View Single Post
Les Sleeth
Les Sleeth is offline
#19
Mar26-06, 09:59 AM
PF Gold
Les Sleeth's Avatar
P: 2,202
Quote Quote by selfAdjoint
Quote Quote by Les Sleeth
I don't see the relationship between monotheism and science. What distinquished science from all other epistomologies was the addition of experience to the formula. One hypothesizes somehing and then tries to set up situations where what has been hypothesized can be observed. I suppose it might be that monotheistic culture created some stability which in turn allowed clearer thinking, but that helped lots of things, and so doesn't seem particularly specific to science.

My guess would be that practical-minded thinkers understood that just because something can be thought doesn't make it real, and so finally realize they needed to "see" (i.e., observe) if reality was as had been theorized before continuing with endless speculations.
With all due respect Les, I think you are missing a point here. The Chinese civilization had lots of respect for and practice with experience. Read Needham's great Science and Civilization in China, especially Volume 2, which demonstrates the practical and empirical side of Chinese thought.

To contrast, in Europe in the 11th century nobody looked into the sky at night because Theory told them it was unchanging. The Chinese emperors, on the other hand stationed five keen eyed observers to watch the heavens every night; four to look in the cardinal directions and one to look straight up. They were looking for whatever changes might occur, to be interpreted by the soothsayers for the emperor's benefit, and woe betide any one of them who missed a clue!

Which civilization do you think discovered the Nova of 1086 that became the Crab Nebula? Yet which one produced Galileo and Newton?


This little story is just to suggest that empiricism isn't all there is to science, and the role of theory is more important, conflicted, and contingent than many accounts would imply.

I agree with your point about the importance of a culture’s theoretical foundations, but it seems to back up my argument too. I’d say the theoretical foundations for Western science were established by the Greeks. That foundation included a passion for philosophy and the search for truth. Those two ideals encouraged the continued search for some epistemology which “worked.”

After a couple of thousand years of unsubstantiated speculation, it was the empiricists who broke the philosophical monotony of proposing interesting ideas but with no means to test the actuality of them. Today the best science theory is that which can be put to the test of observation; in fact, it is a common criticism of nascent theories, such as string theory, that they lack enough observational data to support the theory.

Getting back to the question of this thread, since our theoretical foundations descended from the Greeks who, as you know, were not monotheists, I still can’t see that monotheism per se has contributed much to the development of science. Of course, I don’t think paganism had anything to do with either (I am assuming we are talking about the personal belief in one God, and not the effects of religion). I see our search for spiritual truth and the search for effective rational tools as two distinct realms that developed independently.