Let me explain. When our ancestors invented the
wheel, the benefits were immediate. It could help them transport things with
less effort. Such inventions were the "easy" ones. As time went on,
all or most of the "easy" inventions were made. New inventions require
more research and thus more investment of time and resources. The discovery of
new scientific principles often do not have any immediate practical use. This
body of scientific knowledge must be kept unused for a long time before it can
be combined with recently discovered knowledge and put to some practical use.
For example, billions are spent to gather knowledge about the planet Mars but it
could be centuries before that knowledge can benefit mankind.
This explains why all, except Christian civilization, stagnated after showing
much progress in its early years. Roman civilization lasted 1,000 years and did
not made the scientific revolution. Neither did the Egyptian nor Chinese nor
Indian civilizations which have been around for even longer time than did the
Romans. All stagnated after making impressive initial gains in scientific
knowledge. This is because the natural human tendency is to want immediate
results. If the research does not yield reasonably quick benefits, interest
wanes. You need a critical mass of accumulated scientific knowledge before the
Scientific Revolution could be ignited.
Why did the scientific revolution began in Christiandom or what the west was
once called? Its because of Christianity. Firstly, the Bible commanded mankind
to subdue the earth and have dominion over every living creature. (7)To subdue
the environment, you need to understand how things work. But that is not all.
The Christian faith has always portrayed God as a rational being who made the
universe work according to rational laws, which await human understanding. (8)
Christian philosopher and theologian,
"Heaven forbid that we should believe in such a way as not to accept or
seek reasons, since we could not even believe if we did not possess rational
An even earlier Christian theologian, Tertullian (160 - 225 AD) taught that
"reason is a thing of God, inasmuch as there is nothing which God the Maker
of all has not provided, disposed, ordained by reason - nothing which He has not
willed should be handled and understood by reason."
Thus you can see that church leaders from its earliest times view reason as
being from God. This position was comparable to the Mu'atazilites who, if they
had triumphed against the fundamentalists might have saved the Muslim world from
backwardness. But Islam is too fatalistic a religion for the Mu'atazilites to
triumph. God is believed to determine everything. If the trajectory of an arrow
is determined by God there is no need to discover the principles of gravity,
velocity and momentum.
Not only does Christianity give space to human reason, it actually encourages a
duty to understand God's creation, the better to marvel at it. St Bonaventure
(1221 - 1274) said that the purpose of science was to honor God. Since God's
laws are immutable, it remains for us to discover them. Because God is perfect
than the laws that govern the universe must also be immutable.
This kind of beliefs permeated the thinking of scientists during the Age of
Enlightenment. For example, Robert Boyle (1627 - 1691) in his last will and
testament urged his colleagues at the Royal Society of London that "they
and all other Searchers into Physical Truths may thereby add to the Glory of God
and to the Comfort of Mankind."
Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650) said that rational laws must exist because God is
perfect and therefore acts in a manner as constant and immutable as possible
except for miracles which occur rarely. (8)
Other scientists during the Age of Enlightenment that also shared this view of a
rational Creator God who created the universe according to rational laws were
, Kepler and even Galileo. (8) Of these,
appears to be the most devout. He left copious quantities of writings on his
ideas about God. In his much acclaimed work, the Principia, a whole section was
devoted to God, which did not always coincide with the official opinion of the
Anglican church. It is obvious
gave much thought speculating on the nature of God.
Thus you have a group of people eager to discover what these scientific laws are
in order to glorify God even though they may not yield any immediate benefits.
Thus scientific discoveries can accumulate for years, decades and even centuries
without any practical use for them. Eventually, of course these scientific
discoveries yielded new inventions and other benefits. This permitted the
eventual breakthrough which became the Scientific Revolution. Today, science has
a momentum of its own and does not need religious motivation to sustain
But that is why scientific revolution took place in Christiandom and not
elsewhere. The breakthrough was made possible by Christian scientists who
pursued what they thought of as their religious duty.
Besides Science, Christianity was among the first to produce an Abolitionist
movement. Slaves have been part of all human societies since ancient times. In
the 19th century, it was the churches, beginning with the Quakers that took aim
at slavery. This is because Christianity teaches respect for human life and that
all are equal before God. You can still see this concern for human life even
today as Christian groups still oppose abortion and stem cell research.
This is also why Christianity initially appealed to the lowest classes of Roman
society such as slaves. It is still true today. In
, most Indian Christians come from the Dalit caste. Antislavery doctrines first
appeared not long after the fall of
and slavery soon disappeared in most of
When it was revived to served the interests of plantation owners in the
, the Pope strongly opposed it. When Papal opposition failed, the Catholic
church tried to soften the effects of slavery. As a result, slave conditions
were much better in the lands colonized by the French and Spaniards than by the
British. The abolitionist movement sparked of a bloody Civil War in
and the British paid a huge sum of money to compensate plantation owners in
order to end slavery. Religious people are often prepared to make sacrifices in
order to do the right thing in this world in order to please God. This respect
for human life not only led to the abolition of slavery but also developed into
the concept of human rights.
Such people are more willing to make sacrifices provided they can be convinced
that what they are doing is good. That is why the more religious red state
people supported Bush in his war on terrorism. Secularism creates hedonistic,
neutral people who do not want to make sacrifices for the long term good.
But the problem with all monotheisms is that its believers tend to see the world
in black and white terms. There is God and the devil, good and evil and nothing
in between. As a result, monotheistic people have strong convictions of good and
evil even though they may not always be right.
For the most devout, this can produce either Mother Theresas or Mohammed Attas
depending on what the devout believes his God expects of him or her. Such people
are the easiest to motivate in times of war or difficulty.
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