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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Is religion needed for a scientific revolution?

I have written before how I believe Christianity is responsible for individualism, Christianity, democracy, republicanism, and the like.  You can debate me on this if you want, yet Christianity that encouraged people to appreciate this life -- and believe in Jesus -- to get to the next.  In other words, many religions forced followers to die with the king.  In Christianity, our King died for us.

Christianity was the first religion to encourage individualism: to get to heaven you have to take responsibility for your own actions.  If you decide to to believe in Jesus and accept his word, you will set yourself on a path to Heaven. If, by your actions, you decide to reject Jesus, then you will not get to Heaven.  Yet the entire premise here, as God preached through Moses, was that people appreciate their time in this life and live it to the fullest.

You decide to be good.  You decide to be bad.  You decide to not kill.  You decide to kill.  You decide to respect your neighbor.  You decide to kill your neighbor.  You decide to cleanse your body and be healthy.  You decide to be filthy and filled with disease.  You decide to respect the laws of your nation and maintain peace.  You decide to be disrespect laws in your nation and create wars.

The advantage of this, the advantage of Christianity, the advantage of believing in God and Jesus, is that in encourages people to give 100% of their efforts toward being good in this world to get to the next.  And, in order to fully appreciate this world, they had an inner craving to understand it better.  Without Christianity, there was no incentive to learn about it.

Some debate that the reason Christianity allows for this is that there is a single God to worship.  Some argue that among the first nations to develop a scientific revolution were those nations that worshiped some sort of God.  Plinio Prioreschi, in his book "A History of Medicine," describes how the Ancient Chinese did not have a scientific revolution as the Europe and Mesopotamians did because they didn't have a God to worship.

Prioreschi noted that a "world view molded by religion was essential for the development of science to be advanced, or for a scientific revolution to develop.  He referred to the following passage by A.C. Graham in his 1973 book "China, Europe, and the Origins of Modern Science:
The importance of a divine legislator in the European development (is not to be denied).  Indeed the significance of God as a designer of the clockwork is clear in seventeenth-century eighteenth-century science, which inclined even after diverging from official religion into deism rather than to atheism.  If there is a personal Creator, the universe is not simply there (as for Aristotle) and has not simply grown (as for the Chinese) but has been designed and constructed, so that the way to understand it is to take it to pieces like a man-made instrument and see how it works... Would the absence of a Creator in Chinese thought prevent such a development?  In China we find only the idea of impersonal shen, "Spirit, the numinous, the divine" as the power behind the tsao-hua, "the productive process," the process of nature by which things develop, and of a "maker of things" who is a consciously poetic personification."
Ancient China lacked knowledge of geography and lacked a belief in a creator, and therefore, according to the above, they didn't have a need to try to figure out how things are.  There was no need to do further research. 

Now this may be debated by some, or many for that matter.  You had the Catholic church stymieing science for many years, and as proof you can just look at Galileo, Copernicus, and many other scientific researchers.  Many of such people kept their knowledge to themselves, or published it near or after their deaths as Jean Baptiste van Helmont did so they could continue to live and do research.

Yet this does not deny this theory, rather it proves it. Despite knowledge that the Church wanted to keep peple in the dark regarding science for fear that such knowledge would make people no longer believe, poeple continued to ask questions and search for answers.  The result has given us the world we live in today. 

Once a nation like China became privy to scientific knowledge the nation learned to encourage it rather than discourage it, although it took many years of proof that science is beneficial to a nation that China finally accepted such wisdom. 

Surely this is just one theory, although it's interesting none the less.

  1. Prioreschi, Plinio, "A History of Medicine," Volume I, "Primitive and Ancient Medicine," 1991, Mellen historyh of Medicine, Chapter II: Chinese Medicine, page 175-6.  Reference refers to A.C. Graham, "China, Europe, and the Origins of modern Science: Needham's The Grand Titration," in Chinese Science, edited by Shigeru Nakayama and nathan Sivin, Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press, 1973, pages 45-69


Carole said...

Sorry, Christianity isn't about being good. It's about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. No one can be "good enough" to enter God's presence. That's why we need a Savior. Jesus died as the one time sacrifice for all our sins. This free gift is offered to anyone who repents, turns from their sin, and asks Jesus into his heart and life. Not trying to preach here, just clarifying. Love your site! God Bless! Carole

Rick Frea said...

Thanks for the comment and I agree. To clarify what I wrote above, Christianity was the first religion that encouraged followers to love and appreciate life to get to the next. For example, Christians didn't have to commit suicide with the king to get to the next world. In fact, the opposite: the king died for us. That's more in line what I meant. I do agree with what you say is the main emphasis of Christianity.