Historian James Hannam debunks myths about Christianity and science

James Hannam has written a book about Christianity and the history of science.

The Daily Caller has posted an interview with James Hannam.

James Hannam is the author of “The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution,” set to be officially released Monday.

Hannam earned his undergraduate degree in physics from St. Anne’s College at Oxford University and a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University. He has been published in numerous scholarly and non-scholarly publications and is also the author of “God’s Philosophers.”

Wow, we could certainly use more scholars like this to plead our case.

That article features 10 questions and answers with Dr. Hannam, and here are the three best ones:

2. You contend that contrary to popular belief, there was great scientific advancement during the Middle Ages because of the Church. How did the Church help spur this scientific discovery and why do most people believe the Church was a hindrance to science?

The Church made math and science a compulsory part of the syllabus at medieval universities for anyone who wanted to study theology. That meant loads of students got grounding in these subjects, and professors could hold down jobs teaching it.

The myth that the Church held back science dates from the “enlightenment” when Voltaire and other French philosophes invented it to attack the Catholics of their own day as impediments to political progress.

[…]4. You write that it is a myth that people in the Middle Ages believed the world was flat. How did this supposedly erroneous notion about the Middle Ages become part of our conventional wisdom?

The earliest record I’ve found of this myth is from a book by Sir Francis Bacon written in the sixteenth century. Sir Francis was a Protestant who claimed believing the Earth is flat was evidence for medieval Catholic stupidity. So the myth started off as Protestant propaganda but was soon used to denigrate the Middle Ages in general.

5. What are some of the other great myths of the Middle Ages that we haven’t touched upon so far but our readers would find intriguing?

There are loads! For example, witch trials didn’t get going until the Renaissance and reached their peak in the seventeenth century, so they are not really medieval at all. Even medieval torture devices like the iron maiden turn out never to have existed until 1800 when they were invented as gruesome hoaxes. My favorite myths, because they are so ridiculous, is that a pope excommunicated Halley ’s Comet and that medieval theologians liked to ask how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

If you get objections about Christianity and science, now’s your chance to prepare your answers. It’s amazing how people who don’t know the history believe what they want to believe. And I think that is interesting – it shows that the Bible is right in diagnosing the human condition. We don’t know, because we don’t want to know. We speculate, because we want to have a buffer to do what we want without having to be accountable.

Hmmn. Isn’t it funny that in secular public schools, atheists don’t put more science into the curriculum, but instead inject more religion, e.g. – Darwinism, global warming, feminism, socialism, multiculturalism, etc. Ideology, not math and science. But the religious people put in math and science.

4 thoughts on “Historian James Hannam debunks myths about Christianity and science”

  1. Great post! I’ve heard some of this from Dinesh D’Souza in his lectures at wheaton college. But, this is a stronger source because of the educational stature of the speaker. Thanks for the article.


  2. The amount of revisionist history that Christians have swallowed is ludicrous. Everything from the Church thought the world was flat to the French Revolution was a capitalist revolution, to Hitler was right wing.

    Christopher Columbus was never trying to prove the world was round, he was only after a safer trade root between Europe and India because they needed to avoid the Arab raids.

    All the revisionist history is part of an agenda. Romanticism is dangerous because it affects the information we pass down. Writers that are dissatisfied with a certain period of man’s existence and change the story to fit their liking are harmful, because when history is distorted in this was it becomes contradictory and useless. As a downside it also forwards the agenda of the writer.

    Education is so important and we need to learn as Christians to challenge the evidence when the facts don’t seem to make sense. For example how could a Church that prides itself on having the fullness of truth, not have an active interest in science? What were all those Doctors of the Church for?

    St. Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus) 1200-1280 Doctor of Science
    St Anselm, ? – 1109. Doctor of Scholasticism
    St Bede, the Venerable, 673-735. Doctor of English History
    St Ephraem, 306-373. Doctor of Deacons and Poets
    St Francis de Sales, 1567-1622. Doctor of Authors and the Catholic Press
    St Gregory Nazianzus, 330-390. Doctor of Theologians.
    St Isidore, 560-636. Doctor of Education
    St Jerome, 345-420. Doctor of Biblical Science
    St Robert Bellarmine, 1542-1621. Doctor of Church State Relations [Political Science]
    And this is without the Doctors of morality, grace, prayer, missions, monastics, divinity etc.

    And as far as the amount of angels dancing on the head of a pin – the Doctor of Angels was no other than St. Thomas Aquinas who was recently renamed the Common Doctor.

    Thomas is without a doubt the leading and prevailing voice of the Church tradition on reason and faith. And is the most highly praised and supported of all Church doctors!


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