vBlog Post #002
Welcome to the second Science Pastor vBlogpost. As he continues to build a foundation Pastor Steve addresses the accusation that Christianity obstructs the advancement of science. He'll take a look at the dark ages that were supposedly made dark by Christianity.
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Welcome to the Science Pastor podcast... my name is Steve and I'm the science pastor... and today we're going to be continuing what we started last time laying a foundation to help us to better understand both God and science, and the relationship between God and science.
Today we have a common assertion that is used to exclude God from science... it is a claim that --- if there is something Christians don't understand... then we'll just say, “Oh, God did it.” and leave it at that. The result is that science, which is in part the study of things we don't understand, comes to a screeching halt.
That is a straw man argument though. What do I mean by that? A straw man is a false representation of what your opponent believes or does. The straw man is then used to show that your opponent's position is invalid or not correct. Of course, in reality it proves nothing because the straw man does not actually represent what your opponent believes.
What's the straw man here? That Christians will attribute anything we don't understand to God... and not investigate it scientifically. That is absurd and most definitely not true.
If you believe this straw-man, then you don't understand Christianity. God has created a universe that we can understand. Whether that is the macro-universe that extends to the stars and galaxies. Or the micro universe of protons, electrons, neutrons, neutrinos, quarks, and leptons. In fact, God seems to have specifically arranged the universe such that we CAN study and understand it.
For example, here is a very simple example. The moon is exactly the right size, and exactly and perfectly the right distance from the earth, such that it perfectly blocks the disc of the sun during an eclipse. Do you know how unlikely that is? It's impossible to have happened randomly, especially when you take into account all of the other factors related to the moon that make life on earth possible.
But, the moon is exactly right to perfectly block the disc of the sun and allow us to study the sun during an eclipse... and then learn things we'd never know otherwise. God wants us to learn about His creation, and He has ordered His creation in a way that makes it possible for us to do this.
But there is another answer to this straw man... let's just look at the facts... let's look at history. There was a thousand year period called the Dark Ages. They're called the Dark Ages because Christianity supposedly suppressed science during that time... because of Christianity people believed in a flat earth, and that the earth was the center of the universe, and Galileo was persecuted by the church because of the truths he had discovered through science.
And what about the Black Plague? People ignored science and prayed to God and trusted God to save them from the plague... and they died by the thousands. So you see... Christianity is not only anti-science, it results in people dying!
The claim we have here is that the church's suppression of science plunged Europe into the Medieval Dark Ages, and resulted in widespread ignorance, disease, and death.
The problem is... NONE OF THAT IS TRUE... this is false description of the Middle Ages... the so-called Dark Ages... that has been widely spread and become popular. There was no such period as the dark ages... and there was no suppression of science by the church... in fact it was because of Christianity that science bloomed and made Europe the center of technology and world exploration for centuries.
So what we are going to do today, as we begin to sort out fact from fiction concerning history and the relationship between Christianity and science.
There's a lot to cover... but we're going to start with a topic that has become big today... the idea of a earth is flat. You know, I can't believe it... about 7% of American's today believe the earth is flat. That's crazy. And supposedly it was the church, in opposition to science, that in the Middle Ages taught that the earth was flat.
But, that's not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that the earth is round... the way a sphere looks like when seen from a distance... and it hangs on nothing. That's a perfect description of what the earth looks like from outer space.
So where does the idea that the earth is flat come from? Did the ancient Greeks, for example, believe the earth was flat? No, they didn't. 2500 years ago the Greeks had already figured out that the earth was round. Pythagoras, in 500 B.C. noted that the moon was round, and he concluded that the earth must also be round.
And then in about 350 B.C. Aristotle provided scientific proof the earth was round. For example, he noticed that during an eclipse, the shadow of the earth on the moon showed a round shape. He also noticed, and this I find really interesting, very scientific, he noted that the stars change position at different latitudes, a fact that also directly proves we're on a spherical planet. And Aristotle figured that out.
2250 years ago Aristotle wrote about this change in position of the stars, summarizing his observations by saying that: "All this goes to show not only that the Earth is round in shape, but also that it is a sphere of no great size: for otherwise the effect of so slight a change of place would not be so quickly apparent in the sky."
Just 100 years after Aristotle, the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes estimated the circumference of the earth, with the help of surveyors, using the earth's shadow on the moon. He came up with a circumference of 28,700 miles or so. That's pretty good considering what he had to work with... the actual circumference about 25,000 miles, I think it is 24,900 or so miles.
However... it is common for people today to believe, and I can even remember being taught this in school, that at the time of Christopher Columbus, 1492, people believed the earth was flat. Because that's what the church taught. That's supposedly what was happening in 1492. In fact, I remember being taught Columbus' crew was almost rebelling after they got about 70 days into the voyage. They were angry. They wanted to turn back. Why? Because they thought they were going to sail off the edge of the earth. And that is 100% fake history.
Although the teaching of Aristotle is not well-known today, his teaching was very well-known in 1492... and Columbus knew the earth was round. And so did his crew. The fear was... what they were worried about was, that the journey to India covered too great a distance... and they would not have enough food and water. They knew how far it was, sailing to the west, they knew how far it was to get to India. And that was true. They could not have made it to India. But fortunately for Columbus another continent was in the way... and they were able to resupply and return to Spain.
So when did the idea that Columbus thought the earth was flat become popular? Where did that idea come from?
It began less than 200 years ago with a book written by Washington Irving published in 1828... it was a fiction book called A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. In this book Irving wrote that Columbus had to overcome the opposition of churchmen, and the fears of his crew, both of whom believed the earth was flat. And it was total fiction.
This historical fictional was then picked up by John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White, this is still in the 1800's... Both of these men separately used this fiction as a part of their proof, they wrote a book. They each wrote a book. They supposedly were proving that there existed a conflict between science and religion... a conflict that they claimed resulted in the church suppressing science.
We're going to talk about Draper and White in another program... they were essentially writing fiction and calling it historical fact... but, for now we see that the idea of Christians believing in a flat earth in the 15th century was a fiction created less than two hundred years ago by Washington Irving, and popularized as a proof of Christians being anti-science by Draper and White.
Ah... but wait, the skeptics shout... what about Cosmas the Monk? He was a Greek monk who, in the mid 500's... that's around the year 550 AD, wrote a book describing the structure of the physical world... and in that book Cosmas describes the world as being flat.
So you see... there's the evidence... Christians believed the world was flat long before Washington Irving... and since the Dark ages lasted from the 5th century to the 15th century... and Cosmas was right there are the beginning of the Dark Ages, this proves that during the Dark Ages the church believed the earth was flat. Right?
Well hold your horses Wild Bill ... lets get the rest of the story.
Yes, Comas the Monk believed the earth was flat. And here is an important point. The beliefs of one Christian... or even a group of Christians, or a church or even of an entire denomination, those beliefs do not define Christianity. What defines Christianity? The Bible and only the Bible. And the Bible in the 5th century clearly described the earth as being round and hanging on nothing.
And the historical fact is that Cosmas' work was rejected by the church during his own lifetime. He was an obscure monk... who had some weird ideas... but his teachings were rejected by the church... in his own lifetime.
We have people like that today. They call themselves Christians. They call themselves pastors. Some even call themselves apostles... and they are simply false teachers...deceivers. And that was Cosmas the Monk... a deceiver who was rejected by his own church in his own lifetime.
So saying Christianity taught that the earth was flat is pure fiction... at any time in history... it is pure fiction. It's not true.
And saying that Christianity suppressed science during the Middle Ages is simply not true...
During that time... for the first time... for example universities were invented... the first universities, and essentially all of the early universities were started in Europe by Christians.
Here is a question that needs to be asked... and to ask this question I'm going to quote Stanley Jaki, he's a professor at Seton Hall University, and a world famous contributor to both the philosophy of science and the history of science... and what he wrote is...
This historiography of science has still to face up honestly to the problem of why three great ancient cultures – China, India, and Egypt – display, independently of one another, a similar pattern vis-a-vis science. The pattern is the stillbirth of science in each of them in spite of the availability of talents, social organization, and peace—the standard explanatory devices furnished by all-knowing sociologies of science on which that historiography relies ever more heavily.
Jaki is saying, that despite all of the conditions being right, science in China, India and Egypt... it never happened. It was stillborn. Yet in Europe... during the Middle Ages... that's supposedly the dark ages... science flourished... in the church and monasteries... great technological advances were made. Would you like me to name a few?
For example, in the fifth century the heavy plow was invented and agriculture was revolutionized. Before that plows were light weight, and they weren't able to break up the heavier soils of northern Europe So the heavy plow totally revolutionized agriculture.
The Hourglass was invented in 9th century and mechanical clocks in the 13th century. Clocks are much more important than just for knowing when it is lunch time. For example, clocks are needed for ocean navigation.
In the 12th century blast furnaces were invented, greatly improving the ability to refine metals.
In the 13th century eyeglasses were invented.
And of course, we all know about the printing press, which was invented in the 15th century. These are just a few of the many major technological inventions that came out of the Middle Ages...
But we're out of time, we have to go, it's time to wrap up... but as you can see, Christianity has not hindered science, it is the reason why Europe became the center of science and technology... and not Egypt, or India, or China. Those who oppose Christianity have spread a myth... they have spread fake news... accusing Christianity of hindering science, when the historical record shows the exact opposite is true.
And that makes sense. When you follow the word of the one who created everything, of course you'll have a better understanding of everything.
Now if you have a question, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have on objection or correction to what you heard today, send it to
email@example.com. I love getting questions, comments, objections, even complaints... and I'll answer them, as best I can, we'll get in as many as we can on future episodes of the science pastor. That email address again is firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is Steve, I'm the science pastor... thank you for watching. We'll see you again next time.