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Science and Religion: From the Medieval to the Modern

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Title: Science and Religion: From the Medieval to the Modern


1
Science and Religion From the Medieval to the
Modern
  • Drawn in part from Alister E. McGrath Science and
    Religion An Introduction

2
Science and Religion From the Medieval to the
Modern
  • The history of the role of religion and
    spirituality in matters of the human body and
    health is ultimately tied to the larger story of
    the interaction between religion and science.

3
Science and Religion From the Medieval to the
Modern
  • One way this history can be organized is to think
    in terms of four landmarks
  • The Medieval Synthesis (-1500s)
  • Copernicus and Galileo and the New Astronomy
    (1500s-mid 1600s)
  • Newton and the Deists and the Mechanistic
    Universe (late 1600s-1700s)
  • Darwin and the Origins of Humanity (1800s)

4
Science and Religion 1. The Medieval Synthesis
(-1500s)
  • Developments in the Middle Ages that created
    space for the development of natural sciences
  • The translation of scientific works into Latin,
    the predominant language of western European
    scholars
  • Scientific texts from the Greco-Arabian tradition
    translated in Latin
  • Aristotles work translated in Latin and
    circulates widely
  • Out of this develops natural philosophy, major
    theologians like Aquinas embrace Aristotle and
    natural philosophy
  • The founding of major universities in Western
    Europe and the introduction of natural
    philosophy in foundational courses (before one
    went on to study medicine, law, or theology)
  • The rise of the theologian-natural philosopher,
    midieval scholars who believed there was no
    contradiction between their faith and the
    investigation of the natural order

5
Science and Religion 1. The Medieval Synthesis
(-1500s)
  • The Bible in the Medieval Period
  • In early church period there had been a debate
    between the Alexandrian and the Antiochian
    school over how best to interpret the Bible
  • Antiochianmuch more literalist
  • Alexandrianallowed for some texts to be literal,
    but frequently preferred more non-literal
    approaches, looking for spiritual, ethical, or
    allegorical significance in the biblical stories
    of creation, Israelite history, etc.

6
Science and Religion 1. The Medieval Synthesis
(-1500s)
  • The Bible in the Medieval Period
  • Augustine (354-430)
  • argued in favour of some texts being literal,
    others spiritual/allegorical (i.e., non-literal),
    some both at once
  • stressed the importance of respecting the
    conclusions of the sciences in relation to
    biblical interpretation
  • biblical interpretation should take due account
    of what could reasonably be regarded as
    established facts
  • The general approach of Augustine was adopted by
    influential Roman Catholic theologians of the
    1500s
  • A highly significant commentary on Genesis was
    written with this approach and it was later to
    influence Galileos views on biblical
    interpretation

7
Science and Religion 2. Copernicus and Galileo
and the New Astronomy (1500s-mid 1600s)
  • Medieval Model of the Universe (Ptolemaic)
  • From PtolemyEgyptian astronomer in 200 CE
  • The earth is the center of the universe
  • All heavenly bodies rotate in circular paths
    around the earth
  • These rotations take the form of a motion in a
    circle, the center of which in turn moves in
    another circle (epicyclescircular motion imposed
    upon circular motion)
  • Model becomes too complex by end of 1400swhat
    would replace it?

8
Science and Religion 2. Copernicus and Galileo
and the New Astronomy (1500s-mid 1600s)
  • The Copernican Revolution
  • Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)
  • Argued that the planets move in concentric
    circles around the sun
  • The earth, in addition to rotating around the
    sun, also rotated on its own axis
  • Offered a simplicity and elegance compared to how
    cumbersome the Ptolemaic model had become
  • Two scholar, Brahe (later 1500s) and Kepler
    (early 1600s) adjust Copernicus model, helping
    to account for more of the data concerning
    planetary movement

9
Science and Religion 2. Copernicus and Galileo
and the New Astronomy (1500s-mid 1600s)
The Copernican Revolution The Problem A
geocentric view of the world (earth at center)
was widely accepted and a working premise for
theologians of the Middle Ages The Bible with its
geocentric language (e.g., the sun rises)
underscored this belief
10
Science and Religion 2. Copernicus and Galileo
and the New Astronomy (1500s-mid 1600s)
  • The Copernican Revolution
  • The Solution! (in part)
  • The adoption of the idea of accommodation with
    respect to biblical writers
  • The belief that Gods revelation in the Bible had
    to take place in terms of the culture into which
    it was written
  • Hence, if the ancient recipients of the Bible
    held to a geo-centric universe, Gods word to
    them would take this form
  • Calvin (Protestant reformer, 1509-64)
  • Pushed hard for an accommodationist view of the
    Bible
  • Commended the study of astronomy and medicine
    because of a belief in the orderliness of the
    created order which would show the wisdom of the
    Creator

11
Science and Religion 2. Copernicus and Galileo
and the New Astronomy (1500s-mid 1600s)
  • The Copernican Revolution
  • Calvins contribution (contd)
  • God can be discerned in the detailed study of the
    created order through natural sciences
  • Biblical texts are written to teach us about
    Jesus Christ, not astronomy, geography or biology
  • God stoops to the level of the people he is
    communicating with, accommodating his revelation
    to their pre-existing understanding of the
    universe
  • Hence, text like Genesis 1 with its six day
    creation is not intended to be taken as a literal
    representation of reality
  • His arguments are taken up by other writers
    defending the natural sciences in this era

12
Science and Religion 2. Copernicus and Galileo
and the New Astronomy (1500s-mid 1600s)
  • The Copernican Revolution
  • Galileo (1564-1642)
  • Reignites fights over heliocentric universe
  • Mounts defense of Compernican theory
  • Initially received sympathetically by RC church
    has an ally in papal contender Ciampoli
  • Ultimately becomes a fight over biblical
    interpretation
  • Galileo adopted Foscarinis approach to biblical
    interpretation (1615)it is a form of
    accommodationist theory
  • Ultimate Foscarinis and Galileos approach meets
    with disapproval by official church doctrine
    which argues in favor of a more literalistic
    reading and reading which align with past church
    interpreters

13
Science and Religion Newton and the Deists and
the Mechanistic Universe (late 1600s-1700s)
Newton (1642-1727) Key contributiona single
principle could be seen as lying being celestial
mechanics (the movement of sun, moon, and
planets) Took the basic concepts of mass, space,
and time, and handled them mathematically, and so
developed precise ideas of acceleration, force,
momentum, and velocity As such, was able to
develop a series of principles which govern the
behaviour of objects on earth, and extrapolating
from that, applied the same principles to the
motions of the planets In particular, it was his
understanding of gravitational attraction between
heavenly bodies that allowed him to explain the
observational data of the movement of moon and
planets
14
Science and Religion Newton and the Deists and
the Mechanistic Universe (late 1600s-1700s)
  • Newton (1642-1727)
  • Ultimately the universe can be thought of as a
    great machine acting according to fixed laws a
    mechanistic worldview
  • Religiously, this translates into the idea of the
    world as a machine with design and purpose,
    pointing to a Creator
  • This ultimately leads to the rise of Deism
  • English thinkers in the Age of Reason (late
    1600-early 1700s), esp. Locke, Herbert of
    Cherbury, Hobbes, Hume
  • God is the Creator who designed the universe, but
    is not seen as continually involved with or
    intervening in the universe subsequently a
    watchmaker who makes a watch, winds it, then
    lets it go
  • Hence notions of special revelation (i.e., God
    speaking his Word through the Bible) are ruled
    out by default with that goes a central plank in
    traditional Christianity

15
Science and ReligionDarwin and the Origins of
Humanity (1800s)
Darwin (1809-82) Ideas related to those of
Lyells Principles of Geology (1830)same forces
at work in present natural world have been active
over huge expanses of time in the past giving us
our present earth Predominant belief in biology
at the timefixity of species, nature is fixed
from the moment of its origin, each species
created separately and distinctly by God, endowed
with fixed characteristics Darwin faced head on
the way specific observation of species
(adaptation, termination, uneven distribution,
vestigial structures, etc.) didnt match the
explanation Darwin develops a theory of a process
of natural selection as put forth in The Origin
of Species (1859) and Descent of Man (1871)
16
Science and ReligionDarwin and the Origins of
Humanity (1800s)
Darwin (1809-82) According to Darwin, the various
types of plants and animal life, including human
life, came into existence through a process of
natural selection, in which those species which
were better adapted for survival displaced
others, which gradually became extinct Religious
challenge! The traditional Christian idea that
all life owed its specific characteristics to
individual acts of divine creation is
challenged Especially, it called into question
the place of humanity as the apex of Gods
creation Seeing Science and Religion (read
Christianity) as combatants in this debate is
reinforced by the fact that it is Wilberforce,
Bishop of Oxford who has a very famous debate
with Darwin in 1860.
17
Science and ReligionDarwin and the Origins of
Humanity (1800s)
  • Darwin (1809-82)
  • This perception of Science and Religion as
    antithetical to each other also reinforced by the
    Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925
  • John T. Scopes, Tennessee high school teacher
    gets in trouble for teaching evolutionary theory
  • Is taken to court where the prosecuting attorney
    Bryan was hopelessly outwitted by Darrow, defense
    attorney for Scopes
  • Universities by the mid 1800s increasingly
    throwing off any ecclesiastical fetters in an
    unhindered search for truth, religious claims
    are seen as antithetical to academic freedom and
    scientific advancement

18
Science and ReligionThe responses from the
Religious side of the equation
  • The responses to the rise of the modern
    scientific enterprise have actually been varied,
    there is no single religious response to modern
    science.
  • Within Western forms of Christianity for example,
    there have been very divergent responses,
    depending on which stream you are looking at
  • Liberal Protestantism (Schleiermacher 1768-1834,
    et. al.)
  • Modern Catholicism (Loisy 1857-1940, et. al.)
  • Neo-Orthodoxy (Barth 1886-1968)
  • Evangelicalism (e.g., Warfield 1851-1921)
  • Fundamentalism (The Fundamentals, written in
    1920s)

19
Science and ReligionThe responses from the
Religious side of the equation
Liberal Protestantism A stream of Christianity
which owes its theological origins to
Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Germany of the mid
1800s Offered a great deal of flexibility in
relation to traditional Christian beliefs Where
traditional interpretations of the Bible or
Christian doctrine conflicted with developments
in human knowledge, the former ought to be either
discarded or reinterpreted in such a way as to
bring them in line with the new knowledge of the
world Rather than hold to very particular and
exclusive views of Jesus Christ, liberalism
anchored faith in common human religious
experience and interpreted the former in ways
that were conducive to the emerging modern
worldview
20
Science and ReligionThe responses from the
Religious side of the equation
Liberal Protestantism Ultimately it is a movement
committed to the restatement of Christian faith
in forms which are acceptable within contemporary
culture Hence, frequently criticized as cultural
Protestantismsimply adopted cultural norms
rather than challenging and critiquing Sees
itself mediation two unacceptable alternatives
(1) simply restating traditional Christian faith
or (2) rejecting Christianity in its totality
21
Science and ReligionThe responses from the
Religious side of the equation
Liberal Protestantism It is typically very
friendly toward scientific progress and
knowledge Darwins theory of evolution is seen to
positively correlate with their notions of human
nature in an upward progress Typically interpret
biblical passages so as to minimize supernatural
components and significance, hence little
conflict with science
22
Science and ReligionThe responses from the
Religious side of the equation
Modernist Catholicism (also has Protestant
equivalent) Attempt by RC theologians at the end
of 1800s trying to come to terms with
Enlightenment Critical and skeptical of
traditional Christian doctrine Positive toward
radical Biblical criticism, stressed ethics over
theology Typically embrace scientific discoveries
and development, evolutionary biology and the
forces shaping it are given supernatural
significance (deified evolution) Typically will
dismiss any traditional doctrines that conflict
with a scientific worldview Development of
doctrine in biblical text is correlated to
ongoing development of knowledge in the natural
sciences, earlier mistakes are corrected by
later discoveries
23
Science and ReligionThe responses from the
Religious side of the equation
Neo-Orthodoxy Associated with Barth
(1886-1968) In reaction against German liberal
theologytheir optimism about human progress
seemed naïve in light of WW1. Stressed the
otherness of God and special revelation (the
Bible) as a way to escape the human-centered
theology of liberalism Takes as a starting point
the self-revelation of God in Christ through
Scripture rather than reaching an understanding
of God through the natural order theology is a
response to Scripture, not a response to the
human situation and human questions Theology is
thus an investigation of God done through
Scripture Science is the human investigation of
the world The net resultlittle interest by Barth
in natural sciencesit is irrelevant to religious
matters
24
Science and ReligionThe responses from the
Religious side of the equation
Evangelicalism Transdenominational trend in
theology and spirituality which places emphasis
on the role of Scripture in the Christian
life. Typically hold to four key values 1. The
authority and centrality of the Bible 2.
Uniqueness of salvation through death of Jesus on
the cross 3. Need for personal conversion 4.
The need to convince other to convert as well
(evangelism) Minimalist in terms of any theory of
the church (what binds them is holding to these
beliefs rather than belonging to same
institutional church structure) Hence
evangelicals can be found in a variety of
mainstream churches (e.g.,Catholic, Lutheran,
etc.) as well as low church conservative
Protestantism (e.g., Pentecostal, Baptist, etc.)
25
Science and ReligionThe responses from the
Religious side of the equation
Evangelicalism Attitude toward natural sciences
complex --some are very much against evolution
as it stands against a literal interpretation of
the Bibles Genesis creation account (remember
the centrality of the Bible in this version of
Christianity) --others are much more open to the
idea of the guiding hand of God behind what
appear to be natural processes, i.e., they are
willing to let science get on with describing
nature and its processes as long as God is
acknowledged as the hand behind these events
(i.e., nature is not random but under divine
guidance)
26
Science and ReligionThe responses from the
Religious side of the equation
Christian Fundamentalism The conservative child
of evangelicalism Holds to same beliefs as
evangelicals but with these additional
distinctives 1. Totally hostile to any form of
non-literal interpretation of the Bible, set
against contemporary scholarly study of the Bible
(biblical criticism) 2. Hold fast to particular
set of doctrines, particularly about apocalyptic
end-time scenarios 3. Sociologically
counterculturalsee themselves as under siege by
the Western secular world
27
Science and ReligionThe responses from the
Religious side of the equation
  • Christian Fundamentalism
  • Attitude toward natural sciences
  • Dead set against any form of evolutionary theory
  • Typically hold to some form of creation science
    (basically a group of fundamentalists scientists
    who were banded together to offer refutations of
    evolutionary theory and offer an explanation of
    the natural world that proves the biblical
    text)
  • Will tend to try use scientific observations to
    prove the Bible while scientific observations
    which question their perspective on biblical
    teachings will be refuted or held as the suspect
    conclusions of a secular world
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