Monday, June 9, 2008

The Scientific Legacy of Faith

I often speak with my smarter friends. Usually they just invite me over to move heavy things, then pat me on the head when I flex my pre-hominid brain and make observations on the world. During one recent conversation on Evolution my friend asked me if I recalled being taught anything about it during High School. I could only recall it being briefly mentioned in freshman biology. Today of course, we have the open assault on reason by the Library burning fanatics of religion but it seems my school quietly self-censored the teaching of science 20 years ago to head off the descent of wackos.

Of course, the enemies of reason never stand pat. Those hateful of science will never stop the stunting of man's mind and use every means at their disposal to tell other men what to think and what to shun. So, we stand at a divide in which we can proceed with rationality or we can fall back to lightning worship and the conclusions reached by bronze age desert nomads..

Anyway L. Sprague de Camp observed the Christian and Islamic worlds faced this choice over 800 years ago. As he wrote,
The pious and learned Saint Thomas (1225-74) spent much of his life arguing, at enormous length and in tiny illegible handwriting, that there was no conflict between science and religion; that all truth was one, and that therefore Aristotle's logic must fit the Christian faith. In fact, Saint Thomas promoted Aristotle to a kind of pre-Christian saint.

The pious and learned Ghazzali (1058-1111) also studied science and philosophy of the Greeks but came to different conclusions. After mature and searching consideration, he decided that these studies were harmful, because they shook men's faith in God and undermined religion; "they lead to loss of belief in the origin of the world and in the creator."

Europe followed Saint Thomas, while Islam followed Ghazzali. For example, in 1150 the Khalifah of the moment proved his piety by burning the books of the philosophical library of Baghdad. As a result of the diverging rends, science and technology flowered in Europe so richly and advaced so swiftly that the rest of the world is still breathlessly trying to catch up. On the other hand, science in Islam withered away.

The real irony is Ghazzali was right and Saint Thomas wrong. Science does shake men's faith in God and undermine religion. It has been doing so for many years and shows every sign of continuing to do so.
~ The Ancient Engineers, p.g. 309-310.

1 comment:

ran said...

What a fascinating de Camp reference! That truly deserves a hearty pat on the head. BTW, thanks for helping lug that freezer out of my basement.