Saturday, 16 November 2013

Why Did Science Start When And Where It Did And Not At Any Other Place Or Time?

In Is There Life On Other Worlds (New York, 1963), Poul Anderson argues, I think correctly, that the agricultural and scientific revolutions have been the two greatest changes for mankind. So why did science start when and where it did and not at some other place or time?

In one of Anderson's sf stories, a scientific revolution occurred in Alexander's Greece. In another, it was prevented in Europe so that mankind never broke out of the cycle of rising and collapsing labour-intensive empires.

Anderson hypothesizes that science started when and where it did because of:

accumulated technology;
capitalist pragmatism;
the analytic thought, not the subject-matter!, of medieval philosophy.

Science does combine practice, empiricism and analysis. Post-medieval philosophers divided into rationalists versus empiricists whereas knowledge is neither reason alone nor experience alone but the former applied to the latter. They also divided into idealists versus materialists. I think that we need to be materialists but not reductionists: consciousness emerged from unconscious processes but is qualitatively distinct from them. An increase in complexity is a quantitative change whereas the emergence of consciousness is a qualitative change. But quantity affects quality.

10 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    But science also arose in the West BECAUSE of Christianity, along with the other factors you listed. And Poul Anderson would agree as well This is what you can find in Section 4 of "Delenda est": "That's why I asked about their religon. It's always been purely pagan; even Judaism seems to have disappeared, and Buddhism hasn't been very influential. As Whitehead pointed out, the medieval idea of one almighty God was important to the growth of science, by inculcating the notion of lawfulness in matter. And Lewis Mumford added that the early monasteries were probably responsible for the mechanical clock-- very basic invention--because of having regular hours for prayer."

    To say nothing, of courses, of how the system of schools and universities we have today goes back to the schools and universities founded by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages.

    I myself am not a materialist. I do not think or believe all things are ultimately reducible merely to physical matter. If interested, you might look up some of the many discussions John Wright has had on his blog about materialism.

    Sean

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sean,
    OK. I paraphrased Anderson when I wrote "the analytic thought...of medieval philosophy." His exact words were "...Christian respect for order and theory..." (p. 154). I think that everything that exists has emerged from energy/mass but not that it all can be reduced to mechanical properties of matter.
    Paul.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sean,
    Was in haste before. PA mentions the close reasoning of the schoolmen as well, of course.
    Paul.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Paul!

      Thanks for your two notes! I'll reply to both here. Forgive me if I seemed a bit sharp. I see so many many attacks on Christianity, esp. the Catholic Church, that I commented too harshly to what I mistakenly thought a denigration of Christianity. I apologize for that.

      And your quote from page 154 of IS THERE LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS? makes me keen to reread that book after I finish THEREMONUCLEAR WARFARE. Btw, have you read either or both "The High Ones" and "The Pugilist"? My thought was those two stories ties in with Anderson's nuclear war book because he gives alternate speculations of what a Soviet conquered world might have turned out.

      And, yes, in my far too brief and superficial reading of Scholastic philosophy, I could see how carefully and closely reasoned was the thought of medieval philosophers.

      Sean

      Delete
    2. I have read "The Pugilist." We mentioned it a while back. Not sure about "The High Ones."

      Delete
  4. Thanks, Sean, but I missed the sharpness!
    I will disagree with some religious teachings but hopefully not denigrate. I see parallels as well as major differences between Christian faith and Buddhist meditation.
    As I have indicated, I have often attempted dialogue with street Evangelicals but found it frustratingly difficult/impossible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Paul!

      Thanks! I thought I was being too sharp to you!

      You mentioned having difficulties trying to speak with evangelical Protestants. Actually, given the basis from which they came from, I found evangelicals less illogical and frustrating than many Anglicans. To me, too often the latter did not seem to know what they believed.

      And of course there will be parallels Christianity has with Buddhism. The Catholic Church denies nothing that is true in other faiths or philosophies.

      I'm glad you read "The Pugilist." I'll need to look up your comments about that story. But, I would be interested to know what you think of "The High Ones." Too briefly, and because I don't want to say too much about the plot, Anderson took the premise of that story from Roderick Seidenberg's book POST HISTORIC MAN.

      Sean

      Delete
  5. I do not recognize the title of "The High Ones." Is it collected anywhere accessible?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Paul!

      "The High Ones" was collected in THE HORN OF TIME. Do you think you have that book in your collection?

      Sean

      Delete
  6. Sean,
    I know I don't but I can try to get it.
    Thanks,
    Paul.

    ReplyDelete