Monday, January 29, 2007

AC Grayling

A rather extraordinary challenge is laid down by AC Grayling to Madeleine Bunting here:

I challenge her to name one - even one small - contribution to science made by Christianity in its two thousand years; just one.

Well, setting aside the scientific discoveries made by religious men, such as Copernicus or Mendel, I can think of a few pretty bloody big contributions to science made by Christianity. Just for starters, what about the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge? Both foundations set up as places of learning, because educated clergy were considered better at their job than uneducated ones. What about the first public schools, explicitly set up as religious foundations, St Mary's College of Winchester for example?

So, apart from establishing the first organised educational establishments in Britain, what else did Christianity do for science? How about popularising public literacy through the printed version of the Bible (copies of which, and of Foxe's Book of Martyrs were often the only printed material in a household)? How about acting as a storehouse of classical knowledge and philosophy throughout the Dark Ages? How about providing employment and inspiration for a new generation of architects and engineers through cathedral building? That's just off the top of my head, and I don't hold an explicit brief for religion. What the hell was Grayling thinking?

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