Saturday, February 03, 2007

Grayling's challenge

Philosopher and author A.C. Grayling offers this challenge: What contribution has Christianity ever made to science?

Looks like no one has come up with any. Grayling notes,
I asked Madeleine Bunting to name a single contribution to science made by Christianity. She accepts with pleasure the magnificent response of the many special-pleaders who responded on her behalf by naming Christian (whether nominal or convinced) scientists, the evolution of science in Christian (nominally or convinced) countries, and the role of Christian institutions (and institutions under church control: monasteries, universities).

I was in equal parts staggered and amused by this response, staggered because it seemed astonishing to me that anyone would seriously think it was not obvious that there were scientists who were (nominal or convinced) Christians, that science developed in countries many of which were (nominally or convinced) Christian countries, and so on, and amused because in their triumphalist teaching of how to suck eggs on this matter, the responders had so vastly missed the point of my challenge, even when I clarified it for them. For obviously and manifestly I did not ask Ms Bunting if there had even been Christian scientists, or whether science had been pursued in Christian countries. I challenged Ms Bunting to explain what Christianity, a body of beliefs and doctrine about virgin birth, miracles, resurrection of the dead, angels and archangels, voices from heaven, stigmata, and all the rest of the superstitious paraphernalia, had contributed to science.

I even, in clarification to those who had astonishingly mistaken so straightforward a challenge (but perhaps wilfully?), asked if the virgin birth was a contribution to gynaecology, whether the miracle of the loaves and fishes was a contribution to food science and marine zoology, whether the assumption of the virgin was a contribution to aeronautics. I fail to see how this challenge is unclear; I fail to see how it constitutes a claim that no scientists were ever Christians and that science did not develop in Christian countries, as all the would-be rebutters endlessly chorused. But so it did: remarkable.

I still await a reply to my challenge, though I am not holding my breath.

1 comment:

Naomi said...

In a roundabout way, theists created a world which needs psychology to repair people's warped minds, including that wonderful issue of "guilt".

As an atheist, I've learned more about religion outside of it than I ever did while in it. And dropping that heavy baggage has been profoundly liberating.

Yours is a good question/challenge and deserves respect--not obfuscation and linguistic contortions. Keep pressing until they give up.

We at and will do the same.