The story we all learnt at school is that science was invented by the ancient Greeks but then languished until the Renaissance. Medieval people supposedly thought that the earth was flat, while the Church is said to have banned human dissection and burnt scientists at the stake. So it comes as a surprise to find that historians have radically revised their understanding of science in the Middle Ages and Christianity’s influence upon it. It turns out that the myth Christianity held back science was invented during the eighteenth century and, despite concerted attempts by scholars to kill it off, it simply refuses to die. In reality, the medieval Church demanded that every student should study math and science in the new universities. More people were exposed to these subjects than at any time in the past. And because the universities were self-governing bodies answerable directly to the Pope, students and masters enjoyed an unprecedented level of academic freedom. Of course, this was circumscribed by the demands of the faith, but it turns out that Christian theology itself was especially conducive to science.
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