True, Christians believe in miracles, which can be seen as departures from the orderliness of nature. But miracles are notable because they are exceptional. Miracles inspire wonder because they are believed to be the product of a natural order that is, in rare cases, suspended. By contrast, Islam doesn’t emphasize miracles because everything in the universe is seen as miraculous. Medieval Muslim theologian Abu Hamed al- Ghazali claimed that God intervenes at every moment to make the events in the universe happen as they do. There is no question of laws; everything is the product of ceaseless divine intrusion. Historian Joseph Needham explains that despite the wealth and sophistication of China in ancient and medieval times, science never developed there because “there was no confidence that the code of nature’s laws could ever be unveiled and read, because there was no assurance that a divine being, even more rational than our- selves, had ever formulated such a code capable of being read.” In his classic book Science and the Modern World Alfred North Whitehead concludes that “faith in the possibility of science … is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology.”

The medieval era in Europe saw the founding of the university, which would have a crucial role in the growth of modern science. At first monks labored in monasteries, working tirelessly to retrieve the classical knowledge destroyed when the barbarians overran the Roman Empire and spread chaos throughout the continent. For several centuries monasteries were the only institutions in Europe for the acquisition, preservation, and transmission of knowledge.

Then the churches began to build schools, first at the elementary and then at the secondary level. Eventually these became more advanced until, in the twelfth century, the first universities were founded in Bologna and Paris. Oxford and Cambridge were founded in the early thirteenth century, followed by universities in Rome, Naples, Salamanca, Seville, Prague, Vienna, Cologne, and Heidelberg. These institutions might be affiliated with the church, but they were independently governed and operated. The curriculum was both theological and secular, so that the new scientific knowledge of early modern times could be accommodated. As Alvin Schmidt points out, many of America’s earliest colleges and universities—Harvard, the College of William and Mary, Yale, Northwestern, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown—began as Christian institutions.”