Orientalism and Islam v. Science, part II

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Orientalism and Islam v. Science, part II

 

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Proaxiom

quote:


By Cueball:
[b]...as I said very far above the advantage was [i]exponentially[/i] increased by the aquisition of power and wealth gained through colonial imperialism[/b]

Certainly not [i]exponentially[/i] increased. Quadratically, at best.

quote:

[b]Your assertion seems to be that European power was caused by the existence of a few ideas and inventions, such as the printing press, and the "free thinking" Protestant (?!). [/b]

I thought I explained the Protestantism thing a couple of times already.

I didn't say anything about the causes European power, so maybe we're talking about totally different things. I have been talking about the enlightenment.


quote:

[b]Furthermore, I am asserting that colonial domination, and the aquisition of power has created a environment where European narrative is suprmeme, so that it is Copernicus (another "close minded" Catholic) who is identified as the champion of "heliocentrism" when in fact this idea has been around for a long time, even though no one had the technical opporunity to overcome their geographic liability so that they could act upon it.[/b]

What geographic liability? Heliocentrism came as a product of math and looking up in the sky. Eventually telescopes helped.

Copernicus isn't actually important because of heliocentrism itself, anyway. It's not important that it didn't originate with him, just as it's not important that evolution didn't originate with Darwin. Astronomy has never been a very technologically productive science. He is important because of what has been termed the Copernican Revolution, to which heliocentrism was central. Copernicus' work led to the work of Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes. The work of those men led to the Royal Society, as soon as the dust settled from the Thirty Years' War. And from there we have a veritable explosion of scientific discovery.

ETA: It seems to me the question of why Europeans had such levels of scientific achievement and nobody else did can be answered simply by, 'Because they were the first to develop the scientific method.' Of course that leaves open the question of why they were the first to do that, which is obviously a lot more complicated.

[ 13 March 2008: Message edited by: Proaxiom ]

Cueball Cueball's picture

The geographic liability that sailors who had been predicting that the earth was round since 10 AD were talking about when they pointed out that sailing a 15th century coastal trawler like the Nina, the Pinta or the Santa Maria from the Coast of Africa [i]west[/i] to Japan was suicidal.

This is the Orientalism at work right here:

quote:

Copernicus' work led to the work of Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes. The work of those men led to the Royal Society, as soon as the dust settled from the Thirty Years' War. And from there we have a veritable explosion of scientific discovery.


Your chain of events begins here with Copernicus. It completely ignores the fact that the basis of much of Copernicuses work is based upon other work by non-Europeans, also using "scientific method". Somehow though you assert basicly that "scientific method" begins with Europeans. "Scientific method" is a term imposed retroactively here, and is largely a descriptive term used in hindsight. Did Copernicus discuss "scientific method" in his work? If he did not, does that mean he was not applying it?

There is nothing particularly unusually revolutionary about inductive experimental method. But you assert that it was invented by Europeans. Children use it all the time. It is an innate process of intelligence. I would even go so far as to say it is the basis of intelligence.

Yet here, it is reserved for Europeans as a "discovery" whose origin is mysterious and complicated.

It couldn't possibly be that the European powers discovered that rather than fighting amongst themselves for the spoils of war that it was much more sensible to go rampaging among the much softer victims to be found in the New World, a project the filled the coffers of the elites who then had more than enough reserves to fund the activities, and experiments of the curious, who, came to them with their ideas in droves, and that [i]then there was a boom in research and discovery,[/i] that further complimented the abilities of the European elites to field better armies and better ships, and thus produce more wealth and more knowledge.

[ 13 March 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Stephen Gordon

It's not even clear to me that the colonies in the Americas brought much in the way of wealth. Gold and silver, yes. But that just amounted an increase in the European money supply, and higher prices.

If imperial plunder was the key to wealth, we'd be having this discussion in Spanish.

Cueball Cueball's picture

That's dumb.

Proaxiom

Umm... heliocentrism has nothing to do with the shape of the Earth, though.

I mentioned a couple of times in the earlier thread that the introduction of Islamic texts, and even more importantly the re-introduction of classical texts, to Europe was a very significant factor in what transpired later.

While many people may unknowingly use the scientific method all the time, science comes from its formalization. Nobody else managed to do this. The Greeks were notorious for being wrong about their scientific facts because they didn't try any of these things -- they preferred to stick to philosophy and pure deductive logic. Islamic scholars of the Middle Ages had access to the Greek texts, and also tended to focus on mathematics (someone in the last thread mentioned how we got the words Algebra and Algorithm from Arabic). Building theories by endless cycles of hypothesis, test, observation, and conclusion was original to the [i]Natural Philosophers[/i] of the Enlightenment. Before this people tended to be wrong about a lot more than they were right, because the principles of science weren't there. This is the true foundation for modern science.

Stephen Gordon

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
That's dumb.

Explain why. You have yet to make the link between the European conquest of the Americas and the fact the the Industrial Revolution happened in Europe.

Cueball Cueball's picture

This...

quote:

If imperial plunder was the key to wealth, we'd be having this discussion in Spanish.

Was fucking dumb. For one thing because Spanish is the fourth largest spoken language in the world. But the limits of cultural myopia are boundless, apparently.

As if the fact that English is the second is not a direct result of "imperial plunder".

Proaxiom

I hadn't mentioned that, but it's true. Nobody raped the New World quite like the Spanish did, and Spain's time as a major power lasted barely a century. They shipped vast quantities of precious metals across the ocean, made themselves unimaginably wealthy, and then suffered from bankruptcy and economic collapse.

It increased their quality of life, though. It meant they had access to -- aside from a lot of jewelry -- spices, coffee, and tea.

Notably, in the 18th century England became the wealthiest European power even though it shipped very little precious metal (and frequently suffered from shortages of money). Their wealth derived from the development of a modern banking system.

Stephen Gordon

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
This...

Was fucking dumb. For one thing because Spanish is the fourth largest spoken language in the world. But the limits of cultural myopia are boundless, apparently.

As if the fact that English is the second is not a direct result of "imperial plunder".


Whatever. Way to get all righteously indignant about a tangential point.

You *still* haven't explained how and why the fact that the Europeans conquered the Americas explains why the Industrial Revolution happened in Europe, and not elsewhere.

Cueball Cueball's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Proaxiom:
[b]Umm... heliocentrism has nothing to do with the shape of the Earth, though.

I mentioned a couple of times in the earlier thread that the introduction of Islamic texts, and even more importantly the re-introduction of classical texts, to Europe was a very significant factor in what transpired later.

While many people may unknowingly use the scientific method all the time, science comes from its formalization. Nobody else managed to do this. The Greeks were notorious for being wrong about their scientific facts because they didn't try any of these things -- they preferred to stick to philosophy and pure deductive logic. Islamic scholars of the Middle Ages had access to the Greek texts, and also tended to focus on mathematics (someone in the last thread mentioned how we got the words Algebra and Algorithm from Arabic). Building theories by endless cycles of hypothesis, test, observation, and conclusion was original to the [i]Natural Philosophers[/i] of the Enlightenment. Before this people tended to be wrong about a lot more than they were right, because the principles of science weren't there. This is the true foundation for modern science.[/b]


As wrong as Columbus was when he calculated the circunference of the globe?

quote:

The prominent Iraqi Arab Muslim scientist Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen) pioneered the modern experimental scientific method to obtain the results in his Book of Optics (1021).[4] In particular, he combined observations, experiments and rational arguments to show that his modern intromission theory of vision, where rays of light are emitted from objects rather than from the eyes, is scientifically correct, and that the ancient emission theory of vision supported by Ptolemy and Euclid (where the eyes emit rays of light), and the ancient intromission theory supported by Aristotle (where objects emit physical particles to the eyes), were both wrong.[5] Ibn al-Haytham's scientific method was similar to the modern scientific method and consisted of the following procedures:[6]

Explicit statement of a problem, tied to observation and to proof by experiment
Testing and/or criticism of a hypothesis using experimentation
Interpretation of data and formulation of a conclusion using mathematics
The publication of the findings


[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_scientific_method]Ibn al-Haytham[/url]

I submit that the general prosperity and peace at the heart of the Empire during the Golden Era of Islam, were precisely the right time for the revolutionary development of new scientific theory and method.

I submit that human knowledge is a collective development.

I conclude that the fundamental building blocks upon which the very rapid development of science that came about in the west were available globally, but that the sudden general prosperity and peace at the heart of the empires created by the succesful imperial project in North America created the conditions where these ideas could flourish and be further exploited.

You have not been able to explain it. The best you can come up with is that "it's complicated".

However, the "enlightenment," actually only happened, "as soon as the dust settled from the Thirty Years' War. [b]And from there we have a veritable explosion of scientific discovery,"[/b] [i]in lock step with the rapid economic expansion caused by the exploitation of the Americas, not before. [/i]

You point goes to my thesis.

[ 13 March 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Cueball Cueball's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Stephen Gordon:
[b]

Whatever. Way to get all righteously indignant about a tangential point.

You *still* haven't explained how and why the fact that the Europeans conquered the Americas explains why the Industrial Revolution happened in Europe, and not elsewhere.[/b]


I am not righteously indigant. I am pointing out how dumb your comment was. You think that I should bother to deal with the rest of the content?

Why?

Stephen Gordon

You *still* haven't explained how and why the European conquest of the Americas explains why the Industrial Revolution occurred there and not elsewhere.

Cueball Cueball's picture

I have repeatedly.

Stephen Gordon

No, you've asserted it without support. In what form was the wealth transferred back to Europe, and how did it spark the Industrial Revolution.

Cueball Cueball's picture

In large ships calle Galleons. Look if you want to get into the inflationary cycles caused by the huge increase of gold returned to Spain you should start a thread on that because this thread is about Science and Islam, and Orientalism, not the problems of capitalist economics.

Proaxiom

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b]As wrong as Columbus was when he calculated the circunference of the globe?[/b]

No. He was wrong. What does that have to do with anything?

quote:

[b]I submit that human knowledge is a collective development.[/b]

I don't know why you think I would dispute this point.

I wrote several times that the Enlightenment was indebted to earlier Islamic thinkers. But they didn't really work out the method, which is why the Enlightenment happened in western and central Europe, not the Middle East.

quote:

[b]...the sudden general prosperity created by the succesful imperial project in North America created the conditions where these ideas could flourish and be further exploited.[/b]

This I don't get. What conditions, if not present, would have prevented Newton and Leibniz from developing calculus, Hooke from looking through a microscope to discover cells, Wren from working out the principles of meteorology, or Huygens from inventing the precise pendulum clock? Especially, as I have noted, given that these activities are not so very different from the work Galileo and Bacon were doing a few decades before.

Your earlier point seemed to be that those discoveries and imperialism were linked, but your justifications were very general, no more significant than the linking of any two adjacent historical events (and of course all historical events are linked as any fan of James Burke's [i]Connections[/i] knows).

Stephen Gordon

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
In large ships calle Galleons. Look if you want to get into the inflationary cycles caused by the huge increase of gold returned to Spain you should start a thread on that because this thread is about Science and Islam, and Orientalism, not the problems of capitalist economics.

Gold = wealth???

Ohdearohdearohdear

eta: And if the thread is about Science and Islam, why did you bring the European conquest of the Americas into the discussion?

[ 13 March 2008: Message edited by: Stephen Gordon ]

Cueball Cueball's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Proaxiom:
[b]I don't know why you think I would dispute this point.[/b]

I did not say you would. I asserted it as a postulate. I thought you would agree. You seem to.

Anyway you have not yet established any causual empirically verifiable link that explains the sudden miraculous appearance of "scientific method" during the enlightenment.

I have offered that when the economic conditions exist where somepeople are free to sit down and play with marbles, look into the sky, and otherwise ponder the functioning of the world, and that when there is plenty of money in the coffers of the society to fund exploration (i.e. the Beagle) and other kinds of experimentation, many things can be revealed, and that the sudden explosion of wealth available to European society through its exploitation of the "new world," created precisely that type of environment experienced by the Muslim scholars of the "Golden Age.".

Furthermore there are other examples, such as the introduction of schools, and the teaching of written language among Mongols during the short period of empire that they enjoyed in the 13th century.

I think you could get away with the chicken and egg argument, except for the fact that we can see, that despite the relative technological parity that existed world-wide, it is the case that there is a fundamental distinguishing factor that seperates the development of England of this era, when compared to Japan, and that is the sudden aquisition of new easily conquered wealthy territories, and the consequent economic expansion that took place as a result.

I don't see why you are so dead set against observing these correlations, and evidenced relationships, but [i]insist[/i] rather that "science" is essentially an expenditure of mental energy, unrelated to the context of the people who practice it. As if Oppenhiemer could have built the bomb while he as working 12 hour shifts at the gas station for 10 cents an hour.

The best you can muster is it is complicated, and some people showed up from elsewhere, and there was some luck.

[ 13 March 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Proaxiom

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b]Anyway you have not yet established any causual empirically verifiable link that explains the sudden miraculous appearance of "scientific method" during the enlightenment.[/b]

I know you've already read the wikipedia article. That seems to explain its development just fine.

quote:

[b]I have offered that when the economic conditions exist where somepeople are free to sit down and play with marbles, look into the sky, and otherwise ponder the functioning of the world, and that when there is plenty of money in the coffers of the society to fund exploration...[/b]

... then they create great works of art, right? Actually they do. When times are good, we get art, culture, and even a bit of science. I would suggest political stability is vastly more important than good economic conditions for this sort of progress to occur, because you don't need to spend a lot of money to get art, and science as it was during the 17th c.

The question being asked that you haven't answered yet is what did Europeans have in the 17th century that the Arabs didn't have in the 10th century, without which the Enlightenment could not have happened? The quite obvious answer is formalization of the scientific method, though there are were other interim developments such as the printing press. You have yet to substantiate in any real way your claim that exploitation of the new world was essential. What were the English getting from the new world in 1660 that was helping at all? Beaver pelts?

quote:

I don't see why you are so dead set against observing these correlations...

Because a correlation based on a study sample size of 1 is not statistically convincing.

quote:

As if Oppenhiemer could have built the bomb while he as working 12 hour shifts at the gas station for 10 cents an hour.

I certainly won't question that the industrial revolution was essential for the scientific endeavours we have seen since then, because the enormous wealth generated by industry has enabled investment in expensive R&D that would not have been possible otherwise. It's equally clear, however, that science before the 1800s was quite inexpensive, relying mainly on simple tools fashioned from iron and glass.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Simple tools fashioned with iron and glass were not simple tools, nor were they cheap. Gallileo may have painstakingly fashion his own convex lenses to make telescopes, but this was no ordinary glass but the best glass avaialble, and it was [i]real[/i] work.

While we are on the topic, what was his day job?

Furthermore, Darwin's theory of evolution would not have been furnished with conclusive proof, were he not furnished with a sailing ship, of the kind specifically designed to facilitate to the exploitation of the new world. Nor, would Columbus have been able to establish the fact that the world was round through incontrovertible hands on evidence, were he not supported by the Spanish crown.

I am sorry, your idea asserts an essentialist quality to the mastery of knowledge available to the entitled "enlightened" of the "enlightenment", yet you seem to get uncomfortable with the fact that once you assert the predominance of a cultural imbued conceptual superiority, this essentialist quality must be extended to all aspects of the culture, so if you want to establish that there is something essential in the European ontology that allowed for the assent of their scientific knowledge, then you also have to accept the other aspects of that ontology, such as it shear brutality of its imperial exploits are also an essential quality of the same culture and conception. I can see why you would have some problem with this.

It is no doubt true that the scientific community has gone through great trouble to establish the "purity" of its abstracted relationship to the real world. But, what you fail to grasp, is that my analysis to a certain extent absolves European culture of its crimes, because I assert that these were largely crimes of opportunity, [i]while its achievements are also the advent of the same opportunity,[/i]. Therefore, in terms of European ontology, its crimes are not an "essential" [i]and exceptional[/i] superior moral [i]failing[/i] nor its scientific achievements an example of and "essential" [i]and exceptional[/i] intellectual [i]ability[/i].

[ 13 March 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Cueball Cueball's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Proaxiom:
[b]

The question being asked that you haven't answered yet is what did Europeans have in the 17th century that the Arabs didn't have in the 10th century, without which the Enlightenment could not have happened? The quite obvious answer is formalization of the scientific method, though there are were other interim developments such as the printing press. You have yet to substantiate in any real way your claim that exploitation of the new world was essential. What were the English getting from the new world in 1660 that was helping at all? Beaver pelts?[/b]


You have already agreed that the real scientific revolution was an advent of the Enlightenment, deep in the colonial period, [i]not the Renaissance[/i]. All this stuff about Galileo and Copernicus is so much background to that, much the same as the old beards among the Muslim's whose ideas preceded theirs.

I have answered this question repeatedly about Islam in the 10th century often enough on these threads. Why not answer it yourself? There are Muslim scholars asserting "scientific method" in the 10th century, yet no sudden explosion of scientific activity results. Well actually it does, but it is in biology, medicine, mathematics, and optics, but I admit it is real hard to explain why the Persians did not explode the bomb four centuries after they started talking about "formalized scientific method," given your assertion of the edifying power it commands.

Firstly, I would have suggested that the "general" level of human knowledge as a "collective development" (we agree on this remember) was not at the same stage in the 10th century, as it was five centuries later. The fundamental tools, and skill sets, calculations, investigation, had not taken place which allowed for the flowering of science as we saw in the last four centuries.

Gunpowder only arrived with the Mongols, as we know.

Secondly, as a state, the Caliphate was not in the position to immediatly conquer substantially inferior victim, as all of its neighbours were similarly armed, and also well organized into existing states. There was no windfall, only hard fought battles against relatively equal contestants, and then a difficult and not always succesful defence of the realm, against the same.

Gunpowder only arrived with the Mongols, as we know, and this was not to the advantage of the Caliph.

I also find your obsession with how revolutionary Copernican theory is very interesting. Has it ever occurred to you that it might only appear revolutionary in a European Christian context because it came into conflict specifically with Church doctrine, while in other places in the world it likely would have been considered at best "interesting" and at worst irrelevant, but by no measure heretical?

[ 13 March 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Proaxiom:
[b]

This I don't get. What conditions, if not present, would have prevented Newton and Leibniz from developing calculus, [/b]


I think calculus was first developed among those using the Arabic(Indian really) system of numerals, as opposed to Roman or other symbols for arithmetic. Arabs apparently expanded the use of Arabic numerals and were the first to use a symbol for the numeral zero in the ninth century. Zero is a very important number in math and especially algebra. ie Any number to the exponent zero is always equal to one. And so on.

A Persian named Al-Kwarizmi is considered the father of modern algebra. Without algebra, it's a tossup whether calculus would have been developed at all. Without calculus, we can be sure that science would not be where it's at today.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

I see in the previous thread on this topic that Cueball has been trying to pick apart what he sees as Orientalist prejudices - along the lines of Edward Said's sort of analysis. It's my understanding that Said situates his analysis in the context of the development of colonialism and imperialism. I should fess up that I haven't, myself, read Said's book, but I certainly identify and sympathize with an approach that takes into account the developments of colonialism and imperialism, and the history of capitalism in general, to better understand the history of ideas. Ideas, after all, come from somewhere and not out of thin air.

quote:

Cueball: My hypothesis: The sudden discovery, exploration, conquest, and exploitation of this new world, not only rapidly increased the wealth of the European conquests, but also widened the conceptual space of European thinkers, and gave them fresh evidence to rationally deduce how the world functioned. Furthermore the wealth itself was applied to funding further researches into alechemy, botany and many other fields. Rapid scientifc developement ensued.

Your (babbler unionist) hypothesis: Superior western rationalist thinking was at the heart of the rise of scientifc knowledge. The Muslim mind was blocked by Islam.


I would like to point out that the way Cueball has characterized this difference of opinion bears a remarkable resemblance to Eurocentric and anti-Eurocentric arguments about the origin of capitalism as a socio-economic system as Ellen M. Wood characterize them. Wood says, by the way, that the've both got it wrong when it comes to the origin of capitalism.

I think it would be useful to point out that the development of science, in the context of the influence of ANY religion, should not be torn out and isolated from the major historical events that were taking place at the time. Of course I meant that the world was in the process of transforming from a feudal system to a capitalist one, and science, like religion, play different roles in those different kinds of societies.

quote:

unionist: Europe advanced, and other regions stagnated, because of primitive accumulation, colonial plunder, the industrial revolution, uneven development - not because one religion was more benign to human advance than others

Ellen Wood would say that Europe advanced because it moved towards capitalism FIRST. And, she would further say that it was not primitive accumulation, not colonial plunder even, but the new [i]social relations[/i] established, firstly in England and firstly there in agrarian areas as well, that forced neighbouring countries to go in the same direction of development. I would be willing to flesh this out more. For now, let me just note that England by its capitalist "innovation" in agriculture comes to establish domestic markets - markets that are compulsory I might add - and later comes to dominate economically and compel other countries to copy her direction. Wood spends a lot of pages to flesh out this argument. Sorry for the synopsis.

The time period here is 18th century England although it should be also pointed out that the land clearances, that helped create a propertyless class of people essential for capitalism, took place earlier than that. In any case, a new, more innovative socio-economic system takes root, (more innovative than feudalism) more able to make use of science for the purposes of economic improvement and innovation, it takes what is at hand ideologically and goes forward. Capitalism acts as a springboard for certain developments in science; science becomes a productive force in this new kind of society.

The discussion in the first thread moved around Darwin, to some extent, who is situated in the 19th century ... AFTER capitalist social relations take root. So it all fits.

quote:

Proaxiom: Notably, in the 18th century England became the wealthiest European power even though it shipped very little precious metal (and frequently suffered from shortages of money). Their wealth derived from the development of a modern banking system.

Close. Their wealth developed, I have argued here, because they were the first capitalist country to really speak of. The Spanish, in contrast, with all that plundered wealth, didn't have the associated changes in social relations with the development of capitalist agriculture, as in England, and the really fabulous wealth that flowed from that.

quote:

Stephen Gordon: (Cueball hasn't) ... explained how and why the fact that the Europeans conquered the Americas explains why the Industrial Revolution happened in Europe, and not elsewhere.

This is rather beside the point. The industrial revolution wasn't simply some technical feat, independent of social relations. This "technical" approach is sometimes substituted for proper history and misleads people into an intellectual cul-de-sac in which capitalism as a socio-economic system ALWAYS existed. My point here is that the scientific and technical and practical innovation associated with the "industrial revolution" is rather useless if there are no workers to work in those factories. The efforts at innovation would have gone nowhere - and would not have been further pursued therefore - without workerrs in the factories. And where did these workers come from? The sky?

Professor Gordon, you have an annoying habit of repeatedly asking the same question over and over again ... questions that seems to mislead more than enlighten. This seems to be one of those questions. I think you're playing a little too fast and loose with: the development of science, the development of capitalism, and the so-called industrial revolution.

[ 14 March 2008: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]

Cueball Cueball's picture

We can see by simply reading the foundational theoretical texts of capitalist economics that they take into account, and even sometimes assert the primacy of the importance of colonial relations. The Wealth of Nations is in fact almost entirely a critique of colonial relations and the manner in which they are managed. The entire field of importing, and exporting, materials and consumer products is at the heart of this text, and so is everything that follows Rikardo et al.

The facts the new systems of defining and analyzing and managing social relations, as the context of individual and group human endeavour change is no surprise. Nor is a surprise that those who benefit chiefly from those changes in social relations should devise ideological systems that justify them.

I touched upon the issue of the reformation and its economic implications, earlier, when Proaxiom was trying to separate the "fee-thinking" engendered by Luther’s rebellion against the Hapsburgs, from the religious ideology he espoused. It is a warm and fuzzy interpretation of the impact of the reformation that is offered of course, in that tries to clearly separate "ideas" of Luther from their impact, conveniently taking once again the specific positive aspects of the ontology from the larger view of the ontology as a whole. Thus Luther was the cause of the "free-thinking" but [i]only indirectly[/i].

This is "free thinking," indeed I say, thinking that allows us to seperate the Trojan Horse from the Greeks within, or as it were disowning Luther, while at the same time offering him room and board in the attic of the family home where he is the rarely acknowledged, but ever present. The "crazy uncle" whose sorry tale is sometimes spoken about in hushed tones in order to frighten the children, when they find out from the neighbours that he put the original down payment on the house.

Ultimately, I pointed out that the "reform" was a [i]political[/i] movement, not a religious one. One whose political "protest" allowed for the recognition of true liturgical and therefore political independence of the northern Duchies and states from HRE and the ordinance of the Church, when and if such ordinance went against the better interests of those states, and their rulers. It is no accident that King Henry breaks with the church over just such a papal injunction. And what is Henry's first act as a newly enligtened "protestant"? Why it is to expropriate the assets of the Catholic Church amd consolidate liturgical power in his own hands.

In fact, the Reformation, at its genesis, is about "freebooting", not "free thinking." Just as it is no accident that Henry seizes the Church and its assets, and reforms the social institutions that manage social relations, it is no accident that the same freebooting imperatives are operable when his decedents, Elizabeth for example, are free of Catholic doctrine which prohibits the creation of banks as a means to manage the new social relations that appear as England acquires The Empire. The Dutch in fact found a whole empire based in banking and trade alone, using their colonial exploitation as collateral to pay off Luther’s loan.

In this kind of freebooting, neither Spain, nor France, nor Portugal are so "free" of their obligations to the entrenched power of the aristocracy, as it is managed by the Catholic Church. In the case of the Spanish, rebellion breaks out almost immediatly, as the newly landed "landed" gentry claims its right and thus becomes a direct competitors to the old.

The evolution of European society is a result of sociological, religious, ideological and economic processes that are symbiotically intertwined, not simply a matter of chronological "cause and effect," the preferred mode of analysis that Proaxiom would forward. The primary freedom allowed by Reform, was not "free thinking" as in scientific discourse, but the freedom to rearticulate how social relations were managed, and this is first expressed in the liberation of the Northern European states from the tutelage of Southern Europe, the liberation of the Church assets, and the liberation of ecclesiastical ideology to give those practical liberations abstract moral authority, and then later under the same brand, further liberations of "Beaver pelts" from Canada and the consequent liberation of much of the indigenous population from their land and further liberation of the systems used to manage the wealth liberated thereof.

Nor is this just a matter of import, export and trade per se. This is also a matter of [i]lebensraum[/i] and the creation of whole new ancillary economic centers, independent of the center, but feeding into it. European society actually grows, it does not merely pillage.

None of this had anything to do with "scientific method" and everything to do with creating an economic environment that was better able to exploit and support human scientific endeavour that was already on the cusp of making huge breakthroughs in a number of key areas of research based on the slow "collective development" over centuries of human knowledge that was disseminated and shared world-wide, except notably in the Americas which by fact of geography were cut out of the loop, and thus vulnerable to superior force of arms, which also by accident of geography happened to be of European manufacture.

[ 14 March 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Proaxiom

quote:


[b]Furthermore, Darwin's theory of evolution would not have been furnished with conclusive proof, were he not furnished with a sailing ship, of the kind specifically designed to facilitate to the exploitation of the new world. Nor, would Columbus have been able to establish the fact that the world was round through incontrovertible hands on evidence, were he not supported by the Spanish crown.[/b]

Darwin lived long after the scientific revolution. Columbus did not prove the world was round. The ancient Greeks proved it just fine without use of ships. And if there was lingering doubt in Columbus' day (I'm not sure that there was), Columbus' discovery of a new continent contributed nothing to the argument.

quote:

[b]...that once you assert the predominance of a cultural imbued conceptual superiority...[/b]

Perhaps this is a source of confusion. I have asserted no such thing.

----

quote:

The evolution of European society is a result of sociological, religious, ideological and economic processes that are symbiotically intertwined, not simply a matter of chronological "cause and effect," the preferred mode of analysis that Proaxiom would forward.

This is because I've been talking about the causes of the scientific revolution. True, we could get into an immensely broad discussion of all the cultural changes that were happening at this time, which of them were common causes to progress in science, the arts, economics, and politics, and how these things affected each other, and the precise contribution of Christiaan Huygens' pendulum clock to the decline of Viennese influence over central and western Europe. Not sure of the point of that, though. All historical events are linked. And while it is useful to understand general context, it is also useful to tease out cause and effect in order to better understand action and consequence.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Proaxiom:
[b] And if there was lingering doubt in Columbus' day (I'm not sure that there was), Columbus' discovery of a new continent contributed nothing to the argument.[/b]

And apparently there were people doing ocean crossings long before Columbus.

Cueball Cueball's picture

One has to ask why, if you aren't interested in the "broad discussion" you quoted mine, and then offered your own "broad sweep" view, complete with musings about Luther and the reformation, and "free thinking"? A topic [i]you[/i] introduced. Is it now that a more specific analysis, when considered in depth seem less favourable to your apriori assertion that "scientific method" is primary to the the "scientific revolution", which ends "long before" Darwin, and begins just after the 30 years war, according to you.

It is interesting to discover from you that Darwin is not properly part of the "scientific revolution." When exactly did it end, then? Frankly, it seems that your playing with dates and definition that are rather arbitrary, and picked out so as to fit your case, which seems to still be at the level of it's "complicated".

What happened to stating a hypotheis then testing it against the results? Or are you simply going to shift defintions around, and prevaricate on point about Colombus, or are you asserting now that his mission was completely without scientific objective, or basis in previously abstracted theory, and that he was not in fact testing the hypothesis through empirical experimentation.

[ 14 March 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Webgear

I was wondering if the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, infighting with the Holy Roman Empire and the expansion of the Ottoman Empire has a factor within the discussion in this thread?

Proaxiom

All those things were brought up.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Yes, but "Scientific Method" begins with Copernicus".

Proaxiom

What is accomplished, exactly, by deliberately misrepresenting what other people say, Cueball?

Cueball Cueball's picture

What did you say then?

Because it seemed very much that you were of the opinion that "scientific method" is the cause of the "sceintific revolution" which began with Copernicuses view of a Heliocentric solar system, and follows through Gallileo, etc. You mentioned in passing some association these ideas might have had with earlier ideas, but the real thing begins with Compernicus.

That was the revolution in science. Regardless, its not really that important, because its clear now that Darwin, of example, is not really part of the scientific revolution per se. He came long after this point, so you have more or less established that no really signficant scientific development occurred during the European "scientific revolution", and the period you are talking about. A few more accurate calculations were made, but no great leaps forward, or at least nothing that would distinguish this period substantially, [i]in terms of rate of scientific development[/i], from what was achieved five centuries before.

A European got into trouble with the local religious authorities because he proposed that the earth was not at the center of the universe, which is notable, but not particularly revolutionary, except in the context of Catholic Europe.

[ 16 March 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Proaxiom

But I didn't say that. I didn't say the Reformation was about free thinking either, and in fact clarified twice that I didn't say it, but you continued to rebut that point that I didn't make.

Edit to respond to your edit:

quote:

A few more accurate calculations were made, but no great leaps forward, or at least nothing that would distinguish this period substantially, in terms of rate of scientific development, from what was achieved five centuries before.

How could you possibly argue this? Between 1650 and 1700 we had the birth of modern physics, chemistry and biology. I'd say that is 'substantially distinguishing'.

And the importance of Copernicus was not really heliocentrism. It was the first time religious dogma would come into conflict with empirical evidence. It is of great historical significance that evidence held its own and eventually won the day.

[ 16 March 2008: Message edited by: Proaxiom ]

sanizadeh

quote:


Originally posted by Proaxiom:
[b]Between 1650 and 1700 we had the birth of modern physics, chemistry and biology. I'd say that is 'substantially distinguishing'.
[/b]

I don't know about "modern", but the systematic methods and experimental devices for chemical experiments were developed long before that by Muslim chemists Geber (who is called the true father of Chemistry) and Razhes. I don't think it is correct to say these sciences were born in 17th century.

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geber]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geber[/url]

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhazes]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhazes[...

Proaxiom

quote:


Originally posted by sanizadeh:
[b]
I don't know about "modern", but the systematic methods and experimental devices for chemical experiments were developed long before that by Muslim chemists Geber (who is called the true father of Chemistry) and Razhes. I don't think it is correct to say these sciences were born in 17th century.[/b]

'Birth' means specific things:
That was the period when alchemy became chemistry. The two had a lot in common, but alchemy had a layer of superstitious dogma that limited its progress and its merit as an actual science. Alchemy was borrowed by the Europeans from the Islamic world, but its purification as an evidence-based discipline marked the foundation of chemistry.

It was the birth of physics because of Newton. What we call 'Newtonian physics' is the infusion of calculus into the study of motion. This was original to that time. If you study physics in university, at some point you will note "Hey, this is all just a bunch of integrals and differential equations!" That's Newton's doing.

For biology, this period marked the discovery of the cell. Cell theory is (chronologically) the first of the four unified principles of modern biology.

None of this to suggest that they weren't hugely reliant on the work of many others in earlier ages. But these were all watersheds, occurring in a short period of time.

Thanks for the links, I wasn't aware of the interesting work of those men.

In any case, a main thread we have been discussing is the question of why scientific progress in 17th century Europe had such a different outcome from scientific progress of the 9th and 10th century Middle East. Both of those ages saw large contributions made to math and science, but the later period had a steady acceleration that didn't occur in the former.

[ 16 March 2008: Message edited by: Proaxiom ]

Cueball Cueball's picture

Again the "steady acceleration." In lock step with the sudden increase in the economic power of the European states resulting from their status as powerful new colonial states, able to exploit, and expand into large new territories without any real hinderance and local opposition. Unique.

Meanwhile the former had reached the limits of empire, surrounded by hostile and powerful enemies, and was summarily crushed in the 13th century by a powerful new force.

quote:

Originally posted by Proaxiom:
[b] How could you possibly argue this? Between 1650 and 1700 we had the birth of modern physics, chemistry and biology. I'd say that is 'substantially distinguishing'.[/b]

How you define "modern" is a little arbitrary, especially as most of Newton's stuff has been discredited. You could, I guess, establish that they were useful as a stepping stones to "modern physics" in terms of Quantum Mechanics" and Einstein, but your rather narrow time frame, also eliminates any non-western influences as being the "birth" of anything, even if it was such a "stepping stone", so why not discount Newton too, since he has since been corrected?

Also, what were the tangible results of these inquireys and investigations? All you have really established is that there was "some" progress in refining previous conceptions. Gallileo grinding some glass, and then looking through telescope to discover the moons of Jupiter is as much an example of good craftsmanship, as great science.

Was this as important, really as discovering the basic biological process of the growth of the fetus? Or discovering the concept of zero, or laying the foundation of Scientific inductive experimentation?

quote:

[b]And the importance of Copernicus was not really heliocentrism. It was the first time religious dogma would come into conflict with empirical evidence. It is of great historical significance that evidence held its own and eventually won the day.[/b]

Again what makes it unusual and interesting is the fact that this put science in conflict with the hindbound church authorities, since it seemed to confirm the Copernican system. But is this much of a "first"? The general interest in this social conflict among Europeans, really say as much about European obssession with their repressive church authorities as anything else.

The fact that Europe was particularly repressive in this regard, is of course notable. But the fact that such, essentially simple, concepts put one into conflict with the ecclesiastical authorities perhaps makes it appear more revolutionary than it actually was, [i]from a European perspective[/i], simply because the reaction from the authorities was so extreme. I agree these things play an important part in the European narrative, but that is the [i]European[/i] narrative.

Yes, I agree this period is unique, in that it is the period where intellectuals in Europe broke free of Church doctrine, but is this a universal experience, or one that just reflect the peculiarties of European social discourse?

[ 16 March 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Proaxiom

The ability to break free of Church repression is what I meant earlier by the contribution of the Reformation to the Enlightenment. And I agree that is not a universal experience.

quote:

[b]How you define "modern" is a little arbitrary, especially as most of Newton's stuff has been discredited.[/b]

The religious and alchemical bits have been discarded. But the math and physics have not. We won't be revising the laws of motion any time soon. Newton's work has been expanded upon (notably by relativity, and quantum mechanics), but it's not accurate to say he's been corrected.

You seem to be implying that there is not an objective way to measure scientific progress. There is. Some discoveries expand human understanding more than other discoveries. When you have many discoveries of the expansive variety in a short period of time, then that constitutes strong progress. You are correct that the 17th century did not have a monopoly on ground-breaking discoveries or theories, but it had a lot of really big ones in relatively quick succession.

Cueball Cueball's picture

I think not.

I think that that the success of the European scientific community during this period is reified in the narrative of what occurred after. With each step forward, as the supreme masters of the globe we pushed aside other narratives, and even destroyed them in toto, and of course we also celibrated our own history, and narrative and the figures who embodied it. One look at what happened to the Museum in Baghdad, not to long ago, shows this imperial process in play, further burying the great contributions of the Arab people under yet more rubble.

Of course it appears particularly significant, because our narrative is told intact, and has the success of the colonial and imperial power to assert the supremacy of the narrative, and its achievements, which are many, but told and reiterated almost entirely from a European perspective.

The true test of what happened in 17th Century Europe, is what happened after, and had it not been the case that these ideas and these discoveries were embodied in and used as the foundation of the culture and society that came after, but instead it had been swept aside by the marauding horsemen of another Mongol army, these discoveries, and concepts, [i]as well as the very paper upon which they were written[/i], would literally have been scattered to the wind, to be uncovered as historical curiosities and the subject of archaeological debate by future generations, and future historians.

Lets remember, for example, that Subedai's scouts were at the gates of Vienna when Chingiz Khan died and the Mongols returned home.

[ 16 March 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b] With each step forward, as the supreme masters of the globe we pushed aside other narratives, and even destroyed them in toto, and of course we also celibrated our own history, and narrative and the figures who embodied it. One look at what happened to the Musuem in Baghdad, not to long ago, shows this imperial process in play, further burying the great contributions of the Arab people under yet more rubble.[/b]

I agree. You've made some very good points in this thread.

Proaxiom

quote:


By Cueball:
[b]I think not[/b]

You don't think there is an objective and quantitative way to measure scientific advancement, or you don't think the 17th century would be remarkable if such a measure is applied?

If the former, then you are provably wrong. If the latter, then we could start exploring the extent of discoveries in that versus other ages.

Arguing that it wouldn't have been remarkable if some empire had wiped out the Europeans and destroyed all their records is not interesting. Of course that's true, but only because we wouldn't know about what happened there. And when you look at the great civilizations of the past, we do have some records and inferential knowledge of their scientific achievements. Evidence of this is that we recognize the great contributions made by scholars in the Islamic empire in the Middle Ages, even though Baghdad was sacked by the Mongols.

Fidel

I think Cueball is saying that wars of conquest have made few contributions to the advancement of science and culture. Imperialism has worked to retard progress over the centuries. A relative handful of scientists have had to pick up the pieces and start over wherever society and a nurturing culture flourished in the absence of war and chaos.

The United States is a good example of a large continental society that has flourished in the absence of war and chaos on their own soil for an extended period of time. Public education and publicly-funded research was unparalleled in the the U.S. for many years. Scientific and engineering talent in Japan and Germany survived in spite of the devastation of world war in the last century. With investments in people and publicly-funded infrastructure, those two countries also became economic and scientific powerhouses in a relatively short period of time but without allocating a great deal of resources for war.

Cueball Cueball's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Fidel:
[b]I think Cueball is saying that wars of conquest have made few contributions to the advancement of science and culture. Imperialism has worked to retard progress over the centuries. A relative handful of scientists have had to pick up the pieces and start over wherever society and a nurturing culture flourished in the absence of war and chaos. [/b]

Well I didn't put it that way, with the moral quotient attached, but this conclusion is logical and one I generally sympathize with.

quote:

Originally posted by Proaxiom:
[b]

You don't think there is an objective and quantitative way to measure scientific advancement, or you don't think the 17th century would be remarkable if such a measure is applied?

If the former, then you are provably wrong. If the latter, then we could start exploring the extent of discoveries in that versus other ages.

Arguing that it wouldn't have been remarkable if some empire had wiped out the Europeans and destroyed all their records is not interesting. Of course that's true, but only because we wouldn't know about what happened there. And when you look at the great civilizations of the past, we do have some records and inferential knowledge of their scientific achievements. Evidence of this is that we recognize the great contributions made by scholars in the Islamic empire in the Middle Ages, even though Baghdad was sacked by the Mongols.[/b]


The point that I am trying to make is that "scienctific endeavour" is dependent on the social institutions that suround it, and as a comprehensive project, when considered as a whole, in the matter of an evolution of what would likely be called a "school of thought," in this case Tycho, Copernicus, Gallileo, and then tangentally Newton, there is the neccesity of a continous transmission of knowledge, which in this case is very direct. This chain is in fact a scientific "narrative."

This is also true of Newton's relationship to what comes after.

This narrative is usually contained in a society wide narrative and is dependent on the social means of the production of knowledge as a whole, including its historical and political narrative.

These narratives were interupted in the case of the Caliphate upon the Mongol invasion of the 13th century, the central authority of power was destroyed and replaced, as well as the internal understanding of cultural identity, and most importantly, in this case, its records physically destroyed and the scientific narrative of its schools demolished, and the people who carried the knowledge scattered, or forced to concern themselves with more earthly matters such as surviving.

History is, largely a project of text, as much as anything else.

This is not the case with the European narrative, which actually continues largely unmolested after 17th Century. Hence there is an contiguous trail of learned knowledge transmitted directly from one generation of scholar to the next, so that knowledge accumulates in a precise form, with direct records attributed to specific authors, and not in the diffuse form of the kind where certain discoveries have become part of the normal background knowledge contained in the discourse, such as the concept of the zero, and occassionaly dredged up from stray documents or culled from the ideas of refugee intellectuals.

On top of this is the fact that the narrative of western scientific knowledge finds expression and [i]confirmation[/i] directly in the social order as new knowledge is applied as invention in the coming of super-colonialism, wherein western knowledge can use its new found resources and wealth to apply the scientific narrative in an escalating and self-perpetuating process of exploration, discovery, invention and further analysis, leading to more of the same.

Had Europe similarly been invested and invaded at the end of the 17th Century, as was the Muslim world in the 13th century, I submit all of the work of the Copernican school would likely have been scattered and the school itself broken up. Its findings left for later generations to uncover, and re-discover, or to be found in the backdrop of common knowledge discourse, and no such clear scientific narrative would be easily discernable, at least not in the popular discourse as parlayed within the historical and political narrative of the future society that achieved the mantle of world domination, by the "discovery" of the Americas, or say if the people of the Americas had been capable of "discovering" us, and conquering us because they had immense relative technological superiority.

As for the actual scientific value of the Copernican school itself, I do not think it is in anyway superior to that of the invention of the zero, for example, [i]a lack of quantity thats impact is immeasurable[/i] in comparison to the discovery that the earth is not the center of universe, which is in my mind merely interesting, even though that discovery may have been locally very significant in a European context, given the social impact that this had upon the intellectual communitities ability to rediscover and apply "scientific method".

Notably, no such hullabaloo ensued when scholars postulated similar ideas in the "Golden Age" of the Caliphate. The response from the Muslim clergy was in fact a collective shrug, more or less. How god orders the phyical universe has not been generally an issue within the purvue of Islamic thought based in the Qu'ran.

[ 17 March 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]