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Friday, August 10, 2012

The Greats of the Scientific Revolution...

to a man (sorry, in those days they were all men), all thought like this:
The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.… Just as the eye was made to see color and the ear to hear sounds, so the human mind was made to understand quantity. -- Johannes Kepler
The success of science was yet more proof of the reality of God, and was in no way seen to be in conflict with religion. That sense of conflict only arose in the nineteenth century, and the reasons were not scientific, but political: progressive politics was (often) anti-religious, and scientists did not wish to seem backwards in their politics!

(Hat tip to Thomas Treloar.)

6 comments:

  1. Darwin. I am sorry, any discussion of the tension between science and religion (and yes, you are right, there was not much earlier; the earlier tension was between intellectual freedom and religion) has to deal with the reality of natural selection and its impact.

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    1. Lorenzo, Darwin was not important in that shift in the 19th century. The shift began well before him, and when his theory came out it had little additional impact. This is the 20th century reading its conflicts back into the past. And I did not make this up: See Professor Frederick Gregory, History of Science 1700-1900.

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  2. But how politically active is the typical scientist?

    In order to produce serious research in the lab, produce findings that get published, teach classes, grade papers, and collaborate and coordinate with colleagues, a man involved in the hard sciences would have to spend 100-120 hours a week. That does not leave much time for politics.

    And indeed, politics has not been a big cornerstone of the lives of Steven Hawking, Albert Einstein, Steve Weinberg, and any other scientist I'd care to remember. So why would they wish to not seem backwards in their politics, or even care about politics?

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    1. "So why would they wish to not seem backwards in their politics, or even care about politics?"

      None of these people were working in the early 19th century. For this fact, again see the reference I gave Lorenzo above: it is not something I made up.

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  3. The split was in place by the time of La Place. However it wasn't physics, but higher criticism, chemistry(Pasteur) and then biology (Darwin) where science definitively turned on its inspiration, refuting its claims. So Lorenzo has a point.

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    1. Yes, I remember well how once I learned about carbon bonding, I thought, "Jesus certainly did not die for mankind."

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