Ancient Greece Opposed Philosophy?

From our good friend and former blogging partner, Weekend Fisher, at Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength:

Would you say, in the death of Socrates, that Greece had shown its true colors as being against philosophy?

I'd expect not; Greece is the birthplace of many branches of philosophy. The death of Socrates can be understood various ways, but the record as a whole shows there is not a general Greek reaction against or opposition to philosophy; in fairness, few cultures have supported philosophy more.

But that is exactly the same variety of argument that anti-Christians make about Christianity's supposed opposition to science based on the imprisonment of Galileo. It does not matter to them that Christendom is the birthplace of many branches of science. The record as a whole shows there is not a general Christian reaction against or opposition to science, and in fairness few cultures have supported science more than Christian cultures. The modern sciences grew up in Christian cultures.

I'd contend that the Greeks made real but isolated mistakes, and taken as a whole few cultures have ever done more to develop philosophy. On the same ground I'd also contend that the Christians made real but isolated mistakes, and no culture has ever done more to develop the sciences.

Weekend Fisher is exactly right. Of course, no one would argue that Christianity hasn't occasionally done some rather dumb things that have either been anti-science or, at minimum, appears anti-science in retrospect. (Of course, there is a great deal of debate whether Galileo would have been punished at all if not for his outspoken diatribes against the Pope.) But it is a very different thing to say that because some (perhaps, a handful of) examples can be identified of the church, in a bit of zeal to demand an overly-literal interpretation of the Bible, acting in a manner that was not in the best interest of science that it represents some on-going hatred of science.

I am a Christian who regularly hangs out with Christians and have been a member of four separate churches over the last 10 years. In all of my interchanges with Christians, I have yet to find one single Christian who hates science or wants to surpress it. The extent to which they stand up against science is only in those very limited areas where science preaches a philosophy that is not a given from science itself. There are so many areas of science and so few where there is a potential clash between science and religion that to argue from the areas where difference occur that Christianity is somehow anti-science is ridiculous. This is especially true since Christianity is the philosophical cradle from which many of the world's sciences sprang.

So, if you want to argue that Galileo proves that Christianity is anti-science, I think its fair to ask you why Ancient Greece isn't anti-philosophy for the way it treated Socrates (or Aristotle, for that matter).


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