Rodney Stark is a Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences at Baylor University, the co-director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, and a prolific author on various subjects pertaining to religion. In many of his books Prof. Stark has advanced the theory that science arose as a result of the Christian belief that an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God must have created the world in a logical, coherent fashion such that the Universe runs according to set rules. In other words, it doesn’t thunder because Zeus is throwing lightning bolts or Thor is tossing his hammer, it thunders in response to orderly natural causes working in accordance with God’s design. Beginning in the Middle Ages and continuing into the Renaissance and Enlightenment Christian philosophers worked diligently attempting to discover those rules, and in the process they gave birth to modern science.
Although Stark’s proposition is open to debate, it cannot be denied that almost all of the early giants of science were either clergymen or theists steeped in the Christian tradition (Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, William of Ockham, and Isaac Newton, to name a few). If we assume the truth of Stark’s proposition, it is ironic to say the least that modern day atheists contend science has disproved the existence of God. On the contrary, if Stark is correct, every discovery ever made by science has constituted one more piece of evidence confirming the existence of God. As Stark put it in his latest book: “It could be said that the proposition that the universe had an Intelligent Designer is the most fundamental of all scientific theories and that it has been successfully put to the empirical test again and again.” (How the West Won: The Neglected Story of Modernity, p. 317).
We begin with the proposition that if there is a Christian God, he has made the world to work in orderly fashion and we can discover the natural mechanisms by which the world works. Science sees an unexplained phenomenon and sets to work trying to find a logical explanation for it. When science finds the natural explanation for the phenomenon, it also finds confirmation for the proposition that God made the world to operate in orderly fashion. Although some of these explanations contradict a literal reading of various statements made in the Bible, they do not contradict the proposition that there is an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God who has created an orderly Universe.
How the West Won makes several more claims which fly in the face of conventional wisdom: The fall of Rome was a good thing. The Dark Ages weren’t dark. There was no scientific revolution during the Enlightenment. Eastern civilizations never achieved science because Eastern religions prevented it. It makes for interesting reading.