In an essay titled Christianity Was Not Responsible for Modern Science, Richard Carrier loosely defines delusion as an easily falsifiable belief held disproportionately to the evidence. Carrier’s essay, which appeared in the 2010 book, The Christian Delusion, Why Faith Fails, easily discredits the fantasy that Christianity begat science. I recently discovered this academic smack-down by Carrier, and don’t know how I missed it two years ago. I’m pleased to have stumbled upon it, now.
Carrier earned a PhD from Columbia University in ancient history, specializing in the intellectual history of Greece and Rome, particularly ancient philosophy, religion, and science, with emphasis on the origins of Christianity and the use and progress of science under the Roman empire. He is author of Sense and Goodness without God, Not the Impossible Faith, and Why I Am Not a Christian.
In his essay, Carrier mentions the chronically fallacious Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza. D’Souza perpetrates the myth, among many other mental vacuities, that of all ancient religions, “only” Christianity “was from the beginning based on reason.” Carrier patiently reminds the inept D’Souza that,
Yet surely even an attentive high-school student knows the pagan Greeks invented reason, in the very sense he means, developing the formal sciences of logic, philosophy, mathematics, and rhetoric. And any attentive reader of the Bible knows Christianity was from the beginning based on scripture, inspiration, and revelation, not “reason.”
Carrier also answers D’Souza’s claim that the presumed rationality of the universe is impossible to prove, and therefore requires theological justification. But this is simply illogical at a very basic level:
But that the universe is rational is observed. So it doesn’t have to be proved. Such a belief requires no faith or theology because it rests entirely on evidence.
D’Souza was just one of a few error-prone apologists Carrier mentions. On a few occasions I had to resist saying the word “duh” after Carrier corrected these uninformed (misinformed? lazy?) individuals. Carrier refutes their logical and historical errors with all-too-abundant evidence and ease. He counters the flawed devaluation of pagan contributions to reason and science by citing paragraph after paragraph of contributor and accomplishment. He also notes the over-inflated view of the Christian contribution to science, citing this observation:
Christianity fully dominated the whole of the Western world from the fifth to the fifteenth century, and yet in all those thousand years there was no Scientific Revolution. A cause that fails to have its predicted effect despite being continually in action for a thousand years is usually considered refuted, not confirmed.
Carrier soundly destroys the notion that Christianity begat science, and includes robust historical facts and more than five pages of bibliography.
How any Christian apologist can earn a living today is a testament to human credulity. Correcting their errors is like following horses in a parade. Carrier illustrates how to do academics properly. I’ll take my solace there.