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The Stillbirth of Science in Greece

Athens

NOTE: Today we continue our weekly 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. See past articles here.


 
Like other great civilizations, the contributions and skill of the ancient Greeks cannot be dismissed. Probably more has been written about Greek intellectual history than any other ancient culture. Many scholars have credited ancient Greece with the invention of science, and Jaki held that they came closer to a birth of science than any other culture. There is a long list of scholars who left behind writings that inspire intellectual endeavors to this day. Here is a brief list of some of them.

Thales of Miletus (c. 620–c. 546 B.C.) was a geometer and astronomer influenced by the Babylonians and Egyptians. He developed ideas about abstract geometry such as the idea that the diameter of a circle bisects the circle and that base angles of isosceles triangles are equal.1 He is popularly credited as the “first scientist” even by those who admit that in the strict sense the recipient of this title is unknown because “science as a reliable method to knowledge, involving observation, hypothesis, experiment, and critique, would evolve.”2 Centuries later, Aristotleof Stagira, who will be discussed shortly, called Thales the “founder” of the type of philosophy that investigates the nature of matter and original causes.3 Thales was the founder of the school of thought known as Ionian physics. He conceived of the world of nature as an organism, an animal, within which were lesser organisms.4 The earth was, according to the Ionians, one such organism in the greater organism and it served its own purpose.

Anaximander of Miletus (c. 611–c. 547 B.C.) described the origin of all things as the “Boundless” or the “Unlimited” principle and was a speculative astronomer who wrote about celestial bodies and why the Earth does not fall.5 An Ionian following in the thought of Thales, Anaximander considered time and space as a matrix of birth to successive worlds.6 He thought that innumerable worlds arose in this boundless medium like bubbles and that the earth is but one of those bubbles. Ionian physics presupposed that all natural things were made of a single substance. Anaximander proposed that the cosmos was less like a god-like organism and more like a divine substance.7

Pythagóras of Sámios (c. 570–c. 490 B.C.) was a famous mathematician for the theorem named after him, and although the most authoritative history of early Greek geometry assigns him no role in geometry at all, his discoveries were significant nonetheless.8

Leucippus (fifth century B.C.) is considered the founder of Atomism, along with Democritus (c. 460–c. 370 B.C.) The theory of Atomism held that there could be no motion without voids and that invisible and indivisible particles moved in the empty space. Democritus called these particles ἄτομος or atomos, a term which is still used today. The theory was a philosophical one, not based on observation or experiment, to explain how there might be change without something coming to be out of nothing.9

Hippocrates of Cos (c. 450–c. 380 B.C.), among others, is credited with providing detailed medical observations that made it possible to diagnose and treat illness, along with a code of ethics that still has influence today.10 The Greeks borrowed from the Babylonian intellectual treasures, but they also developed their own system of geometry, without which the Babylonian data would have been unbeneficial.11 Modern geometers are still unable to reconstruct the demonstrations behind some propositions in the Fourteen Books of Euclid.12 Euclid of Alexandria (c. 325–265 B.C.) built a logical and rigorous geometry with a solid foundation, and it was a primary source of geometric reasoning and methods that went practically unchanged for more than two thousand years.13

There was, of course, the great Aristotle of Stagira (384–322 B.C.), the major Greek philosopher and student of the great Plato, the teacher who founded the Lyceum in Athens. Aristotle wrote stupendous volumes on logic, politics, biology, taxonomy, physics, and cosmology.14 The most mature form of science achieved during Hellenic times in the biological sciences was that of Aristotle’s. He turned zoology into a scientific discipline in his History of Animals and laid the foundations for comparative anatomy in his On the Parts of Animals. His On the Generation of Animals remained, until modern times, the authority on embryology.15

Jaki wrote that the “extraordinary feats of Aristotle in biology were in a sense responsible for his failure in physics.”16 According to Jaki, Aristotle’s On the Heavens “set the fate and fortune of science, or rather tragic misfortunes, for seventeen hundred years” because a serious error was made and went unnoticed in Aristotle’s continuous resort to biological simile.17 In holding the belief that all things had a soul and therefore sought the final cause for which they were best suited (i.e. rocks desire to fall to the ground), for animals as well as for objects, a purpose was assumed for processes and phenomena of every kind.

Aristotle asserted that if two bodies were dropped from the same height at the same time, the one with twice the weight of the other one would fall twice as fast because it had twice the nature and twice the desire to do so.18 Even though simple observation would prove that false, the hold on the mind of the Greeks of this animistic orthodoxy would not allow it. The Greeks thought of motion as a function of the magnitude, a “striving,” in nature for objects living and non-living. Aristotle dismissed the idea of unresisted motion as unreal or over-abstract.19 This orthodoxy caused even a genius like Aristotle to be so wrong about the free fall of objects. It is perplexing that no one noticed this falsehood in daily life, not just among the ancient Greeks but, as will be discussed later, also among those who followed Aristotle’s orthodoxy into the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

These views were—as has been noted in the Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, and Babylonian cultures already—the result of pantheism. The Greeks were steeped in the perspective of eternal cycles of birth-life-death-rebirth for all things, a theme common to all the great religions and cultures that experienced a stillbirth of science. In keeping with the mindset of Babylonian and Egyptian cultures, the Greeks also put a strong emphasis on an eternal, cyclic universe and on the comparison of the cosmos to animals. Even the ones with a belief in a monotheistic deity believed that deity was the universe and that all existence was a cyclic “cosmic treadmill.”

With Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, the sublunary world was like a huge animal breathing, growing, and decaying in cycles of birth, death, and rebirth for eternity.20 The basis of this belief was that fundamentally all existence was viewed as cyclical and the cosmos either was a god-organism or a god-substance obeying unpredictable laws of its own volition and from which finite substances came into and out of existence. In subsequent centuries, even as new ideas about the nature of the cosmos were explored, the fundamental cyclical presumption remained. Philolaus, Alcmeon, Archytas, and Oenipodus were Pythagoreans who promoted a cyclical constitution of the universe.21 This belief was not irrational since human experience is based on cycles in life, in nature, and in the heavens.

Plato, in his many dialogues, told of a cosmic process that alternated between two phases, one of divine laws with a golden age and one of chaos and destruction. In Republic, Plato explains how he saw everything, including human and social phenomenon and the periodicity of human societies, under the organic cosmic law of cycles.22

"A city which is thus constituted can hardly be shaken; but, seeing that everything which Hard in truth it is for a state thus constituted to be shaken and disturbed; but since for everything that has come into being destruction is appointed, not even such a fabric as this will abide for all time, but it shall surely be dissolved, and this is the manner of its dissolution. Not only for plants that grow from the earth but also for animals that live upon it there is a cycle of bearing and barrenness for soul and body as often as the revolutions of their orbs come full circle, in brief courses for the short-lived and oppositely for the opposite; but the laws of prosperous birth or infertility for your race, the men you have bred to be your rulers will not for all their wisdom ascertain by reasoning combined with sensation, but they will escape them, and there will be a time when they will beget children out of season."23

This cycling between chaos and divine order came to be called the Great Year (sometimes Perfect Year), the time when all the stars and constellations of the sky came back to the position they were in a golden age of perfection, the period of one complete cycle of the equinoxes, although that date was figured differently by different philosophers and thus was ambiguous.24 However, the general point is that the notion of a cyclical eternity was prevalent and persistent in Greek thought. In Timaeus, Plato describes this Great Year:

"Thus arose day and night, which are the periods of the most intelligent nature; a month is created by the revolution of the moon, a year by that of the sun. Other periods of wonderful length and complexity are not observed by men in general; there is moreover a cycle or perfect year at the completion of which they all meet and coincide . . . To this end the stars came into being, that the created heaven might imitate the eternal nature."25

The gods, according to Plato and the Greeks, were themselves made in the form of a circle, the “most perfect figure and the figure of the universe.” According to Aristotle, time itself was, therefore, a circle.26 If time is a circle and the cosmos eternal within this circle, emanating from the pantheistic God, the nature of the gods, un-aging, un-alterable, and un-modified, then all change, including human knowledge, is cyclical too. For the most brilliant scholar or the least accomplished servant, the Greeks believed the same thoughts are recurring over and over again, and Aristotle held that this was, in fact, what man experienced:

"The mere evidence of the senses is enough to convince us of this, at least with human certainty. For in the whole range of time past, so far as our inherited records reach, no change appears to have taken place either in the whole scheme of the outermost heaven or in any of its proper parts. The common name, too, which has been handed down from our distant ancestors even to our own day, seems to show that they conceived of it in the fashion which we have been expressing. The same ideas, one must believe, recur in men’s minds not once or twice but again and again."27

Jaki described the psychological impact of this premise as complacency. Such a belief hardly inspired an intellectual curiosity or confidence to learn and dominate the physical laws of nature, even if one felt that he was living in a golden age.

"Clearly, if one is consciously merged into the treadmill of eternal recurrences, only two choices remain. One is that of hopelessness, the feeling that one is at the bottom. The other is complacency, the illusion that one is and remains on top, at least in the sense that the irreversible decline will begin to be felt only by one’s distant progeny. Both attitudes cry out for salvation, although the second may be the less receptive to it."28

The psychological impact is inherently tied to the cyclic worldview and the Great Year. Even in times of great progress, such as the Greek civilizations experienced, there would have been a resignation that the human cannot escape whatever fate pantheism and animism held for him. In eras of despair, there would have been a resignation to wait it out, even beyond one’s lifetime.

Next week is the final week, Arabia.

 
 
(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Notes:

  1. Dirk L. Couprie, “How Thales Was Able to ‘Predict’ a Solar Eclipse Without the Help of Alleged Mesopotamian Wisdom,” Early Science and Medicine Vol. 9, No. 4 (2004), 321-337.
  2. Robert McHenry, “Thales of Miletus: The First Scientist, the First Philosopher,” Encyclopedia Britannica Blog, at Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc,.
  3. Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book 1, Part 3.
  4. Robin George Collingwood, The Idea of Nature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1945), 30.
  5. Dirk L. Couprie, “Anaximander,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2001/2005).
  6. Collingwood, 33.
  7. Collingwood, 35-36.
  8. Carl Huffman, "Pythagoras", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
  9. Sylvia Berryman, “Leucippus,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.); Sylvia Berryman, "Democritus," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
  10. Michael Boylan, “Hippocrates,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2002/2005).
  11. Stanley L. Jaki, The Savior of Science (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 39.
  12. Jaki, Savior of Science, 40; for example see, Edward Grant, A Source Book in Medieval Science (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974), 159, Footnote 7 about irrational ratios.
  13. Christian Marinus Taisbak, “Euclid,” Encyclopedia Britannica (2013).
  14. Christopher Shields, "Aristotle," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2013), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
  15. Stanley L. Jaki, Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, Ltd, 1986), 104.
  16. Jaki, Science and Creation, 104.
  17. Jaki, Savior of Science, 40; Jaki, Science and Creation, 105.
  18. Aristotle, On the Heavens, Book 1, Part 6, third paragraph, “…“if one weight is twice another, it will take half as long over a given movement.”
  19. Stephen Toulmin, Foresight and Understanding: An Enquiry into the Aims of Science (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1961), 51.
  20. Jaki, Science and Creation, 105.
  21. Jaki, Science and Creation, 106.
  22. Jaki, Science and Creation, 110.
  23. Plato, The Republic, translated by Paul Shorey. Volume II (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University press, 1942), 245-247.
  24. James Adams, The Republic of Plato: Edited with Critical Notes, Commentary, and Appendices. Second Edition. Volume II. Books VI-X and Indexes (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1963), 303-304.
  25. Plato, Republic, 245-247.
  26. Jaki, Science and Creation, 130.
  27. Aristotle, On the Heavens, Book I, Part 3.
  28. Jaki, Savior of Science, 44.
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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  • The thesis here seems to be that the Greeks failed to engage in experimentation and thus failed to do real science. The cause asserted seems to be that they held a cyclical view of the cosmos which acted as a barrier to understanding that experimentation would be useful.

    I do not see how these two are related. If you believe the universe acts in cycles, you certainly believe that it is repeatable, don't you? Is that not the very meaning of cycles? That what happened before will happen again in the same way?

    I mean that is why Aristotle stated that objects of different mass would fall at different rates, he must have thought that IF one tried it, this would occur. And it would occur repeatedly. Why did he not attempt it? Perhaps he did. Perhaps he failed to account for air resistance and observed a feather falling more slowly. Or perhaps he thought it was just obvious. We don't know. But it seems strange to me to suggest that he believed this was true irrespective of what was observed.

    Not to mention that this's view that the world operates in cycles is actually pretty accurate. We have the krebs cycle, the water cycle, the carbon cycle, seasonal cycles, and so on. The Greeks were quite aware of no cyclical action, which is where we get the word planet from.

    That they thought the cosmos was not entirely dependant on uniform natural laws is nothing unique to polytheism or pantheism. This is also what Christians believe. They believe that there are generally patterns and order, but that this is all at the mercy of a creator who can manipulate, suspend and change these with zero effort. Catholics believe this especially as they accept that every saint is associated with miracles which are aberrations of the otherwise uniform laws of nature.

    Finally, the description of the ancient Greeks as having a generally singular worldview is, I think misplaced. What we see in ancient Athens is an incredible variety of beliefs, philosophies and theologies. More on that to come.

    At the end of the day I just disagree that science was stillborn in Ancient Greece. I say it was born there, it progressed for centuries into the Roman period, especially in Alexandria and its ideas were later pickup up on by other cultures including late Middle Ages Christians. When Western Europe allowed itself to loosen the restraints of Christian dogma, and coincident with numerous other factors, we see an increase and then explosion of scientific discovery.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      I think you misunderstand the ancient obsession with cycles. These are not merely things like the water cycle, but the cycles of the universe itself. They could see the daily cycle of the sun around the earth, the monthly cycle of the moon around the earth, the annual cycle of zodiac. The wanderers were a bit problematic until they realized that the planetary stars went in a double-cycle around an epicycle around a deferent. With better observations, they noted the precession of the equinoxes, and other cycles.
      Since events on earth were simply the consequence of these cycles -- the outermost cycle moving the next one in, and so on down to the immobile earth -- one did not look for causes on the earth so much as in the positions of the stars. If these positions could be marked with perfect precision, earthly events could be told.
      Since all the cycles were out of synch -- like inches, feet, and yards, they came from independent sources and did not add together well -- they became obsessed with determining when the daily, monthly, annual, equinoctial, planetary, and other cycles would come around again to the same original configuration. This would mark the end of one age and the beginning of another, although Greeks, Babylonians, Hindus, and Mayans were disagreed about how many ages would rotate. When the new age reset itself, all the same events would recur, including the same thoughts thought. Socrates would again be betrayed, would again drink the hemlock. To speak of secular causes would be meaningless since the true cause was simply the location of the event on the eternal cycles.
      ++++
      The Greeks more more in love with theory than with icky facts. That's why Thales, Leucippus, and the rest could spin all sorts of theories -- some of them very lucky guesses from our POV -- without much in the way of actual data.

      Neoplatonism, which was to become the dominant philosophy in Hellenistic times, held that material existence was of an inferior order. Even people were not bodies, but souls "trapped" in bodies. Study of the natural world was an inferior study -- save to those in the Aristotelian school and (iirc) the Stoa. But even there, when icky material reality disagreed with a really kool theory, it was evidently a shortcoming in matter. (Even modern scientists are not immune to this frame of mind.)
      ++++
      That's also why the great discoveries of most of these cultures were in mathematics rather than in physics. Mathematics is, after all, the sine qua non of calculating the cycles and was touted by mystics like Hypatia of Alexandria as a way of getting in touch with the mind of God. Astronomy, recall, was not a physical science but a mathematical science. Its purpose was to make accurate calendars and cast horoscopes. Not until the invention of the telescope were the heavenly bodies known to be physical places about which physical discoveries could be made.
      ++++
      Medicine, engineering, and other arts were not then yet a part of science [in our sense] and only seem to be from our POV because we have combined mathematics, engineering, and medicine with physics into the service if industry and (more lately) of politics. From historical perspective, this is the error of "presentism" or "chronocentrism."

      ++++
      In sum, science is more than a magpie gathering of fortuitous discoveries, lucky guesses, rules of thumb, and artisan lore. As Poincare noted, a pile of facts is not a science any more than a pile of bricks is a house.

      • You know what? These are excellent points and well stated. I think it may be leaving out some competing schools of thought. But I think you are probably right. When I think about people like Lineaus and Kepler, I do accept that what they were doing was trying to identify the rules of God's creation. I think that the dogmatic adherence to interpretations of biblical accounts was oppressive to the kind of free inquiry that allowed science to flourish when this relented.

        But in the end I am willing to concede the point that the Christian worldview was a significant positive factor in the advancement of science in Western Europe in the late Middle Ages. And that the worldviews of the peoples described in this series were an obstacle. I do think there is much more to the story, and that any contention that Christianity caused science is an exaggeration.

        But I am convinced, thanks for the discussion.

        • Brian,

          First, "caused" is not a word Jaki used. The nuance is such: It's the difference in saying a mother "caused" her child to exist and thrive independent of her vs. saying a mother nurtured and protected an offspring meant to be viable from the beginning.

          Re: Peter Watson. Does he cite primary sources? Who were the myths of "our" ancestors? Jaki rightly warned against entrapment by secondary sources (i.e. letting them do your thinking for you). That's why he cited original sources, and that's why, because of his warning, I looked up those sources myself before writing about his claims.

          • Well of course you cite Jaki himself at length, and other than Plato and Aristotle, all of your sources cited above are secondary. If you are doing primary research in this area, forgive me for saying that you do not appear to be qualified. I really think one should have a solid foundation in history and particular ancient Mediterranean and near east history to properly evaluate these primary sources.

            As for Watson, the above quote is certainly his interpretation, but he too is citing secondary sources.

            I've been reading my companion edition of The Day the Universe Changed in which James Burke says "Thales and the others looked to naturalistic explanations for the origin of the world and everything in it. They began to find ways of exploring nature, in order to explain and control it, the better to ensure their survival." Burke is saying this in observation of the Ionian use of astronomy for navigation, in contrast to the Babylonian use for "magic predictions".

          • Right, that's how you verify the claims of another. You cite what the person claimed and you look up original sources. If you think that's primary research, then you don't know what primary research is.

            Anyone who can read is qualified to do that; in fact, you have the burden to verify claims (i.e. "master" them) before critiquing the other person's work or expanding it into new insights (i.e. a dissertation). If I were a historian misapplying a method of statistical analysis to support the conclusions I want to make, you would be right—I'm not qualified. But I'm not doing that. I'm communicating and verifying what Jaki claimed, and he was a well-published and highly-awarded historian. To argue without understanding is to argue from ignorance.

            I see no contradiction with what Burke said. The ancient Greeks did seem to be looking and they came closer to a "birth" of science than any other culture, but it is also true that Aristotelian physics were fatally flawed because of a pantheistic world view. It is also a fact of history that the Scientific Revolution did not occur in ancient Greece.

          • I am saying that without extensive experience and understanding of the time periods you are investigating, you likely lack the breadth of knowledge to understand the context of the original writings from Ancient Greece. Certainly you may have accomplished this on your own, but your credentials don't suggest it.

            I'm certainly not qualified to professionally critique your work nor do I have any interest in doing so. But in the context of this website, designed to be a dialogue between Catholics and atheists, I am reading what you write and responding by telling you how what inhale read seems to contradict it.

            Honestly, I don't see the relevance of any of your pieces to the question of atheism. If all you say is true, so be it. It adds zero support for theism or Catholicism. Certainly the the question of theism or kind of theism of scientists is utterly irrelevant to the modern scientific method

          • Continued...

            There is no dispute that any scientific process must apply methodological naturalism. This does not mean that there is no supernatural, but science could never comment on it.

            At the end of the day, I don't really see the point in identifying when science was "born" or "stillborn". When we speak of the origins of modern science, I would say most reputable historians would say numerous factors over millennia, including Christian monotheism and empirical skepticism and secular humanism. Even astrology and alchemy played a role. But if we had to pick a point in which it was born, I would take either Thales and his followers or Kepler, not Jesus of Nazareth.

  • Doug Shaver

    There is a long list of scholars who left behind writings that inspire intellectual endeavors to this day. Here is a brief list of some of them.

    Most of the people on that list left no writings that inspire anything today.

    Thales of Miletus: No writings by him survive, and no reliable source attests to his having written anything.

    Anaximander of Miletus: We have one alleged fragment of his writing, consisting of the single sentence, "They pay penalty and retribution to each other for their injustice in accordance with the ordering of time." That cannot inspire much in the way of intellectual endeavors, and we cannot be entirely sure of its authenticity. It is found in a 6th century work by Simplicius, who reports that it was attributed to Anaximander by Theophrastus, a pupil of Aristotle, some three centuries after Anaximander's lifetime.

    Pythagoras of Samos: A few documents with his name on them are now generally regarded as forgeries. It is not apparent, from the best sources we have, that the man himself ever wrote anything.

    Leucippus and Democritus: No work attributed to either of them survives. A single quotation is attributed to Leucippus by a source I have not been able to identify. It is: "Nothing occurs at random, but everything for a reason and by necessity." Most of the extant fragments of Democritus, which are numerous but of frequently questioned authenticity, are said to be from his works on ethics.

    Hippocrates of Cos: Modern scholars are convinced that no single man wrote all the works attributed to him. Whether he wrote any of them remains uncertain.

  • Ray Vorkin

    StrangeNotions.com is the central place of dialogue between Catholics and Atheists. It's built around three things: reason, faith, and dialogue. Each day you'll find articles, videos, and rich comment box discussion concerning life's Big Questions.

    The Still Births of Science Series and the Bayes Theorem articles are of minimal interest to the average person, except perhaps for sociologists and statisticians and a few others. Perhaps this would explain the scarcity of participants on this web site in recent history.

    Personally I don't think that SN is living up to it's stated purpose. It seemed a lot more lively and interesting before embarking on the Still Births Of Science Series. The whole series should have been condensed into one short article stating the general premise of the author's stance and not drawn out into the convoluted series that it became. I think that SN should get back to discussing life's Big Questions as they state in their preamble. It would be a lot more interesting to the average person. This is just my humble opinion on the matter. I look forward to when SN gets back to posting articles on life's Big Questions. Thanks. Ray.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Ray!

      • Ray Vorkin

        Thanks for appreciating the feedback Brandon....which is all it was intended to be. I had no intention of it being anything else other than personal opinion regards the SN site, but a couple of the participants seem to have taken personal offense. Am now sorry to have expressed a personal opinion. regards site content.Thanks.

    • I differ. There is no bigger dialogue in modern times than the Big Question of science vs. faith, although the Christians did not start it. You insult the average person by attempting to dismiss the "Still Births" [sic] of science and the misapplication of "Bayes Theorem" [sic] as if the average person cannot possibly be intelligent enough to form an opinion based on evidence and dialogue.

      Life's Big Questions are not measured by their entertainment value.

      I contend that the "scarcity of participants" on this series and on Dr. Brigg's post is more indicative of an inability of atheists to argue against either.

      • Ray Vorkin

        I differ. There is no bigger dialogue in modern times than the Big Question of science vs. faith, although the Christians did not start it. I contend that the "scarcity of participants" on this series and on Dr. Brigg's post is more indicative of an inability of atheists to argue against either. ,

        You make it sound like a pitted battle between science and religion, which is just silly. I don't think most people including myself doubt the veracity of the historical claims re science, of Jaki or in your book....but I think that the series, posted in SN, though interesting to some, is a non issue in today's world, and is of little interest to most persons. I was just expressing an opinion that you seem to have taken great umbrage to. I think on the question of "science vs. faith"..that tension exists in your own mind. and is more about religious doctrine and delusion versus reality than anything else.There is no "faith vs science" these days except only perhaps in the minds of religious fundamentalists.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You seem to be saying that it is not important where, when, and why science emerged when it did and not in other places, other times, or other ways. I think you are wrong about that.

          Your comment is otherwise pretty hard to decipher.

          • Ray Vorkin

            You seem to be saying that it is not important where, when, and why
            science emerged when it did and not in other places, other times, or
            other ways. I think you are wrong about that.

            I did not say that at all, so you and Stacy should stop putting words into my mouth please. All I said was that her series and Briggs article was of minimal interest to most persons OK?...that was my opinion expressed as was my right to do so. I also said I don't think most people including myself doubt the veracity of the historical claims re science, of Jaki or in Stacy's book.
            I don't think my comment is difficult to decipher at all. It is written in English....."read my lips". What is it you don't understand about what I said?

          • David Nickol

            You seem to be saying that it is not important where, when, and why science emerged when it did and not in other places, other times, or other ways. I think you are wrong about that.

            I wouldn't want to go too far with the following analogy, but the attempting to locate the various instances of the "stillbirth" of modern science in Ancient Greece, China, Babylon, and Egypt is a little bit like trying to explain why the Battle of Waterloo wasn't fought by the Sumerians. History is about what did happen in particular places, times, and contexts, not about why those things didn't happen in other places, times, and contexts.

            Many, many attempts have been made by historians to explain the birth of modern science in Western Europe, with probably the majority of those historians being Christian. I doubt that they would universally endorse the work of Fr. Jaki or Stacy Trasancos, which seems to me to be ultimately much more about religious belief than about history. I think the true nature of the series was clearly revealed in an exchange of comments to one of the earlier posts in the series:

            Br. Alexis Bugnolo • 15 days ago

            An excellent analysis, uniting theology, philosophy and cultural anthropology.. saying the truth in such a detailed manner is going to rile the likes of those who don't believe in truth, who don't believe God is Truth, who don't believe Christ is the Truth, and who don't believe that the Church helps to arrive at it; not to mention those who do not believe history can teach us about all of the above. Kudos to you! Fight a good fight, and read up on how to manage trolls, since you are walking on Troll country...

            Stacy Trasancos Br. Alexis Bugnolo • 15 days ago

            Oh my goodness, thank you Br. Bugnolo. What an honor to receive this encouragement from you. Christ is the Truth! I took your advice and read up on troll management. Thank you!

            I think that pretty much speaks for itself. Let me add that I have no objection at all for contributors to Strange Notions attempting to demonstrate that "Christ is the Truth" (and, ultimately, the inspiration for modern science). But it is not a topic of direct interest to atheists, nor to Jews, Muslims, and all other "theists" who are not Christians.

            By the way, Stacy Trasancos's suggestion that she needed to read up on troll management to deal with potential SN commenters on her posts was not the best PR move by an official contributor here, and her suggestion that the relatively modest number of comments on "this series and on Dr. Brigg's post is more indicative of an inability of atheists to argue against either" is rather startling admission of how highly she regards her own work and how dismissive she is of the atheist commenters here.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            When I was an atheist, I would have been interested to know that modern science arose from Christianity, although I would have to define "interested" as "angered and hoping it was not true." Maybe that is just me.

            As far as we know, when referring to troll management, those two could easily have meant how to deal graciously with trolls. Trolls do occasionally appear on these pages.

            I've never felt Stacy is dismissive. I'd characterize her more along the lines of feisty.

          • David Nickol

            Do you believe the origins of modern science in any significant way confirm the existence of the God of Abraham and support the claim that Jesus was God incarnate and founded Christianity?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I believe Judaism and Christianity have unleashed great energies for good in the world.

          • Fabbeyond

            Well I'm glad I'm came acros this site . It has been very insightful.

      • David Nickol

        I contend that the "scarcity of participants" on this series and on Dr. Brigg's post is more indicative of an inability of atheists to argue against either.

        Dr. Briggs's Bayes Theorem Proves Jesus Existed (And That He Didn’t) was one of the weaker pieces ever to appear on Strange Notions. I am somewhat baffled as to why SN chose to reprint it or why you would want to associate your work with that of Dr. Briggs.

        I don't see why either his post or your series would fall into the "theists versus atheist" category, and I don't think the number of responses to any post is a measure of the strength of its arguments.

      • Ray Vorkin

        I contend that the "scarcity of participants" on this series and on Dr.
        Brigg's post is more indicative of an inability of atheists to argue
        against either.

        You seem to have shot yourself in the foot on this one Dr. Stacy and I think that it would behoove you to humbly admit that fact, though not necessarily apologizing to the atheist community for stating this.

      • I disagree that science vs faith is a big question in modern times. I also disagree that this series engages that issue. The big questions for our times are poverty, climate change, war, disease and so on.

        Nothing in this series discusses whether monotheism, Christianity or any theism, or atheism is accurate, but rather that holding some perspectives was an obstacle to the advent of the scientific revolution. At the end of the day science needs a naturalistic perspective to work. Whether one holds that the uniformity of nature is due to a deity or not, is now irrelevant, as long as scientists employ methodological naturalism.

  • Although the rest of us that are collegiate material may possibly have got to pay for our own degree. Mind you, the disagreement is founded on a chance to entry education and never have to spend money... instructors have to earn a living..

  • Jerald Truesdell

    I'm glad to see Jaki's work continued. He does an encyclopedic job in documenting and supporting all these theories. Here's a few more noteworthy points made by Jaki: (1) Sixth century Christian John Philoponus argued for a mechanistic and homogeneous universe (as opposed to an organism), and argued for experimental science - and was possibly rebutted by pagan philosophers. (2) The metaphysical realism of Aquinas and some other scholastics fit perfectly with the physics to come. More specifically, we believe the various UNIVERSAL physical laws are true in the universe, even though they can't directly be observed (they can be approximated, and experimental error explained with secondary and tertiary forces, observational error, etc.) , and that centuries of repeated experimentation, refinement, ever more precise instrumentation, expansion of the sciences to include optics and energy, and so on, was necessary to fully vindicate the metaphysics of Aquinas - a metaphysics that insisted that although we have a universe of particulars, universals exist in nature, and that our rational soul is capable of reasoning with such. So much of the new research program was carried along with a Christian world view that was infused in our cultural matrix over centuries.

    Historical reasoning is never purely deductive, and conclusive without doubt. The best we can do is falsify myths with facts, and make a strong case for some interpretation of the stubborn facts of history. Jaki did this very well.

  • For established a nation this kind of thesis play an important role. Today is the science era and people are easily can solved their demand. But to protect the nation we need to be update with time.