The Biblical Basis of Western Science

Gary North, mentioned a Catholic Priest, Fr. Stanley Jaki, who did a good job tracing the role of Biblical teaching in Western Science. Two books he mentioned were

  • Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe [1974]
  • The Road of Science and the Ways to God [1978].

I did a quick search myself, and found an essay, “The Biblical Basis of Western Science”.

As Father Jaki wrote,

Wherever we find this linear perspective we find the Bible in the background. This is best appreciated if we take a look at the cosmic view of all great ancient cultures. They are all dominated by the belief that everything will repeat itself to no end, or by the idea of eternal returns. Only on occasion does one hear about this. One hardly ever hears that this belief was responsible for the fact that science suffered a stillbirth, indeed a monumental stillbirth, in all ancient cultures.

I coined this phrase, the stillbirths of science, about thirty years ago. The phrase certainly did not catch on in secular academia. The reason is obvious. Nothing irks the secular world so much as a hint, let alone a scholarly demonstration, that supernatural revelation, as registered in the Bible, is germane to science. Yet biblical revelation is not only germane to science – it made the only viable birth of science possible.

That birth took place in a once-Christian West. Still today it is that birth that fuels neocapitalism that not only needs free markets, but also merchandise to bring to market, and needs that merchandise in ever larger quantities. Only science can deliver them. The rise of that science, so crucial for Western man and for the modern world, has distinctly biblical origins insofar as the Bible is a record of Christian faith.

Father Jaki, following Catholic teaching, does not recognize the creation of the world in six days. Too bad, as God explicitly said this. However, it does fit in with the Catholic view that it is the Church that should interpret the Word, and not the believer carefully reading it for himself. “You can’t trust the text – trust the priest to tell you what God really means!”

Even with this failing, though, Father Jaki does recognize that the text teaches complete dependence on God.

With all that discredit piling up on the Bible through its very first chapter, we should not be surprised that it is well-nigh impossible to sell to secular modern culture a most fundamental biblical message: the total dependence of all on God. In the Bible even the heavens and the stars are on equal footing with muddy earth in respect to their dependence on God. Within the biblical world view it was ultimately possible to assume that the heavens and the earth are ruled by the same laws. But it was not possible to do this within the world vision that dominated all other ancient cultures. In all of them the heavens were divine.

And the Greeks drew the logic of this with a particular precision, which is the reason why science suffered a stillbirth even among the Greeks of old, those mythical models of modern rationality. Within the Greek ambiance it was impossible, in fact it would have been a sacrilege, to assume that the motion of the moon and the fall of an apple were governed by the same law. It was, however, possible for Newton, because he was the beneficiary of the age-old Christian faith.

As I just keep saying, There is only One Law.


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