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Friday, 26 January 2018

The Reformation Gave Birth to Science

Before the Reformation
There are all sorts of reasons why science was born in the West in the 1600s - and most of them are connected to Christianity. Peter Harrison explores one important reason in his book, The Bible, Protestantism and the rise of Natural Science. 

Before the rise of modern science, Aristotle - Greek science - reigned. (In fact if you criticised Mr Aristotle in a British university all the way til around 1650 you'd get your knuckles wrapped!)

The Greek view of nature was related to the Greek view of books, of texts. Embarrassed by their myths and heroes they decided to explain them away by allegorising the texts: those terrible heroes weren't real and their stories weren't real, they only referred to something or someone else.

In a similar way, nature, they said, points away from itself. Nature is symbolic. So the two lights in the sky are really symbols for our two eyes, and so on.

Therefore, don't pay too much attention to the natural objects themselves, just work out what they refer to.

Biblical literalism and the Reformation
Along came the reformers! They taught that the literal sense was the real and most important sense of the Bible. Away with the four-fold interpretations of Scripture they said. Tragically many of the church fathers had bought into the Greek method of interpretation so the reformers had to wave good be to a good deal of them also!

The result of this new attitude towards the Bible was that it flowed over into the West's new attitude towards nature. Nature was not there merely to act as a reference to other qualities or objects, it was there to be studied for its own value. Now lots of attention was given to nature.

And hence a new attitude towards nature emerged form the reformation's new attitude towards the Bible and produced the soil in which science could flourish.

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