I have heard this silly fallacy far too often. When people highlight religion's regressive impact on society, the religious generally reply with 'modern science was founded by Christians' and they proceed to list many Christian scientists: Robert Boyle, Louis Pasteur, Niels Boher, Johannes Kepler, Linus Pauling, Max Plank, Leonhard Euler, Christian Huygens, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Werner Heisenberg, George Lamaitre, Issac Newton, and the list goes on. The implication being that without Christianity then modern science would not exist. The major failing here is the inability to distinguish correlation from causation.
When discussing religion and its negative effects I simply do highlight some immoral person who happens to be a Christian and use him/her as evidence for an argument against religion. This type of reasoning is blatantly silly and an obvious fallacy. Take the Aurora shooter for example, he could have been an atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, or even Raelian; it is irrelevant, his religious beliefs or lack of did not motivate him to commit this atrocity. Hence blaming the atrocity on whatever religion he might be is as silly as blaming his skin or hair colour. Yet Christians apologists use this kind of logic on a all too persistent basis. Another argument constantly employed is, 'some of worlds greatest killers were atheists: Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, etc'; ignoring the true motivating factor, communism. For a more comprehensive discussion on this argument, see the Arizona Atheists rather good article here.
So just as some Christians use this type of fallacious argument to prove a negative aspect about atheists, they do the same to prove a positive about their religion. Some of the greatest scientists were Christians, ergo Christianity is good, ignoring the reality of the situation. Firstly, most early scientists, such as Galileo, could not profess themselves to be anything but Christian as they would have been horribly persecuted and maybe even executed if they said otherwise. Secondly, to argue that Christianity is the cause of these scientists' achievements then it has to be proven that Christianity is the source of their motivation or inspiration, and this is simply not the case. What aspect of the bible or Christian doctrine lead Robert Boyle to experiment with Chemistry and publish Boyle's Law. Is there some revealed knowledge in the bible which lead Werner Heisenberg to develop the idea of Quantum Mechanics. I could easily go along the whole list. There simply is nothing that is within the bible or promulgated by any Christian doctrine which would have motivated these scientists to excel in their fields. Religion had no more influence on their scientific discoveries than the fact they were men, it only hints at a society that was dominated by religion and sexism.
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