Dealing with a Free-Farter Mystic: On Catholic Church, Library of Alexandria and Galileo
- NOTE: This is my reply to a commenter codenamed Freethinker2008 who claimed that the Catholic Church supported the propagation of science and reason during the Dark Ages or throughout its theocratic rule.Let me re-post a portion of his idiotic statement here:
And since your comprehension is compromised by your ANTI-RELIGION SENTIMENTS & IGNORANCE ON HISTORY AND SCIENCE, let me rephrase my points for your further understanding.
Your assumptions are summarized into 2 highly speculative and baseless CLAIMS:
1. Catholic Church “strongly opposed the propagation of science and reason” all throughout history.
2. Catholic Church “reached the pinnacle of its religious reign” during the Dark Ages.
1. Plutarch wrote that Caesar burned the Library of Alexandria. Paulus Orosius and Mostafa El-Abbadi NEVER CONFIRMED that it was categorically destroyed by Christians or Muslims. So it’s NOT CORRECT to assume that Catholic Church or any religion “strongly opposed the propagation of science and reason”. There’s simply NO VALID PROOF. Clearly, this claim is ARGUMENTUM AD IGNORANTIAM.
2. Galileo’s Trial was a “special case”. The Catholic Church admitted its “mistake”, apologized, & now has recognized Galileo’s scientific theory. So it cannot support the first claim since it’s clearly an “exception”. You are obliged to show more proof of CONTINUOUS EVENTS of the Church’s opposition to science & reason since the birth of Catholicism until the present time. Otherwise, your first claim FAILS. Clearly, this claim is Converse Fallacy of Accident or HASTY GENERALIZATION.
3. Encyclopedia Britannica clearly stated that the Dark Ages occurred within 476 A.D.-800 A.D. or generally between 500 A.D.- 1000 A.D. During this era, “there was no Roman (or Holy Roman) emperor in the West” & “was marked by frequent warfare and a virtual disappearance of urban life”. Moreover, “little was then known about the period” and it’s known as the “period of intellectual darkness and barbarity.” So, there was NO RECORD of Catholic Church had ever “reached the pinnacle of its religious reign” during the Dark Ages. Again, this claim is ARGUMENTUM AD IGNORANTIAM.
My Authoritative Sources:
1. Plutarch – a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia.
2. Pollard, Justin, and Reid, Howard. 2006. The Rise and Fall of Alexandria, Birthplace of the Modern World.
3. Paulus Orosius – Christian historian, theologian and student of Augustine of Hippo from Gallaecia; wrote the “Historiarum Adversum Paganos Libri VII” (Seven Books of History Against the Pagans)
4. . Mostafa El-Abbadi – Professor Emeritus of Greco-Roman Studies at the University of Alexandria; wrote the “Life and Fate of the Ancient Library of Alexandria”
5. Encyclopedia Britannica
So far those statements are still CLAIMS. No historical basis. Just sweeping statements and ignorant assumptions.
Here’s my answer:
What a failed logic again. Granting arguendo that the Library of Alexandria was not destroyed by the Christians and Muslims, what are you trying to prove then? That the Catholic Church did not carry out the infamous Holy Inquisition? That the Catholic Church did not suppress the propagation of science and reason and that it did not prosecute and imprison Galileo for merely challenging a Catholic dogma? You are clearly attacking a straw man here.
First, enumerating the names of some historians or book authors won’t prove anything. Plutarch had died before the existence of Christianity, which played a role in the destruction of the Library of Alexandria (The Classical Tradition, Gaffon, Most & Settis, p.748). Second, in order for your claims to be credible, you should have included citations. It’s good you mentioned Mostafa El-Abbadi since he’s one of my sources here. To test if you really read El-Abbadi’s book: what did he say about the destruction of the Library of Alexandria and what was the role of the Christians?
If you really read Pollard, Justin, and Reid’s book, what did they write about the rise and fall of Alexandria? But let me present the book review of their book The Rise and Fall of Alexandria, Birthplace of the Modern World.
Here’s a review from UNRV History:
“But the intellectual demise of Alexandria coincided with the rise of an intolerant breed of Christianity. Eager to purge the entire Pagan legacy, Christian monks and laymen destroyed temples everywhere, including the famous Serapeum, a city landmark and one of the greatest religious complexes of Antiquity. When Hypatia, a female intellectual prodigy and Neoplatonist thinker, was tortured and killed by Christian monks, a new age dawned. Alexandria had slowly been nudging the world from irrational mythos to scientific logos, but the ascendancy of Christianity reversed the trend.
The emphasis of the book is on Alexandria’s intellectual accomplishments. However, political history is skimmed where appropriate. The authors make it clear that Alexandria’s intellectualism was fueled by the political and economic prosperity of the Ptolemaic regime. While the first three Ptolemies were worthy rulers, the later degeneration of the regime relative to its Hellenistic competitors and to the rise of Rome would place a damper on the city’s greatness, above and beyond the stifling anti-intellectualism of early Christianity.”
Also, what about Paulus Orosius’ Historiarum Adversum Paganos Libri VII? Orosius claimed that that the decline of the Roman Empire was the result of its adoption of Christianity. However, in his book entitled Paulus Orosius: A Christian Propagandist?, B.A. Marc-Antoine Linstadter (p. 1) described the Spanish historian, priest and Christian apologetic as a “propagandist”. He wrote that the “alleged influence of Orosius exerted on Christianity in the centuries to follow and during his lifetime as well as his quite radical position on divine Roman-Christian claim to leadership could qualify him for the term ‘Christian propagandist’.”
Now since you demand “historical facts” despite the fact that I’ve provided them in my post, then allow me to give you some historical facts even though presenting them won’t change the FACT that the Catholic Church played an indispensable role in the injustice, pogroms of scientists and thinkers, oppression of science and reason in the Dark Ages or throughout its “theocratic rule.”
In their book entitled What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria, Mostafa El-Abbadi, and Omnia Mounir Fathallah (p. 75) wrote:
“The debate surrounding the destruction of the Library among modern writers has taken a rather striking ideological dimension. In effect, the Western tradition following the evidence of Seneca and Plutarch, among others, has commonly attributed the fire that ravaged the building to Julius Caesar. Lucan and Dio Cassius recount how, as he tried to out-maneuver the attacking Alexandrians from the heights of the royal palaces, he set fire to vessels anchored in the Eastern Harbour. This action led to the burning of an apothiki full of papyri and this has been interpreted as the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.
“Another version attributed the destruction to ‘Amr ibn al-As, the Arab conqueror of Egypt who took Alexandria in 642 A.D., the Library having apparently survived until this date. We know the tale: obeying the command of the Caliph ‘Umar, ‘Amr used the papyri to heat the furnaces of Alexandria’s public bathhouses….
“Then, there is the intermediary version. The guilty party this time are the Christians led by Bishop Theophilus. In 391 A.D., this latter applied the edict of Theodosius prohibiting the practice of pagan cults and he led his troops in the destruction of the most famous sanctuary at Alexandria, the Temple of Serapis which dominated the city at the top of some one hundred steps upon the platform that the Alexandrians, somewhat pompously, called the Acropolis. The only ruins were left of the sanctuary and upon them a monastery dedicated to St. John was built. This violence against the pagans continued throughout the following decades and it was not only the cults themselves that were targeted but were individuals. Thus Cyril, nephew and successor to Theophilus, in a desire to end the teaching of pagan philosophy, sent his hordes of monks to assassinate Hypatia in the Open streets of Alexandria in 415 A.D.” (Emphasis mine)
The above-mentioned historical account confirms my statement that the Library was destroyed by the following man-made catastrophes:
- Julius Caesar‘s Fire in The Alexandrian War, in 48 BC
- The attack of Aurelian in the third century AD;
- The decree of Coptic Pope Theophilus in AD 391
- The Muslim conquest in AD 642 or thereafter.
Since Plutarch died in 125 A.D. he certainly did not witness the complete destruction of the Library of Alexandria, which survived until the time of Hypatia who was assassinated by a Christian mob in 415 A.D.
In Encyclopedia of World Scientists (Vol. 1), Elizabeth Oakes (p.364) wrote that Hypatia, a mathematician, scientist, and philosopher, met with a brutal death in 415 AD when she was killed by a violent mob of Christians.
In his book entitled A Scientific Search for Religious Truths, Phil Mundt (p.164) wrote:
“In the year 415, bishop Cyril of Alexandria incited mob of Christians to attack the Jewish quarter- in excess of 200,000 people- and drove a large number of Jews out of the city. In this pogrom, property was looted, synagogues were sacked, and people were killed. As a result, Orestes, the prefect of Alexandria, ordered Cyril to compensate the victims but this stirred up more trouble. Some stone-throwing monks hit Orestes with a rock, whereupon he had the offending monk arrested, tried and executed. That really inflamed the mob which turned on Hypatia because she was a friend of Orestes.
“When they caught her on the street, they took her to a nearby church, stripped her naked and then tore her body to pieces with (a) broken pottery or tile or (b) oyster shells. They then dragged her mangled body through the streets and burned her remains. At the time of her death, she was believed to be sixty years old- in fact one of the most famous women in the world. Her status, and details of her murder, brought great disgrace upon the Alexandrian church, and Cyril.
Socrates Scholasticus (5th century) wrote about the fate of Hypatia:
“Yet even she fell a victim to the political jealousy which at that time prevailed. For as she had frequent interviews with Orestes, it was calumniously reported among the Christian populace, that it was she who prevented Orestes from being reconciled to the bishop. Some of them therefore, hurried away by a fierce and bigoted zeal, whose ringleader was a reader named Peter, waylaid her returning home, and dragging her from her carriage, they took her to the church called Caesareum, where they completely stripped her, and then murdered her by scraping her skin off with tiles and bits of shell. After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them.” (Ecclesiastical History,Bk VI: Chap. 15)
John of Nikiû, who lived in the 7th century, wrote also about Hypatia:
“And in those days there appeared in Alexandria a female philosopher, a pagan named Hypatia, and she was devoted at all times to magic, astrolabes and instruments of music, and she beguiled many people through Satanic wiles…A multitude of believers in God arose under the guidance of Peter the magistrate…and they proceeded to seek for the pagan woman who had beguiled the people of the city and the prefect through her enchantments. And when they learnt the place where she was, they proceeded to her and found her…they dragged her along till they brought her to the great church, named Caesareum. Now this was in the days of the fast. And they tore off her clothing and dragged her…through the streets of the city till she died. And they carried her to a place named Cinaron, and they burned her body with fire.” (Chronicle 84.87-103)
In his book entitled Science: Its Character and History: Dark Ages, Vexen Crabtree (2006) wrote:
“As the Roman Empire progressed, scientific knowledge and academia flourished as best as was possible in the ancient world. Europe was largely the beneficiary of this knowledge “but during the Dark Ages in Western Europe the ability to read and write had become largely confined to the clergy, as too had a knowledge of the Latin tongue”. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the only major European power that remained was that of the Catholic Church, which had largely become synonymous with all forms of rulership. Under its influence, science was all but destroyed as Church dogma and doctrine was violently enforced. Philosophical works were burned and lost, medicine and psychology set back hundreds of years. Neurologists Davison & Neale note during the “Dark Ages for all medicine […] Christian monasteries, through their missionary and educational work, replaced physicians as healers and authorities on mental disorder. […] When monks cared for the mentally disordered, they prayed over them and touched them with relics or they concocted fantastic potions for them to drink in the waning phase of the moon”. The Age of Faith was an era of Christian fundamentalism and superstition, of theocracy (rule by religion). During this time, the Arab world carried the torch of knowledge and surpassed Europe in its understanding of philosophy, mathematics, and the sciences in general.
“But then the Arab world itself fell under increasingly conservative Islam. Some Universities in Europe (three existed by 1200CE), independent from most constraints, had survived. They obtained Greek knowledge about the world via Arab translations. The spark of the Enlightenment set fires under the authority of the Church in the West, and the West emerged from its dark ages as the Arab world plunged into its own, from which it has not yet emerged. […]
“The Arab world is not synonymous with the Muslim world, but, in the overlap between the two we see a lack of knowledge of science that is unimaginable to those brought up in developed Western countries. Those who do at least know of scientific theories are very likely to reject them as untrue. The Arab world is still in the depths of a Muslim Dark Ages, and although authors from time to time hail signs of an Islamic enlightenment, one has not yet come to pass, and for every step forward in one area of public engagement with science, there seems to be equal steps backwards elsewhere.”
In regard to the Galileo affairs, Kern Alexander and David Alexander (p. 341), in American Public School Law, wrote:
“It was not until 1992 that the Catholic Church acknowledged that Galileo was right after all, that the sun really does not revolve around the earth. A grand mosaic of such events could be constructed from similar, but less famous events throughout history where religious revelation substituted for verifiable facts and knowledge. Indeed, the preemption of quantifiable physical proofs by religiously revealed truths contrived answers for complex questions regarding natural phenomenon, undoubtedly was a principal contributor to the paucity and even the retrogression of learning that caused the Dark Ages and stagnated human progress for a thousand years.”
This is the reason why Galileo said: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”
If the Catholic Church really sponsored or supported the propagation of science and reason during its theocratic rule (and I did not state all throughout history), then why did it only acknowledge that Galileo was after all right in 1992? Why did the anti-science Church defend an unscientific claim that the earth was flat?
As I stated in my previous post: “A defense that religion or the Catholic Church supported and protected science and reason in the Dark Ages is both a historical lie and a deliberate attempt to rewrite history. If the Catholic Church truly supported science and reason, why did it prosecute and imprison Galileo for merely challenging a Catholic dogma? Why did the thinkers, philosophers, scientists, and artists have to go underground and form secret societies in order to avoid the Church’s pogroms? And why did science not truly develop during the centuries-long reign of Catholic Church?”
Anyone who firmly believes that the Catholic Church was tolerant of science and reason has to deny the following:
- The Holy Inquisition is not part of mankind’s history.
- There were pogroms against thinkers and scientists.
- There was Catholic theocracy.
- There was infallibility of the Pope.
- The Catholic Church connived with the monarchies in Europe.
- The Catholic church did wield absolute political power.
Also, anyone who defends the pogroms of the Catholic Church has to cheat historical reality by claiming that:
- there existed the concept of separation of church and state during those eras;
- civil liberties and individual rights were duly protected;
- scientists and thinkers were allowed to pursue their profession and quest for knowledge;
- objective and rational rule of law was implemented and duly recognized.