Should we credit the Enlightenment for Science?
"The Enlightenment was the beginning of the progress we all enjoy and it was the secular institutionalizing of criticism that did it."
I called this "junk history," and recommended James Hannam's The Genesis of Science to the poster. John Croft, a kindly Australian skeptic, then replied:
The big problem with crediting the Enlightenment for the birth of modern science, is that it is simply not possible. That's because science was up and running full steam, long before the "Enlightenment."
When did the "Age of Enlightenment" occur? Three definitions. First, Wikipedia defines it as:
"An elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in Church and state. Originating about 1650–1700, it was sparked by philosophers Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), John Locke (1632–1704), and Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) and by mathematician Isaac Newton (1643–1727)." (My emphasis.)
Funk and Wagnall's agrees:
"The Enlightenment: A philosophical movement of the 18th Century characterized by rationalistic methods and skepticism about established dogmas."
Or if you prefer Oxford:
"(The Enlightenment) a European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition. It was heavily influenced by 17th -century philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, and Newton, and its prominent figures included Kant, Goethe, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Adam Smith."
Descartes, Locke and Newton (all Christians, BTW) are thus "influences," not "prominent figures."
Sir Isaac Newton, whom John also mentioned, published his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687.
Newton, or at least their idea of Newton, certainly left his "stamp" on later "Enlightenment" thinkers. But few of them could have influenced him, since he lived before them. Newton was also one of the biggest Bible-thumpers in Cambridge, and wrote more on the Bible than he did on science.
In fact, Locke was Boyle's student, not the other way around! And Boyle, like others who were close to Locke, was a zealous Christian, who stipulated in his will that money be set aside to fund lectures refuting atheism and other non-Christian beliefs! So the influence clearly ran in the other direction.
The one possible exception was Baruch Spinoza, a quiet, thoughtful Jewish philosopher and scientist with many Christian friends, who could have been one of many thinkers within the broad stream of late Medieval civilization to have some influence on Newton. But it is anachronistic to identify him as representing the Enlightenment, and he seems to have been only one of many important scientific and philosophical influences.
God and Science: Two Great Tastes, that Taste Great Together?