The Lord of Eifelheim on the Genesis of Science

Some extra credit reading:

Mike Flynn, science fictioneer, scholar, schoolman, and Irish gentleman who, I am confident, can trace his ancestry back to through the Fair Folk to the primordial Salmon who is the ancestor of all Celtic tribes, has written on this idea extensively that Christian metaphysical beliefs are a necessary precondition for scientific endeavors.

My particular favorite columns are these:

See if you can spot the saint or scholar in whose footsteps the esteemed Mr Flynn paces out this particular argument. Recognize the style?

Summa origines scientiarum: Articulus 1

Question I. Whether Christianity promoted the rise of science

 Article 1. Whether there was a Scientific Revolution

Objection 1.  It would seem otherwise, because the term science is not well-defined. Lindberg (1992), for example, provides no less than seven different definitions.  Therefore, there was no Scientific Revolution because there is no one thing called science.

Objection 2.  It would seem otherwise, because the term science means “knowledge” and mankind has always accumulated knowledge.  Therefore, there was never a scientific revolution.

Objection 3.  It would seem otherwise, because, as Charles Homer Haskins wrote, “The continuity of history rejects such sharp and violent contrasts between successive periods” of history.  Therefore, Science emerged gradually and not through a “revolution.”

Objection 4.  It would seem otherwise, because a revolution consists of definitive points of change, and is carried out during a short time according to a plan.  But the development of science took place over an extended time and was unplanned.

On the contrary, British historian Herbert Butterfield wrote that the Scientific Revolution “outshines everything since the rise of Christianity and reduces the Renaissance and Reformation to the rank of mere episodes… within the system of medieval Christendom.”

I answer that a distinction must first be made. Science in the modern sense is the effort to devise physical theories that account for the metrical properties of physical bodies.  Thus, when we speak of the “rise of science,” we do not mean mathematics (which works with ideal bodies), tinkering/invention, nor the mere accumulation of facts and rules of thumb, even if retrospectively those things look sorta scientificalistic to us. Nor do we include the social “sciences,” whose objects are human beings rather than natural physical bodies.