ban on anatomical investigations lasted for a millennium.

      The major scientists were devout. Newton and Boyle were highly committed with strong spiritual tendencies in their private lives,.
      - Some of them were openly devout (as everyone was required to be) but privately non-religious, or at least much less devout than they appeared. Newton was an Arian heretic, by the way.

      when was that? who in particular and what church dogma? Let's see you substantiate that. what dogma was challenged at Cahtre? That was one of the centers of scientific learning
      - Come on, Joe. Copernicus and Galileo challenged the dogma of geocentrism, and their works were banned by the church. But they (and others like them) opened the door for real science to proceed. At Chartre, people learned scholasticism and Aristotelian natural philosophy. I'm not aware of any significant scientific advances that came from there.

      You don't know history, Christianity built western civilization. Political institution, moral values, science philosophy the whole of the church is rooted in Christian thought,
      - The Romans built western civilization. The Christians presided over its ruin.

      that's the party line, show me names, dates, events, break it down prove your bull shit. you are just regurgitating what atheist socialization has brain washed you to think
      - You are regurgitating your own party line, Joe.
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    6. James,

      I'm no historian, but I understand that Greek natural philosophy was not heavily oriented toward experimentation, and particularly for Aristotle, whose influence was strong in Europe in the late middle ages. That's one of the reasons scientific development was so slow. Medieval Europeans were slow to move away from Aristotle's views, while the Arabic world began to adopt a more modern scientific methodology. It seems reasonable to give more credit to the Muslim world for fostering early scientific development.

      While it is true that post-middle age scientists in Europe were Christians, it is also true that they adopted methods and ideas from outside the Christian community, and it was their willingness to defy church dogma that made them great scientists. And let's not forget the fact that as science came into its own, and started to explain things that were once in the realm of religious belief, the religious views of the scientists began to change, too.
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    7. You are quite right to say that Greek science wasn't very empirical. Nor really was Muslim science although a few figures did do some simple experiments, especially in optics.

      So where did the experimental method come from. Here's Rene Descartes:

      'Since there were countless ways that God could have organised the universe, experiment alone can teach us which way he actually chose in preference to all the others.'

      What Rene is getting at here is what historians call voluntarism or God's freedom. God was believed to have created the world to follow fixed laws, but he could chose any laws he liked. Unlike Aristotle, who thought the laws of nature were strictly logical and could be figured out by thinking very hard about them, Christian scientists said that to determine God's choices, you had to do experiments. This is one of the central reasons that historians think experimental science arose in a Christian society. That is not to say only Christians could believe in a God with creative freedom, but in practice, they were the ones who used that idea to justify experiment.

      You mention scientists defying church dogma. Of course there is the paradigmatic case of Galileo, but historians now consider that to be as much about egos and power politics as dogma. After all, what does it actually matter to Christianity that the earth orbits the sun and not the other way around? Other examples of scientists defying dogma with scientific conclusions are few and far between. Perhaps you could point me towards some? I hardly think you can write off the science of the Middle Ages on the basis of a single clash in the 1630s.

      Best wishes

      James
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    8. Other examples of scientists defying dogma with scientific conclusions are few and far between. Perhaps you could point me towards some? I hardly think you can write off the science of the Middle Ages on the basis of a single clash in the 1630s.

      How about this?

      This includes many of the names that Christians proudly claim as examples of the Christian origins of science.

    Hannam hasn't responded yet. I'll venture my own answer. First of all IM
    S is quoting Wikipedia in talking about a list of banned books by the catholic church. Of Course Giadoreno Bruno is on it. So is John Locke and a lot of other famous people. Wiki is not a scholarly source and quoting that article against a real historian is just stupid. But even so the fact that famous people like Locke are on the list shows how ineffective it was. It didn't really lead to keeping these ideas down it just means the church didn't like them. I could also play the Protestant card and say hey that mean old Catholic church,. I[m not a Catholic so my guys are not to blame. Neither side has a monopoly on jerks. I don't thinks it's taking way from the truth of the Gospel to admit that there have been Christians who were oppressive and stupid.

    I am betting James answer by saying that that list falls far short of being what he demanded which is list of would be scientists persecuted by Christians for doing science. The sources quoted by IMS and his friends are not very good. He is decades behind understanding where modern historians currently are in thinking ab out this rise of science and it's relationship with Christianity. Historians don't think in terms of periods as much, They don't think of the Renaissance as a period but as movement, They don['t guy into the atheist narrative of Renaissance as be awaking the evil dark age of religion.


    To pick up a couple of Points James did not address:

    "some role..." it had a huge role. I wrote two papers on it. - Yes, the main role played by the church was to suppress it. This tradition goes all the way back to Tertullian, whose ban on anatomical investigations lasted for a millennium.
    That's begging the question since Hannam's entire book is arguing they did not,. Terullian was not a ruler. His reasons for opposing anatomical research was not to stop science. How many people doing it then understand why they were doing it?

    The major scientists were devout. Newton and Boyle were highly committed with strong spiritual tendencies in their private lives,.
    - Some of them were openly devout (as everyone was required to be) but privately non-religious, or at least much less devout than they appeared. Newton was an Arian heretic, by the way.
    That nonsense. The major one's he thinks were not devout were. Newton was extremely devout. this guy has not read his privates papers and I have. I doubt that he's read a biography. Newton was major part of my dissertation  I know well he was devout. Being Aryan doesn't change that. no reason why Aryans could not be devout. They still believed in God so they could be. Newton should be an embarrassment to atheists except atheists are just anti-Christian.

    when was that? who in particular and what church dogma? Let's see you substantiate that. what dogma was challenged at Chartre? That was one of the centers of scientific learning
    - Come on, Joe. Copernicus and Galileo challenged the dogma of geocentrism, and their works were banned by the church. But they (and others like them) opened the door for real science to proceed. At Chartre, people learned scholasticism and Aristotelian natural philosophy. I'm not aware of any significant scientific advances that came from there.
    Copernicus and Galileo were not at Charter which is in France not Italy, .James answered those two. your ignorance about Chartres  (not Charter) is so telling. It was a cathedral;  it was also a major center of scientific alarming.

    You don't know history, Christianity built western civilization. Political institution, moral values, science philosophy the whole of the church is rooted in Christian thought,
    - The Romans built western civilization. The Christians presided over its ruin.
    No they did not, that is extremely ignorant. They lost it. they feel;  by the time they fell they were Christian. Remember Constantine?

    that's the party line, show me names, dates, events, break it down prove your bull shit. you are just regurgitating what atheist socialization has brain washed you to think
    - You are regurgitating your own party line, Joe.Delete
    wrong I'm discussion what I learned in  in graduate school a secular ,a secular program taught atheist professors. some of them were.


    A couple of book I recommend:

    Peter Burke, The Renaissance. New York: McMillian, secon d ed. 1997 (first puboished1964).

    David C. Lindberg and Ronald Numbers, God and Nature: Historical Essays On they Encounter Between Christianity and Science.University of California Press; Early Printing edition (April 29, 1986)
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0520056922/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=31670861797&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=9485370228993513602&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_1ia0si3icn_b


    James Hannam, Genesis of Science: How The Christian Middle Ages Launched The Scientific Revolution, Regnery Publishing; 1st edition (March 22, 2011)

    http://www.amazon.com/Genesis-Science-Christian-Scientific-Revolution/dp/1596981555

      Of course he is not a historian. I'll be dealing with this more in depth next week on Metacrock's blog.

    I'll also keep you posted on Hannam's answers.
     

    3 comments:

    JBsptfn said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    JBsptfn said...

    He just believes what he wants to believe. If anyone questions his ideology, he calls them superstitious. Stan said something about making up reality (about evolution), and he said that he wasn't doing that, but the theists do.

    Also, I saw that he quoted Wikipedia. When Stan had a few entries about IMS back in March, someone came on and filled us in about IMS and a reason why he got banned from Feser's and Reppert's (Dangerous Idea) blog.

    Apparently, IMS would come on and post links to Wikipedia, but he wouldn't really understand what he was posting. Another poster on Reppert's blog would hand him his head, but IMS would come back a month later like nothing ever happened, and get his head handed to him again by the same guy. That's why he was banned by Reppert.

    Joe Hinman said...

    he's really myopic