The Nonwar between science and religion
With all the current fracas about Intelligent Design (ID) and attempts to force the cardinal sin of mentioning it in a science class, the old meme of Science and Religion being at war is being cast about as if it was fact. The problem is, much like the flat earth myth, this meme is false.
Nancy Pearcey has an article about Christianity's role in starting science, but near the end she also mentions the supposed war between religion and science.
Today the majority of historians of science agree with this positive assessment of the impact the Christian worldview had on the rise of science. Yet even highly educated people remain ignorant of this fact. Why is that?So the enlightenment and the war between science and religion was just a propaganda campaign. Today however, it is very convenient for evolutionists/humanists/atheists to cast the debate in a science versus religion way, as these posts over at Telic Thoughts have noticed.
The answer is that history was founded as a modern discipline by Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire, Gibbon, and Hume who had a very specific agenda: They wanted to discredit Christianity while promoting rationalism. And they did it by painting the middle ages as the "Dark Ages," a time of ignorance and superstition. They crafted a heroic saga in which modern science had to battle fierce opposition and oppression from Church authorities. Among professional historians, these early accounts are no longer considered reliable sources. Yet they set the tone for the way history books have been written ever since. The history of science is often cast as a secular morality tale of enlightenment and progress against the dark forces of religion and superstition.
Stark puts it in particularly strong terms: "The ‘Enlightenment’ [was] conceived initially as a propaganda ploy by militant atheists and humanists who attempted to claim credit for the rise of science." Stark's comments express a tone of moral outrage that such bad history continues to be perpetuated, even in academic circles.
Sermons, verbal attacks, conspiratorical moves to have their own people placed in key positions, and the rewriting of history. Wow, that almost sounds as what the ID movement is being accused of doing. Yet it was carried out by a group of people that is today remembered as the front line defenders of science and progress. If that isn’t ironic, then I don’t know what is.
Given that Cornell’s first president did much to “instill in the public mind a sense of the adversarial relationship between science and religion,” it doesn’t help to have its current Interim President mentioning Cornell’s Will Provine in two places. Provine, after all, is the guy who teaches the public that “Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented.”
And ID The Future also chimes in.
This is a real knee-slapper. As an account of the relations between science and Christianity, White's History was long ago discredited as a work of anti-Christian propaganda. (See, for example, James R. Moore's The Post-Darwinian Controversies, Cambridge UP, 1979.) Among other things, White's book played a major role in presenting the infamous flat Earth myth (the fiction that Columbus was opposed by Christians who believed his ships would sail off the edge of the Earth) as though it were actual history. (See Jeffrey Burton Russell's Inventing the Flat Earth, Praeger, 1997.)
It seems that Karl Popper's comments that the Common Descent 'Theory' of evolution was a metaphysical research program (as opossed to a scientific theory) are not far off. Although it would have been more apt to call it a metaphysical (atheistic) propaganda campaign.
Update: Link to Pearcey Report Corrected