"Leave it to an apologist to call a pineapple smooth, an omniscient mind simple, and the discovery of science a Christian achievement."
I don't know what pineapple Ferguson is referring to, but one doesn't need to "leave it to apologists" to credit Christians for inventing modern science, since one finds scientists like Paul Davies and historians like Allen Chapman (Oxford) and David Landes (Harvard, to name a couple off the top of my head) saying a fair deal along those lines, as well. The modern inventors (or reinventors) of science were, in fact, mostly Christians, and to a large extent pious Christians, so at least in that sense, the comment above is uncontroversially true.
"A growing slogan has emerged in apologetics attempting to salvage the need for ancient superstitions in a modern world:
“Belief in the rationality of God not only led to the inductive method but also led to the conclusion that the universe is governed rationally be discoverable laws. This assumption is vitally important to research because in a pagan or polytheistic world, which saw its gods often engaged in jealous, irrational behavior in a world that was nonrational, any systematic investigation would seem futile.”"Specialist in ancient science, Richard Carrier, had only this to say at such a patently false statement:
-Alvin Schmidt, “Science: Its Christian Connections” (pg. 221)
“This is not only false in every conceivable detail but so egregiously false that anyone with even the slightest academic competence and responsibility should have known it was false. Which means it’s advocates, all of whom claim to be scholars, must either be embarrassingly incompetent, perversely dishonest, or wildly deluded.”What is Carrier talking about? What does his first word, "this," refer to? Is he rebutting Schmidt? Is he even rebutting the argument Ferguson cites from Schmidt?
-The Christian Delusion (pg. 400-1)
No, the antecedent from Carrier is more general:
"As the story now goes, not only has Christianity never been at odds with science and never impeded it in any way, but it was actually the savior of science, the only worldview that could ever make science possible. And that’s why the Scientific Revolution only ever sparked in one place: a thoroughly Christian society."
For the cause of defending "good scholarship," notice the seriousness of the sins Ferguson commits against scholarship here.
It is remarkably sloppy "scholarship" to begin such a harsh critique with a pronoun that seems to be directed at one set of arguments from one writer, but is actually referring to a general criticism with which it is not at all identical!
Schmidt, in fact, does not say here that Christianity "never impeded science in any way." On the contrary, he is making a specific positive historical claim. The difference is like that between saying, "An apple aided Newton in discovering the nature of gravity," and saying "apples never hurt anyone." The incoherence of Ferguson's critique grotesque.
Furthermore, Carrier's generalized argument, the one Ferguson agrees was wrong, was specific about praising Christianity as a necessary cause of science. But Schmidt merely says "belief in God," which would include Islam, Judaism, many forms of Hinduism or Confucianism or Taoism, at least potentially. Whether Schmidt is right or wrong, anyone who fails to differentiate the two arguments, is a wretched scholar, at best. (If we grant that dishonesty is worse than stupidity and carelessness.)
Either way, no one who plays this sort of a game should speak of someone else's "slight academic competence and responsibility.' Those qualities appear less than slight, here.
And the funny thing is, Ferguson later argues in precise contradiction to the article by Carrier that his post is largely written to praise:
"I also write this blog because I find one of the premises in this slogan to be so flawed that it needs to be addressed: apologists are often so imbued with a religio-centric worldview that they actually believe that the Pagan Greeks would have based their interest in science on their religion, as if one’s religion is their primary motivation for studying the natural world."
Yet in that very chapter of The Christian Delusion, Carrier also writes:
"Most intellectual polytheists believed in a Creator who had intelligently ordered the cosmos, that this order could be discovered by the human mind, and that such discovery honored God. Scientists like Galen and Ptolemy were thus motivated to pursue scientific inquiry by their religious piety . . . " (407)
How silly of those Christian apologists who think religion is so darn important that it might have actually inspired the ancient Greeks in how they explore and understand the world! Read this chapter from Richard Carrier, an objective (heh) expert in the ancient history of science, and don't listen to what those unscholarly apologists have to say.
Uh-oh. Don't tell me Richard Carrier has gone native?
Some days I think defending Christianity against the sort of critics it faces these days is Just. Too. Darn. Easy. All one has to do, 90% of the time, is read their sources more carefully than they do themselves.