2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Genesis of Science by James Hannam

  1. Edward Grant is also an important scholar here. For example, in his book, The Foundations of Modern Science in the middle Ages, he argues “The creation of a societal environment in the Middle Ages that eventually enabled a scientific revolution to develop in the seventeenth century involved a least three crucial pre-conditions: (1)the transalation of Greco-Arabic works on science and natural philosophy into Latin, (2)the formation of the medieval university, and(3) the emergence of the theologian-natural philosophers.” (p171)

    Later he argues that it was the Latin church, in contrast to Islamic society that laid down the conditions that have endured to the present time.

    “Natural philosophy and theology had very different relationships in Christian Western Europe and in Islamic society. In Islam, with the exception of the mutakallimun and an occasional striking figure such a al-Ghazali, natural philosophers were usually distinct from theologians. Scholars were always on the defensive; it was viewed as a subject to be taught privately and quietly, rather than in public, and it was taught most safely under royal patronage… Within Western Christianity in the late Middle Ages, by contrast, almost all professional theologians were also natural philosophers. The structure of medieval university education also made it likely that most theologians had early in their careers actually taught natural philosophy. The positive attitude of theologians and religious authorities toward natural philosophy within Western Christianity meant that the discipline could develop more comfortably and consistently in the West than in Islamic society. In the West natural philosophy could attract talented individuals, who believed that they were free to present their opinions publicly on a host of problems that formed the basis of the discipline.” (p182 & 183)

    Earlier in the same chapter Grant argued that the importance of these theologian-natural philosophers, “cannot be overestimated. If theologians at the universities had decided to oppose Aristotelian learning a dangerous to the faith, it could not have become the focus of study in European universities. Without the approval and sanction of these scholars, Greco-Arabic science and Aristotelian natural philosophy could not have become the official curriculum of the universities.” (p174)

    Grant is very interesting because he actually changed his position. He started his career believing that medieval church did not have a positive influence on the development of the natural sciences. His open minded study of western (latin) medieval history changed his mind.

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