Science and Religion in The Early Middle Ages | The Renaissance Mathematicus
Keywords: Middles Ages; Islam; History of science; Natural philosophy; Aristotle Although my topic is primarily on the relations between science and religion in . But today the historical relationship between science and religion is essentially an open question. The various answers depend on the factors found in particular . Science and religion have always been at war with one another, right? Numbers, an expert on the relationship between science and religion, points out that most scientific leaders were men of the church, They included the great medieval.
Teaching science in the university Typically new students arrived at university at the age of fifteen and were matriculated into the university Arts Faculty. Here, they would be taught the subjects viewed as essential to tackle everything else: After three or four years of study the student had to settle a disputation and, if successful, became a Bachelor of the Arts. Then, after another year or two, he took part in a final disputation with his Master and was incepted as a Master of the Arts.
This meant the student could now do two things to continue his academic career, either become a teacher a Regent Master in the Arts Faculty at any university as allowed by the ius ubique docendi the right to teach anywhere or start to study for a doctorate at one of the higher faculties of Medicine, Civil and Canon Law or Theology.
Whereas most universities had an Arts Faculty, few could boast all of the higher subjects, which tended to be more specialised. For instance, Bologna and Padua were renowned for their law schools, Paris for its theologians and Salerno for medicine.
Oxford, at least, seemed to have possessed faculties in all subjects before After many more years of study in the higher faculty, the student could finally be admitted to the degree of Doctor that meant they could join the faculty and start practising. Prior to achieving the relevant professional degree, many jurisdictions forbade an individual to practice, write or research on the topic.
University students studied natural philosophy by listening to a lecturer read them texts and then explain them. Again, practical work was unheard of at least outside the medical faculty although the actual methods of teaching remain too obscure to make a sound judgement as to the extent that students were encouraged to think critically about what they were taught. The earliest version dates from and includes the old logic that had been translated into Latin by Boethius in the sixth century and the new logic which was not available until the twelfth century as well as grammar from Priscian and Donatus.
The late Renaissance syllabus of sees the inclusion of the Latin classics as well, especially Virgil and Cicero, probably under the influence of the humanists [NOTE]p xcii, Strickland Gibson ed. We should not get the impression from this list that the program was only updated every years but the fact that the same books were studied for hundreds of years does not suggest a rapidly changing body of knowledge.
University discipline The greatest privilege of being a student or teacher at university was that of being treated as a clergyman under law, which meant they had a high level of immunity to secular justice and were instead tried by the much gentler ecclesiastical courts [NOTE]p 36, Edward Grant, Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages Cambridge, Furthermore, an advantage of being self-governing corporations was that a university was responsible for its own disciplinary arrangements and rarely had to deal with outside authorities.
Hence, university discipline was largely in-house and followed the forms of canon law as set out by Gratian in his Decretum. Students were subject to discipline under university statutes and, needless to say, most cases heard at this level involved drunkenness, fornication and revelry of the sort that students have been indulging in since they were first gathered together away from home.
Under certain circumstances, one could appeal to the court of the local bishop who had responsibility for the university and then ultimately to the curia. Examinations for the MA involved an oral disputation on set texts in which required the candidate to defend a given position while also enunciating opposing views. But for a Doctorate of Theology there is evidence that written work had to be produced which could then be carefully scrutinised by the examiners for orthodoxy as well as signs of scholarly aptitude [NOTE]pWilliam Courtenay, "Inquiry and Inquisition: So, not only were most disciplinary matters dealt with by the university, also the consequences rarely made themselves felt outside it.
Once a list of errors had actually been extracted from the work of a scholar, often his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, he had the chance to reply and there were a number of defences open to him. Jean gave either a flat out denial, with no further explanation, that he had said what he was accused of saying this defence was successful in all five cases he used itan explanation of what he really meant, an insistence that the alleged error was not in fact heretical at all or an appeal to the authority of the Church fathers.
He was successful in having half the articles struck out but it was also open to the prosecution to add more errors at this stage. So, whereas Jean was able to deflect about thirty accusations, he found himself faced with an additional fifteen of them.
By the end of the Middle Ages, the universities found that they had largely preserved their autonomy and their reputations were such that others wanted to make use of their expertise. This was especially so for the Theology Faculty of the University of Paris which came to be regarded almost as the very font of orthodoxy and was frequently consulted about related matters.
The case of Simon de Phares from the end of the fifteenth century is illustrative of this. Simon was the proprietor of an up market astrology practice in Lyons that was so successful that even the King himself came to call.
This led to friction with the local clergy, who were usually in a state of armed truce with astrologers, so that Simon was hauled before the court of the Archbishop. Here, he was probably found to have been using magic, forbidden to practice and had his library confiscated. Simon appealed to the Parlement in Paris rather than to the Pope in order to get his books back and they turned the case over to the Theology Faculty as they probably had no idea what any of the books were about, let alone if they should be condemned.
Simon had his appeal rejected with costs but does not appear to have got into any more serious trouble. External Discipline of Academics It was the potentially dangerous subject of theology that concerned the Church far more than natural philosophy and most examples of discipline relate to the former. These systems were essentially the internal disciplinary procedures of the universities and, as we have seen, the usual sanction was little more than having to recant the error and amend ones work to correct it.
Matters would only usually leave the auspices of the university if there was an appeal or if the matter became notorious and widely known as, for example, in the case of the Amalricians of Paris where the teaching of a university theologian threatened to produce a heretical sect [NOTE]TMMH Thijssen "Master Amalric and the Amalricians: As mentioned above, many academics were also members of the mendicant orders so they were also under the governance of their order and could face disciplinary proceedings from this direction.
The most infamous agents of medieval church discipline, the inquisitors, do not appear to have had a major role in dealing with academics but could become involved in certain cases. Word that someone had been teaching heretical opinions could reach the ear of the local inquisitor who would investigate and, on finding the allegations to be true, get the teacher to admit and recant his error before handing down his penance.
As the inquisitor was not part of the university it is likely that the case would already have acquired a degree of notoriety, perhaps due to public disputations or lectures, before he heard of it and having done so he would be obliged to act. Unfortunately, the condemnation does not tell us what the offending utterances were, although later authorities, such as the fifteenth century inquisitor, Franciscus Florentinus, mention that he had taught and written that Jesus lived and suffered the way he did because he was born under a special star which had also led the magi from the East [NOTE]p vol IV, Lynn Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science New York, - Contrary to what Franciscus insists, Cecco does not mention any such thing in his extant books even those that were burnt with him so his utterances were in all likelihood verbal and made in lectures.
As Cecco was not more severely punished we can also assume he confessed to and repented of his errors. This wilful disobedience immediately marked him out as a recalcitrant heretic and when he found himself before the Florentine inquisitor, Accursius, it is no surprise that the he was handed over to the secular arm. Responses to evolutionary theory were as diverse as Christian views on this subject, ranging from creationism denial of evolutionary theory based on a perceived incompatibility with Vedic texts to acceptance see C.
Brown for a thorough overview. Authors such as Dayananda Saraswati — rejected evolutionary theory. More generally, he claimed that Hinduism and science are in harmony: Hinduism is scientific in spirit, as is evident from its long history of scientific discovery Vivekananda Sri Aurobindo Ghose, a yogi and Indian nationalist, who was educated in the West, formulated a synthesis of evolutionary thought and Hinduism.
He interpreted the classic avatara doctrine, according to which God incarnates into the world repeatedly throughout time, in evolutionary terms. He proposed a metaphysical picture where both spiritual evolution reincarnation and avatars and physical evolution are ultimately a manifestation of God Brahman.
Brown for discussion. During the twentieth century, Indian scientists began to gain prominence, including C. Raman —a Nobel Prize winner in physics, and Satyendra Nath Bose —a theoretical physicist who described the behavior of photons statistically, and who gave his name to bosons. However, these authors were silent on the relationship between their scientific work and their religious beliefs. By contrast, the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan — was open about his religious beliefs and their influence on his mathematical work.
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- Religion and Science
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He claimed that the goddess Namagiri helped him to intuit solutions to mathematical problems. Likewise, Jagadish Chandra Bose —a theoretical physicist, biologist, biophysicist, botanist, and archaeologist, who worked on radio waves, saw the Hindu idea of unity reflected in the study of nature.
He started the Bose institute in Kolkata inthe earliest interdisciplinary scientific institute in India Subbarayappa Contemporary connections between science and religion Current work in the field of science and religion encompasses a wealth of topics, including free will, ethics, human nature, and consciousness.
Contemporary natural theologians discuss fine-tuning, in particular design arguments based on it e. Collinsthe interpretation of multiverse cosmology, and the significance of the Big Bang. For instance, authors such as Hud Hudson have explored the idea that God has actualized the best of all possible multiverses.
Here follows an overview of two topics that generated substantial interest and debate over the past decades: This doctrine of creation has the following interrelated features: Differently put, God did not need any pre-existing materials to make the world, unlike, e. Rather, God created the world freely. This introduces a radical asymmetry between creator and creature: Third, the doctrine of creation holds that creation is essentially good this is repeatedly affirmed in Genesis 1.
The world does contain evil, but God does not directly cause this evil to exist. Moreover, God does not merely passively sustain creation, but rather plays an active role in it, using special divine actions e.
Fourth, God made provisions for the end of the world, and will create a new heaven and earth, in this way eradicating evil. Related to the doctrine of creation are views on divine action. Theologians commonly draw a distinction between general and special divine action. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted definition of these two concepts in the fields of theology or science and religion. One way to distinguish them Wildman Drawing this distinction allows for creatures to be autonomous and indicates that God does not micromanage every detail of creation.
Still, the distinction is not always clear-cut, as some phenomena are difficult to classify as either general or special divine action. Alston makes a related distinction between direct and indirect divine acts.
God brings about direct acts without the use of natural causes, whereas indirect acts are achieved through natural causes. Using this distinction, there are four possible kinds of actions that God could do: God could not act in the world at all, God could act only directly, God could act only indirectly, or God could act both directly and indirectly.
Science and Religion in the Middle Ages
In the science and religion literature, there are two central questions on creation and divine action. To what extent are the Christian doctrine of creation and traditional views of divine action compatible with science? How can these concepts be understood within a scientific context, e. Note that the doctrine of creation says nothing about the age of the Earth, nor that it specifies a mode of creation.
This allows for a wide range of possible views within science and religion, of which Young Earth Creationism is but one that is consistent with scripture. The theory seems to support creatio ex nihilo as it specifies that the universe originated from an extremely hot and dense state around The net result of scientific findings since the seventeenth century has been that God was increasingly pushed into the margins.
This encroachment of science on the territory of religion happened in two ways: While the doctrine of creation does not contain details of the mode and timing of creation, the Bible was regarded as authoritative.
Second, the emerging concept of scientific laws in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century physics seemed to leave no room for special divine action.
These two challenges will be discussed below, along with proposed solutions in the contemporary science and religion literature. Christian authors have traditionally used the Bible as a source of historical information. Biblical exegesis of the creation narratives, especially Genesis 1 and 2 and some other scattered passages, such as in the Book of Jobremains fraught with difficulties.
Are these texts to be interpreted in a historical, metaphorical, or poetic fashion, and what are we to make of the fact that the order of creation differs between these accounts Harris ? Although such literalist interpretations of the Biblical creation narratives were not uncommon, and are still used by Young Earth creationists today, theologians before Ussher already offered alternative, non-literalist readings of the biblical materials e.
From the seventeenth century onward, the Christian doctrine of creation came under pressure from geology, with findings suggesting that the Earth was significantly older than BCE.
From the eighteenth century on, natural philosophers, such as de Maillet, Lamarck, Chambers, and Darwin, proposed transmutationist what would now be called evolutionary theories, which seem incompatible with scriptural interpretations of the special creation of species.
Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett have outlined a divine action spectrum to clarify the distinct positions about creation and divine action in the contemporary science and religion literature. They discern two dimensions in this spectrum: At one extreme are creationists. Like other theists, they believe God has created the world and its fundamental laws, and that God occasionally performs special divine actions miracles that intervene in the fabric of laws.
Creationists deny any role of natural selection in the origin of species. Within creationism, there are Old and Young Earth creationism, with the former accepting geology and rejecting evolutionary biology, and the latter rejecting both. Next to creationism is Intelligent Design, which affirms divine intervention in natural processes. Intelligent Design creationists e.
Like other creationists, they deny a significant role for natural selection in shaping organic complexity and they affirm an interventionist account of divine action. For political reasons they do not label their intelligent designer as God, as they hope to circumvent the constitutional separation of church and state in the US which prohibits teaching religious doctrines in public schools Forrest and Gross Theistic evolutionists hold a non-interventionist approach to divine action: God creates indirectly, through the laws of nature e.
For example, the theologian John Haught regards divine providence as self-giving love, and natural selection and other natural processes as manifestations of this love, as they foster autonomy and independence. While theistic evolutionists allow for special divine action, particularly the miracle of the Incarnation in Christ e. God has laid out the laws of nature and lets it run like clockwork without further interference.
Deism is still a long distance from ontological materialism, the idea that the material world is all there is. Views on divine action were influenced by developments in physics and their philosophical interpretation. In the seventeenth century, natural philosophers, such as Robert Boyle and John Wilkins, developed a mechanistic view of the world as governed by orderly and lawlike processes. Laws, understood as immutable and stable, created difficulties for the concept of special divine action Pannenberg How could God act in a world that was determined by laws?
One way to regard miracles and other forms of special divine action is to see them as actions that somehow suspend or ignore the laws of nature. This concept of divine action is commonly labeled interventionist. Interventionism regards the world as causally deterministic, so God has to create room for special divine actions.
By contrast, non-interventionist forms of divine action e. In the seventeenth century, the explanation of the workings of nature in terms of elegant physical laws suggested the ingenuity of a divine designer. For example, Samuel Clarke cited in Schliesser Another conclusion that the new laws-based physics suggested was that the universe was able to run smoothly without requiring an intervening God. The increasingly deterministic understanding of the universe, ruled by deterministic causal laws as, for example, outlined by Pierre-Simon Laplace —seemed to leave no room for special divine action, which is a key element of the traditional Christian doctrine of creation.
Newton resisted interpretations like these in an addendum to the Principia in Alston argued, contra authors such as Polkinghornethat mechanistic, pre-twentieth century physics is compatible with divine action and divine free will. In such a mechanistic world, every event is an indirect divine act. Advances in twentieth-century physics, including the theories of general and special relativity, chaos theory, and quantum theory, overturned the mechanical clockwork view of creation.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, chaos theory and quantum physics have been explored as possible avenues to reinterpret divine action. One difficulty with this model is that it moves from our knowledge of the world to assumptions about how the world is: Robert Russell proposed that God acts in quantum events. This would allow God to directly act in nature without having to contravene the laws of nature, and is therefore a non-interventionist model.
Since, under the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, there are no natural efficient causes at the quantum level, God is not reduced to a natural cause.
Murphy outlined a similar bottom-up model where God acts in the space provided by quantum indeterminacy. After all, it is not even clear whether quantum theory would allow for free human action, let alone divine action, which we do not know much about Jaeger a. Next to this, William Carrollbuilding on Thomistic philosophy, argues that authors such as Murphy and Polkinghorne are making a category mistake: God is not a cause in a way creatures are causes, competing with natural causes, and God does not need indeterminacy in order to act in the world.
Rather, as primary cause God supports and grounds secondary causes. While this solution is compatible with determinism indeed, on this view, the precise details of physics do not matter muchit blurs the distinction between general and special divine action.
Moreover, the Incarnation suggests that the idea of God as a cause among natural causes is not an alien idea in theology, and that God at least sometimes acts as a natural cause Sollereder There has been a debate on the question to what extent randomness is a genuine feature of creation, and how divine action and chance interrelate.
Chance and stochasticity are important features of evolutionary theory the non-random retention of random variations. In a famous thought experiment, Gould imagined that we could rewind the tape of life back to the time of the Burgess Shale million years ago ; the chance we would end up with anything like the present-day life forms is vanishingly small. However, Simon Conway Morris has argued species very similar to the ones we know now including human-like intelligent species would evolve under a broad range of conditions.
Under a theist interpretation, randomness could either be a merely apparent aspect of creation, or a genuine feature. Plantinga suggests that randomness is a physicalist interpretation of the evidence.
God may have guided every mutation along the evolutionary process. In this way, God could guide the course of evolutionary history by causing the right mutations to arise at the right time and preserving the forms of life that lead to the results he intends. Their challenge is to explain how divine providence is compatible with genuine randomness. Under a deistic view, one could simply say that God started the universe off and did not interfere with how it went, but that option is not open to the theist, and most authors in the field of science and religion are theists, rather than deists.
Elizabeth Johnsonusing a Thomistic view of divine action, argues that divine providence and true randomness are compatible: God gives creatures true causal powers, thus making creation more excellent than if they lacked such powers, and random occurrences are also secondary causes; chance is a form of divine creativity that creates novelty, variety, and freedom. One implication of this view is that God may be a risk taker—although, if God has a providential plan for possible outcomes, there is unpredictability but not risk.
Johnson uses metaphors of risk taking that, on the whole, leave the creator in a position of control creation, then, is like jazz improvisationbut it is, to her, a risk nonetheless. Why would God take risks? There are several solutions to this question.
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The free will theodicy says that a creation that exhibits stochasticity can be truly free and autonomous: Authentic love requires freedom, not manipulation. Such freedom is best supplied by the open contingency of evolution, and not by strings of divine direction attached to every living creature. According to Genesis, humans are the result of a special act of creation. Genesis 1 offers an account of the creation of the world in six days, with the creation of human beings on the sixth day.
Islam has a creation narrative similar to Genesis 2, with Adam being fashioned out of clay. These handcrafted humans are regarded as the ancestors of all living humans today. Humans occupy a privileged position in these creation accounts. In Christianity, Judaism, and some strands of Islam, humans are created in the image of God imago Dei. There are at least three different ways in which image-bearing is understood Cortez According to the functionalist account, humans are in the image of God by virtue of things they do, such as having dominion over nature.
The structuralist account emphasizes characteristics that humans uniquely possess, such as reason. The relational interpretation sees the image as a special relationship between God and humanity.
Humans also occupy a special place in creation as a result of the fall. By eating from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil they fell from this state, and death, manual labor, as well as pain in childbirth were introduced.
The Augustinian interpretation of original sin also emphasizes the distorting effects of sin on our reasoning capacities the so-called noetic effects of sin. As a result of sin, our original perceptual and reasoning capacities have been marred. Whereas Augustine believed that the prelapsarian state was one of perfection, Irenaeus second century saw Adam and Eve prior to the fall as innocent, like children still in development.
Scientific findings and theories relevant to human origins come from a range of disciplines, in particular geology, paleoanthropology the study of ancestral hominins, using fossils and other evidencearchaeology, and evolutionary biology. These findings challenge traditional religious accounts of humanity, including the special creation of humanity, the imago Dei, the historical Adam and Eve, and original sin. In natural philosophy, the dethroning of humanity from its position as a specially created species predates Darwin and can already be found in early transmutationist publications.
Journals addressing the relationship between science and religion include Theology and Science and Zygon. Eugenie Scott has written that the "science and religion" movement is, overall, composed mainly of theists who have a healthy respect for science and may be beneficial to the public understanding of science.
She contends that the "Christian scholarship" movement is not a problem for science, but that the "Theistic science" movement, which proposes abandoning methodological materialism, does cause problems in understanding of the nature of science. This annual series continues and has included William JamesJohn DeweyCarl Sagan, and many other professors from various fields.
Science, Religion, and Naturalism, heavily contests the linkage of naturalism with science, as conceived by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and like-minded thinkers; while Daniel Dennett thinks that Plantinga stretches science to an unacceptable extent. Barrettby contrast, reviews the same book and writes that "those most needing to hear Plantinga's message may fail to give it a fair hearing for rhetorical rather than analytical reasons.
Scientific and theological perspectives often coexist peacefully.
Christians and some non-Christian religions have historically integrated well with scientific ideas, as in the ancient Egyptian technological mastery applied to monotheistic ends, the flourishing of logic and mathematics under Hinduism and Buddhismand the scientific advances made by Muslim scholars during the Ottoman empire. Even many 19th-century Christian communities welcomed scientists who claimed that science was not at all concerned with discovering the ultimate nature of reality.
Principethe Johns Hopkins University Drew Professor of the Humanities, from a historical perspective this points out that much of the current-day clashes occur between limited extremists—both religious and scientistic fundamentalists—over a very few topics, and that the movement of ideas back and forth between scientific and theological thought has been more usual.
He also admonished that true religion must conform to the conclusions of science. Buddhism and science Buddhism and science have been regarded as compatible by numerous authors. For example, Buddhism encourages the impartial investigation of nature an activity referred to as Dhamma-Vicaya in the Pali Canon —the principal object of study being oneself. Buddhism and science both show a strong emphasis on causality. However, Buddhism doesn't focus on materialism.
In his book The Universe in a Single Atom he wrote, "My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science, so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation.
Christianity and science Science and Religion are portrayed to be in harmony in the Tiffany window Education Francis Collins, a scientist who happens to be a Christian, is the current director of the National Institutes of Health. Among early Christian teachers, Tertullian c. These ideas were significantly countered by later findings of universal patterns of biological cooperation.
According to John Habgoodall man really knows here is that the universe seems to be a mix of good and evilbeauty and painand that suffering may somehow be part of the process of creation.
Habgood holds that Christians should not be surprised that suffering may be used creatively by Godgiven their faith in the symbol of the Cross. The "Handmaiden" tradition, which saw secular studies of the universe as a very important and helpful part of arriving at a better understanding of scripture, was adopted throughout Christian history from early on. Heilbron Alistair Cameron CrombieDavid Lindberg Edward GrantThomas Goldstein,  and Ted Davis have reviewed the popular notion that medieval Christianity was a negative influence in the development of civilization and science.
In their views, not only did the monks save and cultivate the remnants of ancient civilization during the barbarian invasions, but the medieval church promoted learning and science through its sponsorship of many universities which, under its leadership, grew rapidly in Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Church's "model theologian", not only argued that reason is in harmony with faith, he even recognized that reason can contribute to understanding revelation, and so encouraged intellectual development. He was not unlike other medieval theologians who sought out reason in the effort to defend his faith. Lindberg states that the widespread popular belief that the Middle Ages was a time of ignorance and superstition due to the Christian church is a "caricature".
According to Lindberg, while there are some portions of the classical tradition which suggest this view, these were exceptional cases. It was common to tolerate and encourage critical thinking about the nature of the world. The relation between Christianity and science is complex and cannot be simplified to either harmony or conflict, according to Lindberg.
There was no warfare between science and the church. A degree of concord between science and religion can be seen in religious belief and empirical science.
The belief that God created the world and therefore humans, can lead to the view that he arranged for humans to know the world. This is underwritten by the doctrine of imago dei. In the words of Thomas Aquinas"Since human beings are said to be in the image of God in virtue of their having a nature that includes an intellect, such a nature is most in the image of God in virtue of being most able to imitate God".