Monday, May 17, 2010


Navel Gazing

Whew, talk about self-deception.

Lane Palmer is playing the "What if Jesus Had Never Been Born?" game over at The Christian Post.

If Jesus had never been born, education and science would look very different and much more primitive, and most likely the United States of America would have just been an unrealized historical dream.
Palmer may be right about the US. Without all those Christian conquistadors rampaging throughout South and Central America, slaughtering the natives for immense amounts of gold, the English and French might not have been inspired to wipe out the natives of North America ... with the able assistance of Americans.

But education and science? Palmer doesn't try to defend that himself but refers to a really silly website, which says this:

Education? From the beginning of Judaism, from which Christianity is derived, there was an emphasis on the written word. But the phenomenon of education for the masses has its roots in the Protestant Reformation. In America, the first law to require education of the masses was passed by the Puritans. For the first 200 years in America, children's reading instruction was in the Bible. ...

Scientific Law? Christianity is based on the notion that there exists a rational God who is the source of rational truth. This gave rise to the possibility of scientific laws.
Right! Nobody had education before Christians. Oh, wait! Where did we get the word "Academy" from? And, of course, the education of the masses didn't start, strangely enough, until after the Enlightenment, which Christians often lament. Before then, education was limited to the clergy and some of the nobility, while everyone else was told to accept their God-ordained place in life.

And isn't it suprising how those nasty pagan Greeks were able to do so much science without any idea of scientific laws?

So, basically, if you only consider what Christians have done, it's easy to show they did everything.

Actually, the idea of scientific laws can be found (implicitly) in the Stoics. Of course, the Stoics were theists (of a sort), but I imagine the Christians today want to pretend that no one believed in God before they did. Granted, the God of the Stoics is pretty much a deistic conception, but that's all you need to get up and running the idea of a divine lawgiver who prescribes the laws of nature that we describe.

Besides which, the dominant metaphysics of the late Middle Ages was the metaphysics of Aristotle, in which there are no scientific laws.
It's difficult to put a start date on the USA but let's assume that 1785 is about right.

That means that until 1985, "children's reading instruction was in the Bible."

Who knew?

What caused the change?

That means that until 1985, "children's reading instruction was in the Bible."

Hah! Little did you subjects of the crown know that we 'Merkins had secretly seceded from the Empire as soon as we found out that the natives had poor border control policies!
Lane Palmer is of course full of bovine manure but in one thing he is right. In Europe the concept of general education for all was first propagated during the Reformation and interestingly most fervently by the extremist protestant groups such as the Familists and other Anabaptist sects. The then modern education system in German was founded by Philipp Melancthon and the German Realschule system with an emphasis on science instead of classics was founded by the Pietisten the German equivalent of the Puritens.
Epicurus is one of my favourites. From Wikipedia: Epicurus is a key figure in the development of science and the scientific method because of his insistence that nothing should be believed except that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction. Many of his ideas about nature and physics presaged important scientific concepts of our time.

He also believed that gods existed, but since they were perfect they couldn't be bothered with our antics. He died nearly 300 years before Jesus of Nazareth was born.
Wasn't there a time when people were punished for distributing Bibles that literate (but otherwise ordinary) people could read?
At least one was executed (at least in part) for doing it.
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