Christianity, the Middle Ages, and the Birth of Science

The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (Regnery Publishing, 2011) is a new book by physicist and historian of science James Hannam that challenges the myth that the Middles Ages were a time of ignorance and superstition. He recently talked to The Daily Caller about the book:


1. Why did you decide to write the book?

As someone with a physics degree who is also a Christian, I was puzzled about why science and religion were supposed to be in conflict. They certainly weren’t for me. So, I dug deeper and found that throughout history, the reality has been very different.  I also discovered a host of fascinating but forgotten Christian thinkers in the Middle Ages who deserved to be brought back to light. In short, there was a fantastic story that no one knew and which was waiting to be told.

2. You contend that contrary to popular belief, there was great scientific advancement during the Middle Ages because of the Church. How did the Church help spur this scientific discovery and why do most people believe the Church was a hindrance to science?

The Church made math and science a compulsory part of the syllabus at medieval universities for anyone who wanted to study theology. That meant loads of students got grounding in these subjects, and professors could hold down jobs teaching it.

The myth that the Church held back science dates from the “enlightenment” when Voltaire and other French philosophes invented it to attack the Catholics of their own day as impediments to political progress.

3. What are the most important and lasting scientific advancements to come out of the Middle Ages?

Fourteenth-century natural philosophers developed the arguments on relative motion used by Copernicus to explain why we cannot tell the Earth is moving; the mathematical formula that Galileo used to describe how objects fall under gravity; the concept of inertia and human dissection. All these achievements were used by later scientists without acknowledgement.  And medieval inventors gave us eyeglasses, the mechanical clock, the horse harness, the printed book, and reliable handguns.

Read the rest of the interview here.

The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution is available now.

HT: Tom Gilson

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