The "Dark Ages" and Science Vs. Religion?

Was this period in human history caused by a split of acceptance of Science and Religion?

Who was ‘wrong’?

One more thing…if it was cause by this, would we still not be in the ‘Dark Ages’? Science Vs. Religion exists today.

Or was there something else that caused them?

Ahh, the middle ages: Christianity at its lowest. Yuck. What a terrible loss after the Greek and Roman civs. I’ve heard some authors ponder on where “we” would be today had the Dark Ages never happened, but I dunno. It was probably bound to happen at some point, Christianity or no.

I’m not a huge history buff, so I can’t add much to this thread, unfortunately.

Now to be fair, I think it is slightly inaccurate to blame the Dark Ages on Christianity alone. Almost all the classical knowledge that did survive the fall of the Roman empire was preserved by Christian monastic orders.

Blame the “Dark Ages” on Christianity alone? How 'bout not at all. The dark ages came about when, for various reasons, the Roman Empire collapsed. Or more acuratly, moved east, to Constantinople. But at any rate removed the social and political infrastructer of Western Europe. Which resulted in chaos for several hundred years- till about the turn of the century. Christianity was the foolishness that took hold at the time. Could have been anything.

Honestly, I have no idea what this question means.

**Doubleclick wrote:

Was this period in human history caused by a split of acceptance of Science and Religion?**

The “Dark Ages” at least in western Europe was after the final fall of Rome, generally agreed upon at 476 CE.

With the collapse of any type of government, yes it was a dark time. Meanwhile, in eastern Europe and the middle east, the Eastern Roman Empire flourished.

So, could you be a bit more specific with your terms and geographical areas?

As for a split between science and religion, check out Stanley Tambiah’s Magic, Science, Religion and the Scope of Rationality. An excellent book that talks about how those 3 areas were once considered “one” topic.

Who was ‘wrong’?

Why does either have to be “wrong”? They cover two different areas of knowledge. There’s only confusion when one tries to stake out the other’s territory.

As tempting as it would be to tear into the OP with all sorts of esoteric and mainstream examples and reasoning borne out by the historical record for the so-called “Dark Ages”, I think it would be more useful to figure out exactly what Doubleclick means. If he/she can answer some questions, we can narrow the scope of this discussion.

A) How do you wish to periodize the Dark Ages? This term has been abandoned in contemporary scholarship for excellent reasons, for it reveals more about the biases of the historians than the truth of the period.

B) In what regions of western Europe should we confine this discussion? It is extremely easy to lump all of Europe together into a sort of amorphous, generalized unit of analysis. This is really unproductive.

C) What exactly do you mean by a “split of acceptance of Science and Religion”? Why are you reifying them with capitalization? Are “Religion” and “Science” independent entities with inherent existences removed from their human practitioners? Do you want to use contemporary definitions of religion and science and apply them retroactively to the “Dark Ages”?

I don’t. Work out some of these details, and then we’ll talk.


You are talking roughly 476-1000 AD, right?

I don’t think science vs. religion was even an issue for that period. Europe just resumed being what it had been for most of the 4000 years before 500 BC – a backwater to the Nile/Tigress/Euphrates empires which flourished nicely at the end of the drought circa 600 AD.

I can’t think of a single new discovery known in the West that was suppressed, but who knows what gaps there are in history when you go that far back?

Not that anyone blamed anything on Christianity, but good to jump to the defense anyway, just in case it might happen.

The middle ages were characterized, IIRC, by slowed growth economically and socially. Was religion the heart of this, or was it bound to happen anyway? The fall of the Roman Empire caused it? Was it religion that caused the fall of that Empire? I dare say religion was a large part of the middle ages, but hardly solely responsible. The desire to be un-roman is what, IIRC again, caused such a period of time. And why did people want to be non-roman?

Please, correct me as necessary. I don’t know much about this time-frame.

Sorry for the ambiguity guys…

That question only applied if it turned our that my first question was the accepted explanation. (Religion/Science split = the cause of the Dark Ages.)

I thought of it as two people having an argument and both of them turning their back, crossing their arms and goinf “humph!”.

That being said, we all know of the suffering and the attrocities that took place then.

IE:The Spanish Inquisition, (…and no…I know now one expected it…so please don’t…) The extream poverty…

So, who out of the “Science Dudes” and “Religions Dudes” was to blame for this social upheaval?

Are both to blame?

Are Neither?

Why would this sort of idealistic split bring about such a dark time in our history? (Hey! That’s the real question I was trying to come up with…a few confusing posts to late…sorry guys.)

I believe it may have been, but not in the same way we have now. (I don’t know much about this time period.)

Remember…many people were ‘tossed in the clink’ for speaking out against the common religious beliefs.

(IE: The age of the Earth. Gallila…Gallala…the dude with the telescope, was imprisoned for life for, basicly, looking into the heavens and saying that what the church was teaching was wrong.)

Many people have commented on the failure of the Roman Empire being a leading cause. Others have mentioned that religions were a major factor during that time period. So with that, would it be fair to say that the church tried to ‘step in’ and ‘take control’ of the people?

(Again, I do not know much of this time period and I am just making educated guess as to what is being posed to me here…don’t flame me for making this assumption…I have no problem admitting if I am mistakin.)

Also…did the French Revolution not take place in this time period?

Could it be that many forces were struggling for power after the Roman Empire fell? (Political, religious, monarchys, those that opposed all three?)

There’s little evidence to support such an idea. The Romans built good roads, had advanced plumbing, but they weren’t exactly scientific marvels themselves.

Er. The Spanish inquisition happened 500+ years after the Dark Ages were over, IIRC.

As opposed to anywhere anytime in the previous 10,000 years of human existence?

Can you even name any Roman scientists? I’m sure there are a few over Rome’s 1000 year history as a republic/empire, but I doubt you can name any.

I think you are misled. You are looking at this period through you knowledge of events surrounding Copernicus and Darwin and perhaps DaVinci also. These tensions happened long after the end of the Dark ages and have little to do with what preceded them. You might as well be asking what influence the War of 1066 had on the 2000 Presidential election.

Thanks jmullaney.

I obviously have my time periods all wrong.

SO I guess the answer to my question is: No, the science types and religious type butting head had nothing to do with the Dark Ages.

Fair enough.

to answer the OP, inasmuch as I undestand it, the fall of the Wester Roman empire was primarily due to the economic and military collpase of a vitiated government exacerbated by extensive migration of tribes from the East. In no way did it have anuthing to do with “Science vs, Religion.”
Although cultural progress slowed in the West, the Byzantine Empire in the east was humming along until 1453 and the fall of Constantinople (now Istanbul).

In China, under the T’ang dynasty, porcelain glazing techniques created a new style of muticolored, sinuous statuary. In India in the sixth century Scholars devised the rudiments of algebra and pioneered the use of zero in calculations.In Spain, the Abbasid Caliphate, IIRC, created an intellectual and cultural oasis where Muslim and Jewish scholars made major advances in math, science, and philosophy.

My work is done. :wink:

If anyone still does have questions about the “Dark”/Middle ages, feel free to ask.

BTW, aynrandlover, the Middle Ages experienced tremendous social and economic growth. Our representative systems of government are modeled after medieval representative bodies. It was medieval man that first developed a credit economy. The very word mortgage is medieval French. It distinguishes between two different kinds of pledges, the gage mort and the gage vif, the dead pledge and the living pledge.

So great an economic expansion was not repeated until the 18th century.

For the record.

Coincidentally, you ask this question the day after I returned a Stephen Jay Gould book that hit on this very topic. The essay was about the myth that the medieval church believed the earth was flat until Columbus set them straight. Gould shows that this idea was popularized by 19th century scientists who saw it as a forerunner to their struggles with creationists. But in fact, science and religion didn’t really come into conflict until after Columbus’ era. The book is called Dinosaur in a Haystack, BTW. (He also wrote a whole book about the science/religion thing called Rock of Ages, but I haven’t read it.)

I should add, in regard to your “tossed in the clink” remark, that civil liberties were a pretty fuzzy concept for most ancient societies. Remember what happened to Socrates?

Also, the French Revolution was in 1789. Way, way after the Dark Ages.

I didn’t mean to sound mad, amigo. I’m only slightly ahead of you – I’m also a victim of the typical American history lesson – Jesus died, Rome fell, the Pilgrims landed, and then it gets interesting…

You might just want to peruse for a while to get you bearings. I’m sure they oversimplify once in a while but it is a good place to start.

No problem dude. I’ve been on Foums and BBS’s a while now…I know you can’t always get the persons tone of voice or facial expression by a message. :wink:

[Breaking into a slight MP skit.]

History lesson? You were lucky! Why my history teacher told us that the Middle Ages was the period of time that took place between the Early Ages and the Late Ages.

(Honest to god!!! He made us write it down!!! :smiley: )


Thanks for the link. :slight_smile:

The Dark Ages was the time in Europe (western mainly?) after the collapse of the Roman Empire until the birth of the Renaissance. Although there was plenty of mysticism afoot, I don’t think the Dark Ages was due to a science vs. religion argument (I was set straight on this in a past Great Debate :slight_smile: ). Basically, when a 1000-year old civilization collapses, things will be chaotic & difficult for the people in that area for a while. Elsewhere, it was business as usual (excepting some natural disasters of course). There were several factors that resulted in the collapse of the Roman Empire…each is probably a suitable Great Debate. I’ve read from some sources that Christianity has received some blame (IIRC, the last few Roman emperors embraced Christianity).