It is amusing to see Christian apologists like Victor Reppert seize upon any any article they find on the internet that appeals to their confirmation bias. One topic that Christians have been touchy about is the idea that the church played a large role in the suppression if intellectual pursuit during the historical period known as the Dark Ages. If you're a Christian apologist, you'd rather believe that there was no such thing as the Dark Ages. You'd rather believe that intellectual endeavors flourished under the benevolent leadership of the church, and life for the average citizen was just peachy. There is no shortage of revisionist literature that supports this. In his customary manner, Victor has uncritically latched onto a review of James Hannam's book God's Philosophers that supports this notion.
This very favorable review comes from Tim O'Neill, who claims to be an atheist and skeptic, and that, I suppose, is the reason Victor chooses to call out this particular article as being worthy of notice. If an atheist agrees with what the apologists say, then there must be something to it, right? I did a little research on Tim O'Neill, and could find no reason to think that he is anything other than a Christian who claims to be an atheist. His articles are uniformly supportive of theists and their beliefs, and critical of atheists.
[Edit: I have removed reference to an article that I had incorrectly attributed to O'Neill. I apologize for my mistake.]
In this review, O'Neill (who is not a historian) makes some bad arguments in favor of the Catholic apologist viewpoint expressed in this book.
I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one - just one - scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages.This is a straw man, of course. Nobody makes the claim that scientists in the Middle ages were repressed by the church. The usual claim is that there was very little scientific development during the middle ages, not that the scientists of the period were oppressed by the church. The fact is there weren't a lot of scientists around for the church to oppress during the middle ages, and those who did study things like optics or astronomy in those days didn't dare defy the teachings of the church. The burning, persecution, and oppression came later, when real science began to flourish and the dogmas of the church were challenged. O'Neill goes on to say:
By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists - like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa - and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents usually scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.Again, there is no question that Aristotelian natural philosophy and scholasticism arose (or re-emerged) in the latter part of the middle ages. The people listed here that O'Neill calls scientists are all from the 13th, and 14th, and 15th centuries, at the end of the middle ages. They were clergy members or sponsored by the the church, and they didn't question church dogma. It wasn't until the Renaissance that science began to break free from the yoke of the church and for the first time call religious beliefs and dogma into question. In my opinion, that's when the Dark Ages ended.
This raises the question of we mean by the term Dark Ages. It has been defined in various ways. One common definition (and the one that O'Neill disputes) is that it coincides with the entire medieval period, beginning at the fall of the Roman empire around 476CE and ending at the start of the renaissance around 1500CE (in western Europe). Another commonly used definition has it ending in 1000CE. Even O'Neill agrees that this was a dark period in history. Some may equate the start of the dark ages with the decline of the Roman empire that coincides with the adoption of Christianity during the rule of Constantine. Some may equate the end of the dark ages with the rise of universities and scholastic philosophy in the 12th century. It wasn't until the 14th century that anyone began to question the natural philosophy of Aristotle. Regardless of how you define the term, it is clear that scientific and cultural progression was at a virtual standstill at least during the earlier centuries of the middle ages.
For a more balanced review of God's Philosophers and a more accurate perspective on the history of the development of science in that era, I highly recommend this article by Charles Freeman. It's rather lengthy, but that's because there's so much in the book that needs to be placed in a more proper historical context. Well worth reading.