Science in the Middle Ages

Science and religion work together to order randomness and chaos.  In Book 1 of Genesis, God gives creates the universe, he separates the light from the dark, the land from the sea.  In science, a homogeneous substance is more stable than a heterogeneous substance.  Homogeneous reactants are not reactive unless stimulated by another substance, a catalyst.  In Genesis, before God created the universe all matter existed but had no order.  God is the catalyst. By creating the universe, He separates matter into homogeneous substances and orders the chaos of the physical world.  Before science, God gave an easy and definite answer to the questions of the universe.  Science reveals a complicated order of nature, and leads to more questions than answers.  God is a simple answer to complicated questions.

Maimonides says “When one thinks about these matters one will feel a great fear and trepidation, and one will know that one is a low and insignificant creation.”  The understanding about the complexity of nature reveals the greater glory of God and reminds man of his insignificant place in the universe.

God and nature are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  Science is used by philosophers in the Middle Ages as a tool to find the greater meaning of God.  Science is also the principle upon which the earth is governed, and for the Medieval philosophers, God governs the earth.  Therefore, God is at the foundation of science.  Science and religion do not conflict with each other, rather, science links God to the material world.  Nonetheless, the tension between science and religion saturated the philosophy of the Middle Ages and shaped the humanist movement, the next stage in western history.


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