More Top Stories:

How Theology Can, and Should, Contribute to Scientific and Public Discourse about Anthropogenic Global Warming


A paper presented to the Round Table on
Theology, Climate Change, and Politics,
University of Western Ontario, May 29, 2012

Paleoanthropologist and philosopher Loren Eiseley (1907–1977), who though religious in the tradition of American Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau was certainly no orthodox Christian theist, on reflecting on the kind of soil in which science could flourish, wrote, “In one of those strange permutations of which history yields occasional rare examples, it is the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear, articulate fashion to the experimental method of science itself.”[1] While Eiseley considered this a “strange permutation,” more thorough investigators of the history of science and of the nature of both Christian and scientific thought and practice find the growth of science from Christian seeds and in Christian soil to be not strange but thoroughly understandable.

“Real science arose only once: in Europe,” wrote Rodney Stark in his controversial book The Triumph of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success.

That was not among the controversial statements in the book. Those dealt more with his understanding of economic and business history. This statement, however, merely said what has become a commonplace among historians and philosophers of science. Stark cited twelve scholarly studies that all reached the same conclusion.[2]

He might have cited many more, in light of the thorough debunking, by such seminal thinkers as the French physicist and philosopher of science Pierre Duhem (1861–1916), of the old positivist “histories” of the “warfare” between science and Christianity that once dominated science education in the West, like John William Draper’s (1811–1882) History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874) and Andrew Dickson White’s (1832–1918) A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). Duhem, whose researches into Medieval science brought him to unexpected conclusions, wrote that “the mechanics and physics of which modern times are justifiably proud proceed, by an uninterrupted series of scarcely perceptible improvements, from doctrines professed in the heart of the medieval schools.”[3]

Sir Isaac Newton, statue by Eduardo Paolozzi, photo by Duncan Hull, Flickr Creative Commons

Several other assertions by Stark are equally uncontroversial among actual historians of science:

Fundamental theological and philosophical assumptions determined whether anyone will attempt to do science. [17]

The Christian image of God is that of a rational being who believes in human progress, more fully revealing himself as humans gain the capacity to better understand. Moreover, because God is a rational being and the universe is his personal creation, it necessarily has a rational, lawful structure, awaiting increasing human comprehension. This was the key to many intellectual undertakings, among them the rise of science. [11–12]

… Christians developed science because they believed it could be done, and should be done. … Newton, Kepler, and Galileo regarded the creation itself as a book that was to be read and comprehended. [14, 16]

In contrast, Stark pointed out,

… most non-Christian religions do not posit a creation at all: the…

 if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.


Opinions posted on are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.
%d bloggers like this: