Friday, April 04, 2014

No, Pop History of Science Is Just Bad, Whether It Deals with Religion or Not

Some of you may be inclined to suspect that I am rough on pop history because pop history is sometimes rough on religion. This, despite the fact that I keep noting that serious historians who are atheists are pretty rough on the pop history of the church versus science as well.

But the latest episode of Cosmos dealt with an episode in history where religion does not really enter in at all. And it just completely bungs it up.

For me, the most stunning howler was that Neil deGrasse Tyson says that the Principia was where Newton introduced calculus. Of course, it has no doubt been the topic of many a PhD thesis to ask "Given Newton had already invented calculus, why didn't he use it at all in the Principia?"

In other words, the complete absence of calculus from the Principia is a famous problem in the history of science. But the scriptwriters for a show supposedly about the history of science completely overlooked this, and claimed instead that the Principia was where calculus had been introduced! 


  1. Wow is this for real? That is inconceivable. (I'm not being sarcastic.)



"If your approach to mathematics is mechanical not mystical, you're not going to go anywhere." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb