What would we know if the church hadn't been so powerful?

Discussion in 'Medieval Boards' started by Druid of Lûhn, Jun 25, 2010.

  1. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    In the Middle Ages - also called the Dark Ages because of the loss of knowledge - A lot of ancient knowledge was burnt, heresised, ... because of the Catholic church. Because of this loss of knowledge, everything went back to a time less evolved than the romans in a lot of aspects. But what if none of this knowledge had been banned?

    We would probably have known a lot more about metals through Alchemy, that was counted as sorcery, and so forbidden, as well as astronomy.
     
  2. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    Ludicrous proposition!

    The loss of culture during the Dark Ages wasn't caused by any destruction of knowledge by the church, but by a mass of barbarians - like my ancestors - who couldn't read and didn't think anything Roman was worth preserving.

    The Medieval RCC preserved much more knowledge than it destroyed. Admittedly, it was hidden away in monasteries, but that was largely because (1) books were far too expensive for most people - including most of the wealthy - to possess in quantity, and (2) the clergy had little idea that anyone but a monk would ever want to read a book.

    In fact - unlike culture - technology has advanced relatively steadily from the late stone age on. Medieval metallurgy, for example, was significantly better than Roman metallurgy. Apart from moments of rank idiocy - Galileo comes to mind - the church has been more friend than enemy of science.

    And remember that the term "Dark Ages" applies only to the first half of the Medieval period, and that because it is dark from an historian's point of view, because so little is known, so little is recorded. We know so much more about the latter part of the period because a church-sponsored institution called the "university" spread literacy and literature.
     
  3. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    The church burnt much more knowledge than you mentioned here. And it wasn't just Galileo, but all others that entertained thoughts about the sun being the center of the galaxy, and there being an infinite universe, and evolution, and the Templars who were discovering more. The alchemists were persecuted and it is in this way that I say we lost a lot of knowledge on metallurgy. Ok, they could make strong, lasting swords. But nothing really small and thing, not many refined things or new metals other than steel.
    I agree with you saying that they took a lot of the knowledge for themselves (the RCC) but that wasn't because they didn't believe that others would want it, but that they wanted more power, and so if nobody knew anything but their ideas of creation, ... then they would have all the power. Because it's when more people started to believe in science that the church got less powerful (but also when the Protestant church started at the end of the Middle Ages).
     
  4. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    The Templars? The Templars didn't discover anything but banking! What conspiracy theories have you been reading?

    First, in opposing Galileo (and to a lesser extent his predecessors, Copernicus, Brahe and others) the Church wasn't protecting religious orthodoxy, but Aristotelean theory.

    To the best of my knowledge, no one was postulating evolution during the Middle Ages. Please provide examples.

    Having read your second paragraph, it all becomes clear.

    Druid, stop reading Dan Brown.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  5. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    I've never ever read Dan Brown and do not plan on reading books by him.

    The Alchemists did exist, and evolution was coming to their mind, for a lot of things could be explained by them.

    And it might be aristotle that first thought of it, but the church adopted it, for in their eyes the earth is the center of everything.
     
  6. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    I am well aware that alchemists existed. Alchemy is a protoscience, with elements of what later became chemistry. It also included occultism and charlatanry. Alchemists were prosecuted because most of them were con men. The alchemists who contributed to modern chemistry were those who were not con men and who avoided the occult aspects and were therefore, by and large, not prosecuted.

    You still haven't given an example of anyone in the Middle Ages who suggested evolution.

    In your first post you complain that the church did not preserve Classical knowledge, in your last post you complain that the church did preserve classical knowledge (Aristotle). Be consistent.

    You still haven't addressed the universities that the pope chartered that really started the European Renaissance.

    Stop reading writers who think like Dan Brown.
     
  7. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    I haven't read any authors who think like Dan Brown; I don't like it.

    The Arabs brought back a lot of our lost knowledge during the crusades. The also gave us new knowledge.

    What I said about the church not keeping classical knowledge is the knowledge that has proof against creation. St Augustine said in the beginning that Genesis should not be read too literally, hence pointing to evolution. A chinese taoist philosopher, Zhuangzi, spoke of evolution. Ok, these were just before the Middle Ages, and the Arabs believed in evolution as well, though all of these - apart from Zhuangzi - believed that evolution came after creation.

    Plato and Aristotle spoke about evolution, the chain of being. This knowledge was lost to us because of the church, but kept by the Arabs, and enriched.
     
  8. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    Your whole argument follows Dan Brown's reasoning: the world is not perfect, therefore something I don't like anyway is guilty, let's blame the RCC.

    Arabs definitely contributed to Western knowledge. They did more and better work on optics and astronomy than we did. But much of their knowledge, especially of classical writers, they got through the Byzantines, and most of that was preserved in Medieval Catholic monasteries and later universities anyway. The real Renaissance began with the foundation of the University of Paris before 1170, not to mention the medical and law schools in Italy before that.

    I'm not at all familiar with Zhuangzi, but your interpretation of "not too literally" as "theory of evolution" is far too broad.

    The Chain of Being however, I am familiar with. It does not support evolution, in fact it it does not admit the possibility of evolution.

    Don't believe me? Read this.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2010
  9. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    When I meant "not literally", I meant that we humans did evolve, and didn't appears as Adam and Eve, but that God still created the world.

    If I wanted to take something out on something, it wouldn't be just the RCC. The universities of Padoue and Paris weren't that liked by the church apparently. You say that the church kept knowledge from the Byzantine Empire, but it doesn't mean they let the commons know it. They just wanted people to follow them blindly and amass a lot of money. Proof? St Peter's Basilica, funded by the money they got by selling places in heaven for the people, their parents and grand-parents. Poor? Gods representation on earth is not the pope but was Jesus, and then the Holy Spirit that came into each and every one of us, so we are all as important as the pope.

    Then it would seem that they had problems with their vows, that aren't really needed, apart maybe from being poor, which was respected by some, like the Dominicans and Franciscans, but only by the more devote. The vow of chastity obviously didn't go down well either, and all the teachings of Jesus and the commandments of God seemingly changed meaning.

    That is what I think about the RCC, but this has sadly gone off topic, so don't really read this if you don't want to.
     
  10. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    Look, if you want to bash the late Medieval and early Renaissance Papacy, I'm right with you. It was a catastrophic travesty that did lasting damage to the church and the Christian faith. Indulgences, simony, fornication all existed. It was the direct cause of reform movements within the church, and eventually of the Protestant Reformation. But that isn't the same as saying that the church destroyed knowledge.

    The relationship between church and university varied from place to place, time to time, and often pope to pope, and bishop to bishop. Rocky moments or not, there were literally dozens of papally chartered universities in Europe before 1400, and those universities did expand Western scolarship, and eventually founded the modern world.

    Actually, I said nothing of the sort. What happened was:

    1) The church had buildings called monastaries, which normally included libraries

    2) Classical civilization in the west collapsed under barbarian invasions.

    3) Many of the monastary libraries survived.

    4) The barbarians were converted.

    5) Arabs invaded the Eastern Roman Empire (of Byzantine Empire).

    6) Arabs kept some classical books and burned others.

    7) Europeans began founding universities.

    8) Through contact with Arabs in the Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula, Europeans became aware of classical scholarship.

    9) Monastaries opened their libraries so their books could be copied for universities.

    Now this is clearly oversimplified. In fact steps 1-4 took over 500 years, and steps 5-9 occured simultaneously (or nearly so) and took another 500 years.

    The fact is, the church "didn't let the commons know it" because the commons couldn't tell A from B or sum from est. They were illiterate. In an era when priests couldn't always read, the commons would have used the last remaining copy of Plutarch for toilet paper.

    And, the church did "let the commons know it," because anyone - gentry, merchant, yoeman, or serf, who could get to a university to learn to read, write, and not use Plutarch for toilet paper could not only read, but copy Plutarch to disseminate it further.

    Actually, this is the longest argument I've ever had online that did remain on topic. We started out discussing the effects the church had on knowledge in Medieval Europe, and we're still discussing the effects the church had on knowledge in Medieval Europe.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  11. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    The monasteries were only allowed to keep tomes like the Bible in their libraries and other religious books. A few people became priests so as to learn to read, and all priests had to know how to read because the started off as copyists, and ended as copyists, but had to read exerts of the Bible during mass.

    The church did representations of Bible stories outside the churches for the illiterate, but this all depended on their own understanding of the Bible, and not the people's.

    The barbarians - who converted themselves in about 800AD - in the middle ages were only near the beginning, and then it became more "civilized" (though not entirely because of the endless wars). I understand what you mean about different popes and bishops and all, but it seems that you have left a few arguments that I spoke about.

    It is quite a long argument about one thing. And it would seem that we're both right, otherwise it would have stopped quite some time ago. I'm also saying that whatever is said here is only meant towards what is said and not the people (us) saying it.
     
  12. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    Wrong. Some monastaries kept vast libraries of secular books.

    Possible, but irrelevent.

    Wrong. Most monks were copyists, but only priests who were also monks were necessarily literate. Priests were often taught quite casually by an older priest. Priests had to memorize the liturgy, which included Biblical passages, but some - a minority, probably a small minority - could not read.

    True. Biblical stories covered church buildings inside and out. They were placed as a reminder to the congregation and as an aid to the priest for illustrating sermons.

    We are still vulnerable to a preacher's interpretation of the Bible in far too many cases. Even in a literate society and a Biblically literate congregations, a preacher's own interpretations often hold sway because people are too willing to knuckle under to authority to call the preacher for a faulty reading or inconsistant interpretation.

    Yes, the Germanic tribes were mostly converted by about 800, although "converted themselves" isn't how I'd put it. Still, I mentioned that Barbarians destroyed classical culture (which they did, overthrowing the Western Roman Empire, sacking Rome, occupying Roman holdings from Britain and Spain to North Africa and the Greek border, looting, pillaging and burning) and that they were converted. Are you disagreeing with that?

    Which ones? I'll be happy to address them.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  13. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    1. They may have, but they wouldn't have been open o the literate - or illiterate - public.

    2. It was the king that decided to become christian, so that the people that were (out of his reign) would have a decent explanation; "in the name of God and Jesus."

    3. Just Re-read the thread. I have also dropped arguments, when we have each proved the other wrong or accepted their idea.
     
  14. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    Do you disagree that barbarians destroyed classical culture?

    Do you disagree that they were converted?

    If the answer to both is "No," why are you continuing to argue over it?

    Edit: I probably shouldn't ask, but which king "decided to become christian"?(sic)

    I stand by my statements quoted above. The church not only had secular material, it also allowed the public access to that material insofar as the public was able to read it, and within the limits of copying before movable type.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  15. Crouton

    Crouton New Member

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    I'd say if it wasn't for the church we would have already reached where we are technology wise maybe hundreds of years ago. The church basically made us stop advancing altogether as a species during the Dark Ages.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    That is not true.

    In fact in the west, especially our university system of education, is based partly on what the church did during Medieval times. It was the church that began to educated the average person in Europe. The other thing you should get out of your head, is that the Dark Ages were all that dark... and that the Renaissance was all that much a time of awakening and discovery. I'll be the first to blast religion when it deserves it, but I'll also stick up for it when it's appropriate.

    You don't get advancements in Science & Technology without first pondering the existence of a God and the Supernatural. It's a matter of progression, like steps up a ladder. Religion is part of our brain's evolution and is just as important, probably far more important than we give it credit for on our way to scientific discovery.
     
  17. Crouton

    Crouton New Member

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    I still don't see that as being true. For my entire life, history books, documentaries, teachers etc have been telling me that the Dark Ages were basically a time when Christianity stopped scientific and technological advancements amongst humans. I'm finding it hard to believe that all of those sources are wrong sorry.
     
  18. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    The "Dark Ages" its important to remember were not likely as backward as some might think - its known as the Dark Ages because after the fall of the Roman empire there was suddenly a big gap where historians simply don't have much surviving written records. The Romans wrote everything down, they left fantastic records which have been found and translated - the Dark Ages was a dead spot where historical survivability of info has been less.

    This might be the result of widespread lacks in education, but it also could be changes in how paper documents and other items were stored which meant that they decomposed far faster than other archiving methods - as a result more was lost to time. There might also be other factors and events which took place which we've no understanding of.

    Also - as said, it was the Church that really pushed education in those early days - mostly because the church were one of the few institutions of that age who could devote time and resources toward education and toward pondering bigger thoughts other than day to day living.



    I think science might have taken a back step in the Dark Ages, but part of that wasn't the church, but the relative instability after a massive period of stability. War does promote a lot of new science, but it can also mean that a lot can be lost as well, esp if a lower educated, but larger in number force totally destroys another.
     
  19. Crouton

    Crouton New Member

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    What exactly counts as education though? The church may have been pushing for education but teaching people how to read and write is different to actively participating in or supporting scientific research.
     
  20. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Maybe, but its hard to do the latter without the former. Furthermore without the influence of the Church many would not have had the concept of devoting time to "otherworldly thoughts". I suspect many would have focused down more purely on survival and day to day dealings, rather than considering other lines of thought.
    Don't also forget that there were advances, consider castle building, siege craft and many other aspects of living changed and adapted during the era. Having somewhere to teach you your numbers, your letters and more was very important to help advance these. The church might not have been pushing science in all areas, but it certainly was a key part in providing the core basic training from which people could build from.