A historian draws our attention this post from late 2016, a reflection on the survival of classical learning during the Christian era, in response to “Skep,” an energetic atheist blogger:
But the usual way that those who are forced to admit that there were, in fact, many medieval natural philosophers studying all kinds of proto-scientific ideas, and doing so in the tradition of the Greeks and Romans and their Islamic successors, deal with this awkward fact is to claim that these poor scholars were cowed by the terrible restrictions of the Church and tightly constrained in what they could explore. Which, right on cue, “Skep” proceeds to do:
“The fact is there weren’t a lot of scientists around for the church to oppress during the middle ages, and those who did study things like optics or astronomy in those days didn’t dare defy the teachings of the church. The burning, persecution, and oppression came later, when real science began to flourish and the dogmas of the church were challenged.”
Except the fact is that there were few such restrictions and the medieval scope for inquiry was actually extremely wide. The Condemnations of 1210-1277 that he refers to in his mangled reference to Roger Bacon above actually illustrate this point quite neatly. If, as “Skep” claims, the medieval Church stifled proto-scientific inquiry so completely we should have no trouble finding this reflected in clear statements by the Church delineating what was off limits for inquiry. After all, it’s not like the medieval Church was shy about making its position on what could or could not be believed or questioned clear. And it seems “Skep” thinks the Condemnations of 1210-1277 represent just such statements.
But do they? To begin with, if they do we would expect these statements to be made in some kind of proclamation that applied to the whole of Christendom: in, say, a canon of an ecumenical council or at least a Papal bull. But no such statements exist. The 1210-1277 Condemnations, on the contrary, are very specific and highly local in their application: they apply only to the Arts Faculty at the University of Paris and nowhere else… Tim O’Neill, ““The Dark Ages” – Popery, Periodisation and Pejoratives” at History for Atheists
It’s a good thing Dr. O’Neill is clarifying matters. But one suspects his main audience will be Christians and other theists who want to know our own history. The sort of atheist who blogs up a storm about how the Dark Ages Are Back!! won’t be interested in the specifics of the survival of classical learning in Christian Europe. Classical learning might not hold his interest for long anyway.
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See also: Naturalist atheists rewrite history, scholar admits, due to bias against religion ((re Tim O’Neill))