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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Summa origines scientiarum: Articulus 3

Article 1. Whether there was a Scientific Revolution.
Article 2. Whether the Scientific Revolution was Uniquely Western.

Article 3. Whether Christianity enabled the rise of science in the West

Proœmium. TOF apologizes for the sub-par statements of the objections in this Article, but they have been taken directly from the Jerry Coyne blogpost that initiated the Question,
He blogs: Here are some of my responses to the “science came from Christianity” canard.  A canard is "an unfounded rumor or story," which is a heckuva thing to say about scientists of the stature of Whitehead and Davies, let alone of historians of science like Grant, Lindberg, et al., who may indeed have had some foundation for their historical analyses. Well, it could have been worse. Coyne could have said it was a 'meme,' an invisible sky fairie in which many Late Moderns believe.  
Coyne's objections were:

Objection 1. Even were it true, it doesn’t in any way support the truth claims of Christianity or any other religion.

Objection 2.   Christianity was around for a millennium without much science being done; “modern” science really started as a going concern in the 17th century. Why did that take so long if Christianity was so important in fostering science?

Objection 3.  If you think of science as rational and empirical investigation of the natural world, it originated not with Christianity but with the ancient Greeks, and was also promulgated for a while by Islam.

Objection 4.  Carrier makes the point that there was no scientific revolution in the eastern half of the Christian world. Why was that?

Objection 5.  Another Carrier point: geometry was invented by polytheists (ancient Greeks); do we give polytheism credit for geometry, then?

Objection 6.  Religion has of course also repressed the search for knowledge. Not only do we have the cases of Galileo and Bruno, but also the active discouragement of the use of reason by many church fathers, especially Martin Luther...

Objection 7.  There was and still is, of course, opposition to science by Christians. The greatest opponent of biology’s greatest theory—evolution—has always been Christianity.

Objection 8.  If religion promulgated the search for knowledge, it also gave rise to erroneous, revelation-based “scientific” conclusions that surely impeded progress. Those include creation ex nihilo, the Great Flood, a geocentric universe, and so on.

Objection 9.  Early scientists were Christians, at least in the west [sic], because everyone was a Christian then.  You would have been an apostate, or burnt at the stake, had you denied that faith.  If you’re going to give Christianity credit for science, you have to give it credit for nearly everything, including art, architecture, music, and so on.

Objection 10.  Islam began as a science-supportive regime, but lost its impetus when the faith around the 16th century when religious authorities began repressing a “western” mode of inquiry. This anti-Western attitude may explain the minimal achievements of science in modern Islamic nations.

Objection 11.  At present nearly half of science are atheists, and the argument that religion motivates science can no longer stand. The major achievements of science, including relativity, evolution, and modern molecular biology, were achieved by non-theists. Indeed, Jim Watson told me that his and Crick’s drive to find the structure of DNA was largely motivated by a desire to show that the “secret of life”—the replicating molecule that serves as a recipe for bodies—was pure chemistry, with not a trace of the divine in it.

Objection 12.  All progress in science, whether ancient or modern, came from ignoring or rejecting the idea of divine intervention. Even if theories were inspired by thoughts of God, they were substantiated or disproven by tacitly assuming a godless universe—that is, by employing methodological naturalism. Religion has only impeded that kind of investigation and, in fact, has never come up with a theory on its own that had scientific credibility.  Newton, for instance, couldn’t explain regular planetary motion, and had to invoke divine intervention (so much for God helping science!) until Laplace came along and showed that orbital irregularities could be explained in a purely naturalistic way. (As Laplace supposedly replied to Napoleon, who had read Kepler’s book on celestial mechanics and inquired about the absence of God in that tome, “I have no need of that hypothesis.”)

On the contrary, the Book of Wisdom (7:17-22) reads:
For [God] gave me sound knowledge of what exists, that I might know:
the structure of the universe -- and the force of its elements,
The beginning and the end -- and the midpoint of times,

the changes in the sun’s course -- and the variations of the seasons,
Cycles of years -- positions of stars,
natures of living things -- tempers of beasts,

Powers of the winds -- and thoughts of human beings,
uses of plants -- and virtues of roots—
Whatever is hidden or plain I learned,
for Wisdom, the artisan of all, taught me
I answer that in Article 2, we saw several reasons why Science, as the Modern world understands it, arose only in the West, even though fits and starts could be seen in other, nearby cultures. The development of natural science is not an inevitable thing that can only be delayed or impeded.  It is something that no culture ever developed except one -- and almost another. It is also clear that:
  • during the medieval era, the West shot ahead of the House of Submission in science and technology alike, 
  • medieval culture was Christian to the bone. 
  • Therefore, it remains to be shown that this association was essential and not accidental (in Modern terms: a cause and not merely a correlation). 
To do this we must show that key elements of Christian belief were "enablers" of key foundations of science. Some of these elements were shared with other cultures, but not all.

The "enabling" was not the mere fact that early proto-scientists were Christian (or muslim!).  When everyone is a Christian (or a muslim!) there is no particular significance to the fact. Nor is it the case that individual scientists were "inspired" to do science, although a better case can be made for that in an era long before the field had proven itself. What is needed is a structural connection at the level of the history of ideas.

There are several interconnected elements:

1. The belief in linear time. 
The Christians believed that the World had a beginning and would have an end (i.e., time has direction). This contrasted with the belief in most other cultures that the World ran in endless, repeated cycles. Having observed the daily cycle of the sun, the monthly cycle of the moon, the annual cycle of the stars, and the various peculiar cycles of the wandering gods, the sages of Babylon, Egypt, Greece, India, China, and Mexico became enthralled with calculating the "Great Year" when all these cycles would finally match up and begin repeating. The concomitant belief was that events on earth were not due to immediate "causal" factors but simply due to the point in time on the great celestial cycle. That is, when the stars were once again aligned as they were in his day, Socrates will again be be born, will again be betrayed, and will again drink the hemlock. What meaning can natural laws have when instead of A causing B, A and B simply happen at their appointed times because it was time for them to happen, and that these times can be foretold by predicting the motions of the stars? Natural science would die for lack of oxygen.

Although individuals even in Christendom have always been susceptible to the allure of "the glory that was Greece" or the hermetic "mysteries of the Orient," the official teaching of the Church was dead set against fatalism and astrology, so when they translated the works of the ancient Greeks, they skimmed off the irrational parts and kept the rational. Even Aristotle, who was the most empirical of the lot, fell victim to the Great Year nonsense, which is why ancient Greek science never really got rolling.  This opened the door to the idea of linear time and causation. Thus Christendom aided the emergence of Science by removing the greatest obstacle to it.
A corollary to the belief that "In the beginning, God created..." is that God had created something. That is, the physical universe is not an illusion, or a "veil" between the mind and the really real reality, as has been the case in some cultures. Remember, no science can prove its own axioms, and physical science must assume a physical world a priori. Presenting empirical evidence of anything presupposes that the evidence actually is empirical. 
2. The belief in a rationally-ordered universe. 
"Thou hast disposed all things by measure and number and weight" (Wis. 11:20).  The Christians believed that God was a rational being, and that when man was created in His image, it meant that man was created with a rational soul (anima).  Adelard of Bath writes:
"It is through reason that we are human.  For if we turn our backs on the amazing rational beauty of the World we live in, we should indeed deserve to be driven therefrom, like a guest unappreciative of the house into which he has been received." 
-- Quaestiones naturales
Creation therefore must be rationally-ordered because a rational mind had conceived it.  Joseph Needham, a Marxist atheist, ascribed the failure of China to produce Science (in the modern sense) to her lack of belief in a singular rational creator:
It was not that there was no order in nature for the Chinese, but rather that it was not an order ordained by a rational personal being, and hence there was no conviction that rational personal beings would be able to spell out in their lesser earthly languages the divine code of laws which he had decreed aforetime. The Taoists, indeed, would have scorned such an idea as being too naïve for the subtlety and complexity of the universe as they intuited it.
--Needham, Joseph and Ling Wang. Science and Civilisation in China.
1 Introductory Orientations.
(Cambridge University Press, 1954)

3. The belief that this rational order is discernible by humans.
The Christian doctrine of synderesis (conscience) held that human reason was capable of reaching correct conclusions regarding natural and moral law. "Goddidit" was not an acceptable explanation in medieval Christian philosophy:
"[They say] 'We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it.' You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so." 
-- William of Conches, Dragmatikon

Historians have noted the manner in which Christian Europe went ape over reason. Edward Grant wrote:
The new emphasis on reason and rationality had emerged by the eleventh and twelfth centuries following a lengthy evolutionary transformation from the earlier centuries of the Roman Empire. They became permanent and characteristic features of the Latin Middle Ages. The wide-spread, conscious reliance on reason, and reasoned argument, in medieval Western society seems to have had no counterpart in any other civilization about which we have any knowledge. Why this occurred is simply unknown, and is perhaps ultimately inexplicable.
 

Whatever the cause of it, the emphasis on reason in the twelfth century is a phenomenon of the greatest importance. We must not view it as some sort of revival, or renaissance, of an earlier time when reason may have played a significant role in the West. There was really no such time. Reason as a self-conscious driving force in learning and in society had never occurred in the West until the twelfth century. Once established, however, reason came to play a large and significant role, and has remained a major driving force in the West to the present day.
"Why this occurred" is hinted at by Berenger of Tours who wrote that "he who does not avail himself of reason abandons his chief honor, since by virtue of reason he was made in the image of God." This religious belief that "the image of God" referred not to some physical shape but to the spark of reason meant that to abandon reason was in a real sense to abandon God.  Investigation of the natural world began to be seen as a religious duty.

4. The belief in a common course of nature. 
"The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all his works." (Psalm 145:13)  By  revealing His rational nature, wrote Anselm of Canterbury, and because He is faithful to His promises, God has bound Himself to act in a certain way.  Such beliefs disposed the Christians to conceive a consistent World, knowable by "measuring, numbering, and weighing." Hence, there were laws of nature. The muslims, although they shared many other beliefs with the Christians, regarded the course of nature as being only the "habits of God."  God was totally free and thus his habits are not the same as natural laws.

Alfred North Whitehead, the great mathematician and physicist, wrote:
I do not think that I have even yet brought out the greatest contribution of medievalism to the formation of the scientific movement. I mean the inexpungable belief that every detailed occurrence can be correlated with its antecedents in a perfectly definite manner, exemplifying general principles. Without this belief the incredible labours of scientists would be without hope. It is this instinctive conviction, vividly poised before the imagination, which is the motive power of research: -- that there is a secret, a secret which can be unveiled.
-- Lowell lectures on Science and the Modern World (1925)
By the Middle Ages, the expression machina mundi, the machine of the world, had become commonplace. There were no nymphs in the wells, no dryads in the trees, the heavens were not "alive, divine, and influential in human affairs," but just another created thing. ("God created the heaven and the earth.") The ancients had conceived the world as a sort of organism possessing a kind of life and willfulness of its own, not as a sort of machine. Obviously, there can be no common course of Nature if Nature itself has a mind of its own.

5. The belief in secondary causation.
"Then God said: Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: tame animals, crawling things, and every kind of wild animal." (Gen.1:24)  Commenting on this text, Augustine of Hippo pointed out:  
It is therefore, causally that Scripture has said that earth brought forth the crops and trees, in the sense that [earth] received the power of bringing them forth. 
-- On the literal meanings of Genesis, Book V Ch. 4:11
This meant that physical bodies possessed immanent powers that could act on other physical bodies directly, a doctrine known as Secondary Causation. Thus, the Christians believed that God had given fire the power to burn things and that fire could not burn unless God continued to will it.  Al-Ghazali, on the other hand, taught that God creates the heat in the flame and God creates the blackening and disintegration of the cloth directly, and it is only the habit of God that these two things occur together. (This doctrine of occasionalism was later picked up by Hume during the collapse of Western philosophy.)

As William of Conches wrote (in the Dragmatikon), "[God] is the author of all things, evil excepted.  But the natures with which He endowed His creatures accomplish a whole scheme of operations, and these too turn to His glory since it is He who created these very natures." And Alberus Magnus wrote:
"In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass."  
-- Albertus Magnus, De vegetabilibus et plantis
This meant that the common course of nature was due to natural laws.  That the reasons for material phenomena should be sought in the natures of things and not in the inscrutable Will of a transcendent Deity – and with the assurance that these secondary causes are both consistent and rationally accessible – was a uniquely Western worldview without which natural science could not have taken root.  This Christian approach is called "methodological naturalism."
I propose here… to show the causes of some effects which seem to be miracles and to show that the effects occur naturally…  There is no reason to take recourse to the heavens [astrology], the last refuge of the weak, or to demons, or to our glorious God, as if he would produce these effects directly… 
-- Nicole d’Oresme, De causa mirabilium

6. The study of Nature was embedded in the culture. 
Every culture has produced individuals interested in the workings of Nature, but nowhere else was that study embedded in the culture at large.  Instead, it was the preserve of scattered individuals. Thus, the Christian origin of Science is not a question of individual natural philosophers being motivated by their religious beliefs. Rather, those religious doctrines in which they believed shaped habits of mind that encouraged study of "the Book of Nature," as discussed above. 

The embedding took place because the universities, institutions unique to Christendom, provided a "home base" to natural philosophy relatively free of interference by political authorities. Of the 68 chartered universities, 53 carried either papal charters or joint papal-imperial charters. Thanks to the papal bull Parens scientiarum, the "Magna carta of the universities," the universities were free to choose their own courses and manners of instruction, with restrictions only in the graduate school of theology. The curriculum consisted almost entirely of logic, reason, and natural philosophy. These universities graduated hundreds of thousands of students, most of whom went into normal commercial life. Never before (or since!) has such a large percentage of the population been educated exclusively in science. In particular, every student matriculated in the graduate school of theology had first to earn a masters degree in natural philosophy. In modern terms: every theologian had been trained as a scientist.
In Greece, Rome, and elsewhere, religion had always been a department of the State.  Priests were government officials and temples were state-run. Charlemagne had modeled his empire on Rome, including imperial control of the Church.  But in the early Middle Ages, following Matthew 22:21 ("Render unto Caesar...") and Augustine's The City of God, the Church managed to strip the princes of their spiritual roles, creating something new in history: the secular state

Consequently, in the Middle Ages, there was always another authority to appeal to.  In the social space between Church and State, independent, self-governing institutions -- guilds, universities, free towns, professional societies -- could grow, which were elsewhere subordinate to emirs or bureaucrats.   
The universities themselves had for the most part originated in the cathedral schools of the early middle ages during the Carolingian renaissance.  And the texts that formed the curriculum had been meticulously copied by scholar-monks as part of their religious duties. The Greek texts they preferentially copied were those dealing with logic, math (incl. astronomy and optics), natural philosophy, and medicine -- texts which had been largely unavailable in Latin during imperial times.  This cherry-picking of ancient Greek texts by medieval copyists has given the Modern world an exaggerated impression of Greek rationality. 

The upshot was that education in natural philosophy was widespread, persistent, and standardized across Western Christendom in a way that it had never been elsewhere and elsewhen.

7. The belief in the nobility of labor.
Christianity had been founded by a carpenter and spread by fishermen, tent-makers, and other "blue-collar" types. Thus, the Christians could not disdain work with the hands as the pagans had.
"Archimedes possessed such a lofty spirit, so profound a soul, and such a wealth of scientific theory, that although his inventions had won for him a name and fame for superhuman sagacity, he would not consent to leave behind him any treatise on this subject, but regarding the work of an engineer and every art that ministers to the needs of life as ignoble and vulgar, he devoted his earnest efforts only to those studies the subtlety and charm of which are not affected by the claims of necessity."
-- Plutarch, Life of Marcellus, 17.
But the advancement of science requires deliberate experimentation, which is to say manual labor. Archimedes had to be compelled by King Hiero to invent things for the defense of Syracuse because he considered it unworthy. But in the Middle Ages, people bragged about things they had done with their hands. Great clockmakers like Henry Bate and Giovanni de'Dondi boasted of building their clocks "manu complevi propria" (completed with [my] own hand).  A new term appeared: ingeniator, earliest citation: 1170, at Durham: Ricardus ingeniator, vir artifiosus (Richard the Engineer, man of artifacts). 

The medieval Christians began to envision novelties and attempted systematically to achieve them.  Some efforts were successful – the mechanical clock – other, less so – perpetual motion machines.  But the idea of deliberate innovation became embedded in Western thought. 
Robert the Englishman noted this deliberateness in 1271, when he wrote that clockmakers were “trying to invent an escapement which will move exactly as the equinoctial circle does; but they can’t quite manage the job.  If they could, they would have a really accurate time-piece.”  By the mid-14th century, Europeans were raising intricate clocks in their public squares.  By the 15th century, they had invented spring-driven portable clocks.  By the end of the era, pendant clocks dangled on lanyards from the necks of the wealthy. 
Ingeniators were not ashamed of manual labor. They gave the world eyeglasses, escapements, camshafts and gearing, windmills, etc.  Even some natural philosophers engaged in experimentation. Theodoric of Freiburg conducted an experiment using water-fill glass balls by which he explained the optics of the rainbow. 

8. Christianity was a proselytizing religion. 
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations..." (Matt.28:19).  As mentioned in Article 2, ancient philosophers did not believe that wisdom was fit for the masses
alluding to certain doctrines only symbolically; scattering or suppressing the premises of an argument; dealing with subjects outside their proper context; speaking enigmatically...; transposing words and letters [!]; deliberately using equivocal terms; introducing contradictory premises...; employing extreme brevity ...; refraining from drawing obvious conclusions; ...
-- Barry Kogan, Averroes, quoted in (Huff, 2003)
Gnosticism inner-circle knowledge affected Jews, pagans, Christians, and muslims.  Jews and pagans were not interested in proselytizing. Their religions were essentially ethnic.  Muslims would accept converts, but did no go out and preach to infidels in hopes of winning them over.*  But the Christians, in preaching to all nations, were compelled to make their message clear and concise, and it is clear, concise language that natural science requires, not enigmas and equivocation. This led to the dialectic form of argument.
(*) Military conquest and the dhimmi tax usually worked; but it was not until the 10th-11th centuries that Islam became a majority religion in the Middle East.  At the time of the First Crusade, Antioch was still Greek and Orthodox and Egypt was 50% Coptic Orthodox.

The dialectic was a format in which the best arguments for and against a question were laid out, debated, and resolved.  It emerged from the Sic et non of Peter Abelard and developed through the Sentences of Peter Lombard and the Summae of Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas.  Even in the theology schools, scholars debated against the doctrines as well as in favor, and had to give reasons why a doctrine should be held. It is difficult to imagine this "culture of poking around" in schools teaching Holy Qur'an or the Confucian texts. Natural science could not arise in a milieu that did not encourage such inquiry.
"Assertions… concerning natural philosophy, which do not pertain to theology, should not be solemnly condemned or forbidden to anyone, since in such matters everyone should be free to say freely whatever he pleases."
-- William of Ockham 
without, we assume, being condemned as "denialists."


Summula.
You can't grow an oak without an acorn, and the natural philosophy of Aristotle was certainly the material cause of the emergence of Science. No society ever came close to developing a science of Nature without some exposure to Aristotle. But Aristotle was not a sufficient cause and in some regards (use of mathematics in physics, use of deliberate experimentation) he exerted a retarding influence.  So while some Greeks and some muslims worked in natural philosophy, little ultimately came of it because some aspects of their cultures were hostile, indifferent, or simply incompatible with it. The Greeks were hampered by astrological beliefs in an organic universe governed by multiple gods.  The muslims, who came closer than anyone else, were hampered by a doctrine of occasionalism that got in the way of secondary causation.  Christian beliefs that a rational God had endowed matter with natures having the ability to act developed a theory of consistent natural laws. Their belief in synderesis led to the belief that the rational order of the world was accessible to human reason -- and not simply to the inner circle of Really Smart People.  Their belief that Church and State were separate things led to self-governing universities. Along with a spirit of free inquiry into nature and a willingness to perform manual labor, these proved decisive in nurturing natural science. 

Regarding the Objections:

Reply to Objection 1.  Even were it true, it doesn’t in any way support the truth claims of Christianity or any other religion.
So what? The argument is that Christianity gave birth to science, not that the "truth claims" of Christianity are true. It doesn't matter if it is true that physical bodies can act directly on other physical bodies as the Christians believed.  It only matters that they believed it.

But it is significant that this seems to be the first response that comes to Coyne's mind.

Reply to Objection 2.   Christianity was around for a millennium without much science being done; “modern” science really started as a going concern in the 17th century. Why did that take so long if Christianity was so important in fostering science?

It is hard to know if Coyne is serious about this, but he may be no more familiar with history than he is with philosophy. Has he not heard of the barbarian Volkerwanderungen? The collapse of the Latin economy after the jihad cut the West off from the East? The consequent withering of the towns? As fast as the Europeans wrote things down, the Saracens, Vikings, and Magyars would burn them up. For that matter, does an evolutionary biologist not appreciate the fact that in history nothing happens overnight?

Perhaps he is thinking that not much engineering was being done, since many people believe that technology is science.  But really, you have to embed reason and causation in the common consciousness before you can build CERN.  Cultural influences are not magic.

Modern science began in the 17th century because the Renaissance was a dead zone for science. The Revolution consisted of subordinating science to engineering and industry.  (Read Bacon, Descartes, Boyle, et al.) That is, science was to be judged by how useful it was for extending Man's dominion over the universe, not for how it might enlighten our understanding of it. The widespread technological innovation of the Middle Ages was done independently of natural philosophy -- by engineers rather than scientists. Even so, we can mark such things as Albertus Magnus' work on botany and his identification of the chemical arsenic; Albert of Saxony's idea of uplift as a counter force to erosion; Buridan's theory of impetus (momentum) and his formulation of "Newton's" first law. Bradwardine's proof of the mean speed theorem and Oresme's use of geometry to demonstrate it graphically. Grosseteste's development of the archetypal scientific method and his suggestion that light was the first form to come to matter, starting as a pinpoint and expanding to make the universe. Peter Maricourt's laws of magnetism; a whole cartload of work on optics, Jordanus' solution to motion on an inclined plane, the invention of fractions (admittedly mathematics, not science). More information can be found in Lindberg (15).

The 14th century was poised to kick things off, but the Black Death kicked things off first and dropped the number of natural philosophers below critical mass. Not until the 17th century did Europe's population equal that of the 14th century. By then, the printing press (the medieval world's last great invention) had increased the velocity of ideas. Think of it like a nuclear pile.

Reply to Objection 3.  If you think of science as rational and empirical investigation of the natural world, it originated not with Christianity but with the ancient Greeks, and was also promulgated for a while by Islam.

This was addressed in Article 2.  We overestimate the role of rational and empirical investigation of  Nature in ancient Greece precisely because the medievals preferentially translated and copied ancient Greek writings in logic, mathematics, and natural philosophy (at the expense of ancient Greek liturgical texts, literature, etc.) Of course, a number of individual Greek philosophers studied nature, but science as we understand it is not the haphazard accumulation of factoids.

Science was not "promulgated ... by Islam." There were some muslim faylasuf -- typically from Spain or Persia -- who were enchanted by Aristotle, but their efforts were individual, tolerated by some rulers, repressed by others. The investigation of nature was never "institutionalized in the culture" as it was in the Latin West; it was never taught in the madrassas. Al-Kindi, ibn Rushd, and others loom larger in the Western imagination than in the House of Submission, where they were largely forgotten until modern times. As ibn Khaldûn wrote:
"The problems of physics are of no importance for us in our religious affairs or our livelihoods; therefore we must leave them alone."
Reply to Objection 4.  There was no scientific revolution in the eastern half of the Christian world. Why was that?

Because by the 17th century Byzantium was ruled by muslim Turks. Duh?

Again, this is magical thinking on Coyne's part.  Necessary conditions and not always sufficient conditions.  Does he expect Science!™ to spring from a baptized forehead as Athena from the brow of Zeus?  This is the Intelligent Design Theory of History.  No, it is more an evolutionary process.

The oriental orthodox churches in Syria and Egypt had been swallowed up by the jihad right from the get-go, though they still supplied the scholars that translated the Greek corpus from Syriac into Arabic. As for the eastern orthodox, the Byzantine Empire was engaged in a centuries-long existential war against the jihad and may have had other things on her mind.  By the 13th century she was exhausted and broken. The loss of much of the Byzantine heritage during the Turkish conquest means we do not have a clear picture of what took place there in natural philosophy; though we do know that the Neoplatonic-Aristotelian synthesis was followed with its Christian modifications. (E.g., John Philoponus conducted Galileo's experiments with the inclined plane.) 

Reply to Objection 5.  geometry was invented by polytheists (ancient Greeks); do we give polytheism credit for geometry, then?

Not unless Coyne can show which aspects of Greek paganism informed the invention of geometry.  Besides, geometry is mathematics, not natural science. (No one proves a geometric theorem by collecting and measuring empirical data.) 

Reply to Objection 6.  Religion has of course also repressed the search for knowledge. Not only do we have the cases of Galileo and Bruno, but also the active discouragement of the use of reason by many church fathers, especially Martin Luther...

Sigh.  The case of Galileo has become one of those dumb-shows played by cardboard stereotypes after the actual facts have passed across the rolling horizon. The search for knowledge was not repressed, given that it proceeded apace and even accelerated. Even Galileo was not repressed, since he wrote his best book after the infamous trial. Basically (and ironically, given Dr. Coyne's concerns) he had been asked politely to not reinterpret Scriptures without empirical evidence that the Copernican hypothesis was factually true.  There is a reason why the Galileo case is the only one ever cited. 

Bruno was not a scientist. He was a hermetic mystic who, for woo-woo reasons adopted the Copernican hypothesis in much the same way as literary deconstructionists today have adopted quantum mechanics. Read Bruno's books and you'll find he had not a clue regarding astronomy, let alone natural science. It does no good to say he should not have been executed. They tried for seven years not to execute him, but the term "suicide by cop" hadn't been invented. His tragedy had nothing to do with science.

Martin Luther was not a Church Father, and the place of reason in Latin Christendom had been settled long before he kicked over the traces.  Both Renaissance humanists and Protestant reformers disparaged the medieval reliance on logic and reason, though for different reasons. 

It is not clear why Galileo is always trotted out.  You would think there would be more victims than one. Surely, listing a half dozen repressed scientists would be more effective.  After all, Lavoisier was guillotined by the rationalists of the French Revolution, so one may always find the odd case here and there without committing the genitive fallacy.   

Reply to Objection 7.  There was and still is, of course, opposition to science by Christians. The greatest opponent of biology’s greatest theory—evolution—has always been Christianity.

This is a prize example of the fallacy of reifying an abstraction. Coyne leaps from opposition "by Christians" to opposition by "Christianity." By the same reasoning one can leap from the commission of crimes by black men to citing "blacks" as the greatest opponent to law and order.  There ought to be a name for this condemnation of millions based on the actions of some. Oh wait. There is.

Two-thirds of the world's Christians are members of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, not of Bill and Ted's Excellent Bible Shack, and neither traditional Church has a problem with the scientific theory of evolution. However, like aluminum, evolution is always found in intellectual compounds with non-scientific propositions: atheism, class warfare, eugenics, and the like. These annexes are often objectionable even if the scientific theory to which they cling is not. Earlier in the 20th century, Christian objections to eugenics was often characterized as being against evolution simply because so many Darwinians were also into eugenics.

The greatest opponent of evolution by natural selection was the Soviet Union, which officially endorsed an alternative theory because Darwinism was too much like free enterprise capitalism.

Reply to Objection 8.  If religion promulgated the search for knowledge, it also gave rise to erroneous, revelation-based “scientific” conclusions that surely impeded progress. Those include creation ex nihilo, the Great Flood, a geocentric universe, and so on.

The geocentric model constructed and taught by the likes of Aristotle, Archimedes, Ptolemy, et al. was so well-supported by empirical evidence that the religious folks took it for granted in their commentaries on what were actually poetic and common-sense references. Now it's denounced as religion getting in the way of science, when it was really more like science getting in the way of religion. That's what those exegetes get for relying on "settled science" and "the consensus of the scientists." 

The great world flood was a scientific conclusion reached by those ancient Greek natural philosophers whom Coyne has earlier praised. The Greek philosopher Xenophanes observed marine fossils in the hills of Greece and believed them to be actual fish and shellfish somehow turned to stone.  The only natural process he knew of that could deposit marine life in the high hills was a flood -- a really, really big flood.  Like a cover-the-whole-world flood. This bit of wisdom entered common culture and showed up in the legends of a great many cultures. (Other peoples than the Greeks could spot fossil shells.) 
   
Creation is not a scientific proposition at all and has nothing to do with the transformation of Stuff from one form to another. This is an ignorance shared (as usual) by atheists and fundamentalists alike.  But if one is going to say "creatio ex nihilo," one really ought to understand what was meant by the dudes who were writing about it.

Reply to Objection 9.  Early scientists were Christians, at least in the west, because everyone was a Christian then.  You would have been an apostate, or burnt at the stake, had you denied that faith.   

The argument was not that "early scientists were Christians" but that Christian beliefs and culture facilitated the emergence of natural science. We might even say that certain Christian "memes" were crucial to the cultural evolution of natural science. Or we would if "memes" were not a fantasy made up by Dawkins doing bad metaphysics. 

However, we know from their own writings that those folks were not scientists (or proto-scientists) who just happened to be Christian but were Christians who conducted science from their deeply held beliefs. One need only consider the number who were themselves clerics: from Bishop Robert Grosseteste to Fr. Georges Lemaitre. Someone might be a pewsitter solely from social pressure, but it's more difficult to make that assertion regarding a bishop. Besides, it was not that easy to get burned. Basically, you had to be an heresiarch, not simply mouthing off. Most penalties imposed were far less than capital crimes. 

Reply to Objection 9a.  If you’re going to give Christianity credit for science, you have to give it credit for nearly everything, including art, architecture, music, and so on.

Well, yes.  But scientists are often unclear on the history of "art, architecture, music, and so on."  Perhaps Coyne is not familiar with the origins of polyphony, musical notation, flying buttresses, or the art of Giotto.

Reply to Objection 10.  Islam began as a science-supportive regime, but lost its impetus when the faith [sic] around the 16th century when religious authorities began repressing a “western” mode of inquiry. This anti-Western attitude may explain the minimal achievements of science in modern Islamic nations.

That's nice, but irrelevant to the proposition that Christian beliefs and culture facilitated the emergence of natural science.  We have also seen that "Islam" was not a "science-supporting" "regime."

Reply to Objection 11.  At present nearly half of science [sic] are atheists, and the argument that religion motivates science can no longer stand. The major achievements of science, including relativity, evolution, and modern molecular biology, were achieved by non-theists. Indeed, Jim Watson told me that his and Crick’s drive to find the structure of DNA was largely motivated by a desire to show that the “secret of life”—the replicating molecule that serves as a recipe for bodies—was pure chemistry, with not a trace of the divine in it.

Notice that these objections are getting wordier and more off the point. The argument was not that "religion motivates science."  It was that Christian beliefs and culture facilitated the emergence of natural science. This would be the case if those immersed in that culture were atheists. They still believe that the world exists, it is rationally-ordered, that human reason can learn something of that order, that there are natural laws, that nature acts directly, and so forth. It is not yet clear whether they are "coasting on the fumes" of the old Western civilization or whether they can now proceed without the incubator.

Coyne's calumny against Watson -- that he was not motivated by a search for truth and knowledge, but by a desire to push an ideological agenda -- is staggering. It reminds one of Yuri Gagarin's announcement that after going into orbit he did not see God anywhere up there. Undoubtedly, we await the breathless announcement that the helical structure of a wood screw means that screwing is entirely mechanical with not a trace of a carpenter in it.

Ironically, Watson has had personal experience with what happens to people who utter heresy.

Reply to Objection 12.  All progress in science, whether ancient or modern, came from ignoring or rejecting the idea of divine intervention. Even if theories were inspired by thoughts of God, they were substantiated or disproven by tacitly assuming a godless universe—that is, by employing methodological naturalism. Religion has only impeded that kind of investigation and, in fact, has never come up with a theory on its own that had scientific credibility.  Newton, for instance, couldn’t explain regular planetary motion, and had to invoke divine intervention (so much for God helping science!) until Laplace came along and showed that orbital irregularities could be explained in a purely naturalistic way. (As Laplace supposedly replied to Napoleon, who had read Kepler’s book on celestial mechanics and inquired about the absence of God in that tome, “I have no need of that hypothesis.”)

Oy!  Growing even more bloviated. Aquinas was so much more concise in stating this objection. It seems to be a mash-up of several consecutive stream-of-consiousness thoughts.

First of all the medieval Christians likewise rejected the idea of divine intervention to account for the common course of nature, so Coyne is simply parroting Catholic doctrine here. We don't say that Hamlet killed Polonius because of Shakespearean intervention. In fact, if an author "intervenes" in a work, it is considered bad art.

It is not the business of religion to provide scientifically credible theories about natural phenomena. As Augustine said:
In the Gospel we do not read that the Lord said: ‘I send you the Holy Spirit so that He might teach you all about the course of the sun and the moon.’  The Lord wanted to make Christians, not astronomers.  You learn at school all the useful things you need to know about nature.”
-- Contra Faustum manichaeum 

Theories may or may not be inspired by thoughts of God, but that was not the proposition being raised.

Methodological naturalism does not assume a godless universe. It simply does not call upon God for an explanation. The universe may or may not be godless. An analogy may help.  My auto mechanic has no need of Darwin's theory in order to explain how my transmission works. But that doesn't mean he assumes a Darwinless universe.  As Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn put it in First Things magazine:
Scientists are most welcome to "explain everything they need to without appeal to God;" indeed, I hope all the readers of First Things would join me in strenuously objecting if God is ever invoked in the course of normal scientific explanation! 
which echoes the comments of William of Conches, Nicole Oresme, Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, and all the rest. The Christian belief that physical bodies have natures capable of acting directly upon one another is held to this day -- even by atheists. 

Which helps explain what Laplace actually meant.  He had not learned to do without God; he had simply learned to mind his own business. The equations for a jet engine do not include a term for "Frank Whittle," either.

Napoleon was not asking because he had read Kepler.  Kepler is notoriously difficult to read for a non-mathematician. He was asking because Newton had postulated divine intervention to account for the fact that the solar system had not yet flown apart.  (Newtonian dynamics is not analytically solvable and produces an unstable system.)  However, two generations after Laplace, Poincare blew the whole tight little Laplacian determinism out of the water, a tale for another time. (Ekeland, pp.12-48)
+ + + 

PS

Coyne goes on:  And of course there’s a contradiction, too: if religion and science are separate magisteria, as Gould maintained, then the [sic] are completely separate and can only harm each other by overstepping their bounds.  But if you claim that religion inspired scientific theories and scientific progress, that’s a NOMA boundary violation.

Lets call the NOMA police.  Let's see, if cooking and police detection are separate magisteria, what harm results from catering a police meeting?  The part of Coyne's statement after "can only harm each other..." simply does not logically follow. A good meal may actually improve a detective's crime-solving.

There are in addition, several noteworthy comments from the Amen corner in the comm box, but TOF has not the heart to deal with them after all this. They are the same old, tired reflexive ejaculations of faith.

References

  1. Bacon, Roger.  On experimental science. (Oxford, 1268) 
  2. Dear, Peter. Disciplining Experience: The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution.  (University of Chicago Press, 1995)
  3. Duhem, Pierre.  Essays in the History and Philosophy of Science, tr. Roger Ariew and Peter Barker.  (Hackett, 1996).  
  4. Ekeland, Ivar.  Mathematics and the Unexpected.  (University of Chicago Press, 1988)
  5. Gies, Frances & Joseph Gies.  Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel.  (HarperPerennial, 1995).  
  6. Gimpel, Jean.  The Medieval Machine.  (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976)  
  7. Grant, Edward.  The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages.  (Cambridge University Press, 1996).  
  8. Grant, Edward.  God and Reason in the Middle Ages.  (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
  9. Gregory IX.  Parens scientiarum.  (Vatican, 1231)  
  10. Grosseteste, Robert.  De iride, et al.:
  11. Huff, Toby E. The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West. (Cambridge University Press, 2003)
  12. Jaki, Stanley L. The Savior of Science. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1988)
  13. Jaki, Stanley.  The Limits of a Limitless Science.  (ISI Books, 2000)
  14. Kadhim, Najah.  “Between Text and History: Re-establishing the Intellectual Link,”
  15. Kibre, Pearl & Nancy Siraisi.  “The Institutional Setting: The Universities,” in (15)
  16. Lindberg, David C., ed.  Science in the Middle Ages.  (University of Chicago Press, 1978).  
  17. Lindberg, David C.  The Beginnings of Western Science.  (University of Chicago Press, 1992).  
  18. Mahoney, Michael S.  “Mathematics,” contained in (15).
  19. Oresme, Nicholas.  “On the diurnal motion of the earth,” from Livre du ciel et du monde.  (Paris, 1377)  
  20. Sivin, Nathan.  “Why the Scientific Revolution Did Not Take Place in China – Or Didn't It?” 
  21. Stock, Brian.  “Science, Technology, and Economic Progress in the Early Middle Ages,” contained in (15).  
  22. Wallace, William.  “The Philosophical Setting of Medieval Science,” in (15).
  23. Wallace, William.  The Modeling of Nature: Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Nature in Synthesis.  (Scholarly Book Services, 1997) 
  24. White, Lynne.  Medieval Technology and Social Change.  (Oxford University Press, 1964).

41 comments:

  1. Mike,

    If ever you get the time or inclination, I'd love to see a post of yours comparing Lysenkoism and suppression of research in the Soviet Union with the Galileo case. I think it would be interesting to see which of the two topics was more emblematic of being 'anti-science'.

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    1. To reply to obj 5:

      Besides, geometry is mathematics, not natural science. (No one proves a geometric theorem by collecting and measuring empirical data.)

      False. Pi is measured over and over again by laying out pebbles along a circle and its diameter, another circle and its diameter and counting the pebbles and doing the division.

      Not unless Coyne can show which aspects of Greek paganism informed the invention of geometry.

      Shall we take Pythagoras or Euclid? Pythagoras owed lots to superstitious motivation, just as astronomers to astrological one. Euclid to its weakening through Aristotle, though.

      From reply to Obj 7:

      Two-thirds of the world's Christians are members of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, not of Bill and Ted's Excellent Bible Shack, and neither traditional Church has a problem with the scientific theory of evolution.

      Except that traditionally they have so. St Robert Bellarmine would have stood with Hovind and not with Lemaître. You are generalising, since it is wrong to say Catholics and Orthodox accept evolution just because some do so.

      citing ad 8

      The Greek philosopher Xenophanes observed marine fossils in the hills of Greece and believed them to be actual fish and shellfish somehow turned to stone. The only natural process he knew of that could deposit marine life in the high hills was a flood -- a really, really big flood. Like a cover-the-whole-world flood. This bit of wisdom entered common culture and showed up in the legends of a great many cultures. (Other peoples than the Greeks could spot fossil shells.)

      Wow, Xenophanes a better Christian than Schönborn!

      Creation is not a scientific proposition at all and has nothing to do with the transformation of Stuff from one form to another. This is an ignorance shared (as usual) by atheists and fundamentalists alike.

      Oh, fundies are ignorant about this one are they?

      CMI - Before the Big Bang
      by Russell Griggs
      http://creation.com/before-the-big-bang


      citing 12 itself

      Newton, for instance, couldn’t explain regular planetary motion, and had to invoke divine intervention (so much for God helping science!) until Laplace came along and showed that orbital irregularities could be explained in a purely naturalistic way.

      The question was perhaps not so much orbital irregularities as how a balancing between gravitation and inertia could lead to revolution after revolution after revolution of two bodies around common centre of gravity ... and it is not just two bodies either ... without ever getting out of balance and smaller body shooting off at a tangent or falling in to the bigger one.

      And so far I have not come across Laplace's purely naturalistic solution. I have time after time come across his theory of planets forming from original disc of whirling gas, which is another matter.

      Which is one reason why I prefer the medieval solution also supported by Riccioli (thanking O'Floinn for citing him!) which I outlined here:

      Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Against O'Floinn on Relation of 17th C. Scientific Revolution to 13th C. Scholasticism

      In paragraphs:

      But the machina mundi that Sacrobosco and St Thomas envisaged was not selfrunning. Confer my remark about a bike.

      If you want to make a model of the universe as seen by the men of the 13th C. make a merry-go-round. etc.

      Delete
    2. Sorry for replying formally to "Crude" instead of to article, but there was just one reply button before I logged in.

      Delete
    3. TOF: Besides, geometry is mathematics, not natural science. (No one proves a geometric theorem by collecting and measuring empirical data.)

      Hans: False. Pi is measured over and over again by laying out pebbles along a circle and its diameter, another circle and its diameter and counting the pebbles and doing the division.


      a) This is not doing mathematics.
      b) It is not proving a theorem.
      c) It is incapable of demonstrating that the value of pi is not a ratio of integers.
      d) What physical experiment do you suggest for proving that a topology on a function space is conjoining and splitting?

      TOF: Not unless Coyne can show which aspects of Greek paganism informed the invention of geometry.

      Hans: Pythagoras owed lots to superstitious motivation, just as astronomers to astrological one.


      But we're not talking about an individual's motivations. We're talking about how a cast of thought engenders natural science. Pythagoreanism was in many respects a worship of mathematics, not vice versa.

      Hans: St Robert Bellarmine would have stood with Hovind and not with Lemaître.

      And you know this how? Note also that relativity was taught in mathematics, not in physics, until physical proofs were found, such as the orbit of Mercury or the background radiation. This was precisely what Bellarmine was asking for in his letter to Foscarini. That he did not expect empirical evidences to be found doesn't change the nature of his objection to the lack of them.

      Hans: You are generalising, since it is wrong to say Catholics and Orthodox accept evolution just because some do so.

      Unlike the sundry do-it-yourself sects, which set the individual's will against the magisterium (or as the Orthodox call them, the Holy Traditions), the Traditional Churches have official teachings and it does not matter what wackadoodle notions some of their members might entertain. I said that the Catholic and Orthodox churches had no problem with the scientific theory, but only with the metaphysical and social baggage that has been piggybacked onto it.

      Hans: Wow, Xenophanes a better Christian than Schönborn!

      Hard to say. Which one was responsible for the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

      Newton, for instance, couldn’t explain regular planetary motion, and had to invoke divine intervention (so much for God helping science!) until Laplace came along and showed that orbital irregularities could be explained in a purely naturalistic way.

      Hans: The question was perhaps not so much orbital irregularities as how a balancing between gravitation and inertia could lead to revolution after revolution after revolution of two bodies around common centre of gravity ... and it is not just two bodies either ... without ever getting out of balance and smaller body shooting off at a tangent or falling in to the bigger one. And so far I have not come across Laplace's purely naturalistic solution. I have time after time come across his theory of planets forming from original disc of whirling gas, which is another matter.


      There is a good discussion of the transition from Ptolemy to Newton to Laplace to Poincare in the Ekelund book that is referenced. For the straigh skinny on Laplace, try Exposition du système du monde https://archive.org/details/expositiondusys02laplgoog
      The old Catholic Encyclopedia says of Laplace: Laplace was born and died a Catholic. It has been asserted that to Laplace the Creator was an hypothesis. The origin of this assertion lies in the misinterpretation of a passage of the "Système du Monde" (Oeuvres, VI, 1835, p. 480), where it is evident that by "vain hypotheses" Laplace meant the Deus ex machina of Newton and the "perpetual miracle" of Leibniz's Harmony.

      Hope this helps.

      Delete
  2. Go become a janitor. Or are you too "sophisticated" for that?

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    1. This comment is directed at Mr Lundahl.

      Delete
    2. Is "anonymous" afraid of the debate?

      I am not too sophisticated to be a janitor, but too inefficient in scrubbing.

      Delete
    3. I have also heard from youth in the age to be studying at senior high school "go take a work" or even "sell your butt".

      Maybe their teachers do not want them to take notice of any writing coming from me. Maybe because they are even worse than O'Flynn in answering my arguments (atheist teachers in Paris not being the brightest).

      Just maybe.

      And the fact that you remain anonymous does not make me trust you are either a Christian or an English speaker.

      Delete
  3. Very interesting TOF; I picked up alot of ideas and names I'd never heard of. Thanks and please keep up the good works.

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  4. Secondary Causation. Thus, the Christians believed that God had given fire the power to burn things and that fire could not burn unless God continued to will it. Al-Ghazali, on the other hand, taught that God creates the heat in the flame and God creates the blackening and disintegration of the cloth directly, and it is only the habit of God that these two things occur together.

    A question that I hope isn't a rabbit hole: it seems to me that the Muslim position explained here doesn't actually allow a useful epistemology. The perception of secondary causality depends on the report of our senses to our minds to be trustworthy; the conviction the world is not an illusion and we can perceive its reality. If I hold a coin and catch it, I can trust the edges I think I feel are edges; if it landed heads up I can trust I see the head. But if, in the Muslim position, there is only the habit of a coin falling instead of floating away, doesn't it follow that seeing the head is also contingent on the whim of the deity? Isn't it then merely God's habit that our senses accurately convey info. to the mind? If I understand correctly, it seems like the concept of experimentation is undermined by an arbitrariness in events and the concept of measurement is undermined by same arbitrariness in what can be determined by the senses.

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    1. It seems to me that the Muslim position explained here doesn't actually allow a useful epistemology.

      Indeed it doesn’t; and that is why Islam to this day does not have a useful epistemology. As nearly as I can tell, they simply don’t ask the relevant questions, let alone think of answers for them. Those who try quickly find themselves angrily denounced by other Muslims, and often have fatwas pronounced against them by clerics. Salman Rushdie is not a particularly deep thinker, in strictly philosophical terms, but even his speculations are too far into al-filasifah to sit well with Islam.

      Delete
    2. I'd think the question of sensory perception being reliable would be very pertinent because, as I understand it, hearing the Koran recited with correct pronunciation is functionally similar to receiving the Eucharist for Catholics.

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  5. Incidentally (it's not particularly relevant to the argument but it's the sort of thing that I think you would find interesting), Sir William Herschel records the Laplace/Napoleon incident in his journal of his visit to Paris:

    "The difference was occasioned by an exclamation of the First Consul’s, who asked in a tone of exclamation or admiration (when we were speaking of the extent of the sidereal heavens) ‘and who is the author of all this.’ M. de La Place wished to shew that a chain of natural causes would account for the construction and preservation of the wonderful system; this the First Consul rather opposed. Much may be said on the subject; by joining the arguments of both we shall be led to ‘Nature and Nature’s God.’"

    (The story as usually told goes back to Augustus DeMorgan, who simply says that it was a common story in Paris.)

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  6. An interesting thesis. Why are you so much clearer than YOS?

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  7. A tale for another time? Something to look forward to!

    I don't read science fiction, but I have enjoyed SO MANY of your blogposts this summer and fall, that I have to try your novels now. Before I get 'river of stars', is their another you would more readily recommend to.an adult convert who doesn't read scifi but really enjoyed your series on the Ptolemy to Relativity series here recent?

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    1. People have said nice things about Eifelheim.
      There is also a story collection Captive Dreams
      +++

      The Spiral Arm series is far-future high space opera. It starts with The January Dancer.

      The Firestar series is near-future hard SF, some of which future is now technically in the past. It starts with Firestar.

      My first novel was In the Country of the Blind updated for a second edition by Tor, in which references to the Soviet Union were past-tensed and mention of "the National Datanet" were changed to "the Internet." What happens to people who regard other people as means rather than as ends in themselves?

      The collection The Forest of Time overlaps one story with Captive Dreams

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    2. Captive Dreams is an excellent volume. Many of the stories contain great ideas without becoming "idea stories." They are also quite pro-life without being overly didactic.

      Here is a review on the Massachusetts Citizens for Life website: http://masscitizensforlife.org/captive-dreams/

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    3. The Spiral Arm series is far-future high space opera.

      Space opera depends on assuming Heliocentric-Acentric views of the cosmos, right?

      Now, Round Earth was confirmed by da Gama, but remember that Han Solo is a fiction and your own fiction a prediction that can go wrong.

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  8. I strongly concur with the suggestion of Eifelheim for you, Franklin, as far as I can tell about you from your post. Lots of interesting information on medieval thought in there, as background to the tale.

    But I think The Wreck of the River of Stars is a better novel, particularly for those who are used to more introspective, character-driven work.

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  9. "Goddidit" was not an acceptable explanation in medieval Christian philosophy.

    Sure it was. Maybe not in 'natural' philosophy, but at least the medievals had the wit to admit the possibility of a miracle, if it was the best explanation that fit the evidence.

    I know that's not what you meant. Thanks for a fun romp through the desiccated orchards of Jerry Coyne's reasonings.

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    1. Even for the technically non-miraculous the Christian (as opposed to Averroist) Philosophy "God did it" (for Creation in the past, neutral as to distinction between natural and miraculous events) or "God does it" (as to causing of daily rotation of the Universe, a prime example of the First Mover) was totally acceptable.

      Who said this anyway? "Goddidit" was not an acceptable explanation in medieval Christian philosophy.

      If it was our dear TOF, I missed it, I would have contradicted it right away.

      I refer to the 219 condemnations by Bishop Tempier in 1276/1277 (latter year if it started in January, former if it did not end till March 25).

      I copied out and commented a list from Piché's book, but not his French translations:

      http://petitlien.com/tempier

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    2. a) William of Conches; St. Albertus Magnus; St. Thomas Aquinas; Bishop Nicole Oresme, among others. All of them averred that God was Primary Cause of all existence, but that He had endowed matter with natures capable of secondary causation, and it was the job of natural philosophy to determine these secondary causes. They held it as illegitimate to cite Divine intervention as the explanation of a natural phenomenon. Second Causes are instrumental and depend upon the Primary Cause for their effectiveness. But one set of folks believes that one they have understood the mechanism of the piano, there is no need for the pianist. Another set of folks fears that this is true and therefore finds it highly rational to deny the piano.

      b) A closer inspection of the Condemnation of 1277 is called for. The bishop intervened wearing his hat as Rector of the University of Paris in a jurisdictional squabble between the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Theology in that University. It was a hastily put together list and contains many duplications, and was not endorsed by the Pope. However, it did serve to nudge natural philosophy away from Aristotelian deductive necessity and toward a more modern view of empirical induction. Pierre Duhem called it the "birthday of modern science." For example, one article condemned the Aristotelian notion that there cannot be more than one World; another, the notion that there cannot be a vacuum. God's infinite power assures us that He could have created other Worlds and could have created a Vacuum. The question then became, "Well, did He?"

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    3. Second Causes are instrumental and depend upon the Primary Cause for their effectiveness.

      Absolutely. However it is not an infinite distance in order of causation between Primary and secondary.

      to be continued

      At some point a secondary cause is indeed directly caused by the primary.

      For instance, God is directly himself turning Heaven around Earth each day. The things turned involve for instance the Sun and therefore the Sunshine each day is secondarily caused by that star.

      but that He had endowed matter with natures capable of secondary causation

      Natures are the four elements and the animals and plants and diverse minerals with diverse virtues.

      Not energy as understood by modern physics.

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    4. Continued:

      Among secondary causes there are also angelic ones. Matter is not credited with the power to move other than "to its natural place" (up for air and fire, down for earth and water), any other movement is due to either chance or spirit, and this either human (art) or angelic or God Himself.

      As to "energy" it is a controversial concept. It translates directly as "potentia" in Latin. And a potentia cannot have a quantity per se. It can of course have a maximal potency - a silver smith's hammer handled by a child will not break a wall of stone. But it cannot have a definite quantity.

      Now, impetus is the thing the hammer gathers on its way from where child held it to when it hits wall. It corresponds to kinetic energy. But then it is obviously wrong when modern science says "energy can neither be destroyed nor created" and says kinetic energy was before it became kinetic potential energy of minimally same quantity (some might have been lost). I e the potential of being a potential.

      If you study precursors of Newton's two first laws in John Philoponus, you will find that Newton changed the formulation significantly by adding "or uniform motion" as if that were equivalent of rest in one place.

      Another set of folks fears that this is true and therefore finds it highly rational to deny the piano.

      As a rebuttal of either Geocentrism or Young Earth Creationism, this is a strawmannus maximus. If it refers to anyone else, say who, but YEC and Geocentrics are not disciples of Al Ghazali.

      And thank you for saying "piano" and "pianist", because that means - correctly - that God is handling the Universe and its processes all the time. The processes, notably day and night, would not be there except for God continually moving it.

      I have nothing against a correct investigation of secondary causes. But it cannot push the First cause further into the background than was traditionally held to be the case, rationally.

      Anything a secondary cause can do, the First cause can also do, and therefore at some point the First cause can be the real cause even if a secondary were thinkable and coherent. Lamech was seventh from Adam. It was thinkable that beyond his ancestors five generations back there were instead of just two ancestors sixtyfour. And it was thinkable that behind "those" - the generation of Adam and Eve - there were instead of God, the First Cause, the usual kind of Second cause, i e a generation of 128 people.

      Let us Suppose Lamech was Uniformitarian

      Projecting Secondary causes backwards the usual way they go will not always lead you to the truth, because there is a First Cause. And there is a finite number of secondary causes between it and the effects we observe right here and now (whichever place we read this at whatever time).

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    5. It was a hastily put together list

      Indeed, I copied a list reorganised in chapters after subject.

      and contains many duplications,

      No real ones. The 219 or perhaps rather (as in one manuscript) originally 220 condemned theses meander between the subjects. Of some fifty errors on God the original numbers go from thesis one (denial of Trinity, unless that was thesis 2) to very close to the end.

      A rearranged list was made. It was called theses condemned in Paris and in England. Meaning they are still forbidden there as well as in the colonies of England and France, unless they were revoked (I'll get back to this in a moment).

      and was not endorsed by the Pope.

      If that was Duhem's historic conclusion, it was not Piché's more recent one. The Pope actually did encourage Bishop Stephen II Tempier to condemn errors of what one may stile the Averroist and Necessitist / Nihilist / Agnostic type.

      However, Stephen III issued a revocation of the condemnations "insofar as they are reputed to condemn any thesis of Thomas Aquinas" ... that revocation was also endorsed by its Pope, and it was in connexion with the canonisation of the Angelic Doctor.

      But, the thing is, no real conflict between St Thomas and Bishop Tempier has been detected.

      My guess about the thesis 220 is that it was cut off from the original list in order to comply with the new episcopal order 48 years later - whereas the other condemnations remained untouched, since found not to be in conflict with St Thomas.

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    6. God's infinite power assures us that He could have created other Worlds and could have created a Vacuum. The question then became, "Well, did He?"

      Most famous affirmative answer to the first of these (condemned thesis 34) being of course C. S. Lewis' Narnian "other creation."

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    7. Which is why I wrote a certain part of this chapter:

      Susan's dreams become a book

      It is fan fiction and not Neil Gaiman style.

      As to the question of vaccum, the answers seems to be no, unless you redefine it.

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  10. "the first response that comes to Coyne's mind."

    Don't you mean "the first response outputted by the brain atoms referred to collectively as 'Jerry Coyne'"? :)

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  11. When the Western Roman Empire went away, the monks and nuns in safe places like Ireland and England and Spain were mostly coming from families of warrior nobles or poets. This is great for copying manuscripts, writing books and poetry, and doing the odd spot of linguistics. It's not so good for engineering and science. These monks and nuns were not ashamed of working with their hands, but descending to manual labor seems to have been regarded as a form of asceticism! (To be fair, though, the entire records and architecture of the great monastic centers and libraries of Ireland were almost entirely torched and destroyed by the English and Henry VIII, so the few natural philosophy treatises we have from Ireland are lucky survivors of what may have been a huge doomed company.)

    However, it's almost certainly true that the large monastic, legal, and poetic schools of Ireland in pre-Viking times probably influenced the founding of European cathedral schools, and later, of the universities. But I'm sure that university kids are glad that their teachers don't send them out begging or barding to the surrounding area to sing for their suppers every other day, and residents of university towns are probably glad too!

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    1. Of course, a lot of monastic libraries in Ireland were also torched by the Irish, both throughout history and in the Irish independence thing and civil wars. (It turns out that collecting manuscripts from across the country into Dublin, and then having a war in Dublin next to the manuscripts, is a bad idea.)

      There also seem to be some indication that nuns throughout the ages were big into the medical bits of natural philosophy, but unfortunately that meant that they were studying Greek humor theory and being led badly astray. Anyway, tons of nuns' libraries got torched throughout the ages when war passed by, and it also turns out to be a bad idea to collect manuscripts from convents you've just abolished and then have a big fire or flood at the national library you put them in. However, nuns are getting more credit these days for the manuscripts they copied out and those they authored, so there's a bit of compensation.

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    2. Whenever Spain wasn't being invaded or occupied, it was a great place to be a writer monk or bishop. Of course, they did get a lot of invaders and occupiers, but there were good bits inbetween. But yeah, they were usually busy preserving or gathering and collating historical and literary information, not experimenting and collecting scientific data.

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    3. Galen wasn't so bad compared to no medical theory at all. Like the moderns and postmoderns, who imagined the human body as a kind of machine or a kind of computer, resp., folks of ancient times imagined the human body as hydraulic, like aqueducts and water-clocks, so: the humour theories. At least they could point to how wet we are. The mechanists couldn't point to any gears or cogs, and the computerists can't point to any programs.

      The Latin stuff was never lost, but like all manuscripts had to be recopied from time to time and to make additional copies. The vast bulk was Cicero, who was held in high regard. There was also a great deal of Latin literature and the like. Abbess Hroswitha of Gandersheim: wrote six original comedies in rhymed prose in imitation of Terence, which she could not have done if Terence had not been available. (She also wrote an epic poem, The Deeds of Otto, in honor of the Emperor.) Dark Age libraries, from references in surviving works, included:
      Alcuin: Aristotle, Cicero, Lucan, Pliny, Statius, Trogus Pompeius, Virgil, quotes from Ovid, Horace, Terence
      Abbot Lupus of Ferriers: Cicero, Horace, Martial, Suetonius, Vergil
      Abbo of Fleury: Horace, Sallust, Terence, Virgil
      Nokter Labeo: translated works of Aristotle and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy
      Gerbert of Aurillac: Horace, Juvenal, Lucan, Persius, Terence, Statius, Virgil
      Desiderius of Monte Cassino: oversaw transcription of Horace, Seneca, Cicero, Ovid
      Archbishop Alfano: Apuleius, Aristotle, Cicero, Plato, Varro, Virgil, imitations of Ovid, Horace

      The Greek stuff was almost completely unavailable at first, since the pagan Romans had not bothered to translate it into Latin. Boethius made a start at it. But as the governing elite shifted from soi-doisant Romans to jumped-up Franks and Goths, knowledge of Greek faded in the West.

      The great translators recovered Greek texts at first from commentaries written in Arabic (since the commentaries would quote the works they were commenting on, the original texts could be teased out). But the Arabic had been translated by Nestorian Christians from their native Syriac, which had earlier been translated from the original Greek, and so contained numerous translation errors; esp. since Syriac and Arabic were very different languages from Greek and Latin. Later, as the jihad faltered, they were able to access Greek texts directly in Sicily and Byzantium itself. Jacques de Venise brought Aristotle directly from Greek lands to Mt. St-Michel. William of Moerbeke worked in Sicily. Others had gone to Toledo in Spain.
      Adelard of Bath translated the Elements of Euclid from Arabic to Latin. Robert of Chester translated the Al jabr of al-Khwarizmi, which was not originally Greek. Gerard of Cremona did Ptolemy’s Almagest, the Physics of Aristotle and his Meteorology, On the Heavens and the Earth, On Generation and Corruption, the Posterior Analytics, Euclid’s Elements, The Geometry of the Three Brothers, Galen’s Medical Art, ibn Sina’s Canon of Medicine, al-Razi’s Book of Divisions. A dozen astronomical texts, seventeen on mathematics and optics, fourteen on logic and natural philosophy, twenty-four on medicine.

      So you can see which way the translatory wind was blowing.

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    4. "Dark Ages" ?! dontcha know we have those down to about 15 minutes?

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    5. "Nokter Labeo:"

      You mean Notker Labeo. Notker or - in German sometimes - Notger is his name, Labeo means he had big lips (or people liked to tease him for it anyway).

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  12. I missed this one:

    First of all the medieval Christians likewise rejected the idea of divine intervention to account for the common course of nature,

    Depends very much on what they qualify as "intervention".

    For instance if God and angels are all the time doing all the movements not simply due to nature (like fire going up or stones going down or wolves after rabbits or after shewolves) or to human decision, which is the Thomist position, even miracles are not properly speaking "interventions". Intervene is said about outside powers getting in where they are usually not.

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  13. The Greek philosopher Xenophanes observed marine fossils in the hills of Greece and believed them to be actual fish and shellfish somehow turned to stone. The only natural process he knew of that could deposit marine life in the high hills was a flood -- a really, really big flood. Like a cover-the-whole-world flood. This bit of wisdom entered common culture and showed up in the legends of a great many cultures. (Other peoples than the Greeks could spot fossil shells.)

    Surely that doesn't account for the Near Eastern stories of Zisudra, Atrahasis, and Noah, all of which predate Xenophanes by hundreds of years at least, nor the various legends in parts of the world without contact with the Greeks of the time. OTOH, I suppose those legends don't really tell of a "global" or "worldwide" flood, since (unlike the Greeks) those people had no concept of the globe, and their concept of "world" or "land" was much different (and smaller). I wonder how the story of Noah would've been interpreted historically if it had been kept in something like its original context, and not identified with the world-covering flood postulated by Xenophanes et al?

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    1. Spotting marine fossils in mountains is presumably not impossible in other countries, too. In the Zagros Mountains, say.

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  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  15. Sorry to correct you (and for making a nekro-comment) but it happened that Yuri Gagarin was himself a devout christian and therefore he never had said anything like 'I didn't see any god' (on the contrary he once said that what he had seen made him even more devout))
    It was Nikita Khruschev who made such a brilliant objection (once talking to some Orthodox priests).

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