• Christianity is not responsible for science (part 2)

    The other day I posted a piece refuting the notion that Christianity is somehow causally responsible for the development of science and the scientific method. I would like to continue with a short piece looking at another couple of points which I have had heard raised.

    Epistemologically speaking, truth was often seen as being the product of revelation, whether from God or the Pope. Therefore, empiricism was frowned upon as a method to arrive at truth and certainly could not trump revelation.

    What was also frowned upon was scientific progress. This value was seen as poor in comparison to the value of the Gospels and spreading the good word, and the resulting relationship with God. These value positions did not promote science or empiricism. For example, curiosity was not seen as a moral good. Until all of this changed, prior to the Scientific Revolution, things could not change. The compass, the telescope, the printing press all helped to change this curiosity and interest in science.

    As Richard Carrier has said, the pagans were much closer to the Scientific Revolution, they just hadn’t got there yet (by the time their religions were superseded). He elucidates here:

    I am also not saying Christianity “necessarily and uniformly” stomps out science, only that we cannot claim Christianity “encouraged” science during its first thousand years, even if some significant Christian factions did later or now do. Christianity threw up a great many obstacles to the recovery of pagan scientific values during and after its first thousand years, and to a lesser extent is still doing this today.

    But again I am not saying all Christianity does this now. Rather, I am saying Christianity will always generate factions that do, as it always has. And the last thing we want is to allow one such faction back in power, as had been the case during Christianity’s first thousand years in the saddle. We must not go back to the Dark Ages.

    Another claim that I have had levelled at me is that the Merton Thesis (put forward by sociologist Robert K. Merton) shows that the Puritan and Protestant ethos at the time was the necessary causal factor in the development of the Scientific Revolution. I will refer to wiki here, to give you an idea of what the thesis is, and then allow wiki to show general criticisms of it:

    The Merton Thesis is an argument about the nature of early experimental science proposed by Robert K. Merton. Similar to Max Weber’s famous claim on the link between Protestant ethic and the capitalist economy, Merton argued for a similar positive correlation between the rise of Protestant pietism and early experimental science.[1] The Merton Thesis has resulted in continuous debates.[2]

    Although scholars are still debating it, Merton’s 1936 doctoral dissertation (and two years later his first monograph by the same title) Science, Technology and Society in 17th-Century England raised important issues on the connections between religion and the rise of modern science, became a significant work in the realm of the sociology of science and continues to be cited in new scholarship.[3] Merton further developed this thesis in other publications.


    The Merton Thesis has two separate parts: firstly, it presents a theory that science changes due to an accumulation of observations and improvement in experimental technique and methodology; secondly, it puts forward the argument that the popularity of science in England in 17th century, and the religiousdemography of the Royal Society (English scientists of that time were predominantly Protestants or Puritans) can be explained by a correlation between Protestantism and the scientific values.[4] He focuses on English Puritanism and German Pietism as responsible for the development of the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries. Merton explains that the connection between religious affiliation and interest in science is a result of a significant synergy between theascetic Protestant values and those of modern science.[5] Protestant values encouraged scientific research by allowing science to identify the God influence on world and thus providing religious justifications for scientific research.[1]


    The first part of his thesis has been criticized for insufficient consideration of the roles of mathematics and the mechanical philosophy in the scientific revolution. The second part has been criticized for the difficulty involved in defining who counts as a Protestant of the “right type” without making arbitrary distinctions. It is also criticized for failing to explain why non-Protestants do science (consider the Catholics Copernicus, da Vinci, Descartes, Galileo, or Huygens) and conversely why Protestants of the “right type” are not all interested in science.[4][6][7]

    Merton, acknowledging the criticism, replied that the Puritan ethos was not necessary, although it did facilitate development of science.[8] He also notes that institutional legitimacy was acquired, science no longer needed the religion, eventually becoming a counterforce, leading to religious decline. Nonetheless, early on, religion is a major factor that allowed the scientific revolution to occur.[1] While the Merton thesis doesn’t explain all the causes of the scientific revolution, it does illuminate possible reasons why England was one of its driving motors and the structure of English scientific community.[9]

    That pretty much says it all: correlation; arbitrariness; special pleading over what represents Christianity etc etc.

    Then there is the whole idea that the Scientific Revolution is a misnomer (taken from the wiki page on the scientific revolution):

    Contrary views

    See also: Historical revisionism

    Not all historians of science are agreed that there was any revolution in the sixteenth or 17th century. The continuity thesis is the hypothesis that there was no radical discontinuity between the intellectual development of the Middle Ages and the developments in the Renaissance and early modern period. Thus the idea of an intellectual or scientific revolution following the Renaissance is—according to the continuity thesis—a myth. Some continuity theorists point to earlier intellectual revolutions occurring in the Middle Ages, usually referring to either a European “Renaissance of the 12th century”[6] or a medieval “Muslim scientific revolution”,[9][10][11] as a sign of continuity.

    Another contrary view has been recently proposed by Arun Bala in his dialogical history of the birth of modern science. Bala argues that the changes involved in the Scientific Revolution—the mathematical realist turn, the mechanical philosophy, the atomism, the central role assigned to the Sun in Copernican heliocentrism—have to be seen as rooted in multicultural influences on Europe.Islamic science gave the first exemplar of a mathematical realist theory with Alhazen’s Book of Optics in which physical light rays traveled along mathematical straight lines. The swift transfer of Chinese mechanical technologies in the medieval era shifted European sensibilities to perceive the world in the image of a machine. The Hindu-Arabic numeral system, which developed in close association with atomism in India, carried implicitly a new mode of mathematical atomic thinking. And the heliocentric theory, which assigned central status to the Sun, as well as Newton’s concept offorce acting at a distance, were rooted in ancient Egyptian religious ideas associated with Hermeticism. Bala argues that by ignoring such multicultural impacts we have been led to a Eurocentricconception of the scientific revolution.[76]

    A third approach takes the term “renaissance” literally. A closer study of Greek Philosophy and Greek Mathematics demonstrates that nearly all of the so-called revolutionary results of the so-called scientific revolution were in actuality restatements of ideas that were in many cases older than those of Aristotle and in nearly all cases at least as old as Archimedes. Aristotle even explicitly argues against some of the ideas that were demonstrated during the scientific revolution, such as heliocentrism. The basic ideas of the scientific method were well known to Archimedes and his contemporaries, as demonstrated in the well known discovery of buoyancy. Atomism was first thought of by Leucippus and Democritus. This view of the scientific revolution reduces it to a period of relearning classical ideas that is very much an extension of the renaissance, specifically relearning ideas that originated with somebody other than Aristotle and particularly those rooted in the schools of Plato and Pythagoras. This view of the scientific revolution does not deny that a change occurred but argues that it was a reassertion of previous knowledge (a renaissance) and not the creation of new knowledge. It cites statements from Newton, Copernicus and others in favour of the Pythagorean worldview as evidence.[77]

    We can see, then, that if these claims hold water, then most of the scientific groundwork predates Christianity anyway, rendering the claim that it was causally necessary for its development rather impotent…

    So, all in all, Christianity was obviously part of the development of science since it had to be by default. But it was not BECAUSE of Christianity that science developed. Perhaps even in spite of it! No, it was because people are as people are: inquisitive, seeking power and knowledge, intelligent.


    Category: ApologeticsFeaturedScienceScience and religion


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    One Pingback/Trackback

    • Luke Breuer

      LOL, that image! Funnily enough, I went to see Richard Carrier talk in SF a few weeks ago, and he said that the dark ages were not caused by Christianity, but merely not prevented by Christianity. What are your thoughts on this claim, Jonathan? It seems to clash a bit with that there image you posted.

      • That’s a really good question. I would say it is a large contributory factor. A causes B is a real problem for me. Causality does not work like that.

        • Luke Breuer

          Do you have actual evidence for that picture? For example, do you have any idea how much effort would take to e.g. change the cultural belief in Aristotle’s view of slavery? I have wondered how much of the dark ages middle ages were a stripping away of accumulated terrible beliefs. Do you have any conception of what such “stripping away” requires? I don’t, but I want to learn, and have hence started reading sociology of knowledge books, starting with Peter L. Berger.

          • Void Walker

            Honestly, the meme is funny. But I’m with you, Luke. Until there is good evidence, I mean overwhelming evidence, that what it claims is true, it is not worthy of serious consideration. But again, it is a meme.

            • Luke Breuer

              But why is it funny, if it’s not true? Or: upon whom is the joke? The Christian, or the atheist?

            • Void Walker

              Dude, you’re over thinking this lol

            • Luke Breuer

              I prefer thinking to not-thinking. So sue me. :-p

            • Void Walker

              :-O I’ve been Breuer’d, yet again. Good day, sir!

            • Luke Breuer

              Oh FYI, I’ll be very spotty Thurs – Mon. Driving SF → LA and hanging out with friends, going on bike rides in sunny Pasadena, etc.

            • Void Walker

              You lucky bastard! :-p Gotcha, thanks for the heads up. I’ve really been enjoying our discussions of late. Also, you may be happy to know that I’m gonna be doing AA shortly. Kicking the alcoholism in the face, hopefully.

            • Luke Breuer

              Hmmm, I know that’s a long and hard road. Best of wishes on it, and let me know if there’s anything I can do to help (by email if you prefer)!

            • Void Walker

              Will do, enjoy your vacation :)

            • Andy_Schueler

              I mean overwhelming evidence, that what it claims is true

              That depends on what you interpret it to mean. In the sense that there was a time span of almost one thousand years in which there was virtually no scientific progress and absolutely no progress in mathematics – this is true (there were technological innovations in this time, but those were almost without exceptions rediscoveries of technology that was already available in antiquity). In the sense that this was caused by christianity, it is false.
              Three wiki articles worth reading on this issue:

              A quote from the last one:

              In the 12th century, European scholars traveled to Spain and Sicily seeking scientific Arabic texts, including al-Khwārizmī’s The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing, translated into Latin byRobert of Chester, and the complete text of Euclid’s Elements, translated in various versions by Adelard of Bath,Herman of Carinthia, and Gerard of Cremona.[117][118]

              These new sources sparked a renewal of mathematics. Fibonacci, writing in the Liber Abaci, in 1202 and updated in 1254, produced the first significant mathematics in Europe since the time of Eratosthenes, a gap of more than a thousand years. The work introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe, and discussed many other mathematical problems.

              The muslim world preserved the wisdom and knowledge of the ancients (and expanded it significantly, particularly when it comes to maths and medicine, see also the Islamic Golden Age), christian europe didn´t.

            • Void Walker

              Thanks for the info, Andy.

              One all too common “argument” used by certain Christians (ICR, in particular) is that many famous scientists, including Isaac Newton, were Christians. They then make the conclusion that Christianity begat modern science as we know it. How incredibly absurd.

    • Luke Breuer

      I’d really like to see the empirical data for that graph. Is it based in science, or mythology?

      • It’s a meme, so I doubt it has any…

        • Luke Breuer

          Do you think it is more or less accurate?

    • f_galton

      That image is idiotic.

      • Luke Breuer

        I dunno, what if Rome and Greece were still around, replete with the belief in Natural Slavery intact? Wouldn’t it be awesome?

        • josh

          ‘Natural slavery’ as a doctrine flourished under Christianity well into the 19th century.

          • Luke Breuer

            You don’t know your history of slavery. Furthermore, you could use a dose of Deuteronomy:

            “You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. (Deut 23:15)

            Compare this to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Contradiction! But if by “Christianity” you mean “any cherry-picked version of the Bible”, then you’ve diluted the term to nothingness. Do you wish to so-dilute the term? If so, the conversation ends there, as you’ve chosen to destroy language by destroying the ability to categorize.

            • josh

              “You don’t know your history of slavery.”
              Oh please elucidate.

              “Furthermore, you could use a does of Deut 23:15:”
              “But if by “Christianity” you mean “any set of cherry-picking of the Bible”, then you’ve diluted the term to nothingness.”

              My next bulk purchase of irony meters hasn’t shipped yet so could you take it down a notch? Try Colossians 3:22, Ephesians 6:5, Leviticus 25:44-46…

              By ‘Christianity’ I mean the historical group(s) of people who identify as Christians and the geo-political entities into which they have organized themselves.

            • Luke Breuer

              So you’re just throwing out Deut 23:15, as irrelevant—overruled by the other scriptures? Abrogated by them? Please be specific.

            • josh

              Contradictory. At best.

            • Luke Breuer

              Ahh, I see: you pick the verses that make the Bible look as terrible as possible. This describes you, and those ‘Christians’ who did the same:

              “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Mt 6:22-23)

            • Luke Breuer

              Let’s look at the full context of Col 3:22.

              Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. (Col 3:22-4:1)

              Oh, it doesn’t look so bad, now! Go figure, atheists and skeptics can quote-mine with the best of the creationists! Same thing happens with Eph 6:5!

              Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. (Eph 6:5-9)

              But perhaps you wanted early Christians to recapitulate the Third Servile War? I watched Spartacus; while it was cool in some ways, it was absolutely brutal and fruitless in the most important way. Paul even advocates a certain kind of seeking of freedom:

              Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. (1 Cor 7:20-24)

              It’s not a “let’s throw off our oppressors” kind of freedom. It wasn’t aimed at the kind of bloodshed that accompanied the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution. Perhaps you would have preferred one of those, over a campaign to change minds and hearts? See:

              Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,1 free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Col 3:11)

              There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave1 nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)

              Nah, let’s cherry-pick from the Bible and make it seems as shitty as possible. Hell, let’s do that to people to! What could possible go wrong???

            • josh

              So, in context, the Old Testament lays out a number of laws showing slavery is a normal and accepted part of their society, approved by God, with the racist caveat that Jews were to be treated better than foreigners. (A prescription not limited to slavery.)

              The new testament says nothing about freeing or disapproving of slavery, but emphasizes that just as there are natural masters and slaves on earth, all people should be slaves to the Christian master. Slaves on earth are not to rebel or question their place and neither are Christians to question their ‘heavenly’ master. Slaves on earth can be beaten nearly to death. Slaves of heaven, if they fail to live up to some whim of the master’s, are to be tortured eternally.

              The bloodshed of a revolution can be terrible and it is often brought about by the even-more-intolerable conditions of the society that provokes it. When a book like the Bible reinforces the evils of such a society we can safely say it is a bad book in that respect. This isn’t cherry-picking it is making the bleeding obvious point that the Bible is the product of a backward and barbaric culture (several of them actually) and it should not be looked on as the guidebook for a more just and rational society.

            • Luke Breuer

              The new testament says nothing about freeing or disapproving of slavery

              Instead of going off of your 21st century interpretation, have you looked at how 1st – 4th century Christians interpreted the relevant texts?

            • josh

              I am going off what the Old and New Testaments say, the latter of which of course reflects the teaching of the early Christians. 1st through 4th century Christians were Romans, where, again, the society around them allowed that slaves could be manumitted. What individual people did varied greatly. Ignatius advises Polycarp not to encourage freeing slaves as a way to attract them to Christianity. Augustine and John Chrysostom regard slavery as a consequence of man’s fallen nature. Remember that in Christianity everyone is fallen and no earthly power can correct that situation. The Catholic church has made multiple pronouncements of the natural legitimacy of slavery.

              The idea that Christians (in fact all people) are the property of God, comparable to slaves, is of course so common that I can’t believe you would seriously dispute it. It is still common in modern theology, used to justify any apparent abuses or injustices on God’s part. The idea of hell as punishment for disobedience is a central theme of Christianity.

            • Luke Breuer

              1st through 4th century Christians were Romans

              Some were. Why no qualifier?

              Ignatius advises Polycarp not to encourage freeing slaves as a way to attract them to Christianity.

              I would be interested to hear his reasoning. Were I to motivate it myself, I would say that Christianity, perhaps in contrast to many other religions, relies on continual exertion of free choice, and not obligation. It would also be important to understand what ‘slaves’ means, in this context. The word has many meanings when applied across spacetime.

              Augustine and John Chrysostom regard slavery as a consequence of man’s fallen nature.

              I would heartily agree. If you’re not willing/able to wield sufficient power, others will wield it and, statistically, in such a way that your freedom is restricted. Experiments such as the Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment, and The Third Wave support this—not to mention much of history.

              The Catholic church has made multiple pronouncements of the natural legitimacy of slavery.

              Care to list (perhaps via citation) at least some of them?

              The idea that Christians (in fact all people) are the property of God, comparable to slaves, is of course so common that I can’t believe you would seriously dispute it.

              The NLT translation of Romans 6:19 is apropos:

              Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.

              You are always advancing someone’s purpose. In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre talks about the result of pursuing a private purpose (or telos), such that one’s private goods conflict with others’ private goods. The result of such individualist autonomy is possibly describable as ‘slavery’ itself. Perhaps this shows too much influence by Continuum, but I wonder what America will look like in 50 years if the trend of advertising continues as it has. I think the result could be remarkably similar to some of the ways history has exhibited ‘slavery’. It may even be a type which is very hard for most to even detect. “Hasn’t it always been this way?”

              Being a ‘slave’ to God’s purpose is a useful turn of phrase; it can be seen as a subversion of the very word ‘slave’. You see, Yahweh is the single being who cannot benefit from our slavery except to the extent that we benefit. As exemplified in Jesus, Yahweh is a servant-God. This can be seen in the OT as well; as Eve is described as Adam’s “helper” (עֵזֶר, `ezer), so is God. Jesus turns the world order on its head in Mt 20:20-28 and Jn 13:1-20: the one with the most power and authority serves and empowers those who have less. That idea was radical in Jesus’ time; sadly, it is still radical, today.

            • Luke Breuer

              So, in context, the Old Testament lays out a number of laws showing slavery is a normal and accepted part of their society, approved by God, with the racist caveat that Jews were to be treated better than foreigners.

              Are you aware that unlike the Code of Hammurabi, Torah contains no distinction between commoner and noble? Your take on OT slavery is very obviously biased—your “beaten nearly to death” comment makes that quite clear. If you read Exodus 21 in its entirety, you’ll see parallelism between the death of freemen due to violence, and the death of slaves due to violence. You have chosen to interpret vv20-21 in the worst light possible; the following saying of Jesus applies:

              “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

              If you’re going to interpret the Bible this way, I’m not sure how useful of a conversation we can have. You’ll focus on the worst bits you can find, ignoring facts like (a) murdering a slave resulted in the death penalty; (b) knocking out a tooth or damaging an eye resulted in freedom for the slave. You’ll likely fail to understand that OT slaves could own property, purchase their own freedom, and you’ll refuse to interpret statements like Ex 20:21’s “for the slave is his money” as referring to buying years of labor and not buying a human being as property. You’ll refuse to acknowledge the import of passages such as Deut 15:12-18, which includes the imperative to remember slavery in Egypt, such that similar conditions are never imposed on Hebrew slaves. You will insist that instead of OT laws being designed to slowly alter a culture from worse to better, the failure for the laws to be considered perfect in every age is a black mark on any omni-deity, who should always and forever use methods to communicate that are perfect and perhaps can never be misinterpreted.

              Maybe I’m wrong in the above paragraph, but you seem to have made up your mind on this issue; you seem not interested in changing it upon seeing new evidence or texts you haven’t integrated into your understanding of the Bible. Am I wrong?

              Slaves of heaven, if they fail to live up to some whim of the master’s, are to be tortured eternally.

              Please justify your use of “whim”. What texts contribute to this? How do texts like Mt 25:31-46 fit into your understanding? I don’t see any “whims” in that text; perhaps you do?

              When a book like the Bible reinforces the evils of such a society

              How do you know that “reinforces” is correct? How good of a conception do you have of contemporary cultures?

              the bleeding obvious point that the Bible is the product of a backward and barbaric culture

              It’s curious that you include the Year of Jubilee in this analysis; it requires the returning of land to the original owners ever 49th year, which serves as a powerful antidote to the accumulation of wealth and the kind of increasing wealth gap that we see in America, today. I won’t disagree that quite a bit of Torah seems barbaric by our contemporary standards, but that’s not a very relevant comparison now, is it?

          • Luke Breuer

            Oh, you also deflected, via tu quoque.

            • josh

              Please don’t use terms you don’t understand. I did not claim Pagan or Christian slavery were defensible. I pointed out that ideas of ‘natural’

              slavery in fact survived the Greek and Roman eras. I wouldn’t call post-Roman slavery awesome.

            • Luke Breuer

              Which term did I not understand? “Natural slavery”? You think I don’t recognize it in the Cornerstone Speech? Do you really think an idea is purged immediately, vs. via many attempts, attempts which are hopefully increasingly successful?

            • josh

              Tu quoque.

            • Luke Breuer

              I sarcastically implied that the first exponential increase the the meme-plot did not contain any allowance for getting rid of natural slavery. You responded by deflecting from ancient Greece and Rome, to a very specific subset of Christianity—the kind of subset which would cherry-pick Deut 23:15 out of existence and write shit like the Cornerstone Speech. Instead of addressing what I directly alluded to—natural slavery under a non-Christian system—you deflected onto a very specific subset of Christianity. Tu quoque.

              Oh, and let’s just consider: Christianity had the resources to declare slavery evil, while ancient Greece and Rome did not. (At least as far as I know!)

            • josh

              Tu quoque is the fallacy of asserting that what one does disproves a claim one makes if it is apparently inconsistent, i.e. hypocrisy. Informally it is the excuse of one party’s bad actions because a critic has done the same thing. Neither applies to what I said remotely.

              The (somewhat dubious) graphic is about technological progress. But your comment is not only a non-sequitur to that topic, it is incoherent since Christianity did not get rid of slavery, natural or otherwise. The subset of slave-owning, trafficking, and tacitly approving Christians is neither very specific nor small.

              I have no idea what you mean by ‘resources to declare slavery evil’. There are some admirable anti-slavery sentiments from Christians and some abominable defenses and expansions of it also from Christians. I will note that in Rome a slave could buy his freedom.

            • Luke Breuer

              Me: The Romans and Greeks were shitty for their belief in Natural Slavery.
              You: [Some] Christians were also shitty for their belief in Natural Slavery.

              What was your purpose in saying this, if not to deflect and say, “You Christians are in no place to judge, because you do the same thing!” It’s almost as if you know about the Romans 1–2 punch (2:24 is targeted to the Jews), but applied it terribly. But in the case that you did not have this purpose, I apologize in advance. Your one-liner was terribly vague.

            • josh

              Luke, there was no deflection. I was never praising the slavery of Roman and Greek society. You, however, implied that it was a uniquely Roman and Greek problem and that praising Greek scientific and philosophical inquiry should somehow be equated with approving of their social structure.

              In fact I was condemning both: slavery under ancient pagans and slavery under Christianity. Talking about technological culture, it is a deflection to say, ‘but the Romans had slaves’ when Christians had slaves long after the fall of Rome.

            • Luke Breuer

              You, however, implied that it was a uniquely Roman and Greek problem


              and that praising Greek scientific and philosophical inquiry should somehow be equated with approving of their social structure.

              No. My implication was that the graphic forgets the cost, in social instability (which hinders scientific and technological progress), of fighting accepted institutions such as natural slavery and pederasty.

            • josh

              But Christianity didn’t fight the institution of slavery, slavery continued under Christian dominance. It is just a fantasy that Christians were poised to advance knowledge and science except that they first elected to address their social problems. If you want an example of opposing slavery look at the abolition movements throughout American history and the actual civil war that was fought over it. American technological progress didn’t stop during that period, it accelerated. (Pederasty is just a red herring, the Romans regarded it as degenerate and Christians didn’t launch any crusades to eliminate it.)

              Now if you want to make a serious argument, you can recognize that the disintegration of the western roman empire may have had a lot to do with the loss or standstill of scientific progress. How the rise of Christianity interacted with that is a complex question and what role it had in relation to science, compared to any other historical scenario in which Christianity wasn’t around, is debatable. What you can’t do is pretend that Christians dismantled the empire in order to build up a slave-free society.

            • Andy_Schueler

              But Christianity didn’t fight the institution of slavery, slavery continued under Christian dominance.

              To be fair – slavery and slave trade did decrease significantly in europe after the collapse of the roman empire, and chattel slavery was eventually almost completely replaced by serfdom in the middle ages. Although one could say that slaves vs serfs is a little like Tomayto vs Tomahto, and that christianity did nothing to prevent the emergence of new world slavery (and people that migrated to the new world were, if anything, more religious overall compared to the people that stayed in europe, not less).
              I´d grant christians that, overall, they historically have a better track record than either muslims or the ancient romans and greek.
              That´s not saying very much though, “better than muslims, romans and greeks” in this respect still means “too little, too late” (also, the moral progress that coincided with the spread of christianity has to be balanced with the moral regress – freedom of speech and religion for example was much more pronounced in ancient rome and greece than it was in christian europe for a very long time).

            • Luke Breuer

              I will note that in Rome a slave could buy his freedom.

              As could Israelite slaves.

            • josh

              Not quite. A Jewish male slave was to be freed after a period of 6 years, although they could ‘opt’ to become slaves for life. A daughter had no such choice although could become free through marriage. Foreign, i.e., non-Jewish slaves could be bought and sold indefinitely and passed on as property, there was no Biblical prescription for freeing them.

            • Luke Breuer

              I’m not interested in tutoring you on OT slavery; you’re welcome to investigate this page yourself. I have been told there are plenty of problems with it; fine. That being said, the guy cites more empirical evidence than any atheist/skeptic ever has (online) when addressing slavery in the ANE. There’s also an NT version. At some time in the future, I will do a systematic review of slavery in Judaism and slavery in Christianity. This is not that time.

            • Yes, plenty of problems! I would take Thom Stark’s reasoned approach any day.


            • Luke Breuer

              Does Thom Stark have a nice, collected bibliography for that review? It doesn’t seem to have all that many sources…

            • Andy_Schueler

              Yes, plenty of problems!

              Understatement of the month… The asshole even puts scarequotes around “slavery” because it was clearly a mutual arrangement of bondservice. It baffles me time and again that there actually are christians who are gullible enough to fall for cheap propaganda like this.

            • i agree. that site annoys me, and has done since i started counter-apologetics like this

            • Andy_Schueler

              I get the motivation behind it – it´s the same motivation that drives japanese nationalists to whitewash their war crimes in WWII or the Turks to whitewash the armenian genocide or some neo-confederate scumbag to whitewash new world slavery etc. pp., doesn´t make it any less despicable though.

            • josh

              I don’t think you are qualified to ‘tutor’ me on slavery. So far you haven’t managed to find any mistakes in what I say. I am pointing out to you the empirical evidence of Biblical canon law. What other cultures did in the ancient world is not relevant. Different classes of slaves are not relevant.

              The Bible makes quite clear that slaves could be captured in war, sold as property, and beaten almost to death all according to the supposed Law of God. (Beating them to death was cause for an unspecified punishment, but for nearly to death the loss of labor was punishment enough). Their children belonged to the master. That is chattel slavery. Trying to find even worse historical examples of slavery is setting such a low bar for biblical morality I don’t know why you bother.

        • f_galton

          Don’t forget the acceptance of pederasty.

          • Luke Breuer

            Yep, that too. It’s like folks here don’t comprehend what it takes to remove deeply accepted practices from a society. At least, they’ve given no evidence of this comprehension, and their talking and posting is well-modeled by assuming a lack of such comprehension.

      • Void Walker

        Idiotic? You mean like making outlandish claims, then never supplying links to substantiate them? Golly, who do I know of who does that…. (hint hint)

    • Andy_Schueler

      As Richard Carrier has said, the pagans were much closer to the Scientific Revolution…

      Carrier´s chapter in “The Christian Delusion” about this issue was really a great read, I wouldn´t have guessed that so much of the technological and methodological innovations in the middle ages were mere rediscoveries of things that had already been known in antiquity.

    • Gus

      Christianity birthed science jonathan.

      • Andy_Schueler

        In the sense that the scientific revolution happened in an area that was culturally christian, yes.
        In the exact same sense, christianity “birthed” National Socialism.

      • Void Walker

        The brilliant, clear thinker strikes again. Don’t you have a shiny object to fixate upon or something?

      • Christianity was the midwife but she had sod all to do with the conception.

        • Void Walker


    • Inquirer

      Are there people trying to insist that be/c Christian Europe made so many advances in science that Christianity must be true?

      • No, more hat xtianity is causally responsible for science.

        • Inquirer

          That’s interesting. Why are there Christians who want to change the understanding of evolution as a supernatural process that was guided by an Omni-being instead of a natural process if that is true?
          I think the belief that somehow “xtianity is causally responsible for science” is incredibly false.

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