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GOD: new evidence

Contents

Bad Faith: are science and Christianity in conflict?

What's in the series?

(1) No scientific progress in the dark ages?

Many people think that in the Middle Ages they believed the Earth was flat, and that there was no scientific progress for a thousand years, from AD500 to AD1500.  But there was tremendous progress in astronomy and medicine and mechanics, and with the invention of windmills and glasses, printing and gunpowder.

 

(2) Did the Church suppress science?

'Everyone knows' that there was no scientific progress in the Middle Ages, because the Christian Church suppressed scientific progress.  But the Church did not suppress science. On the contrary, it was one of the main driving forces of scientific enquiry at the time. 

 

(3) Was Copernicus persecuted?

Did the Christian Church persecute Copernicus because he said that the Earth goes round the Sun? Was he put in prison, or even executed? Not at all! He was a respected scientist.  People disagreed  with him, not for religious reasons, but because the scientific evidence for his theory was not that convincing at the time. (Even today, many people, if they were asked, would not be able to prove that the Earth goes round the Sun, rather than the Sun going round the Earth. Could you prove this?)

 

(4) Was Copernicus afraid?

Did Copernicus put off publishing his theory that the Earth goes round the Sun because he was afraid of being persecuted by the Church? Not at all. He delayed publishing because it’s 'obvious' that the Earth is not moving, and he knew that the scientific evidence in favour of his theory was not that strong.

 

(5) From Copernicus to Galileo

After Copernicus put forward the idea that the Earth goes round the Sun, Tycho Brahe made important measurements of the positions of the planets, and Johannes Kepler built on his work to discover three laws of planetary motion.  Brahe and Kepler were at the leading edge of science in their day. Their discoveries were radical, but they weren’t persecuted for them, and there wasn’t any conflict between the Christian faith and their scientific discoveries. In fact Kepler was a deeply religious Christian believer, who saw himself as 'thinking God’s thoughts after him.'

 

(6) What did Galileo discover?

What did Galileo find out that led to his famous 'conflict' with the church?  He discovered that the heavens are not perfect and unchanging – his telescope revealed the moons of Jupiter, sunspots, the phases of Venus, the pock-marked surface of the moon – and many more stars than you can see with the naked eye.  This brought him into conflict with what science (not religion) had been saying for more than two thousand years.

 

(7) Galileo was a thug!

Everyone knows how the church persecuted Galileo because he said that the Earth goes round the Sun. But what everyone 'knows' is wrong!  Galileo was a thug who had a huge ability to annoy and alienate people.  His 'persecution' had as much to do with personality conflicts as with anything else.

 

(8) Why did Galileo get in trouble?

In 1616, Galileo was summoned to Rome, where Cardinal Robert Bellarmine warned him not to teach as fact something that he couldn't prove.  But in 1632 (with one of his friends now the Pope), Galileo published his book, the 'Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.' In it, he once again claimed that the Earth goes round the Sun – despite having been warned off claiming this until there was more evidence.

 

(9) Galileo's book that insulted the Pope

Why was Galileo put on trial? It isn’t as simple as we’re often told. Galileo's great book, the 'Dialogue of two chief world systems' was meant to be a balanced description of the arguments for the earth-centred and sun-centred pictures of the universe. Instead, Galileo put the arguments for an earth-centred universe into the mouth of a fool, and made the Pope look foolish. It is not surprising that he ended up on trial.

 

(10) What really happened to Galileo?

Everyone knows that Galileo, the heroic scientist, was persecuted by the Christian church because he stood up for the truth: he was put on trial, imprisoned, tortured, and perhaps even executed. The truth is different: Galileo was put on trial in Rome in 1633. He was found guilty. But he was not tortured, nor put in prison, nor executed. He was put under house arrest, where he could carry on with his scientific work until he died naturally in 1642.

 

(11) Newton, Boyle and the Royal Society

In the years after Galileo, scientists like Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, and the founders of the British Royal Society did not see any conflict between their faith and their scientific enquiries.

 

(12) The 'Great Debate' - the background

Everyone knows that the 'Great Debate' that happened in Oxford on 30th June 1860, between Darwin’s Bulldog, Thomas Henry Huxley, and the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, was a turning point in the conflict between science and faith, and a great victory for the forces of science and enlightenment over the dark and backwards forces of religion…. But what 'everyone knows' is wrong. What really happened?

 

(13) The 'Great Debate - Huxley and Wilberforce

The 'Great Debate' about Evolution happened in the Oxford Natural History Museum, in 1860. Everyone knows that Thomas Huxley made a fool of Samuel Wilberforce. Huxley won a great victory for the forces of science over the backwards forces of religion. So who were the players in the 'Great Debate'?

 

(14) The Tipping Point

The 'Great Debate' that happened in Oxford in 1860 has been called a 'tipping point' in the 'conflict' between science and religion. Was it really?

 

(15) What really happened?

In 1860, a famous debate about the new theory of Evolution happened in Oxford between Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce. Everyone knows that in this 'Great Debate,' Huxley made a fool of Wilberforce, and won a great victory for science over religion. But what really happened? There are no written records of the debate itself, and the accounts that were written afterwards conflict with each other.

 

(16) The Spin Doctor

In the years after the 'Great Debate' about Evolution in Oxford in 1860, a myth grew up that Huxley had made a fool of Wilberforce. Huxley was a 'spin doctor' who controlled the narrative as part of his personal campaign to free science from the influence of religion.

 

(17) Lives, Letters and Lies

The myth of Huxley’s victory in the 'Great Debate' about Evolution grew up in the years after Darwin and Huxley died, as their sons published their 'Lives and Letters.'  Wilberforce had died in 1873, so he did not have any chance to put the record straight.

 

(18) The Myth Makers

In the late nineteenth century, two very influential books were published: John William Draper’s ‘History of the Conflict between Religion and Science’ was published in 1874. Then in 1896, Andrew Dickson White’s ‘A history of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom’ was published. Both these books pushed the conflict myth. But they are full of poor scholarship, and 'facts' that are not facts at all.

 

(19) 'The Works of the Lord'

The Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge (UK) has been called the birthplace of modern physics. Many great discoveries were made here, including the electron, the neutron, and the structure of DNA. Many important techniques were invented here, including the cloud chamber and x-ray crystallography. The first Cavendish Professor was James Clerk Maxwell. For many scientists in the nineteenth century, including Maxwell, there was no conflict between their Christian faith and their scientific discoveries.

 

(20) The Scopes Trial

One of the most famous trials in America took place in 1925 in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, – the Scopes 'Monkey' trial. Local teacher John Scopes was brought to trial by a group of Bible-thumping fundamentalists, because he had taught the theory of Evolution to his high school class. In the trial that followed, Scopes was vindicated, and the Bible-thumpers were made to look stupid. This is the legend that everyone knows. But it is not what really happened.

 

(21) Who was W J Bryan?

In the Scopes trial, the prosecution was led by William Jennings Bryan. According to the legend, Bryan was an ignorant, Bible-thumping fundamentalist. But who was he really?

 

(22) Who was Clarence Darrow?

Clarence Darrow, who lead the defence in the Scopes trial, was the most famous lawyer in the country at the time. He was well known as a speaker, writer, and a ‘village atheist’ on a national scale.

 

(23) A conflict between Christians

The Scopes trial was not a simple conflict between science and faith. It was a conflict between two groups of Christians. Many of the people on both sides were Christian believers.

 

(24) How to make a legend

What many of us today know about the Scopes trial comes from a film called ‘Inherit the Wind,’ made in the 1960s. But ‘Inherit the Wind’ was not really about the Scopes trial at all. It was a picture of the anti-communist ‘witch hunts’ that were going on in America in the 1950s.

 

(25) Dishonest spinning

In these programmes, we have been looking at the myth that science and faith are in conflict with each other.  We have looked at some key events that are supposed to show this conflict. The way people tell these stories is often spun as a story of science and faith in conflict. Sometimes people tell these stories in genuine ignorance. But sometimes they tell them in a deliberately dishonest way. They do know better, but they have an agenda. They are telling them in bad faith.

 

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‘A significant and growing number of scientists, historians of science and philosophers of science see more scientific evidence now for a personal creator and designer than was available fifty years ago.’ - M J Wilkins and J P Moreland