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Paperback: 263 pages
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (July 2000)
This book is about the history of science, particularly the origin of science as we know it. Written from a Christian perspective, Jaki argues that Jesus himself is ultimately the savior of science. Jaki's review of ancient cultures such as Greece, Eqypt, China, and India is fascinating, as he explains how theological errors were the key factor that inhibited the development of science that came about in the Christian world. Fascinating reading.
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There is much nonsense afoot that would have one believe that religion, especially Christianity and the Catholic Church, has always been hostile to science and greatly innhibited its progress. This view is plainly contrary to the facts. Many of the greatest scientists were sponsored and paid by the Church. In fact, many were members of a clerical order. Consider this. If one were to take a wall map and draw an outline of the areas of the world that have seen the most scientific progress over the past 1000 years, and then draw an outline of the area of what one might call Christendom, one will find that the two outlines match up very closely. This could certainly not be the case if Christianity was hostile to science. Rather, just the opposite is true. If one wants to understand how this is so, Jaki's work is a great place to start.
Father Stanley Jaki, OSB, (1924-2009) was a well known physicist and astronomer during the 20th. and 21st.centuries. He taught and lectured in European and U.S. univerities. He also demonstrated knowledge of history, philosophy, theology, etc. In his book titled THE SAVORIOR OF SCIENCE, Father Jaki demonstrated that popular notions of science and religion were myths based on lack of historical knowledge, popular misconceptions,scientific confusion, and greed which muted intelligent debate re religion, science, and philosophy.
Father Jaki showed insight re the comments of scientists who claimed no moral guidance re their work. Father Jaki contrasted this superficial attitude with the science that led to machine guns, poison gas, more destructive artillery, and mass carage during W.W. I. This was followed by concentration camp brutality, flying fortresses, the obliteration of cities, and the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb was followed thermonuclear weapons. In other words, those members of the scientific community had to be aware that what they did could not only improve living standards but also destroy every man, woman, and child on the planet. This view was not idle talk but possible tragic reality. Father Jaki reminded readers of what can occur when religious convictions are muted, and material greed is honored in place of compassion, kindness, careful thought, and wisdom. In other words, where can our "progress" lead us?
Father then gave a brief history of non-European peoples and why they did not have the advances of Western Civiliztion. Father Jaki was honest enough to credit non-Europeans for their achievements and that such achievements embellished Western Civilization.Read more ›
As a Christian historian, I tend to agree with many of Jaki's points. He also owns a certain intellectual brilliance -- I found myself ear-marking many pages, to return and write down juicy quotes. The problem is, Jaki refuses to support his arguments with enough facts. The book often comes across as crotchety, dismissive, and even egotistical. Jaki is brilliant perhaps, but he doesn't give critical readers a chance to be persuaded. Instead, he rambles relentlessly, skipping from Justice Bork to Darwin to Arianism to sollipsism. Not always does he explain his point clearly, and seldom does he back it up with enough solid facts. Part of this follows from attempting two thousand years of history in 230 pages. But like G. K. Chesterton, Jaki also seems to feel an actual aversion to detail, though without Chesterton's humor, good-naturedness, or psychological acuity.
I found Jaki's point about the rise of science weak as an argument, though possibly true. Are wrong worldviews to blame for the stillbirth of science in ancient non-Christian civilizations? That is a provocative thesis, worth exploring. But a few paragraphs of dismissive and elusive discussion (6 for Egypt, 10 for India, 15 for China, 4 for Babylon, 8 for Greece, 5 for Islam) should not be enough to satisfy even fellow believers. Given that science did in fact happen to rise in the West, of course one can find post hoc reasons why this should be so; but to prove that it HAD to be so would take a far more in-depth and detailed argument.
I was even less satisfied when I noticed that, while he got some things right (about ancient theism, for instance), he made a few errors about one civization I know fairly well, China.Read more ›