Sources on church's contribution to science in the medieval ages

Can any one suggest some sources highlighting church’s contribution to for ch medieval science?
Some leftists friends argue that church was oppossed to science etc…

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Yeah, that’s whole load of you know what.

For a good popular treatment on this question and others, see “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” by Thomas Woods.


If I recall correctly, Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, by HW Crocker has a really good chapter on this topic. Very good book, very enjoyable read.

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Here are some:

The Genesis of Science by James Hannam argues that “the entire Middle Ages were a time of one intellectual triumph after another”
The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark argues that Christianity began significant scientific intellectual economic and political ideas that altered the world for the better He is not a Catholic, by the way, but he shows how the Catholic church in the MIddle Ages began pretty much everything important

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The churches contribution…I assume you mean Catholics that contributed to knowledge…needs to broken into smaller periods than just the Middle Ages. From 400ad to about 800ad is considered the Dark Ages, mostly due to very little surviving to examine and thus, not much can be shown as scientific development. After that period, it depends on whether you are only looking at Europe or the entire world. There were many discoveries in China and the Middle East that took time to reach Europe. Once you get to about 1200ad, then science in Europe begins to rocket forward…they had some catching up to do first and then greatly expanded the knowledge gained.

Please don’t think the Dark Ages were called thus due to repression of learning…there may have been some but generally it’s called that because we are in the dark about much that was actually happening.

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St Thomas Aquinas’ philosophy helped build a foothold for development of logic, a necessity for advance in Natural Philosophy (Science).

Catholicism, along with Islam, emphasized monotheism. This emphasis on One Creator reinforced the concept that Nature follows one set of laws. We may not know all the features of an element, but we can assume those features discovered in my laboratory, in 1200, can be replicated in yours, in 1300, enabling you to make new discoveries.

This seems obvious only in hindsight. Without this uniformity/consistency of Creator/creation, Science would be impossible.

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old thinking and very much disproved. There were great advances in science, art, and education from 400 to 800.

Actually, scores of historians now reject the phrase 'Dark Ages" as being a leftover from anti Catholic prejudice, especially in England.

"There were many discoveries in China and the Middle East"

Real science only began in Christian Europe. There have been inventions and breakthroughs everywhere, but only in the Catholic university system did real science begin.

I read that article and it doesn’t contradict a thing I said. I even defined Dark Ages as being dark due to not a lot of information, not due to repression of learning. If you prefer, I have no problem calling it the Early Middle Ages usually defined as 400ad to 800ad. After that period…Charlemagne onwards…much more began to happen with the establishing of universities, etc. The monasticism of earlier might have lead to universities but they weren’t developed until after 800ish.

The Early Middle Ages were a period of loss of technology from Rome. Literacy was much lower, loss of concrete, but an improvement in the plow is about it. After 800, the discovery of Arabic scholars preservation of ancient writings were brought to the church and that helped trigger the movement forward of tech…there was a period where they caught up then surpassed everyone. I don’t disagree with that. That’s when tech bloomed in Europe. It’s also when art blossomed.

If you have actual facts of art, education and science by Catholics before 800, other than the plow, I’m glad to read it.

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Not to.mentioned agriculture. There is a county in England where we actually still have a agrucultural surveys from Roman times and 500 years later. Production on the same land doubled.


I recall a (very) Catholic writer on the middle ages mention that even liturgically there was little development between c450AD and 1000 AD (as I recall, but possibly he said 800). He describes the Gloria as the only lasting contribution from that era, as notable for its singularity.

Of course, by 800 Charlemagne the Catholic church were reviving education and social stability, and contributed the Caroligian MIniscule [Script] as a significant advance.

I think it was David Knowles in The Evolution of Medieval Thought.

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I just ordered a used copy…thanks for the recommend and it looks really interesting…delivery around my birthday, too!

I’m fascinated by the philosophical development in thought in the MA. This looks like exactly what I’m looking for. :heart::heart::heart:

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Glad to have been helpful! :smiley:

I can’t recommend it too highly! It’s scholarly and thorough, and focused, just as per the title, on the thought. He sets out to neither defend or criticise Catholicism, but simply to explain how the various schools and thinkers developed ideas from Plato onwards, up until the demise of the medieval Scholastics and early rise of free-thinking and science (c1350 to c1450). A curious aside is that the Renaissance of the 1400s was purely an artistic phenomenon - the intellectual “renaissance” was already centuries old. The contribution of Islamic thinkers in the first millennium gets significant mention, as well as how the various strands were contributed through social changes (eg. monasticism, travel, clerical hostility or sympathy, and, most especially, the universities.)

It’s not long, but heavy going! :sweat_smile: I’ve been intending to read it a second time! :heartbeat:

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Yes, that gels with the reviews I read, too. I love this stuff! And most important to me is that it’s a fair and balanced treatment of the history. I realize we all have biases but when they are overtly apparent…in either direction…it makes me distrust all the information.

What was the exact title…The Rise and Fall of Rome? that was so anti Christian that I put it down in disgust! There are so many better treatments nowadays for history in those eras. Good scholarship is good! Duh!

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Congratulations on your purchase!

I’m glad that my review, quickly typed out here, accords with others’ recommendations! :sweat_smile:

I’ve seen that I gave a slight mis-direction. The link I posted was to the first edition, of 1964, but there is a second edition, of 1989, also available at Amazon.

Naturally, I’d recommend the second edition. But I’m sure that you won’t go wrong with the first. I’ve seen enough of Knowles to know that it will be impeccable.

Yes, this is wonderful stuff! I’m sure you’ll enjoy plodding through Knowles both to satisfy your curiousity on the subject and also be “armed” for these questions when they arise - as they do often enough! You’ll find that very few people, even among Catholics and the well-educated, are familiar with this territory, and misconceptions are the norm.

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I’m not sure which edition I bought. I went with a secondhand bookstore resale. I bet it is first edition but it doesn’t say anywhere I could find. I’ll know in about a week! It sounds like a deal at $7.00 total!

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Good to go through a secondhand bookseller rather than Amazon, and also to get it for just $7.00! It is a measure of the book’s quality that first editions are going on Amazon for $948! That’ll be for a hardcover - yours may well be a paper back second edition like mine.

Can I ask you whether there is a good single history book for the points you mentioned in your earlier posts, such as cement and plows?

I haven’t personally read this one so I can’t vouch for its quality directly but I have read a few other things by the writer and thought they were decent.

I can not remember the name of a blogger I followed for a while several years ago. Either his first or last name was Neal. He also posted quite a bit on Quora. He was really knowledgeable about catholic and science history. He was an atheist but often defended the Catholic Church from all the false assumptions about the Dark Ages and repression stuff. He was really a good reference and if his full name returns to me…probably at 3am, I’ll look him up and post a link.

I’m not home right now so I can’t look at my library…I’m not sure I even have anything specific. Most of my knowledge about that time period were picked up here and there on discussion boards and following links others provided. Sorry, I’m of little help!

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He sounds great! I’d appreciate getting that link if it comes to mind!

I’ve encountered a few people like that, but he sounds even better informed then most, and able to write well. The ones I’ve encountered have not been strong on the history of science however - it seems to be taken as a “given” among scientists that the church obstructed science until Galileo broke it free.

I’ll also say a prayer for him (as you’ve probably done!). Often, being dedicated to truthfulness and intellectual inquiry brings hostile people into the church,.

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