P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 96
13th December 2004
I. '"Creation Science" vs Evolution Theory, or Science vs Mythology'
by Charles Hlavac
II. 'Philosophy for Younger People: A Polemic' by Constantine Sandis
III. 'Natural Philosophy and the controversy concerning the Church's position
in the development of science during the European early modern period
(1500-1800)' by John J. Eberts
There are some interesting overlaps between the three articles in this issue.
Charles Hlavac in his essay on evolution and creationism, discovers a web of
questionable assumptions which have given undeserved plausibility to the
promotion of so-called 'creationist science' in US schools.
Constantine Sandis from Reading University, UK promotes philosophy in British
schools on behalf of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. In his polemic, he
articulates the reasons why school students not only can but should study
John Eberts, a College lecturer from Florida gained his Philosophical Society
Associate Award in 2001. His essay looks at the history of the controversy
between the Christian Church and science, and the emancipation of science from
the influence of Aristotelianism.
This is the last issue of Philosophy Pathways before the New Year. May I wish
all readers happiness, peace of mind and prosperity for 2005!
I. '"CREATION SCIENCE" VS EVOLUTION THEORY, OR SCIENCE VS MYTHOLOGY'
BY CHARLES HLAVAC
While the desire for knowledge for its own sake is the basis for 'science' and
'philosophy', it seems to be susceptible to various 'filters', some of which
state that 'knowledge' comes also from sources other than observable events,
rational deduction, or scientific analysis. These interpretations further imply
that 'human knowledge' is insufficient to discover the 'truth', and that "God'
is the keeper of the 'mysteries of life'. As Ernest Cassirer remarked when
discussing Thomas Aquinas: 'Religious truth is supra-natural and
supra-rational...'. He reminds us of Kierkegaard's 'religious life as the great
paradox', and Tertullian's 'Credo quia absurdum'. (Cassirer, 72). These
historical antecedents to our current 'creationism' vs 'evolution' debates have
been further influenced by the advent of 'postmodern' philosophy and its impact
on the meanings of 'truth', 'relativism' and 'science'. Further, various
misinterpretations of the meaning of 'postmodernism' and 'science' themselves
have given 'creationists' a segue to the introduction of their mythological
'sciences' into American public education and into circles of scientific and
philosophical debate. These, along with political pressure from Christian
fundamentalist groups on the public school systems and some Christian 'charter
schools', have permitted a mythological approach to science to gain a foothold
in the United States:
Moreover, nature is always stronger than principles.
(David Hume, quoted in Kahan, Le Lionnais, ed., 104).
Science is on its theoretical side... one of the most
subversive agents ever invented by man... controversy
whirls around the figures of Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin,
Einstein, and Freud like black clouds rumbling with
(Burr and Goldstein, 398)
It is when science, as pure method, overthrows and/ or refutes cherished
'principles', that it becomes subversive, almost surrealistic. And philosophy
is always there, challenging even the
results of the 'method', the 'limits of knowledge', and creating the systematic
(Socratic) 'doubting of the truth of what is claimed to be known' (Burr and
Goldstein, 399). And as Bertrand Russell reiterates:
Philosophy arises from an unusually obstinate attempt to
arrive at real knowledge.
The traditional method of science is a combination of observation, experiment,
hypothesis, and more observation leading to a theory or principle that can be
repeated by others. The traditional mistake of science is sometimes it believes
it's own results, and turns them into principles, such as the 'ether'.
Philosophy then arrives with it's skepticism, and wants to know 'why are you
convinced of the reality of the "ether"?'. Philosophy then becomes more
'subversive' than science itself. The 'weakness' of science in this respect is
a really a fiction, but it is one which both postmodernists and creationists
alike have used to 'prove' the 'fallibility' of science. It has become the
modern essence of 'scientific method to limit its own pretension.' (Cohen and
Nagel in Burr, 454). Scientific method concerns itself now more with
'verification', as a result of its encounters with philosophical skepticism,
and less with attempts at 'universal principles' or metanarratives, as the
postmodernists have claimed.
The major criticism of the 'Creationists' and some postmodern philosophers is
that science itself is a system of beliefs and that these beliefs involve a
'rationalistic-scientific-humanist' interpretation of life, or 'metanarrative'.
As so defined, science then becomes another 'religion'. We even speak of
Darwin's ideas as the 'Theory of Evolution' instead of the 'fact' of evolution.
Armed with that idea, Creationists then step in for equal time in public
schools, claiming that Biblical theories of evolution are as valid as the
'humanist-science theories' .
The key word is 'Biblical'. While there have been creation myths in every
culture and in every time, the keynote of the current debate is specifically
the Christian fundamentalist's literal interpretation of the Bible. Imagine
this 'debate" in terms of Nordic mythology:
Before the world, there was a great gulf of twilight. North
of this was the Home of Mist, full of ice, and to the South,
the Home of Fire, guarded by a giant with a flaming sword. A
day came when the twilight came to life, warmed by the fires
but shaped by the ice, and became the Giant Ymir, with a
living body and cruel, cold heart. When he looked for food,
he saw a gigantic cow, from whose udders flowed streams of
milk, licking the salt from the glacier until a head of
hair pushed itself up through the ice and revealed a mighty
man, Odin, with a heart warm and kind. The sons of Ymir
became a race of giants who worked evil on the earth, and
the family of Odin began a war against the Ymir and his
(paraphrased from E.M Wilmot-Buxton, How All Things
Began, The Junior Classics, Vol.3, p.197)
While this story is commonly regarded as a 'myth', 'scientific creationism' is
considered to be a viable theory of evolution by many. Why? Some of the
'Tenets' of Scientific Creationism are (to quote):
2. The phenomenon of biological life did not develop by
natural processes from inanimate systems, but was specially
and supernaturally created by the Creator.
3. Each of the major kinds of plants and animals was
created functionally complete...
4. The first human beings did not evolve from animal
ancestry, but were specially created in fully human form
from the start....
Tenets of Scientific Creationism, Institute for Creation
Research Graduate School (ICRGS), p. 50.
One of the 'sophistic' methods for inducing belief in 'scientific creationism'
is the use of the word 'science' itself. Among many Americans, any use of the
word 'scientist', 'doctor', 'expert', etc., leads to a certain credibility in
that person's remarks, however absurd. In the catalog of the Institute for
Creation Research Graduate School (ICRGS) and in many other Creationist
publications, there are lists of 'prominent' scientists who support
creationism. These include Ph.D's in geology, biology, astrophysics, physics,
astronomy, and others. (See the ICRGS catalog, pps 10-12). The ICRGS purpose is
to 'discover and transmit the truth about the universe...to correlate and apply
such scientific data within...the framework of Biblical creationism....The long
range goal is to prepare talented graduates in science and education for future
Christian leadership' (ISRGS Catalog, p.4).
Some the 'lessons' learned by students of 'scientific creationism' follow
directly from their version of a literal interpretation of Genesis. In order to
maintain the 'reasoning' implied in a literal Biblical interpretation, two,
among other, 'truths' have been put forward: First, since at the Beginning,
there was only one Man and one Woman, who did Cain, their son, marry?:
The Wife: If we now work totally from Scripture...than back
at the beginning, when there was only the first generation,
brothers would have had to marry sisters or there wouldn't
be any more generations!
We're not told when Cain married or many of the details of
other marriages and children, but we can say for certain
that Cain's wife was probably his sister or a close
relative....The law forbidding close marriages was not
given until the time of Moses (Leviticus 18-20)
(Hamm, Where did Cain get his Wife?, 18-19)
Second, and one my favorite examples of the logical necessity of literal
interpretations is whether or not Adam and Eve had belly buttons!:
No... Why? Because your belly-button (navel)... is a sign
that you were once attached to your mother....But our first
parents, Adam and Eve, did not develop that way. I believe
that God would not have planted on them a false indication
that they had developed in a mother's womb... the day they
were created they might have appeared to be, say, 30 years
old... (navels) would develop in their offspring as a
result of processes later on.
(Parker, Creation News, p.4)
The difference between 'science' and 'creation science' is not one of degree,
or knowledge, or
method. It is simply the difference between pursuing knowledge 'for it's own
sake' and 'filtering facts' to support one's beliefs, as did early Marxist
'scientists' such as Lysenko.
Should the Norwegian myths have sustained their power over the centuries and
became a predominant religious and political force, perhaps there would be 'ice
creation stories' explaining where Odin's children came from and whether he had
had a belly button!
In fact, I would recommend that all public school districts who have agreed to
the elimination of 'evolution' as a science subject, and/ or to the inclusion
of 'scientific creationism' in classrooms be also forced to include other
creation stories such as those of the Rig-Veda, the Hopi Indians, and so on, if
only to prove the point that 'science' is one thing and myth another.
To go back to Creationist mythology, there appears to be a mistake in Genesis,
where God has an 'afterthought'. Can God have an afterthought, if He is perfect
and omniscient? This occurs in two ways.
And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be
alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." (2:18)
Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made
into a woman, and He brought her to the man. (2:22)
Notwithstanding feminist agreement as to the idea of woman being 'comparable to
him (Adam)', woman is still an afterthought in this story of Adam and Eve. Since
scientists are like 'detectives', as Copi tells us in his Sherlock Holmes
analogy (Burr, 446), they would likely agree that under such circumstances of
birth as described in Genesis, that neither Adam nor Eve had navels. As for
Cain and Abel, however, such scientists would also wish to inquire as to the
causes of their origins. If Adam was created first, and Eve only later, as an
'afterthought', did Adam have a penis and sperm-filled genitalia when he was
initially 'created'? If so, why? Or were these, along with Eve's sexual organs,
added when Eve was created, or perhaps later, after the feast from the 'Tree of
Knowledge of Good and Evil'? Was the original Adam genderless before Eve?
Karl Popper writes that 'All that we can do is to search for the falsity
content of our best theory' (Magee, 223) and in defining scientific method,
perhaps that part of science most vulnerable to criticism from the postmodern
left as well as the Christian right: 'Science is perhaps the only human
activity in which errors are systematically criticized and...in time corrected'
(Magee, 222). It is this aspect of science which makes it available to an 'open
society' and makes it appear 'subversive' to closed societies. It is just this
aspect of philosophy, also, which, as Cohen and Nagel state, make it:
...something nobly devoid of all pettiness. Because it
requires detachment, disinterestedness, it is the finest
flower and test of a liberal civilization.
By skepticism... we arrive first at suspension of judgement,
and second at freedom from disturbance.
Sextus Empiricus (Magee, 43)
Burr, John R. Philosophy and Contemporary Issues, 4th Edition Goldinger, Milton
New York: Macmillan, 1984
Cassirer, Ernest An Essay on Man New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944
Creation Science Facts of Science, No.1: Amazing Fossils...But How Old? Acacia
Ridge D.C., Australia: Creation Science Foundation, 1996
Hamm, Ken Where did Cain get his Wife? Florence, Kentucky: Answers in Genesis,
Institute for Institute for Creation Research Graduate School, 1996-1997
Catalog Creation Research Santee, California, 1995
Magee, Bryan The Story of Thought New York: DK Publishing (Quality Paperback
Book Club), 1998
Parker, Gary 'Did Adam have a belly-button?', Creation News, p.4 Bayside,
California: Creation Research of the North Coast, Spring, 1998
Le Lionnais, F., ed. Great Currents in Mathematical Thought, Vol II New York:
Dover Publications, 1971
Nagel, Thomas What Does It All Mean? New York: Oxford University Press, 1987
Williams, Mabel and The Junior Classics, Vol. Three: Myths and Legends Dalphin,
Marcia, Eds. Connecticut, USA: P.F. Collier and Son, 1948
Siegel, Harvey 'Why Everything Is Not Relative', p.35 Free Inquiry, Fall, 1998
Amherst, New York
(c) Charles Hlavac 2004
P.O. Box 1962
Windsor, CA 95492
II. 'PHILOSOPHY FOR YOUNGER PEOPLE: A POLEMIC' BY CONSTANTINE SANDIS
Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn;
and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking;
learning naturally results.
Recent years have seen a high increase in the teaching of Philosophy in
schools. Programs such as Pathways Schools in Australia (International
Society for Philosophers, since 2003), 'Philosophy in Schools' in the UK (Royal
Institute of Philosophy, since 1999), and 'Philosophy for Children' in the USA,
Australia, and the UK (International Council for Philosophical Inquiry since
1985 & Society for Advancing Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education
since 1993) are spreading around the world. Within a decade of its introduction
Philosophy (AS/A2) has become one of the most popular standard subjects taught
across UK secondary schools.
Why is it so important to teach philosophy to younger people? After all
philosophy - one might think - is a complex subject, too difficult for children
to get to grips with, and too abstract to have any practical value. One answer
is that this prepares children for the possibility of doing philosophy at
A-level and/ or University standard. Another is that they would be exposed to
the ideas of some of some of the most profound thinkers in human history. Both
answers make sense. But there also exists a more pertinent answer, best summed
up by the following excerpt from a report of research recently undertaken in
Evaluations show positive side effects along many
dimensions other than standard achievement tests, for
example, in terms of the quality of children's discussion
and argumentative skills, ability to formulate questions,
self-esteem, and so on.
(Philosophy for Children [P4C] Department for Employment
and Education Research Report 115).
In other words, thinking about philosophical questions helps children to
develop their reasoning capabilities in general. Although often branded as some
kind of 'ultimate quest for knowledge' more often than not the practice of
philosophy has much more to do with understanding, rather than knowledge.
Understanding what it means for one thing to follow another logically, for
something to be an open question, be evidence for some new belief, or a reason
for abandoning an intuition. Philosophy in schools need not aim at getting
children to memorise many new facts. Instead, it can, does and should, aim
at training children to think more clearly about the facts they learned in
other subjects: how we come to know about them, why they are important, and how
they relate to each other.
As they grow older, philosophical skills can help children to understand more
clearly just what the theories and assumptions found in physics, biology,
history, chemistry, law, politics etc. amount to. Epistemology, for example, is
important, not because it leads us to doubt whether anything can be known for
certain, but rather because it helps us to think about how moral and scientific
practices work, and gives us tools with which we can better evaluate the claims
of specialists in those areas.
My own experience (teaching for the R.I.P., as well as for the GCE and GCSE OCR
and AQA examination) has mainly been with 14-18 year olds interested equally in
literature, religious studies, social sciences, and natural sciences. From the
very first lesson they are quick to point out differences and similarities
between methods of philosophical enquiry and methods used in other disciplines,
and draw important conclusions from their methodological observations.
At a time when are overwhelmed with information coming from potentially
unreliable sources - be they poor journalism, badly researched books, so-called
'experts' speaking on television programmes, or random internet sites (this list
is not intended to be exhaustive) - it is vital that we be able to distinguish
reasons from rationalizations, good arguments from a bad ones, and genuine
insight from conceptual confusion. No doubt, some people will have a natural
talent for this, but, as most life-long learning university departments
divisions have come to see, this is no reason to not teach these essential
skills to all. Philosophy for younger people helps to foster such abilities
from an early age, before the seeds of intellectual gullibility begin to grow
Needless to say, the pupils are not the only ones who benefit from Philosophy
in Schools programmes. The multifarious ways in which younger people react to
philosophical questions and hypotheses can reveal hidden facets and bring to
light unimagined practical implications. In philosophy it's all-too-easy to
fail to see the wood for the trees, and at times the best cure for this is
discussion with people of varying backgrounds and ages. To end with another
quote by Dewey:
There is more than a verbal tie between the words common,
community, and communication... Try the experiment of
communicating, with fullness and accuracy, some experience
to another, especially if it be somewhat complicated, and
you will find your own attitude toward your experience
(c) Constantine Sandis 2004
University of Reading
III. 'NATURAL PHILOSOPHY AND THE CONTROVERSY CONCERNING THE CHURCH'S POSITION
IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE DURING THE EUROPEAN EARLY MODERN PERIOD
(1500-1800)' BY JOHN J. EBERTS
The controversy over the church's position and its influence in the development
of modern science has occupied a central position in intellectual history dating
back to the medieval period. J. W. Draper and A. D. White have argued that
science and religion contain conflicting mentalities. In the works of R. K.
Metron, A. N. Whitehead and Duhem-Jaki, the analysis has gone to the other
extreme, stating that science and religion developed a relationship of intimacy
where one area influenced the development of the other. Residing in the middle
of these polar opposites is the theory of complementarity. Rudolph Bultmann
demonstrates that in the final analysis, each area deals with its own
discipline in a manner conducive to its own structure. The controversy was more
than just a squabble between the church and science; it was a shift in power.
Power is not a thing but a process, and it was this process in scientific
development, which could be circulated and productive, that created a shift of
authority from Aristotelian natural philosophy to mathematics, or the new
science. What I would like to consider in this paper is that it was the
re-interpretation of nature and the challenges to natural philosophy rather
than a direct challenge to the church's doctrine which laid the foundations for
development of science in early modern Europe. This challenge, directed toward
natural philosophy and more specifically toward Aristotelianism, was political
and social in nature and had repercussions within the Church.
In any exploration of the relationship between the Church and Science, the
usual starting place is a study of the classic works of John William Draper and
Andrew Dickson White. J. W. Draper provides the reader with catalogues of
assumptions stating that what was at stake were disputes concerning
cosmological constructions. He infers that the construction held by the Church
was forced into the background as a result of new scientific theories
concerning astronomy. Draper also states that this in fact was necessary and
was the intention of the new developments in scientific thought. 'Religion must
relinquish that imperious, that domineering position which she has so long
maintained against science.' (Draper, p. 367. 1979). Both Draper and White
repeatedly present challenges that were launched against religious and Church
dogma. White states '...in all modern history, interference with science in the
supposed interest of religion no matter how conscientious such interference may
have been, has resulted in the direst evils both to religion and to science...'
(White A. D., p. 8. 1876). Brought to our attention are the inquisition, the
Jesuits and the Counter-Reformation's zeal in elimination of heretical ideas.
Draper sees theologians as, '...hounding the pioneers of science 'with a Bible
in one hand and a fiery fagot in the other...' (Lindberg & Numbers, p. 2.
1986). Conflicts in doctrine and religious disputes are tied together with
scientific inquiry, when in fact many of the early advances in science came
from within the ranks of the clergy and went unhampered by the Church. The
historical perspective that is presented is one in which science is seen as
waging war with the Church head-on, hoping to scale the walls of dogma and lay
waste the foundations of religion.
It is important to remember that White was antagonistic towards the Church.
According to Brooke, White had run up against clerical opposition at Cornell
University when he proposed a nonsectarian charter. White also felt that
science should play a predominant role in the curriculum at Cornell. In
England, Draper developed similar animosity toward the Church. Draper had
played a role in the Darwinian controversy at Oxford and he also was reacting
towards the Quanta Cura issued by the Church in 1864.
It also must be remembered that in any reconstruction of history, a focus on
only the extremes of an event may overlook factors which played a significant
part in the event's historical development. A. Wolf, in his definitive A
History of Science and Technology and Philosophy in the 16th & 17th Centuries
Vol. 1, maintains the same view of the role of the Church. 'The chief obstacle
in the path of science during the Middle Ages was the Christian Church. Even
the Renaissance and the Reformation afforded no direct help to the advancement
of science' (Wolf, p. 8 1959). Again, just as Draper and White had generalized
or made assumptions concerning the relationship between the church and science,
Wolf arbitrarily states that religious movements in general disregarded or
showed intolerance toward science.
The process of evaluating the impact of the church on science or science on the
church is not as simple as these scholars would have us believe. 'Conflict
between science and theology rarely arose in the technical sciences, but
developed in that part of natural philosophy concerned with the larger
principles of cosmic operation, especially where science and theology sought to
explain the same phenomenon' (Lindberg & Numbers, p.49. 1986). The religious
disputes unleashed during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation had a major
impact on how scientific innovation and new cosmologies such as Copernicus' On
the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres were received. 'The way in which the
relationship between scientific and religious claim has been perceived in the
past has depended on social and political circumstances that the historian
cannot ignore' (Brooke, p.10. 1999).
As a result of doctrinal disputes raised by the Reformation/
Counter-Reformation, attitude toward Church Doctrine became less flexible. At
this point, the question arises as to how Church Doctrine and scientific
development came into conflict, if in fact they did. To answer this question,
one must first look at what science consisted of during the Reformation period
and how it was defined.
The acceptance of Greek philosophy and science came at the hand of the early
Church fathers. Although some were hostile to its inclusion within
Christianity, in the end it was accepted when 'Philosophy and science could be
studied as aids in understanding Holy Scriptures...' (Grant, p. 4. 1996). In
essence, philosophy and science became tools in helping one understand
theology. It was felt that natural philosophy and science would provide a
better grasp on explaining creation. This acceptance and use of the natural
sciences had long-range effects. 'As a consequence of the emergence of natural
philosophy within the unique University system of the Latin Middle Ages, the
revolutionary developments in science of the sixteenth and the seventeenth
centuries were made possible' (Grant, p. 9. 1996).
With the translation of Aristotle into Latin, a pivotal point occurred in the
development of natural philosophy and science. Aristotle's works transformed
the intellectual domain in Europe. According to Peter Dear, Aristotle's work
only considered the realm of explanation: 'Aristotle was not interested in
'facts' themselves...' (Dear, p. 4. 2001). Scholars following Aristotle's
philosophical framework felt that nature consisted of what they could see and
infer from experience. Aristotle's philosophy became the backbone of
intellectual life in Europe, with effects felt down into the seventeenth
century. Aristotle's works become the crux of this natural philosophy. It was
his writings which are the heart of medieval science, a science with order and
coherence, and a world that was 'unchanging' at its core. The goal of the
natural philosopher or Scholastic was not to discover; in their opinion, there
was nothing new. The job of the natural philosopher was only to explain the
The natural philosophy of the Reformation period '...was to describe and
analyze the structure and operation of the cosmos, with all its objects and
creatures' (Grant, p. 133. 1996). Within the system of natural philosophy,
there was a dual aspect; one dealt with the structure of the cosmos, the other
with its operation. The conflict which resulted, was due to interpretations of
the latter. But why did these controversies develop? The controversy developed
as a result of a challenge to the Aristotelian model, not as a direct challenge
to the Church. But Grant raises a point of contention. For Grant, the threat to
theology and the church's doctrine came from that very source that had helped
support the Church - natural philosophy. 'The impact of Aristotle's thought can
not... be overestimated. For the first time in the history of Latin Christendom,
a comprehensive body of secular learning, rich in metaphysics, methodology, and
reasoned arguments, posed a threat to theology and its traditional
interpretation (Lindberg & Numbers, p. 52. 1986). Grant does not consider this
as a drawback. He supports the premise that in reality, rather than suppressing
science, the controversy over interpretation may have in fact stimulated the
development of science. Grant develops the idea that with this divergence, the
Aristotelian natural philosopher considered other alternatives and other
avenues of exploitation concerning cosmology.
Dear points out an important development that most historians have overlooked.
Until the discovery of new lands, there were no new things to be found,
according to the Scholastics. With the discovery of the new world, not only
were there new geographic locations, but new species, and different inhabitants
that did not fit the model of what the world since creation was allegedly
composed of. Natural philosophy cannot be characterized as always dealing with
the natural world as a creation of God. Problems resulted when some scholars
went outside of religion and Church doctrine and developed alternative
interpretations of what was considered natural philosophy. Both Grant and Dear
suggest that it is the discovery of the New World that first subverts
Aristotelian Natural Philosophy. These new discoveries proved that many
classical scholars were wrong in their findings.
Aristotle had become an integral part of the Church; to be anti-Aristotelian
was to be anti-Thomistic. 'However, as far as its fundamental concepts were
concerned, Aristotle's philosophy proved to obstruct the development of
science' (Nebelsicki, p. x. 1992). In challenging Aristotle's universe, one
challenges the authority of the Church. 'It is important to understand these
indirect effects of religion on science. The defensive measures taken by the
Catholic Church against what was perceived as a Protestant cancer altered the
criteria of truth, allowing authority on scientific issues to be wrested from
scholars, and vested in a Roman bureaucracy' (Brooke, p. 99. 1991). Given the
political and religious atmosphere during the Reformation, this could and did
result in confrontation.
Luther saw Aristotle as a vice in Christianity, and into this milieu came the
need for the Catholic Church to reestablish its authority. The world of
Aristotle in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation '...made sense within the
philosopher's overall world view' (O'Connell, p. 339. 1974). Aristotle had
dominated thought in Europe since the 12th century. By challenging the Church,
as the Reformation attempted, and by challenging the cosmos and the prevailing
natural philosophy, as the mathematicians did, Europe began to divest itself of
Aristotle's influence. 'The Counter-Reformation was, therefore, the last age of
the ancient world, not because of its religion or politics or economies, but
because it was innocent of that mathematical physics which has created the
modern world' (O'Connell, p. 341. 1974). It becomes for O'Connell the final
stage in an ongoing revolt against Aristotelian Doctrine. This final battle was
to be fought on the home-front of Science in its assault on a natural philosophy
based on Aristotle but not against the church in particular. For the first time,
science was looked upon for it own sake. As a result of the new discoveries of
land, people, and differing life styles created new vistas and strained old
doctrines established by the church. Even with these new developments, the
growth of science was not initiated to undermine church doctrine. It was a
response to the inadequacy of the Aristotelian model.
It was this disintegration of the Aristotelian model more than anything else
that caused the great confrontations during the early modern historical period
according to most historians. The controversy that results from this
interpretation of history, then, raises the question as to whether it was
between the Church and science or between intellectuals. In undermining
Aristotle, scholars undermined the legitimacy of the European worldview. If in
fact the development of the new science (Mathematics) resulted in a breakdown
and collapse of natural philosophy, and this took place in the battle for
academic supremacy between Aristotelians and mathematicians, why did some
scholars remain true to the former when it was no longer accurate? These are
questions that need to be addressed. The historian needs to move from the
academic issues to the individuals involved. An in-depth study needs to be
directed at several of the key individuals of this controversy. In searching
archival material, journals and correspondence between scholars, the historian
could better understand how these individuals saw not only their world, but
their place and interaction with it.
We began with a general universal, the Church and science, and have spiraled
down to reach the human aspect that really makes the history. Without delving
into the personal and professional lives of the scholars involved, we may never
see the true controversies that took place. To get a better knowledge of the
scholarly debates that transpired during the formative years of science, one
must look to the true source - the scholars that created the atmosphere that
gave birth to the 'new science'.
Brooke, J. H., (1991). Science and religion: some historical perspectives.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University press.
Dear, P., (2001). Revolutionizing the sciences. New Jersey: Princeton
Draper, J. W., (1874). History of the conflict between religion and science New
York: D. Appleton & Co., James R. Moore, the post-Darwinian Controversies:
(1979). A study of the protestant struggle to come to terms with Darwin in
Great Britain and America, 1870-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Grant, E., (1996). The foundational of modern science in the middle ages: their
religious, institutional, and intellectual contexts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
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(c) John Eberts 2004
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