A Short History of Science and Religion - The Greek Contribution
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Article Index
A Short History of Science and Religion
The Ancient World
The Greek Contribution
Rise of Christtianity
Dark and Middle Ages
Rise of Science and Philosophy
Galileo, Newton, Kant
Modern Times
Personal Theology
All Pages

The Greek Era and the Beginning Disagreements between Science and Religion

PtolemyThe Greek Contribution - The Greeks indeed contributed much to modern science, and they kicked off the first recorded confrontations between the natural science of their time and Greek religion. Around 750 BCE the Greek story of creation came into being in the form of a number of gods that were a part of Greek mythology. Greek mythology makes for some very "R-rated" reading, and it is suggested that you read about the unabridged stories of the cavorting of the Greek gods late at night after the children are in bed!

The rise of modern science and mathematics in the “western world” was heralded by the development of the beginnings of mathematics around 600  BCE. In 335 BCE Aristotle was born. He, Archimedes, Socrates, Plato, and others laid the foundation of modern philosophy and contributed of the earliest writings on physics, metaphysics, poetry (including theater), logic, rhetoric, politics, government, ethics, biology and zoology. They also caused the first rift between religion and science by attacking mysticism and the religion of the times based on mythology. They called for thought based on reason rather than mysticism.

In the second century (150) CE, Ptolemy, a North African astronomer, created an astronomical canon that incorporated ideas of Aristotle (the orbits of the planets and the sun were thought to be circular and contained in concentric spheres around the earth). This planetary system orbiting the earth at its center was called the "geocentric" system and was the accepted system by the early Christian church as the one created by God. It was not questioned until centuries later by Copernicus.

What's the Big Deal With Cosmology? - Why all this fuss about astronomy and cosmology? Well, religion (which preceded science) contained mythologies regarding the early understanding of astronomy, the stars, the planets, etc., and it contained stories about the creation of the universe. The priests, popes, and bishops who controlled the early (Christian) Church took these stories literally, since they were believed by most everyone. However, as more and more became known through scientific methods of astronomy and careful observation, the viewpoints of scientific cosmology and Biblical cosmology (and the official interpretations sanctioned by the Church) began to differ. Cosmology was the first arena of science for a disagreement with the Church. Others were to follow later.