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The Stillbirth of Science in China

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NOTE: Today we're continuing 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.


 
There is so much written about China’s rich and illustrious past that no case could ever be made—from the Shang Dynasty (1523–1028 B.C.) to the Ch’ing Dynasty (A.D. 1644–1912)—that there was no progress in civilization, art, or literature. Likewise, volumes have been written on the question of the history of science and Chinese civilization. In Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe and The Savior of Science (pages 46 and 35 respectively), Jaki referred to the extensive research of British biochemist Joseph Needham. In seven volumes comprised of twenty-seven books, Needham and his team of international collaborators reviewed the history of science and technology in China. The massive work was eventually published by the Cambridge University Press under the title Science and Civilisation in China; and the project, which began in 1954, continues to the present day.

A brief overview of the content of these volumes will demonstrate the extent of cultural development in China and the futility of ignoring such a rich history. Needham’s first volume (1954) is an introduction to the rest of the work. Volume Two (1956) covers the history of scientific thought in China, including the organic naturalism of the great Taoist school, the scientific philosophy of the Mohists and Logicians, and the quantitative materialism of the Legalists. Volume Three and the three-part Volume Four (1959–1971) addresses mathematics and the sciences of the heavens and earth, physics, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, and nautics. Volume Five (1985–1999) has thirteen parts: the first on paper and printing; the second through the fifth on spagyrical discovery and inventions including gold and immortality, cinnabar elixirs, synthetic insulin, apparatus, and physiological alchemy; the sixth and seventh on military technology from missiles and sieges to the “gunpowder epic;” the ninth on the textile industry while the eighth and tenth are still works in progress; the eleventh on ferrous metallurgy; the twelfth on ceramic technology; and the thirteenth on mining. Volume Six (1986–2000) deals with botany, agriculture, agroindustry, and forestry in the first three parts and fermentations, food science, and medicine in the fifth and sixth parts, while the fourth part of Volume Six is still in progress. Finally, Volume Seven (1998–2004) covers language and logic, and then gives the general conclusions and reflections. (See full list here.) The purpose of listing these volumes published over a span of six decades is to demonstrate that intensive work has been devoted to the history of science in China, and Jaki was aware of this. He acknowledged it in the development of the “stillbirths” argument.

In Science and Creation (pages 30-32) Jaki discussed how around 350 B.C., the astronomer Shih Shen drew up a catalogue of around 800 stars and how the manuscripts were stored in the Imperial Library. The ability to catalogue and store documents displayed great sophistication. Technological improvements were made in water works and the extension of the Great Wall, a massive achievement. During the three and a half centuries known as the age of the Warring States (480–220 B.C.), cultural growth continued. The Chinese invented the waterwheel, the wheelbarrow, and other devices that demonstrated continued technological development. Around the middle of the fourth century, Hu Hsi made observations that led him to discover the precession of equinoxes, although the Greek scholar Hipparchus is credited with discovering it centuries earlier.

The peak periods of Chinese culture spanned the Han, Sung, Thang, Yuan, and Ming periods (collectively 202 B.C.– A.D. 1644) and represented a length of time when scientific endeavor could have “received a decisive spark.” There were technological feats in which the Chinese were the “sole inventors” for a number of centuries. They invented the effective use of horses, the foot-stirrup and breast-strap harness. They discovered magnetic ore. They invented the revolutionary skill of paper-making, which led to the production of printed books. They invented the process of making gunpowder, the production of porcelain, and the development of water-driven mechanical clocks. They used magnets for travel and moveable clay types for printing.

The Chinese also, Jaki noted, developed algebra at a level compatible with the best in Europe around A.D. 1250. According to Francis Bacon, printing, gunpowder, and magnets were the factors that ushered in the age of science more than anything, but Jaki challenged Bacon’s assertion by noting that even with these developments the Chinese “remained hopelessly removed from the stage of sustained, systematic scientific research.”

The Chinese had rockets for centuries but did not investigate trajectories or free fall. Their ability to print books did not lead to a “major intellectual ferment.” Magnets were installed on their ships and they were the best navy in the world for the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but they never circumnavigated the globe.

Historians have also noted that the “Industrial Revolution” did not originate in China, and that is of great significance for Jaki’s argument that science was “stillborn” in Chinese culture. Jaki cited a 1922 article in The International Journal of Ethics entitled “Why China Has No Science: An Interpretation of the History and Consequences of Chinese Philosophy." The author, Yu-Lan Fung, who contributed to Needham’s volumes, noted that the history of Europe and the history of China before the Renaissance are “on the same level,” by which he meant that they both progressed at about the same pace, albeit in different ways. After that time the pace differed: “China is still old while the Western countries are already new.” Fung asked, “What keeps China back?” He answered that it is because “she has no science . . . because according to her own standard of value she does not need any . . . China has not discovered the scientific method, because Chinese thought started from mind, and from one’s own mind.” If truth and knowledge are in the mind, separated from the external world, there is no need for scientific investigation beyond practical skill.

Fung contrasted the three major powers which competed to conquer the entire empire of China from 570 B.C. to about 275 B.C–Taoism, Moism, and Confucianism. Taoism taught a “return to nature” with nature being the natural state of all things, including the natural tendency of man toward vice. According to Taoism, “every kind of human virtue and social regulation is to them against nature.” Knowledge was considered to be of no use because the Tao is inside man, as the god of the pantheistic philosophy. Taoism did not require any questioning of a beginning and an end, about final purposes and goals, or about the controlling of the forces and patterns in the workings of the Yin and Yang. The cosmological passage from the Chuang Tzu demonstrated this mindset:

"Men who study the Tao do not follow on when these operations [properties belonging to things] end, nor try to search out how they began: - with this all discussion of them stops." Texts of Taoism, translated by J. Legge (New York: Julian Press, 1959), Book XXV, par. 11, 568-69; quoted in Jaki, Science and Creation, 30.

The key to success in Taoism was to merge into the rhythm of cosmic cycles.

The fundamental idea of Moism was “utility,” and virtue was seen as useful. Universal love was taught as a doctrine for the benefit of the country and people, and progress was the ideal of mutual help; anything that was incompatible with the increase of wealth and population was to be fought against. Confucius stood between the two, emphasizing discrimination in different situations. He taught that human nature is essentially good although men are not born perfect. To become perfect, the innate reason must be developed and lower desires “wholly taken away.” His concerns were ethical, not metaphysical. Therefore, Confucius taught that the individual should seek what is in himself and leave external things to their natural destiny.

In these competing theories of existence, the power that governs the universe is the omnipotent Tao for Taoism, the personified self-god in Moism, and Heavenly Reason according to Confucianism. Moism did have a notion of Heaven as personal and caring for humans, a monotheism of sorts, but its ethics were severed from this idea. As these powers competed over time, to put it far too concisely to do the history enough justice, they actually merged and philosophical investigation of “things” gave rise to two forms of Neo-Confucianism, one school that sought “things” externally and another that sought “things” as phenomena in the mind. In Medieval Europe the same ideas about “things” more or less existed too, but from there on, China and Europe diverged:

"In other words, Medieval Europe under Christianity tried to know God and prayed for His help; Greece tried, and Modern Europe is trying to know nature and to conquer, to control it; but China tried to know what is within ourselves, and to find there perpetual peace." (Fung, "Why China Has No Science")

So China did not have use for the scientific method because the religions sought what is in the mind separate from the external world. Fung concluded his paper with a call for mankind to become wiser and to find peace and happiness by turning attention to Chinese wisdom so that the “mind energy of the Chinese people of four thousand years will yet not have been spent in vain.” Even if modern science was not born in China, there were other aspects of the culture that were worthy of admiration.

In concluding this consideration of China’s history, it needs to be noted that other scholars concurred with Fung. In 1995, Justin Yifu Lin of Peking University published an essay titled “The Needham Puzzle: Why the Industrial Revolution Did Not Originate in China.” Lin noted from evidence documented in Needham’s work that “except for the past two or three centuries, China had a considerable lead over the Western world in most of the major areas of science and technology.” From an economic and social perspective, he considers why, despite early advances in science, technology, and institutions, China did not take the next step in the seventeenth century as Western Europe did.

Ultimately that answer depends on how the Chinese viewed the external world and whether it was created by God or was God itself. In believing that the world was God and was eternal, there was no need to question a beginning and an end or how everything came to be. Needham also acknowledged that it is a theological orientation of Chinese thought that can be singled out as the decisive factor that blocked the attitude conducive to developing a systematic, scientific investigation. (Science and Civilisation in China, 580-582) “There, according to Needham’s admission, all the early cultivators of science drew courage for their pioneering efforts from a belief in a personal and rational Creator.” (Jaki, Science and Creation, 40.)

For the purposes of Jaki’s argument, the similarity of the Egyptian and Chinese cultures bears emphasizing. Both were pantheistic, with some degree of monotheism but still a monotheism that held that the world was God, which is basically pantheism. Neither had a loving Creator who “ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight,” who made man in His image with intellect and free will, or who became Incarnate to redeem mankind. “In a universe without the voice of God there remains no persistent and compelling reason for man to search within nature for distinct voices of law and truth.” (Jaki, Science and Creation, 41.)

Sources:

  • Stanley L. Jaki, Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, Ltd, 1986).
  • Stanley L. Jaki, The Savior of Science (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000).
  • Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 2, History of Scientific Thought (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1956).
  • Yu-Lan Fung, “Why China Has No Science: An Interpretation of the History and Consequences of Chinese Philosophy,” The International Journal of Ethics, 32 (1922), 237-263.
  • Texts of Taoism, translated by J. Legge (New York: Julian Press, 1959).
  • Justin Yifu Lin, “The Needham Puzzle: Why the Industrial Revolution Did Not Originate in China,” Economic Development and Cultural Change (University of Chicago Press, 1995), 269-292.

 
 
(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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  • According to Wikipedia Christians lived in China from the Tang dianasty in 635. They were not a majority, but they developed stable communities and influenced Chinese culture, especially Mongolian culture, well before 1644. If Christian theology, a belief in a God who “ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight”, is important for the development of science, why didn't China begin to develop science, at least among its Christian scholars?

    • Hi Paul, the short answer is that they did not influence the culture much if at all. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Anti-Buddhist_Persecution

      • But they would have had their own culture. Was there in that culture no scientific speculation, no development toward a scientific method? Or in the Jewish culture, or with the Egyptian Christians, or the Greek and Russian Christians? Why did science really only get started in the West?

        • jessej

          Hi Paul

          You are asking the perfect questions.

          Dr Trasancos has compiled the letters of the men who really had to break with Aristotelian thought. Her work is fun and serious at the same time. I would have read it if I were a Zoroastrian :)

          This was a break with the idea of an oscillating universe , which will become more apparent as these articles appear weekly.

          Oscillating universe theory is incompatible with the Incarnation
          Of God as man

          Man's (finite) sin against God (infinite) cannot be repaired by man because of the nature of infinite and finite.

          With the Incarnation what God assumes or takes to himself in human form and nature he can redeem. Simply put God's the only one with a big enough bank account to pay up for our offenses.

          Now the Incarnation can only take place ONCE because of its infinite nature. It would be like opening a bank account when you already have an account with infinite funds.

          The priests and bishops are always going back to this while making this break from the past.

        • Because I know you so well from corresponding with you for so long through comments, I am reading something into your question that perhaps I should not, but here goes. I had the same trouble. You are thinking like a scientist, not like a historian.

          Scientists look for physical laws. If X, Y, Z conditions exist, we expect A, B, C outcome (or rather, some complex relationship between factors and results).

          Historians are stuck with what happened.

          So, to answer your question, think of the major ancient cultures as bulk matrices. The Christians in ancient China were, for all intents and purposes, an impurity in a bulk solid. They were foreign, and the culture worked to remove the foreign. So maybe they "could" have made the intellectual breakthrough with which modern science began as the scholars in the Middle Ages did, but the fact is, they did not. Why? We can speculate. They didn't have the freedom, the unity, the contributions from other cultures. They may have been more focused on mystical aspects or on plain survival.

          Jaki didn't argue that being Christian necessarily meant being scientific. He argued that the Christian worldview nurtured and guided the pre-scientific worldview and eventually, upon refuting some errors of pantheism, made the intellectual breakthrough that gave birth to modern science (i.e. mathematization of nature into a universal, viable, self-sustaining, systematic discipline). By using the birth and stillbirth metaphors, he was trying to show that such richness of thought, skill, and ability was found in the other ancient cultures, but because of a worldview not conducive to modern science, they failed to make the breakthrough necessary. This breakthrough is discussed in detail in my book. It is documented with original sources, as Jesse kindly points out. (Thanks Jesse!)

          I suppose you could make a metaphor about the Nestorian Christians in China and gametes in a foreign environment unable to unite and grow because the womb was inhospitable, but . . . that's getting kind of weird.

          Your last question is of utmost importance though, but it has to be understood within the historical method Jaki applied. He noted where modern science was born. He noted differences in that culture and other major cultures, particularly the theological and psychological differences. And he showed with data that that difference indeed guided the minds of the scholars involved in the birth of science. Uniquely so, in many ways. Ultimately he argued (convincingly in my opinion) that: “There had to come a birth, the birth of the only begotten Son of the Father as a man, to allow science to have its first viable birth.” (A Late Awakening, p.60)

          • You are right. We are stuck with what happened, and have to speculate off of that. Given what we have to work with, I think it is an interesting argument, and I read your book with great enjoyment. Maybe my frustration is more with history than with the argument itself. It would have been nice if science had arisen independently in two places, and then we could have compared these two cultures to find the similarities. That it arose in the Christian West could have meant a wide variety of things. Maybe latin is the best language for science, and developing science takes a long time. Or maybe there was something in the combination of the Germanic and Roman influences. Or maybe the particularly western monastic life was conducive to scientific progress. Maybe it was something in European diet. I don't know.

            If we don't have science arising in two different places independently, it seems that this historical project, however interesting to historians, is doomed to end with a lot of uncertainty. The most such a project could say, and what your book did convince me of, is that Christianity is not poison for science. Christian culture provides an envrionment for science that is at least as healthy as Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Arabic culture, and maybe a more healthy environment. Was it necessary for science, or even all that helpful for science? I don't know.

            But what if there was a point of comparison? There may be one. I would argue that Archimedes was a real scientist. He came up with a mathematical relationship between mass, volume and density, and then used that relationship to determine the composition of various solids. If Greek culture was able to produce a single scientist, it might then be useful to find what is common between Greek and Medieval Christian culture, maybe even to find out what made things better for the Christians or worse for the Greeks. If this is a real point of comparison, then the project becomes much more interesting, at least in my estimation.

          • Thank you for that comment Paul. I share your frustration with historical studies.

            There have been volumes written about the history of science. (This is mostly from the "Critics" chapter.) The approach David Lindberg took, for example, in The Beginnings of Western Science was to explore the history without actually pinpointing a beginning. He noted revolutions that may have led to the beginning of science. He did not clearly define science either. In the first chapter, he wrote “we have no choice but to accept a diverse set of meanings as legitimate and do our best to determine from the context of usage what the term ‘science’ means on any specific occasion.”

            I would not criticize his approach because he is a masterful historian, but I did contrast it with Jaki’s approach and defended Jaki’s approach as the one that offers more insight into how science can be advanced in the future.

            No historian can be absolutely objective in interpreting historical times. (A scientist might even say that it is easier to succumb to bias in the study of historical data than in the assessment of scientific data because history deals with human persons with free will as data points. Quantitative data has no volition of its own; the numbers speak for themselves.) At least for Jaki, who was a theologian, there was an admitted lens through which he explored the history of science–he studied the history of theology along with the history of science to see how the two affected each other in different cultures.

            Jaki also insisted on original sources. If you study history by reading secondary sources (i.e. other historians interpretations of original sources) you can become entrapped to their interpretation. That's why I didn't just take Jaki's word. Minding his own advice, I found the sources myself as much as possible (spent a small fortune) and tried to quote as many original sources as I could, particularly where the argument hinged.

            A special set of beliefs was necessary for the rise of science, and those beliefs were provided by Christian theology. I don't think it can be proven that modern science could not have ever developed without Christianity, but history does show that Christianity played an important (nurturing, intimate) role in the birth of science. And yes, a lot of it was contributed by the Greeks.

            If a reader understands Jaki's claim, whether he agrees with it or not, okay. If a reader sees that Christianity isn't "poison" (as you said), that's great. That was my purpose.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Maybe latin is the best language for science

            Toby Huff made the point that Chinese is an imprecise language and gave the example of a sentence from Confucius which could be translated four different ways, two of them contradictory to the other two. This ambiguity goes "down to the bone" and is inimical to the development of any science that require precision of expression.

            Greek and Latin inflections impose greater precision. You cannot say in Latin an absurdity like "I flew to London last week" because the instrumental case requires you say "I rode to London by means of an airplane...."

            Aristotle did not hesitate to invent new words to get his point across, and the medievals did likewise, inventing words for things like "velocity," "acceleration," "instantaneous," "numerator," "denominator," etc. that did not previously have a concise expression.
            ++++
            Another factor, now that I think on't, was the occult. That is, the ancients believed that wisdom was not for the masses and therefore kept their writings deliberately obscure. This included gimmicks like leaving steps out of a chain of reasoning, deliberately misspelling words, placing parts of an argument in different places in the text, and so on. The new civilization aborning in Europe had to shake off the residues of the past because not only were they Christians, they were also Romans and Greeks and Syrians and Egyptians.

            Alexandria was a hotbed of Neoplatonism, and therefore of woo-woo, but there was some revival of Aristotle toward the end. The Christian philosopher John Philoponus conducted an experiment with an inclined plane to show that unequal bodies fell at the same rate -- the same experiment Galileo performed centuries later. But the learning of Alexandria was lost when, discovering that they often had to sell their families into slavery to pay the tax on unbelievers, they revolted against the Arab conquerors and the city was wiped out and replaced by a new city: Cairo.

            BTW: Byzantium is a better example than the Nestorians in China. Not only were they as Christian as the Latins, but they never lost touch with ancient Greek learning. But Byzantium was under existential stress for most of its course and whatever learning happened in Greek Christendom was lost in the Turkish sack. (Much of it, interestingly enough, brought by refugees to Latin Christendom to seed the Renaissance.)

            The Nestorian Christians in China could make no headway in a culture that did not even have the idea of a philosophy of nature. While Aristotle was widely ignored in Late Antiquity, being "rediscovered" in a way by the scholars of Alexandria just before the end, there was nobody in China who had ever defined a coherent body of knowledge and methodology for investigating nature. The very word "logic" is a borrow-word in Chinese.

            We do have an example of Christians in China who made a deliberate and determined effort to transmit Western science: the Jesuits in Ming China. They translated Euclid and so astonished Chinese scholars -- they had never seen anything like those marching syllogisms -- that several of them converted to Catholicism on the spot. They translated a host of other Western science. Fr. Schreck, who had been inducted into the Lycean Academy shortly after
            Galileo, and who had been at the famous banquet when the "little eye"
            was renamed the "telescope," brought a telescope with him and showed it to the emperor. There was a famous face-off between the Jesuit astronomers and the traditional Chinese astronomers -- datong was a purely arithmetical approach; the Chinese lacked spherical trigonometry -- and the Western Tychonic system kicked datong butt predicting eclipses and stuff. Schreck's successor, Adam Schall von Bell, was made head mandarin of
            the Astronomy Section in the Department of Rites under the Third
            Minister.

            The net result was... cricket-chirps. Nothing. A tree falling in the forest. Fr. Bell was accused of not correctly forecasting "lucky" and "unlucky" days, and imprisoned in chains for "unauthorized use of a telescope." His Chinese assistants were beheaded, his Jesuit colleagues placed under house arrest -- and the Chinese went on using datong and their calendar got so out-of-synch that the Ming lost the Mandate of Heaven. Toby Huff describes the impact of the telescope in China (none), in Islam (very little), and in the West (a scientific revolution) in a book entitled Intellectual Curiosity. Not everyone, it seems, has it.

            So it's no surprise if the Nestorians made no headway.

          • Do you think that the imprecision of English will hurt science going into the future?

            Another factor, now that I think on't, was the occult. That is, the ancients believed that wisdom was not for the masses and therefore kept their writings deliberately obscure. This included gimmicks like leaving steps out of a chain of reasoning, deliberately misspelling words, placing parts of an argument in different places in the text, and so on. The new civilization aborning in Europe had to shake off the residues of the past because not only were they Christians, they were also Romans and Greeks and Syrians and Egyptians.

            This is a very interesting speculation. Science may be able to develop and even successfully operate in a culture that shares nothing, but it would always be sickly and fragile. The belief that information can and should be given to all people in the form of words, and therefore that all people should be made literate is a very Jewish idea. And interpretation should be argued ceaselessly. That's also important, both in the Jewish faith and for science. Thanks for the insight.

          • Barry Bozz

            I am not sure of this, but the medieval delving into alchemy assumed a belief in a rational universe governed by laws of cause and effect sustained by a personal God as the creator of those laws. The belief that man could manipulate matter through experimentation on the properties of matter, had to have an apriori metaphysical construct. Did the Chinese or other civilizations experiment with alchemy? Not magic but experimental attempts to transform matter? The pantheistic universe allows for no dualism of subject and object. So even the epistemology of the pantheist closes down that distinction, which is implicit in your fine essay.

          • Yes, I think you're right. Needham describes a "physiological alchemy," an inner alchemy I take to be like this. http://www.literati-tradition.com/meditative_practice.html

            Arab alchemy was a study of materials and compounds, but the field of investigation was a combination of mystical and astrological explanations. See second para: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/arabic/alchemy1.html (though there may be a better link)

            Roger Bacon conducted "alchemy" and noted some fantastic observations (elixirs that were said to prolong life). It seemed magical and made Christians skeptical, but Bacon urged experimentation is necessary:

            "First one should be credulous until experience follows second and reason comes third . . . At first one should believe those who have made experiments or who have faithful testimony from others who have done so, nor should one reject the truth because he is ignorant of it and because he has no argument for it."

            That quote is in Vol. 11 of the 14 volume work A History of Magic and Experimental Science by Lynn Thorndike, p. 657, taken from Bacon's Opus majus. He is, as far as I know, the expert on alchemy. http://books.google.com/books?id=rNhfFJzD0FsC&pg=PA649&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=2#v=onepage&q&f=false

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The difference between Western magic and Western science is where they fall long an epistemological axis. Both presume that the effects they see are due to the properties of matter itself. In the former case, those properties are "hidden" (occult) and in the latter case they are open (manifest). That is why Aquinas says that a thing may seem miraculous to one person but not to another inasmuch as the ratio may be unknown or known. Hence, a magician may tell you that if you have a headache you should chew on willow bark. A scientist will understand that willow bark contains a chemical that relieves headaches. (This is also why the mere accumulation of lore and rules of thumb -- here, chew on this -- is not science as we mean the term.)

  • "So China did not have use for the scientific method because the
    religions sought what is in the mind separate from the external world."

    I grant you that if such a practice were dominant it would be contrary to scientific inquiry. I certainly agree that religious dogma can be contrary to science and I have yet to find one that promotes it. But it does not appear to be have been dominant, in the sense of in any major way preventing the Chinese from the perspective needed to engage scientific endeavors.

    As long as you have the view that the natural world acts in accordance with rules we can understand and an interest in discovering those rules, you can do a form of science.

    And indeed it would seem that the Chinese shared this view and for some two thousand years they excelled at this making the discoveries outlined above. The fact that they did not circumnavigate the globe and begin the Industrial Revolution seems an unfair criticism and an insufficient basis to conclude science was stillborn during this period.

    Something happened in Europe in and around the middle of the last millennium. After this period we see an increasingly rapid increase in technological, industrial and social development. I don't think any historian and credibly determine a single factor that is responsible. But I think one factor that we can rule out is the introduction of Christianity. This was not a new thing in Europe in 1700, 1400 or even in 1000. The Christian worldview held sway in Europe for at the very least a thousand years before the kind of innovation and scientific advancement occurred that is being argued here was stillborn in non-christian civilizations. It did not happen in the Courts of Christian kings and Emperors, in the network of Christian monasteries who were literate. While Christian Europeans certainly could have, they did not make even the discoveries that the Chinese made during this period, rather they adopted them from China and in the late medieval period they ran with them.

    The kind of scientific, commercial, technological, advancements occurred not with the introduction of the Christian worldview to Europe, but with a decline in its religious dogmatic dominance. It happened when the Western Christianity fractured and the Catholic Church lost sway over places like Germany and England. It occurred when pantheist worldviews like Spinoza's were tolerated in more secular societies like the Netherlands. It flourished in America with its secular state and so on.

    • Hello,

      I deleted this comment because, on second thoughts I feel like responding to this article gives it more credibility than I feel it deserves.

      But since it is still up I will own it.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    The problem of the lack of science in China is obscured by our modern confusion of science with technology and with mathematics. Technology can and has advanced by fortuitous tinkering with mechanisms and only lately has it been joined to natural science. Further, in many cases, China would "discover" some technology only to forget it later on. When the Jesuits reached China, the great Sung clock was in ruins and no one knew how to put it right. Notice: "clock," singular. When the medievals independently invented an escapement, the cities of Europe vied with one another building elaborate public clocks. They were not mere toys to amuse an emperor. Note also that when the Jesuits introduced the telescope to China the only consequence was that later one of them was prosecuted for "unauthorized use of a telescope." Astronomical mathematics (hence, control of the calendar) was a state-controlled enterprise in China, which is how the Ming calendar reached the point where it was failing on a regular basis. (Astronomy remained a specialized branch of mathematics until the invention of the telescope showed the heavenly bodies to be physical places.)

    What distinguishes science from tinkering is that science tries to weave facts together into physical theories, and then uses those theories to predict (then look for) new facts. While the ancient Greeks were content to spin theories without regard for facts, the Chinese were content to collect facts without regard for theories. When rejecting the heliocentric theories brought by the Jesuits, Juan Yuan wrote, "Our ancients sought phenomena and ignored theoretical explanation... It does not seem to me the least inconvenient to ignore Western theoretical explanations and simply to consider facts."

    This interplay of fact and physical theory was laid down in the Middle Ages by Robert Grosseteste as compositio et reductio, back when "Guest" insists nothing scientific was being done in Europe. In reality, that was when the foundations were being laid; but Guest confuses technological advances with the cultural embedding of a way of thinking.

    • Hi "ye olde"

      I think we can go a step further in the last century or so, a specific scientific method has been established that best describes what we mean by "science" these days. It is characterized by things like empiricism, methodological naturalism, falsifiability/experimentation, peer review, critical thinking, and repeatability. We sometimes call the body of knowledge derived from this method "science" as well the method.

      This really is what we mean when we talk about science in the modern context. It is not really possible to talk of science in this way before the last 300 years or so, in which we saw incredible advances in our knowledge in every field and it continues today, when these principles are adhered to.

      We should look to the origins of these characteristics in trying to trace the history of science. The only connection these characteristics have with Christianity or monotheism, is that the men who first employed them were generally Christian. Of course, there really was little option for being otherwise. Even today, there is great stigma with being an out atheist. Making this argument is like saying that they were all straight or men. We only need to look at Alan Turing to see how difficult being otherwise was, even in the 20th Century.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        a specific scientific method ... characterized by things like empiricism, methodological naturalism, falsifiability/experimentation, peer review, critical thinking, and repeatability. We sometimes call the body of knowledge derived from this method "science" as well the method. We should look to the origins of these characteristics in trying to trace the history of science.

        Most of that stems from the Middle Ages.

        Empiricism was the marker of the Aristotelian school. Even in theological science, it must be said, Thomas Aquinas and others always started from tangible experience, or cited tangible experience as illustrations.

        Methodological naturalism was exemplified by St. Albert the Great, who wrote: “In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.” -- De vegetabilibus et plantis (13th cent.)

        Falsifiability was part of Popper's program to undermine the certitude of natural science, so one shouldn't embrace it too tightly. (After all, Popper cited Darwin as an example of a non-falsifiable theory.) But the core truth is simply modus tollens, which was well known to the medievals (and derives from Aristotle) and used quite often.

        Experimentation was viewed with some suspicion, largely because of concern over what we call the observer effect. They were not confident that artificial conditions of an experiment would reveal the natural properties of bodies. Even so, the first experiments date from the Middle Ages: e.g., Theodoric of Freiburg and his rainbow experiments. Peter of Maricourt wrote that an investigator “diligent in the use of his own hands… will in a short time correct an error which he would never do in eternity by his knowledge of natural philosophy and mathematics alone,” as in his own experiments with magnets. And Roger Bacon wrote, “We learn more through artful vexation of nature than we do through patient observation.” Even so, one would be hard-pressed to find any experiments in Darwin, so we must be careful of making this a defining quality.

        Peer review began in medieval theological science; but note that nothing by Galileo, Scheiner, Newton, Boyle, Darwin, or even Einstein's seminal works went through peer review. Peer review now, as then, was a method of guarding against too much heterodoxy.

        Critical thinking. This is what the medievals excelled at. Edward Grant called it "the culture of poking around." The questions genre was founded on making the best possible arguments for and against a given question, and that required a culture of critical thinking. Ironically, following the Renaissance logical argument gave way to one-sided polemic and it became harder and harder to find arguments against a given theory handled by those who proposed it.

        "Repeatability" is what the medievals called "the common course of nature." But today we have a great many sciences, from cosmology to evolution, that do not deal in repeatable phenomena or in repeatables that require insanely expensive equipment. And, another irony, as Feynman once complained, few people bother to do the necessary repeated experiments.

        The only connection these characteristics have with Christianity or monotheism, is that the men who first employed them were generally Christian.

        The reason why natural science blossomed in Christendom and only in Christendom lies in the foundations, not in any particular technique. I'd suggest Edward Grant's short book, The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages.
        http://www.amazon.com/Foundations-Modern-Science-Middle-Ages/dp/0521567629

        Two key ideas: That there is a single God who is rational being. The lack of this belief was cited by Needham, himself not only an atheist but a Marxist atheist, for the lack of natural science in China:
        "It was not that there was no order in nature for the Chinese, but rather that it was not an order ordained by a rational personal being, and hence there was no conviction that rational personal beings would be able to spell out in their lesser earthly languages the divine code of laws which he had decreed aforetime. The Taoists, indeed, would have scorned such an idea as being too naïve for the subtlety and complexity of the universe as they intuited it."
        -- Needham, Joseph, and Wang Ling, Science and Civilisation in China. 1 Introductory Orientations. Cambridge University Press (1954).

        The second key idea was "secondary causation." Material bodies have the causal power from God to act directly on one another. This goes back at least to St. Augustine, and was cited repeatedly throughout the Middle Ages, by Anselm of Canterbury, William of Conches, Thomas Aquinas, et al.

        • I disagree that it stems from the Middle Ages, and even if it did, this is not a sign of a relationship with Christianity.

          Aristotle is huge to the origins of the modern scientific method. He was not Christian. Christ said things like "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." I take that as being opposed to empiricism.

          Accepting miracles as a possible explanations of anything is the exact opposite of methodological naturalism.

          I utterly disagree that falsifiability is not terribly important. I would say it is fundamental to science.

          You don't understand what I mean by repeatability. This means that science is skeptical of single studies and experiments, before they are accepted, it wants to see independent repetition of the experiment with similar results, if no one can replicate your results, the scientific community will discard your work.

          • Continue: I just don't follow why one needs a rational creator and order to do science rather than just an order. At the end of the day this is an opinion.

            At the end of the day I don't see quotes from the bible or Jesus in making a connection between modern science and Christianity. I also see no temporal connection. All of the sources you cite are pre-Christian or happened at least a thousand years after Christ. The principles you cite are either vague or in direct opposition to scientific thinking.

            I'm not saying that Christianity or Christians played no role, certainly the naturalists like Lineaus were trying to describe creation in detail. But science is so much more than that, it is the principles outlined above. Take away these and you are no longer talking about the practice that began in the Middle Ages and flourished in the modern age, you are talking about what the Chinese, Greeks, and Egyptians did, nothing was still born I that sense, they did it for centuries.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I just don't follow why one needs a rational creator and order to do science rather than just an order. At the end of the day this is an opinion.

            Which is what Popper said all of natural science boiled down to. However, it is what we call an educated opinion: one that accounts for the facts as we know them. The Chinese, for example, recognized there was an order in nature, but Needham pointed out that they had no confidence that human thought could grasp that order. A key idea here is that of synderesis, or "conscience," which St. Paul developed from some passing thoughts in Plato's Timeaus. This is developed at length in Toby Huff's book The Rise of Early Modern Science. The net result was that (eventually) an entire society bought into the notion that human reason was capable of reaching correct conclusions not only in moral thought but in thinking about nature. This was rejected by both Islam (where neither the Timeaus nor St. Paul were translated) and by China. Right behavior, not right belief mattered. All that was needed was to follow a list of rules, not debate and question those rules. The mu'tazilah in Islam and the Moists in China were minority positions.

            At the end of the day I don't see quotes from the bible
            or Jesus in making a connection between modern science and Christianity.

            Fundamentalists are always looking for proof texts to back things up. It doesn't occur to you that Christian thought, both Greek and Latin, was much more wide-ranging than that, and that it indeed developed over a thousand years.

            The principles you cite are either vague or in direct opposition to scientific thinking.

            Which were in opposition. Devotees of empiricism ought to supply empirical evidence for their claims. It seems to me (and to historians of science) that the belief in the reliability of human reason and the belief in secondary causation were not only not in opposition to natural science, but were necessary for it.

            naturalists like Lineaus were trying to describe creation in detail.

            And so was Albertus Magnus, centuries earlier.

            But science is so much more than that, it is the principles outlined above.

            Peter Dear described six "pillars" of the Scientific Revolution:

            1. The view of the world as a kind of machine.
            2. The distinction between “primary” and “secondary” qualities.
            3. The use of deliberate and recordable experimentation.
            4. The use of mathematics as a privileged tool for disclosing nature.
            5. The pursuit of natural philosophy as a research enterprise.
            6. The reconstruction of the social basis of knowledge around a positive evaluation of cooperative research.

            All the rest of what you spoke of are peripheral. The peer review system is a recent adaptation of medieval theological review panels and in any case is used by historical and other non-scientific journals.

            what the Chinese, Greeks, and Egyptians did, nothing was still born I that sense, they did it for centuries.

            Fortunately, the historians of science do not depend on what you sense. You must now explain why there was no efflorescence of science in those societies, only a hodge-podge of chance-encountered factoids.

            If the Muslims never had an Aquinas, the Chinese never had an Aristotle. The Jesuits translated the Latin scientia into classical Chinese as ko-chih (“inquiring
            into and extending knowledge.”). The term po-wu (“broad learning concerning the nature of things”) had been used in medieval China. The distinction, according to Benjamin Elman, is that ko-chih signified the accumulation of knowledge per se, while po-wu carried the connotation of “curiosities.” Like scientia, neither term properly denotes science in the modern sense. More pertinently, Chinese sages had never integrated the study of the natural world into an overall
            coherent philosophy, as Aristotle and his Islamic and European successors had done. Poetry, physics, gardening and alchemy were all equally ko-chih.

            Hope this helps.

          • Are you honestly saying that a claim need not be falsifiable to be scientific? I can claim that the universe was created by a god last Thursday and meant to look like it had been going on for billions of years, and this would be considered a proper scientific claim?

            Are you seriously suggesting that experiments need not be repeatable to be accepted as science? That cold fusion result should be accepted as good science?

            That anyone should give a second thought to studies that are not subjected to peer review?

            These are not peripheral to modern science. They are the characteristics of it. They are the very reason we consider science the most reliable form of enquiry. They are what distinguishes what scientists do today from what natural philosophers did 500 and 2500 years ago. They are the innovations Dr Transocos is getting at and they are absent in Christianity.

          • Brian,

            He's trying to give you a bigger historical picture. The change from Aristotelian physics to Newtonian physics was largely a change in what "proof" meant.

            Discussions about falsifiability are very much alive today. Haven't you heard of the debates over string theory? http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/the-need-for-experimental-falsifiability-in-string.html

          • I am aware of strong theory and the point is that it is not given any real weight due to its lack of falsifiability. It is considered speculative and I think no reputable scientist would say it is in any way established scientifically.

            As a scientist, what do you think? Do scientific hypotheses need to be falsifiable?

          • It's "string" theory, not "strong," must have been a typo.

            You are wrong that string (or superstring) theory is not given any weight. Here's a rather reputable scientist named like you:

            https://www.ted.com/talks/brian_greene_on_string_theory

            More dimensions than we see? Yes.

            May be able to test? Yes.

            Won't know if we don't try? Yes.

            That was almost 10 years ago. Seriously, were you not aware?

          • I haven't looked at your link, but undoubtedly it is Brian Greene. I don't deny that string theory may be very promising and one day they may develop a way to test it. But I think Greene is very clear that it is also speculative and not accepted being in any way demonstrated scientifically. Would you not agree that it is largely on par with Multiverse theory? Something that I often hear dismissed by Christian Apologists as unscientific, speculative, not demonstrated?

            But I asked you a straightforward question, which as a scientist should be very easy for you to provide a relatively simple answer, does the modern scientific method require hypotheses to be falsifiable?

            What string theorists are doing is trying to develop a framework so that they can get to this very first requirement of the method, to develop a falsifiable hypothesis. The failure of the string theorists to do sol has led many scientists to question whether this enquiry is worthwhile. see Peter Woit's "not even wrong" book and blog.

          • " . . . does the modern scientific method require hypotheses to be falsifiable?" That is certainly not a black and white, clear-cut question.

            The history of physics is filled with twists and turns, a lot of false starts, a lot of imagination. I don't think a theory should be dismissed because it *seems* to be unfalsifiable. The conclusion that something is not falsifiable is itself a conclusion that may be falsified.

            Multiverse theory? I think physicists should be left to do their work as physicists. The aspect I reject about Multiverse theory is the part where people start extracting philosophical meaning from an incomplete, provisional theory.

            Thanks for the link to Woit's blog. Just glancing, I appreciate his perspective too, which seems to be yours. I take the role of observer in these matters and appreciate the debates. Physicists are at a point in history where they have to be asking these questions. Quantum theory makes them.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Are you honestly saying that a claim need not be falsifiable to be scientific?

            Depends: is string theory a scientific theory? Multiple worlds? Evolution by natural selection? What about the claim that "a claim must be falsifiable to be scientific"? Is that "scientific"?

            What I said was that falsifiability is not so easy as it sounds because there are always more than one proposition in play. For example, Judy Curry comments:

            if a model is producing shortwave surface radiation fluxes that are substantially biased relative to observations, it is impossible to determine whether the error arises from the radiative transfer model, incoming solar radiation at the top of the atmosphere, concentrations of the gases that absorb shortwave radiation, physical and chemical properties of the aerosols in the model, morphological and microphysical properties of the clouds, convective parametrization that influences the distribution of water vapor and clouds, and/or characterization of surface reflectivity.

            IOW when a theory makes predictions at odds with the facts, what exactly has been "falsified"? Copernicus, Darwin, and Maxwell all made claims that appeared to be falsified; but their proponents stood firm in faith that the claims were correct and the data somehow wrong.

            A "claim" in natural science is a claim about the metrical properties of physical matter and their transformations. The logical positivists, whose stance Popper was trying to demolish in his efforts to undermine scientific certitude, held a different approach. See Carnap for details. But surely you cannot hold that Poincare, Mach, and Einstein were less scientific than Popper; or that "real" science did not begin until 1934, when Popper revealed his dogma!

            Besides, the difference between evidentia potissima and evidentia naturalis was well known to the medievals. The claim that grass was green, based on evidentia naturalis, could be shown wrong by the discovery of yellow grass. Evidence based on sense experience, wrote John of Mirecourt, could be accepted only "with fear of error." That is, empirical evidence was always "falsifiable" because it could not be reduced to the principle of contradiction. So the uncertitude of natural science was another of those medieval thingies.

            I can claim that the universe was created by a god last
            Thursday and meant to look like it had been going on for billions of years, and this would be considered a proper scientific claim?

            Of course not. It is not a claim about the metrical properties of physical bodies nor their transformations. That is why it's not a scientific claim, not that it is based on empirical evidence and therefore fallible.

            Are you seriously suggesting that experiments need not be repeatable to be accepted as science?

            There may well be some things that by their very nature are not repeatable. How many times have horses evolved?

            That cold fusion result should be accepted as good
            science?

            Is it your claim that to be "good" science, a claim must be factually correct? What then of the twenty-some epicycles in the Copernican model championed by Galileo? Or the absolute space-time employed by Newton? What about the recent experiment at NASA that appeared to show reactionless motion? If claims are falsifiable, then surely some will be falsified from time to time. In that regard, Fleischman and Pons were no less scientific than CERN when they detected a particle moving faster than light.

            That anyone should give a second thought to studies that are not subjected to peer review?

            Galileo's theories were not subjected to peer review. Newton's theories were not subjected to peer review. Darwin's book was not subjected to peer review. Einstein's papers on relativity were not subjected to peer review. Are you saying we should not have given them a second thought?

            OTOH,

            Too many of the findings that fill the academic ether are the result of shoddy experiments or poor analysis.
            A rule of thumb among biotechnology venture-capitalists is that half of published research cannot be replicated. Even that may be optimistic. Last year researchers at one biotech firm, Amgen, found they could reproduce just six of 53 “landmark” studies in cancer research. Earlier, a group at Bayer, a drug company, managed to repeat just a quarter of 67 similarly important papers. A leading computer scientist frets that three-quarters of papers in his subfield are bunk. In 2000-10 roughly 80,000 patients took part in clinical trials based on research that was later retracted because of mistakes or improprieties.
            http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588069-scientific-research-has-changed-world-now-it-needs-change-itself-how-science-goes-wrong

            IOW, peer review does not distinguish correct science from cold fusion (or polywater or N-rays or...). Think of all the peer-reviewed literature in sociology and psychology for "findings" based on bogus statistical analysis.

            They are the very reason we consider science the most reliable form of enquiry.

            Science was considered the most reliable form of inquiry (into the metrical properties of physical bodies) long before the post-modern add-ons were elevated to their current status in the mid-20th cent.

            they are absent in Christianity.

            Christianity is not (gasp) an inquiry into the metrical properties of physical bodies. They are also absent from fine arts, from history, from sport, et al. No one peer reviews a recipe; the battle of Waterloo is not repeatable. The Mona Lisa is generally not regarded as falsifiable. Nor is Nijinsky's dancing of the faun in L'après-midi d'un faune in the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on May 29, 1912 repeatable.

            OTOH, peer review, "falsifiability," and the like all had medieval origins.

          • You have said a great deal and I don't understand much of it. But no, as far as I know, string theory is not a scientific theory, it is not even a scientific hypothesis. The term theory in "string theory" is being used colloquially, not in the technical sense of a hypothesis that has been confirmed by observation. Neither is the requirement of falsifiability scientific, it is philosophy of science. I maintain that the modern scientific method requires testable hypotheses, do you disagree?

            Please be careful in responding to my questions. I did not propose that all observations need be repeatable but all experiments do. The evolution of horses is not an experiment and therefore is not subject to this requirement.

            I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the experiments you noted in discussing repeatability. But yes, with any experiment, if under the same conditions a different result is observed, the initial result should be discarded and science should only accept the result that is consistently observed.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            theory --- a hypothesis that has been confirmed by observation.

            Unless you mean it is only one that has not yet been falsified by observation. "Confirmed by experiment" puts you back among the logical positivists and in opposition to Popper, whose program was to undermine them.

            with any experiment, if under the same conditions a different result is observed, the initial result should be discarded and science should only accept the result that is consistently observed.

            What I've been trying to point out is that this is more difficult in practice than you might suppose. In freshman physics, a number of students in the class obtained the wrong value for g. CERN detected a particle that seemed to travel faster than light. NASA is currently testing a design that appears to violate conservation of angular momentum. If you followed you rule, you would have discarded heliocentrism, natural selection, and electromagnetism, since they appeared to be falsified by empirical facts. However, facts have no meaning except in the context of a theory. (Does an iridium-rich stratum indicate a prehistoric asteroid impact? Or the eruption of the Deccan Traps? Xenophanes observed marine fossils in the mountains of Greece and concluded that there must have been a primordial flood covering the entire world. He knew of no other mechanism that might deposit marine life in the mountains.) Kepler, Darwin, and Maxwell and their disciples kept the faith however, and it later turned out that it had been some auxiliary assumption that had been falsified! In the game of P→Q, there is always more than one P (cf. Duhem) and always more than one Q (cf. Carnap). Heck, the Maxwellians even made up a brand new particle -- the electron -- to save the theory.

            My favorite example was one mentioned by Duhem. Two physicists conduct an experiment involving pressure and obtain the same results. The first physicist considers the hypothesis confirmed; the second considers it rejected! That's because one of them accepts the ideas of pressure put forth by Laplace and Poincare while the other accepts the ideas put forth by Lagrange. The very meaning of the facts changes depending on the theoretical framework through which they are viewed.

          • I think you sum it up pretty well in your last few paragraphs, Christianity is not an inquiry into the metrical properties of physical bodies, science is. Recipes, history, art, and dance are not science either. There are vast differences in these disciplines, just as there are vast differences between Christianity and science.

            I also further agree that some if the principles that characterize modern science, such as careful experimentation may have originated on medievil origins, others have Ancient Greek origins. If we are talking about simple trial and error, I'd hazard to guess we can say humans have always been doing some of this and looking to identify patterns in nature.

            The question for you how strong is the causal relationship between either Christianity, or monotheism to the development of the modern scientific method, or the scientific revolution.

            To make this argument you would look for two kinds of evidence. A temporal connection and a principled connection. I see neither. Rather than engage in observation of the natural world and attempt to identify patterns in it, I think you would agree that in it'd first several centuries, Christianity was mainly interested in monasticism, fighting heresy (actually setting out dogma

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            In the first several centuries, Christians were trying to avoid lions. They had no more interest in natural philosophy than anyone else of that era. The whole thing had become moribund in the last two centuries before Christ. Their primary practice lay in feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and so forth. The Late Modern science-worshiper sometimes forgets that this has not been the primary interest of most people in history.

            The temporal connection has been sketched out for you, as has the history of ideas involved. If you don't see it, it may be that you need reading glasses; or perhaps just reading.

          • I don't think this is what the Christians were doing for the first few centuries. I am currently reading The Myth of Persecution by Candida Moss in which she speaks of how this has been widely over exaggerated. But even if we grant that, there is still a lag of several centuries until Christians began doing anything different than the Egyptians. The Byzantine Empire surely has the resources and Christian thinking.

            The Yale course I am watching online, history from 200-1000 does get into great detail about the focus of Christian rulers soon after Constantine and covers theological disputes, monasticism and so on. There was no mention of any helping the poor or enquiry into natural patterns.

            What sources are you reading?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Moss has come in for a lot of criticism from exaggerating the exaggeration. (E.g., http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/05/unmythical-martyrs) Apparently, her speculations become assertions of fact rather too easily.

            within the space of a few sentences she moves from “it is difficult to know” what Luke intended to “it is clear that Luke edited the passion narrative to make Jesus’ death reminiscent of the death of a philosopher”

            We always knew and were taught that the persecution was not continuous there were four intense rounds of persecution, most notably the last, Diocletian's. This was the only one in which the authorities went out and actively hunted for Christians. Previous wholesale persecutions (and the retail arrests and executions in between) had depended on informers denouncing Christians. But this was only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. There was also the routine exclusion from the public square, denial of jobs, and sundry other forms of less dramatic discrimination.

            Diocletian's persecution only ran a few years and in the West Constantine's father did not enforce the edict; so wow, what a relief.

            Moss' main concern was that people called "conservatives" are playing the persecution card today. In order to smite her enemy hip and thigh, she has chosen to claim that the ancient persecutions weren't so bad after all, and were probably deserved, so shut up. That way we need not concern ourselves about churches bombed in Alexandria, massacres in Juba, or girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

            Tacitus, The Annals
            Letters of Julian
            Pliny's letter to Trajan
            Epitome Feliciana
            etc.
            e.g.:

            quo tempore fuit persecutio magna, infra XXX diebus XVI milia hominum promiscui sexus per diuersas prouintias martyrio coronarentur.
            -- Epitome Feliciana XXX Marcellinus

            Courses like Yale's will seldom tell you of the lives of the small folk. They concentrate on the Men With Swords and the great events of Realpolitik up there among the emperors and generals.

          • Doug Shaver

            In the first several centuries, Christians were trying to avoid lions.

            What is your observational evidence for that?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It's called metonymy. Sometimes they were trying to avoid being dipped in tar and used to illuminate Nero's banquets. It wasn't always lions, per se.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I would say [falsifiability] is fundamental to science.

            That would make it doubly ironic that the caution urged on Galileo by his old friend the Pope, the one he managed to mock at the end of the Dialogues, was precisely a Popperian warning that no astronomical hypothesis could be proven with certainty.

            The first irony of course is that the dual motions of the earth had been falsified empirically: there was no detectable parallax among the fixed stars and there was no detectable Coriolis effect in plummeting bodies. The response in both cases was to propose additional unproven hypotheses. Other theories that were "falsified" at first include Darwin's (mutations would be diluted out of the gene pool within a few generations!) and Maxwell's (permanent magnets are not electrical!). So there is more to the way actual scientists operate than some mathematician's devotion to modus tollens.

            I disagree that it stems from the Middle Ages, and even if it did, this is not a sign of a relationship with Christianity.

            That's because you do not know enough yet about the history of the Middle Ages or the history of Western thought. The relationship is historical, not logical. You can always imagine an alternate history in which things work out more to your satisfaction; but the rest of us are stuck with the history that actually took place.

            Aristotle is huge to the origins of the modern scientific method.

            Largely forgotten by Late Antiquity, Aristotle was revived by the Latin West (and also for a brief time by the ex-Christian Near East and Spain). Aristotle was also regarded by the Scientific Revolutionaries of the 17th century as the biggest obstacle to modern scientific method. Don't forget that Aristotle also believed in the Babylonian Great Year (think: Mayan Calendar silliness) and that the universe was a great living organism.

            Christ said things like "...blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." I take that as being opposed to empiricism.

            No, it is a simple statement of historical fact. Not everyone who will ever live will have had the chance to see him and converse with him. He was not making a scientific claim about empiricism. He was talking about people who had not and never would see him. That's why context is so important, a point often overlooked by proof-texting fundamentalists.

            Accepting miracles as a possible explanations of anything is the exact opposite of methodological naturalism.

            Which makes it all the more remarkable that the medievals emphasized that the point of natural philosophy was to learn what nature herself with her immanent powers could accomplish. No one tried to explain the common course of nature by appeal to miracles. Consider Nicholas Oresme, bishop of Lisieux in the late 1300s, who wrote:

            "I propose here… to show the causes of some effects which seem to be miracles and to show that the effects occur naturally… There is no reason to take recourse to the heavens [astrology], the last refuge of the weak, or to demons, or to our glorious God, as if he would produce these effects directly…" -- On the causes of miracles

            or Thomas Aquinas a century earlier:

            "We marvel at something when, seeing an effect, we do not know the cause. And since one and the same cause is at times known to certain people and not to others, it happens that some marvel and some do not."
            -- Contra gentiles

          • David Nickol

            The first irony of course is that the dual motions of the earth had been falsified empirically . . . .

            I assume you meant to put falsified here in quotation marks as you did when you spoke of other theories that were "falsified." Scientific theories are not falsified unless and until they are shown to be false. For example, the idea of "luminiferous aether" was not abandoned even after repeated attempts to measure it utterly failed. If every stumbling block in the way of acceptance of a theory was considered a falsification, it would be difficult or impossible for science to get anywhere.

            I agree that one can go too far with the idea of falsifiability, but it is nevertheless very important in the long run, if not the short run.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The luminferous aether was an invention of the scientific age, mostly of Konrad Lorenz. The Aristotelian aether and the Einsteinian aether were both untouched.

            However, notice the weakness of the falsification approach. If P→Q and not-Q is shown -- not just failed to detect Q, but found not to be the case -- then P is "falsified."
            However, Duhem pointed out that we never have P→Q. We always have (P1 and P2 and...and Pk)→Q, or that not-Q implies (not-P1 or P2 or...or not-Pk) and it is not a trivial matter to understand which Pi has been falsified.

            Hence, the failure to find stellar parallax implied either that the earth did not revolve about the sun or that the stars were not as close as they appeared (or something else). But the stellar distance was "empirically settled": the observed brightness and diameters of the stars meant that they could not be too far beyond Saturn without being larger than the entire solar system, making the Sun the only pea in a universe of pumpkins, and violating Ockham's razor by introducing an new and unprecedented class of objects. (The Copernicans responded by playing the God card: who cared how big the stars would have to be, since God is infinite and omnipotent and could do whatever he pleased.) This objection was not actually settled until Airy showed in the 19th cent. that the stellar diameters were illusions caused by spherical aberration!

            The Keplerian model was generally accepted by the 1660s, however; not on empirical grounds -- the empirical facts were still against it -- but on grounds of neo-Pythagorean number woo-woo: The math was easier than in the Ursine or Tychonic systems. (The Ptolemaic and Copernican models had already been abandoned.)

            A hidden assumption in the aether testing is that the aether does not move with the earth. This is akin to the ancient and medieval objection to the earth's rotation: There ought to be an enormous headwind from the east -- more that 1000 mph -- and there is not. This failure to detect the "atmospheric wind" seemed to mean the earth did not spin; but it really meant the atmosphere spun with the earth, which the medievals called "common motion." But the conceptual apparatus needed to explain this did not then exist and so it was just an unproven assumption thrown in to prop up another unproven assumption.

        • Doug Shaver

          Popper cited Darwin as an example of a non-falsifiable theory.

          That's hard to believe. Have you got a quotation?

          Falsifiability was part of Popper's program to undermine the certitude of natural science, so one shouldn't embrace it too tightly.

          You mean, it's a bad thing to try to undermine certitude?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory but a metaphysical research programme."
            Popper, Karl. 1976. Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography Glasgow: Fontana/Collins.

            Mendelian genetics otoh is eminently testable and provides an excellent fig leaf. Nor is a metaphysics something to sneeze at. He did allow, after coming under attack for being a crypto-creationist, that maybe natural selection was sometimes, with great difficulty testable. The problem is that too many folks confuse the theory of natural selection with the fact of evolution. It's trivial to note that species change over time. Aquinas thought that if any new species arose it would do so through the powers that God had given to the physical world in the beginning.

            Popper wasn't very friendly to scientists of the logical positivist school. It may have had something to do with WW1 and the scientific wonders used to slaughter millions. He wanted scientists to be a little less arrogant.

            http://ontology.buffalo.edu/stove/500-600.htm

          • Doug Shaver

            He wanted scientists to be a little less arrogant.

            Overconfidence is bad, but when it comes to arrogance, I think nothing could outdo an institution that says its leaders are sometimes infallible except an institution that said its leaders were always infallible.

            He did allow, after coming under attack for being a crypto-creationist, that maybe natural selection was sometimes, with great difficulty testable.

            If he changed his opinion just because people were insulting him, then his opinion was never worth anything to start with. Anyway, difficulty is irrelevant: falsifiability either obtains or it doesn't. The difficulty of falsifying a theory does not make it in any sense unfalsifiable.

            Aquinas thought that if any new species arose it would do so through the powers that God had given to the physical world in the beginning.

            I'm sorry, but if I want to know how species arise, I'll ask a biologist, not a theologian.

            The problem is that too many folks confuse the theory of natural selection with the fact of evolution. It's trivial to note that species change over time.

            It is not trivial to note that any two currently existing species, no matter how different, are related by descent with modification from a common ancestor. That is what scientifically literate people mean by evolution, and it is particularly what they mean when they say "Evolution is a fact."

            Natural selection is the currently dominant theory explaining how heritable modifications accrue over many generations to produce new species. There are other theories proposing other mechanisms that might be also be operating, but no biologist doubts that natural selection happens, and it is not true that natural selection, properly understood, is itself unfalsifiable.

            http://ontology.buffalo.edu/st...

            I've read the preface. I see no relevance to the present discussion.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Aquinas thought that if any new species arose it would do so through the powers that God had given to the physical world in the beginning.
            I'm sorry, but if I want to know how species arise, I'll ask a biologist, not a theologian.

            And you'll get a just-so adaptation story with no actual empirical facts to back it. But before you can expect a natural explanation of something, there must be an expectation that there actually is an explanation. Remember, none of these folks had ever actually seen, empirically, a new species arise. And only because we have "defined species down" so to speak that we think we have seen it. Just a couple years ago, a new species of African elephant was "discovered." That is, humans decided that the elephants they had previously considered one species would now be counted as two. (There's an origin of species for you!)

            Recall that one of the propositions condemned by Bishop Tempier in 1277 was #85: “That the world is eternal as regards all the species contained in it, and that time, motion, matter, agent, and receiver are eternal, because the world comes from the infinite power of God and it is impossible that there be something new in the effect without there being something new in the cause.” This would have ruled evolution out of court had it not been condemned by the good bishop. Religion to the rescue!

            It is not trivial to note that any two currently existing species, no matter how different, are related by descent with modification from a common ancestor.

            Then you don't buy the polygenesis theory that the transition from non-life to life occurred more than once? (That is, multiple distinct common ancestors.) What was the common ancestor of Nematodes (roundworms), Arthropods (bugs), and Vertebrates (beasts)?
            Roundworms moult. Beasts have a coelum (body cavity).
            Bugs both moult and have a coelum. Do beasts and bugs have a common ancestor that evolved a coelum? Or do roundworms and bugs share a common ancestor that evolved moulting?

            That is what scientifically literate people mean by evolution, and it is particularly what they mean when they say "Evolution is a fact."

            It is not unusual to note that people often use words imprecisely. Others when they say "Evolution is a fact" mean "Evolution is a fact." Common descent is an effect of evolution. It is what we would expect, if the metaphysical assumption of evolution is true. However, to move from common descent to evolution is the fallacy of asserting the consequent. There might be other reasons why the appearance of common descent arises.

            no biologist doubts that natural selection happens,

            Not if he wants a job!

            and it is not true that natural selection, properly understood, is itself unfalsifiable.

            I have never heard a convincing example of what such a potential falsification might look like, only absurdities like "a pre-Cambrian rabbit." But given any physical trait of any species that has actually existed, you can always spin an adaptationist story about it. A metaphysical stance cannot be falsified.

            http://ontology.buffalo.edu/st...
            I've read the preface. I see no relevance to the present discussion.

            It concerns the development of modern irrationalism, courtesy of Popper. Folks throw about fragments of Popper as if they were holy writ, but don't seem to understand the whole.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm sorry, but if I want to know how species arise, I'll ask a biologist, not a theologian.

            And you'll get a just-so adaptation story with no actual empirical facts to back it.

            I could say that the theologian would give me nothing but a pack of just-so stories, but my saying so wouldn't make it so, would it?

            The role of adaptation in biological evolution is being vigorously debated in scientific circles these days, and one side does accuse the other of relying on just-so stories. All sides agree, though, that their disagreements have nothing to do with the credibility of descent with modification.

            But before you can expect a natural explanation of something, there must be an expectation that there actually is an explanation.

            What does this have to do with what we're discussing? Are you suggesting that theologians don't have any such expectation?

            Remember, none of these folks had ever actually seen, empirically, a new species arise.

            No Christian alive today actually has actually seen, empirically, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But Christians do think that they have good reason to believe it happened even though they weren't there to see it. Scientists likewise think they have good reason to believe that new species have arisen by descent with modification. And in my judgment, the evidence on which they base that belief is immeasurably more abundant and more persuasive than the evidence on which Christians base their belief in the resurrection.

            Then you don't buy the polygenesis theory that the transition from non-life to life occurred more than once? (That is, multiple distinct common ancestors.)

            At the moment, no, but if I became aware of sufficient evidence, I wouldn't have a problem with it. The notion of descent with modification does not depend on there having been only one ancestral species. However, given certain features of biochemistry that seem to be universally distributed, there couldn't have been very many. Anybody who suggests a dozen or so independent origins of life is going to have a lot of explaining to do.

            What was the common ancestor of Nematodes (roundworms), Arthropods (bugs), and Vertebrates (beasts)?

            Roundworms moult. Beasts have a coelum (body cavity).

            Bugs both moult and have a coelum. Do beasts and bugs have a common ancestor that evolved a coelum? Or do roundworms and bugs share a common ancestor that evolved moulting?

            I am not going to go off on that tangent. If you want to argue for the impossibility of common ancestry between beasts and bugs, you'll have to do a lot better than "I don't see how it could have happened." If you want to learn how it could have happened, I can recommend some websites that you should be reading.

            It is not unusual to note that people often use words imprecisely.

            That is their problem. It is not ours unless one of us wants it to be.

            Common descent is an effect of evolution. It is what we would expect, if the metaphysical assumption of evolution is true. However, to move from common descent to evolution is the fallacy of asserting the consequent.

            Allow me a suggestion. You tell me, as specifically as you can, what you think could not have happened. Then we can just table any arguments about what label we should stick on that event and proceed to debate whether or not the evidence might justify our believing that it happened.

            no biologist doubts that natural selection happens,

            Not if he wants a job!

            If you must accuse the entire scientific community of bad faith in order to defend your position, then your position probably isn't worth defending.

            I have never heard a convincing example of what such a potential falsification might look like, only absurdities like "a pre-Cambrian rabbit."

            What makes it absurd? If it's not a fact that rabbits evolved the way biologists say they evolved, then exactly what would be anomalous about finding a rabbit skeleton in pre-Cambrian rocks? I have never heard of any Christian doctrine with which such a discovery would be inconsistent.

            But given any physical trait of any species that has actually existed, you can always spin an adaptationist story about it.

            That rabbit skeleton, by itself, would probably not cause the entire scientific community to say, "Oops, we were wrong about evolution. Let's get started on a new theory." Science has never worked that way, and there is no reason it should. One anomalous datum is never enough to overturn a well established theory. But that is the case in all of human thinking. In this respect, scientists are not any more conservative, not any more wedded to their orthodoxies, than theologians are.

            But conservatism is not the same thing as intransigence.

            When astronomical observational methods became sufficiently refined, it was discovered that Mercury's orbit was inconsistent with Newtonian theory. Strictly speaking, this was an instance of falsification. Nevertheless, Newtonian theory was not regarded as having been falsified. It was assumed that further investigation would produce an explanation for the inconsistency between theory and observation, and that is exactly what happened. The assumption was vindicated, but it might not have been. The point is that the scientific community did not take the option of simply ignoring Mercury's orbital anomaly, or hand-waving it away with some incantation about "mysteries of the universe beyond our comprehension." It was accepted for what it was: a problem that demanded a solution.

            It concerns the development of modern irrationalism, courtesy of Popper.

            There is no more modernity in modern irrationalism than there is anything new in the new atheism.

            Folks throw about fragments of Popper as if they were holy writ, but don't seem to understand the whole.

            As long as it's just you and I talking, you may lecture me about how Popper should be interpreted when I cite Popper as an authority. Until I do that, his opinions are irrelevant to this discussion.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I could say that the theologian would give me nothing but a pack of just-so stories

            Theologians, when they speak of biology, are no more expert than biologists when they speak of metaphysics. As I said, the only one to touch on it was Aquinas, who wrote that if new species ever did arise they would do so through the powers of nature. You felt a need to poo-poo that, saying you would rather consult a biologist. But someone would have had to plant the "meme" that there was a natural cause before anyone would think to look for it. No one said Aquinas knew what the natural mechanism was, only that there would be one. The origin of species was not even his concern -- he was using it simply as an illustrative example regarding another point. He was opposing the Aristotelian notion that the universe and all the things in it were eternal, and hence there could be nothing new. Had this pagan view prevailed, the development of evolutionary theories would have been badly hampered.

            the credibility of descent with modification.

            I certainly give it credence. You can see it in animal husbandry. Whether it leads to new species or to reversion toward the mean is a different issue. I suspect both.

            But before you can expect a natural explanation of something, there must be an expectation that there actually is an explanation.
            What does this have to do with what we're discussing?

            See first item, above.

            Scientists likewise think they have good reason to believe that new species have arisen by descent with modification.

            Quite so. Until the mid-18th century, they also had good reason to believe the earth was motionless in the center of the world. Which brings us back to Popper and falsifiabililty.

            given certain features of biochemistry that seem to be universally distributed, there couldn't have been very many.

            That might be because of boundary conditions set by chemistry and physics that limit the number of features. We are told that life might emerge from non-life due to perfectly natural conditions and we are told that this only happened once. Were the conditions so peculiar that they obtained in only one time and place? Remember, chemistry does not produce molecules by chance, so probability arguments are not in it. We know (or are pretty sure) that organelles took up residence in prokaryotes on two separate occasions: mitochondrians and chloroplasts. (And btw there is an example of an evolution that did not take place by common descent, but by horizontal transfer.) So it is possible at least that the Cambrian Explosion was no big deal probability-wise and all the modern phyla came into existence in the same period, not because some descended from others of which there is alas no trace, but because of some common cause other than descent, such as physico-chemical conditions, horizontal transfer of plasmids, etc.

            Nematodes (roundworms), Arthropods (bugs), and Vertebrates (beasts)
            I am not going to go off on that tangent. If you want to argue for the impossibility of common ancestry between beasts and bugs, you'll have to do a lot better than "I don't see how it could have happened."

            T'aint that, M'Gee. It's that in the game of common descent, either moulting or the coelum would have had to evolve independently twice. That's a logical point, not a heuristic one. Notice also that "rodents" have arisen three times: 1. Tritylodonts, 2. Multituberculates, 3. True Rodents. All three had remarkably similar body plans and dentition, and the first one was a reptile, while the latter two were mammals. That is, similar consequences can easily emerge from different precursors/causes. Hemoglobin is found in many invertebrates, fungi, and plants as well as bloody vertebrates. Was there a common ancestor for these "many" but not for the others? Or is the hemoglobin molecule something that happens for physical or chemical reasons, independently and on multiple occasions? Is it even possible to list a line of common descent for all such features that is not mutually contradictory?

            You tell me, as specifically as you can, what you think could not have happened.

            That's not a problem. The problem is determining whether something that did happen did so through "natural selection" or through some other natural mechanism.

            no biologist doubts that natural selection happens,
            Not if he wants a job!
            If you must accuse the entire scientific community of bad faith

            Not bad faith, but true faith. Groupthink is what Kuhn calls "normal science": a paradigm is accepted without question and everything is then interpreted in light of that paradigm. The empirical test would be to ask what happens with any scientist who deviates from the orthodoxy. (Kuhn is one of those who come along in the wake of Popper.)

            I have never heard a convincing example of what such a potential falsification might look like, only absurdities like "a pre-Cambrian rabbit."
            What makes it absurd?

            Because it's not a falsification of natural selection, per se; only of the chronology. (Erosion and redeposition! Miscalculation! Dating error! Incompetence of the researcher! Fraud by the researcher! (Remember Piltdown!) Rabbits evolved much faster than previously thought! Those weren't actually precambrian rocks! The poor fellow would never get another grant.) No, a genuine case of falsification would be to put forth an actual condition of an existing species and showing that it could not have come about through the gradual accumulation of small changes due random mutations. For example: multiple antibiotic resistance in bacteria came about by "horizontal transfer of plasmids and the accumulation of multiple resistance determinants by transposition and site-specific recombination," not by the gradual accumulation and selection of random mutations.

            I have never heard of any Christian doctrine with which such a discovery would be inconsistent.

            I have never heard of a Christian doctrine regarding biology.

            When astronomical observational methods became sufficiently refined, it was discovered that Mercury's orbit was inconsistent with Newtonian theory.

            Actually, there was a Galilean/Newtonian solution published previous to Einstein's solution. In the hard sciences, it is well-known, the same set of facts may be treated of by more than one theory. There are several theories of relativity: Einstein, Milne, Whitehead...; and several theories of quantum mechanics: Bohr-Heisenberg, Wheeler, Bohm, Cramer... And relativity and quantum mechanics remain mutually contradictory (the require cosmological constants that differ by orders of magnitude). But we happily go along swallowing the contradiction. Feynmann said in one of his lectures that a physicist often goes into an experiment with at least two different theories: both predict the same facts, but one may provide more fruitful ideas of testing. Only in evolutionary theory does one encounter what feels like religious resistance to critique or alternatives.

            There is no more modernity in modern irrationalism than there is anything new in the new atheism.

            Come now: Popper is very different from Nietzsche.

          • Doug Shaver

            Theologians, when they speak of biology, are no more expert than biologists when they speak of metaphysics.

            So what? I don't go to biologists with my metaphysical questions, either.

            But someone would have had to plant the "meme" that there was a natural cause before anyone would think to look for it. No one said Aquinas knew what the natural mechanism was, only that there would be one. The origin of species was not even his concern -- he was using it simply as an illustrative example regarding another point. He was opposing the Aristotelian notion that the universe and all the things in it were eternal, and hence there could be nothing new. Had this pagan view prevailed, the development of evolutionary theories would have been badly hampered.

            You're not trying to suggest, are you, that Christianity was always opposed to Aristotelianism? Apologists have always been perfectly happy to appeal to Aristotle's authority whenever he said something they could use to their advantage. It was only when he said something they didn't like that they said, "Oh, that's pagan thinking. Don't listen to him."

            Scientists likewise think they have good reason to believe that new species have arisen by descent with modification.

            Quite so. Until the mid-18th century, they also had good reason to believe the earth was motionless in the center of the world.

            Was that a typo? Copernicus came along in the 16th century, and heliocentrism was well established by the end of the 17th. There could have been a few holdouts through the 18th, but that doesn't mean they had good reason for holding out.

            If your point is that having a good reason to believe X is no guarantee that X is true, nobody is suggesting otherwise. But if I believe X because I have a good reason, and you're telling me I should not believe X, you need to give me a reason for doubting X that outweighs my reason for believing X.

            We are told that life might emerge from non-life due to perfectly natural conditions and we are told that this only happened once.

            Yes, we're told that, but the conjuncts are logically independent. You can falsify (A &B) by falsifying B, but you do not thereby falsify A unless you also prove A -> B. No scientist to my knowledge thinks a natural origin of life implies a single origin of life.

            Remember, chemistry does not produce molecules by chance, so probability arguments are not in it.

            Theories about the origin of life are historical theories, and historical theories are unavoidably probabilistic. With only trivial exceptions, we can in some cases get probabilities very close to unity but never exactly 1.0.

            And btw there is an example of an evolution that did not take place by common descent, but by horizontal transfer.

            Methods of gene transfer are about the methods of modification. You still have descent with modification and you still have common ancestry.

            It's that in the game of common descent, either moulting or the coelum would have had to evolve independently twice.

            OK. You seem to be claiming that it could not have happened, or else that it was so improbable that we cannot justifiably believe that it did happen. Let's see your argument for that claim.

            Notice also that "rodents" have arisen three times: 1. Tritylodonts, 2. Multituberculates, 3. True Rodents. All three had remarkably similar body plans and dentition, and the first one was a reptile, while the latter two were mammals.

            The tritylodonts were not reptiles. They were cynodonts, a variety of therapsid that was ancestral to mammals. Therapsids were close to the common ancestor of mammals and reptiles, but they were in the mammalian lineage, not the reptilian lineage.

            Although tritylodonts were in the mammalian lineage, they were not yet true mammals. The multituberculates came along later, and they were true mammals. Like the tritylodonts, they resembled rodents but were probably not ancestral to them.

            All three had remarkably similar body plans and dentition, and the first one was a reptile, while the latter two were mammals. That is, similar consequences can easily emerge from different precursors/causes.

            The first was not a reptile.

            There is nothing about the resemblances among these three animal groups that is difficult to explain with conventional evolutionary theory. If you have an argument for a contrary position, I'd like to see it. So far, you have offered no argument except "remarkably similar." I get it that you find it hard to believe that any of this could have happened without God's intervention, but I'm afraid your personal incredulity doesn't count as evidence for anything.

            Hemoglobin is found in many invertebrates, fungi, and plants as well as bloody vertebrates.

            Yes, it is. And therefore, what?

            Was there a common ancestor for these "many" but not for the others? Or is the hemoglobin molecule something that happens for physical or chemical reasons, independently and on multiple occasions? Is it even possible to list a line of common descent for all such features that is not mutually contradictory?

            You have questions. Questions are neither evidence nor arguments. If you think the presence of hemoglobin in plants is inconsistent with anything about conventional evolutionary theory, let's see an argument. Your astonishment doesn't prove anything.

            The problem is determining whether something that did happen did so through "natural selection" or through some other natural mechanism.

            As long as the proposed mechanism is natural, I'm OK with it. I think natural selection accounts for everything that needs to be accounted for, but if I find out it doesn't, I'm not going to fall back on goddiddit until somebody proves that a naturalistic explanation is impossible.

            Not bad faith, but true faith. Groupthink is what Kuhn calls "normal science":

            I know about groupthink. I used to belong to a religion that practiced it, and I read Eric Hoffer's The True Believer shortly after I left that religion. It is not what Kuhn was talking about.

            And I do know what Kuhn was talking about. I had to study The Structure of Scientific Revolutions for a class I took in the philosophy of science. My first reading left me feeling outraged. When I told my professor what I thought about it, she suggested I read it again. I did, and it started to make sense. I read it yet again, and it made even more sense.

            I have never heard a convincing example of what such a potential falsification might look like, only absurdities like "a pre-Cambrian rabbit."

            What makes it absurd?

            Because it's not a falsification of natural selection, per se; only of the chronology.

            If the chronology doesn't work, then natural selection doesn't work.

            Erosion and redeposition! Miscalculation! Dating error! Incompetence of the researcher! Fraud by the researcher! (Remember Piltdown!) Rabbits evolved much faster than previously thought! Those weren't actually precambrian rocks!

            You're changing the subject. You can't falsify any theory with a falsehood. The point of saying that a rabbit fossil in precambrian rocks would falsify natural selection is the presumption that the fossil itself would be of precambrian age. The fossil's age is all that matters. If you find any rabbit fossil, anywhere at all, and prove that it's 600 million years old, then the theory of natural selection is going to be in serious trouble. But you're going to have a very hard time proving that that fossil is really that old. If you did find it in some precambrian rocks, you'd be off to a good start, hence the usual way of wording the suggestion. But, "We found this fossil in some precambrian rocks" would not complete the proof.

            a genuine case of falsification would be to put forth an actual condition of an existing species and showing that it could not have come about through the gradual accumulation of small changes due random mutations.

            Yes, that would also do the falsification job.

            Nobody is claiming that nothing but a precambrian rabbit would falsify natural selection. The precambrian rabbit is a response to one and only one objection to natural selection, and that objection is: Nothing could falsify natural selection. A single counterexample to "Nothing could be X" is sufficient to prove that "Nothing could be X" is false. The precambrian rabbit is a handier counterexample, because it's easier for most critics of evolution to understand, than "an actual condition of an existing species and showing that it could not have come about through the gradual accumulation of small changes due random mutations."

            When astronomical observational methods became sufficiently refined, it was discovered that Mercury's orbit was inconsistent with Newtonian theory.

            Actually, there was a Galilean/Newtonian solution published previous to Einstein's solution.

            Let's see it. Show me that solution.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You're not trying to suggest, are you, that Christianity was always opposed to Aristotelianism?

            The Condemnation of 1277 addressed a number of faulty propositions being pushed by the Faculty of Arts at the University of Paris. Aristotelianism as such was never swallowed whole -- unlike the faylasuf in the House of Submission, who became heretics to Islam in consequence. There was an initial period when the West digested this enormous, awesome artifact of thought, but this was followed by a period of criticism and thought experiments (virtually the only kind possible before instrumentation improved) that almost immediately began drawing some things into question. (The Christian West had developed a methodology called the Question genre or quodlibet, in which it was mandatory to debate both sides of a question with the best possible arguments.) Where Aristotle was found to be wrong was primarily in matters of fact. His metaphysics (which we might call "a science of 'science'") remained sound, and was only discarded arbitrarily in the 17th century. His books on logic, on ethics, or politics, and so forth remain insightful.

            Until the mid-18th century, they also had good reason to believe the earth was motionless in the center of the world.
            Was that a typo? Copernicus came along in the 16th century, and heliocentrism was well established by the end of the 17th. There could have been a few holdouts through the 18th, but that doesn't mean they had good reason for holding out.

            Copernicus had no empirical proof of his model, which was based on doing new math on old data rather than on actual astronomical observations. There were sound empirical reasons why the earth was supposed to be stationary:

            1) the lack of stellar parallax predicted by the revolution of the earth.

            2) the lack of Coriolis effects predicted by the rotation of the earth.

            IOW, the empirical evidence was still against the mobile earth. The Keplerian model (not the Copernican) was accepted by around 1660 because the Rudolphine Tables were numerically easier to use. Ever since the Renaissance, neo-Platonic number woo-woo had begun to outweigh old-fashioned Aristotelian physical empiricism.

            The Copernican model faded rapidly because its 20-odd epicycles made it no easier to use than the Ptolemaic model and it did not always provide better calendar predictions. (Copernicus had insisted for Platonic reasons on perfect circles for his orbits. This was well enough for Venus, but really messed up Mars.) The phases of Venus, observed by Lembo, Harriot, Marius, and Galileo -- all apparently in the same month! -- put the kibosh on Ptolemy (and on the Gilbertian model) but not on the Tychonic or Ursine models. Kepler's elliptical model, once he had managed to evade an army of the 99% and complete his Tables, was the winner on mathematical grounds. Later, Newton provided a plausible mechanism why Kepler's model should be true; but there was still the worrisome issue that there was no parallax.

            The standard answer since ancient times was that the stars were too far away for parallax to be visible; but this went against the apparent diameters of the stars: if they were too far away for the parallax, their diameters would project them to be larger than the entire solar system! Calling Dr. Ockham! Also, you can't save one unproven hypothesis by throwing in another unproven hypothesis.

            1728. James Bradley detected stellar aberration in γ-Draconis (Phil. Trans. Royal Soc., 1729). This shows that the earth is moving, but the effect is small and subtle.

            1734. Bradley’s paper is translated into Italian

            1744. A "corrected" copy of Galileo's Dialogue is printed in Italy. Not a word is changed, but the term "if" is inserted
            in various marginal topic headers. This would have been all that was necessary had the original recommendation of the extensor been followed in the Galileo trial.

            1758. Copernicanism is removed from the Index. Stellar aberration seems to have been sufficient.

            1791. Jun-Sep. In a series of experiments, Giovanni Guglielmini, a professor of mathematics at the University of Bologna, drops weights from the Torre dei Asinelli in Bologna -- the same tower used earlier by Riccioli and Grimaldi -- and finds an eastward (and southward) deflection. Concerned with windage, he repeats the experiment down the center of the spiral staircase at the Instituto della Scienze and finds a 4 mm Coriolis deflection over a 29 m drop; thus providing direct empirical evidence of the rotation of the Earth.

            1806. Giuseppi Calandrelli, director of the observatory at the Roman College publishes "Ozzervatione e riflessione sulla paralasse annua dall’alfa della Lira," reporting parallax in α-Lyrae. This provides a direct empirical evidence of the revolution of the Earth.

            The Keplerian model had been accepted because it was computationally easier and because it popped out mathematically from Newton’s theory like Athena from the brow of Zeus. But now, finally, 263 years after Copernicus, the dual motions are established by empirical fact. Calloo callay!

            1835. George Biddell Airy demonstrates that the apparent diameters of the stars seen by eyeball and by telescope are optical illusions due to spherical aberration. This takes care of the last objection to immense stellar distance.

            1838. Friedrich Bessel measures parallax in 61 Cygni and gets all the credit.

            1851. Foucault's pendulum demonstrates the rotation of the earth and gets all the credit.

          • Doug Shaver

            if they were too far away for the parallax, their diameters would project them to be larger than the entire solar system!

            I'm not getting the logic of this. Could you explain in more detail, please?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Procyon and Saturn had about the same brightness and diameter to the eyeball astronomers. There is a simple Euclidean relationship between distance and apparent size. The farther the object, the smaller it appears. So if Procyon were as far as say 100x the distance of Saturn, it would be of humungous proportion, far bigger than the Sun. In fact, all the stars would be enormous, larger than the solar system. The Sun would be the only bee-bee in a universe of cannon balls.

            This struck Tycho Brahe, whose instruments could measure diameters as small as a US quarter at the distance of a football field, as violating Ockham's Razor. Therefore, the stars had to be no farther than maybe 100x the distance of Saturn. But if they were that close, then parallax would be easily visible to his instruments if the earth circled the sun. No parallax was seen. Therefore, the earth did not circle the sun.

            It was a masterful feat of mathematical physics, spoiled only by the fact that the diameters of the stars were illusions caused by spherical aberration. But Airy did not establish this until the 1830s, so we can't really fault Tycho. His science was superb.

            What it comes down to is that our ancestors were not stoopid, and they had good empirical reasons for their conclusions. We look back and say but the Copernicans were correct (sort of). But this was not at all obvious in 1610; and even by 1660 it was not yet empirically verified. A lot had to be taken on faith and was.

            As my old history prof liked to say, You must study the Battle of Salamis as if the Persians might still win. That is, any historical event has to be looked at from the POV of that time, and not with hindsight.

          • Doug Shaver

            It was a masterful feat of mathematical physics, spoiled only by the fact that the diameters of the stars were illusions caused by spherical aberration. But Airy did not establish this until the 1830s, so we can't really fault Tycho.

            Airy didn't establish it. The phonemonon had been noticed earlier. What he did was explain why it happened.

            We can't blame Tycho for being unaware of the limitations of telescopes, but spherical abberation isn't the only reason stars look bigger than they should. Atmospheric turbulence also increases their apparent size. The first accurate measurement of apparent stellar diameter, compensating for both turbulence and aberration, wasn't made until the 1920s.

            Also, you can't save one unproven hypothesis by throwing in another unproven hypothesis

            The depends on what you mean by "unproven." Scientific proof doesn't work like mathematical proof. The resolving power of Tycho's instruments, according to the numbers you provided, was roughly 20 arcseconds. A counterargument to heliocentrism based on the assumption that anything he saw had to be at least that size would have been unjustified.

            The Keplerian model . . . popped out mathematically from Newton’s theory like Athena from the brow of Zeus.

            And in that case, anyone who contradicted Kepler was contradicting Newton. In scientific principle, there was nothing wrong with that, but if you're going to say Newton was wrong, you need an alternative explanation for all the observational data that support Newton, and your alternative needs to be at least as parsimonious as Newton's theory.

            What it comes down to is that our ancestors were not stoopid, and they had good empirical reasons for their conclusions.

            I'm not arguing for any kind of ancestral stupidity, but very smart people can be very mistaken, even when they have had the best scientific training available in their time.

            I agree (if that's a point you're trying to make) that people who accept a new theory before it is sufficiently established by observational evidence are not more intellectually virtuous than those who stick with the old theory for as long as they can. But neither is there intellectual virtue in parroting "unproven" when the scientific community on the whole thinks the case for the new theory has been well enough made.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            when the scientific community on the whole thinks the case for the new theory has been well enough made.

            Sure, but then they can't speak all virtuous-like over being "empirical" when they are really being Platonic number woo-woos. As Feynmann pointed out, the existence of a term in a mathematical equation does not obligate the physical universe to correspond to it. There's nothing especially wrong with the belief that the order of mathematics is replicated in the order of physical things; but you sorta kinda be either a Neopythagorean woo-woo or you have to believe (as the Chinese did not) in an organizing intellect who "orders all things by number, weight, and measure."

            in that case, anyone who contradicted Kepler was contradicting Newton

            Not exactly. That's like saying that denying epicycles is the same thing as denying retrograde motion. But to quote our buddy Aquinas:
            "The theory of eccentrics and epicycles is considered as established, because thereby the sensible appearances of the heavenly movements can be explained; not, however, as if this proof were sufficient, forasmuch as some other theory might explain them."
            -- Summa theologica, I, q.32, a.1, ad. 2

            or
            The suppositions that these astronomers have invented need not necessarily be true; for perhaps the phenomena of the stars are explicable on some other plan not yet discovered by men
            De coelo, II, lect. 17

            Which is a nice way of saying that theories about nature are inherently falsifiable; or as the modern analytical philosophers say, scientific theories are "underdetermined." It is always possible to explain the same set of data with more than one theory, even if one theory is pretty and dances well and you take her to the prom.

            depends on what you mean by "unproven."

            If a theory predicts stellar parallax but not can be observed, then the theory is not yet proven. In fact, it teeters on having been disproven. If to save the theory you then claim that the stars are much farther off but you present no evidence in support, that second hypothesis is unproven. Theories of course can become fashionable and even widely accepted well before they have been proven in an empirical, scientific sense, as Feyerabend noted in his studies of how science is actually done, as opposed to the theory of how science is done.

            But neither is there intellectual virtue in parroting "unproven" when the scientific community on the whole thinks the case for the new theory has been well enough made.

            As evolutionary biologists did when they thought the case for eugenics had been well-enough made. Or as the Aristotelian physicists did when they thought the geomobile theories had been thoroughly falsified by the evidence.

          • Doug Shaver

            As evolutionary biologists did when they thought the case for eugenics had been well-enough made.

            Eugenics was never a scientific theory. It was a proposed application of scientific theory.

    • "While the ancient Greeks were content to spin theories without regard for facts, the Chinese were content to collect facts without regard for theories."

      Thank you! Love that line.

    • Except for at least one Greek that paid attention to facts when making his theories. When we get to Greece, I may push the point further, but Archimedes seemed to be doing full fledged science to me. There's not much different between what he did then and what I do now, except that his results were more important than mine are.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        "Archimedes was of so lofty a spirit that he never condescended to write any treatise on the manner of constructing all these engines of war. And as he held this science of inventing and putting together engines, and all arts generally speaking which tended to any useful end in practice, to be vile, low, and mercenary, he spent his talents and his studious hours in writing only of those things whose beauty and subtlety had in them no admixture of necessity."
        -- Plutarch, "Life of Marcellus"

        So even the exception is more into theory than practice.

        • Maybe so, but he still meets the important criterion of being a scientist. Scientists in the past have had the bad habit of failing to communicate their theories in writing. They tend to fall into obscurity. The fact that we still have record of one of Archimedes important scientific achievements, in spite of his unwillingness to write down some more practical parts of his work, illustrates in my mind what an incredible scientist Archimedes was, especially given the time in which he lived.

          And although it doesn't seem very relevant to whether Archimedes was a scientist, I think he's right concerning engines of war and their construction. Construction of war technology does seem to me generally vile, low and mercenary. Archimedes goes much too far opposing all other sorts of practical instruments, assuming Plutarch fairly represents Archimedes' thoughts. Although finally, Plutarch says:

          He spent his talents and his studious hours in writing only of those things whose beauty and subtlety had in them no admixture of necessity.

          Seems to reflect so much of the scientific spirit, doesn't it? To do work not for the practical applications or the bare necessities, but for the sake of their subtlety and beauty? If you are possibly the first ever to try a mathematical method of describing the patterns in nature, maybe you won't know yet that the beautiful and subtle patterns of nature are always mixed with utility, or how useful you can be. Of course, that's not why most scientists do science. We don't do science because we get useful results. We do it for the pure enjoyment of finding things out.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The beauty and subtlety has to do with mathematics, and here is a playing field on which all civilizations contributed important results. It was in the area of physical science (e.g., biology, chemistry, and physics) where they differed in their interests. The Greek gentleman would do mathematics but would not dream of getting his hands dirty conducting an experiment. A civilization that revered carpenters, fishermen, and tent-makers had a different take on manual labor.

            We tend to confuse science with mathematics because the medievals began to apply the latter to the former in a systematic manner. They were the first to identify something they called "the exact sciences" -- astronomy, optics, and music -- because those were actually specialized branches of mathematics. Physics was another ball game entirely until roughly the 14th century.
            +++++
            We ought to be wary of binary thinking. An acorn grows into an oak and only an acorn grows into an oak. That doesn't mean you expect the oak the day you plant the acorn. In the history of ideas there are always other ideas, some supporting, some opposing. So before you can say that the ideas germinated by Latin Christendom "should have" birthed science before AD 1000, you have to give thought to whether anything else may have been going on in Europe in those years, or why the Christians were still sending missionaries into various regions of the West.

            Think in terms of "evolution."

          • Whatever allowed Archimedes the insight, he came up with an important result in physics well before the 14th century. How was he able to accomplish this? In your opinion, was it just a freak occurrence, or was there something in the Greek culture that especially, more than any other culture of its time (including Israel), set it up for science?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            There have always been such isolated discoveries, everywhere. Think of Shen Kua, who discussed magnetic declination in the 11th century. Or al-Haytham, and others. What never happened elsewhere was the embedding of natural philosophy in the culture. It remained the pursuit of leisured gentlemen, without any sustaining cultural "home." In the House of Submission, for example, it was not forbidden to read what they called "Greek studies" or "foreign studies," but it was never taught publicly in the schools. So whatever al-Kindi (before he was publicly flogged) or al-Haytham or ibn Rushd and the rest accomplished, they did it on their own initiative, and never achieved critical mass. Science is a communal enterprise, not a "thousand points of light" in which this individual or that makes a key discovery and becomes "the Father of..." whatever.

            Fortuitous discoveries may be important, but it only becomes science when you move from facts or regularities to efforts to explain them.

          • I haven't heard about Shen Kua or al-Haytham, so I'll look them up. That others from many different cultures would begin to do science makes me even more skeptical about the whole project Jaki attempted. If many different societies can cultivate and encourage such genius, and preserve the results for posterity, then it would seem more likely to be some random accident of history why science happened in one place and not another.

            Such speculation also encourages me to credit science to humanist and enlightenment values more than Christian philosophy. After all, it may be that the scientific discoveries in the middle ages were just a group of random geniuses that happened to get lucky, like Shen Kua and Archimedes (and who knows how many more), and it wasn't until the enlightenment that, as you say, science [became] a communal enterprise, not a "thousand points of light" in which this individual or that made a key discovery.... The whole story Jaki tells, and Trasancos retells may then live only in Jaki's head.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Except that their societies did not encourage Shen Kua or al-Haytham. They did their thing without a support structure. That's the whole point. Natural philosophy was not taught in schools in Islam and was not even recognized as such in China. In neither society was human reason trusted to draw correct conclusions about nature. Doing the right thing meant doing as you were told. Islam denied secondary causation: physical bodies did not act directly on other physical bodies, and so-called 'natural laws' were only 'the habits of Allah.' Fire does not burn cloth, al-Ghazali wrote. God wills the blackening of the cloth and the heat of the fire, and it is only his habit that the two occur together. In China, coincidence and concatenation were given as much credence as causation, because the important thing was to locate the times on the endlessly repeating cosmic cycles, not to figure out why fire burned cloth. What about the two-headed calf born in Loyang or the mudslide in Chengtu? They happened at the same time the cloth burned!!

            The Latins invented a new thing: the University, a self-governing corporate body with jurisdiction. The first of the corporate persons that the Western Legal Revolution created. There was nothing like the university anywhere is the world: it had regular curricula, lectures and debates, degrees of achievement; and it gave natural philosophy/science for the first time a "home base" independent of kings and barons. The entire master's curriculum was given over to logic, reason, and natural philosophy. There were no courses in history or literature or business administration. Hundreds of thousands of students - a quarter million in the German universities alone from 1350 on - were exposed to science, more as a fraction of the population than ever before or since. Significantly, this curriculum had to be mastered before matriculating in the doctoral programs of theology, law, or medicine. This meant that nearly every medieval theologian had first been trained as a natural philosopher.

            Elsewhere: madrassas were independently chartered, but had no standing as legal persons and never taught natural philosophy, only Holy Qu'ran. Imperial College was a government bureau, and taught only the Confucian classics and how to write the eight-legged essay, not teach science.

            When historians say that only in Europe was science embedded in the culture, this is the context.

            The natural philosophers of Europe were in communication with one another and cited one another's works. It was a communal enterprise. For example, Oresme cites Witelo's principle of relativity in arguing that the apparent motion of the heavens did not establish that the heavens moved and the earth stood still, since the appearances would be the same if the opposite were the case. The "Calculators of Merton" set out a program to make physics measurable through a theory of intension and remission of forms. By the mid-14th century a critical mass had been reached -- and the Black Death cut the population by a third. Not until the 17th century did the population recover to medieval levels -- which means not until then were there as many natural philosophers communication with one another. And this time they had the printing press, the last of the great medieval inventions.

          • But from these handful of medievals, even if they did effectively communicate, did any of them come up with any mathematical relations? Did any of these mathematical relations result in unifying two seemingly separate natural phenomena, such as, say, weight and composition? It seems, even after reading Trasancos's book, that Archimedes was closer to actually doing science than any of the medievals, than any thinker until Galileo, as far as I know. And the driving force for scientific progress at that time could well have been humanism.

            It would have been more compelling, in my mind, if Archimedes was unique, or even if there had been other Greek scientists. Then it could either be argued that Archimedes is an outlier, or that there is some common thread in Greek and Christian thought that provided a supportive environment for science. But if there have been scientists as accomplished as Archimedes throughout history and over many different cultures, then it seems that Christian Europe was just as good a place for science to start as any other, and it was just an accident that it started where it did. Or maybe the real driving force was humanism. I don't know.

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            In regards to Charles Martel's defeat of the Saracens in the Battle of Poitiers in 732, Gibbon writes: "Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet." This is historical determinism! There would not have been an Oxford, as the universities in Western Europe developed from within a unique set of circumstances.

            The same can be said of the Scientific Revolution, which is greatly indebted to these same universities. I struggle to accept the claim that "Christian Europe was just as good a place for science to start as any other, and it was just an accident that it started where it did."

            Also, the use mathematics was fairly common in the High Middle Ages. A few examples: the mean speed theorem developed by the scholars at Merton College in the 14th century; the graphical representation of the theorem developed by Oresme, and later used by Galileo; the geometrical analysis of the rainbow given by Theodoric of Freiberg; the optical studies of several natural philosophers, including Grosseteste and Bacon; etc.

          • These accomplishments, as impressive as they are (and don't get me wrong, they're impressive!) seem to me as close to Physics as the work of Archimedes, a man who lived 1500 years earlier. That's an incredible amount of time! It's also interesting that these achievements, like the Merton theorem, did not arise until well after the West had rediscovered the Greeks.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The Romans had a grave lack of curiosity about the natural world, while the Greeks were more interested in the grand theory than the grunt work. The development of science was in hiatus for a very long time. Archimedes.... and who else?

            The West did not 'rediscover' the Greeks. The Romans had never translated the material into Latin and the Franks, Goths, and Saxons never had it. They knew of it, of course. The early cathedral schools taught using the old Roman encyclopedias put together by Pliny, Macrobius, and others; and Boethius had begun the project of translating Aristotle into Latin before it was cut short by Gothic politics.

            You cannot expect them to have started with nothing! That would have been an act of creation ex nihilo. But neither do we credit the wheat farmer with making the beer, and we do not sit in the shade of an acorn.

            Again, I recommend reading some of the books previously mentioned. Grant's book is short. Huff's is longer but provides a parallel study of Europe, Islam, and China.

          • So I credit Archimedes with inventing calculus. And Newton, and Leibniz with independently inventing calculus. And I'm very curious, what sort of an environment was ancient Greece able to provide to produce an Archimedes? It's an interesting data point. If there's only one, all the more interesting.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            what sort of an environment was ancient Greece able to provide to produce an Archimedes?
            It was one very much in love with geometry. Greece was the premier of mathematics, to some extent; although mathematics was investigated as well as used in most every culture.

          • "The Romans had a grave lack of curiosity about the natural world"

            . . .when you can make 100 slaves plow the land with rudimentary instruments instead of inquiring on how to improve said rudimentary instruments, yes, the Romans surely lacked curiosity. . . with maybe the exception of the invention of cement. :)

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The kind of cement the Romans stumbled on was a natural material. There is no science in its discovery (not "invention"), just dumb luck. They had no idea how it worked and had not much curiosity on the matter. The Romans were pragmatic to a fault. Nature might be imitated or placated, but probably not understood.

          • Fascinating.

            Thanks YOS! I'm a history buff so the information is greatly appreciated.

            For all we know it was probably a Roman slave that stumbled upon it!

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But from these handful of medievals...

            First error. "Handful" may apply to the Greek natural philosophers, and even more so to the Islamic faylasuf, but not to the abundance of the High and Late Middle Ages.

            did any of them come up with any mathematical relations?

            They did more than that. They came up with the idea of applying mathematical relations to the physical. They invented, for example, the + sign and the ÷ generic ratio sign. They invented fractions and named the numerator and denominator. They invented exponents (though not the notation) and Oresme used fractional exponents to debunk astrology and the ever-recurring cycles of the ancients. Jordanus of Nemours solved the problem of motion on an incline. Bradwardine solved the Mean Speed theorem regarding constant acceleration. Theodoric of Freiburg solved the rainbow as a double-refraction through water droplets. William of Heytesbury devised what we now call modal logic and open sets. (Hint: that there was no first moment in which the universe existed would come as no surprise to him.) Oresme invented graphs (an early analytical geometry) and used one to demonstrate the Mean Speed theorem -- well enough that Galileo lifted it wholesale without attribution centuries later.
            I'm not sure what mathematical relations you might find in Darwin. If there are none, then maybe he wasn't doing science by your criterion?

            Did any of these mathematical relations result in unifying two seemingly separate natural phenomena, such as, say, weight and composition?

            The intension and remission of forms was applied to all instances of intension and remission: a crane lifting a weight, two plates approaching each other in parallel, etc. They invented the idea of a quantitative extension to a quality: hence, temperature versus heat, specific gravity versus weight. What held them back from the goal post you have so adroitly moved was that they first had to invent ways to measure things like color, pressure, or temperature. They could measure lengths, angles, weights, and so forth, but not the rest. So please don't complain that the people who laid the foundations didn't finish off the roofing.

            Archimedes was closerto actually doing science than any of the medievals, than any thinker until Galileo, as far as I know.

            It would be well to know farther.
            http://thonyc.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/extracting-the-stopper/

            And the driving force for scientific progress at that time could well have been humanism.

            Hardly. The Renaissance, the heyday of humanism, was a two-and-a-half century dark age from the scientific viewpoint. The humanists spent their energies on magnificent art, study of Plutarch and Tacitus, essays, and Neoplatonic number woo-woo. Australian mathematician and historian James Franklin writes:
            [After Oresme] everything came to a stop. Given the scientific and mathematical works of Descartes and Galileo, but no chronological information, one might suppose the authors were students of Oresme. Galileo's work on moving bodies is the next step after Oresme's physics; Cartesian geometry follows immediately on Oresme's work on graphs. But we know that the actual chronological gap was 250 years, during which nothing whatever happened in these fields.
            http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/renaissance.html

            It could ... be argued that ... there is some common thread in Greek and Christian thought that provided a supportive environment for science.

            Which thread of Greek thought? Neoplatonism (the dominant thread in Late Antiquity)? Stoicism? The Mysteries? The astrological Great Year? The universe as a giant organic being? In The Greeks and the Irrational, Dodds points out that our image of the rationalistic Greeks is biased by what we have chosen to preserve. Of all the papyrus fragments that have survived from that era, 50% are excerpts from Homer. But nearly all the works that were copied and translated by the medievals were the rational works of Aristotle, Euclid, Galen, et al.: math, logic, philosophy, natural philosophy, medicine, astronomy... That is, it was the medievals' enthusiasm for logic, reason, and natural philosophy that gives us our image of the Greeks.

            Obviously, they started from what they learned of the Greeks -- recall that Greek philosophy was never translated into Latin by the pagans. And much commentary came from the muslim faylasuf (who had gotten it from the Nestorian Christians). But as soon as it was digested, they began to question it -- the Latin Christian culture of the quaestiones and quodlibeta -- and we might say that they midwifed science by rejecting much of the Greco-Arabic heritage.

          • Andrew Kassebaum

            Ye Olde Statistician: I should have waited for your more thorough and better-thought-out response. At least, we made several of the same points!

          • What you have presented to me these past few posts, sans the flowery language and urgent objections, seems simply to be a story about a handful of disorganised Medieval western thinkers, pre-scientific, with as much hope of becoming science as the Greeks had, until the enlightenment, until Galileo and Newton.

            The more you say here, the more you begin to persuade me that Trasancos's thesis is a mistake. I am still quite confident that Medieval Christianity, on average, did little harm to scientific progress. But the more you write, the more you show me that Christianity did little good, either.

          • They did more than that. They came up with the idea of applying mathematical relations to the physical.

            Archimedes came up with this idea when he applied mathematics to the physics of solids, relating density to mass and volume.

            They invented fractions and named the numerator and denominator. They invented exponents (though not the notation) and Oresme used fractional exponents to debunk astrology and the ever-recurring cycles of the ancients.

            Archimedes made use of Riemann Sums and the infinitesimal, in a way that at least impresses me that he had developed Integral Calculus well before Newton. He makes use of infinite geometric series. And Archimedes miraculously does this by making use of fractions! Even before they were invented. Or maybe you were referring to the modern (and admittedly much improved) fractional notation?

            Archimedes also discovered the law of exponents. I suppose before exponents were invented by the medievals?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Archimedes is credited with a lot but only in hindsight. His use of the method of exhaustion for finding the areas of irregular shapes was not integral calculus. It was, in Archimedes' view, "cheating." The only proper proofs were geometric proofs using compass and rule. He used the method of exhaustion to estimate an arithmetical answer toward which he then directed his geometric efforts. But he discarded the "cheat" sheet. No one else appears to have known of it or used it.

            It is the habit of every age to view the past in its own image. The Modern interest in physical science leads us to see "scientists" in the past, when they were no such thing. Our fascination with rugged individualism leads us to mistake the accomplishments of singular individuals with the "discovery" of this or that. Recall that the topic is the emergence of natural science in one particular civilization, not the birth of brilliant and talented people here and there. (Nor for that matter, the common confusion of "science"/physics with mathematics.)

          • Renormalization was not in Feynman's opinion a rigorous mathematical tool. Feynman thought it was cheating. That doesn't mean Feynman and Wilson and others didn't do it first. These guys invented the technique. Archimedes invented calculus.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, he did not "invent calculus" any more than Swift discovered the moons of Mars.
            "On Floating Bodies," the one work that seems the most scientific, the treatment is entirely mathematical, not physical. You can read it here:
            https://archive.org/stream/worksofarchimede00arch#page/253
            You will be hard-pressed to find experiments, measurements, or physical theories, any of the markers of natural science.
            Archimedes was an outlier in Greek civilization. What he did never entered the mainstream of Greek thought and no one else ever built on it. (That's why the debate here is on the embedding of natural science in a culture, not the appearance of occasional geniuses.)
            Though cited now and then, and partly translated during the Dark Age, his writings were pretty much shelved until William of Moerbeke set himself the task of translating the entire Archimedian oevre in the 13th century, which he did from Greek copies in Byzantine Sicily and Constantinople itself. Our earliest now-extant copy of "On floating bodies" is written in medieval Latin and may derive from a now-lost copy possessed by George Valla in 1499, from which the three surviving copies appear to have been made (common descent!). I wonder whether the diagrams in the Late Medieval and Modern versions were present in the original. They may owe something to the era in which they were copied. (At least one translation (called "B") seems to have been made by a mathematician and contains alterations not present in "F" or "C". There may have been descent with modification.)

          • Well, I think we've reached the end of my interest on this particular topic. Thanks or the discussion.

        • Doug Shaver

          So even the exception is more into theory than practice.

          If we can take Plutarch's word for it.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Why not? We take far less reliable words for a whole lot else. It's from Plutarch that we know much of anything about Archimedes' work, like his defense of Syracuse.

          • Doug Shaver

            We take far less reliable words for a whole lot else.

            You might. I don't limit my skepticism to religious doctrines.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I don't limit my skepticism to religious doctrines.

            Do you believe that Hannibal existed? How about Socrates? Or Hypatia of Alexandria?

          • Doug Shaver

            Do you believe that Hannibal existed? How about Socrates? Or Hypatia of Alexandria?

            I have had no occasion to study the evidence for Hannibal or Hypatia. Until I do, I'm OK deferring to the consensus of professional historians, who seem to agree that there is no room for reasonable doubt about the existence of either.

            I have taken a bit of a closer look at the evidence relevant to Socrates' existence. It seems more likely that he existed than that he didn't, but I wouldn't bet my paycheck on it.

  • Chee Chak

    Even if the details of history and "science/technology" as related in
    the article are accepted at face value and I don't doubt that they are
    more or less accurate, as also is likely correct the general scholarly
    evaluation and interpretation of the history of the development of
    modern science by the author. Be it far from me to question scholars who
    are in the know in these matters.

    “In a universe
    without the voice of God there remains no persistent and compelling
    reason for man to search within nature for distinct voices of law and
    truth.”

    However, the above statement from the
    article seems to reek of Christian/Catholic triumphalism and superiority
    over other cultures, especially pantheistic societies and civilizations
    as viewed through the mists of time,and the article seems to have been
    written to serve this purpose.I am not suggesting that the author had
    any nefarious intentions.This is just my opinion from the peanut
    gallery.I have no doubt that scientific progress will continue to
    advance even in the face of the rising tide of atheism and the
    continuing demise of the credibility of the Church. I believe that we
    still have a long way to go and many discoveries to eventually partake in.

    • You are entitled to your beliefs. However, I suggest that if you are reading something (like this essay) and you find yourself emoting such thoughts as:

      " . . . the article seems to reek of Christian/Catholic triumphalism and superiority over other cultures, especially pantheistic societies and civilizations as viewed through the mists of time . . . "

      you might consider reading the work in question so as to put your mind at ease.

      As they say: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aristotle100584.html

      • Doug Shaver

        you might consider reading the work in question so as to put your mind at ease.

        I will not attempt to critique the work of an author I have not read. However, according to the editor's note, your essays in this series are "based on Fr. Stanley L. Jaki's research." I gather from what you have written so far that Jaki has presented an argument for a certain conclusion, and that you have judged it to be a cogent argument.

        I believe your judgment is mistaken, but there are at least three possible reasons for that. One is that my own belief is mistaken, i.e. Jaki's argument is cogent, and you have shown it to be so, and I'm just wrong to think otherwise. Another is that you have not adquately summarized Jaki's argument, i.e. it actually is cogent, but you have not presented it well enough to convey its cogency. Or, it could be that Jaki does not make a cogent argument, and you are mistaken in your belief that he does.

        I suspect the latter is the case, and I will attempt to defend that suspicion.

        So, what is this conclusion we're talking about? I don't find it stated in so many words, but it apparently is something like: Modern science arose in Europe and nowhere else because, and only because, Europeans were Christians. And the argument for this conclusion seems to be: The Christian worldview, and no other earlier worldview, includes certain beliefs about the universe that are necessary for substantial scientific progress. If this is a misrepresentation of what you're trying to say, then I must ask you to correct me now before I waste any more of my own and everyone else's time commenting on it.

        • Doug,

          I won't make a judgment for you, but I will note that you are trying to make a judgment yourself without reading what you are judging.

          The conclusion of the book is the title. "Science Was Born of Christianity." Those words have precise meaning though. Their meanings "Science" and "Was Born" and "Of Christianity" are developed in the book. Jaki was precise about defining science. He was highly metaphorical in using the birth/stillbirth language, for a reason. And he expanded on how Christian theology refuted pantheistic theology and the ideas it led to about the physical world.

          So I urge you to either refrain from judging an entire work you haven't read, or limit your criticisms to the essay at hand.

          • Doug Shaver

            The conclusion of the book is the title. "Science Was Born of Christianity."

            I have told you how I interpret the title. Is my interpretation incorrect, in your opinion?

            Jaki was precise about defining science.

            Could I trouble you to quote his definition?

          • Yes your interpretation is grossly over-stated. It's like saying, "[My daughter] arose in [me] and nowhere else because, and only because, [I am Christian]. If that sounds absurd, well, yeah. Hence, the need to understand the "birth" metaphor. The birth metaphor relates to an intellectual breakthrough that led to science becoming an independent and universal discipline.

            Science: Exact science is the quantitative study of the quantitative aspects of objects in motion. Also, physics.

            He's talking about the Scientific Revolution, the change from Aristotelian physics to Newtonian physics, the change to apply mathematics to nature to discover physical laws.

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes your interpretation is grossly over-stated. It's like saying, "[My daughter] arose in [me] and nowhere else because, and only because, [I am Christian]. If that sounds absurd, well, yeah. Hence, the need to understand the "birth" metaphor. The birth metaphor relates to an intellectual breakthrough that led to science becoming an independent and universal discipline.

            OK. Since you deny saying what I thought you were saying, I can't very well have any grounds for saying you're mistaken. Good for you, but at this point I have no idea what you are trying to say.

          • Doug Shaver

            Jaki was precise about defining science.

            Could I trouble you to quote his definition?

            Science: Exact science is the quantitative study of the quantitative aspects of objects in motion. Also, physics.

            Are those his words or your paraphrase of his words? I asked for a quotation, and I don't see any quotation marks.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          I would suggest also:
          --Toby Huff, The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West
          http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Early-Modern-Science-Islam/dp/0521529948/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407157725&sr=1-1&keywords=toby+huff
          --Edward Grant, The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages
          http://www.amazon.com/Foundations-Modern-Science-Middle-Ages/dp/0521567629

          Neither one is a physicist like Jaki, but neither can be accused of apologetics, either.

          • Doug Shaver

            I would suggest also . . . .

            Suggest for what purpose? I already have a long list of books that I wish to read as soon as I can afford to buy them. If I'm going to put a new one at the top of the list, I need a really good reason.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            for what purpose?

            Better-informed discussion on this topic, so that instead of textual criticism of comm box proof-quotes you gain in mastery of the subject matter.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm 68 years old, and I've been reading about the history of science for most of my life. I don't claim to have learned everything, but I think I've gotten pretty well informed by now. And there are other things I don't know anything about that I'd like to study some during my sunset years.

            Now, if you think I ought to change my mind about how science got started, and if you think a particular book would show me a good reason why I should change my mind, then you may start by telling me why I should be expected to trust whatever the author says.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Substantially the same conclusion regarding China was reached by Joseph Needham, who was not only an atheist but a Marxist atheist, so triumphalism is not necessary.

      There seems to be a curious reflex on the part of many who reject the theological claims of the Church to conclude that therefore nothing of which they approve could ever owe anything to her. But it is entirely possible for Christian culture to embed certain categories of thought into a society that may enable the rise of science without the theological part being true because of it. Believing that a rational godhead orders the universe by "number, weight, and measure" seems to have been a necessary belief, since without it the scientific program stalled out in Islam and never arose in China, but it may be that the idea now has existential inertia and the flower may continue to bloom even after the roots are pulled out.

      One of the problems with polytheistic cultures was that when Poseidon can overrule Zeus, it's hard to conclude that there are laws of nature. Those ancient Greeks who came closest, like Aristotle, were also the ones who believed in a monotheism.

      Pantheism is worse. If there are dryads in the trees and nymphs in the springs and the heavens are "alive, divine, and influential in human affairs," natural laws are hard to come by. Since trees and stars have minds of their own, it's more a matter of placating them than studying them. As Brian Stock wrote: "[The Roman's] daily experience led him to believe that nature’s forces could be imitated, even placated; he was less sure they could be understood.”
      --“Science, Technology, and Economic Progress in the Early Middle Ages,” in Science in the Middle Ages, ed. David C. Lindberg (University of Chicago Press, 1978).

  • Chee Chak

    The real question is.....why are there only 21 comments on here given the article in question? I do realize that I am risking deletion or banishment.....but just wanted to voice a question?

    • I also noted the uncharacteristic quietness.

    • I suspect it is because so many who would have commented have been banned. This is the exact topic that would interest atheists (religion and science), and it's a position that is highly controversial. Alas, atheists cannot comment here if they have been banned. And most have been banned.

      • Michael Murray

        The problem for me is that while it is of general interest I don't see the relevance to atheism. Even if it is true that it was necessary for mankind to develop something like Catholicism before we could develop science that tells us nothing about the truth of the Catholic Church's theistic and other supernatural claims.

        That doesn't mean it is an uninteresting topic. It just means it is no more interesting for me than the large pile of other things I have stacked up in need of reading. Not least of these being the virtual pile of unread books on my Kindle :-( .

        But I agree that many of The Banned would be interested in this topic and they can be found over here

        http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com

        Maybe what this website needs is some kind of confession for atheists. Anyone who is currently banned who says say six Our Dawkins, three Hail Christopher's and a True Act of Reason could perhaps be unbanned ?

      • Doug Shaver

        If I may risk a bit of immodesty, may I suggest that if there has been a culling, those who have survived it might be the ones most worth listening to?

        I cannot respond to Stacy's posts in this series both adequately and briefly. But I am working on a response.

        • Greg Schaefer

          Hi Doug.

          I very much appreciate your contributions to the dialogue here on SN, as I've indicated in the past.

          However, for one who has been reading here for far longer than you, and who has been through the three major purges that Michael refers to (the first just about a year ago), I would say that quite a number of those who have been purged were very worth listening to. While I am glad that David Nickol, Noah Luck, Paul Rimmer, and you, as well as several others, continue to participate in the conversation at SN, the fact remains that many highly knowledgeable and thoughtful commenters who contributed significantly to the conversation here have been banned and that has made this site less than it would otherwise be, in my opinion. As Michael points out, most of those who were banned here do contribute frequently over at the Outshine the Sun/Estranged Notions site, and you may find it worth your while to check out the conversation over there as well.

          Cheers.

          • Doug Shaver

            I probably should have worded my observation more carefully. I didn't mean to suggest that only the idiots got kicked out.

            I took a quick look at Outshine the Sun when somebody else recommended it a few days ago. I'll take a longer look next time I'm over.