by Ferdinand Bardamu
More Christian excuses
Christian religionists tout Aquinas and Bacon as exceptions to the anti-scientific world-view of the church, but these men were writing in response to Aristotle, who had just been rediscovered in the 12th century. Even in antiquity, Aristotle was considered outdated.
Neither Aquinas nor Bacon were scientists, none of them performed any real scientific experiments and none of them advanced science in any real or tangible way. Their achievement was to reconcile the Semitic doctrines of Christianity with the superior pagan ways of Aristotle, but the results of this were highly unsatisfactory.
Aquinas was also the father of medieval scholasticism, which proved highly detrimental to the rise of modern science in Europe. Scholastic methodology was eventually mocked for its absurdities by Renaissance writers like François Rabelais.
Because of the Christian emphasis on scripture and tradition as final source of authority, the church was opposed to the pagan epistemic values of public verifiability of evidence and empirical rationality. To the church hierarchy, the search for knowledge in accordance with such principles was both arrogant and dangerously heretical. Even with the reintroduction of pagan science and philosophy in the 12th century, there was still significant ecclesiastical opposition to the unaided reason as guide to truth.
The Christian church persecuted those who chose to question Christian religious orthodoxy with impunity. This fostered an environment in which pursuit of scientific and technical progress became a virtual impossibility. For example, the posthumous condemnation of the 6th century Alexandrian philosopher John Philoponus as a heretic ensured that his principled rejection of Neoplatonic and Aristotelian philosophy would remain unknown for centuries to come. This organized ecclesiastical persecution of free thinkers ruled out any possibility of material progress until the Scientific Revolution.
Despite what the facts reveal, Christian religionists have tried to distort the historical record by pretending otherwise. They believe that Christianity was a necessary ingredient, the “spark” that began the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century. This ignores the fact that science and religion, specifically Christianity in this case, are fundamentally incompatible.
Christianity is about blind faith, with revelation and authority serving as the only valid criteria for the evaluation of truth. In contrast, science is the accumulation of knowledge through logical reasoning, empirical observation and measurement. Christianity is a form of magical thinking; it is not open to revision. Science, on the other hand, is continuously in search of new ideas with ever greater explanatory power. Though scientific and technological progress occurred between 400 BC to 300 AD, leading to the development of ideas that would not be surpassed until the Scientific Revolution, there was virtually no progress from 300 AD to the 12th century, the apogee of Christian power and influence in Europe.
Even Christian Byzantium, which was more successful than the post-Roman successor states of the Latin West, never made any significant progress in science and technology. Under Christian influence, Europe regressed to a Neolithic stage of existence. This is well-supported by recent archeological evidence revealing numerous medieval simplifications of the earlier Roman material culture. Trade, industry and agriculture all witnessed significant declines in technical sophistication, economic productivity and output. Population size also decreased because of overall declines in prosperity and comfort.