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Noman Peopled



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It's sort of sad that the site links to a piece about why evolution is just a philosophy.
To wit, it doesn't exactly assure us of the author's knowledge of what modern science is - regardless of its merit, the theory of evolution is a scientific theory. And yes, I even read the evolution article ... consider it a bonus.



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When we think of Christianity's role in the rise of science, what do we think of?  How it hindered it, such as the conflict between Galileo (1564-1642) and the Inquisition in the seventeenth century?  Or, perhaps, do we think of Thomas Huxley debating evolution with Bishop Wilberforce in the nineteenth century?  [...] Modern science arose among avowedly Christian clerics, theologians, monks, and professors of medieval and renaissance Catholic universities and monasteries.
This highlights two problems right off the bat.
1) Neither christianity nor science is a monolithic block in this context. What the churches were willing and able to suppress changes a lot from century to century and from country to country. The Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant philosophies differed wildly on this subject. Nor is what, say, Kepler did really representative of what we would call modern science - otherwise he wouldn't have bothered with the platonic solids model.
2) That science arose among christians is no more indicative of a foundational christian role than the fact that gregorian chants was designed specifically by christians for christians is indicative of the impossibility of gregorian chants arising out of anything by christianity.
If you read old texts (before around 1400 CE) from basically anywhere where the catholics were strong, what you get (among other things) is an extremely hostile view toward curiosity. (Either that or extremely coarse stories about sex and violence - they had no TV.) Curiosity is about self-improvement, but the only self-improvement necessary is religious in nature. Learning new things, exploring, inventing is mundane and as such, nothing more than an expression of human vanity. Obviously, you can't adhere to that and still build a telescope.
In the 15/16th century (and continuing to this day), the church lost much of its power due to economic shifts, to what would today be called big business (which was itself possible only due to innovation). Also, the printing press made books much more accessible and literacy spread. Who owned books before that? People the church didn't want to or could not prosecute because they held power; and the church, who could thus control what was produced.
With the mass of new books, it became much harder to control what was printed and - accompanied by a loss of political power - the church had to pick and choose what they'd agree with. Plus, the church's black book lists were regularly ignored in the anglican and protestant territories - with the protestant ones continuosly shifting.

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After all, neither Galileo nor Copernicus (1473-1543), who maintained the sun was at the center of the solar system, not the earth, were skeptics or unbelievers, [...]?
Okay, first, the church maintained that the earth was the center of the universe. And it was taught as fact. Protestants were even allowed to read it for themselves. People claiming otherwise were shunned or prosecuted. Nonetheless, this system of thought is supposed to be responsible for science - which clearly indicates that the sun is the center of, well, a very insignificant local system, and that there is not even such a thing as a center of the universe?
In a predominantly christian society, scientists will be christian with some regularity. As will businesspeople and murderers. This is telling us nothing. I will point out that quite a few scientists personally suffered under an appearent irreconcilability of their findings and the biblical texts (Darwin neither least nor most of all); and they often invented new private theologies to fit both, which sometimes led to trouble.
The text often refers to Galileo, as in "we should not be blinded by the Galileo affair". We're not told why. Christianity has its dogmas, and works on keeping them around, even today. This necessarily leads to denial of other dogmas or scientific findings, at the very least implicitly casting doubt on the scientific process itself.

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Pierre Duhem and Stanley Jaki, respectively past and present professors of Roman Catholicism, see a direct tie between Christian metaphysics, its rejections of various classical Greek philosophical conceptions, and the birth of a self-sustaining science.[3]  On the other hand, Robert K. Merton, the sociologist who wrote Science in Seventeenth Century England,[4] ties seventeenth century English Puritanism's ethics to the rise of English science much the same way the German sociologist Max Weber tied the rise of capitalism to Calvinism.[5]
(Etc.)
Note that nowhere in there does it actually say that science couldn't have possibily arisen out of, say, islamic metaphysics. The typical early argument for doing "vain" science was to get to know god by getting to know his creation. There was an exact parallel in the islamic world for a time. Or, to put it bluntly, if A results in Z, does that mean that B can't result in Z?
Also note that christian thought was more and more outside the realm of organizing influence - not quite incidentally at the end of the dark ages and at the beginning of the rennaissance. So did christian though develop on its own to allow science and usury or did it rather have to react to philosophical and economical development? It's easy to tie in science with christianity in a historical context. Identifying causal factors? Not so much.

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In order to have some idea of what culture's science really qualifies as science it's best to introduce a definition here to avoid misunderstandings:  The systematized collection of knowledge about nature through using only reason and sense experience in order to discover the underlying laws of nature, which explain how nature is organized and allow future accurate predictions about nature's processes or objects to be made.
Which bible passage is that?
Okay, to claim that the bible claims something that is diametrally opposed to scientific findings does not mean science did not result from it. However, I have a hard time seeing how it could follow from it. Much less include it as one of its vital historical constituents.
As the text says, most civilizations worth a damn have the rudiments of science - and if there is even a slight influence that economical, political, and social factors are playing (hard to see how they wouldn't), it seems rather clear that christianity could not possibly be the deciding factor in its conception.

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For all the world's civilizations, only Greek geometry fully met this definition, along with mathematics in general, prior to the time of Galileo, and that is only by excising the "sense experience" part of this definition.
Actually, no. Senses are a part of it, otherwise how would the greeks know what a triangle looks like? The fact that an euclidian triangle is an abstraction is irrelevant.

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This historiography of science has still to face up honestly to the problem of why three great ancient cultures (China, India, and Egypt) display independently of one another, a similar pattern vis-a-vis science.  The pattern is the stillbirth of science in each of them in spite of the availability of talents, social organization, and peace--the standard explanatory devices furnished by all-knowing sociologies of science on which that historiography relies ever more heavily.[9]
That's a rather small sample, don't you think?
Also, who says that peace is conductive to science? I'd argue that, to the contrary, the motivation from change comes from instability or discontent. Which there was plenty of in Europe. I'd say the great christian schisms in the 16th century were more conductive to science than was the core christianity (or rather, catholicism) itself. As was the increase in population, urbanization, rise in literacy, developments in trade, and not least the general political fragmentation of Europe.
If we're going to use small samples, political conflict seems to have played a great role in about 100% of all documented cases of modern science.

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All of these conditions may be necessary to allow a civilization to develop science, but we have to look to the intellectual climate to understand why only one particular civilization developed a self-sustaining, modern science.
This seems a sort of anthropic principle. We're the first; it doesn't mean it can't happen or couldn't have happened without christianity.

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The alternative view of time, the concept of the "Great Year," maintains centuries-long time cycles exist in which the future repeats the past exactly or almost exactly, making progress of any kind theoretically impossible.
Untrue. Many if not all cyclical world views allow for self-improvement.

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Second, if science is to exist, explanations of natural phenomena must avoid a priori, pseudo-scientific "explanations" that really do not describe the causes of events, such as astrology.
Again, where in the bible does it say this? The fact that christians can be brought around to dismissing a priori explanations (such as biblical flood geography) does not mean christianity is particularly conductive to science.

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Third, science is hindered by the organismic view of nature.  This idea conceives all of the universe as alive, as if it was one huge organism which goes through the above mentioned cyclical process from birth, to maturity, then death, to be born again.
As a starting point, this is no better or worse than the crystal spheres "model". At least it allows for change.

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Sixth, a balance between reason and faith is necessary, without the religious people totally rejecting science or natural laws, and without the philosophers/scientists totally rejecting the claims of religious truth.
Well ... scientists need to be left unprosecuted and be willing and able to investigate. That's really about it. If you need the predominant religion to not attack you or hinder your progress or teach dogmatic philosophies, then what do you really need it for?
Why do scientists have to entertain religious claims? Christian scientists seem to have done fine while totally rejecting Islam, why would this not be true of christianity?

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Seventh, man needs to be seen as fundamentally different from the rest of nature, as having a mind that makes him qualitatively different from the animals, etc., not just quantitatively different.
Too general for the purpose of the point the article is trying to make.
Also, funny how Linnaeus classified humankind as belonging to the ape family. You know, a clergyman. I'm only mentioning this because, once again, the article presents us with a set of philosophie which is supposed to be conductive to inquiry but is fundamentally opposed to the findings thereof. I keep wondering; if christianity is something that allows for and encourages the breaking up of christian dogma, what makes it so unique? It's not only scientific findings that contradict christian assumptions, after all, scientific epistemiology is fundamentally different from the christian one. And if it is, how likely is it we can't have one without the other?

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Islamic science would have become self-sustaining possibly, if its holy book the Quran (Koran) had not emphasized God's will and power so much as against His reason, and if Muslim philosophers and scientists had not become so mesmerized by Aristotle's physics and philosophy.
It's very easy to see how the Muslim philosophers could have deemphasized the passage in question themselves. There is precedent after all ... no clergyman today will tell you that slavery is okay.
Aristotle, huh? Well, Europe had him too and overcame him. Given a slightly different set of circumstance, Islam could have done the same.

I'll skip the comparison of China, India, and Egypt. Many superstitions mentioned there do have parallels in christianity and in any case, it gives us an idea of why science didn't develop there to the extent it did in Europe, but no reason to think they couldn't have developed there at all.
The history of civilization is not that long that we could discount the mere possibility that anything else other than christianity could have led to science.
Premises:
A caused Z.
B, C, D did not cause Z.

Conclusions:
A must cause Z.
B, C, D, can't cause Z.
E can't cause Z.

Notice something didn't you? None of the conclusions follows from the premises.
That is not to say that we can't identify factors within A, B, C, D, E that would probably make them more or less likely to lead to Z. This is why history, ethnology, and sociology are fucking hard.
Which is also the reason why people doing research and writing papers within those disciplines should bloody well take extra care.
In addition, as the writer (to his or her merit) admits here and there, christianity did suffer from many superstitions. Which just begs the question once again, of how a particular set of superstitions could have given rise to science while no other set of superstitions could.

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Moving westwards to the land of India, an equally perplexing problem with the lack of modern science seems to present itself.  Hindu civilization on the subcontinent was ancient, well-settled, and extremely rich materially by the standards of the time.  India routinely ran surplus balances of trade with the West, as China did.
See my quib above; when everything's running well, why change it? If your country has been running smoothly for centuries, why upset things by encouraging skepticism?

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Unfortunately, for the Islamic world, its leading philosophical, theological, and scientific figures made some very serious wrong turns.  The key problem was a lack of balance between faith and reason, which ultimately extended from the Quran's emphasis on the absolute (and arbitrary) will of God.  No Islamic equivalent of  Thomas Aquinas appeared on the scene to systematically reconcile and integrate the theology of Islam with the rationalism of the Greek classics, without unduly bending one to fit with the other.
Wait ... so what if there had been?

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It asserted the doctrine of occasionalism, which sees the law of cause and effect as only occurring due to God's continual, direct intervention in the universe.  Hence, to al-Ghazzali, if a rock lands on my big toe after I release it, the resulting pain is only due to God putting it there in me, not due to the properties of the rock and toe themselves.  The direct consequences of such a concept against the idea of a scientific law of nature can easily be imagined.[50]
For a similar approach, see the religious views of Sir Isaac Newton.

In reference to Islam, it occurs to me that Islam is a possibility among many on where to take the OT and the NT. Which, since Islam hasn't resulted in modern science, seems to imply that at the very least, christianity did not have to culminate into science.

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Astrology, that prime example of an answer-giving a priori pseudo-science, ran into repeated condemnations by church writers and theologians in the West.
Of course they did. It wasn't their dogma, and they sure as hell didn't want random would-be mathematicians treading on their ground.

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Astrology did have some major influence in Christendom, but as even Bacon's case shows, there were limits to the acceptance of this pseudo-science that allowed science to eventually develop independently of it.
As the text itself say, the interest in astrology started rising again concurrently with the interest in astronomy. In fact, this is a prime example of how trying to figure out a superstition (even in its own belief system) can lead to scientific findings.

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The cosmologists [of the twelfth century] felt certain that all of nature was fundamentally rational because the all-knowing God had made it so. . . .
As opposed to Aristotle, who thought the world was so rational that you really only had to think about it rationally as opposed to checking your findings against reality? You know, the guy who kept it secret that the diagonal of a square whose sides are measure in whole numbers cannot by definition be expressed by a ratio of whole numbers?
This is a double-edged sword. The emphasis on god's rationality may encourage rationality ... on the flip side, if we already know that the world is rational, why bother finding out about it? A chaotic universe makes it impossible to figure out; a perfectly ordered one makes it superfluous - or at least it deemphesizes the need to go beyond thinking.
This is but one example of how the same basic view could easily have had a quite different outcome. Philosophies do not have a strict schema to follow.

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With the approval  Thomas gave to reason in Summa Theologica, science could go forward as secure in the existence of natural law, which was a concept al-Ghazzali and al-Ashari denied to Islam by emphasizing God's will and power too much relative to His reason.
Again, this seems to imply that if just Islam could have gotten a handful of other influential people, they would now be sitting on a well of scientific discovery, making chance occurence a factor.

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Merton lists various values that helped promote science among Puritan Englishmen in the seventeenth century.[85]  One is to glorify God and serve Him through doing activities of utility to the community as a whole, as opposed to the contemplative, monastic ideal of withdrawal from the community.
Cool. I imagine this was also conductive to masonry.

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What this shows is the unintended consequences of the new religious values of Protestantism.[95]
I like the word "unintended" here.

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Jesus was the Savior of science--without His birth, life, and resurrection, it never would have existed in this world.
A coda that is sure to impress skeptical people.


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So. To put it more concisely:
Yes, christian philosophy had a hand in scientific progression. How could it not, with its power?
Yes, most scientisits were christian, many if not most of them deeply so. Almost invariably, their opinions were non-canonical.
Yes, christianity did help science along. And it hindered and opposed it. There is no one christianity, much less one christian philosophy. Never even mind christian policies. At one point, science in Britain flourished because the Anglican church left private enthusiasts to their own devices. At one point, science in France flourished because the catholic stranglehold was so strong that even slight deviations from dogma made you a recluse, so many scientist didn't even bother trying.
No, christianity is not the only factor in how philosophy develops, including christian philosophy itself. Politics, wars, famines, prosperity, literacy, economy, etc, etc, etc.
No, you don't get to enumerate Indian/Egyptian/Chinese superstitions as major constraints on science and gloss over European ones.
No, the fact that christianity allowed or pushed science does not mean it could not have come about any other way.


//edit: damn, do I ever need to get a life ...
//edit2: Also, is good.
Changed Change Reason Date
Tonus Great post March 10, 2013, 02:30:30 PM
Quesi Damn. You gave this a bit of thought, didn't you? March 09, 2013, 04:54:49 PM
ParkingPlaces I should get college credit for reading all of this! March 09, 2013, 12:24:55 PM