Cardinal Newman once opined that to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant. Most atheists I have encountered lend support to this adage by their shocking ignorance of the most basic facts of History. Unlike the atheists of yesteryear, some of whom could be quite challenging with their knowledge of History, most contemporary atheists are so ignorant of History that debating them is to engage in instruction rather than debate. John C. Wright, a science fiction author and convert from atheism to Catholicism, encounters one of the new breed of ignorant atheists:
Hmph. I just came across another antieducated sophophobe who declared there to be a war between science and faith, especially the Roman Catholic Church.
I asked him to name the Papal Bull or Encyclical, or any other official document of the Church prohibiting or condemning the practice of scientific inquiry. He did not know what a ‘bull’ was.
I asked him if he knew anything about science and the history of science, and he said yes. I asked him for the evidence of any Catholic interference, or even lack of enthusiastic support, for any scientific inquiry of any kind, in any time or place?
He mentioned Galileo. I asked him if he knew the circumstances of Galileo’s trial, or what Galileo was accused of? He said no. I asked him if he knew who Cardinal Bellarmine was. He said no.
I asked him if he had read Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences? He did not even know what the book was, much less who the characters in it were, or what positions in the contemporary debates they represented.
(Do I need to mention that I read this book in school? I went to a good school, where the education is what mathematicians call a ‘positive sum game’ that is, I ended up more educated than when I went in. His school left him with less education than when he went in.)
I did not bother to ask him if he knew what, precisely, Galileo had discovered, or what proofs he gave to support his various theories.
I did not ask him to tell me what the Galilean satellites were, much less name them (off the top of my head: Io, Europa, Callisto, Ganymede. If I am wrong, and Amalthea is one of them, shame on me. If got them in order, more to my glory.)
Calibrating my questions to the level of someone without a Saint John’s College level of education, I asked him if he knew who Abertus Magnus, William of Ockham, Roger Bacon, Nicholas Steno were. He said no.
I asked him who invented the mechanical escapement used in clockwork. Or when. He did not know what mechanical escapement was. (Villard de Honnecourt circa 1237, in case you are wondering.)
Recalibrating my question to the high school level, I asked him if he knew who Pascal was, Copernicus, Descartes. He said no. Mendel. No. Still no.
He then told me that all the European inventions in mathematics and medicine came from the Muslim world. I asked him if he knew where Andalusia was, or when the Reconquista happened. Did not recognize those terms. I asked him what religion the people were in the lands conquered by the Muslims in the Seven, Eighth, and Ninth Centuries, et cetera? He guessed that they were some sort of pagans.
I did not bother to ask him if he knew who Abu Hamid al-Ghazali was.
He did not even know enough to raise and throw into my face the old, tired, and oft- efuted slander about Hypatia the neoplatonic philosopher (always described as a female scientist) being flayed to death by a Christian mob wielding sharpened clamshells.
In other words, I could have argued in favor of the War between Science and the Church better than he. He had not even memorized his side’s own talking points.
He was a disgrace to the forces of evil. Continue Reading