Few people love evolutionary biology outreach as much as the University of Chicago's Professor Jerry Coyne. His book, "Why Evolution Is True", is one of three that gets a personal endorsement on my profile page and he posted a terrific article here, A Letter To Darwin - Here's What Has Happened In The Last 150 Years, for our 30 Days of Evolution Blogging event during the 150th anniversary of 'Origin of Species'. His Why Evolution Is True site has become a go-to venue for smart writing about science and society.

But, say microbiologist Dr. Alex Berezow and Dr. James Hannam, author of "The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution", when it comes to history of science, Coyne (and other New Atheists) get it all wrong.

I have punctured numerous myths that seem to get invoked about history and science, like that Bruno was a martyr for science, that Galileo was persecuted by the church and that religion held back science. All of those are completely untrue. Bruno was a martyr for magic, not science, Galileo's work said the tides only happened once a day, both sailors and scientists ridiculed him for that, and all science was done by religious people. Almost 50% of AAAS scientists claim to be religious even today.

I haven't read Hannam but I know Berezow knows his stuff; he and I wrote a book together. And their criticism is spot on; that science did not advance during the Dark Ages is not because of religious oppression, religion is what kept the ancient works alive. Advancements did not happen because during a time of barbarian invasions and the collapse of civilization, there isn't a lot of wealth to spend on luxuries - and as much as federally-funded academics want to protest the idea, science is not a basic need. We still see the the power of meeting basic needs even today; when poor people are able to grow their own food, culture and education leaps ahead. That is why scientific advancements like GMOs are better for developing nation farmers than wealthy nations just trying to give them free food. Blaming religion is as silly as blaming the feudal system.

Coyne says that Christianity holds back science even today. He has never been to a Muslim country, it seems. America, the most religious Christian nation, leads the world in science output, despite only having 5% of the world's population. Not too shabby, for being a country seemingly so backward

He means evolution acceptance, not all science, where nearly half of all Americans, across all educational, political, financial and cultural strata deny natural selection. Yet they are not so much denying evolution as being open to metaphysics and theology. Americans have always been skeptical, it is part of our national identity - and that is a good thing, about someone else's field of science, anyway.

Coyne's Twisted History of Science  &  Religion By Alex B. Berezow and James Hannam, Real Clear Science