Busting anti Catolic myths: Did christianity destroy ancient science?

Like other none-historical anti catolic/christian myths the idea that the early church destroyed or held back the achievements of ancient science is widespread in populare culture with persons like Carl Sagan and movies like Agora.

This video takes that myth apart and shows that the early church did not destroy the ancient scientific achievements but was the one institution that preserevd it throughout
late antiquity and the early medieval period.

Highly recommend you watch it and share your own opinions on the subject in the comment section.

youtube.com/watch?v=Zn6XixUJUe8

List of Catholic scientists
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_scientists

Hi Randy!

What´s your opinion on the video? :slight_smile:

I mean, if you define “ancient science” as “roman science” then the church clearly did preserve lots of it. But they were not so kind to the writings of the Mayan scribes.

historyofinformation.com/expanded.php?id=1896

In the video I use the term “natural philosophy”(with natural philosophy I refer in general to the study of nature) for the most part since the scientific method we think of today or the scientific diciplines we think of today did not exist in the ancient world. The term “classical science” is only used in the title. What´s your opinion on the video? :slight_smile:

The actions of a single Bishop/priest/monk/pope do not necessarily reflect the position of the Church. The fact that that Bishop may have ordered the destruction of those documents does not mean that The Church was opposed to saving cultural heritages / philosophy / learning.

amazon.com/Catholic-Church-Built-Western-Civilization/dp/1596983280

Ed

That´s looks like an interessting book Ed, whats your opinion on the video? :slight_smile:

Sure. If your position is “The Catholic Church never officially declared that destroying the knowledge of other cultures was good” then I agree wholeheartedly. But that is a different discussion than “did Catholic/Christian beliefs cause the destruction of knowledge from other cultures.”

Its just like with terrorism. Few people would come out and say that Islam officially endorses terrorism, but you can find a lot of people who believe that people’s Islamic beliefs have caused terrorism.

So if you’re only interested in defending the idea that the church never infallibly declared itself in opposition to science, then you’ll easily win. But you won’t find many real opponents.

Hi JapaneseKappa!

Do you have any comments you want to make about the video?

Best wishes

Quill & Ink

It was very west-centric. Although, so perhaps was the claim they were addressing.

Except for that there is ample evidence that the Church saved much of the old Greek and Roman works from destruction, and encouraged the development of what we now know as the sciences. It goes far beyond simply “not declaring the destruction of cultural knowledge a good,” and is more akin to actively embracing and expanding upon the knowledge of other cultures whenever possible. Its true that there were some missteps along the way, but that does not mean the Church herself is at fault.

The book Edwest linked to is an excellent, and well documented, discussion on the subject. The modern notion of the Catholic Church being opposed to the sciences is laughable. People are generalizing, and lumping The Church in with various modern Fundamentalist sects, whom I will agree frequently oppose legitimate scientific advancement.

Well the video mainly dealt with the early church relationship to the achievements of ancient science. In the future I plan to do video series on ancient Egypt and the medieval Islamic societies scientific achievments and the medieval Islamic societies relationship to the study of nature.

If your interessted in history of science yourself I recomend you pick up the book “Beginnings of Western science” by David C Lindberg. It´s arguably the best university course book in ancient and medieval science out there :slight_smile:

biblicalarchaeology.org/magazine/

There is still a lot to discover, in the Middle East, and elsewhere.

Ed

Recomend you check out my video description. I have several articles about the historical relationship between christianity and science that can be downloaded and used for apologetic purpouses.

I thought it was mostly an excellent video, and I particularly appreciated how you defended Tertullian and St. Basil from the charge that they were anti-science. (At first I cringed when you brought up the claim, saying “Some Church Fathers expressed this view” [or something like that], but then you fixed my cringe when you came back to the point later and exonerated them.)

There were one or two things that I would correct if I was making the video. (Someday, I hope to make a similar one for my own channel, History & Apologetics.) For example, Tertullian, Origen and John Philoponus were very important, but you listed them as Church Fathers when they technically weren’t. Tertullian was a former-Catholic who became a Montanist and died outside of communion with the pope. Some of his later writings were written as apologetics Against Catholicism, and for these reasons he is not counted as a Church Father or even as a saint.

Origen too had problems with the Church, but at least died as a Catholic priest in the firm belief that Catholicism was correct. He was, however, something of a “liberal Catholic” in his time, and there were several doctrines of Catholicism that he just could not accept, such as the doctrine of creation out of nothing and the doctrine that hell is everlasting. Because of his obstinate errors on these couple of points (and a couple others), his errors ended up getting condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council, and he has never been counted among the saints or Church Fathers. (He is still very important.)

John Philoponus, thirdly, never was a Catholic, but always belonged to a denomination called Nestorianism that split from the Catholic Church in the 400s. He did teach science at a Catholic school, though, and that was where he carried out his research. Like Origen and Tertullian, he has never been counted as a saint or Church Father. All three of these men are studied by patristics scholars, though, and in some ways they are more important than some of the “minor” Church Fathers. They actually have a category for people like Origen, Tertullian, and John Philoponus: the are called Ecclesiastical Writers, which is different from Church Fathers but certainly closely related. (The main difference is that Ecclesiastical Writers are not saints and are not always Catholic. Heretics such as Arius and Nestorius also go into the category of Ecclesiastical Writers, and their writings are very important even though the authors are not saints.)

Your video also made some statements that I think are mistakes about the extent of knowledge of Greek in the early medieval Church. At one point you said something like “the early medieval Christians knew hardly any Greek.” In the Greek-speaking lands such as Byzantium, that was not at all true. Catholics in Byzantium continued studying Greek science and doing additional scientific research long into the medieval period. I don’t think these medieval Catholic scientists should be neglected. Greek-speaking Catholic scientists of the early medieval period included Paul of Aegina, Anthemius of Tralles, Isidore of Miletus, Kallinikos of Constantinople, St. Boethius, John of Alexandria, Alexander of Tralles, and Aetius of Amida.

And that’s just the native Greek speakers. Celtic monks in the far West showed a deep familiarity with Greek writings as late as the 800s, with celts such as John the Scot translating the Pseudo-Dionysius from Greek into Latin and the monk Dicuil quoting from Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Hecataeus. Irish monks, who studied Greek in depth in their monasteries, often were hired by the courts of Charlemagne and his successors to write diplomatic letters in Greek to Arabian courts, because Arabians and Westerners both had people who still knew Greek and thus it was a useful language for diplomacy.

There were a couple other things that I thought were more or less minor mistakes, but I want you to know that I did like your video. Thank you for posting it!

One more thing.

jameshannam.com/literature.htm

Ed

Thankyou! I really appreciate that you took the time to watch the video and comment on it. I don´t disagree with you on the claims you made regarding whether Terteullian, John Philophonus or Origen count as church fathers or not.

The reason I call them church fathers are because the litterature that I used in this video on is calling them that. The schoollars who wrote the litterature are however historians of science rather then church historians so I guess there not nececary very carefull regarding who they give the title “church father” to.

Regarding my claim in the video about the early christians knowledge of Greek I am refering to the western roman empire and Im not including the Byzantine empire in that statement(I maybe should have made that more clear in the video).

“And that’s just the native Greek speakers. Celtic monks in the far West showed a deep familiarity with Greek writings as late as the 800s, with celts such as John the Scot translating the Pseudo-Dionysius from Greek into Latin and the monk Dicuil quoting from Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Hecataeus. Irish monks, who studied Greek in depth in their monasteries, often were hired by the courts of Charlemagne and his successors to write diplomatic letters in Greek to Arabian courts, because Arabians and Westerners both had people who still knew Greek and thus it was a useful language for diplomacy.”

I actually mention that in the video when I say that most the ancient literature that was avalible in western Europe was translated by christians scribes, though I did not know of any monks who know Greek. Do you have litterature you can recommend on that subject?

By the way, can you post a link to your own channel? I would like to check it out.

No problem! I’m grateful you made such a compelling video with such excellent content. It’s probably the best I’ve seen on this topic.

I don´t disagree with you on the claims you made regarding whether Terteullian, John Philophonus or Origen count as church fathers or not.

The reason I call them church fathers are because the litterature that I used in this video on is calling them that. The schoollars who wrote the litterature are however historians of science rather then church historians so I guess there not nececary very carefull regarding who they give the title “church father” to.

That’s understandable. If I was making the video, I would still just call them by another name, like “early Christians.” It’s a judgment call, I suppose, but I’m sure you’re aware that you’re not required to use the exact same wording as your citations. Except when you quote them, of course.

Regarding my claim in the video about the early christians knowledge of Greek I am refering to the western roman empire and Im not including the Byzantine empire in that statement(I maybe should have made that more clear in the video).

Yes, you are following a custom that is very common in western historical literature about the early medieval period. We tend to all just collectively “not count” Byzantium since they still spoke Greek there. But I think this trend is unfair in many ways. It is unfair to the early Byzantine Catholics, who were very influential in all areas of science, literature, theology, and culture, unfair to the Western Catholics, who were heavily involved in Eastern politics and diplomacy, and unfair to the Church, which was united in both East and West for nearly the entirety of the early medieval period. I just don’t think the “eastern lung” of the Church should be neglected, especially in scientific matters, where they excelled. (This is not a criticism of You, good sir, but of a trend in western historical emphasis.)

I actually mention that in the video when I say that most the ancient literature that was avalible in western Europe was translated by christians scribes, though I did not know of any monks who know Greek. Do you have litterature you can recommend on that subject?

Yes. Sir John Edwin Sandy’s study of classicalism between 500 and 1500 A.D. has a section on the knowledge of Greek in all the western countries of the early medieval world, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and England, and of all these countries England and Ireland stand out the brightest. From the 600s onward, Greek was formally studied there in schools devoted to the subject, and teachers were shipped in from Byzantium precisely so that the language could be learned from native speakers. These teachers brought the Greek classics with them, and Irish scholars showed familiarity with Greeks like Homer and Demosthenes.

The author also notes how Charlemagne and his successors requested the presence of these Greek-literate westerners at his court. This was largely for purposes of diplomacy, since Charlemagne had diplomatic relations with Byzantium and with Arabian countries, where knowledge of Greek was more widespread. But these examples show that Greek and the Greek classics were not entirely “lost” in the west. You just had to go to Britain and Ireland to find them.

By the way, can you post a link to your own channel? I would like to check it out.

Yes: youtube.com/dmar198

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