Rediscovering the Science of the Middle Ages

Here at Naturalis Historia we hope to bring a greater awareness of the importance of science and religion in the 17th and 18th century.  A time when many discoveries were being made that impacted our views of the earth and its history.   Such an emphasis may unintentionally perpetuate the myth that the Middle Ages where dark and completely devoid of serious thought in science and theology.   James Hannam’s book, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution,  published this year brings some much needed attention to this time period.

A summary of some of the themes of this book are presented by the author over at Biologos:  Rediscovering the Science of the Middle Ages | The BioLogos Forum.  From that summary:

“Most people still assume that the Middle Ages were a period entirely benighted by violence, superstition and stagnation. Indeed, the triumphs of Greek reason and mathematics had allegedly been snuffed out by Christians once the Roman Empire abandoned paganism in the fourth century AD. Echoing the enlightenment historian Edward Gibbon, some commentators today even blame Christianity for causing the “Dark Ages”. If there was any science in the Middle Ages, they claim, it was either nonsense like alchemy and astrology, or else stolid rehashes of half-remembered Aristotle….

…Historians now recognize that the Middle Ages were a period of important scientific developments. Furthermore, Christianity was, on balance, a positive factor in the rise of western science. This is not to say that science and religion have always got along smoothly. The Galileo affair and today’s battle between evolution and creationism are certainly examples of where specific scientific theories have conflicted with particular religious doctrines. But these are exceptions. In general, Christianity has rubbed along with science just fine. In the Middle Ages, at least, it is hard to see how any scientific progress could have occurred otherwise.”

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