The Inquisition Strikes Again

Karl Aspelin's painting of Martin Luther burning the papal bull that excommunicated him from the Roman Catholic Church.

Karl Aspelin’s painting of Martin Luther burning the papal bull that excommunicated him from the Roman Catholic Church.

There are times when modern scientists act like members of the Inquisition. Such situations can result in people getting removed from their positions in the scientific community, courses being shut down, scientists being fired, or papers being retracted. (see here, here, here, here, and here). Unfortunately, it has happened again, resulting in another scientific paper being retracted.

The paper, Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living, discussed the results of an experiment that tried to figure out the functional link between the architecture of the hand and its coordination. In the experiment, 30 individuals (15 men and 15 women) with apparently healthy hands were given a glove to wear while performing several mundane tasks. The glove measured the angles of the joints in the hand throughout the time each task was being performed. This allowed the researchers to then determine the degree to which the movements of the hand joints were coordinated.

The researchers found that while some joints (particularly those of the thumb) did move independently of the others, there was an enormous amount of coordination between the joints. The authors note:

This suggests that there is no need for the human hand to control each joint independently. If there was not such biomechanical architecture, such as the separated connection of each articular from a single muscle, it would significantly increase the computational burden of the [central nervous system] to make up for the loss of the biomechanical architecture.

In other words, the joints of the hand are coordinated so that the brain doesn’t have to concentrate on controlling each joint independently when the hand is grasping objects.

Why was this scientific paper retracted? Was there a serious methodological error in the experiment? Was the data analysis incorrect? Did the authors commit some sort of fraud? No. It was retracted because the authors dared to do something that scientists have done throughout the vast majority of human history: They dared to mention the Creator in their scientific work!

The authors commit this terrible act a total of three times. Here are the sentences that contain the scandalous reference:

In conclusion, our study can improve the understanding of the human hand and confirm that the mechanical architecture is the proper design by the Creator for dexterous performance of numerous functions following the evolutionary remodeling of the ancestral hand for millions of years.

Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator’s invention.

In conclusion, our study can improve the understanding of the human hand and confirm that the mechanical architecture is the proper design by the Creator for dexterous performance of numerous functions following the evolutionary remodeling of the ancestral hand for millions of years.

Horrifying, isn’t it? Well, some people thought so. Indeed, that is the title of one of the comments attached to the article! In fact, the journal (PLoS One) received so many complaints about this horrifying situation that they retracted the entire paper!

Interestingly enough, one of the authors posted in the comments section of the article, indicating that the entire brouhaha is the result of a cultural misunderstanding. The author states that no one from the team is a native English speaker, and they thought the term “Creator” referred to nature. So, in fact, they were saying that the design seen in the human hand was the result of the work of nature, i.e., evolution.

Given the fact that the authors used perfect English to describe their experiment and results, does it make sense that they didn’t really understand what the word “Creator” meant? From my personal experience, I would say that it does. My Ph.D. advisor was German, as were some of the scientists with whom I worked as a graduate student. Since I took German in high school and university, I tried to talk with them in German whenever I could. We could discuss details of nuclear chemistry and physics without any problems, but when I would try to say something as simple as “Have a good time,” they would chuckle, because what I thought was perfectly good German for that phrase (Haben Sie eine gut zeit – a direct translation from the English) meant absolutely nothing to them! Thus, it is very possible that this was simply a translation error on the part of the authors.

So once the horrifying sentences were pointed out, why didn’t the editors simply make a few changes, getting rid of the words “design” and “Creator” or replacing “Creator” with with “evolution?” Because of their fear of the Inquisition. When the High Priests of Science suspect you of heresy in word, heresy in thought, or heresy in deed, you have to scramble to show them that you aren’t a heretic. Otherwise, you will be excommunicated from the fold. While retraction shouldn’t have happened (there is nothing wrong with the data or the analysis as far as I can see), it had to happen, for the sake of the journal’s reputation.

It is terribly sad that modern science has sunk to such a level.

21 Comments

  1. Anthea says:

    This is about ‘Science in the Age of Reason’. I was in the pilot group, but I would like to get a hard copy. I see that it’s on the BB website, but not yet available in the UK via Icththus. I am not in a panic, as I have the pilot copy, but I hate reading from a laptop.

    Do you know when it will be available outside the USA?? Thanks Dr Jay.

    1. jlwile says:

      My publisher says that Icththus hasn’t ordered any yet, but it will let them know that someone is already asking about it.

      1. Anthea says:

        Well, I’ll start saving my pennies,then.

  2. Sj says:

    David Klinghoffer has another perspective on the issue here: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2016/03/racism_heres_an102663.html

  3. Christina Brock says:

    I printed the above article mentioned out the other day when I first saw it. I posted it to my Facebook wall and said then that I strongly suspected that the authors would be forced to edit or retract it and that if you wanted a copy of it to print it out now. (I am teaching Human Anatomy using Apologia Human Anatomy to a home school co-op and will be sharing this with them this week). This is crazy and so very predictable now. Our Creator is so very evident and yet those who will not see are so blind.

  4. Benjamin A. Tagle says:

    Here’s an alternate viewpoint to the knee-jerk response “scientists are out to get God.” [http://thelogicofscience.com/2016/03/05/is-the-peer-review-system-broken-a-look-at-the-plos-one-paper-on-a-hand-designed-by-the-creator/] As the author points out, it would be best to allow the authors of this paper to correct their error in translation and have the paper re-submitted for publication. He also points out that there are valid reasons for not referring to a “Creator” in a scientific paper which has nothing to do with politics.

    1. jlwile says:

      The article’s reasons aren’t valid at all, Benjamin. It claims that referencing God is “…a fundamental assault on the very nature of science.” That is nonsense, because belief in God was absolutely necessary to bring science to where it is today. In fact, reference to a Creator has been quite common throughout the history of science. Rather than being an a fundamental assault on the very nature of science, it has been a part of the fabric of science throughout most of the history of science.

      The real assault on the very nature of science is the censorship of viewpoints that are unpopular, such as what happened in this case and the others linked above.

      1. Benjamin A. Tagle says:

        If your thesis is correct, then there should have been a great outburst of scientific learning during the 5th – 14th century. We know this did not happen until the ‘lost’ Greek works became accessible during the Renaissance.

        1. jlwile says:

          I think you need to study the history of science, Benjamin, because you are supporting my thesis. There was, indeed, an explosion of scientific learning from the second through the 14th centuries. Galen (2nd century) revolutionized our understanding of anatomy, Philoponus (6th century) corrected some of Aristotle’s ideas related to motion. Grosseteste (early 13th century) developed the scientific method, and his student (Roger Bacon, 13th century) gave us a formal description of it. Petrus Peregrinus, Giles of Rome, Dietrich von Freiberg (13th century) as well as Bradwardine, Buridan, Albert of Saxony, Guy de Chaulic, and Orseme (14th century) all revolutionized our understanding of many things related to science. I encourage you to read some serious scholarship on this issue, such as The Genesis of Science by Dr. James Hannam. This Oxford-trained physicist and Cambridge-trained historian shows how the church of the Middle Ages was fundamental in the development of science.

        2. Benjamin A. Tagle says:

          I would hardly call the advances you mention an explosion of learning—more like a slow burn. To put this in context: the twelve examples you mention (hardly household names, only Galen and Roger Bacon are familiar) occur over a timespan of 1200 years—the Dark Ages (or if you prefer, the Dim Ages)—so ‘revolutionized’ seems like a stretch.

          On the other hand, since the Renaissance we have Copernicus (early 16th century), Tycho Brahe (late 16th century), Kepler (early 17th century), Galileo (early 17th century), and Newton (late 17th century). This is almost half of the number on your list just in the one field of astronomy. The foundations of modern astronomy were laid down in only 200 years. That all of these people were Christian is incidental to the discoveries they produced. Correlation is not causation. Using your logic, one could argue that being Muslim, or better yet, being a Hindu, is a requirement for advancement in mathematics, seeing as how our modern number system and symbols came from India via the Arabs.

        3. jlwile says:

          Once again, Benjamin, you need to actually learn the history of science. What I gave you was a small sampling of those who revolutionized science in the Middle ages. Others include Gerbert of Aurillac (10th century), Peter Abelard (11th century), William of Conches (11th century), Adelard of Bath (12th century), etc. etc. If you would read some serious history, you would find that the Middle Ages were neither dark nor dim. They were a time when science flourished.

          In addition, the men you mention make my case even more strongly. What was Copernicus’s motivation for putting the sun at the center of the solar system? It was his concept of God. In his book, he says that God is the “best and most orderly Workman,” and the geocentric system was simply to “messy” for such an orderly workman to make. Like most of the scientists throughout the history of science, God was central to his science, and Copernicus would mention God throughout his scientific work.

          What motivated Newton to come up with his Universal Theory of Gravitation? Once again, it was his concept of God. As Dr. Morris Kline tells us:

          The thought that all the phenomena of motion should follow from one set of principles might seem grandiose and inordinate, but it occurred very naturally to the religious mathematicians of the 17th century. God had designed the universe, and it was to be expected that all phenomena of nature would follow one master plan. (Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty, Morris Kline, Oxford University Press 1980, p. 52)

          Once again, if you read some serious history of science, you would understand why the Muslim or Hindu worlds didn’t produce science. Indeed, Dr. Hannam explains it in Chapter 12, which is entitled “the Twelfth-Century Renaissance.” One important reason was that the church built universities, which facilitated the development of science.

  5. This is a comment, not about this article, but the November 2015 article on use of laptops in the classroom. I didn’t see a way to post a reply on that one so pardon me for putting it on here. Hope that’s ok. You had replied to my post and you made some good comments that spurred me to look at the issue more closely and maybe more fairly.

    I took your challenge about reading the actual study and gave it some thought. The first thing that constrained me was a Michael Faraday quote that one of your readers gave in the comments to the Neil Tyson article. The gist of that was to work hard to avoid resisting new ideas just because they conflict with your own preconceived opinions.

    I was wrong about one thing because I said there was no mention of the type of material in the lectures. I was going strictly by your description of the study. When I went to the study I found they did describe the material and there are also links to the videos the students watched. You can’t ask for more than that! I downloaded and watched one from the third study, the lecture on bats. I also attempted to wade through the article but it wasn’t very helpful because instead of discussing scores they had all this statistical jargon such as “Z” score and on and on. I know nothing of that stuff so it was just gibberish to me.

    So what’s the bottom line? Well there’s another quote from an 1887 paper by the Duke of Argyll: “an hypothesis may adequately account for actual facts, and yet nevertheless may not be true.” Here’s a link: http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/comm/Argyll/greatles.html

    So I still have a couple of criticisms of the study and I have to mostly discount the conclusions. One thing is that they GAVE the students a laptop to use. The students didn’t use their own laptop. So immediately they were at a disadvantage. When the others were given a paper and pencil, they were using familiar equipment. Using someone else’s laptop throws you into unfamiliar territory. You are going to spend part of your mental energy dealing with the different keyboard, the different software, everything about it. So to my mind this completely invalidates their whole study. Also, the students were watching a video on a monitor. No opportunity to pause and ask a question or have someone repeat something. That’s a very artificial environment. But you say, “Hey, both groups were exposed to the same difficulty.” True. So the only fair conclusion is that if you’re going to take notes on an unknown computer watching a video presentation, put away the laptop and grab your paper and pencil.

    Based on my own experience, I have to say that in all ordinary classroom situations, keep your laptop open and annotate the Powerpoint presentation that the professor supplies. It works great. And don’t forget to close the email program and any other distracting software.

    1. jlwile says:

      No problem, Doug. I have to limit the time over which an article can be commented upon, because of troll control.

      I do agree that giving a laptop to the students does put the laptop-note-takers at a slight disadvantage. However, I don’t think it invalidates the study. While the laptop might be different, the software is the same, and most keyboard layouts are standardized. Thus, the disadvantage is slight. The reason they did it, of course, was to make sure they could be sure the students weren’t using distracting software, which would have been more likely to invalidate the study.

  6. Robert Byers says:

    Its unlikely Chinese, still very commie athesist, researchers would put in their paper about a creator. They probably just meant what they said. NATURE. Even evolutionists always saty nature did this and that.
    I like the publicity for the accusation that evolutionists etc are attacking/censoring anyone who mentions God or genesis in a science paper. Its transparent its a new TACTIC to deal wthe the rising ID/YEC threat.
    I think they missed here and hurt themselves.

    Creationists and friends still need a knockout equation on why there must be freedom of inquiry and conclusions in subjects that deal with origins.
    I say the truth must be the demand. not freedom of science research.
    That just must also be to allow the truth.

    I don’t see the human hand as anything but a ape hand by the way.
    It doesn’t show a creator more then the ape hand.
    We are renting the ape body because we uniquely can’t have our own body cause of our true identity as God created in soul.
    The only ones to have a body like some dumb animal.

  7. […] There are times when modern scientists act like members of the Inquisition. Such situations can result in people getting removed from their positions in the scientific community, courses being shut down, scientists being fired, or papers being retracted. (see here, here, here, here, and here). Unfortunately, it has happened again, resulting in another scientific paper being retracted.  […]

  8. Benjamin A. Tagle says:

    Dr. Wile, forgive me but I will reply to your previous reply (above) here since the formatting renders consecutive replies increasingly unreadable.

    The history of science (or of anything, in general) is rarely amenable to a simplistic explanation. I am not convinced with your thesis that the idea of a ‘universal law’ propounded by the Church was the major impetus for the advancement of science. We know that the Greek philosophers had the idea of ‘universal Truths’ before them and that philosophy is, in fact, the search for these truths. It can be argued that this idea contributed to the advancement of science since we know for a fact that the Greeks produced science. In addition, it cannot be denied that other civilizations have had philosophers searching for these truths and that these civilizations too have produced science. The question is on how much and in what manner they have contributed to our modern understanding. A short overview of the scientific method can be found here [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_scientific_method].

    Comparing the achievements of the Renaissance to those of the Middle Ages (let’s use this term since we know that this time period was not entirely Dark) does not bring the word ‘flourishing’ to mind. A pair of centuries versus a millennium? Having the idea of ‘universal laws’ in place did not produce Newton’s Laws in the 700’s, or in the 900’s, or in the 1100’s, with the growth of the Medieval universities. It took a confluence of many other events to produce a true ‘flourish’ in the 1400s.

    Let’s not forget that the Arabs had their own universities and contributed largely to our understanding of Geometry (from the Greeks) and Algebra, which they developed. They advanced the astronomy which proved indispensable for later European navigators. They advanced our knowledge of medicine. Their use of the Hindu number system (which they passed on to us) was a huge aid in our mathematics. (I’m not going to get into the importance of the Hindu numbers and the base 10 system, but I challenge you to try some higher arithmetic and algebra using only Roman numerals.) To say that the Muslim or Hindu worlds did not produce science is incorrect and should be beneath you. While Europe was flourishing with their use of ‘natural law’ the Arabs were preserving and developing the tools which made the true Renaissance possible.

    Getting back to the crux of the matter. It seems to me that what you are proposing is that God served as an inspiration to all these men you mention (my examples included). There is no argument there from me. The question is whether God was “necessary” for the formulation of their science. I don’t think that you have proved your case.

    For example, Newton was a strong believer in God (though nowadays you would probably brand him a heretic for his beliefs) but he did not invoke God when he formulated his Law of Universal Gravitation [F=G(m1*m2)/r^2]. None of the variables in this equation are divine—it is a purely naturalistic explanation for the force we call gravity. You could argue metaphorically that the universal constant ‘G’ is a representation of God, but do you really want to limit God to a ‘variable’ in an equation?

    Continuing with this example, while Newton could explain pretty accurately the amount of attraction between the Sun and the Planets, he did not know why the planets revolved around the Sun. He left this initial windup to God and supposed that God occasionally intervened to maintain this necessary motion. In other words, he allowed the supernatural into his naturalistic scenario. If we had left it at that, our textbooks would read that the planets revolve around the sun because that’s the way God set it up and He’s the one in charge of keeping it that way. End of story. There is no reason for advancement here because there is no earthly explanation for God’s actions.

    But the story did not end there. Our current understanding of planetary motion involves Einstein’s ideas of gravitation, conservation of momentum, etc. These ideas describe the motion of the planets quite well (better than Newton) without having to invoke God in the process. And they prove that God was an unnecessary ‘part of the equation’ and a ‘God of the gaps’ error on Newton’s part.

    And that is the point of the article to which I referred [http://thelogicofscience.com/2016/03/05/is-the-peer-review-system-broken-a-look-at-the-plos-one-paper-on-a-hand-designed-by-the-creator/] and which you dismissed just as baselessly as the “High Priests of Science” whose actions you deplore. Show me a peer-reviewed article in a respectable journal which advances our understanding of science by invoking a deity. The PLoS article in question refers to a Creator, but this word adds nothing to the science itself and can be replaced by “Nature” or “evolution” with no loss of meaning. The science remains the same by leaving out that entire phrase. That is the complaint against the article. You are probably correct in that there is a contingent of scientists who deplore the use of the word ‘Creator’ on purely religious (or anti-religious) grounds, but to paint the entire scientific community with this paintbrush is fallacious and untrue.

    1. jlwile says:

      I agree that history is malleable, which is why you have to look at serious scholarship on the issue, not Wikipedia articles. When you do that, you will see that the Christian worldview was, indeed, necessary for the development of science as we know it today. As Dr. Loren Eiseley (no friend to Christianity) tells us:

      The philosophy of experimental science…began its discoveries and made use of its methods in the faith, not the knowledge, that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a Creator who did not act upon whim nor interfere with the forces He had set in operation. The experimental method succeeded beyond man’s wildest dreams, but the faith that brought it into being owes something to the Christian conception of the nature of God. It is surely one of the curious paradoxes of history that science, which professionally has little to do with faith, owes its origins to an act of faith that the universe can be rationally interpreted, and that science today is sustained by that assumption. (Loren Eiseley, Darwin’s Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered It, Anchor Books 1961, p. 62)

      A good way to see how important the Christian worldview was for the development of science is to examine the differences between how technology and science developed in Europe and how they developed in China. A scientist by the name of Dr. Joseph Needham asked a question that is often referred to as “The Needham Question.” He asked why Europe was able to overtake China in terms of science and technology, despite the fact that ancient China was technologically advanced compared to ancient Europe. After investing several years in the study of the development of science and technology in China, he reluctantly came to the conclusion that there were three main reasons. The first two reasons dealt with Chinese jurisprudence and bureaucracy, and

      Third, the autochthonous idea of a supreme being, though certainly present from the earliest times, soon lost the qualities of personality and creativity. The development of the concept of precisely formulated abstract laws capable, because of the rationality of the Author of Nature, of being deciphered and re-stated, did not therefore occur. (Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China: History of Scientific Thought, Vol. 2. Cambridge University Press 1991, p. 582)

      Once again, if you actually learn the history of science, you will see that belief in a Creator was an absolutely necessary part of the development of science as we know it today. That might not be something you want to believe, so you might mold history to fit what you want it to say, but the facts are clear.

      You don’t understand how important the work of the natural philosophers in the Middle Ages was because you don’t seem to want to learn. You claim that nothing of import happened during that time period, when the scientific method itself was developed and set down in that time period. You claim that science didn’t flourish until the 1400s, when the natural philosophers of the 1400s repeatedly used the works of the natural philosophers in the Middle ages to develop their views. When you actually study the history of science, you see how it is built on the concepts that were developed in the Middle Ages. If it hadn’t been for Grossteste and Bacon, the Oxford Calculators would not have developed. Had it not been for the Oxford Calculators, Newton would have never produced his work. Indeed, In a February 6, 1676 letter to Robert Hooke, Newton himself said:

      If I have seen a little further then it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

      What most people don’t know is that very phrase was lifted from the works of Bernard of Chartres, who lived in the 12th century. Not only was Newton’s scientific work dependent on the works of those from the Middle Ages, even some of his personal correspondence was!

      Oh, the Arabs did have their own universities, and for a brief time, they made some contributions. However, as discussed in The Genesis of Science (and other scholarly works), they quickly lost their effectiveness because of the Muslim theological view that natural laws were an affront to God’s omnipotence. Certainly, the Hindus helped mathematics immensely with the concept of zero. Nevertheless, they did not produce science. This is not a judgement call. It is simply a statement of fact. The Christian world developed science, and as history makes clear, it is specifically because of the Christian concept of God.

      Certainly none of the terms in Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation are divine. However, as Dr. Morris Kline clearly tells us in the quote I gave you in my last reply, without Newton’s concept of God, that law would never have been developed. The Greeks had this idea that what happened in the heavens was utterly different from what happened on earth. Thus, you couldn’t take anything you learned here on earth and apply it to the heavens. Newton’s faith told him otherwise. He reasoned that since the heavens and earth were created by the same God, they should work according to the same principles. That allowed him to escape the shackles of Greek thought and learn about the workings of the heavens. Without his concept of God, that would never have occurred.

      I am not surprised that you have been taken in by the historical myth that Newton required regular supernatural intervention to make his view of the solar system work. It is a popular story, but like the story that there was little scientific advancement in the Middle Ages, it is utterly false. Indeed, Newton never suggested regular intervention in the solar system. He simply made it clear that he could not solve the multi-body problem that the solar system presented. As a result, he said that the universe MIGHT be unstable, and God MIGHT have to “reform” it at some future time. Once again, if you would actually study the history of science, you would be less likely to be taken in by such myths.

      I did not dismiss your first article baselessly. In fact, I specifically showed you why it is wrong. Indeed, the article says that invoking the Creator is an affront to science when, in fact, invoking the Creator was a necessary part of the development of science. As I said before, the real affront to science is the censorship of ideas just because they are unpopular, which is what the High Priests of Science did in the case of the PLoS ONE article.

      It is interesting that you ask for a “peer-reviewed article in a respectable journal” that advances our understanding of science by invoking a deity. After all, we are discussing an article that got retracted simply for MENTIONING a deity! However, I have already told you about two instances where invoking a deity led to the advancement of science. Copernicus specifically developed his heliocentric system by invoking his view of God as an orderly workman. He thought the geocentric system was too messy for such an orderly God to create. Newton’s Law of Universal gravitation was developed specifically because his view of God allowed him to break the shackles of Greek thought and apply what he learned on earth to the heavens. I will content myself with two more examples, but there are many, many, many others.

      Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz developed a binary logic system and a binary number system, which eventually formed the basis of modern computers. What was his motivation? He tells us in a 1697 letter to Duke Rudolph of Brunswick:

      After all, one of the high points of the Christian faith, which agrees least with the philosophers and is not easy to impart to pagans, is the creation ex nihilo through God’s almighty power. Now one can say that nothing in the world can better present and demonstrate this power than the origin of numbers, as is represented here through the simple and unadorned presentation of One and Zero or nothing.

      Without Leibniz’s view of a Christian creator God, it is possible that the mathematics necessary for computers would never have been developed.

      The last example is more modern. To this day, the standard model of planetary magnetic fields (the dynamo theory) is fraught with error and difficulty. It can’t even correctly predict whether or not a planet will have a magnetic field, much less the strength of that field. However, in 1984, Dr. Russell Humphreys wrote a peer-reviewed article in which he developed his own model for planetary magnetic fields. It was based on his view about how God created the planets. He used his theory to correctly reproduce the known magnetic fields in the solar system at the time and to explain why the moon apparently had a global magnetic field at one time but now does not (a mystery for the dynamo theory). He also predicted the planetary magnetic fields of Neptune and Uranus, which were unknown at the time. When the Voyager craft measured those magnetic fields nearly 10 years later, his predictions were correct, while the predictions of the dynamo theory were incorrect. In addition, he predicted that evidence for a global magnetic field on Mars should exist, because his model indicated that Mars once had a magnetic field and now doesn’t. Later, Mars meteorites revealed that his prediction is accurate, which poses yet another problem for the dynamo theory. Further, when MESSENGER began its journey to Mercury, he correctly predicted that MESSENGER would find a lower magnetic field than Mariner 10 did in the 1970s. This was not expected with the dynamo theory. Thus, Dr. Humphrey’s use of God has helped us develop the only working model for planetary magnetic fields.

      This is the precise reason why the censorship of the PLoS ONE paper is an affront to science. It excludes a viewpoint that has been demonstrated time and time again to produce serious scientific advancement. Indeed, it excludes a viewpoint that was instrumental in the development of science.

      1. Benjamin A. Tagle says:

        Life intervenes, so it’s taken me a while to respond to some of your points:
        1. “I agree that history is malleable, which is why you have to look at serious scholarship on the issue, not Wikipedia articles.”
        Let’s not resort to assigning the label ‘serious scholarship’ only to writings by authors who support your own viewpoint. I did preface my reference to this Wikipedia article as “a quick overview.” If you want serious scholarship, I suggest scrolling to the bottom and looking up some of those references. That’s always a pain to do and I expect that you don’t have the luxury of looking up sources, but simply brushing aside the article, brushes aside the works cited. (Unless you intend to claim that all of them are not serious?)
        The Reverend Doctor De Lacy O’Leary, presumably a good friend of Christianity writes:
        “It was a logical outcome of the influence of Aristotle who before all else was a patient observer of nature, and was in fact the founder of modern science. It had its germs in older thought, no doubt, in the speculations of quite early philosophers about the origin and world and its inhabitants, animals as well as men, but it was Aristotle who introduced what may be called the scientific method.” (De Lacy O’Leary, D.D., How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs, 1949, p. 2)
        This is an old work, and I suspect that new information might have supplanted some of the good Reverend’s claim (particularly with regards to the meaning of ‘the scientific method’), but I put it up here simply to indicate that the general opinion has been that the methods of science began with the Greeks.

        2. “A scientist by the name of Dr. Joseph Needham asked a question that is often referred to as “The Needham Question.””
        Your quote from Needham points out that the lack of a Supreme Being was but one possible factor (out of three) in the path taken by Chinese science. Their lack of the idea of a Universal Law stems from their aversion to an externally imposed law resulting from their (bad) experiences with school of Legalists and to their practical embrace of the concept of Li, which emphasizes the natural order of things. As Needham continues:
        “The Chinese world-view depended upon a totally different line of thought. The harmonious cooperation of all beings arose, not from the orders of a superior authority external to themselves, but from the fact that they were all parts in a hierarchy of wholes forming a cosmic pattern, and what they obeyed were the internal dictates of their own natures. Modem science and the philosophy of organism, with its integrative levels, have come back to this wisdom, fortified by new understanding of cosmic, biological and social evolution. Yet who shall say that the Newtonian phase was not an essential one? And lastly there was always the environment of Chinese social and economic life, out of which arose the transition from feudalism to bureaucratism just mentioned, and which could not but condition at every step the science and philosophy of the Chinese people. Had these conditions been basically favourable to science, any inhibitory influences of the kind considered in this Section would no doubt have been overcome. All we can say of that science of Nature which then would have developed is that it would have been profoundly organic and non-mechanical.” (Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China: History of Scientific Thought, Vol. 2, Cambridge University Press 1991, pp. 582-583)
        The question about the superiority of holistic science of the East vs. the mechanistic science of the West is a point of debate even today.

        3. “You don’t understand how important the work of the natural philosophers in the Middle Ages was because you don’t seem to want to learn. You claim that nothing of import happened during that time period, when the scientific method itself was developed and set down in that time period. You claim that science didn’t flourish until the 1400s, when the natural philosophers of the 1400s repeatedly used the works of the natural philosophers in the Middle ages to develop their views. When you actually study the history of science, you see how it is built on the concepts that were developed in the Middle Ages.”
        I do not deny that important work was done in the Middle Ages, particularly as we approach the 1400s, and that this was part of the events that led to the Renaissance. I know about the Oxford Calculators and how their work predates Galileo. What you are describing is some of the roots of modern science. But a root is not the same as a flower, hence my disagreement with your term ‘flourish.’ And the roots of our modern science extend beyond Medieval Europe. Don’t be so provincial.
        As a counterargument, I have made mention of other civilizations which have done science without the benefit of the Christian deity. It is true that this was not science as we know it but there are other reasons for this backwardness besides their lack of God. The Chinese atrophy in scientific accomplishments can be attributed to their lack of Greek logic, their lack of the Hindu number system, and even their lack of the system of Medieval universities which you mention. And finally, because I do not find your viewpoint convincing you say that I “don’t seem to want to learn?” Really Dr. Wile? That accusation smacks of the Ad hominem fallacy.

        4. “Oh, the Arabs did have their own universities, and for a brief time, they made some contributions. However, as discussed in The Genesis of Science (and other scholarly works), they quickly lost their effectiveness because of the Muslim theological view that natural laws were an affront to God’s omnipotence.
        Traditionally, the Islamic Golden Age is dated from the 8th century to the 13th century. That encompasses most of the Middle Ages, certainly not “a brief period of time.” Europeans had to adopt or rediscover the Islamic contributions. That the Arabs lost their effectiveness is probably, as you say, a combination of the repressive theopolitical climate which the Muslim world still endures. The mindset of the Caliph determined the quality of science produced during a particular ruler’s reign, just as shifting attitudes of the Medieval Church ordained the nature and freedom of the science produced in Europe. I would not dismiss the Arab contributions lightly, however. Without them the Renaissance would not have unfolded as it did.

        5. “Certainly, the Hindus helped mathematics immensely with the concept of zero. Nevertheless, they did not produce science. This is not a judgment call. It is simply a statement of fact.”
        The science produced by the Indian subcontinent could be considered sparse, but mainly because it was (and remains) unknown to the Western world. It was not nonexistent. Indian astronomy goes back more than 3000 years. The concept of atomism was known to the Indian philosophers since before 200 BCE (Oliver Leaman, Key Concepts in Eastern Philosophy, Routledge, 1999). Since science was dependent upon the largesse of wealthy patrons, it should serve as no surprise that it tended to be sporadic. (Which credits your point of the spread of Medieval universities.)
        The mathematics of the Indian subcontinent was extensive and far ahead of its time. Aryabhata (476-550 CE) wrote works dealing with algebra, plane trigonometry and spherical trigonometry. Brahmagupta (c. 598-665 CE) was an important astronomer who, besides introducing the Hindu number system to the world, published works in Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry. Bhāskara II (1114-1185 CE) worked with calculus concepts more than 500 years before Newton and Leibnitz. He stated Rolle’s Theorem 500 years before the formal proof by Michel Rolle in 1693. A lot of Indian knowledge withered on the vine because we, or anyone else, did not know about it.

        6. “I am not surprised that you have been taken in by the historical myth that Newton required regular supernatural intervention to make his view of the solar system work. It is a popular story, but like the story that there was little scientific advancement in the Middle Ages, it is utterly false.”
        I disagree with your assertion that this is a historical myth. Here are Newton’s own words:
        “The six primary Planets are revolv’d about the Sun, in circles concentric with the Sun, and with motions directed towards the same parts and almost in the same plan. Ten Moons are revolv’d about the Earth, Jupiter and Saturn, in circles concentric with them, with the same direction of motion, and nearly in the planes of the orbits of those Planets. But it is not to be conceived that mere mechanical causes could give birth to so many regular motions: since the Comets range over all parts of the heavens, in very eccentric orbits. For by that kind of motion they pass easily through the orbits of the Planets, and with great rapidity; and in their aphelions, where they move the slowest, and are detain’d the longest, they recede to the greatest distances from each other, and thence suffer the least disturbance from their mutual attractions. This most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets, and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being. And if the fixed Stars are the centers of other like systems, these, being form’d by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed Stars is of the same nature with the light of the Sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems. And lest the systems of the fixed Stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those Systems at immense distances from one another.” (Isaac Newton, The General Scholium to Principia Mathematica, 1713, [Andrew Motte’s translation 1729], p. 1)
        The text (in the original Latin, if you prefer) is available here: [https://isaacnewton.ca/newtons-general-scholium/]

        7. “I did not dismiss your first article baselessly. In fact, I specifically showed you why it is wrong. Indeed the article says that invoking the Creator is an affront to science when, in fact, invoking the Creator was a necessary part of the development of science.”
        I do not disagree with you that invoking a Creator was a of science. I do not disagree with you that the major motivation for the majority of scientists up until modern times was “for the glory of God.” Even today there are working scientists who presumably have the same desire. But motivation does not equate with indispensable. If I were to come up with the Grand Unified Theory tomorrow, my being a vegan would not mean that only vegans could have come up with that theory. Many modern scientists produce good science despite widely divergent religious views. In modern times, we can consider the case of the Human Genome Project. Both Francis Collins, a Christian, and Craig Venter, an atheist, were able to sequence the human genome even if they had different outlooks and motives. Science is science in spite of the motivations of the scientist, so long as it is performed and presented objectively.

        8. “However, in 1984, Dr. Russell Humphreys wrote a peer-reviewed article in which he developed his own model for planetary magnetic fields.”
        Your definition of ‘peer-reviewed’ is different from mine. By peer-reviewed I mean that the article in question is sent for review by (in this case) working physicists for publication consideration in the leading journals of the field.
        Here’s a ranking of these: [http://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php?area=3100].
        Here’s an overview of the process: [http://thelogicofscience.com/2015/03/04/peer-reviewed-literature-what-does-it-take-to-publish-a-scientific-paper/].
        CRS Quarterly does not even make the list: [http://www.scimagojr.com/journalsearch.php?q=Creation+Research+Society+Quarterly+Journal&tip=jou].
        I suggest that Dr. Humphreys (who certainly appears to have the scientific qualifications) should submit his paper for publication in, say, Reviews of Modern Physics or Astronomy and Astrophysics Review. If the science is sound, then it should get published, particularly in light of its claimed predictions.

        In conclusion:
        You disagree (strongly) with the point of the original article whose link I posted, that science is inherently naturalistic and that the reason the PLoS One was retracted was because the invocation of a supernatural Creator clashes with this naturalism. You posit that God has been (and is?) an integral part of Western science. I acknowledge that the idea of God has served as a framework and/or motivator for Western scientists but only by circumstance. I claim that other events have also been indispensable to the final development of Western science, ergo its ascendency after the Renaissance. My position is that the relation between the idea of God and the methods of science is that of an historical artifact rather than an integral part of the framework. I expect that we can disagree on this, but could we at least acknowledge the possibility that it was not a grand conspiracy to exclude these authors? Particularly if the authors do indeed get their paper republished.

        Your blog, you have the last word. And as always thank you for your time. I do learn new things, even if I don’t come around to your point of view.

        1. jlwile says:

          Thanks for your reply, Benjamin. I, too, enjoy these “conversations.”

          1. I am not referring to something as “serous scholarship” just because it supports my views. Even a casual reading of this blog will show you that I read from all sides. Serious scholarship involves quoting primary sources, using the latest manuscripts, etc. That’s definitely not something Wikipedia is known for! I have actually read several of the sources listed for that Wikipedia article. Have you? Many of them are very serious and, not surprisingly, they support my point of view, because the facts support my point of view. For example, A.C. Crombie’s book, Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science 1100–1700, specifically references Grosseteste’s faith and how it was a necessary part of his development of the scientific method.

          You are correct that O’Leary’s work is dated. However, there is nothing wrong with saying that Aristotle “introduced what may be called the scientific method.” Aristotle did emphasize observation, in direct contradiction to Plato. However, that’s only one part of what we call the scientific method today. The scientific method is a multi-step process that was first spelled out by Grosseteste and was inspired by his Christian faith, as many scholarly works (including references for the Wikipedia article you linked) point out. Certainly, Grosseteste was influenced by Aristotle. However, it was Grosseteste’s faith that produced the scientific method.

          2. You need to actually read Needham, Benjamin, because Needham’s discussion of God is not “one possible factor (out of three).” He specifically says that all three factors were very important. This is, of course, what scholars who actually read Needham tell us. Consider what philosopher Dr. Phil Dowe says in his book, Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: The Interplay of Science, Reason, and Religion:

          In particular, it is theistic religion that is significant. One argument that science would not have flourished without the particular religious context it had is due to the historian Joseph Needham, in his work on the comparison between Western and Chinese science. He claims that even though science and technology in China were well developed in early history (for instance the invention of gunpowder five hundred years before it appeared in the West), science never flourished in that context the way it did in Europe. How are we to explain this phenomenon? According to Needham, the explanation is grounded in religious difference…” (p. 79, emphasis his)

          Notice that Dr. Dowe doesn’t say that Needham thought it was a “possible” factor. He says that Needham said the answer was grounded in religion. As I keep telling you, all you have to do is actually read some scholarship on this issue, and you will see how the Christian concept of God was necessary for the development of science.

          3. I am sorry that you seem to think I am using the Ad hominem fallacy. I am not. I am simply saying that you don’t seem to want to actually read the scholarship on this issue, because your statements go so radically against what the current scholarship is saying. You now seem to be backpedalling from your original claim, which I will repeat here:

          If your thesis is correct, then there should have been a great outburst of scientific learning during the 5th – 14th century. We know this did not happen until the ‘lost’ Greek works became accessible during the Renaissance.

          As you can see, according to you, there was no “great outburst” of scientific learning during the 5th – 14th century, despite the fact that the scientific method itself was developed during that period! In addition, a wealth of scientific knowledge was produced, which was necessary for the revolution that took place during the Renaissance. I am glad that you are beginning to backpedal from that claim. I only hope that you will learn more so that you will see how science did, indeed, flourish in the Middle Ages.

          Also, note that you claim the Renaissance was when “the ‘lost’ Greek works became accessible.” Of course, that is false as well. Grosseteste was influenced by Aristotle. Why? Because the Greek manuscripts were widely available in the Middle Ages. Indeed, even in the late 5th century, John Philoponus corrected Aristotle on his belief that the medium through which a projectile traveled aids that projectile’s motion. Philoponus showed that the medium, in fact, inhibited the projectile! How could Philoponus have argued against Aristotle if the Greek manuscripts weren’t available until the Renaissance? Philoponus argued against Aristotle because he could read Aristotle, even back in the late 5th century!

          4. Compared to the steady progress of science in Europe, the Islamic Golden Age is, indeed, brief. As I have shown, science flourished during the Middle Ages in Europe: from the second century through the 14th century. That’s almost three times as long as the Islamic Golden Age. Thus, my use of the word “brief” is quite correct. I am also not trying to “dismiss the Arab contributions lightly.” As I said in my previous reply, they DID make some contributions for a brief time. However, they weren’t responsible for developing the scientific method (Grosseteste’s faith was), and they did not make the wealth of contributions that the Christian natural philosophers did during the Middle Ages.

          5. I think this goes to the crux of the matter. You say that, “The science produced by the Indian subcontinent could be considered sparse, but mainly because it was (and remains) unknown to the Western world.” There are three points to be made here:

          (a) You can’t claim that all sorts of science was produced in the Hindu world and then say that it is just unknown. If you want to say it was produced, then you have to show it. Nonexistent science is not science that has been produced.

          (b) You try to claim that science did not “flourish” in the Christian Middle Ages by ignoring the wealth of discoveries made by the Christian natural philosophers during that period. You then turn around and point to a couple of minor things that happened in India and claim that this means India was doing science. Let’s be reasonable. Astronomy dates back thousands of years everywhere, because astronomy was important in navigation and determining the seasons. Atomism also goes back thousands of years. Democritus theorized about atoms well over 100 years before the Indian atomism that you mention. What happened in India was clearly minor and sparse compared to the flourishing of science that happened in the European Middle Ages.

          (c) There are always individuals in every culture who can think outside the box. Thus, you can always point to a few people in cultures other than Europe who produced some scientific advancements. However, that doesn’t drive science to flourish, as it did in the European Middle Ages. It is the coordinated efforts of many people over a long time span that cause science to flourish. The Medieval Christian Church gave us that. Its belief in a consistent, law-giving God, as well as humanity with God’s image, directed an entire culture to develop science.

          6. Of course the idea that Newton required God’s constant intervention in the universe is a myth, and your quote supports this fact. Nowhere in the quote does Newton even imply that God’s constant intervention is necessary. He clearly says that God “gave birth” to the solar system, which is true. He also says that, “is not to be conceived that mere mechanical causes could give birth to so many regular motions.” Modern science, of course, is bearing that out. Even the most popular mechanistic origin myth for the solar system has so many problems that to this day, mere mechanical causes cannot be conceived to give birth to the solar system. So while Newton gives credit to God for creating the solar system, he doesn’t indicate in any way that God must continually intervene to keep it running. As I said, that’s a popular myth, but it has no support from serious scholarship.

          7. I agree that, “Science is science in spite of the motivations of the scientist, so long as it is performed and presented objectively.” However, the article you linked does not agree with that. It says that regardless of the performance and objectiveness, if the scientist mentions his inspiration, then it is an affront to science. As you say, however, that shouldn’t matter. The authors of the paper in question performed their experiment and analysis well (as far as I can tell) and are quite objective. They simply indicate that the Creator is to be given credit for what they have analyzed. There is nothing anti-science about that. Indeed, as I said in my original article, scientists have been doing that for the vast majority of the history of science. If you really believe that “Science is science in spite of the motivations of the scientist, so long as it is performed and presented objectively,” then you should also repudiate the article you linked as well as the actions of the High Priests of Science when it comes to the scientific paper in question.

          8. You say that I committed the Ad hominem fallacy earlier, even though I did not. Now you engage in the genetic fallacy. You don’t like the fact that a scientist’s conception of God has produced the only working model of planetary magnetic fields. Rather than discussing the substance of the model, however, you simply dismiss it because you don’t like the source. As I told you in my previous reply, we are discussing a situation in which a standard, peer-reviewed journal retracted a paper simply for mentioning God. By saying that you will only consider such sources, you are simply making it impossible to see how the invocation of a deity can, indeed, produce valuable science. Please show me a case where not invoking a deity has produced a working model of planetary magnetic fields. You can’t. However, I can show you a case where invoking a deity produced a working model of planetary magnetic fields. That’s why you can’t exclude an idea simply because you don’t like it. If it produces good science, it should not be excluded because of an a priori preference.

          I think you need to re-read my original post, because nowhere do I come close to postulating a “grand conspiracy to exclude these authors.” I simply point to the facts. The High Priests of Science expressed outrage to the journal, accusing it of heresy. The journal, quick to defend itself from that charge of heresy, retracted the paper. This isn’t any kind of “grand conspiracy to exclude these authors.” It is simply an instance of the enforcement of orthodoxy, which happens frequently in science.

          In conclusion, the facts show that you are clearly wrong when you try to separate science from the Christian faith. As the history of science clearly shows, the Christian worldview was responsible for the development of science. As Alfred North Whitehead says:

          I do not think, however, that I have even yet brought out the greatest contribution of medievalism to the formation of the scientific movement. I mean the inexpungable belief that every detailed occurrence can be correlated with its antecedents in a perfectly definite manner, exemplifying general principles (causality). Without this belief the incredible labours of scientists would be without hope. It is this instinctive conviction, vividly poised before the imagination, which is the motive power of research: — that there is a secret, a secret which can be unveiled. How has this conviction been so vividly implanted on the European mind?

          When we compare this tone of thought in Europe with the attitude of other civilizations when left to themselves, there seems but one source for its origin. It must come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher. Every detail was supervised and ordered: the search into nature could only result in the vindication of the faith in rationality. Remember that I am not talking of the explicit beliefs of a few individuals. What I mean is the impress on the European mind arising from the unquestioned faith of centuries. By this I mean the instinctive tone of thought and not a mere creed of words.

          [Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, (New York:The Free Press, 1925) p. 12]

          That worldview is still responsible for producing good science, such as the only working model of planetary magnetic fields. It is unfortunate that the High Priests of Science are doing all they can to fight that.

  9. Jake says:

    I’ve been reading The Beginnings of Western Science by David Lindberg – basically it’s the best intro textbook there is for history of ancient/medieval Western science – and it’s fascinating just how much people’s conception of God directed philosophical and scientific problem-solving. When Aristotle was reintroduced to the West, academics wrestled with making his ideas consistent with Christian doctrine about the nature of God, and this led to additions and reinterpretations of Aristotle – ultimately bringing about new ideas. I feel like that, when people say that they don’t think Christianity had anything to do with the development of science, natural law philosophy and politics, and whatnot, they’re thinking of Christianity as very bare-bones – just some beliefs about Jesus being magical. Rather, it’s the whole ideological structure of Christianity that’s behind these things: there is an ordered and good God that created the universe and revealed Himself in Christ, and all truth ought to be consistent with that. Lindberg makes a point of how unusual such an idea was in the world during the middle ages: the idea that empirical knowledge, rational arguments, and religion can be consistent really is a product of Christian thinking.

    Anyway. I don’t think it’s entirely justified to say that the Muslim world didn’t produce science – various figures like Avicenna and Alhazen kept up, refined, and modified Aristotle and were the major factor in reintroducing him to the West. But perhaps their scientific contribution waned after the 12th century or so; one of the big takeaways from Lindberg’s book is that societies need leisure time to do science: if you’re overrun with barbarians (which is what happened to the Roman empire in the west before the “dark ages”), you don’t necessarily have time to ponder the nature of the world. (Naturally, it was the monasteries in the west that kept up the scientific tradition that was left.) I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mongols had something to do with the decline of Islamic science.

    As an aside, I found it amusing how Greek science made its way to the Arab world: because of the Nestorian heresy! The Nestorians left Europe after they were declared heretics, and they went to Persia. So it was thanks to Christianity that science was brought over there to begin with…

  10. Robert Byers says:

    Tagle and Wile and everyone.
    I don’t agree non europeans were relevant to the modern world and so its science. They did trivial things.
    I don’t agree the church or christianity was behind the rise of science.
    Instead it was simply a rise i the intellectual standard of the common people with a curve of the upper classes(smarter people) kicking in and getting famous for a small number.
    The reason for the IQ of the common people rising was the Evangelical/puritan protestant double digit numbers in protestant nations.
    It was the people of the tru faith that motivated themselves and others to get smarter. A result of dumb peasants raising themselves up.
    Then curves on the graphs took over until today
    The salt of the earth is christian people by way of protestant nations.
    nothing to do with methodology but a rise in intelligence relative to catholic and the rest of the world.
    Its about intelligence. This was bible believing Christians in small populations of north west europe.

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