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Western Civilisation

Until the advent of materialism and 19th c. dogma, Western Civilisation was  superior to anything Islam had developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Proof of this resides in the 'modern' world and the unending political-economic and spiritual poverty of Muslim states and regions.  Squatting on richer civilisations is not 'progress'.  Islam is pagan, totalitarian, and irrational.   

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Sunday, April 21, 2024

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The Priest as a Scientist. Only in Christianity does one find the religious leading science.

The foundations of science were laid by the Church.

by Ferdinand III


Roger Bacon (c.1214 - c.1292) | Issue 130 | Philosophy Now

Only in Christianity do we find distinct markers of piety and intelligent rationality, mixed together in a great pot-pourri of intellectual and emotional ferment.  The organisation and both immaterial and material concerns of monks and nuns is one such marker.  A second is the role of the priest as a scientist during the Middle Ages.  Few if any cultures can boast one, none can reference both.  We take it for granted in our modern world suffused in material wealth, much of it concentrated with the few, saturated as it is with debts both present and future; that everyone throughout history has had the time and leisure to become educated, explore and discover.  This is obviously a fiction.  ‘Learning’ and naturalist investigation was always the prerogative of the rich and idle. 


What is unique in the Western experience is the role of the scientist-priest.  Running a church and a parish is a full-time job.  It involves the spiritual and religious guidance of the laity, but also, the management of buildings, finances, people, and material affairs.  It is in effect, the equivalent of running a business.  Seen from this viewpoint there was not much time for idle-intellectual speculation or forays into complicated naturalist endeavours.  Yet throughout the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church produced a vast quantity of learned priests who transformed world history through intellectual, social, scientific, mathematical and mechanical innovation.


Sadly, much documentation pre-dating the 1200s has been destroyed through arson, war, pillage or natural decomposition.  Tonnes of Latin manuscripts also lie unread in various crypts and archives across Europe waiting for translation.  What we do know is that the 13th century was a cauldron of sophisticated education and inquiry, surely built on previous centuries of experimentation and effort.  Roger Bacon a Franciscan who taught at Oxford, was greatly admired for his work in maths and optics.  He developed a scientific method and emphasised the importance of experiment and observation.  He identified that long standing customs and popular opinions were too often, obstacles to truth.


Saint Albert the Great (d.1280), was a Dominican monk educated in Padua, who taught in Germany and at the University of Paris.  One of his students was St. Thomas Aquinas.  Besides teaching Saint Albert was the Bishop of Regensburg for 2 years and led the German Dominicans for many years.  Albert was justly famous for his naturalistic investigations, experimentation and applied mathematics.  As with Roger Bacon he developed a coherent method of investigation which focused on mechanical proofs.  Outputs from Saint Albert traversed the areas of physics, logic, metaphysics, biology, psychology, and natural science.  He refused to accept scientific ‘authority’ at face value, an attitude completely missing in our ‘modern world’.


Robert Grosseteste was another famed monk and chancellor of Oxford as well as a Bishop of Lincoln in England.  He was deeply influenced by the school at Chartres and by Thierry in particular.  He was probably the first priest-scientist to codify and write down his scientific experiments and the steps taken within each experiment.  These methods and approaches were passed on down and were duly copied by scientists in the 17th century.


There are dozens of similar priest-scientists that are of great importance but rarely mentioned in history books.  Father Nicholas Steno (d 1686) defined the science of geology, an area which is still suffused with problems and incorrect assumptions.  In particular he scientifically examined fossils, rocks and geological strata, overturning the existing myths and a priori conclusions through careful research and applied experimentation.  He was the first person we know of who believed that the Earth’s history could be known from its rocks.


The Jesuits as a religious order, until the advent of their subversion in the modern era were famous throughout the world for scientific, mathematical and astronomical observations.  Father Matthias Rici became, circa 1610, the de-facto Chancellor of China through his demonstration of Western science, astronomy, maths and geographical knowledge.  He was famous within China for teaching Chinese scholars not only scripture but advanced scientific ideas, including astronomical observations and calculations.  Many Chinese converted to Catholicism due to Rici’s piety, Christian virtues but also due to the scientific achievements that the Christianised West could display to the pagan East.


The priest as scientist, academic and innovator is a Christian only invention.  For 1000 years from the demise of Rome and its takeover by the German tribes, to 1600, the Catholic Church was at the vanguard of every important development in Western Europe.  From its moral salvation, to responsible citizenhood, to the rise of the welfare state including hospitals, poor relief, orphanages; to ending both White and Black slavery; to the creation of universities and the foundations of maths and science; to the grander of faith and life expressed in art, architecture literature, learning; to its centrality in industry, technology and agricultural revolutions; the priest as savant is what enabled and ennobled Western civilisation.

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