The forgotten roots of science. Part 2

‘The forgotten roots of science’ is a mercifully short section that saves its weakest claims for last:

It is, of course, notoriously difficult to know ‘what would have happened if…’, but it is surely not too much to say that the rise of science would have been seriously retarded if one particular doctrine of theology, the doctrine of creation, had not been present – a doctrine that is common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam (23).

As usual I’m impressed with Lennox’s command of rhetoric shown in the gentle approach at introducing this with ‘it is surely not too much to say’. The reader nods in agreement without realizing that they are agreeing with not very much at all. For what is it to science if its rise is severely retarded? Nothing. Nothing at all. The unasked question that is definitely not notoriously difficult to answer is “Would science have arisen without the doctrine of creation ever being present?” That it would have is inevitable, which Lennox himself as much admits when he limits his statement to ‘severely retarded’.

But just when you thought Lennox couldn’t deliver a weaker argument he rounds off directly after the last quote with ‘Just because a religion has supported science does not prove that the religion is true. Quite so – and the same can, of course, be said of atheism” (23). At first I wondered why Lennox would bother to explain something so blindingly obvious. It doesn’t follow on from the previous point, and it leaves one scratching one’s head as to why it needs to be so emphatically stated. Then I realized that Lennox includes this because he holds the reader’s intellectual ability to follow an argument in contempt. It’s surely not too much to say that Lennox needs to spell out clearly that atheism can’t score any points by supporting science because he’s already assumed that his readership is gullible enough to agree with the above point about science primarily stemming from theism. And it’s surely not too much to say that Lennox imagines someone saying ‘If a religon can be proved true because it has shown some support of science, then surely atheism must be even more true because it supports only science!’

Alright, this is total speculation. It’s me imagining Lennox imagining his readership gullible. But surely it’s not too much to say that it’s inclusion is puzzling, or even dare we say, questionable.

5 thoughts on “The forgotten roots of science. Part 2

  1. Marco

    “Would science have arisen without the doctrine of creation ever being present?

    I must admit that even before reading the book, I was already convinced that science as we know it would *not* have arisen without the doctrine of creation – nor marriage, nor secular humanism and a gazillion other things we take for granted. Not to mention atheism, which could not exist without something to disbelieve. In that context, I found this chapter to be moderate and middling.

    Of course, this has nothing to do with proving theism true. But then again, that wasn’t the point of this chapter. The point is that of itself, theism is for the most part, a friend to science and not the enemy.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “Would science have arisen without the doctrine of creation ever being present?

      Marco:
      I must admit that even before reading the book, I was already convinced that science as we know it would *not* have arisen without the doctrine of creation – nor marriage, nor secular humanism and a gazillion other things we take for granted. Not to mention atheism, which could not exist without something to disbelieve. In that context, I found this chapter to be moderate and middling.

      winstoninabox:
      Not as we know it, but they certainly would have arisen.

      Marco:
      Of course, this has nothing to do with proving theism true. But then again, that wasn’t the point of this chapter. The point is that of itself, theism is for the most part, a friend to science and not the enemy.

      winstoninabox:
      I find Lennox’s rational for disproving that there is a war between science and religion a little overstated. Only the most extreme and vocal adherents on either side believe there is a war, so what’s the point of writing a book about it. Lennox says it’s because they get most of the media attention so they’re worth engaging. But really, does the person in the street even care? Much more challenging to discuss the middle ground.

      Reply
  2. Marco

    Not as we know it, but they certainly would have arisen.
    If you call witch doctors,homeopathy, Eastern medicine, alchemy, astrology etc. science – sure. They would have filled the vacuum and thought themselves special. I don’t see anything inevitable about the rise of science without the rise of theism. That is the science as results of repeatable experiment judged by a panel of peers, and given resources by the government of the day. It has monotheism written all over it. I think the monotheism as we know it may have been more inevitable. And the rise of science inevitable once there was monotheistic society at large.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      Do you mean without the rise of theism or monotheism? You use both in the above.
      You’re too fast to dismiss the non-Western scientific achievments. There was plenty going on in other parts of the world, but Lennox claims that monotheism was a requirement to give it the ‘nature has rules because there’s a rule-giver’ worldview. I think he underestimates the ingenuity of people to find another worldview that achieves the same result.

      Reply

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