I’m reading a very interesting book by sociologist Rodney Stark entitled For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery. The subtitle aptly describes the gist of the book, but the research and the historical details are fascinating.
One thrust of the book is Stark’s strong argument that the whole idea of a historically deep divide and hostility between science and Christianity is a historical fiction created by intellectuals who sought to discredit religion in general and Christianity in particular. Stark argues, “To these ends they sought credit for the ‘Scientific Revolution’ (another of their concepts), even though none of them had played any significant part in the scientific enterprise. One of the first steps in this effort was to designate their own era as the ‘Enlightenment,” and to claim it was a sudden and complete disjuncture with the past.” Men like Hume and Voltaire sought to “[wrap] themselves in the achievements of science to authenticate theri condemnation of reigion in general.”
Stark argues that science did not just emerge out of nowhere, but rather evolved out of the fertile intellectual climate of the Middle Ages – one that invented the university. And scientists were not standing and courageously shaking their fist at the Church but were, rather, mostly very devout believers who sought to grow in the knowledge of creation as an act of worshipping the Creator. The Christian belief in a perfect and orderly God who had created the universe with a likewise ordered complexity that could be discovered. There is, after all, a reason that science as we know it developed in Europe. Its not that Europeans were smarter, just that they had the worldview framework necessary for the emergence of science.
So, contrary to the popular myth, science and faith have not always been avowed enemies; the Church did not stifle scientific discovery as a matter of regular policy. Indeed, the Church gave rise to science.