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The Stillbirth of Science in Ancient Egypt

Egypt

NOTE: For the next six Fridays, Strange Notions will present a series of essays by Dr. Stacy Trasancos on the "stillbirths" of science. They're based on Fr. Stanley L. Jaki's research into the theological history of science in the ancient cultures of Egypt, China, India, Babylon, Greece, and Arabia.


 
The first stillbirth Fr. Stanley L. Jaki discussed in the Savior of Science is the stillbirth of science in Egypt, “an Egypt to be buried in the sand.” In ancient Egypt (from about 3000 B.C.), impressive discoveries and achievements were recorded in history.

The Egyptians constructed grand pyramids of such majesty and awe that no one today knows how they did it. They invented hieroglyphics, a highly developed form of phonetic writing which may have been the greatest intellectual feat of its kind. They had medical arts. They were successful in using the Nile as an abundant resource. They adopted better weaponry and the use of chariots from other countries. The Egyptian king, Wehimbre Neco, who ruled from 610–595 B.C., sent a fleet to sail West, and the sailors traveled from the Arabian gulf into the southern ocean for three years until they returned to Egypt.

Egyptian social life revolved around practical skill. For the proper distribution of grain and other commodities, ancient Egypt relied on a system of arithmetic in which they took stock of and divided out resources with impressive book-keeping skills. They invented a decimal system with special glyphs for powers of ten up to one million. Their calendar endured uninterrupted use during all of Egyptian history, and the Hellenistic astronomers adopted it for their calculations. Ptolemy based his tables on this calendar in the Almagest on Egyptian years, as did Copernicus to some extent.

Ancient Egyptian craftsmen showed great ingenuity in using their tools. They had a simple but effective method of producing sheets of paper from the leaves of the papyrus plant, much more efficient than the use of animal skin as writing substrates. They were the first to produce plywood as many as six layers deep and made of mixtures of woods. Carpentry among Egyptians used methods of joining wood in intricate patterns for the hulls of boats as well as inlaying, veneering, and overlaying techniques. The burial chambers of Pharaohs of the XVIIIth Dynasty from the sixteenth century B.C. have received much publicity for their highly developed architectural planning containing secret chambers that even space-age technology and sensitive cosmic-ray methods could not detect.

The pyramids, however, constitute the real mystery in Egyptian marvel and ability. Their proportions were enormous. The Egyptian stonecutter placed the huge blocks of stone together with only 1/50 of an inch separation at the base of the pyramid and covered them with marble plates of such smoothness that the pyramids looked like mirrors. They managed to quarry, shape, and polish great stones despite the fact that they had no metal tools. Transportation of the great stones was done with wooden sleds. The overall master plan of the pyramids formed a superbly constructed facility to ensure the king’s journey to the Sun God.

Even with these achievements, the underlying theology and cultural mindset regarding the universe thwarted scientific advancement. “In their deepest meaning the pyramids were symbols of a conception about the world that nipped in the bud all scientific endeavors.” (Science and Creation, 79.) The Egyptians were caught up in an animistic, cyclic outlook that made them insensitive to science as well as history. In their hymns they pictured most parts of the world as animal gods, the whole world itself being one huge animal often depicted as a serpent bent into a circle. In a hymn from ancient texts, the animistic, organismic, rhythmic, and cyclic worldview is explicitly described:

"He [the Indwelling Soul] it was who made the universe in that he copulated with his fist and took the pleasure of emission. I bent right around myself, I was encircled in my coils, one who made a place for himself in the midst of his coils. His utterance was what came forth from his own mouth." (Myths and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, 51.)

The Egyptians believed that the circularity in the sky and in nature was proof that the cosmos was changeless and cyclical too, and that single events or processes had little or no significance, which meant that they “simply could not serve as the carriers of special intellectual content.”

The Egyptians had the talent and the skill to notice that everything in the material world is in motion and is, thus, observable and quantifiable. They had the talent to realize that the scientific method could be applied repeatedly to answer questions about the universe, to determine scientific laws. They had the ability to innovate and the ability to communicate it. They demonstrated the ability to learn from other cultures. Science could have been born in ancient Egypt, but it was not. All of that progress came to a standstill, a stillbirth.

Jaki also pointed out that to argue that “the Egyptians of old failed to develop more science because they did not feel the need for more is an all too transparent form of begging a most serious question,” a conceited psychology (Savior of Science, 23). If they had been but an animal species, they would have never even tried to innovate. They would have continued on their way with things as they were, just as all other animals do. There was plenty of evidence that they did long for something better. During the reign of Akhenaton, the Pharaoh known for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship of Aten, a monotheistic deity, Egyptians responded in great number to dispose of long-established rigid art forms and seek “warmly humane representations of life and nature.” Egyptians seemed to want something better. Yet after Akhenaton’s death the traditional religion was restored and Akhenaton became archived as an enemy.

The longing is also evident in the poetry the Egyptians sang, the inspiration they took from the animal kingdom in their carvings of animal and human combined bodies, effigies which now are, as Jaki put it, “buried in the sand as if to symbolize that there was no future in store for the Egypt of old.” (Savior of Science, 25)

In a culture of pantheism, eternity consisted in assimilating to the cyclic motion of nature; souls that reached the stars were considered transfigured spirits absorbed into the great rhythm of the universe. In that context, modern science could have been born, but was not.
 
 
Sources:

  • Stanley L. Jaki, Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, Ltd, 1986), 68-79.
  • Stanley L. Jaki, The Savior of Science (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 2000, 22-25.
  • Jona Lendering, “The First Circumnavigation of Africa,” Moellerhaus at http://www.moellerhaus.com/Persian/Hist01.html.
  • O. Neugebauer, “The Origin of the Egyptian Calendar,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies (1942), 396.
  • R. T. Rundle Clark, Myths and Symbol in Ancient Egypt (London: Thames & Hudson, 1959), 51; quoted in Jaki, Science and Creation, 73.

 
Adapted from the book by Stacy Trasancos, Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki (Habitation of Chimham Publishing, 2014), pp. 53-57.
 
 
(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Dr. Stacy Trasancos

Written by

Stacy A. Trasancos is a wife and homeschooling mother of seven. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She teaches chemistry and physics for Kolbe Academy online homeschool program and serves as the Science Department Chair. She teaches Reading Science in the Light of Faith at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. She is author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. Her new book, Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science (Ave Maria Press) comes out October 2016. She works from her family’s 100-year old restored lodge in the Adirondack mountains, where her husband, children, and two German Shepherds remain top priority. Her website can be found here.

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  • Dear Stacy,

    Thanks for the interesting article. I think it is a good case for why philosophy affects scientific progress. People need to believe that the world corresponds in some way to human reason, in order for the scientific method to be developed.

    I am curious, though, about the last paragraph:

    In a culture of pantheism, eternity consisted in assimilating to the cyclic motion of nature; souls that reached the stars were considered transfigured spirits absorbed into the great rhythm of the universe. In that context, modern science could have been born, but was not.

    I have two questions. First, shouldn't it say "in this culture of pantheism" instead of "in a culture of pantheism?" since there would be pantheistic cultures that have different conceptions of eternity? Or do all pantheistic cultures have a cyclic motion of nature and souls reaching stars?

    Second, you argued convincingly that the Egyptian cosmology was not a friendly nursery for science. It was far better than many surrounding cultures, but still a long way from genuinely cultivating discovery and eventually experimentation. But then your very last sentence suggests that science could well have been born in this pantheistic context, but simply wasn't. Could you clarify?

    • Thank you Paul, and thank you for engaging the material.

      First question: Yes, you could substitute "this" for "a". In all of these ancient cultures, there was a fundamental pantheism (a belief that God is immanent in or identical with the universe), although the details differed. The idea of an eternally cycling universe was consistent to all of those cultures too.

      Second question: The Egyptians had the talent, skill, ability to communicate, and ability to innovate to realize that the scientific method could be applied to discover systems of physical laws. The Scientific Revolution could have occurred in Egypt (i.e. in the context of their talent and skill), but their fundamental pantheistic world view, arguably, prevented it.

  • I'm afraid I just don't see it. No one applied the scientific method until recent centuries when science began to distance itself from religious dogma with persons such as Galileo and particularly Kepler.

    For millennia Egyptians had an awesome civilization which continued after they were conquered by the Greeks. Under the Ptolemies they excelled more than anyone at the time as a place for research and enquiry. The Library of Alexandria was fantastic. This civilization thrived for several thousand years, I don't think they were any more anti-science than anyone else.

    It would seem to me that the most likely candidate for the scientific revolution of the late Middle Ages was the advent of the printing press and broad access to shared knowledge.

    • Galileo and Kepler were Christian, and their thinking about the natural world was guided by their faith.

      Yes, the Egyptians had an advanced civilization, but it is still a fact of history that the Scientific Revolution did not occur there. What is being argued is that they did not have a world view conducive for the birth of science, even though they had the talent and skill.

      The ancient Chinese and Arabian cultures were able to print and share knowledge widely. That was not a skill unique to Europe in the Middle Ages.

  • jessej

    Just read your book on Dr Jacki a couple of weeks ago. I have to admit I was not expecting as strong a case for Jaki's position but the data is there. It was a great read and I just wanted to say thank you. My goodness what a mind!!

    P.S. You're probably not lending out your copy of Science and Creation so do you have a recommendation that doesn't require a second on the house?

    • Someone should ask the people with Jaki's publishing rights for permission to offer his books through Lulu or Amazon. It would be quite a bit of work to set them up for Kindle or format them for republishing, but it would be a labor of love.

      • jessej

        Great idea Paul! Dr.Trasancos might have some pull with the publishers.

    • Jessej, what is the "case" I'm not seeing the point that is trying to be made here.

      • jessej

        Sorry bga.
        Adapted from the book by Stacy Trasancos, Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki (Habitation of Chimham Publishing, 2014), pp. 53-57.

        I was referring to the case in Dr. Trasancos book title.

        You are right I should have mentiond it.

        • So what in Christianity supports science? Particularly methodological naturalism?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Lots of things. Even Wikipedia thinks methodological naturalism was developed in the middle ages:

            The modern emphasis in methodological naturalism primarily originated in the ideas of medieval scholastic thinkers during the Renaissance of the 12th century:

            By the late Middle Ages the search for natural causes had come to typify the work of Christian natural philosophers. Although characteristically leaving the door open for the possibility of direct divine intervention, they frequently expressed contempt for soft-minded contemporaries who invoked miracles rather than searching for natural explanations. The University of Paris cleric Jean Buridan (a. 1295-ca. 1358), described as "perhaps the most brilliant arts master of the Middle Ages," contrasted the philosopher's search for "appropriate natural causes" with the common folk's habit of attributing unusual astronomical phenomena to the supernatural. In the fourteenth century the natural philosopher Nicole Oresme (ca. 1320–82), who went on to become a Roman Catholic bishop, admonished that, in discussing various marvels of nature, "there is no reason to take recourse to the heavens, the last refuge of the weak, or demons, or to our glorious God as if He would produce these effects directly, more so than those effects whose causes we believe are well known to us."

            Enthusiasm for the naturalistic study of nature picked up in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as more and more Christians turned their attention to discovering the so-called secondary causes that God employed in operating the world. The Italian Catholic Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), one of the foremost promoters of the new philosophy, insisted that nature "never violates the terms of the laws imposed upon her."[8]

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalism_%28philosophy%29#Origins_and_history

          • The question was not did Catholicism or Christianity look for natural causes for phenomena, but what in Christianity promotes methodological naturalism?

            Methodological naturalism precludes any supernatural explanations and is a foundation of modern science. This is why science does not conclude or allow for a supernatural cause for the accelerating expansion of the universe or for people's visions deities and demons. The reason for this is quite simple: such claims are unfalsifiable and cannot form the basis of science.

            What in Christianity supports this view?

          • jessej

            I don't think you and Fr Jaki would share the same definition of the word science.

            “for a proposition or reasoning to be classified as science it must be subject to being tested in the laboratory, or, in general, by scientific instruments.”

            I don't think he would consider the existence or nonexistence of anything above nature or below nature or even to the side of nature of any importance as far as the definition of science is concerned.

            So maybe we're already at an impass.

          • No, it is not science. Modern science requires things like methodological naturalism, control groups, careful experimentation and peer review. If he is not talking about this but general empirical investigation, this was participated by various cultures and civilizations at different times, I don't think it is fair to say that that this kind of enquiry was "stillborn" with the Egyptians. They engaged in it for thousands of years and achieved unparalleled success, particularly in architecture. This really did not end until, actually the advent of Roman Catholicism.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The doctrine of secondary creation holds that God created material bodies with natures, and these natures are capable of acting directly upon one another. You can find it mentioned by Augustine in De genesi ad litteram and by many others since then.
            Why would you expect a supernatural cause for the accelerating expansion of the universe (assuming current interpretations of the data are correct)? There are all sorts of claims that are not falsifiable. They generally form the "axioms" of science, since they are incapable of scientific proof. (E.g., that an objective, external world exists cannot be proven with empirical evidence because "empirical evidence" assumes such a universe a priori, making the argument circular. That the three angles of a plane triangle sum to 180 deg is likewise not falsifiable; but then mathematics is not science in the modern sense.
            I'd be wary of embracing Popper too tightly; his objective was to undermine physical science.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What in Christianity promotes methodological naturalism? I can think of two things. One is love for the truth and the other is secondary causation. In Catholic philosophy, as you can see from the quotes in Wikipedia, it was understood that God overwhelmingly works through secondary (or we would call them natural) causes. Thus it makes sense to always look for natural rather than supernatural causes. The Church even does this when examining putative miracles.

          • If the church believes that methodological naturalism is an avenue to truth, it would apply it to its claims about claims regarding the empty tomb and so on. There are no half measures when it comes to this, either your epistemology applies it or not. The church simply does not.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If the church believes that methodological naturalism is an avenue to
            truth, it would apply it to its claims about claims regarding the empty
            tomb and so on. There are no half measures when it comes to this, either
            your epistemology applies it or not.

            Why?

          • Because methodological naturalism is an aspect of requiring claims to be falsifiable to have any value. A scientific approach to the empty tomb would reject any hypothesis of the supernatural as unfalsifiable. This is a fundamental aspect of science because if you cannot falsify claims, you cannot test them and there is simply nothing for science to do. Things like theism, supernaturalism and fiction are distinguished from things like science, history, and another empirical pursuits by their refusal to accept methodological naturalism.

            The advent of methodological naturalism, the repeatable experiment, peer review, falsification are the hallmarks of the modern science that arose in the enlightenment and thereafter. These are anathema to theism and supernaturalism.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Just because we have a very useful hammer called the scientific method does not mean that every field of knowledge in reality is a nail for it to drive.

            Natural science studies material reality and how it operates so as to understand it and harness it in new ways that seem good to human beings.

            From your perspective, not only is theism anathema (I don't know what you mean by "supernaturalism"), but so is mathematics, history, literature, philosophy, morality and probably some scientific fields which do not rely on experimentation.

            It is also weird how so many atheists want to claim that natural science "belongs" to them, when it was developed by Christians (you have yet to acknowledge that methodological naturalism was formulated by Scholastic philosophers in the Middle Ages), and theists still work happily and equally in every branch of modern science.

          • David Nickol

            Well, methodological naturalism has been so successful in Western science (and Western thought in general), it is not difficult to understand why philosophical naturalists would want claim vindication. Take Copernicus, for example. The Church was not at all opposed to scientists assuming, for purposes simplifying mathematical calculations only, that the solar system had the sun at the center with the planets orbiting around it. That was a form of methodological naturalism. But of course it turned out that the sun really was at the center. Those who employ only methodological naturalism are acting as if—for the sake of sound and efficient scientific investigation—philosophical naturalism is true, and then when not doing science, denying that it is. Employing methodological naturalism while denying philosophical naturalism understandably seems (to some philosophical naturalists) like having your cake and eating it too. It is reaping the benefits of acting as if philosophical naturalism were correct, and then denying that it is.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not able to follow your argument.

            How is the assumption that the earth is the center of the universe because it is what we observe different than assuming the sun is the center because it better accounts for what we observe?

          • David Nickol

            It is not particularly important if my analogy was unclear. The point is that it is quite understandable that philosophical naturalists would feel the great success of methodological naturalism was very good evidence for philosophical naturalism.

          • I am not saying that science is the only avenue to knowledge, I am saying that modern science as opposed to what the Egyptians were doing, is not rooted in Catholicism or Christianity. The developments of methodological naturalism, peer review, falsifiability, repeatability, experimentation which define modern science, did not arise with or soon after Christianity took hold in Europe. Neither are they elements we find in Christian thinking.

            There is in dispute that many scientists are Christians, Muslims and Hindu and many are atheist.

            I agree that there is no direct relationship between science and atheism. But we keep having these posts about science on this site. Often trying to show that Catholicism and science are consistent. They are not.

            The fact that science was developed by people who were Christian is of little import.

          • It is not fair to claim some meaningful importance to the fact that scientists were Christian a hundred years ago or especially in the Middle Ages. These were times when just about everyone was Christian. In the Middle Ages it was a death sentence to admit atheism. It was often a death sentence to disagree with the Catholic Church.

            Can you imagine what would have happened to Galileo if he also said he believed there was no God? If Kepler had? These people would have had their books burned, if not their bodies.

            Even today there are hundreds of priests and pastors who are atheists.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay correlation is not causation. Stacy in this case (and many others in other cases) have argued with evidence that Catholicism and modern science are not only correlated but exist in a cause/effect relationship.

            One of your arguments is that they cannot be in this relationship because science did not arise according to your timetable.

            I would say the reasons science was develop by people who were Christians *is* important. It was because they believed that the universe had to have order, that they could know this order through reason, and that it was good to know that order. Catholics believe in the power of reason to know natural truths.

          • But nothing you are saying suggests anything like a relationship between what is distinctively science and what is distinctively Christianity.

            the idea that the universe has order and that we can know this through reason was developed by pagan Greeks centuries before Christ. Thales, Plato, Archimedes.

            To make the case we should identify the important principles of science and when these arose and do the same for Christianity. I suggest that these principles are not shared and that they arose at different times in different places.

            It is not my timeline, Christianity arose in the 1st century ad and by 1000 had established itself across Europe. This was the period of the least innovation and expansion of knowledge occurred. There was a gradual series of advancement in technology, knowledge and art in the next 500 years, but I argue that the majority of what the western Christianity was doing was praying, copying books, philosophizing in the abstract about what god was and wanted, as well as crushing heresy

          • Over the next 500 years there was an increasing explosion in education, observation, accumulating data, applying reason to it, tech, industrial innovation. This also was a time when the printing and circulation of books arose, an enormous circulation of knowledges allowing the building one's ideas on the observation of others. This is when modern science arose, as did ideas of secularism, freedom of religion, democracy.

            I see neither a temporal or principled relationship between the scientific method and Christianity.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay, but you are setting yourself up as a cultural historian or historian of science, whereas Jaki and someone like Mariano Artigas actually were. Stacy (at least) has written a Master's thesis in this field.

          • David Nickol

            Isn't this an appeal to authority? Do we determine who is right in a debate by declaring the winner to be the person with the most impressive credentials? If so, why bother to have a discussion?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is an appeal to legitimate authority. Most of what we write here is derived from the people who have done the real work and have a more substantial right to their opinions.

          • David Nickol

            and have a more substantial right to their opinions

            Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. People multiple academic degrees can be wrong. I thought the whole point of Strange Notions was that "ordinary folks" could have worthwhile thoughts about posts, even if the posts were by specialists.

            Not only do we all have a right to make up our own minds—we have no choice. Even if a person makes a choice to believe everything taught by the Church of Scientology, or the Catholic Church, or whatever authority, it is still that person's own decision. Ultimately, you can't get out of thinking for yourself, even if you decide to let some organization or some guru be your ultimate authority. You are still responsible for your choices, or if you make no choices, you are responsible for that.

            And in this particular case, there are plenty of other authorities who would not agree with Fr. Jaki and Tracy Trasancos.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think anyone has the right to an opinion on whether toasted almond ice cream is tastier than oven roasted carrots.

            I don't see the right to an opinion about a matter of truth when evidence is necessary and available but one with an opinion has not consulted it.

          • mriehm

            And so Kevin I take it from this there is no debate by credentialed, respected, academic historians as to the direction and degree of influence of the RC Church on scientific progress?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't doubt that there is. Stacy would know.

          • mriehm

            Kevin, it appears that you are declaring there to be an absolute, accepted truth amongst relevant authorities that the RC Church was naught but a boon to modern science prior to about 1500.

            The key sentence starting this thread was by Brian Green Adams:

            I see neither a temporal or principled relationship between the scientific method and Christianity.

            Later you tried to shut down David Nickol based on the premise that no legitimate debate on this issue exists. Do you really believe that?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think you are misunderstanding and so misrepresenting my views. Or maybe I'm just not presenting them very well. Or both.

            Do you think it is possible that many authorities could be so biased against Catholicism that they don't want to discover *anything* positive about it? This tradition could have begun with the Enlightenment and could have continued until today.

          • mriehm

            I suspected that I was misunderstanding, but I read it several times. "It" being your statement to David, "I don't see the right to an opinion about a matter of truth when evidence is necessary and available but one with an opinion has not consulted it."

            Perhaps there was miscommunication.

            I do agree with you that it must be a mighty challenge to find objectivity in that historical field. From both sides, of course. Despite being a hardcore, materialist atheist myself, I'm not so naive as to not see that there are those who tar the RC Church unfairly. (That being said, I also believe that the Church has committed many wrongs over its history and that the existence of strong emotions might be expected.)

            In my lurkings on Strange Notions for the past year or so, I have certainly learned a lot about the RC Church and its relationship with science. On the whole, it's been positive. But there is a lot of apologetics going on (not surprising I suppose;), and a lot of wearing of rose-tinted historical reading glasses.

          • mriehm,

            There are long lists and nuances on both sides of the debate. Since it's off-topic and since I already addressed that to David, I'll just recopy below. (It's from the chapter on critics in my thesis.) Note, I selected these because, with the exception of the Fremantle Lectures, these are not only not Catholic, they are not even specifically Christian. The Gifford Lectures and the Templeton Prizes were granted to people of all faiths and no faith. Whitehead was agnostic until late in life, but never claimed any specific religion.

            For now, the question is: Does anyone dispute that science was *not* born in Egypt. If so, why? Cite your sources.

            ----Begin copy/paste from earlier comment to David:

            My primary goal is to accurately represent Jaki's work. It's an intellectual matter; a matter of representing the history correctly.

            ...

            Jaki was an invited lecturer in the Gifford Lecture series at the University of Edinburgh. <---Not Catholic.

            Jaki was awarded the Templeton Prize because he was a leading thinker at the boundaries of science and religion. <---Not Catholic.

            Invited as Fremantle Lecturer at Balliol College, Oxford. <---Not Catholic.

            You don't have to be Catholic to appreciate his work. Neither do you have to be Catholic to appreciate history.

            Here's the renown philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead (also not Catholic):

            I do not think, however, that I have even yet brought out the greatest contribution of medievalism to the formation of the scientific movement. I mean the inexpugnable 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. How has this conviction been so vividly implanted on the European mind?

            When we compare this tone of thought in Europe with the
            attitude of other civilisations when left to themselves, there seems but one source for its origin. It must come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher. Every detail was supervised and ordered: the search into nature could only result in the vindication of the faith in rationality. Remember that I am not talking of the explicit beliefs of a few individuals. What I mean is the impress on the European mind arising from the unquestioned faith of centuries. By this I mean the instinctive tone of thought and not a mere creed of words.

            In Asia, the conceptions of God were of a being who was either too arbitrary or too impersonal for such ideas to have much effect on instinctive habits of mind. Any definite occurrence might be due to the fiat of an irrational despot, or might issue from some impersonal, inscrutable origin of things. There was not the same confidence as in the intelligible rationality of a personal being.

            I am not arguing that the European trust in the scrutability of nature was logically justified even by its own theology. My only point is to understand how it arose. My explanation is that the faith in the possibility to science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology. Science and the Modern World. Cambridge: The MacMillian Company, 1925, pp. 13-14.

            This is similar to Jaki's claim, with the exception that the contribution from theology was not an "unconscious" derivative, but a decidedly conscious one. Jaki expanded on the theological history of science. It's kind of hard to argue the faithful were not conscious of their faith.

          • mriehm

            The point under discussion in this thread was an assertion by Kevin Aldrich that (my words, but loyal to his idea) no legitimate debate can be made against the assertion that the RC Church was instrumentally beneficial to science prior to about 1500.

            And Stacy, I'm sorry, but selective quoting of thinkers who you agree with, but who happen to be non-Catholic or non-Christian, doesn't resolve the issue.

            Often in atheist-vs.-theist debates you get people quoting individuals from the other camp who happen to say something more in alignment with their camp, and they yell "Aha, told you so!". So what? Many people say many things.

          • " . . . selective quoting of thinkers who you agree with, but who happen to be non-Catholic or non-Christian, doesn't resolve the issue."

            Never said it did. These are comment boxes. I cannot write a mini-thesis in a comment box because someone wants to know the state of consensus on the history of science.

            What I can do is show that Jaki was, in fact, considered an authority. I didn't figure you would be too impressed that he was appointed an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences by Pope St. John Paul II. (Am I right?)

            My challenge right now is: If you disagree, at least know why and engage the material. Verify his sources (he was adamant about using original sources). Cite your own. Defend your disagreement.

            This is a discussion. If you disagree at the end of it, but we both learned something—cool.

          • mriehm

            Perhaps Jaki was an authority, but probably not the final one. ;) And the thrust of this branch of the discussion was about whether or not there is accepted, authoritative consensus about the RC Church being instrumentally beneficial to science prior to 1500.

            Anyway, I might take you up on some reading in this area (although I will choose my own authors!;). I am very interested in the history of science, and the factors that led the West to it first. There must be a lot of fascinating thought in this area.

          • I disagree that Dr Transocos' "M.A. in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary" qualifies her as a legitimate authority in the history of science. I can find no reviews of her book online or any acceptance of her thesis as being a legitimate contribution to historical scholarship. Her degree is in theology and one presumes her thesis is theology, not history. It is of course open to her to take a degree in history and present a similar thesis and see how it is received by historical scholarship, similar to Richard Carrier's recent efforts. (Of course Carrier acknowledges he is fringe.)

            Fr Jaki was a distinguished professor of physics who also made contributions to the philosophy of science. I can see no evidence that he had any formal historical education of credentials.

            I would say, as I often have, that a good place to look for what the general scholarship teaches in a given field would be to examine what reputable universities teach in low level courses.

            I've watched all of the "History to 1500" (and after) from Yale, and I'm currently making my way through 200-700. I've also read Peter Watson's " (2006). Ideas: a History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud. New York: Harper Perennial." These I would suggest are rather more authoritative than the sources you reference and nowhere in any of it was science attributed to Christianity. Quite the opposite, in fact.
            http://freevideolectures.com/Course/3023/History-of-the-World-Since-1500-CE#

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Can you imagine an ideological reason that Christianity would not be considered by these academicians?

          • Jaki was an authority on the subject. For the fourth time, see the comment below. I've had my thesis checked by people who knew him, who own the intellectual rights to his work, and who have written about him and studied him. I can make a legitimate claim to having "mastered" this narrow (he did much more) aspect of his work. Disagree or not, at least know what you are disagreeing with before declaring disagreement. That's why I published the thesis.

            http://strangenotions.com/the-stillbirth-of-science-in-ancient-egypt/#comment-1510921703

          • I did read it. I look forward to your further posts.

          • Forgive me for not deferring to them as authorities on the subject.

          • Brian, I assure you that you are not asking questions no one else ever thought to ask, including Jaki.

            This essay was about Egypt. The point of it is that science (that is, modern science, the science after the Scientific Revolution, the exact science of mathematics applied to nature to discover physical laws and systems of laws) was not born in Egypt, but could have been. The cause-effect suggestion is that their world view prevented it.

            I don't think you want to argue that the Scientific Revolution occurred in Egypt, but if you want to argue that there is no cause and effect between the world view and the scientific achievement in the Egyptian culture, go ahead and make the case. That part can be debated. Please cites sources.

            As stated above, the other cultures will be covered in succession. Ancient Greece is one of them. In my thesis the pre-Christian biblical period and the early Christian period are covered as well.

            I think it's fair to ask that you at least know what the author means before trying to argue against it.

          • I do not think the Scientific Revolution occurred in Ancient Egypt. I am not sure what role Egyptians played in the Scientific Revolution during the Enlightenment.

            I guess the question is what do you mean by "it could have" as well as the Scientific Revolution. Presumably you mean the discoveries of the 18th century and formalization of the scientific method?

            Obviously science generally it "could" have occurred anywhere at any time. If you do not meant the formal scientific method, persuasive arguments can be made that science in fact did arise with in Ancient Greece with Thales.

            I think it is quite striking that you made no mention of the Library of Alexandria in your discussion of science and Egypt. The existence of this facility is arguably the first university and science did arise there.

            Further, science "could" have arisen in the Eastern Roman Empire, one would think that if there is any relationship between the advent of "science" and Christianity, that this would have been an ideal circumstance. Given that this was a Christian Empire, that needed to apply scientific thinking to construct things like the Hagia Sophia and run a diverse Empire for centuries, not dissimilar to the state of the Egyptians. As noted by Wikipedia "Justinian chose physicist Isidore of Miletus and mathematician Anthemius of Tralles as architects" When I visited the building in 1997 this combination of disciplines was described to me as inventing architecture. Surely here was a time and place where science "could" have arisen. Maybe you think it did? I am sure you will deal with why it did not arise then in future posts.

            How about the multitude of discoveries made by Chinese, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_discoveries

            Or Indian Mathematics http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_mathematics

            At the end of the day, causation for something like science is not something anyone can really make definitive statements about. Historians cannot agree on the causes of the First World War! Surely, it is a combination religious, philosophical, technological and communication issues as well as the slow and increasing collection and dissemination of knowledge of others. Its origins are indeed found everywhere from Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, India, Arabia and of course medieval Christendom.

            I take your argument that it was a lack of yearning for more that prevented the Egyptians from applying the scientific method and I counter it with the following. The Ancient Egyptians like the all intensely religious cultures were much more concerned with the coming spiritual world after death than the present. The expended enormous resources at building giant temples and tombs to ensure they were right with gods and have a pleasant afterlife. Anything that was not associated with these purposes, such as learning about disease, chemistry, motion was given a lesser priority. The sun is a god, it is useless at best, and fatal heresy at worse, to hypothesize otherwise. This combined with the dismal information and communication technologies of the time are some of the reasons that more scientific discoveries did not occur in Egypt.

          • Thank you Brian.

            You are right that those things (modern science, the Scientific Revolution, "could have arisen") need to be defined. I began my thesis by clarifying what Jaki meant because I thought that was where a person could get derailed. What "science" is today is debatable, but for the purpose of the argument what Jaki meant was (to be as concise as possible):

            Modern science = the science after the Scientific Revolution, the exact science of mathematics applied to nature to discover physical laws and systems of laws as a viable and self-sustained universal discipline, the Revolution from Aristotelian physics to Newtonian physics.

            By "could have" occurred, he (and I) meant to acknowledge the accomplishments of other cultures. They had the talent and skill, demonstrably so. They could have make the breakthrough to realize that physical laws govern nature.

            I did not mention the Library of Alexandria because I was trying to be brief, to make a bridge for a newcomer to cross. I was specifically looking for what (I thought, so it's certainly debatable) were the best evidences of scientific capability. I chose the things mentioned above knowing I wasn't mentioning everything. Jaki goes into much more detail about Egyptian mathematics, medicine, record-keeping, and architecture.

            I ask that you wait for a discussion of the other cultures once they are posted, or buy the book. The proceeds all go to single mother in need.

            I mostly agree with your last paragraph, except I do think they yearned for more, hence the mention of Akhenaton.

            To be clear about my purpose: I don't mind disagreement. I'm after accuracy. I've invested a lot of time (and considerable money) researching Jaki's claim because I wanted to know what he meant.

          • Michael Murray

            It might also look a little more closely at Adam and Eve and there exact status as ancestors of the entire human race.

          • Brian, for the believer, a love of nature flows from a love for God. The first lines of the Creed as well as the Bible support this view. To paraphrase the Vatican Observatory astronomer Br. Guy Consolmagno, for the faithful understanding science is a form of worship because it is an effort to know more about God's creation.

            Here's the Catechism:

            283 The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers. With Solomon they can say: "It is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements. . . for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me."

            Good questions though. Thank you.

          • I would agree that the interest in learning more about creation inspired many to investigate nature. However, we've seen this impulse just as strongly in non-Christian societies. Most strikingly in the Greeks but also Islam. What is also striking to me is that this interest in nature did not occur until some thousand years after Christianity gained prominence in Europe. Rather than stimulate interest in nature early Christianity seems to me to be much more interested in monasticism, prayer and determining theological issues.

            Not until printing, and the circulation of Greek ideas of Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes and Thales did Christians begin investigating the world or did it occur to them that there could be natural explanations for phenomena.

            This seems to have really got going around the enlightenment and religion's influence began to be seriously marginalized.

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            "Not until printing, and the circulation of Greek ideas of Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes and Thales did Christians begin investigating the world or did it occur to them that there could be natural explanations for phenomena."

            While the effects of the printing press are still being investigated by historians of science, the impact of this technology must have been substantial. The story of science in Western Europe, however, begins at least three centuries earlier when we see the rise of universities. These universities, which were essentially a product of the Catholic Church, institutionalized natural philosophy for the first time in history.

          • Indeed, however this also does not correlate with Christianity. If it did we would expect universities and scientific thinking to begin to flourish in Constantinople along with Justinian, the construction of Agia Sophia. Or in the monasteries of Western Europe in the centuries in which Christianity and Catholicism held sway. What were these monks doing for all of these centuries? Not science. They were the ones who knew how to read, they had the books, they had Aristotle. I propose that we take them at their word, that they believed the physical material world was not really worth investigating. What was important was prayer, the Eucharist. Worshipping God. Not free enquiry and investigating patterns of nature.

            If we are tracing the origins of science we should start with Thales and the Greeks.

          • David Nickol

            These universities, which were essentially a product of the Catholic Church, institutionalized natural philosophy for the first time in history.

            To complement what Brian Green Adams points out, another way of looking at it is that the universities were essentially a product of Medieval Europe. Of course Christianity was the dominant religion in Medieval Europe, but that does not mean that everything that emerged in Medieval Europe was "a product of the Catholic Church."

            I take it that the ultimate goal of Stacey Trasancos is to demonstrate that modern science was developed by (and perhaps is even some kind of extension of) Catholicism. As a consequence, presumably, Catholicism will then be seen not only as not opposed to modern science, but as the mother of modern science, basking in its glow. And modern science can then be used by apologists to argue in favor of the truth of Catholicism.

            But of course answering the question of why modern science emerged when and where it did is no simple matter. And there are subtle questions to be answered. For example, to what extent did Catholicism shape Western Europe, and to what extent did Western Europe shape Catholicism. How do you tease the two apart? Certainly not everything that happened in Western Europe can be considered "a product of the Catholic Church."

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            David, I think we can go further than simply stating that universities were the product of Medieval Europe. Several evidence sets converge around the idea that universities are a product of the Church, and several of these are worth mentioning here: many of the early universities developed out of cathedral schools (see for example the University of Paris); 53 of the universities at the advent of the Reformation had a papal charter; the privilege of masters to teach at any of the universities (the ius ubique docendi) first appeared in the writings of Pope Gregory IX; students (at least at the northern universities) had the benefit of clergy; and the popes often intervened on behalf of universities. For these reasons, and several others, scholar Lowrie Daly declared that the universities' "most consistent and greatest protector was the Pope of Rome." Do you think it would be valuable to have a full article on this subject?

          • David Nickol

            Do you think it would be valuable to have a full article on this subject?

            I think an article about cathedral schools and Medieval universities might be very interesting, but (with all due respect) not if it is to be an instrument of Catholic apologetics. I am out of sympathy with the whole project of The Savior of Science:

            Beginning with an overview of failed attempts at a sustained science by the ancient cultures of Greece, China, India, and the early Muslim empire, Jaki shows that belief in Christ—a belief absent in all these cultures—secured for science its only viable birth starting in the High Middle Ages. In the second part of the book Jaki argues that Christian monotheism alone provides the intellectual safeguards for a valid cosmological argument, restores the sense of purpose destroyed by theories of evolution, and secures firm ethical guidelines against fearful abuses of scientific know-how.

            Certainly it is undeniable that Catholicism, Western culture, higher learning, philosophy, modern science, and so on are all inextricably intertwined, and it would be impossible to subtract the Church out of the past two thousand years of history and see what was left. But that doesn't mean everything has been a "product" of the Church.

            Also, taking the long view—after all, it was about a millennium and a half into the lifetime of Catholicism that modern science arose—if we take even now, 372 years after the death of Galileo, to be a midpoint, who knows whether in 2386 (372 years from now) Catholicism will want to claim it gave birth to modern science? And of course a real midpoint would be about 2000 years in the future (approximately 1600 years for modern science to arise within Christianity, and another 1600 years to see how it all pans out). Modern science has not done all that much to advance Catholicism, or religion in general, in the past few hundred years. What can we project for, say, a thousand years from now?

          • David,

            It was my goal in writing the book to 1) understand Fr. Jaki's research and claim, and 2) to present it in briefer form so that others might also be inspired to read his work more carefully.

            You can hardly offer a fair criticism if you did not even bother to learn what the author meant. Jaki exhaustively gave his sources and they are verifiable, as are mine.

            Here's hoping!
            Stacy

          • David Nickol

            Stacy, it is not my intention to belittle your project, but clearly the atheist or the skeptic is not going to approach it in the same way as a committed Catholic. Nor do I think it is at all likely that even if an atheist or skeptic became convinced "that belief in Christ . . . secured for
            science its only viable birth starting in the High Middle Ages," it would necessarily convince him or her that Catholicism was the "one true religion" or that Jesus was God incarnate.

            Of course, for committed Catholics and other committed Christians, Jesus is central to virtually everything of importance. It would certainly not be a great intellectual leap, given that belief, to find a connection between belief in Jesus and any human discernment of any kind of truth. In some ways, it would go without saying. For a truly committed Christian, nothing that did not in some way lead back to Jesus would be of any importance. But I don't think this is the attitude of most people who call themselves Christian today.

          • My primary goal is to accurately represent Jaki's work. It's an intellectual matter; a matter of representing the history correctly.

            But since you have a concern that this is all about proving Catholicism, consider this:

            Jaki was an invited lecturer in the Gifford Lecture series at the University of Edinburgh. <---Not Catholic.

            Jaki was awarded the Templeton Prize because he was a leading thinker at the boundaries of science and religion. <---Not Catholic.

            Invited as Fremantle Lecturer at Balliol College, Oxford. <---Not Catholic.

            You don't have to be Catholic to appreciate his work. Neither do you have to be Catholic to appreciate history.

            Here's the renown philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead (also not Catholic):

            I do not think, however, that I have even yet brought out the greatest contribution of medievalism to the formation of the scientific movement. I mean the inexpugnable 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. How has this conviction been so vividly implanted on the European mind?

            When we compare this tone of thought in Europe with the
            attitude of other civilisations when left to themselves, there seems but one source for its origin. It must come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher. Every detail was supervised and ordered: the search into nature could only result in the vindication of the faith in rationality. Remember that I am not talking of the explicit beliefs of a few individuals. What I mean is the impress on the European mind arising from the unquestioned faith of centuries. By this I mean the instinctive tone of thought and not a mere creed of words.

            In Asia, the conceptions of God were of a being who was either too arbitrary or too impersonal for such ideas to have much effect on instinctive habits of mind. Any definite occurrence might be due to the fiat of an irrational despot, or might issue from some impersonal, inscrutable origin of things. There was not the same confidence as in the intelligible rationality of a personal being.

            I am not arguing that the European trust in the scrutability of nature was logically justified even by its own theology. My only point is to understand how it arose. My explanation is that the faith in the possibility to science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology. Science and the Modern World. Cambridge: The MacMillian Company, 1925, pp. 13-14.

            This is similar to Jaki's claim, with the exception that the contribution from theology was not an "unconscious" derivative, but a decidedly conscious one. Jaki expanded on the theological history of science. It's kind of hard to argue the faithful were not conscious of their faith.

            Do you think it's fair to offer criticism if you do not yet understand what the author meant?

          • David Nickol

            Do you think it's fair to offer criticism if you do not yet understand what the author meant?

            I am not so much criticizing as saying the hypothesis doesn't "grab" me enough to make me want to immerse myself to the degree that I could criticize. I think it is the kind of hypothesis that people who are already believers will be much more open to exploring. This does not seem to me to come anywhere near answering what to me are the fundamental questions—is there an all-good God, was Jesus that God incarnate, and is Catholicism the most faithful continuation of the movement Jesus started.

          • It's a story of how truth does not contradict truth.

            If you are not interested enough to criticize, you should not have opined on the purpose and goals without making the effort to understand the author.

            Please, in the future, ask first. I don't spend much time any more in comments, but I've known you in the past to be serious and interested in questions that involve physics and theology, so I guess I mistook your commenting for interest. Perhaps you will be interested later.

            My email address is posted on my website if you ever want to contact me that way.

            Gratefully,
            Stacy

          • Michael Murray

            It seems to me that all religions are between a rock and a hard place with science. Once upon a time the existence of gods was clear. How else did the sun rise and the seasons progress ? But then natural explanations for more and more phenomena arose and the argument had to become that God moved through secondary causes. But then you start to lose any need for God as a hypothesis. His role becomes increasingly vague, He is responsible for the ground of being, the rational structure of the universe, the big bang (if there was one). I guess next He will be responsible for the multiverse. Science advances and God retreats. If not in the minds of theologians certainly in the minds of the general public.

          • jessej

            Hi Michael,

            The same argument can be made in reverse. While we dust off our scientists more and more rapidly ( nobody has to study Einstein to better understand string theory or look to Carl Sagan for modern cosmology). However we can always turn to Augustine, Dante, Plato, Edith Stein and countless others who offer a more complete understanding of who we are and what we are here for.

            I don't see God as retreating thru scientific advances. I think it becomes more obvious that science does not posess the tools necessary to catch up with the theologian.

          • Michael Murray

            nobody has to study Einstein to better understand string theory

            That's just not true. Nobody who hasn't learnt relativity theory is going to be able to understand string theory. Have a look at the wikipedia page on string theory and search for relativity.

            In any case string theory is a very long way from being shown to be true as a physical theory.. A better example would be Newton and Einstein and physics courses all over the world still teach Newtonian mechanics because it is still applicable in so many areas of the real world.

            I think it becomes more obvious that science does not posess the tools necessary to catch up with the theologian.

            Where have the theologians gone that is worth catching up to ? Speculations that life has a meaning somehow associated to an ill-defined but supposedly benevolent God who created all the suffering in the universe for some reason nobody can quite explain?

          • jessej

            I'm glad we agree about string theory. I believe it to be a little silly in fact.

            My point is we will not pour over Einstein's work endlessly to advance our emerging theories in science the same way we will study how saint John Paul understood the human person to advance humanity.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm glad we agree about string theory. I believe it to be a little silly in fact.

            In that case we definitely don't agree. I don't think it's even a little silly. Mathematically it is very elegant and extremely useful. A lot of recent excellent mathematics has come out of ideas arising in string theory. Some much more ordinary mathematics has also been motivated by string theory such as my recent journal publications. (So obviously I am biased.) The only issue from a physical point is that it hasn't been tested and nobody seems to really know how to even begin to do that.

            My point is we will not pour over Einstein's work endlessly to advance our emerging theories in science the same way we will study how saint John Paul understood the human person to advance humanity.

            Understanding the human person and understanding fundamental physics are two totally different things. The human person is vastly more complicated. Einstein's physical theories can be summed up in a few equations. Nobody pores over his original writings the equations are just part of what we mean now by physics. In the same way that Newton's equations of motion and Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism are.

            Personally I wouldn't go to JPII for an understanding of what it means to be human. He is too much constrained by the ideology of Catholicism and theism which I find unattractive and totally unbelievable. Of course the unattractive is irrelevant the believable is the important bit. I would turn to science, literature, music, nature and other people.

            who we are and what we are here for.

            We are here to discuss and argue on the internet. That is clearly the ultimate aim of creation :-)

          • jessej

            Hi Michael.

            I only ment we agree about your comment ..."string theory is a very long way from being shown to be true as a physical theory"

            I thought your last line was great though! I'm still smiling and enjoying :)

            I prayed for you a bit today and really enjoyed your response.

            If you ever have a layover in Atlanta let me know and I'll buy you a pint or a coffee that covers half your face :)

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Jesse !

          • Thank you Kevin!

    • Thank you Jesse. I didn't expect as strong a case either when I started digging up Jaki's sources. Yes, what a mind!

      My copy is barely held together by glue. I got it for around $70. It would be great to get this book reprinted! I have spoken to the people who own the intellectual rights to Jaki's work about reprinting his first major work, The Relevance of Physics. The problem is that these works (including Science and Creation do not exist in digital format. So someone either needs to scan a copy (probably thereby destroying it) and clean up the text, or retype the whole thing. If there is enough interest, a publisher would help with this. I'm hoping to continue building interest. Thanks for being a part of that!

      In the meantime, you might enjoy this one. His Gifford Lecture Series was a two-part summary of his work in both Relevance and Science and Creation. You can access it completely online here. http://www.giffordlectures.org/Browse.asp?PubID=TPRSWG&Volume=0&Issue=0&TOC=True

  • mriehm

    This should be an interesting series of articles. What was the foundational environment necessary to nurture true, objective science?

    Of course, we all know where it's going ;). But, nevertheless, should be some good discussions.

    While the particulars of the society are no doubt important, I also wonder how much the history of science - i.e. what came before - was necessary. Perhaps enough objective thought had to accrue, and be referenceable, for the next steps to be taken. A bit scary, stepping into that unknown, and so each genius who took us to the next level could only step out a bit further than the previous boundaries. So one cannot look at a particular historical culture and say that it all relied on them; history placed them where they did. And the ancient Greeks pushed those boundaries out quite nicely.

    But still, each major step had to be nurtured, and one has only to look at some cultures (for instance, some of the tribal states of Pakistan), to know that some societies may produce negative rates of scientific progress.

    • jessej

      I had the same idea when I first came across this material but the radical break the Catholics had to make is documented in their writing and experiments. The science of Aristotle and others did not fit with how Christians understood God and it was a tough break (who wants to turn their back on Aristotle) but they did it and we have the record.

      Also we have the record of the Churches success and we also have the record of the failures of everyone else.

      Basically to your point, it was not fits and starts it was fits and failures over and over again until, well Christ and his Church.

    • Thanks mriehm. Yes, I hope for good discussions. Even if you don't agree with Fr. Jaki, I'm hoping to at least encourage people to understand his work better. It's not as straightforward as it seems at first.

      He absolutely covers the history of science and credits the contributions of other cultures. In his research, he noticed a significant difference in the theologies of ancient cultures and Christian theology. He argues that these religious beliefs affected cultural psychologies and prevented them from making conceptual breakthroughs necessary for the birth of modern science. He thought that the ancient Greeks came closer than anyone else.

  • Michael Murray

    If they had been but an animal species, they would have never even tried to innovate. They would have continued on their way with things as they were, just as all other animals do.

    Actually other animals besides humans do innovate. Not just our immediate cousins the other primates but birds as well:

    http://www.pbs.org/lifeofbirds/brain/

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      "Innovate" is a bad word, being imprecise. Sometimes it means, "we've never seen birds do that before." Also there is a tendency to confuse science with technology. But techne can advance by trial and error, rule of thumb, and accumulated lore of craftsmen, with not a whisper of science as we understand it today.

      Science requires a three-layer cake. Careful and objective data at the bottom -- but often data deliberately created by designed experiment. The middle layer is the discovery of regularities in that data, preferentially expressed in the privileged language of mathematics-- natural laws. The top layer is the development of physical theories from which the laws can be derived and the data predicted. To break the circularity of scientific argument, the theory must predict new data that was not used to develop the theory in the first place. This was one of Bishop Grosseteste's major contributions to the infrastructure.

      Two celebrated also-rans illustrate this. Chinese sages collected facts but did not develop theories and were wont to attribute physical events to concatenations of omens. The ancient Greeks would not let any pesky facts get in the way of a Really Kool Theory. (We tend to overestimate the Greek commitment to rational thought because the medieval Chrisitians preferentially copied their rational writings.)

      Animals (including humans) possess powers of imagination, including memory, and are capable of learning from experience and "monkey-see." That is why they can be trained. Confronted with obstacles (say in running a maze) they will cast about at random until they find a behavior that works. You can call that "innovation" if you like. But like the mouse that continued to jump the hurdle in the maze even after the hurdle had been removed, it isn't really what we think of as such. Neanderthals had tools; but they had the same tool kit for their entire existence as a species, except where local materials varied. Cro-Magnon otoh was quite different when it came to innovation.

      Humans possess in addition to imagination the power of rational thought, which is quite a different thing.

      • Michael Murray

        Well I was taking innovate to mean the opposite of

        They would have continued on their way with things as they were

        as per the article. If you want it to mean the full panoply of rational thought and peer review then I am willing to concede that peer reviewed articles authored by crows are small in number.

  • Michael Murray

    The Egyptian's had quite a range of medical knowledge including this advice

    Birth control To prevent conception, smear a paste of dates, acacia, and honey to wool and apply as a pessary. [4]

    I wonder if that counts as "natural" or "artificial" ? Artificial I guess as it looks like a barrier with a spermicide.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebers_Papyrus

    • jessej

      Hi Michael,

      Maybe there is a subtle but important distinction with how Jaki used the term "exact science" and how "science" is referred to in some of these posts.

      Making a better barrier in the uterus or around the city is not what Jaki thought of as exact science.

      I know the original article doesn't get into all of this but Fr Jakis work is what Dr. Trasancos based the article on so maybe you'll forgive me for going to this point.

  • Doug Shaver

    The pyramids, however, constitute the real mystery in Egyptian marvel and ability.

    That depends on how you define mystery. We don't know the particulars of how the Egyptians actually did build the pyramids, but we do know some methods that would have been sufficient and were within their capabilities.

    They managed to quarry, shape, and polish great stones despite the fact that they had no metal tools.

    Nonsense. They had copper tools. Copper is not good for cutting anything because copper blades get dull really fast, but that just means that if you do lots of cutting with copper, you also spend lots of time resharpening your tools. If you have a large enough labor force, that is not problem, though, because you can have one guy cutting full time while a bunch of other guys are sharpening his tools as fast as he dulls them.

    • I'm not an Egyptologist, but to my knowledge the ones who have examined the issue have concluded there were no copper tools. http://www.margaretmorrisbooks.com/xcerpt05.html

      Do you have a reference?

      Either way, how does this point relate to the point that the Egyptians demonstrated tremendous skill? If anything, it further strengthens that point.

      • Doug Shaver

        I'm not an Egyptologist

        Neither am I, but I know how to use a search engine.

        to my knowledge the ones who have examined the issue have concluded there were no copper tools.

        The site you linked to doesn't say that. What it says is that the stones used in building the pyramids were too hard to be cut with copper chisels. That was apparently the case for some of the types of stone used, but the pyramids were not built only with those types, and other methods were available for cutting the other types.

        Do you have a reference?

        At this point, just a bunch of Internet sites. If you won't be satisfied unless I produce an academic reference, I'm sure I can find one.

        Either way, how does this point relate to the point that the Egyptians demonstrated tremendous skill?

        I'm not disputing anything you said about their skill. I was making a point, indirectly, about the thoroughness of your research.

        • Quoting:

          "Egyptologists who have examined this issue recognize several reasons why copper could not have been used to cut blocks for the Great Pyramid."

          I'll gladly look at a reference if you provide one, but I won't spend a lot of time on this question since it isn't germane.

          • Doug Shaver

            Quoting:

            "Egyptologists who have examined this issue recognize several reasons why copper could not have been used to cut blocks for the Great Pyramid."

            What, of all that I've said, do you think that statement contradicts?

            I'll gladly look at a reference if you provide one, but I won't spend a lot of time on this question since it isn't germane.Your credibility, your call. If your assertion was correct, I probably won't be able to find any academic reference that would do me any good.