Progress in Manners and morals: No Parallel in History.

One of my readers, a rational pragmatist, describes herself (I assume it’s a her, but this is the Internet, so who knows?) as fearing for her children, because of the efforts of Christians to teach “Young Earth” theory or creationism in science class. 

I am tried to reassure her (or him, or it or them, who knows?) that the junk science of the Right is no more harmful than the junk science of the Left (I have a list of hoaxes and eco-scares as long as your arm). 

She (he?) is not reassured. It seems all of Western civilization stands or falls by Darwin’s theory. If we believe it, we can survive: if not, the deluge! She goes on to tell me that Christianity is a roadblock to progress.

I have actually sat and read ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES from cover to cover. Mr. Darwin (by the way, a Christian), is convincing. Nonetheless, if Darwin’s theory cannot be proved in a lab, or by observation, therefore it is not confirmed. 

We have had enough time to breed new strains of animals, to find one transitional species, either living or in the fossil record. If not by now, when? 

We have not found one single example of a child who is inter-sterile with its mother but inter-fertile with another mutant with whom he will breed true—because this odd combination of events is exactly what Darwin’s theory necessitates. Biology students please correct me if I am wrong on this point?
A species is inter-sterile with another species, whereas if it is inter-fertile, we call it a breed. The first member of a new species will be inter-sterile by definition with its mother, sisters, aunts, and cousins: but to be a new species, he must have a mate with whom he can breed true. No matter how gradual the slide into a new species, the cut off point where it is clearly a new species is when it can no longer interbreed with its ancestors or cousins?
Classical Darwinism does not describe the fossil record we see, which consists not of gradual change, but of a Precambrian explosion, mass extinctions, and sudden changes followed by long periods of stability. Darwin’s theory, even updated with modern ideas of mutation or punctuated change, still is incomplete. No mechanism has been hypothesized to explain the long periods with no speciation: surely the mutation rate is the same, and environmental pressure is relatively constant?
Gaps in a theory do not mean the theory is inaccurate–that is not how science works. It means it is incomplete. 
On the other hand, no other serious contender has emerged to explain the facts at hand. Young Earth theory, will all due respect to my coreligionists, consists of little more than ad hoc explanations.
We are in the same position in biology as Newton was in with the procession of the orbit of Mercury: the theory cannot account for it. Until an Einstein arises with a more powerful and complete explanation for the facts, Darwinism is the best explanation available. Darwinism explains a very great many facts in widely different fields. There are gaps in the explanation, to be sure.

One would have to think the Demiurge is salting visible creation with false clues to believe in a literal six-day creation taking place in 4004 B.C. (Of course,  who am I to mock anyone who believes that? I believe a Jew was born from a virgin, died, rose from the dead, and is now and always has been running the universe. Like the Red Queen, I make it my business to believe five impossible things before breakfast. Nonetheless, our poor creationist has no strong evidence on his side: he is in even worse shape than partisans of Steady State or the Phlogeston theory. It is not good science.)

But, be all that as it may, until we produce a new species by natural selection, Darwinism is not empirical; it is not confirmed. It will come as a shock, but it is not impossible that some variation of Lamarck will turn out to be correct. It depends on what the data say. That’s the way science works.

“I see Christianity as another in a long line of religions that retard knowledge and progress. Seems to me Christianity was around for over a thousand years before the enlightenment.”
I am not sure I can agree. I cannot think of a single example of Confucianism hindering progress and knowledge: seems to me the Chinese made a full-time scholar class based on that religion. I cannot think of any pagan religion halting the spread of knowledge, unless you count the pillaging by Viking raiders.
The history of Christianity, at least that I know (I am not an historian), is one where I make a different assessment of the impact than you do: to me it looks mostly positive, (though there is clearly an anti-intellectual stance to some of its popular forms).
All those monks in their scriptoria saved the literary heritage of the ancient world from extinction. Copernicus was a Churchman and so was Albertus Magnus and William of Occam. 

Christians invented the modern university system, for God’s sake. We even still print diplomas in Latin. 

In terms of the progress of manners and morals, there is no parallel in history. The Christians abolished the games, polygamy, temple prostitution, infanticide, and other grotesqueries of an otherwise admirable pagan culture of Imperial Rome. This was long before the Enlightenment and was a necessary first step. This was long before the thousand years you set as the threshold. The King of the Wood is no longer staying awake at night in the grove at Nemi — if this is not progress, nothing is.

Christianity abolished slavery throughout the Oecumene, and eventually the World. Indeed, the impositions on the spread of knowledge I am aware of seem to be clustered around the Reformation and the Wars of Religion. Putting Galileo on trial was a bad thing, surely, but that may have been prompted by his insulting the Pope, not on his heliocentric theory. It was no worse than what secular powers in charge of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia did to scientists who did not toe their party lines.

If Christianity is merely a roadblock in the march of progress and science, and not linked to its development historically, why did progress and science arise in Christendom and nowhere else, during the ages when Christianity and nothing else was the dominant philosophy of the day?
Just by coincidence, I was reading this in an interview with Mike Flynn, a fellow science fiction author and all around great guy:
“When I started writing Eifelheim, I had the real stereotyped version of what the Middle Ages was like. But the more I read about it, the more it became evident that it was not like that at all. I began to wonder if people who put gargoyles on their cathedrals would be all that frightened of aliens. …
“To this day, people take the term “medieval” to mean backward and ignorant, but it wasn’t that way. That came about because of snooty people, first in the Renaissance but mostly during the Enlightenment, actively and deliberately denigrating the era that came before them—because, having rediscovered ancient Greece and ancient Rome’s literature, they had to pretend that nothing had happened between ancient Rome and ancient Greece and themselves. And so the Middle Ages became a time of darkness.
“The Middle Ages was an age of reason … and yet we’ve been taught to think of it as an age of superstition. It probably glorified reason far more than the Age of Reason. The medievals invented the university, with a standard curriculum, courses of study, degrees and, of course, funny hats.
“The curriculum that was taught consisted almost entirely of reason, logic and natural philosophy—or, as we’d say, science. They didn’t teach humanities, they didn’t teach the arts, they taught essentially logical reasoning and natural philosophy. If you wanted to be a doctor of theology, a churchman, you had to first go through a course in science and thinking.”
“This was an era where the most celebrated theologian of all time was Thomas Aquinas, who dared to apply logic and reason to the study of theology. In fact, theology is the application of logic and reason to religious questions. They must have elevated reason to a pretty high pedestal if they were willing to subject their own religion to it.
“In the Middle Ages, they first learned how to apply mathematics to scientific questions. After the time of the story, Nicholas Oresme, who was mentioned briefly in passing, was able to prove the mean speed theorem in physics using principles of Euclidean geometry, which marks the first time a theory had been proven by using mathematics, as opposed to us[ing] mathematics to describe the angle of refraction or to do surveying.”
And by the way, you should all go out and read FIRESTAR and WRECK OF THE RIVER OF STARS. Mike Flynn. Remember the name.