Where Did the Idea that Christianity and Science

Must Necessarily Be Enemies Originally Come From?

John William Draper (1811-1882)

Draper was an English-American philosopher, physician, chemist, historian and photographer. He is known to have taken the new skill of photography forward a long way in his time. However, his "historian" label is now generally believed to be greatly exaggerated, he was primarily a chemist, physician and a photographer. He is also known to have taken a very good picture of the moon.

In 1874 he had a book published called, "The History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science," this book bristled with a hatred of Christianity and, though very poorly researched, it soon became very influential. His basic argument was that science and Christianity were enemies and always would be. This is despite the fact that - as Draper should certainly have known - modern science largely emerged from Christianity and from theist believers, with believers considering that a greater knowledge of the physical world could only bring greater glory to God. Though Draper's book became a best-seller and proved to be very influential, it is no longer considered a serious document since it is emotional, angry, shows mis-information about Christianity and a contempt for good research.

R ecently I received the following question:

"Where did this silly idea that Christianity and science must necessarily be enemies originally come from? I find that Christianity supports true science but not daft unproven theories."

My enquirer is correct. Christianity has not only always supported real scientific enquiry, but a majority of the great scientists of earlier centuries were actually Christians! If not specifically Christian, they were certainly theists, for we speak of a time when atheism was considered in the realm of the mentally deranged!

It is only when unsubstantiated theories (like macro-evolution), came to be taught as fact that Bible-believing Christianity (but not liberal 'christianity') took its leave of modern 'science.' This modern form of 'science' has become known as 'scientism,' that is "science" for its own sake, it is to worship science. The old creed of 'Positivism' was at the the root of this modern approach to science; this has led to many modern exponents of 'scientific enquiry' claiming that only scientific knowledge is real knowledge, that true answers to true human problems can only be found in modern science. The founder of this Positivism was French philosopher Auguste Comte, in many ways a sort of founding father of the modern scientism we now experience. So scientism is the foolish notion that only "scientific" answers have any merit. This is to write off not only Christianity, but religion in general, also any insights from poetry, music and the arts are now outlawed as areas of serious enquiry. So let us be in no doubt that modern science now arrogantly claims that the answer to every human dilemma can only be found through science, that science is the only "true knowledge" which is available out there - yet this is not 'science' as the great scientists of earlier centuries knew it, this is theoretical science with a base in philosophy, that philosophy states that nature is all there is, there is nothing else, nothing supernatural, no God.

Two Malicious Books Made an Impact...

Okay, so where - more specifically - did the idea that science and religion are bound to be enemies come from? Well we know who the ultimate author of this idea is, it is our adversary! More specifically, two 19th century books published in America made a huge impact, but especially the first of these. In his 1874 book, "The History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science," John William Draper set out an entirely false history, claiming that religion (he meant Christianity) had always been at war with science, the premise was, of course, entirely fictional for, as already stated, science - especially from the 16th century onwards - predominantly emerged from the Christian community; it was an activity of theism. Draper did not mention this, and his book is something of an angry tirade against Christianity, and especially against Roman Catholicism. The book surprisingly became a best-seller. I once heard someone say that no other book - which nobody now even knows the title of - ever had such a major social impact! This is the book which first preached this message.

Draper's book was joined in 1896 by a somewhat similar book, though much more reserved and far less angry in tone, this was, "History of the Warfare of Science with Theology and Christendom." It was written by Andrew Dixon Wright, the first president of Cornell University in the United States. Wright was determined to make Cornell a secular university and he was a diehard opponent of Christianity. This book (two volumes of it), helped to consolidate the impact of Draper's book of 22 years earlier. It set the tone for an increasing hostility towards Christianity in the academic world, its influence soon spreading to several countries.

Though these books once had a major - and cumulative - impact, neither of them, in this early 21st century, are now considered important or scholarly documents, even though their impact and influence still exists among atheists. They are documents of anger, venom and hatred towards Christianity but offer little or nothing in the area of serious study or data. Yet both the late Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have shown themselves to be strongly influenced by the arguments of Draper and Wright.

Robin A. Brace. June 7th, 2017.