The Myth of Christianity Founding Modern Science and Medicine

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If you’ve not seen this graph, or read this blog post, you should:

From here.

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29 thoughts on “The Myth of Christianity Founding Modern Science and Medicine

  1. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with this in principal, but as devil’s advocate I just have to ask-

    What unit is the vertical axis?

  2. “What unit is the vertical axis?”

    Hehe. That was my first thought as well. I think it would be better to list advancements that were, in essence, un-discovered by the dark ages that had to be re-discovered after.

    After all, it can never be said too often that there’s a reason we call the period of religion dominating over culture the “dark ages” and the end of that period the “enlightenment.”

  3. “What unit is the vertical axis?”

    I agree, without such points of reference, any graph is rendered completely meaningless. Just a totally subjective card-stacking visual expression of someone’s opinion here and not much more, sorry. Kind of a “fun with charts” exercize, if some Creationist with an axe to grind were to do the same to prove a point, their chart would be just as correctly dismissed as this one.

  4. Well, I don’t really agree. This graph is putting a vague but important idea into a picture and in so doing it makes the point well. Insisting that because it is a graph it must have a replicable measure along each axis sounds right, but it really is fetishizing the whole graph thing. There is a point being made here. The graph makes it very very well. Isn’t that really the point of a graph?

  5. A point is being made here and it is a point that I most recently saw made in the movie agora. A good point and with the polarisation and fundementalisation of belief in Christian and islamic nations a warning we’d do well to heed.

  6. Oops, I missed those last two words.

    Mystyk @ # 4 – for most historians, the “Dark Ages” ended circa 1000-1100 C.E., but the “Enlightenment” didn’t begin until ~1700 (and the “Medieval” period in between probably involved more Church control than the centuries before).

    Just to keep everybody on their toes, archaeologists have their own “Dark Ages”, a period of no significant construction in the Greek/Aegean area beginning at the end of the Bronze Age and concluding many centuries B.C.E.

  7. If (a) Christianity founded (b) science and (c) modern medicine, why does Christian Science, a combination of (a) and (b)- and based wholly on an interpretation of scripture – explicitly reject (c)?

  8. The source linked by our esteemed host gets elegantly beaten to a pulp on Richard Carrier’s blog.

    Carrier’s smackdown (of both the linked article and a yet worse critique of same), even with a mere twenty links when it could have two hundred, is the best piece of history writing I’ve seen on the web in a long time (and, btw, puts in perspective the Dark/Medieval rubrics).

    Kudos to Jim Walker, GL’s source above, for linking to his own flogging (and for, by Carrier’s estimation, improving in his own follow-up work).

  9. Insisting that because it is a graph it must have a replicable measure along each axis sounds right, but it really is fetishizing the whole graph thing. There is a point being made here. The graph makes it very very well. Isn’t that really the point of a graph?

    Of course! Data be damned!

  10. It’s pretty obvious that complaining about a missing label on this graph is a red herring. The article itself, and the much better one by Carrier, make the point much better than the graph does. There’s the data. Read it.

  11. This article unfortunately doesn’t seem to really mention another favorite argument of mine. Believers in this myth have really interesting reactions when you point out that we owe at least as much to Islam as we do to Christianity. After all, much of the ancient Greek philosophy was only preserved in the Arab world, and later brought back via the Byzantine empire to Italy. Especially medical science owes a lot to Arab and Muslim scholarship (Arab and Moorish physicians were at some point in high demand at the various European courts, for instance). It’s really funny how these Chrystians will suddenly start using the exact same arguments that will refute their own myth too: it wasn’t really their religion that drove them to their scholarship, everybody in that society was Muslim, etc etc.

    By the way, I’ve gotten some strong reactions from some atheists as well when I pointed this out. Apparently, it’s hard to believe that Islam hasn’t always been completely barbaric.

  12. The dotted line suggests that had it not been for the Dark Ages, our current “scientific advancement” would be exponentially greater than it is now. But really that just means we would’ve started exploiting fossil fuels ~1000 years earlier than we did. Instead of murdering each other in the Crusades, we’d have been ruining the planet’s climate for ourselves. And even if we had gotten through that, there would no longer be the cheap energy left to drive the next 1000 years of scientific advancement.

    I’m not saying the Dark Ages were a good thing, just that that dotted line is kind of ridiculous. There are lots of stupid things humans can do to impede scientific progress.

    1. And one of them is to intentionally destroy all of the old knowledge. As a Christian who is also a scientist by training, I must remind everyone that it was the Church that ran around and gathered up old manuscripts and scrolls and such and stored them away when the Western Roman Empire fell circa 476 AD. Much of the ancient knowledge we have today would have been destroyed by the elements other religions and yes some less far-sighted Christians too but much of what we know today based on the ancient and classical knowledge was specifically purposely saved by the church’s monastic orders.

  13. “Insisting that because it is a graph it must have a replicable measure along each axis sounds right, but it really is fetishizing the whole graph thing.”

    Sorry, Greg, but I didn’t make the graph. In fact, I avoid making ’em. I tend not to get too amazed by charts and graphs in general and ones that lack points of reference should be dismissed out of hand. Even ones with clear & detailed reference points, should be viewed with a skeptical eye; as I alluded, a chart of something like the “Six Days Of Creation” – replete with a plethora of data – would be just as meaningless as this one.

    “There is a point being made here. The graph makes it very very well. Isn’t that really the point of a graph?”

    Not really. Benton noted above: “Don’t get me wrong, I agree with this in principal but“. It’s human to give a pass to sloppiness if we like the end result, but I hope we would actually tend to react differently and apply a higher standard.

    I would suggest as some background reading “How to Lie with Statistics” by Darrell Huff. Of relevant interest here is what he termed the “Gee-Whiz Graph”.

    As to the point of a graph – it depends on a graph’s creator. They’re great for propaganda, in which cases they typically lack in reliable referential substance, as we see here. Just so much bad grindings of axes.

    What we have here is someone expressing an opinion – which is fine, keeping in mind the vulgar axiom on opinions. Where the person went off the track was in attempting to graph his/her feelings. What would have served better as an end summary for this person’s opinion page would have been a simple flat time-line. e.g. “Wheel invented”, “Lightbulb invented”, “Moon landing”, yada, yada.

    I understand YMMV – since, again, opinions make the free world go round, cest la vie and all that – but I’m just not all that impressed, sorry.

  14. Karen, sorry, but I simply don’t agree. This is you not relating to this kind of presentation, which is fine. Its also you schooling me on statistics which is a little embarassing since I’ve taught it at the graduate level at MRU, but you could not know that.

    Think of it this way: You know what cartoon xkcd? I predict you don’t like that either, based on what you’re saying here, but I could be wrong. Anyway, many of xkcd’s cartoons are pithy commentaries on life, history, society, whatever. They work. Thy are stick figure line drawings.

    It may be helpful to think of this graph, which is clearly cartoonish and an attempt to make a specific point, a cartoon that looks like a graph. That, indeed, is what it is.

    While we’re on the subject of graphs that don’t pass as good graphs for use in research papers but still make valuable points (though usualy just for fun), have you seen the index card graphs? Check out this example:

    If you like, but it is a bit harder, you can find examples of graphs done in this manner but that are quite serious conceptualizations that have zero data but that show relationships.

    One could argue that each and every graph used in Economics with “U” as the vertical axis is unlabeled.

    What is YMMV? You really ought to spell out the abbreviations the first time you use them. Laughing Out Loud! (LOL)

  15. Thanks for the link, I enjoyed it – the Index site is great good fun and I can see what you’re saying in relation to the topic.

    “which is clearly cartoonish and an attempt to make a specific point”

    Well, we agree on something at least!

    “What is YMMV? You really ought to spell out the abbreviations the first time you use them. Laughing Out Loud! (LOL)”


    (back in the BBS day we used to use actual English almost always if memory serves, I don’t know what happened…)

    Have a good week.

  16. The graph is not meant to be scientific, only inflammatory. First of all, the term “dark ages”, is mostly antiquated and to pretend there were no advancements in the scientific world during this time is plain silly….even in the Christian world. Secondly, this time period is often referred to, by modern historians/scientists, as the Islamic golden age. Simply spectacular advancements in art, literature, poetry, architecture, medicine, and mathematics occurred during this time. Please don’t let this christian hating graph blind you to the beautiful human creations of this time period.

  17. Actually, you can find a number of sources that have knowledge growing in a linear fashion well into the mid-1900’s and then exponentially round about the 1980’s. pretty sure you just made up a graph to illustrate an opinion… not to display actual data. Kind of funny when you’re arguing “science”.

    1. I actually didn’t make it up. I stole it from someone else. I also supplied a link to the source so people can go and find out the source of this idea, and learn more about it, and how the graph is made.

  18. I read the sources. Good arguments, but many historically and culturally fallacious ones as well. Doesn’t matter – they are too subtle and nuanced for most Christians to understand. So I’m comfortable bashing my nutty religious relatives over the head with Jim Walker’s for-the-most-part astute commentaries.

    But who is this “Jim Walker”? Do you or any of your readers know? I cannot locate anything about him online – no home page or anything. This is complicated by the fact that there’s a high profile Rev. James (Jim) Walker, a different person, who writes on Islam and Christianity from a fundamentalist Christian perspective.

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