Monday, May 30, 2005

Science Monday 2005/05/30

"And God said, let there be light. And there was light."

On Mondays I will explore a little of science, so everyone get out their cyclotrons, and their integrating goniometers. (Oh, yes... Tomorrow I will explain (by means of GKC) why I have shifted the days of creation - it was his idea, not mine! And if you already know, kindly do not spoil it by blabbing it in your comments.)

Why should I do this? Well, because from the time when I was six or so, I wanted to be a scientist - and now I am one. It is perhaps advantageous to be a Computer Scientist, as I am able to deal with many of the different departments of science - perhaps even better than being a mathematician (though they have it good too!) Don't worry, I will try to keep both the math and the CS to a minimum (oops: "minimum" is both a math thing and a CS thing... hee hee)

And also because GKC points this out: "Science itself is only the exaggeration and specialization of this thirst for useless fact, which is the mark of the youth of man. But science has become strangely separated from the mere news and scandal of flowers and birds; men have ceased to see that a pterodactyl was as fresh and natural as a flower, that a flower is as monstrous as a pterodactyl. The rebuilding of this bridge between science and human nature is one of the greatest needs of mankind. We have all to show that before we go on to any visions or creations we can be contented with a planet of miracles." The Defendant 74-75, emphasis added.

And so, to begin.

Nearly everyone who knows me knows that no more than 1.2 minutes of time can go by without my mentioning Chesterton. But I do read other authors! (Sometimes I even read Belloc, hee hee.)

However (ahem!) there is one author in particular who I esteem in a similar fashion: one who has written a number of books about science, relating it to human nature in a most unique way. He has the advantage of having doctorates in both theology and nuclear physics, and has specialized in the study of the history of science. I refer to Father Stanley L. Jaki, O.S.B. It was through his work that I learned of Pierre Duhem, the Catholic French thermodynamicist and historian of science, who (just about a century ago) made one of the foremost discoveries of the 20th century.

Fr. Jaki has found an excellent summary, which will give you a hint of what I will explore in some future articles:

The origins of science are less known than its discoveries. We profit from its conquests, enjoy its benefits without any concern about the source from which they derive. Yet there is no more interesting study. In no domain os human progress secured by som spontaneous and necessary evolution. It is important to know the conditionsin which science was born, the conditions in which its progress accelerates so that our future procedures may be better oriented. For this reason the works of Duhem must be highly esteemed. They estabish on thebasis of vast evidence that the principles on which modern science rests were formulated before Newton, before Descartes, before Galileo, before Copernicus, before Leonardo himself, by the masters of the University of Paris during the 14th century.
[Albert Defourcq, "Les origines de la science moderne d'apres les decouvertes recentes" in La Revue des Deux Mondes July 15, 1913; quoted in Jaki, Numbers Decide 108]

Yes, it will be painful for some, because they feel that science ought not be related to religion - especially the Catholic religion. But that's too bad, as it is a matter of history, despite the efforts of some to suppress this fact from being published. Stay tuned for more...


At 30 May, 2005 12:49, Blogger Marc the polar bear said...

The fact that the Catholic Church is responsible for not only science, but for also for Western civilization itself piddles the Hades out of many a post-modernistic heathenous poppinjay. And contrary to popular belief, Islam did not bring anything new into the picture with its so-called discoveries, because those ideas which they were thought to have brought in were already existent in Christendom anyway, although perhaps not initially in a widespread form.
So when we sit in front of our computer, typing away happily in a blog, give thanks to the monks who kept knowledge alive and going after Rome went splat, patooie, kerboing, and fzzzt.

And I had a look at the picture of our esteemed (steamed perhaps, if he gets carried away with ironing) Doctor. Actually, you would make a good Time Lord. Now you just need a sexy young female as your companion when you whisk across the universe in your TARDIC. (True And Real Devotion In Christ.)

At 30 May, 2005 20:38, Blogger Dr. Thursday said...

I really enjoy steamed shrimp. I am not entirely clear about the import of the rest of that comment, however, as it may involve a contradiction - yes?

Indeed, we should always and everywhere give thanks... and the monks of the Great and Holy Middle Ages are just some of those who ought to BE thanked!

The book called Numbers Decide by Fr. Jaki has two essays on Islam and science. One is about GKC/HB and Islam, the other is about a Moslem physicist. You can get it from Real View Books. Another which gets into this is his Science and Creation - a very important book, but presently out of print.


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