During a class break last night, some of us were discussing the rise of science and the rise of philosophy. Why was it that the sciences seemed to take so long to get up to speed? I believe the ancients were far better at philosophy than we are, but there is no question that as far as the sciences go, we have them completely outmatched.
I began pondering this and I think it’s a false paradigm. We make it so that it seems that the advance of science took place all of a sudden when some restraint was removed. The world was progressing along and then we unchained the beast of science and lo and behold, it went wild and started becoming the dominant force.
A difference between philosophy and the natural sciences is that while philosophy can comment on the material world, it can comment on areas outside of the sciences. It also doesn’t require any special equipment, although equipment giving us new discoveries can help. If someone wants to be a philosopher, they simply need to have a mind that they are using. Granted, it requires discipline and good thinking skills, but it’s mental work.
Science, on the other hand, requires material work. One has to have their senses in order first off, but then science advances by the more work done in the material world. There are some discoveries that are made that simply allow the take-off though of science. Unfortunately, we often think the take-off is a result of a new worldview paradigm. It could be, but could it more likely be that someone makes an invention that makes inventing easier for everyone else?
This invention would not be created in a vacuum either. This invention is riding on the back of other inventions. For instance, some of our first major developments were in the area of agriculture. This makes sense though as agriculture would be used to keep us alive and producing families capable of producing minds. The Christians did this in fact.
What about education and money? Those are needed also. The Christians were the ones that brought about capitalistic moves. This is what led Aquinas and others to write about the making of profit. It was through good finances that the ability to build institutes of higher learning were established. Who built the first universities? That’s right. The Christians.
Keep in mind that throughout this time period, the Christians were working. There was much writing and going on. The debates might seem meaningless and silly, but they are important. We are still debating the issues that they debated back then. Obvious ones are the nature of God. Mainly in our day, his existence. What about universals though? Do they exist or not? This is the debate on nominalism. What about war? Aquinas was one of the main writers on the just war theory.
However, as the Christians were working, they did eventually develop the Printing Press. This would make education even more likely as we could then produce books en masse. This would increase the spread of the knowledge as more people would learn to read. The more people learned to read, the more likely great inventions were to come about. Lo and behold, we have inventions like the steam engine.
Rodney Stark has well said that the industrial revolution was not a revolution so much as an evolution. This was naturally happening. Consider the example of a human body. A human body is naturally growing, but it is at one point that we call puberty that things take off and all of a sudden, rapid growth takes place.
Was it atheism that had this? How could it? It was Christianity that was making things take off throughout history that brought about agriculture, capitalism, and education. I’d definitely include science in the category. There is a connection between the two. The other side will have to show that an event like the falling of the Bastille has some connection with the rise of science.
Could it be that a simpler explanation is that we have a modern bias that wants to argue that Christianity held us back and then when that held us back, science took off? Never mind that while science is good, I don’t think the highest goods come from science and chances are, neither do you. (Does science tell you how to love your spouse? Does it tell you what the meaning of life is? Does it tell you what the greatest good is?) Science can tell you much about this world, but can it answer the most important questions you have?
In our age, it is an attempt to cut off the world from the traditions of the past, which would naturally include Christianity. It is a paradigm that needs to be cut off instead. We are standing on the shoulders of giants and if we knock those giants out from under us, the heights we can reach and the distances we see are lowered then as well.