Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Antikythera Device

Arguably the first important underwater archaeological find was a shipwreck discovered in 1900 off the Aegean Sea island of Antikythera. The ship was Greek, dated from the time of Christ, and carried a wealth of statues and pottery.

Also aboard this ancient ship was a heavily-encrusted instrument, which little-by-little came to be recognized as a navigational device. It wasn't until the 1950's, though, that with x-ray and gamma-ray examination of its internal structure investigators recognized it as a sophisticated instrument that accurately mimicked past, present, and future movements of the sun, moon, and planets. Some early Greek had developed an analog computer 2000 years ago!

Historians of science recognize that several ancient civilizations besides Greece--Mesopotamia, China, India, Egypt, and Islam--made impotant contributions to modern science (especially in mathematics and astronomy, but also in other areas). In the case of each of these cultures, however, such contributions (and the individuals that effected them) were rather anomalous. They weren't followed by further progress, or by a succession of like-minded individuals and similar innovation and advance. Science historian Stanley Jaki has argued that science was "stillborn" in these other cultures. Why?

Worldview. These cultures each had worldview inadequacies, aspects of their overall view of reality that stifled scientific advance. Modern science was conceived, was born, and flourished only within the Judeo-Christian worldview of 16th and 17th century Europe. All of the founders of modern science were either devout Christians (Boyle, Newton, Pascal, Kepler, Bacon, Descartes, Leibnitz, Linnaeus, Mendel, Cuvier, Agassiz, Pasteur, and others) or at least operated within a Christian understanding of reality (Copernicus, Galileo, van Leeuwenhoek, and others).

And this was not just a coincidence. The very philosophical presuppositions that allowed the scientific revolution come from a biblical understanding of the world. What's more, science only makes sense within a theistic--and specifically Christian--worldview. While science can be (and increasingly is) conducted by atheistic naturalists, naturalism fails to provide a rational foundation for science. Naturalists engaging in science do so on capital borrowed from Christian theism.

Note: More on this from time to time in future posts. But if you're in the Bend, Oregon area tomorrow, I'm kicking off a series on Analyzing Naturalism, where I'll be going into more depth on the philosophy and history of science. That'll be at the new church--Antioch (check it out at )--about which my family is so excited (and about which more later also). We meet at the Regal Theatres in the Old Mill. (The Naturalism class is at 8:15 in theater #1, and the worship service begins at 9:30 in theatre #5.)


Anonymous said...

Hi Rick. You and I are neighbors. I just learned of your blog from Mike Caba. You and I are interested in many of the same things. I'm currently reading Thomas Woods' "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" and another book by Rodney Stark, "For the Glory of God." You are right on the mark with your comments about Western (read: Christian) exceptionalism and the ramifications of that for cultural and scientific development.

I hope we get to meet soon. Perhaps we have already done so at one of the block parties, but need to do so again. My son Rich Waller has told me about you. I wish we could hear your presentations on naturalism, but we attend church locally and can't do the Bend trip on a regular basis.



Anonymous said...

Hi Rick:

Didn't Bacon also think it was his moral duty, based upon his Christian convictions, to help mankind? Let me know what you think about this.


Mike Caba

Anonymous said...

"The very philosophical presuppositions that allowed the scientific revolution come from a biblical understanding of the world."

Does this statement commit the
fallacy of association?

(Specifically the fallacy of
"Honor by association")

Did they actually come from it or is it possible that most of these great minds of the scientific revolution culturally happened to be Christians?

(Please understand that this comment is in an effort to sharpen our apologetics.)