Christianity Is a Science-Starter, Not a Science-Stopper
By Nancy Pearcey
To everyone’s surprise, the 2004 presidential election became in part a referendum on science and religion. At the Democratic National Convention, Ron Reagan, son of the former president, labeled opposition to embryonic stem cell research an “article of faith” and stated that it did not belong in the realm of public policy, which is based on science. During the presidential debates, John Kerry told audiences that while he “respected” voters’ moral concerns about abortion and embryonic stem cells, he could not impose that “article of faith” through political means.
After the election, the dichotomy between religion and science was stressed even more heavily in the stunned reaction in Blue States. Liberal commentators like Maureen Dowd warned darkly that moral conservatives would replace “science with religion, facts with faith.” A Kerry supporter complained that Bush voters “are faith-based, rather than reality-based.” The cover of Stanford Medicine (Fall 2004) featured a man holding up a Bible on one side of a jagged crevice, facing off against a lab-coated scientist holding up a test tube. An extensive analysis of this commonly held dichotomy is offered in my latest book Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity.
The default position for many Americans in the Blue States seems to be that Christianity is a “science stopper”–that religion implies a world of perpetual miracle, closing off the search for natural causes. This is often coupled with the familiar cliché that over the centuries the Christian church has intimidated, silenced, and persecuted scientists. A few months ago, a journalist repeated the shop-worn stereotype, writing that “proponents of Copernicus’ theory were denounced as heretics and burned at the stake.” A columnist recently wrote that Copernicus “scandalized the world–and more important, the Catholic Church–with his theory of heliocentric cosmology.” The same pattern continues today, the columnist goes on: “The conflict of religion and science sounds all too familiar. Darwin still has trouble getting past creationist gatekeepers in some school districts.”
The story of conflict does sound familiar, because it is the standard interpretation of history taught all through the public education system. In fact, it is so widely accepted that often it is treated not as an interpretation at all, but simply as a fact of history. Yet, surprising as it may sound, among historians of science, the standard view has been soundly debunked. Most historians today agree that the main impact Christianity had on the origin and development of modern science was positive. Far from being a science stopper, it is a science starter…
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