The following is from the booklet by Fr. Stanley L. Jaki, “Christ and Science.” I have not read the booklet, but I have read the more complete book he wrote covering the same subject matter, “The Savior of Science.” He contends and makes the eloquent case for the following assertion.
The summary of points come from the booklet, but are more fully treated with an exhaustive referencing (as in the references take up more room than the text on some pages) of historical and media documents to support every claim he makes.
Christianity provided the cultural matrix, the womb, for the birth of modern science.
Jaki gives four reasons summarized in “Christ and Science” (p. 23) for modern science’s unique birth in Christian Western Europe:
1. “Once more the Christian belief in the Creator allowed a break-through in thinking about nature. Only a truly transcendental Creator could be thought of as being powerful enough to create a nature with autonomous laws without his power over nature being thereby diminished. Once the basic among those laws were formulated science could develop on its own terms.”
2. “The Christian idea of creation made still another crucially important contribution to the future of science. It consisted in putting all material beings on the same level as being mere creatures. Unlike in the pagan Greek cosmos, there could be no divine bodies in the Christian cosmos. All bodies, heavenly and terrestrial, were now on the same footing, on the same level. this made it eventually possible to assume that the motion of the moon and the fall of a body on earth could be governed by the same law of gravitation. The assumption would have been a sacrilege in the eyes of anyone in the Greek pantheistic tradition, or in any similar tradition in any of the ancient cultures.”
3. “Finally, man figured in the Christian dogma of creation as a being specially created in the image of God. This image consisted both in man’s rationality as somehow sharing in God’s own rationality and in man’s condition as an ethical being with eternal responsibility for his actions. Man’s reflection on his own rationality had therefore to give him confidence that his created mind could fathom the rationality of the created realm.”
4. “At the same time, the very createdness could caution man to guard agains the ever-present temptation to dictate to nature what it ought to be. The eventual rise of the experimental method owes much to that Christian matrix.”
*See this selection at Colombia University website from “The Pope’s Physicist” by Fr. Paul Haffner, pp. 66-73 of the Spring 1996 issue of Sursum Corda.
It’s hard to argue against this assertion. Although there was plenty of evidence of scientific talent in other cultures and religions before Christianity, science as an enterprise unto itself as we know it today, science as a formal discipline, did not emerge except under Christian ideas about creation.
Think about what we know today of the physical world that has agreed with what Christianity held before modern science.
We have come to expect systematic order of material things both at the smallest and grandest scales.
We have come to accept that matter came to exist from nothing.
We have come to view the changing universe as a progression with a beginning and an end.
There is no evidence at all that any other creature possesses the intelligence of man.
Indeed if these things were not true, there would be no science. Or would there be?
“Christ and Science” available here.
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