By Chuck Colson
Christianity and the Origins of Science
Earlier this year, Britain's Channel Four aired a two-part special entitled
"The Root of All Evil." No, it wasn't about money, greed or materialism. Nor
was it about racism and other forms of hatred. The "root" was religion,
The special featured Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, arguably
the most famous apologist for the Darwinian worldview. While Dawkins may
be an expert on Darwin, it's clear that he knows little about history, especially
the history of Christianity.
Besides the old saw that religion causes violence-as opposed to
peaceful atheism, as practiced by Stalin and Mao-Darwinists charge
Christianity with promoting superstition and ignorance. Dawkins calls faith a
"process of non-thinking" where the "hidebound certainty" of believers
stifles human curiosity. According to Dawkins, for science to take off at all,
humanity had to escape the "little" and "pokey" view of the cosmos it
inherited from medieval Christianity.
The only "hidebound certainty" here is the nonsense that Dawkins
is spouting. The truth about Christianity and science is, in fact, exactly the
opposite. As Rodney Stark tells us in his recent outstanding book, The
Victory of Reason, when Europeans first began to explore the rest of the
world what surprised the most wasn't what they saw-it was "the extent of
their own technological superiority."
What made the difference? Why was it that while "many
civilizations," such as the Chinese, had pursued alchemy, but only in Europe
did it lead to chemistry?
According to Stark, the answer ultimately lies in European Christianity.
While other religions emphasized "mystery and intuition," Christianity
"embraced reason and logic as the primary guides to religious truth." From
the start, the Church Fathers "taught that reason was the supreme gift of God
and the means to progressively increase understanding of Scripture and
This regard for reason wasn't limited to theology. St. Augustine wrote
of the "wonderful-one might say stupefying-advances human industry has
made." He attributed these to the "unspeakable boon" to our "rational
This view of reason gave rise to the medieval universities of whose
existence, or at least origins, Dawkins seems to be totally ignorant. As Stark
puts it, "faith in the power of reason infused Western culture" in a way it did
no other society. It prompted "the pursuit of science and the evolution of
democratic theory and practice."
The very Middle Ages Dawkins belittles saw great scientific and
technological advancements that Stark chronicles, including the desire to
explore God's created world-the impulse that gave rise to Christians who
were scientists producing what we now know as the scientific method. To
say that these were nothing more than the Dark Ages is not only wrong-it's a
lie. Unfortunately, it's a lie with legs as Britain's Channel Four demonstrated.
That makes the Victory of Reason must reading for any serious Christian. It
contains some of the best apologetic arguments I've come across yet.
Copyright © 2002 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson" is a radio
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