Opening the Mouth and Removing all Doubt

Is the “new” atheist echo chamber so small they really don’t have a clue as to the key influences that brought us Western Civilization? Really? Have they read anything other than Dawkins or Dennett? Do they live in caves? Do they ever venture out? From this, one would guess not.

Of course the most ironic point made in this undressing of Pataki, is noting where the foundations of empiricism should be located. How amazing that most of these new atheists wield what they think is some sort of hammer against “religion” and theism, forgetting the hammer was handed to them by others. They certainly never came up with it. In fact, they have never come up with anything, ever. All they can do is flail about with tools someone else produced and perhaps they wield them so incorrectly because of the intellectual laziness inherent in their own worldview and the poverty of vision that comes from being so ignorant of that which they critique. As the writer notes:

The methodology of empirical testing fundamental to our Western intellectual tradition did not come from the Greeks. Indeed, it could not. The Greeks closed the door on verification through experience. “The whole business of testing for truth,” says Professor Edwin Judge, a specialist on the reception of Graeco-Roman culture into the modern world and founder of Macquarie University’s Ancient History Department, “was explicitly rejected in classical culture as being illogical.

Why? Because the Greeks believed the universe operated according to a fixed, eternal logic, which was accessible to the logical mind of human beings. What was needed in order to comprehend the world, whether the movements of the stars or the circulation of the blood, was not testing but careful reasoning from unchallenged axioms.”


This revolution in the path to knowledge was the result of the shattering of the Greek worldview by the Judeo-Christian worldview. And we can date it precisely. In AD 529 the Christian philosopher John Philoponus published his Refutation of Proclus echoing his Refutation of Aristotle. These were a stunning dismantling of the Greek doctrine of the rational, eternal universe in favour of a philosophical defence of the biblical notion of the universe as a created object with a beginning. And this gave us science as we now think of it.


The Oxford Classical Dictionary states things plainly: Philoponus “influenced subsequent science to Galileo by replacing many of Aristotle’s theories with an account centred on the Christian idea that the universe had an absolute beginning.”


The breakthrough was immense. If the world is not an eternal, logical system but a creative work of art, we cannot simply think our way to understanding reality.


We must humbly inspect what the Creator, of his own free will, has produced and apply our rational powers of testing to comprehend what He has manufactured. Testing of what is, not rationalizing from first principles, will lead us to the truth about the physical world.

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28 Responses to Opening the Mouth and Removing all Doubt

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    I think you would benefit from reading the article on empiricism at wiki. The one with his pants on fire may be your friend at ABC. The breakdown has traditionally been seen between Platonism and Aristotelianism, of which the Church drew most heavily from Platonism, though as noted there, Aquinas did have a role in promoting some degree of Aristotelianism. The Church naturally had banned Aristotle's writings just prior.

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  2. Darrell says:

    Oh yes, good idea, let’s use Wiki– that bastion of first rate scholarship and intellectualism– over and against someone with a Ph.D. in ancient history—the very area he, unlike Pataki, is an expert and actually might know what he is talking about (unlike Pataki).

    It is interesting what you think is third rate and such.

    You might benefit from reading some actual works in these areas instead if relying upon the atheist echo chamber. I know it's scary, but there is a big world out there beyond the cave.

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  3. Robin says:

    Darrell,

    You might want to have a look at (De Lacy, Philip. 1991. Galen's Response to Skepticism. Illinois Classical Studies 16 pp 303-304)

    He shows, using references to primary texts, that Galen, a 2nd century Greek Platonist, put a lot of emphasis on testing using observation.

    This completely contradicts Judge's claim that testing for truth was rejected in classical culture as being illogical.

    Also that Galen said that some things couldn't be proved or tested for and were therefore unknowable.

    This contradicts Judge's claim that Greeks believed that all the laws of the universe were accessible to the human mind.

    This is all referenced back to Galen's own words in primary texts.

    Galen also said that the eternity of the cosmos was one of the things that was unknowable.
    Galen was a whole three centuries before Philoponus.

    And the idea that the Greeks in classical times all believed the same thing is absurd.

    There were many and varied systems of thought around at the time.

    Some even thotht the Universe was fundamentally irrational.

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  4. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    Thank you for your comments on an old post. I’m not sure what expertise you may have in this area, so you will forgive me if I agree with Judge:

    “There were two Hellenistic medical philosophers (Erasistratus, and his pupil Herophilus of Alexandria) who are known to have used dissection as well as logic to find out how the body actually works. Galen, the great medical polymath of the 2nd century AD, whose work remained standard even into the 18th century, condemned the 'empiricists' for not offering any logical proof, 'as though one had come into the school of Moses and Christ'.”

    I’m not sure how the rest of your comments invalidate the main drift of the Dickson’s point, which is that the “new” atheists seem to be completely ignorant of the philosophical foundations of Western Civilization including modern science and empiricism. Those foundations are clearly Judeo-Christian. Such neither makes them right, correct, good, or bad. It is simply historical fact.

    Further, even if Galen did take the view that was closer to the Judeo-Christian opening for empiricism it would only mean he was a minority in a greater culture (Greek) that viewed empiricism with suspicion.

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  5. Robin says:

    Hi Darrell,

    The first point is that Galen is Judge's one reference point to his claim that the Greeks rejected testing as illogical.

    But we find from Galen's own words that he advocated and used testing.

    So where does that leave the status of the claim.

    You suggest that perhaps Galen was an exception in Greek thought but, as Judge's quote confirms and we can see from such works as 'De Sectis' and his discourse against the empiricist sect, Galen critised the empiricist sect of Greek medicine for relying too much on observation and testing.

    The empiricist sect of Greek medicine dates from three hundred years before Christianity and 800 years before Philoponus allegedly set the stage for empiricism.

    It is not difficult to find other counter example, such as Eratothenes in the 3rd century BC who estimated the circumference of the Earth using observation and calculation.

    The fact is that the “reason alone” school of thought was just one of the schools of thought in Ancient Greece. Immanuel Kant put it this way in 'Critique of Pure Reason':

    “In relation to the origin of the pure cognitions of reason, we find one school maintaining that they are derived entirely from experience, and another that they have their origin in reason alone. Aristotle may be regarded as the bead of the empiricists, and Plato of the noologists.”

    Talk of Christianity as being a philosophical foundation for empiricism is way, way off beam – it is starkly contradicted by the evidence.

    So I would stop worrying about the New Atheists and start worrying about the Old Theists.

    I am a practising Christian myself but this is not about theists scoring off athests and vice versa.

    This is about the verifiable facts of history.

    (Incidentally, Galen's 'School of Moses and Christ' jibe was not aimed at the empiricists as Judge says, he was addressing Archigenes who was of the Eclectic sect. He said '…so that from the start we can avoid, as though we had come into the school of Moses and Christ, talk of undemonstrated laws' De pulsuum Differentiis, book 2 part 4)

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  6. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    “The first point is that Galen is Judge's one reference point to his claim that the Greeks rejected testing as illogical.”

    Not so at all. He hardly uses Galen at all. In characterizing the Greco-Roman approach he writes:

    “So long as we are amply trained, we can think our way to reality. Experimentation was therefore irrational. From Parmenides (born 515 BC) to Aristotle (384 BC), from Chrysippus (280 BC) to Plotinus (AD 205), the Greek intellectual method, for all its advances, erected a giant blockade in front of what we today recognize as the only valid path to true science.”

    Further it is noted that:
    “The Greeks closed the door on verification through experience.”The whole business of testing for truth,” says Professor Edwin Judge, a specialist on the reception of Graeco-Roman culture into the modern world and founder of Macquarie University's Ancient History Department, ‘was explicitly rejected in classical culture as being illogical.’”

    No one is saying that there were no empiricists’ strains in that culture. What they are saying is that there were none strong enough to overcome the general trend of thought, which was decidedly not empiricist as we know it today. You are focusing on one person, Galen. Judge and Dickson are summing up the greater and prevalent trend.

    I’m glad you are a Christian but that wasn’t my question or focus. I was curious as to what area of expertise you may have to dismiss Judge and Dickson. Not that you need any. Clearly you are an intelligent person. I just think, since I lack expertise in this area, that I will side with Judge—the founder of an entire department of ancient history at a respected University.

    I too agree that this isn’t about scoring points. It’s about revealing the fact that the new atheists have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to philosophy or history—as it pertains to their critique of Christianity.

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  7. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    One more point. Regarding Galen’s reference to the “school of Moses and Christ.” It matters little who Galen was addressing. What matters is what he is telling Archigenes. He is speaking against this “school” that seems to proceed empirically rather than by a-priori laws.

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  8. Robin says:

    Darrell wrote:

    “One more point. Regarding Galen’s reference to the “school of Moses and Christ.” It matters little who Galen was addressing. What matters is what he is telling Archigenes. He is speaking against this “school” that seems to proceed empirically rather than by a-priori laws.”

    I gather it was rather the reverse, that Archigenes proposed things that existed only in hypothesis rather than in observation.

    From the ” A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology”:

    ” Archigenes published a treatise on the pulse, on which Galen wrote a Commentary; it appears to have contained a number of minute and subtle distinctions, many of which have no real existence, and were for the most part the result rather of a preconceived hypothesis than of actual observation; and the same remark may be applied to an arrangement which he proposed of fevers”

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  9. Robin says:

    Darrell wrote:

    “You are focusing on one person, Galen. Judge and Dickson are summing up the greater and prevalent trend.


    They are making a claim. Claims need evidence.

    Argument from authority is generally regarded as a fallacy. So I don't want to hear about the departments he has started, I want to hear evidence – primary texts, book, chapter, page number.

    Apart from Galen I would call them out on Aristotle and Chrysippus. I have already quoted Kant's opinion that Aristotle was the foundation of empiricism. And Chrysippus was hardly in the “reason alone” crowd.

    I doubt that noology – reason alone to the exclusion of experience – was really the dominant trend with respect to Greek science.

    But even if it was, that does not negate the influence of 400 years of empiricism in Greek medicine or empiricism in Greek science generally in the development of science.

    There were others, for example Euclid's Optics, which is relied on heavily in Grosseteste's influential work on mathematical reasoning in the natural sciences, and in Roger Bacon's development of these ideas.

    So let us correct the claim that “.”The whole business of testing for truth was explicitly rejected by certain thinkers in classical culture as being illogical.’”

    That is the most we can claim from verifiable evidence.

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  10. Robin says:

    Oh, and by the way – you say I am “focussing on Galen”. You forgot the 4 centuries of empiricism in Greek medicine that I also mentioned.

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  11. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    “Argument from authority is generally regarded as a fallacy. So I don't want to hear about the departments he has started, I want to hear evidence – primary texts, book, chapter, page number.”

    So as long as the authority is a book, of which Judge has probably read more than either of us and probably written more, it is okay? Your argument is from authority as well just a different one and only removed one step from the author of whatever book you are citing and whatever school of thought represented. Please.

    Look, I was simply citing Dickson’s essay. Your disagreement is with Dickson, Judge, Peter Harrison, and a myriad of other scholars, who regardless their views of religion or God’s existence believe the historical fact to be that without the Judeo-Christian narrative we do not get modern science. That was Dickson’s main point, with where we get modern empiricism a minor one.

    Is your problem with Dickson’s main point? Do you believe Pataki? Do you think modern science arose from other sources? Or are you just concerned we know that empiricism came from Greco-Roman sources? I’m not sure where you are going here?

    By the way, do you have a blog?

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  12. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    I should clarify that Dickson's main reason for his essay is noted here:

    “The only argument I personally think has weight – and on which he [Pataki]was noticeably wobbly – is that Judeo-Christianity significantly influences Western culture, art, politics, ethics and history.”

    Of course he added science and empericism into the mix, but only in a minor sense. He was speaking in an over-all way. I was wrong to say his main point was about science or empericism.

    Do you disagree with his main point of contention with Pataki?

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  13. Robin says:

    So as long as the authority is a book, of which Judge has probably read more than either of us and probably written more, it is okay? Your argument is from authority as well just a different one and only removed one step from the author of whatever book you are citing and whatever school of thought represented. Please.
    No, apart from the Kant reference I have been using verifiable fact.

    For example we have primary texts where Galen, in his own words, advocates testing and describes in careful details how he tested.

    The only way that anyone could deny that Galen advocated and used testing would be to claim that these are forgeries.

    Why do you even assume that historians will be experts in philosophical subjects?

    Ask 100 historians of the 18th century what is the difference between an analytic and a synthetic proposition and you would get 99 blank looks.

    And they might be 99 first class historians – but that is just not their subject.
    Look, I was simply citing Dickson’s essay. Your disagreement is with Dickson, Judge, Peter Harrison, and a myriad of other scholars, who regardless their views of religion or God’s existence believe the historical fact to be that without the Judeo-Christian narrative we do not get modern science.
    No, Harrison's theory is not the same as the Dickson/Judge one. He is saying that it is the idea of the Fall that is behind modern science. You can't cite him as support for their theory.

    I am not sure who the myriad of other scholars are, but I cannot find even one scholarly article to back this up.

    If you can name one I will be happy to check it out.
    Is your problem with Dickson’s main point?
    My problem is with the theory that modern science derives from the idea of the world as a created artifact because

    I have no evidence for it and because the claims made by Judge and Dickson about Greek thought go against

    verifiable historical facts.
    Do you believe Pataki?
    Not on everything, but on the Philoponus theory, until I have some academic research to back up their assertion, then I would have to be with him on that.

    Take Galen for example – we know that he practiced and advocated testing by observation in his books and wrote in detail how he did it and boasted that his experiments succeeded and how his rivals experiments failed.

    We know that these books were used widely in the medical community up until the 19th century.

    And yet we are asked to believe that the idea of testing could in no way have derived from his writings.

    But on the other hand we are asked to believe that the idea must have originated from Philoponus, even though Philoponus did not advocate testing.

    And we are asked to believe this without any reference to proper academic research to back it up.

    No, I am sorry, up until I see some proper evidence I can't accept that.
    Do you think modern science arose from other sources?
    Yes, it certainly came from many sources and I have no evidence yet that this was even a factor.

    Reality is usually more complicated, messy and interesting than simplistic theories.

    I can give a much better account of why modern science appeared and flourished in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe, but that would just be my theory and I would not advance it as fact even though I have more evidence in favour of it than Dickson/Judge have for theirs. If you are interested I will give it.

    But let me say that I believe the contribution of Christianty to science is significant and important and verifiable.

    But I just don't think it is what Dickson and Judge are saying
    By the way, do you have a blog?
    Not at the moment.

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  14. Robin says:

    And just a quick thought. The alleged logic behind the theory is really a non-sequitur. Where is the logic behind the idea “the Universe is the work of an Artist, therefore I ought to be able to derive mathematical models to predict it's behaviour”.

    I mean what connects the ideas? I don't normally look at a work of art and say “I ought to be able to derive mathematical models to describe it”. Quite the opposite in fact.

    The only reason you would decide to try to find mathematical models to describe something is if you thought that it worked according to mathematical principles.

    And that might as easily be the case if the Univese was not an artifact.

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  15. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    “No, apart from the Kant reference I have been using verifiable fact.” For example we have primary texts where Galen, in his own words, advocates testing and describes in careful details how he tested.”

    First of all, a primary text is not a verifiable fact—unless the dispute revolves around whether or not any existed or were forgeries, which is not the disagreement here. Further, a primary text has to be interpreted. Don’t you suppose that Judge and others who agree with him are familiar with the primary sources and what others have written about those sources? So, again, your point? Unless Galen is here to speak for himself, then he has to be interpreted and those doing the interpreting then become authorities. My point still stands.

    “The only way that anyone could deny that Galen advocated and used testing would be to claim that these are forgeries.”

    I don’t think anyone is denying that. Where was Dickson denying such? Again, Galen was a minor point in his overall argument about Western Civilization. Galen did test but he was also critical of some empiricists so it is a mixed bag to say the least. And he certainly didn’t single-handedly give Western Civilization empiricism as we know it now. Galen does not represent the entire Greco-Roman philosophical approach.

    “No, Harrison's theory is not the same as the Dickson/Judge one. He is saying that it is the idea of the Fall that is behind modern science. You can't cite him as support for their theory.”

    Well you are missing the point. Dickson/Judge/Harrison are all saying that the Judeo-Christian narrative (which would include the fall) is at least a significant factor—if not the main factor—in the rise of modern science. I doubt Harrison would have any problem with Dickson’s essay whatsoever.

    “I am not sure who the myriad of other scholars are, but I cannot find even one scholarly article to back this up. If you can name one I will be happy to check it out.”

    Are books okay? How about: James Hannan, Rodney Stark, Stanley Jaki, Peter E. Hodgson,–along with those already mentioned. There are many others, but I only have so much time.(Continued)

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  16. Darrell says:

    (Continued)
    A notable reference is the one Dickson makes himself in reference to Jurgen Habermas and the general impact overall of the Judeo-Christian narrative:

    “The Judeo-Christian shape of Western civilization is hardly discussed in the media, let alone given the opportunity to be “exaggerated.” Sadly, such insights are usually left to the cultural historians and political philosophers. One such expert, the atheist Jurgen Habermas of the Goethe University in Frankfurt, famously conceded:”

    “Christianity has functioned for the normative self-understanding of modernity as more than a mere precursor or a catalyst. Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love … Everything else is just idle postmodern talk.”

    And that is coming from an atheist. Are we to believe this narrative touched everything except science?

    “My problem is with the theory that modern science derives from the idea of the world as a created artifact because I have no evidence for it and because the claims made by Judge and Dickson about Greek thought go against verifiable historical facts.”

    I don’t know what would count as evidence to you other than the historical record. And again, I would caution you that your interpretation of primary sources or commentary on those sources is not and does not make something a “verifiable historical fact.” A historical fact would be that Galen existed—that he wrote books and we have copies.

    “Reality is usually more complicated, messy and interesting than simplistic theories.”

    I agree, which is why the new atheists need to be called out on their very simplistic theories.

    “I can give a much better account of why modern science appeared and flourished in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe, but that would just be my theory and I would not advance it as fact even though I have more evidence in favour of it than Dickson/Judge have for theirs. If you are interested I will give it.”

    I most certainly would.

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  17. Robin says:

    And that is coming from an atheist. Are we to believe this narrative touched everything except science?
    As with anything else, the fact that someone has said this is neither here nor there. If he has evidence and/or reasoning behind the

    statement then that is what I would examine.

    And Habermas accusing others of idle postmodern talk – if that is not the pot calling the kettle black then I don't know what is.

    Anyway I have already stipulated that the influence of Christianity has touched science. I just don't think that the concept of a created world is the driver for modern science and I don't think that Philoponus had influence on science beyond his insights into physics which we can see being referenced by scientists like Galileo.

    And I don't buy that the fact that many Greek philosophers were noologists was a blocker to modern science any more than the fact that many 16th – 18th century philosophers were noogogists was a blocker to science.

    And again, I would caution you that your interpretation of primary sources or commentary on those sources is not and does not make

    something a “verifiable historical fact.” A historical fact would be that Galen existed—that he wrote books and we have copies.

    And since he wrote in those books that he advocated testing then it is also an historical fact that he advocated testing. How can you

    deny this? It is like saying that we have no evidence that St Augustine advocated chastity.

    Now I suppose you could say that he might be lying about having actually carried out the testing that he describes but I am not sure

    what his motivation would be. And I imagine that it would be pretty easy to find an anatomist to tell us whether he could have

    derived this detailed information from guesswork. A quick look at his “Anatomical Procedures” would indicate this as unlikely.

    Compare this to anything that Dickson or Judge have put forward in support of the theory. Which is really nothing.

    I agree, which is why the new atheists need to be called out on their very simplistic theories.

    And, as I said, the old theists must also be called out on their simplistic theories and mistakes of fact.

    In short all parties should be reminded that history should be about what actually happened, as best as we can determine this and not

    what would flatter our own beliefs or forward some agenda.

    I will write my idea about why modern science flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth century in a post on it's own.

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  18. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    “If he [Habermas] has evidence and/or reasoning behind the statement then that is what I would examine.”

    Well, of course he does. He’s written a ton of substantive books and is respected by theist and atheist alike in Europe and here. Besides that, he has read well enough to know there is a preponderance of evidence to support his statement.

    “And Habermas accusing others of idle postmodern talk – if that is not the pot calling the kettle black then I don't know what is.”

    I have no idea what that means since Habermas has been critical of postmodernity.

    “And since he wrote in those books that he [Galen] advocated testing then it is also an historical fact that he advocated testing. How can you deny this? It is like saying that we have no evidence that St Augustine advocated chastity.”

    First of all, no one is denying he wrote such. Second, whether he did or not doesn’t address my point. I could point out that Jesus became very angry and turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple and drove them out with a whip. Could I then argue that because of this instance, we should see Jesus as this kind of angry crazy guy and claim such was a “verifiable historical fact?” Of course not. It is much more complex than that. We know Galen advocated testing, but we also know he criticized some empiricists. Most importantly though, Galen was a very small part of Dickson’s argument.

    “I will write my idea about why modern science flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth century in a post on it's own.”

    Since you don’t have a blog, how are you going to “post” something? The space allowed in these “comment” sections is very limited. I would be willing to allow you to guest-post something on my blog if that would help.

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  19. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    For further reflection in the area of the Judeo-Christian narrative’s relation to modern science, probably the first scholar to note the connection was M.B. Foster back in the 30s. Here is a link to his essay, but you would have to pay to read the entire essay. http://www.jstor.org/pss/10.2307/2250108?mlt=true

    Another person who has written in this area is Murray Jardine, a professor of political science at Auburn University. Check out his book, “The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society—How Christianity can Save Modernity from Itself.”

    Here is an interesting quote from the book:

    “Most people have been taught in school that science comes from the Greek philosophers. In fact, although it is true that the Greek philosophers were the first people to attempt something like science, that is, the systematic understanding of how the material world works, modern historians of science agree that the conceptual basis for modern science comes from the Bible, and that in fact the incorporation of Greek philosophical ideas into Christian theology actually retarded the development of science.” (Pg. 183)

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  20. Robin says:

    Hi,

    I have been busy with some stuff – I will probably create a blog and give you a link.

    I have had a look and there appear to be a few theories about this but all picking out some different aspect of Judeo-Christianity as the basis for science.

    I am not sure that most of them understand science – but more later.

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  21. Robin says:

    Hi,

    Still tracking stuff now. There is lots of good stuff out there.

    For example Aristotle explicitly rejects that you can rationalise scientific truth from first principles in Posterior Analytics book II part 19 insisting that scientific truth must begin by inspecting the world with our senses.

    In “On experimental science” Roger Bacon cites Ptolemy in the Algamest as his source for the experimental method. Currently trying to track down an English translation of the Algamest to confirm this.

    Also the much vaunted influence of Philoponus on Galileo in “De Motu”:

    “… and although Scotus, the divine Thomas, Philoponus and some others hold a way of thinking contrary to Aristotle, they have, however, arrived at the truth by belief more than via true demonstration, or by having answered Aristotle.” (De Motu Antiquiora, Galileo Galilei, trans Raymend Fredette)

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  22. Robin says:

    Hi,

    Since the description I promised is turning into a project I will give you the short version.

    Science did not take off until the 17th century because the maths was not available until then. The maths necessary to describe motion did not exist until the 17th century.

    If you look at Galileo's words or even Newtons you see that in approach and layout they are not much different to the ones we have from Archimedes' and Euclid's works on natural philosophy.

    But what they have is about 2,000 years advance in mathematics, not just from Europe but from the Islamic countries and India.

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  23. Robin says:

    Oh and a quick note on this:

    “I have no idea what that means since Habermas has been critical of postmodernity.

    I said Habermas being critical of idle postmodern talk was the pot calling the kettle black. Here is some of Habermas' language:

    “Under the pragmatic presuppositions of an inclusive and noncoercive rational discourse among free and equal participants, everyone is required to take the perspective of everyone else, and thus project herself into the understandings of self and world of all others; from this interlocking of perspectives there emerges an ideally extended we-perspective from which all can test in common whether they wish to make a controversial norm the basis of their shared practice; and this should include mutual criticism of the appropriateness of the languages in terms of which situations and needs are interpreted. In the course of successfully taken abstractions, the core of generalizable interests can then emerge step by step.
    (“Reconciliation through the Public Use of Reason: Remarks on John Rawls's Political Liberalism,” Journal of Philosophy (XCII:3 [March, 1995] 117-8)

    If that aint po mo then I don't know what is.

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  24. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    I look forward to a further explication of your view on your own blog. My only comments to the several recent comments would be these:

    Some of what you are doing is what Biblicists do when they proof-text, finding a verse in the Bible they think proves or supports their point. There is no doubt you can find a passage somewhere or a sentence that seems to support your view, but you should consider two things. One, are you suggesting that people like Judge have never read or just glossed over those passages? Two, Judge and others that share his view are speaking in a comprehensive way, taking the total weight into view rather than splinters here and there.

    As to science taking off in the 17th Century based upon developments in math and pointing out that the basis of that math being present for centuries beforehand—those assertions need to be unpacked quite a bit. First, there are plenty of sources out there showing that the basis of modern science began in the Middle Ages in the monasteries as this book does: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0521567629/ref=rdr_ext_sb_ti_sims_2#_

    There are sources that also show a direct link between the rise of science and the first universities, which also predate the 17th Century. Further, both the modern university and of course monasteries were produced by the Church and the thinking of the teachers in both those institutions, were of course Judeo-Christian.

    You also need to show the context in which mathematics were eventually understood and used. Changes in science began with changes in thinking and perceptions about the world. For instance, before the Biblical narrative took hold in Europe, the pagan view of nature was that it was inhabited by spirits/gods. There was a spirit of the trees, river, sky, or whatever. Nature was enchanted, if you will. It was a pantheistic view. With the understanding of creation as explicated by the Church, it was understood that God was separate from creation. Creation stood on its own, just like a painting is an object unto itself although it exists because of the mind and hand of the painter. Thus, the world could be explored, investigated, and understood without fear of offending the tree spirit or rock spirit. This change in understanding, in perception, is critical for understanding the origin of modern science. The world didn’t change. The world (the “evidence”) remained the same—what changed was the thinking, the perception, the interpretation of the world. You need to tie the changes in science to the changed thinking or context that led to the changes.

    I look forward to your post.

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  25. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    As to Habermas, the quote you give shows us how modern he is, not postmodern. Habermas has long strived to demonstrate that there must be a “public reason” so that everyone can lay aside their “private” reasoning (many suggest we should read “religious” reasoning) when addressing matters of public concern and interest. And that is basically what he is suggesting in the quote you cited, beyond simply positing a democratic openness and willingness to listen. But that goes against the radical secular postmodernism he is critical of, which basically states that there is no “public” reason and that such is impossible—there are only a myriad of private interpretations and one cannot be privileged over another.

    Even Wikipedia notes he is no friend of this type of postmodernism (and I agree with him).

    “While Habermas has stated that the Enlightenment is an “unfinished project,” he argues it should be corrected and complemented, not discarded. In this he distances himself from the Frankfurt School, criticizing it, as well as much of postmodernist thought, for excessive pessimism, radicalism, and exaggerations.”

    I don’t care to split hairs with you here, but Habermas is not the person I would cite as a postmodernist.

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  26. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    Just a little more about Habermas. This is from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    “The most prominent and comprehensive critic of philosophical postmodernism is Jürgen Habermas. In The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Habermas 1987), he confronts postmodernism…”

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  27. Robin says:

    “Darrell said…
    Robin,

    Just a little more about Habermas. This is from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    “The most prominent and comprehensive critic of philosophical postmodernism is Jürgen Habermas. In The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Habermas 1987), he confronts postmodernism…”

    Let me just complete that quote for you to illustrate my point:

    “The most prominent and comprehensive critic of philosophical postmodernism is Jürgen Habermas. In The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Habermas 1987), he confronts postmodernism at the level of society and “communicative action.” “

    also:

    “Foucault cannot adequately deal with the persistent problems that come up in connection with an interpretive approach to the object domain, a self-referential denial of universal validity claims, and a normative justification of critique”

    and:

    However, says Habermas, the withdrawal of being is the result of an inverted philosophy of the subject, where Heidegger's destruction of the subject leads to hope for a unity to come, a unity of nothing other than the subject that is now missing “

    or:

    Derrida, he says, develops the notion of différance or “archi-writing” in similar fashion: here, we see the god Dionysus revealing himself once again in his absence, as meaning infinitely deferred

    In other words he is attacking po-mo in the language and terminology of po-mo employing all the prolixity, vagueness and meaningless buzz-words of po-mo.

    I can remember back in the 80's I thought that I would scream if I heard the word “discourse” once more.

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  28. Darrell says:

    Robin,

    I just disagree. He is using philosophical language understood by both modernists and postmodernists. At the end of day, what matters is what one is asserting within that language and he is certainly not a proponent of postmodernism.

    You seem to be suggesting that if a creationist learned the language of the biologist/evolutionist and began to bring those terms and understandings into his conversation, that such would now make him an evolutionist, even if he were still asserting a literal 6 day creation. That does not make any sense to me.

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