tirsdag 3. november 2009

The Hole Left by the Freethinking Age

As this blog alternates between prog and prejudice, it's time for another go at the Medieval myths.

Or science fiction writer Mike Flynn's go at "the Hole Left by the Christian Dark Ages".

Here's a taste.
In general, he projects. His essay appeals to ignorance of the history of science and the scholarship of the past couple of decades, indeed, of any scholarship at all.

He confuses correlation with causation. That a Christian did something does not necessarily mean that he did it because of his Christianity. He recognized this when the deed is a good one, but swallows it whole when the deed was a bad one.

He also claims that Christians are guilty of "non sequiturs" when they write that various famous scientists were believers, commenting correctly that "it doesn't follow that just because a few scientists believed in God that science resulted from it." Then among his "further sources" he includes two links to surveys citing all the scientists who do not believe in God.

But if it is a non sequitur in one direction then, under the gandersauce principle, it is a non sequitur in the other. In either case, it is an invalid appeal to authority.(*) Why should a scientist's beliefs about God matter any more than his beliefs about barbecue sauce or the coining of free silver?

Training in the sciences tends to be narrowly focused and does not usually confer expertise in theology, history, philosophy, or indeed much of anything outside his specialty. (*) It is perfectly valid to appeal to an authority in a field; i.e., to cite an historian on a point of history; a cosmologist on a point of cosmology. This is simply shorthand for research the reader has not the time, inclination, equipment, or expertise to carry out himself.

Inexplicably, Mr. Walker cites (as the bandwagon fallacy) an appeal to "the popular notion that Christianity began modern science." But this is hardly a popular notion. Most people undoubtedly buy into the cultural 'tude that Christianity was hostile to science. However, he does invite by his rhetoric that we all get on the bandwagon of advanced thinking in this regard.

Here is the primary thesis of this counter-essay. Whether or not you believe in someone's God has nothing to do with whether they accomplished anything you consider worthwhile. They may have been perfectly mistaken about God and still kicked off science. But there is a certain kind of "free" thinker who seems bound to the notion that if you disbelieve in a religion then nothing that religion ever did could possibly be any good.

History is never quite this cardboard stereotype of White Hats and Black Hats.
There's a LOT more.

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